THE BOOK OF PSALMS

BY

JOHN CALVIN

Translated From The Original Latin, And Collated With The Author’s French Version,

BY THE REV. JAMES ANDERSON

VOLUME FIRST

INTRODUCTORY NOTICE

 

PSALM 19

To the chief musician. A song of David.

David, with the view of encouraging the faithful to contemplate the glory of God, sets before them in the first place, a mirror of it in the fabric of the heavens, and in the exquisite order of their workmanship which we behold; and in the second place, he recalls our thoughts to the Law, in which God made himself more familiarly known to his chosen people. Taking occasion from this, he continues to discourse at considerable length on this peculiar gift of Heaven, commending and exalting the use of the law. Finally, he concludes the psalm with a prayer.

<191901>Psalm 19:1-6

1. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse fa406 proclaims the works of his hands. 2. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night publishes knowledge. fa407 3. There is no language and no speech [where] their voice is not heard. 4. Their writing has gone forth through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world:he hath set in them a tabernacle for the sun. 5. And he goeth forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber:he rejoiceth as a strong man to run his race. 6. His going forth is from the end of the heavens, and his circuit is to their utmost limits, and none is hidden from his heat.

 

1. The heavens declare the glory of God. fa408 I have already said, that this psalm consists of two parts, in the first of which David celebrates the glory of God as manifested in his works; and, in the other, exalts and magnifies the knowledge of God which shines forth more clearly in his word. He only makes mention of the heavens; but, under this part of creation, which is the noblest, and the excellency of which is more conspicuous, he doubtless includes by synecdoche the whole fabric of the world. There is certainly nothing so obscure or contemptible, even in the smallest corners of the earth, in which some marks of the power and wisdom of God may not be seen; but as a more distinct image of him is engraven on the heavens, David has particularly selected them for contemplation, that their splendor might lead us to contemplate all parts of the world. When a man, from beholding and contemplating the heavens, has been brought to acknowledge God, he will learn also to reflect upon and to admire his wisdom and power as displayed on the face of the earth, not only in general, but even in the minutest plants. In the first verse, the Psalmist repeats one thing twice, according to his usual manner. He introduces the heavens as witnesses and preachers of the glory of God, attributing to the dumb creature a quality which, strictly speaking, does not belong to it, in order the more severely to upbraid men for their ingratitude, if they should pass over so clear a testimony with unheeding ears. This manner of speaking more powerfully moves and affects us than if he had said, The heavens show or manifest the glory of God. It is indeed a great thing, that in the splendor of the heavens there is presented to our view a lively image of God; but, as the living voice has a greater effect in exciting our attention, or at least teaches us more surely and with greater profit than simple beholding, to which no oral instruction is added, we ought to mark the force of the figure which the Psalmist uses when he says, that the heavens by their preaching declare the glory of God.

The repetition which he makes in the second clause is merely an explanation of the first. David shows how it is that the heavens proclaim to us the glory of God, namely, by openly bearing testimony that they have not been put together by chance, but were wonderfully created by the supreme Architect. When we behold the heavens, we cannot but be elevated, by the contemplation of them, to Him who is their great Creator; and the beautiful arrangement and wonderful variety which distinguish the courses and station of the heavenly bodies, together with the beauty and splendor which are manifest in them, cannot but furnish us with an evident proof of his providence. Scripture, indeed, makes known to us the time and manner of the creation; but the heavens themselves, although God should say nothing on the subject, proclaim loudly and distinctly enough that they have been fashioned by his hands:and this of itself abundantly suffices to bear testimony to men of his glory. As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme Architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power.

2. Day unto day uttereth speech. Philosophers, who have more penetration into those matters than others, understand how the stars are arranged in such beautiful order, that notwithstanding their immense number there is no confusion; but to the ignorant and unlettered, the continual succession of days is a more undoubted proof of the providence of God. David, therefore, having spoken of the heavens, does not here descend from them to other parts of the world; but, from an effect more sensible and nearer our apprehension, he confirms what he has just now said, namely, that the glory of God not only shines, but also resounds in the heavens. The words may be variously expounded, but the different expositions which have been given of them make little difference as to the sense. Some explain them thus, that no day passes in which God does not show some signal evidence of his power. Others are of opinion that they denote the augmentations of instruction and knowledge, - that every succeeding day contributes something new in proof of the existence and perfections of God. Others view them as meaning that the days and nights talk together, and reason concerning the glory of their Creator’, but this is a somewhat forced interpretation. David, I have no doubt, here teaches, from the established alternations of days and nights, that the course and revolutions of the sun, and moon, and stars, are regulated by the marvellous wisdom of God. Whether we translate the words Day after day, or one day to another day, is of little consequence; for all that David means is the beautiful arrangement of time which the succession of days and nights effects. If, indeed, we were as attentive as we ought to be, even one day would suffice to bear testimony to us of the glory of God, and even one night would be sufficient to perform to us the same office. But when we see the sun and the moon performing their daily revolutions, — the sun by day appearing over our heads, and the moon succeeding in its turns — the sun ascending by degrees, while at the same time he approaches nearer us, — and afterwards bending his course so as to depart from us by little and little; — and when we see that by this means the length of the days and nights is regulated, and that the variation of their length is arranged according to a law so uniform, as invariably to recur at the same points of time in every successive year, we have in this a much brighter testimony to the glory of God. David, therefore, with the highest reason, declares, that although God should not speak a single word to men, yet the orderly and useful succession of days and nights eloquently proclaims the glory of God, and that there is now left to men no pretext for ignorance; for since the days and nights perform towards us so well and so carefully the office of teachers, we may acquire, if we are duly attentive, a sufficient amount of knowledge under their tuition.

3. There is no language nor speech [where] their voice is not heard. This verse receives two almost contrary interpretations, each of which, however, has the appearance of probability. As the words, when rendered literally, read thus — No language, and no words, their voice is not heard — some connect the third and fourth verses together, as if this sentence were incomplete without the clause which follows in the beginning of the fourth verse, Their writing has gone forth through all the earth, etc. According to them, the meaning is this:— The heavens, it is true, are mute and are not endued with the faculty of speech; but still they proclaim the glory of God with a voice sufficiently loud and distinct. But if this was David’s meaning, what need was there to repeat three times that they have not articulate speech? It would certainly be spiritless and superfluous to insist so much upon a thing so universally known. The other exposition, therefore, as it is more generally received, seems also to be more suitable. In the Hebrew tongue, which is concise, it is often necessary to supply some word; and it is particularly a common thing in that language for the relatives to be omitted, that is to say, the words which, in which, etc., as here, There is no language, there is no speech, [where fa409] their voice is not heard. fa410 Besides, the third negation, ylb, beli, fa411 rather denotes an exception to what is stated in the preceding members of the sentence, as if it had been said, The difference and variety of languages does not prevent the preaching of the heavens and their language from being heard and understood in every quarter of the world. The difference of languages is a barrier which prevents different nations from maintaining mutual intercourse, and it makes him who in his own country is distinguished for his eloquence, when he comes into a foreign country either dumb or, if he attempt to speak, barbarous. And even although a man could speak all languages, he could not speak to a Grecian and a Roman at the same time; for as soon as he began to direct his discourse to the one, the other would cease to understand him. David, therefore, by making a tacit comparison, enhances the efficacy of the testimony which the heavens bear to their Creator. The import of his language is, Different nations differ from each other as to language; but the heavens have a common language to teach all men without distinction, nor is there any thing but their own carelessness to hinder even those who are most strange to each other, and who live in the most distant parts of the world, from profiting, as it were, at the mouth of the same teacher.

4. Their writing has gone forth, etc. Here the inspired writer declares how the heavens preach to all nations indiscriminately, namely, because men, in all countries and in all parts of the earth, may understand that the heavens are set before their eyes as witnesses to bear testimony to the glory of God. As the Hebrew word wq, kav signifies sometimes a line, and sometimes a building, some deduce from it this meaning, that the fabric of the heavens being framed in a regular manner, and as it were by line, proclaims the glory of God in all parts of the world. But as David here metaphorically introduces the splendor and magnificence of the heavenly bodies, as preaching the glory of God like a teacher in a seminary of learning, it would be a meagre and unsuitable manner of speaking to say, that the line of the heavens goes forth to the uttermost ends of the earth. Besides, he immediately adds, in the following clause, that their words are every where heard; but what relation is there between words and the beauty of a building? If, however, we render wq, kav, writing, these two things will very well agree, first, that the glory of God is written and imprinted in the heavens, as in an open volume which all men may read; and, secondly, that, at the same time, they give forth a loud and distinct voice, which reaches the ears of all men, and causes itself to be heard in all places. fa412 Thus we are taught, that the language of which mention has been made before is, as I may term it, a visible language, in other words, language which addresses itself to the sight; for it is to the eyes of men that the heavens speak, not to their ears; and thus David justly compares the beautiful order and arrangement, by which the heavenly bodies are distinguished, to a writing. That the Hebrew word wq, kav, signifies a line in writing, fa413 is sufficiently evident from <232810>Isaiah 28:10, where God, comparing the Jews to children who are not yet of sufficient age to make great proficiency, speaks thus:

“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”

In my judgment, therefore, the meaning is, that the glory of God is not written in small obscure letters, but richly engraven in large and bright characters, which all men may read, and read with the greatest ease. Hitherto I have explained the true and proper meaning of the inspired writer. Some have wrested this part of the psalm by putting upon it an allegorical interpretation; but my readers will easily perceive that this has been done without reason. I have shown in the commencement, and it is also evident from the scope of the whole discourse, that David, before coming to the law, sets before us the fabric of the world, that in it we might behold the glory of God. Now, if we understand the heavens as meaning the apostles, and the sun Christ, there will be no longer place for the division of which we have spoken; and, besides, it would be an improper arrangement to place the gospel first and then the law. It is very evident that the inspired poet here treats of the knowledge of God, which is naturally presented to all men in this world as in a mirror; and, therefore, I forbear discoursing longer on that point. As, however, these allegorical interpreters have supported their views from the words of Paul, this difficulty must be removed. Paul, in discoursing upon the calling of the Gentiles, lays down this as an established principle, that, “Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved;” and then he adds, that it is impossible for any to call upon him until they know him by the teaching of the gospel. But as it seemed to the Jews to be a kind of sacrilege that Paul published the promise of salvation to the Gentiles, he asks whether the Gentiles themselves had not heard? And he answers, by quoting this passage, that there was a school open and accessible to them, in which they might learn to fear God, and serve him, inasmuch as “the writing fa414 of the heavens has gone forth through all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world,” (<451018>Romans 10:18.) But Paul could not at that time have said with truth, that the voice of the gospel had been heard through the whole world from the mouth of the apostles, since it had scarcely as yet reached even a few countries. The preaching of the other apostles certainly had not then extended to far distant parts of the world, but was confined within the boundaries of Judea. The design of the apostle it is not difficult to comprehend. He intended to say that God, from ancient times, had manifested his glory to the Gentiles, and that this was a prelude to the more ample instruction which was one day to be published to them. And although God’s chosen people for a time had been in a condition distinct and separate from that of the Gentiles, it ought not to be thought strange that God at length made himself known indiscriminately to both, seeing he had hitherto united them to himself by certain means which addressed themselves in common to both; as Paul says in another passage, that when God,

“in times past, suffered all nations to walk in their own ways, he nevertheless left not himself without a witness,”
(<441416>Acts 14:16, 17.)

Whence we conclude, that those who have imagined that Paul departed from the genuine and proper sense of David’s words are grossly mistaken. The reader will understand this still more clearly by reading my commentaries on the above passage of St. Paul.

He hath set in them a tabernacle [or pavilion] for the sun. As David, out of the whole fabric of the world, has especially chosen the heavens, in which he might exhibit to our view an image of God, because there it is more distinctly to be seen, even as a man is better seen when set on an elevated stage; so now he shows us the sun as placed in the highest rank, because in his wonderful brightness the majesty of God displays itself more magnificently than in all the rest. The other planets, it is true, have also their motions, and as it were the appointed places within which they run their race, fa415 and the firmament, by its own revolution, draws with it all the fixed stars, but it would have been lost time for David to have attempted to teach the secrets of astronomy to the rude and unlearned; and therefore he reckoned it sufficient to speak in a homely style, that he might reprove the whole world of ingratitude, if, in beholding the sun, they are not taught the fear and the knowledge of God. This, then, is the reason why he says that a tent or pavilion has been erected for the sun, and also why he says, that he goes forth from one end of the heaven, and quickly passes to the other and opposite end. He does not here discourse scientifically (as he might have done, had he spoken among philosophers) concerning the entire revolution which the sun performs, but, accommodating himself to the rudest and dullest, he confines himself to the ordinary appearances presented to the eye, and, for this reason, he does not speak of the other half of the sun’s course, which does not appear in our hemisphere. He proposes to us three things to be considered in the sun, — the splendor and excellency of his forms — the swiftness with which he runs his course, — and the astonishing power of his heat. The more forcibly to express and magnify his surpassing beauty and, as it were, magnificent attire, he employs the similitude of a bridegroom. He then adds another similitude, that of a valiant man who enters the lists as a racer to carry off the prize of the course. The swiftness of those who in ancient times contended in the stadium, whether on chariots or on foot, was wonderful; and although it was nothing when compared with the velocity with which the sun moves in his orbit, yet David, among all that he saw coming under the ordinary notice of men, could find nothing which approached nearer to it. Some think that the third clause, where he speaks of the heat of the sun, is to be understood of his vegetative heat, as it is called; in other words, that by which the vegetating bodies which are in the earth have their vigor, support, and growth. fa416 But I do not think that this sense suits the passage. It is, indeed, a wonderful work of God, and a signal evidence of his goodness, that the powerful influence of the sun penetrating the earth renders it fruitful. But as the Psalmist says, that no man or nothing is hidden from his heat, I am rather inclined to understand it of the violent heat which scorches men and other living creatures as well as plants and trees. With respect to the enlivening heat of the sun, by which we feel ourselves to be invigorated, no man desires to avoid it.

<191907>Psalm 19:7-9

7. The law of the Lord fa417 is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is faithful, [or true, fa418] instructing the babes in wisdom. 8. The statutes of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord fa419 is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9. The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of Jehovah are truth, and justified together.

 

7. The law of the Lord. Here the second part of the psalm commences. After having shown that the creatures, although they do not speak, nevertheless serve as instructors to all mankind, and teach all men so clearly that there is a God, as to render them inexcusable, the Psalmist now turns towards the Jews, to whom God had communicated a fuller knowledge of himself by means of his word. While the heavens bear witness concerning God, their testimony does not lead men so far as that thereby they learn truly to fear him, and acquire a well-grounded knowledge of him; it serves only to render them inexcusable. It is doubtless true, that if we were not very dull and stupid, the signatures and proofs of Deity which are to be found on the theater of the world, are abundant enough to incite us to acknowledge and reverence God; but as, although surrounded with so clear a light, we are nevertheless blind, this splendid representation of the glory of God, without the aid of the word, would profit us nothing, although it should be to us as a loud and distinct proclamation sounding in our ears. Accordingly, God vouchsafes to those whom he has determined to call to salvation special grace, just as in ancient times, while he gave to all men without exception evidences of his existence in his works, he communicated to the children of Abraham alone his Law, thereby to furnish them with a more certain and intimate knowledge of his majesty. Whence it follows, that the Jews are bound by a double tie to serve God. As the Gentiles, to whom God has spoken only by the dumb creatures, have no excuse for their ignorance, how much less is their stupidity to be endured who neglect to hear the voice which proceeds from his own sacred mouth? The end, therefore, which David here has in view, is to excite the Jews, whom God had bound to himself by a more sacred bond, to yield obedience to him with a more prompt and cheerful affection. Farther, under the term law, he not only means the rule of living righteously, or the Ten Commandments, but he also comprehends the covenant by which God had distinguished that people from the rest of the world, and the whole doctrine of Moses, the parts of which he afterwards enumerates under the terms testimonies, statutes, and other names. These titles and commendations by which he exalts the dignity and excellence of the Law would not agree with the Ten Commandments alone, unless there were, at the same time, joined to them a free adoption and the promises which depend upon it; and, in short, the whole body of doctrine of which true religion and godliness consists. As to the Hebrew words which are here used, I will not spend much time in endeavoring very exactly to give the particular signification of each of them, because it is easy to gather from other passages, that they are sometimes confounded or used indifferently. Twd[, eduth, which we render testimony, is generally taken for the covenant, in which God, on the one hand, promised to the children of Abraham that he would be their God, and on the other required faith and obedience on their part. It, therefore, denotes the mutual covenant entered into between God and his ancient people. The word ydwqp, pikkudim, which I have followed others in translating statutes, is restricted by some to ceremonies, but improperly in my judgment:for I find that it is every where taken generally for ordinances and edicts. The word hwxm, mitsvah, which follows immediately after, and which we translate commandment, has almost the same signification. As to the other words, we shall consider them in their respective places.

The first commendation of the law of God is, that it is perfect. By this word David means, that if a man is duly instructed in the law of God, he wants nothing which is requisite to perfect wisdom. In the writings of heathen authors there are no doubt to be found true and useful sentences scattered here and there; and it is also true, that God has put into the minds of men some knowledge of justice and uprightness; but in consequence of the corruption of our nature, the true light of truth is not to be found among men where revelation is not enjoyed, but only certain mutilated principles which are involved in much obscurity and doubt. David, therefore, justly claims this praise for the law of God, that it contains in it perfect and absolute wisdom. As the conversion of the soul, of which he speaks immediately after, is doubtless to be understood of its restoration, I have felt no difficulty in so rendering it. There are some who reason with too much subtilty on this expression, by explaining it as referring to the repentance and regeneration of man. I admit that the soul cannot be restored by the law of God, without being at the same time renewed unto righteousness; but we must consider what is David’s proper meaning, which is this, that as the soul gives vigor and strength to the body, so the law in like manner is the life of the soul. In saying that the soul is restored, he has an allusion to the miserable state in which we are all born. There, no doubt, still survive in us some small remains of the first creation; but as no part of our constitution is free from defilement and impurity, the condition of the soul thus corrupted and depraved differs little from death, and tends altogether to death. It is, therefore, necessary that God should employ the law as a remedy for restoring us to purity; not that the letter of the law can do this of itself, as shall be afterwards shown more at length, but because God employs his word as an instrument for restoring our souls.

When the Psalmist declares, The testimony of Jehovah is faithful, it is a repetition of the preceding sentence, so that the integrity or perfection of the law and the faithfulness or truth of his testimony, signify the same thing; namely, that when we give ourselves up to be guided and governed by the word of God, we are in no danger of going astray, since this is the path by which he securely guides his own people to salvation. Instruction in wisdom seems here to be added as the commencement of the restoration of the soul. Understanding is the most excellent endowment of the soul; and David teaches us that it is to be derived from the law, for we are naturally destitute of it. By the word babes, he is not to be understood as meaning any particular class of persons, as if others were sufficiently wise of themselves; but by it he teaches us, in the first place, that none are endued with right understanding until they have made progress in the study of the law. In the second place, he shows by it what kind of scholars God requires, namely, those who are fools in their own estimation, (<460318>1 Corinthians 3:18,) and who come down to the rank of children, that the loftiness of their own understanding may not prevent them from giving themselves up, with a spirit of entire docility, to the teaching of the word of God.

8. The statutes of Jehovah are right. The Psalmist at first view may seem to utter a mere common-place sentiment when he calls the statutes of the Lord right. If we, however, more attentively consider the contrast which he no doubt makes between the rectitude of the law and the crooked ways in which men entangle themselves when they follow their own understandings, we will be convinced that this commendation implies more than may at first sight appear. We know how much every man is wedded to himself, and how difficult it is to eradicate from our minds the vain confidence of our own wisdom. It is therefore of great importance to be well convinced of this truth, that a man’s life cannot be ordered aright unless it is framed according to the law of God, and that without this he can only wander in labyrinths and crooked bypaths. David adds, in the second place, that God’s statutes rejoice the heart. This implies that there is no other joy true and solid but that which proceeds from a good conscience; and of this we become partakers when we are certainly persuaded that our life is pleasing and acceptable to God. No doubt, the source from which true peace of conscience proceeds is faith, which freely reconciles us to God. But to the saints who serve God with true affection of heart there arises unspeakable joy also, from the knowledge that they do not labor in his service in vain, or without hope of recompense, since they have God as the judge and approver of their life. In short, this joy is put in opposition to all the corrupt enticements and pleasures of the world, which are a deadly bait, luring wretched souls to their everlasting destruction. The import of the Psalmist’s language is, Those who take delight in committing sin procure for themselves abundant matter of sorrow; but the observance of the law of God, on the contrary, brings to man true joy. In the end of the verse, the Psalmist teaches that the commandment of God is pure, enlightening the eyes. By this he gives us tacitly to understand that it is only in the commandments of God that we find the difference between good and evil laid down, and that it is in vain to seek it elsewhere, since whatever men devise of themselves is mere filth and refuse, corrupting the purity of the life. He farther intimates that men, with all their acuteness, are blind, and always wander in darkness, until they turn their eyes to the light of heavenly doctrine. Whence it follows, that none are truly wise but those who take God for their conductor and guide, following the path which he points out to them, and who are diligently seeking after the peace which he offers and presents by his word.

But here a question of no small difficulty arises; for Paul seems entirely to overthrow these commendations of the law which David here recites. How can these things agree together:that the law restores the souls of men, while yet it is a dead and deadly letter? that it rejoices men’s hearts, and yet, by bringing in the spirit of bondage, strikes them with terror? that it enlightens the eyes, and yet, by casting a veil before our minds, excludes the light which ought to penetrate within? But, in the first place, we must remember what I have shown you at the commencement, that David does not speak simply of the precepts of the Moral Law, but comprehends the whole covenant by which God had adopted the descendants of Abraham to be his peculiar people; and, therefore, to the Moral Law, the rule of living well — he joins the free promises of salvation, or rather Christ himself, in whom and upon whom this adoption was founded. But Paul, who had to deal with persons who perverted and abused the law, and separated it from the grace and the Spirit of Christ, refers to the ministry of Moses viewed merely by itself, and according to the letter. It is certain, that if the Spirit of Christ does not quicken the law, the law is not only unprofitable, but also deadly to its disciples. Without Christ there is in the law nothing but inexorable rigour, which adjudges all mankind to the wrath and curse of God. And farther, without Christ, there remains within us a rebelliousness of the flesh, which kindles in our hearts a hatred of God and of his law, and from this proceed the distressing bondage and awful terror of which the Apostle speaks. These different ways in which the law may be viewed, easily show us the manner of reconciling these passages of Paul and David, which seem at first view to be at variance. The design of Paul is to show what the law can do for us, taken by itself; that is to say, what it can do for us when, without the promise of grace, it strictly and rigorously exacts from us the duty which we owe to God; but David, in praising it as he here does, speaks of the whole doctrine of the law, which includes also the gospel, and, therefore, under the law he comprehends Christ.

9. The fear of Jehovah is clean. By the fear of God we are here to understand the way in which God is to be served; and therefore it is taken in an active sense for the doctrine which prescribes to us the manner in which we ought to fear God. The way in which men generally manifest their fear of God, is by inventing false religions and a vitiated worship; in doing which they only so much the more provoke his wrath. David, therefore, here indirectly condemns these corrupt inventions, about which men torment themselves in vain, fa420 and which often sanction impurity; and in opposition to them he justly affirms, that in the keeping of the law there is an exemption from every thing which defiles. He adds, that it endures for ever; as if he had said, This is the treasure of everlasting happiness. We see how mankind, without well thinking what they are doing, pursue, with impetuous and ardent affections, the transitory things of this world; but, in thus catching at the empty shadow of a happy life, they lose true happiness itself. In the second clause, by calling the commandments of God truth, David shows that whatever men undertake to do at the mere suggestion of their own minds, without having a regard to the law of God as a rule, is error and falsehood. And, indeed, he could not have more effectually stirred us up to love, and zealously to live according to the law, than by giving us this warning, that all those who order their life, without having any respect to the law of God, deceive themselves, and follow after mere delusions. Those who explain the word judgments, as referring only to the commandments of the second table, are, in my opinion, mistaken:for David’s purpose was to commend, under a variety of expressions, the advantages which the faithful receive from the law of God. When he says, They are justified together, the meaning is, They are all righteous from the greatest to the least, without a single exception. By this commendation he distinguishes the law of God from all the doctrines of men, for no blemish or fault can be found in it, but it is in all points absolutely perfect.

<191910>Psalm 19:10-11

10. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the droppings of honeycombs. fa421 11. Moreover, by them is thy servant made circumspect; and in the keeping of them there is great reward.

 

10. More to be desired are they than gold. The Psalmist now exalts the law of God both on account of its price and sweetness. This commendation depends on the commendations given in the preceding verses; for the many and great advantages which he has just now enumerated, ought justly to make us account heavenly truth the highest and most excellent treasure, and to despise, when compared with it, all the gold and silver of the world. Instead of the word fine gold, which the Latins have called Aurum obryzum, fa422 some render the Hebrew word a jewel, or precious stones, fa423 but the other translation is more generally received, namely, fine gold, that is, gold which is pure and well refined in the furnace; and there are many passages of Scripture by which this rendering is confirmed. fa424 The Hebrew word zp, paz, is derived from hzp, pazah, which signifies to strengthen; fa425 from which we may conjecture that the Psalmist does not mean the gold of any particular country, as if one should say the gold of Ophir, but gold completely refined and purified by art. So far is zp, paz, from being derived from the name of a country, that, on the contrary, it appears from <241009>Jeremiah 10:9, that the land of Uphaz took its name from this Hebrew word, because it had in it mines of the finest gold. As to the origin of the word obrizum, which the Latins have used, we cannot say any thing with certainty, except that, according to the conjecture of Jerome, it signifies brought from the land of Ophir, as if it had been said, aurum Ophrizum. In short, the sense is, that we do not esteem the law as it deserves, if we do not prefer it to all the riches of the world. If we are once brought thus highly to prize the law, it will serve effectually to deliver our hearts from an immoderate desire of gold and silver. To this esteem of the law there must be added love to it, and delight in it, so that it may not only subdue us to obedience by constraint, but also allure us by its sweetness; a thing which is impossible, unless, at the same time, we have mortified in us the love of carnal pleasures, with which it is not wonderful to see us enticed and ensnared, so long as we reject, through a vitiated taste, the righteousness of God. From this we may again deduce another evidence, that David’s discourse is not to be understood simply of the commandments, and of the dead letter, but that he comprehends, at the same time, the promises by which the grace of God is offered to us. If the law did nothing else but command us, how could it be loved, since in commanding it terrifies us, because we all fail in keeping it? fa426 Certainly, if we separate the law from the hope of pardon, and from the Spirit of Christ, so far from tasting it to be sweet as honey, we will rather find in it a bitterness which kills our wretched souls.

11. Moreover, by them is thy servant made circumspect. These words may be extended generally to all the people of God; but they are properly to be understood of David himself, and by them he testifies that he knew well, from his own experience, all that he had stated in the preceding verses respecting the law. No man will ever speak truly and in good earnest of heavenly truth, but he who has it deeply fixed in his own heart. David therefore acknowledges, that whatever prudence he had for regulating and framing his life aright, he was indebted for it to the law of God. Although, however, it is properly of himself that he speaks, yet by his own example he sets forth a general rule, namely, that if persons wish to have a proper method for governing the life well, the law of God alone is perfectly sufficient for this purpose; but that, on the contrary, as soon as persons depart from it, they are liable to fall into numerous errors and sins. It is to be observed that David, by all at once turning his discourse to God, appeals to him as a witness of what he had said, the more effectually to convince men that he speaks sincerely and from the bottom of his heart. As the Hebrew word rhz, zahar, which I have translated made circumspect, signifies to teach, as well as to be on one’s guard, some translate it in this place, Thy servant is taught, or warned, by the commandments of the law. But the sentence implies much more, when it is viewed as meaning that he who yields himself to God to be governed by him is made circumspect and cautious, and, therefore, this translation seems to me to be preferable. In the second clause the Psalmist declares, that whoever yield themselves to God to observe the rule of righteousness which he prescribes, do not lose their labor, seeing he has in reserve for them a great and rich reward:In keeping of them there is great reward. It is no mean commendation of the law when it is said, that in it God enters into covenant with us, and, so to speak, brings himself under obligation to recompense our obedience. In requiring from us whatever is contained in the law, he demands nothing but what he has a right to; yet such is his free and undeserved liberality, that he promises to his servants a reward, which, in point of justice, he does not owe them. The promises of the law, it is true, are made of no effect; but it is through our fault:for even he who is most perfect amongst us comes far short of full and complete righteousness; and men cannot expect any reward for their works until they have perfectly and to the full satisfied the requirements of the law. Thus these two doctrines completely harmonize:first, that eternal life shall be given as the reward of works to him who fulfils the law in all points; and, secondly, that the law notwithstanding denounces a curse against all men, because the whole human family are destitute of the righteousness of works. This will presently appear from the following verse. David, after having celebrated this benefit of the law - that it offers an abundant reward to those who serve God — immediately changes his discourse, and cries out, Who can understand his errors? by which he pronounces all men liable to eternal death, and thus utterly overthrows all the confidence which men may be disposed to place in the merit of their works. It may be objected, that this commendation, In the keeping of thy commandments there is great reward, is in vain ascribed to the law, seeing it is without effect. The answer is easy, namely, that as in the covenant of adoption there is included the free pardon of sins, upon which depends the imputation of righteousness, God bestows a recompense upon the works of his people, although, in point of justice, it is not due to them. What God promises in the law to those who perfectly obey it, true believers obtain by his gracious liberality and fatherly goodness, inasmuch as he accepts for perfect righteousness their holy desires and earnest endeavors to obey.

<191912>Psalm 19:12-14

12. Who can understand his errors? fa427 Cleanse thou me from my secret sins. 13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins, fa428 that they may not have dominion over me; then shall I be upright and clean from much wickedness. fa429 14. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Jehovah, my strength and my redeemer.

 

12. Who can understand his errors? This exclamation shows us what use we should make of the promises of the law, which have a condition annexed to them. It is this:As soon as they come forth, every man should examine his own life, and compare not only his actions, but also his thoughts, with that perfect rule of righteousness which is laid down in the law. Thus it will come to pass, that all, from the least to the greatest, seeing themselves cut off from all hope of reward from the law, will be constrained to flee for refuge to the mercy of God. It is not enough to consider what the doctrine of the law contains; we must also look into ourselves, that we may see how far short we have come in our obedience to the law. Whenever the Papists hear this promise,

“He who doeth these things shall live in them,”
(<031805>Leviticus 18:5,)

they do not hesitate at once to connect eternal life with the merit of their works, as if it were in their own power to fulfill the law, of which we are all transgressors, not only in one point, but in all its parts. David, therefore, being involved as it were in a labyrinth on all sides, acknowledges with astonishment that he is overwhelmed under a sense of the multitude of his sins. We ought then to remember, in the first place, that as we are personally destitute of the righteousness which the law requires, we are on that account excluded from the hope of the reward which the law has promised; and, in the next place, that we are guilty before God, not of one fault or of two, but of sins innumerable, so that we ought, with the bitterest sorrow, to bewail our depravity, which not only deprives us of the blessing of God, but also turns to us life into death. This David did. There is no doubt that when, after having said that God liberally offers a reward to all who observe his law, he cried out, Who can understand his errors? it was from the terror with which he was stricken in thinking upon his sins. By the Hebrew word twayg, shegioth, which we have translated errors, some think David intends lesser faults; but in my judgment he meant simply to say, that Satan has so many devices by which he deludes and blinds our minds, that there is not a man who knows the hundredth part of his own sins. The saints, it is true, often offend in lesser matters, through ignorance and inadvertence; but it happens also that, being entangled in the snares of Satan, they do not perceive even the grosser faults which they have committed. Accordingly, all the sins to the commission of which men give themselves loose reins, not being duly sensible of the evil which is in them, and being deceived by the allurements of the flesh, are justly included under the Hebrew word here used by David, which signifies faults or ignorances. fa430 In summoning himself and others before the judgment-seat of God, he warns himself and them, that although their consciences do not condemn them, they are not on that account absolved; for God sees far more clearly than men’s consciences, since even those who look most attentively into themselves, do not perceive a great part of the sins with which they are chargeable.

After making this confession, David adds a prayer for pardon, Cleanse thou me from my secret sins. The word cleanse is to be referred not to the blessing of regeneration, but to free forgiveness; for the Hebrew verb hqn, nakah, here used, comes from a word which signifies to be innocent. The Psalmist explains more clearly what he intended by the word errors, in now calling them secret sins; that is to say, those with respect to which men deceive themselves, by thinking that they are no sins, and who thus deceive themselves not only purposely and by expressly aiming at doing so, but because they do not enter into the due consideration of the majesty of the judgment of God. It is in vain to attempt to justify ourselves under the pretext and excuse of ignorance. Nor does it avail any thing to be blind as to our faults, since no man is a competent judge in his own cause. We must, therefore, never account ourselves to be pure and innocent until we are pronounced such by God’s sentence of absolution or acquittal. The faults which we do not perceive must necessarily come under the review of God’s judgment, and entail upon us condemnation, unless he blot them out and pardon them; and if so, how shall he escape and remain unpunished who, besides these, is chargeable with sins of which he knows himself to be guilty, and on account of which his own conscience compels him to judge and condemn himself? Farther, we should remember that we are not guilty of one offense only, but are overwhelmed with an immense mass of impurities. The more diligently any one examines himself, the more readily will he acknowledge with David, that if God should discover our secret faults, there would be found in us an abyss of sins so great as to have neither bottom nor shore, as we say; fa431 for no man can comprehend in how many ways he is guilty before God. From this also it appears, that the Papists are bewitched, and chargeable with the grossest hypocrisy, when they pretend that they can easily and speedily gather all their sins once a year into a bundle. The decree of the Lateran Council commands every one to confess all his sins once every year, and at the same time declares that there is no hope of pardon but in complying with that decree. Accordingly, the blinded Papist, by going to the confessional, to mutter his sins into the ear of the priest, thinks he has done all that is required, as if he could count upon his fingers all the sins which he has committed during the course of the whole year; whereas, even the saints, by strictly examining themselves, can scarcely come to the knowledge of the hundredth part of their sins, and, therefore, with one voice unite with David in saying, Who can understand his errors? Nor will it do to allege that it is enough if each performs the duty of reckoning up his sins to the utmost of his ability. This does not diminish, in any degree, the absurdity of this famous decree. fa432 As it is impossible for us to do what the law requires, all whose hearts are really and deeply imbued with the principle of the fear of God must necessarily be overwhelmed with despair, so long as they think themselves bound to enumerate all their sins, in order to their being pardoned; and those who imagine they can disburden themselves of their sins in this way must be persons altogether stupid. I know that some explain these words in a different sense, viewing them as a prayer, in which David beseeches God, by the guidance of his Holy Spirit, to recover him from all his errors. But, in my opinion, they are to be viewed rather as a prayer for forgiveness, and what follows in the next verse is a prayer for the aid of the Holy Spirit, and for success to overcome temptations.

13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins. By presumptuous sins he means known and evident transgressions, fa433 accompanied with proud contempt and obstinacy. By the word keep back, he intimates, that such is the natural propensity of the flesh to sin, that even the saints themselves would immediately break forth or rush headlong into it, did not God, by his own guardianship and protection, keep them back. It is to be observed, that while he calls himself the servant of God, he nevertheless acknowledges that he had need of the bridle, lest he should arrogantly and rebelliously break forth in transgressing the law of God. Being regenerated by the Spirit of God, he groaned, it is true, under the burden of his sins; but he knew, on the other hand, how great is the rebellion of the flesh, and how much we are inclined to forgetfulness of God, from which proceed contempt of his majesty and all impiety. Now, if David, who had made so much progress in the fear of God, was not beyond the danger of transgressing, how shall the carnal and unrenewed man, in whom innumerable lusts exercise dominion, be able to restrain and govern himself by his own free will? Let us learn, then, even although the unruliness of our wayward flesh has been already subdued by the denial of ourselves, to walk in fear and trembling; for unless God restrain us, our hearts will violently boil with a proud and insolent contempt of God. This sense is confirmed by the reason added immediately after, that they may not have dominion over me. By these words he expressly declares, that unless God assist him, he will not only be unable to resist, but will be wholly brought under the dominion of the worst vices. This passage, therefore, teaches us not only that all mankind are naturally enslaved to sin, but that the faithful themselves would become the bond-slaves of sin also, if God did not unceasingly watch over them to guide them in the path of holiness, and to strengthen them for persevering in it. There is also another useful lesson which we have here to attend to, namely, that we ought never to pray for pardon, without, at the same time, asking to be strengthened and fortified by the power of God for the time to come, that temptations, in future, may not gain advantage over us. And although we may feel in our hearts the incitements of concupiscence goading and distressing us, we ought not, on that account, to become discouraged. The remedy to which we should have recourse is to pray to God to restrain us. No doubt, David could have wished to feel in his heart no stirrings of corruption; but knowing that he would never be wholly free from the remains of sin, until at death he had put off this corrupt nature, he prays to be armed with the grace of the Holy Spirit for the combat, that iniquity might not reign victorious over him. In the end of the verse there are two things to be observed. David, in affirming that he shall then be upright and clean from much wickedness, attributes, in the first place, the honor of preserving him innocent to the spiritual assistance of God; and depending upon it, he confidently assures himself of victory over all the armies of Satan. In the second place, he acknowledges, that unless he is assisted by God, he will be overwhelmed with an immense load, and plunged as it were into a boundless abyss of wickedness:for he says, that aided by God, he will be clear not of one fault or of two, but of many. From this it follows, that as soon as we are abandoned by the grace of God, there is no kind of sin in which Satan may not entangle us. Let this confession of David then quicken us to earnestness in prayer; for in the midst of so many and various snares, it does not become us to fall asleep or to be indolent. Again, let the other part of the Psalmist’s exercise predominate in our hearts — let us boast with him, that although Satan may assault us by many and strong armies, we will nevertheless be invincible, provided we have the aid of God, and will continue, in despite of every hostile attempt, to hold fast our integrity.

14. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart. David asks still more expressly to be fortified by the grace of God, and thus enabled to live an upright and holy life. The substance of the verse is this:I beseech thee, O God, not only to keep me from breaking forth into the external acts of transgression, but also to frame my tongue and my heart to the obedience of thy law. We know how difficult it is, even for the most perfect, so to bridle their words and thoughts, as that nothing may pass through their heart or mouth which is contrary to the will of God; and yet this inward purity is what the law chiefly requires of us. Now, the rarer this virtue — the rarer this strict control of the heart and of the tongue is, let us learn so much the more the necessity of our being governed by the Holy Spirit, in order to regulate our life uprightly and honestly. By the word acceptable, the Psalmist shows that the only rule of living well is for men to endeavor to please God, and to be approved of him. The concluding words, in which he calls God his strength and his redeemer, he employs to confirm himself in the assured confidence of obtaining his requests.


PSALM 20.

This psalm contains a common prayer of the Church in behalf of the King of Israel, that God would succor him in danger; and in behalf of his kingdom, that God would maintain it in safety, and cause it to prosper:for in the person of David the safety and well-being of the whole community centred. To this there is added a promise, that God will preside over that kingdom of which he was the founder, and so effectually watch over it as to secure its continual preservation.

To the chief musician. A Psalm of David.

<192001>Psalm 20:1-2

1. May Jehovah hear thee in the day of trouble! may the name of the God of Jacob defend thee! 2. May he send thee help from his sanctuary, and sustain thee out of Sion!

 

The inscription shows that the psalm was composed by David; but though he was its author, there is no absurdity in his speaking of himself in the person of others. The office of a prophet having been committed to him, he with great propriety prepared this as a form of prayer for the use of the faithful. In doing this, his object was not so much to commend his own person, by authoritatively issuing a royal ordinance enjoining upon the people the use of this prayer, as to show, in the exercise of his office as a teacher, that it belonged to the whole Church to concern itself, and to use its endeavors that the kingdom which God had erected might continue safe and prosperous. Many interpreters view this prayer as offered up only on one particular occasion; but in this I cannot agree. The occasion of its composition at first may have arisen from some particular battle which was about to be fought, either against the Ammonites, or against some other enemies of Israel. But the design of the Holy Spirit, in my judgment, was to deliver to the Church a common form of prayer, which, as we may gather from the words, was to be used whenever she was threatened with any danger. God commands his people, in general, to pray for kings, but there was a special reason, and one which did not apply to any other kingdom, why prayer was to be made in behalf of this kingdom; for it was only by the hand of David and his seed that God had determined to govern and maintain his people. It is particularly to be noticed, that under the figure of this temporal kingdom, there was described a government far more excellent, on which the whole joy and felicity of the Church depended. The object, therefore, which David had expressly in view was, to exhort all the children of God to cherish such a holy solicitude about the kingdom of Christ, as would stir them up to continual prayer in its behalf.

1. May Jehovah hear thee, etc. The Holy Spirit, by introducing the people as praying that God would answer the prayers of the king, is to be viewed as at the same time admonishing kings that it is their duty to implore the protection of God in all their affairs. When he says, In the day of trouble, he shows that they will not be exempted from troubles, and he does this that they may not become discouraged, if at any time they should happen to be in circumstances of danger. In short, the faithful, that the body may not be separated from the head, further the king’s prayers by their common and united supplications. The name of God is here put for God himself and not without good reason; for the essence of God being incomprehensible to us, it behoves us to trust in him, in so far as his grace and power are made known to us. From his name, therefore, proceeds confidence in calling upon him. The faithful desire that the king may be protected and aided by God, whose name was called upon among the sons of Jacob. I cannot agree with those who think that mention is here made of that patriarch, because God exercised him with various afflictions, not unlike those with which he tried his servant David. I am rather of opinion that, as is usual in Scripture, the chosen people are denoted by the term Jacob. And from this name, the God of Jacob, the faithful encourage themselves to pray for the defense of their king; because it was one of the privileges of their adoption to live under the conduct and protection of a king set over them by God himself. Hence we may conclude, as I have said before, that under the figure of a temporal kingdom there is described to us a government much more excellent. fa434 Since Christ our King, being an everlasting priest, never ceases to make intercession with God, the whole body of the Church should unite in prayer with him; fa435 and farther, we can have no hope of being heard except he go before us, and conduct us to God. fa436 And it serves in no small degree to assuage our sorrows to consider that Jesus Christ, when we are afflicted, accounts our distresses his own, provided we, at the same time, take courage, and continue resolute and magnanimous in tribulation; which we should be prepared to do, since the Holy Spirit here forewarns us that the kingdom of Christ would be subject to dangers and troubles.

2. May he send thee help. That is to say, may he succor thee out of mount Sion, where he commanded the ark of the covenant to be placed, and chose for himself a dwelling-place. The weakness of the flesh will not suffer men to soar up to heaven, and, therefore, God comes down to meet them, and by the external means of grace shows that he is near them. Thus the ark of the covenant was to his ancient people a pledge of his presence, and the sanctuary an image of heaven. But as God, by appointing mount Sion to be the place where the faithful should continually worship him, had joined the kingdom and priesthood together, David, in putting into the lips of the people a prayer for help out of Sion, doubtless had an eye to this sacred bond of union. Hence I conjecture that this psalm was composed by David in his old age, and about the close of his life. Some think he spake of Sion by the Spirit of prophecy before it had been appointed that the ark should be placed there; but this opinion seems strained, and to have little probability.

<192003>Psalm 20:3-5

3. May he remember all thy offerings; and make thy holocaust [or burnt sacrifice] fat! fa437 Selah. 4. May he grant thee according to thy heart, and fulfill all thy counsel! 5. That we may rejoice in thy salvation, [or safety;] and set up a banner in the name of our God, when Jehovah shall fulfill all thy petitions.

 

3. May he remember. I understand the word remember as meaning to have regard to, as it is to be understood in many other places; just as to forget often signifies to neglect, or not to deign to regard, nor even to behold, the object to which it is applied. It is, in short, a prayer that God would actually show that the king’s sacrifices were acceptable to him. Two kinds of them are here mentioned; first, the hjnm, mincha, mentioned in the first clause of the verse, which was the appointed accompaniment of all sacrifices, and which was also sometimes offered by itself; and, secondly, the holocaust, or whole burnt-sacrifice. But under these two kinds David intended to comprehend, by synecdoche, all sacrifices; and under sacrifices he comprehends requests and prayers. We know that whenever the fathers prayed under the law, their hope of obtaining what they asked was founded upon their sacrifices; and, in like manner, at this day our prayers are acceptable to God only in so far as Christ sprinkles and sanctifies them with the perfume of his own sacrifice. The faithful, therefore, here desire that the solemn prayers of the king, which were accompanied with sacrifices and oblations, might have their effect in the prosperous issue of his affairs. That this is the meaning may be gathered still more clearly from the following verse, in which they commend to God the desires and counsels of the king. But as it would be absurd to ask God to grant foolish and wicked desires, it is to be regarded as certain, that there is here described a king who was neither given to ambition, nor inflamed with avarice, nor actuated by the desire of whatever the unruly passions might suggest, but wholly intent on the charge which was committed to him, and entirely devoted to the advancement of the public good; so that he asks nothing but what the Holy Spirit dictated to him, and what God, by his own mouth, commanded him to ask.

5. That we may rejoice in thy salvation. This verse may be explained in two other ways, besides the sense it bears according to the translation which I have given. Some consider it to be a prayer, as if it had been said, Lord, make us to rejoice. Others think that the faithful, after having finished their prayer, encourage themselves to entertain good hope; fa438 or rather, being already inspired with an assured hope of success, they begin to sing, so to speak, of the victory, even as it is usual with David to intermingle such kind of rejoicings with his prayers, thereby to stir up himself to continue with the more alacrity in prayer. But upon considering the whole more carefully, my opinion is, that what is meant to be expressed is the effect or fruit which would result from the bestowment of the grace and favor of God, for which the people prayed; and, therefore, I have thought it necessary to supply the particle that, in the beginning of the verse. The faithful, as an argument to obtain the favor of God towards their king, set forth the joy which they would all experience in common, in seeing it exercised towards him, and the thanksgiving which they would with one accord render for it. The import of their language is, It is not for the preservation and welfare of one man that we are solicitous; it is for the safety and well-being of the whole Church. The expression, In thy salvation, may be referred to God as well as to the king; for the salvation which God bestows is often called the salvation of God; but the context requires that it should be rather understood of the king. The people lived “under the shadow of the king,” to use the words of Jeremiah, (<250420>Lamentations 4:20;) and, therefore, the faithful now testify, that as long as he is safe and in prosperity, they will all be joyful and happy. At the same time, to distinguish their joy from the heathen dancings and rejoicings, they declare that they will set up their banners in the name of God; for the Hebrew word lgd, dagal, here used, means to set or lift up a banner. The meaning is, that the faithful, in grateful acknowledgement of the grace of God, will celebrate his praises and triumph in his name.

<192006>Psalm 20:6-9

6. Now I know that Jehovah hath saved his anointed; he will hear him from the heavens of his sanctuary, in the mightiness of the salvation of his right hand. fa439 7. Some trust fa440 in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of Jehovah our God. 8. They are bowed down and are fallen; but we are risen and are erect. 9. Save, O Jehovah! let the king hear us in the day that we call upon him.

 

6. Now I know. Here there follows grateful rejoicing, in which the faithful declare that they have experienced the goodness of God in the preservation of the king. To this there is at the same time added a doctrine of faith, namely, that God showed by the effect that he put forth his power in maintaining the kingdom of David, because it was founded upon his calling. The meaning is, It appears from certain experience, that God is the guardian of the kingdom which he himself set up, and of which he is the founder. For David is called Messiah, or anointed, that the faithful might be persuaded that he was a lawful and sacred king, whom God had testified, by outward anointing, to be chosen by himself. Thus, then, the faithful ascribe to the grace of God the deliverance which had been wrought for David from the greatest dangers, and at the same time, particularly mention the cause of this to be, that God had determined to protect and defend him who, by his commandment, had been anointed king over his people. They confirm still more clearly their hope, with respect to the future, in the following clause:God will hear him out of heaven. I do not translate the verb which is here used into the past tense, but retain the future:for I have no doubt, that from the experience which God had already given them of his goodness, they concluded that it would be hereafter exercised in the continual preservation of the kingdom. Here the Psalmist makes mention of another sanctuary, fa441 namely, a heavenly. As God then graciously vouchsafed to descend among the Israelites, by the ark of the covenant, in order to make himself more familiarly known to them; so, on the other hand, he intended to draw the minds of his people upwards to himself, and thereby to prevent them from forming carnal and earthly conceptions of his character, and to teach them that he was greater than the whole world. Thus, under the visible sanctuary, which was made with hands, there is set forth the fatherly goodness of God, and his familiarity with his people; while, under the heavenly sanctuary, there is shown his infinite power, dominion, and majesty. The words, In the mightiness of the salvation, mean his mighty salvation, or his saving power. Thus, in the very expression there is a transposing of the words. The sense comes to this: May God by his wonderful power, preserve the king who was anointed by his commandment! The Holy Spirit, who dictated this prayer, saw well that Satan would not suffer David to live in peace, but would put forth all his efforts to oppose him, which would render it necessary for him to be sustained by more than human power. I do not, however, disapprove of the other exposition which I have marked on the margin, according to which the faithful, for their greater encouragement, set before themselves this truth, that the salvation of God’s right hand is in mightiness; in other words, is sufficiently strong to overcome all impediments.

7. Some trust in chariots. I do not restrict this to the enemies of Israel, as is done by other interpreters. I am rather inclined to think that there is here a comparison between the people of God and all the rest of the world. We see how natural it is to almost all men to be the more courageous and confident the more they possess of riches, power and military forces. The people of God, therefore, here protest that they do not place their hope, as is the usual way with men, in their military forces and warlike apparatus, but only in the aid of God. As the Holy Spirit here sets the assistance of God in opposition to human strength, it ought to be particularly noticed, that whenever our minds come to be occupied by carnal confidence, they fall at the same time into a forgetfulness of God. It is impossible for him, who promises himself victory by confiding in his own strength, to have his eyes turned towards God. The inspired writer, therefore, uses the word remember, to show, that when the saints betake themselves to God, they must cast off every thing which would hinder them from placing an exclusive trust in him. This remembrance of God serves two important purposes to the faithful. In the first place, however much power and resources they may possess, it nevertheless withdraws them from all vain confidence, so that they do not expect any success except from the pure grace of God. In the second place, if they are bereft and utterly destitute of all succor, it notwithstanding so strengthens and encourages them, that they call upon God both with confidence and constancy. On the other hand, when ungodly men feel themselves strong and powerful, being blinded with pride, they do not hesitate boldly to despise God; but when they are brought into circumstances of distress, they are so terrified as not to know what to become. In short, the Holy Spirit here recommends to us the remembrance of God, which, retaining its efficacy both in the want and in the abundance of power, subdues the vain hopes with which the flesh is wont to be inflated. As the verb rykzn, nazkir, which I have translated we will remember, is in the conjugation hiphil, some render it transitively, we shall cause to remember. But it is no new thing in Hebrew for verbs to be used as neuter which are properly transitive; and, therefore, I have adopted the exposition which seems to me the most suitable to this passage.

8. They are bowed down. It is probable that there is here pointed out, as it were with the finger, the enemies of Israel, whom God had overthrown, when they regarded no event as less likely to happen. There is contained in the words a tacit contrast between the cruel pride with which they had been lifted up for a time when they audaciously rushed forward to make havoc of all things on the one hand, and the oppression of the people of God on the other. The expression, to rise, is applied only to those who were before sunk or fallen; and, on the other hand, the expression, bowed down and fallen, is with propriety applied to those who were lifted up with pride and presumption. The prophet therefore teaches by the event, how much more advantageous it is for us to place all our confidence in God than to depend upon our own strength.

9. Save, O Jehovah! etc. Some read in one sentence, O Jehovah! save the king; fa442 perhaps because they think it wrong to attribute to an earthly king what is proper to God only, — to be called upon, and to hear prayer. But if we turn our eyes towards Christ, as it becomes us to do, we will no longer wonder that what properly belongs to him is attributed in a certain sense to David and his successors, in so far as they were types of Christ. As God governs and saves us by the hand of Christ, we must not look for salvation from any other quarter. In like manner, the faithful under the former economy were accustomed to betake themselves to their king as the minister of God’s saving grace. Hence these words of Jeremiah,

“The breath of our nostrils, the anointed of the Lord, of whom we said, Under his shadow we shall live among the heathen.” (<250420>Lamentations 4:20)

Whenever, therefore, God promises the restoration of his church, he sets forth a symbol or pledge of its salvation in the kingdom. We now see that it is not without very good reason that the faithful are introduced asking succor from their king, under whose guardianship and protection they were placed, and who, as the vicegerent of God, presided over them; as the Prophet Micah says, (<330213>Micah 2:13,) “Their king shall pass before them, and the Lord on the head of them;” by which words he intimates, that their king will be as it were a mirror in which they may see reflected the image of God. To return to the present passage:— The expression, Save, O Jehovah, is elliptical, but it has greater emphasis than if the object for which salvation is sought had been mentioned; for by this means David shows that this salvation belongs in common to the whole body of the church. In <19B825>Psalm 118:25, there is a prayer in the same words, and it is certain that it is the very same prayer. In short, this is a prayer, that God, by blessing the king, would show himself the Savior of the whole people. In the last clause of the verse there is expressed the means of this salvation. The people pray that the king may be furnished with power from God to deliver them whenever they are in distress, and cry to him for help. Let the king hear us in the day that we call upon him. God had not promised that his people would be saved in any other way than by the hand and conduct of the king whom he had given them. In the present day, when Christ is now manifested to us, let us learn to yield him this honor — to renounce all hope of salvation from any other quarter, and to trust to that salvation only which he shall bring to us from God his Father. And of this we shall then only become partakers when, being all gathered together into one body, under the same Head, we shall have mutual care one of another, and when none of us will have his attention so engrossed with his own advantage and individual interest, as to be indifferent to the welfare and happiness of others.


PSALM 21.

This psalm contains a public and solemn thanksgiving for the prosperous and happy condition of the king. Its subject is almost the same with that of the preceding. fa443 In the former there was set forth a common form of prayer, which was designed to excite in the whole people earnest concern for the preservation of their head. In this it is shown that the safety and prosperity of the king ought to produce public and general rejoicing through the whole realm, inasmuch as God by this means intended to preserve the whole body in safety. But, above all, it was the design of the Holy Spirit here to direct the minds of the faithful to Christ, who was the end and perfection of this kingdom, and to teach them that they could not be saved except under the head which God himself had appointed over them.

To the chief musician. A psalm of David.

<192101>Psalm 21:1-3

1. The king will rejoice in thy strength, O Yehovah! and in thy salvation how greatly will he rejoice! 2. Thou hast given him the desire of his heart, and hast not denied him the request of his lips. Selah. 3. For thou wilt prevent him with blessings of good, thou wilt set a crown of gold upon his head. fa444

 

1. The king will rejoice in thy strength, O Jehovah! David could have given thanks to God in private for the victories and other signal favors which he had received from him; but it was his intention to testify not only that it was God who elevated him to the throne, but also that whatever blessings God had conferred upon him redounded to the public good, and the advantage of all the faithful. In the beginning of the psalm the believing Israelites express their firm persuasion that God, who had created David to be king, had undertaken to defend and maintain him. It therefore appears that this psalm, as well as the preceding, was composed for the purpose of assuring the faithful that the goodness of God in this respect towards David would be of long duration, and permanent; and it was necessary, in order to their being established in a well-grounded confidence of their safety; to hope well of their king, whose countenance was as it were a mirror of the merciful and reconciled countenance of God. The sense of the words is:Lord, in putting forth thy power to sustain and protect the king, thou wilt preserve him safe; and, ascribing his safety to thy power, he will greatly rejoice in thee. The Psalmist has doubtless put strength and salvation for strong and powerful succor; intimating, that the power of God in defending the king would be such as would preserve and protect him against all dangers.

In the second verse there is pointed out the cause of this joy. The cause was this:that God had heard the prayers of the king, and had liberally granted him whatever he desired. It was important to be known, and that the faithful should have it deeply impressed on their minds, that all David’s successes were so many benefits conferred upon him by God, and at the same time testimonies of his lawful calling. And David, there is no doubt, in speaking thus, testifies that he did not give loose reins to the desires of the flesh, and follow the mere impulse of his appetites like worldly men, who set their minds at one time upon this thing, and at another time upon that, without any consideration, and just as they are led by their sensual lusts; but that he had so bridled his affections as to desire nothing save what was good and lawful. According to the infirmity which is natural to men, he was, it is true, chargeable with some vices, and even fell shamefully on two occasions; but the habitual administration of his kingdom was such that it was easy to see that the Holy Spirit presided over it. But as by the Spirit of prophecy the Psalmist had principally an eye to Christ, who does not reign for his own advantage, but for ours, and whose desire is directed only to our salvation, we may gather hence the very profitable doctrine, that we need entertain no apprehension that God will reject our prayers in behalf of the church, since our heavenly King has gone before us in making intercession for her, so that in praying for her we are only endeavoring to follow his example.

3. For thou wilt prevent him. The change of the tense in the verbs does not break the connection of the discourse; and, therefore, I have, without hesitation, translated this sentence into the future tense, as we know that the changing of one tense into another is quite common in Hebrew. Those who limit this psalm to the last victory which David gained over foreign nations, and who suppose that the crown of which mention is here made was the crown of the king of the Ammonites, of which we have an account in sacred history, give, in my judgment, too low a view of what the Holy Spirit has here dictated concerning the perpetual prosperity of this kingdom. David, I have no doubt, comprehended his successors even to Christ, and intended to celebrate the continual course of the grace of God in maintaining his kingdom through successive ages. It was not of one man that it had been said,

“I will be his father, and he shall be my son,”
(<100714>2 Samuel 7:14;)

but this was a prophecy which ought to be extended from Solomon to Christ, as is fully established by the testimony of Isaiah, (<230906>Isaiah 9:6,) who informs us that it was fulfilled when the Son was given or manifested. When it is said, Thou wilt prevent him, the meaning is, that such will be the liberality and promptitude of God, in spontaneously bestowing blessings, that he will not only grant what is asked from him, but, anticipating the requests of the king, will load him with every kind of good things far beyond what he had ever expected. By blessings we are to understand abundance or plenteousness. Some translate the Hebrew word bwf, tob, goodness; fa445 but with this I cannot agree. It is to be taken rather for the beneficence or the free gifts of God. Thus the meaning will be, The king shall want nothing which is requisite to make his life in every respect happy, since God of his own good pleasure will anticipate his wishes, and enrich him with an abundance of all good things. The Psalmist makes express mention of the crown, because it was the emblem and ensign of royalty; and he intimates by this that God would be the guardian of the king, whom he himself had created. But as the prophet testifies, that the royal diadem, after lying long dishonored in the dust, shall again be put upon the head of Christ, we come to the conclusion, that by this song the minds of the godly were elevated to the hope of the eternal kingdom, of which a shadow only, or an obscure image, was set forth in the person of the successors of David. The doctrine of the everlasting duration of the kingdom of Christ is, therefore, here established, seeing he was not placed upon the throne by the favor or suffrages of men, but by God, who, from heaven, set the royal crown upon his head with his own hand.

<192104>Psalm 21:4-6

4. He asked life from thee, and thou hast given him length of days for ever and ever. 5. His glory is great in thy salvation: thou hast put upon him splendor and beauty. fa446 6. For thou hast set him to be blessings for ever: thou hast gladdened him with joy before thy countenance, [or, in thy presence.]

 

4. He asked life from thee. This verse confirms what I have formerly said, that this psalm is not to be limited to the person of any one man. David’s life, it is true, was prolonged to an advanced period, so that, when he departed from this world, he was an old man, and full of days; but the course of his life was too short to be compared to this length of days, which is said to consist of many ages. Even if we reckon the time from the commencement of David’s reign to the captivity of Babylon, this length of days will not be made up and completed in all David’s successors. David, therefore, without doubt, comprehends the Eternal King. There is here a tacit comparison between the beginnings of this kingdom, which were obscure and contemptible, or rather which were fraught with the most grievous perils, and which bordered on despair; and the incredible glory which followed, when God, exempting it from the common lot of other kingdoms, elevated it almost above the heavens. For it is no ordinary commendation of this kingdom, when it is said, that it shall endure as long as the sun and moon shall shine in the heavens, (<197201>Psalm 72:1.) David, therefore, in saying that he asked life, tacitly points to the distressed circumstances to which he had often been reduced; and the meaning is, Lord, since the time thou hast called thy servant to the hope of the kingdom by thy holy anointing, his condition has been such that he has accounted it a singular blessing to be rescued from the jaws of death; but now, he has not only, by thy grace, escaped in safety the dangers which threatened his life:thou hast also promised that his kingdom will be continued for many ages in his successors. And it serves not a little to magnify the grace of God, that he vouchsafed to confer on a poor and miserable man, who was almost at the point of death, not only his life, - when, amidst the dangers which threatened it, he tremblingly asked merely its preservations — but also the inestimable honor of elevating him to the royal dignity, and of transmitting the kingdom to his posterity for ever. Some expound the verse thus:— Thou hast given him the life which he asked, even to the prolonging of his days for ever and ever. But this seems to me a cold and strained interpretation. We must keep in view the contrast which, as I have said, is here made between the weak and contemptible beginnings of the kingdom, and the unexpected honor which God conferred upon his servant, in calling the moon to witness that his seed should never fail. The same has been exemplified in Christ, who, from contempt, ignominy, death, the grave, and despair, was raised up by his Father to the sovereignty of heaven, to sit at the Father’s right hand for ever, and at length to be the judge of the world.

5. His glory is great. By these words the people intimate that their king, through the protection which God afforded him, and the deliverances which he wrought for him, would become more renowned than if he had reigned in peace with the applause of all men, or had been defended by human wealth and human strength, or, finally, had continued invincible by his own power and policy; for thereby it appeared the more clearly that he had only attained to the royal dignity by the favor, conduct, and commandment of God. The believing Israelites, therefore, leave it to heathen kings to ennoble themselves by their own achievements, and to acquire fame by their own valor; and they set more value upon this, that God graciously showed himself favorable towards their king, fa447 than upon all the triumphs of the world. At the same time, they promise themselves such assistance from God as will suffice for adorning the king with majesty and honor.

6. For thou hast set him to be blessings for ever. Some explain these words simply thus, That God had chosen David to be king, in order to pour upon him his blessings in rich abundance. But it is evident that something more is intended by this manner of speaking. It implies, that the king had such an exuberant abundance of all good things, that he might justly be regarded as a pattern of the greatness of the divine beneficence; or that, in praying, his name would be generally used to serve as an example of how the suppliant wished to be dealt with. The Jews were accustomed to speak of those being set to be a curse, who were rendered so detestable, and on whom the dreadful vengeance of God had been inflicted with such severity, that their very names served for cursing and direful imprecations. On the other hand, they were accustomed to speak of those being set to be a blessing, whose names we propose in our prayers as an example of how we desire to be blessed; as if a man for instance should say, May God graciously bestow upon thee the same favor which he vouchsafed to his servant David! I do not reject this interpretation, but I am satisfied with the other, which views the words as implying that the king, abounding in all kind of good things, was an illustrious pattern of the liberality of God. We must carefully mark what is said immediately after concerning joy:Thou hast gladdened him with joy before thy countenance. fa448 The people not only mean that God did good to the king, seeing he looked upon him with a benignant and fatherly eye, but they also point out the proper cause of this joy, telling us that it proceeded from the knowledge which the king had of his being the object of the Divine favor. It would not be enough for God to take care of us, and to provide for our necessities, unless, on the other hand, he irradiated us with the light of his gracious and reconciled countenance, and made us to taste of his goodness, as we have seen in the 4th Psalm, “There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us, and we shall be saved.” And without all doubt, it is true and solid happiness to experience that God is so favorable to us that we dwell as it were in his presence.

<192107>Psalm 21:7-10

7. For the king trusteth in Jehovah, and through the goodness of the Most High, he shall not be moved. 8. Thy hand shall find out all thy enemies, thy right hand shalt find out those that hate thee. 9. Thou shalt put them as it were into a furnace of fire, in the time of thy anger; Jehovah fa449 in his wrath shall overwhelm them, and the fire shall consume them. 10. Thou wilt destroy their fruit from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men.

 

7. For the king trusteth. Here again the pious Israelites glory that their king shall be established, because he relies upon God; and they express at the same time how he relies upon him, namely, by hope or trust. I read the whole verse as one sentence, so that there is but one principal verb, and explain it thus:- The king, as he places by faith his dependence on God and his goodness, will not be subject to the disasters which overthrow the kingdoms of this world. Moreover, as we have said before, that whatever blessings the faithful attribute to their king, belong to the whole body of the Church, there is here made a promise, common to all the people of God, which may serve to keep us tranquil amidst the various storms which agitate the world. The world turns round as it were upon a wheel, by which it comes to pass, that those who were raised to the very top are precipitated to the bottom in a moment; but it is here promised, that the kingdom of Judah, and the kingdom of Christ of which it was a type, will be exempted from such vicissitude. Let us remember, that those only have the firmness and stability here promised, who betake themselves to the bosom of God by an assured faith, and relying upon his mercy, commit themselves to his protection. The cause or the ground of this hope or trust is at the same time expressed, and it is this, that God mercifully cherishes his own people, whom he has once graciously received into his favor.

8. Thy hand shall find. Hitherto the internal happiness of the kingdom has been described. Now there follows, as it was necessary there should, the celebration of its invincible strength against its enemies. What is said in this verse is of the same import as if the king had been pronounced victorious over all his enemies. I have just now remarked, that such a statement is not superfluous; for it would not have been enough for the kingdom to have flourished internally, and to have been replenished with peace, riches, and abundance of all good things, had it not also been well fortified against the attacks of foreign enemies. This particularly applies to the kingdom of Christ, which is never without enemies in this world. True, it is not always assailed by open war, and there is sometimes granted to it a period of respite; but the ministers of Satan never lay aside their malice and desire to do mischief, and therefore they never cease to plot and to endeavor to accomplish the overthrow of Christ’s kingdom. It is well for us that our King, who lifts up his hand as a shield before us to defend us, is stronger than all. As the Hebrew word axm, matsa, which is twice repeated, and which we have translated, to find, sometimes signifies to suffice; and, as in the first clause, there is prefixed to the word lk, kal, which signifies all, the letter l, lamed, which signifies for, or against, and which is not prefixed to the Hebrew word which is rendered those that hate thee; some expositors, because of this diversity, explain the verse as if it had been said, Thy hand shall be able for all thine enemies, thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thus the sentence will ascend by degrees, — Thy hand shall be able to withstand, thy right hand shall lay hold upon thy enemies, so that they shall not escape destruction.

9. Thou shalt put them as it were into a furnace of fire. fa450 The Psalmist here describes a dreadful kind of vengeance, from which we gather, that he does not speak of every kind of enemies in general, but of the malicious and frantic despisers of God, who, after the manner of the giants fa451 of old, rise up against his only begotten Son. The very severity of the punishment shows the greatness of the wickedness. Some think that David alludes to the kind of punishment which he inflicted upon the Ammonites, of which we have an account in the sacred history; but it is more probable that he here sets forth metaphorically the dreadful destruction which awaits all the adversaries of Christ. They may burn with rage against the Church, and set the world on fire by their cruelty, but when their wickedness shall have reached its highest pitch, there is this reward which God has in reserve for them, that he will cast them into his burning furnace to consume them. In the first clause, the king is called an avenger; in the second, this office is transferred to God; and in the third, the execution of the vengeance is attributed to fire; which three things very well agree. We know that judgment has been committed to Christ, that he may cast his enemies headlong into everlasting fire; but, it was of importance distinctly to express that this is not the judgment of man but of God. Nor was it less important to set forth how extreme and dreadful a kind of vengeance this is, in order to arouse from their torpor those who, unapprehensive of danger, boldly despise all the threatenings of God. Besides, this serves not a little for the consolation of the righteous. We know how dreadful the cruelty of the ungodly is, and that our faith would soon sink under it, if it did not rise to the contemplation of the judgment of God. The expression, In the time of thy wrath, admonishes us that we ought patiently to bear the cross as long as it shall please the Lord to exercise and humble us under it. If, therefore, he does not immediately put forth his power to destroy the ungodly, let us learn to extend our hope to the time which our heavenly Father has appointed in his eternal purpose for the execution of his judgment, and when our King, armed with his terrible power, will come forth to execute vengeance. While he now seems to take no notice, this does not imply that he has forgotten either himself or us. On the contrary, he laughs at the madness of those who go on in the commission of every kind of sin without any fear of danger, and become more presumptuous day after day. This laughter of God, it is true, brings little comfort to us; but we must, nevertheless, complete the time of our condition of warfare till “the day of the Lord’s vengeance” come, which, as Isaiah declares, (<233408>Isaiah 34:87) shall also be “the year of our redemption.” It does not seem to me to be out of place to suppose, that in the last clause, there is denounced against the enemies of Christ a destruction like that which God in old time sent upon Sodom and Gomorrah. That punishment was a striking and memorable example above all others of the judgment of God against all the wicked, or rather it was, as it were, a visible image upon earth of the eternal fire of hell which is prepared for the reprobate:and hence this similitude is frequently to be met with in the sacred writings.

10. Thou shalt destroy their fruit from the earth. David amplifies the greatness of God’s wrath, from the circumstance that it shall extend even to the children of the wicked. It is a doctrine common enough in Scripture, that God not only inflicts punishment upon the first originators of wickedness, but makes it even to overflow into the bosom of their children. fa452 And yet when he thus pursues his vengeance to the third and fourth generation, he cannot be said indiscriminately to involve the innocent with the guilty. As the seed of the ungodly, whom he has deprived of his grace, are accursed, and as all are by nature children of wrath, devoted to everlasting destruction, he is no less just in exercising his severity towards the children than towards the fathers. Who can lay any thing to his charge, if he withhold from those who are unworthy of it the grace which he communicates to his own children? In both ways he shows how dear and precious to him is the kingdom of Christ; first, in extending his mercy to the children of the righteous even to a thousand generations; and, secondly, in causing his wrath to rest upon the reprobate, even to the third and fourth generation.

<192111>Psalm 21:11-13

11. For they have spread out fa453 evil against thee; they have devised a stratagem against thee, which they could not accomplish. 12. For fa454 thou wilt set them as a butt; thou wilt prepare thy bowstrings to shoot against their faces. 13. Raise thyself, O Jehovah! In thy strength; then we will sing, and celebrate in psalms thy power.

 

11. For they have spread out. In this verse David shows that the ungodly had deserved the awful ruin which he predicted would befall them, since they had not only molested mortal man, but had also rushed forth in the fury of their pride to make war against God himself. No man, as has been stated in our exposition of the second psalm, could offer violence to the kingdom of Israel, which was consecrated in the person of David, by the commandment of God, without making foul and impious war against God. Much more when persons directly attack the kingdom of Christ to overthrow it, is the majesty of God violated, since it is the will of God to reign in the world only by the hand of his Son. As the Hebrew word hfn, natah, which we have translated to spread out, also sometimes signifies to turn aside, it may not unsuitably be here rendered either way. According to the first view the meaning is, that the wicked, as if they had spread out their nets, endeavored to subject to themselves the power of God. According to the second the meaning is, that for the purpose of hindering, and as it were swallowing up his power, fa455 they turned aside their malice, so as to make it bear against it, just like a man who, having dug a great ditch, turned aside the course of some torrent to make it fall within it. The Psalmist next declares, that they devised a stratagem, or device, which would fail of its accomplishment. By these words he rebukes the foolish arrogance of those who, by making war against God, manifest a recklessness and an audacity which will undertake any thing, however daring.

12. For thou wilt set them as a butt. As the Hebrew word k, shekem, which we have rendered a butt, properly signifies a shoulder, some understand it in that sense here, and explain the sentence thus:Their heads shall be smitten with heavy blows, so that having their bodies bended, their shoulders shall appear sticking out. According to these interpreters, the subjugation of the enemies of God is here metaphorically pointed out. But there is another explanation which is more generally received even among the Jewish expositors, namely, that God will shut them up in some corner, and there keep them from doing mischief; fa456 and they take this view, because the Hebrew word k, shekem, is often used to denote a corner, quarter, or place. As, however, the sacred writer, in the clause immediately following, represents God as furnished with a bow, ready to shoot his arrows directly in their faces, I have no doubt that, continuing his metaphor, he compares them to a butt, or mound of earth, on which it is customary to plant the mark which is aimed at, and thus the sense will flow very naturally thus:Lord, thou wilt make them as it were a butt against which to shoot thine arrows. fa457 The great object which the Psalmist has in view is doubtless to teach us to exercise patience, until God, at the fit time, bring the ungodly to their end.

13. Raise thyself, O Jehovah! The psalm is at length concluded with a prayer, which again confirms that the kingdom which is spoken of is so connected with the glory of God, that his power is reflected from it. This was no doubt true with respect to the kingdom of David; for God in old time displayed his power in exalting him to the throne. But what is here stated was only fully accomplished in Christ, who was appointed by the heavenly Father to be King over us, and who is at the same time God manifest in the flesh. As his divine power ought justly to strike terror into the wicked, so it is described as full of the sweetest consolation to us, which ought to inspire us with joy, and incite us to celebrate it with songs of praise and thanksgivings.


PSALM 22.

David complains in this psalm, that he is reduced to such circumstances of distress that he is like a man in despair. But after having recounted the calamities with which he was so severely afflicted, he emerges from the abyss of temptations, and gathering courage, comforts himself with the assurance of deliverance. At the same time, he sets before us, in his own person, a type of Christ, who he knew by the Spirit of prophecy behoved to be abased in marvellous and unusual ways fa458 previous to his exaltation by the Father. Thus the psalm, in the two parts of which it consists, explains that prophecy of Isaiah, (<235308>Isaiah 53:8,) “He was taken from prison and from judgment:and who shall declare his generation?”

To the chief musician. Upon the hind of the morning. A psalm of David.

This inscription is obscure; but interpreters have needlessly perplexed themselves in seeking after I know not what sublime mystery in a matter of small importance. Some are of opinion that the word tlya, ayeleth, means the morning star; fa459 others that it denotes strength fa460 but it is more correctly rendered hind. As it is evident, from the testimony of the apostles, that this psalm is a prophecy concerning Christ, the ancient interpreters thought that Christ would not be sufficiently dignified and honored unless, putting a mystical or allegorical sense upon the word hind, they viewed it as pointing out the various things which are included in a sacrifice. Those, also, who prefer translating the original words, rjh tlya, ayeleth hashachar, the dawn of the day or morning, fa461 have endeavored to do the same thing. But as I find no solidity in these subtleties, it will be better to take that view of the title which is more simple and natural. I think it highly probable that it was the beginning of some common song; nor do I see how the inscription bears any relation to the subject-matter of the psalm. From the tenor of the whole composition, it appears that David does not here refer merely to one persecution, but comprehends all the persecutions which he suffered under Saul. It is, however, uncertain whether he composed this psalm when he peaceably enjoyed his kingdom, or in the time of his affliction; but there is no doubt that he here describes the thoughts which passed through his mind in the midst of his troubles, perplexities, and sorrows.

<192201>Psalm 22:1-2

1. My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou far from my help, and from the words of my roaring? 2. O my God! I cry in the day-time, fa462 but thou hearest not: and in the night-season, and there is no silence to me.

 

1. My God! The first verse contains two remarkable sentences, which, although apparently contrary to each other, are yet ever entering into the minds of the godly together. When the Psalmist speaks of being forsaken and cast off by God, it seems to be the complaint of a man in despair; for can a man have a single spark of faith remaining in him, when he believes that there is no longer any succor for him in God? And yet, in calling God twice his own God, and depositing his groanings into his bosom, he makes a very distinct confession of his faith. With this inward conflict the godly must necessarily be exercised whenever God withdraws from them the tokens of his favor, so that, in whatever direction they turn their eyes, they see nothing but the darkness of night. I say, that the people of God, in wrestling with themselves, on the one hand discover the weakness of the flesh, and on the other give evidence of their faith. With respect to the reprobate, as they cherish in their hearts their distrust of God, their perplexity of mind overwhelms them, and thus totally incapacitates them for aspiring after the grace of God by faith. That David sustained the assaults of temptation, without being overwhelmed, or swallowed up by it, may be easily gathered from his words. He was greatly oppressed with sorrow, but notwithstanding this, he breaks forth into the language of assurance, My God! my God! which he could not have done without vigorously resisting the contrary apprehension fa462 that God had forsaken him. There is not one of the godly who does not daily experience in himself the same thing. According to the judgment of the flesh, he thinks he is cast off and forsaken by God, while yet he apprehends by faith the grace of God, which is hidden from the eye of sense and reason; and thus it comes to pass, that contrary affections are mingled and interwoven in the prayers of the faithful. Carnal sense and reason cannot but conceive of God as being either favorable or hostile, according to the present condition of things which is presented to their view. When, therefore, he suffers us to lie long in sorrow, and as it were to pine away under it, we must necessarily feel, according to the apprehension of the flesh, as if he had quite forgotten us. When such a perplexing thought takes entire possession of the mind of man, it overwhelms him in profound unbelief, and he neither seeks, nor any longer expects, to find a remedy. But if faith come to his aid against such a temptation, the same person who, judging from the outward appearance of things, regarded God as incensed against him, or as having abandoned him, beholds in the mirror of the promises the grace of God which is hidden and distant. Between these two contrary affections the faithful are agitated, and, as it were, fluctuate, when Satan, on the one hand, by exhibiting to their view the signs of the wrath of God, urges them on to despair, and endeavors entirely to overthrow their faith; while faith, on the other hand, by calling them back to the promises, teaches them to wait patiently and to trust in God, until he again show them his fatherly countenance.

We see then the source from which proceeded this exclamation, My God! my God! and from which also proceeded the complaint which follows immediately after, Why hast thou forsaken me? Whilst the vehemence of grief, and the infirmity of the flesh, forced from the Psalmist these words, I am forsaken of God; faith, lest he should when so severely tried sink into despair, put into his mouth a correction of this language, so that he boldly called God, of whom he thought he was forsaken, his God. Yea, we see that he has given the first place to faith. Before he allows himself to utter his complaint, in order to give faith the chief place, he first declares that he still claimed God as his own God, and betook himself to him for refuge. And as the affections of the flesh, when once they break forth, are not easily restrained, but rather carry us beyond the bounds of reason, it is surely well to repress them at the very commencement. David, therefore, observed the best possible order in giving his faith the precedency - in expressing it before giving vent to his sorrow, and in qualifying, by devout prayer, the complaint which he afterwards makes with respect to the greatness of his calamities. Had he spoken simply and precisely in these terms, Lord, why forsakest thou me? he would have seemed, by a complaint so bitter, to murmur against God; and besides, his mind would have been in great danger of being embittered with discontent through the greatness of his grief. But, by here raising up against murmuring and discontent the rampart of faith, he keeps all his thoughts and feelings under restraint, that they may not break beyond due bounds. Nor is the repetition superfluous when he twice calls God his God; and, a little after, he even repeats the same words the third time. When God, as if he had cast off all care about us, passes over our miseries and groanings as if he saw them not, the conflict with this species of temptation is arduous and painful, and therefore David the more strenuously exerts himself in seeking the confirmation of his faith. Faith does not gain the victory at the first encounter, but after receiving many blows, and after being exercised with many tossings, she at length comes forth victorious. I do not say that David was so courageous and valiant a champion as that his faith did not waver. The faithful may put forth all their efforts to subdue their carnal affections, that they may subject and devote themselves wholly to God; but still there is always some infirmity remaining in them. From this proceeded that halting of holy Jacob, of which Moses makes mention in <013224>Genesis 32:24; for although in wrestling with God he prevailed, yet he ever after bore the mark of his sinful defect. By such examples God encourages his servants to perseverance, lest, from a consciousness of their own infirmity, they should sink into despair. The means therefore which we ought to adopt, whenever our flesh becomes tumultuous, and, like an impetuous tempest, hurries us into impatience, is to strive against it, and to endeavor to restrain its impetuosity. In doing this we will, it is true, be agitated and sorely tried, but our faith will, nevertheless, continue safe, and be preserved from shipwreck. Farther, we may gather from the very form of the complaint which David here makes, that he did not without cause redouble the words by which his faith might be sustained. He does not simply say that he was forsaken by God, but he adds, that God was far from his help, in as-much as when he saw him in the greatest danger, he gave him no token to encourage him in the hope of obtaining deliverance. Since God has the ability to succor us, if, when he sees us exposed as a prey to our enemies, he nevertheless sits still as if he cared not about us, who would not say that he has drawn back his hand that he may not deliver us? Again, by the expression, the words of my roaring, the Psalmist intimates that he was distressed and tormented in the highest degree. He certainly was not a man of so little courage as, on account of some slight or ordinary affliction, to howl in this manner like a brute beast. fa464 We must therefore come to the conclusion, that the distress was very great which could extort such roaring from a man who was distinguished for meekness, and for the undaunted courage with which he endured calamities.

As our Savior Jesus Christ, when hanging on the cross, and when ready to yield up his soul into the hands of God his Father, made use of these very words, (<402746>Matthew 27:46,) we must consider how these two things can agree, that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and that yet he was so penetrated with grief, seized with so great mental trouble, as to cry out that God his Father had forsaken him. The apparent contradiction between these two statements has constrained many interpreters to have recourse to evasions for fear of charging Christ with blame in this matter. fa465 Accordingly, they have said that Christ made this complaint rather according to the opinion of the common people, who witnessed his sufferings, than from any feeling which he had of being deserted by his father. But they have not considered that they greatly lessen the benefit of our redemption, in imagining that Christ was altogether exempted from the terrors which the judgment of God strikes into sinners. It was a groundless fear to be afraid of making Christ subject to so great sorrow, lest they should diminish his glory. As Peter, in <440224>Acts 2:24, clearly testifies that “it was not possible that he should be holden of the pains of death,” it follows that he was not altogether exempted from them. And as he became our representative, and took upon him our sins, it was certainly necessary that he should appear before the judgment-seat of God as a sinner. From this proceeded the terror and dread which constrained him to pray for deliverance from death; not that it was so grievous to him merely to depart from this life; but because there was before his eyes the curse of God, to which all who are sinners are exposed. Now, if during his first conflict “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood,” and he needed an angel to comfort him, (<422243>Luke 22:43,) it is not wonderful if, in his last sufferings on the cross, he uttered a complaint which indicated the deepest sorrow. By the way, it should be marked, that Christ, although subject to human passions and affections, never fell into sin through the weakness of the flesh; for the perfection of his nature preserved him from all excess. He could therefore overcome all the temptations with which Satan assailed him, without receiving any wound in the conflict which might afterwards constrain him to halt. In short, there is no doubt that Christ, in uttering this exclamation upon the cross, manifestly showed, that although David here bewails his own distresses, this psalm was composed under the influence of the Spirit of prophecy concerning David’s King and Lord.

2. O my God! I cry in the day-time. In this verse the Psalmist expresses the long continuance of his affliction, which increased his disquietude and weariness. It was a temptation even still more grievous, that his crying seemed only to be lost labor; for, as our only means of relief under our calamities is in calling upon God, if we derive no advantage from our prayers, what other remedy remains for us? David, therefore, complains that God is in a manner deaf to his prayers. When he says in the second clause, And there is no silence to me, the meaning is, that he experienced no comfort or solace, nothing which could impart tranquillity to his troubled mind. As long as affliction pressed upon him, his mind was so disquieted, that he was constrained to cry out. Here there is shown the constancy of faith, in that the long duration of calamities could neither overthrow it, nor interrupt its exercise. The true rule of praying is, therefore, this, that he who seems to have beaten the air to no purpose, or to have lost his labor in praying for a long time, should not, on that account, leave off, or desist from that duty. Meanwhile, there is this advantage which God in his fatherly kindness grants to his people, that if they have been disappointed at any time of their desires and expectations, they may make known to God their perplexities and distresses, and unburden them, as it were, into his bosom.

<192203>Psalm 22:3-8

3. Yet thou art holy, who inhabitest the praises of Israel. 4. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. 6. But I am a worm, and not a man; the scorn of men, and the contempt of the people. 7. All those who see me mock at me: they thrust out the lip, and shake the head. 8. “He has committed,” say they, “his cause unto [or, devolved his cause upon] Jehovah: fa466 let him deliver him, let him deliver him, fa467 seeing he delights in him.”

 

3. Yet thou art holy. In the Hebrew, it is properly, And thou art holy:but the copula w, vau, ought, without doubt, to be rendered by the adversative particle yet. Some think that the eternal and immutable state of God is here set in opposition to the afflictions which David experienced; fa468 but I cannot subscribe to this opinion. It is more simple and natural to view the language as meaning, that God has always shown himself gracious to his chosen people. The subject here treated is not what God is in heaven, but what he has shown himself to be towards men. It may be asked, whether David, in these words, aggravates his complaint, by insinuating that he is the only person who obtains nothing from God? or whether, by holding up these words as a shield before him, he repels the temptation with which he was assailed, by exhibiting to his view this truth, that God is the continual deliverer of his people? I admit that this verse is an additional expression of the greatness of David’s grief; but I have no doubt, that in using this language he seeks from it a remedy against his distrust. It was a dangerous temptation to see himself forsaken by God; and, accordingly, lest by continually thinking upon it, he should nourish it, he turned his mind to the contemplation of the constant evidences afforded of the grace of God, from which he might encourage himself, in the hope of obtaining succor. He, therefore, not only meant to ask how it was that God, who had always dealt mercifully with his people, should now, forgetting as it were his own nature, thus leave a miserable man without any succor or solace; but he also takes a shield with which to defend himself against the fiery darts of Satan. He calls God holy, because he continues always like himself. He says that he inhabiteth the praises of Israel; because, in showing such liberality towards the chosen people, as to be continually bestowing blessings upon them, he furnished them with matter for continued praise and thanksgiving. Unless God cause us to taste of his goodness by doing us good, we must needs become mute in regard to the celebration of his praise. As David belonged to the number of this chosen people, he strives, in opposition to all the obstacles which distrust might suggest as standing in the way, to cherish the hope that he shall at length be united to this body to sing along with them the praises of God.

4. Our fathers trusted in thee. Here the Psalmist assigns the reason why God sitteth amidst the praises of the tribes of Israel. The reason is, because his hand had been always stretched forth to preserve his faithful people. David, as I have just now observed, gathers together the examples of all past ages, in order thereby to encourage, strengthen, and effectually persuade himself, that as God had never cast off any of his chosen people, he also would be one of the number of those for whom deliverance is securely laid up in the hand of God. He therefore expressly declares that he belongs to the offspring of those who had been heard, intimating by this, that he is an heir of the same grace which they had experienced. He has an eye to the covenant by which God had adopted the posterity of Abraham to be his peculiar people. It would be of little consequence to know the varied instances in which God has exercised his mercy towards his own people, unless each of us could reckon himself among their number, as David includes himself in the Church of God. In repeating three times that the fathers had obtained deliverance by trusting, there is no doubt that with all modesty he intends tacitly to intimate that he had the same hope with which they were inspired, a hope which draws after it, as its effect, the fulfillment of the promises in our behalf. In order that a man may derive encouragement from the blessings which God has bestowed upon his servants in former times, he should turn his attention to the free promises of God’s word, and to the faith which leans upon them. In short, to show that this confidence was neither cold nor dead, David tells us, at the same time, that they cried unto God. He who pretends that he trusts in God, and yet is so listless and indifferent under his calamities that he does not implore his aid, lies shamefully. By prayer, then, true faith is known, as the goodness of a tree is known by its fruit. It ought also to be observed, that God regards no other prayers as right but those which proceed from faith, and are accompanied with it. It is therefore not without good reason that David has put the word cried in the middle between these words, They trusted in thee, they trusted, in the fourth verse, and these words, They trusted in thee, in the fifth verse.

6. But I am a worm, and not a man. David does not murmur against God as if God had dealt hardly with him; but in bewailing his condition, he says, in order the more effectually to induce God to show him mercy, that he is not accounted so much as a man. This, it is true, seems at first sight to have a tendency to discourage the mind, or rather to destroy faith; but it will appear more clearly from the sequel, that so far from this being the case, David declares how miserable his condition is, that by this means he may encourage himself in the hope of obtaining relief. He therefore argues that it could not be but that God would at length stretch forth his hand to save him; to save him, I say, who was so severely afflicted, and on the brink of despair. If God has had compassion on all who have ever been afflicted, although afflicted only in a moderate degree, how could he forsake his servant when plunged in the lowest abyss of all calamities? Whenever, therefore, we are overwhelmed under a great weight of afflictions, we ought rather to take from this an argument to encourage us to hope for deliverance, than suffer ourselves to fall into despair. If God so severely exercised his most eminent servant David, and abased him so far that he had not a place even among the most despised of men, let us not take it ill, if, after his example, we are brought low. We ought, however, principally to call to our remembrance the Son of God, in whose person we know this also was fulfilled, as Isaiah had predicted,

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (<235303>Isaiah 53:3)

By these words of the prophet we are furnished with a sufficient refutation of the frivolous subtlety of those who have philosophised upon the word worm, as if David here pointed out some singular mystery in the generation of Christ; whereas his meaning simply is, that he had been abased beneath all men, and, as it were, cut off from the number of living beings. The fact that the Son of God suffered himself to be reduced to such ignominy, yea, descended even to hell, is so far from obscuring, in any respect, his celestial glory, that it is rather a bright mirror from which is reflected his unparalleled grace towards us.

7. All those who see me mock at me, etc., fa469 This is an explanation of the preceding sentence. He had said that he was an object of scorn to the lowest of men, and, as it were, to the refuse of the people. He now informs us of the ignominy with which he had been treated, — that not content with opprobrious language, they also showed their insolence by their very gesture, both by shooting out their lips, fa470 and by shaking their heads. As the words which we render they thrust out the lip, is, in the Hebrew, they open with the lip, fa471 some explain them as meaning to rail. But this view does not appear to me to be appropriate; for the letter b, beth, which signifies with, is here superfluous, as it often is in the Hebrew. I have therefore preferred rendering the original words, they thrust out the lip; which is the gesture of those who mock openly and injuriously. The reproachful language which follows was much more grievous when they alleged against him that God, who he openly avowed was his father, was turned away from him. We know that David, when he saw himself unjustly condemned of the world, was accustomed to support and console himself with the assurance, that since he had the approving testimony of a good conscience, he had God in heaven for his guardian, who was able to execute vengeance upon his revilers. fa472 But now, all who saw him reproached him, that with vain arrogance he had groundlessly boasted of the succor he would receive from God. Where is that God, say they, on whom he leaned? Where is that love to which he trusted? Satan has not a more deadly dart for wounding the souls of men than when he endeavors to dislodge hope from our minds, by turning the promises of God into ridicule. David’s enemies, however, do not simply say that his prayers were in vain, and that the love of God of which he boasted was fallacious; but they indirectly charge him with being a hypocrite, in that he falsely pretended to be one of the children of God, from whom he was altogether estranged.

How severe a temptation this must have been to David every man may judge from his own experience. But by the remedy he used he afforded a proof of the sincerity of his confidence:for unless he had had God as the undoubted witness and approver of the sincerity of his heart, he would never have dared to come before him with this complaint. Whenever, therefore, men charge us with hypocrisy, let it be our endeavor that the inward sincerity of our hearts may answer for us before God. And whenever Satan attempts to dislodge faith from our minds, by biting detraction and cruel derision, let this be our sacred anchors — to call upon God to witness it, and that, beholding it, he may be pleased to show his righteousness in maintaining our right, since his holy name cannot be branded with viler blasphemy than to say that those who put their trust in him are puffed up with vain confidence, and that those who persuade themselves that God loves them deceive themselves with a groundless fancy. As the Son of God was assailed with the same weapon, it is certain that Satan will not be more sparing of true believers who are his members than of him. They ought, therefore, to defend themselves from this consideration - that although men may regard them as in a desperate condition, yet, if they commit to God both themselves and all their affairs, their prayers will not be in vain. By the verb, lg, gol, which is rendered to commit, the nature and efficacy of faith are very well expressed, which, reposing itself upon the providence of God, relieves our minds from the burdens of the cares and troubles with which they are agitated.

<192209>Psalm 22:9-11

9. Surely thou didst draw me forth from the womb, and thou didst cause me to confide upon the breasts of my mother. fa473 10. I was cast upon thee fa474 from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. 11. Depart not far from me, for distress is near, and there is none to help me.

 

9. Surely thou. David again here raises a new fortress, in order to withstand and repel the machinations of Satan. He briefly enumerates the benefits which God had bestowed upon him, by which he had long since learned that he was his father. Yea, he declares that even before he was born God had shown towards him such evidence of his fatherly love, that although now overwhelmed with the darkness of death, he might upon good ground venture to hope for life from him. And it is the Holy Spirit who teaches the faithful the wisdom to collect together, when they are brought into circumstances of fear and trouble, the evidences of the goodness of God, in order thereby to sustain and strengthen their faith. We ought to regard it as an established principle, that as God never wearies in the exercise of his liberality, and as the most exuberant bestowment cannot exhaust his riches, it follows that, as we have experienced him to be a father from our earliest infancy, he will show himself the same towards us even to extreme old age. In acknowledging that he was taken from the womb by the hand of God, and that God had caused him to confide upon the breasts of his mother, the meaning is, that although it is by the operation of natural causes that infants come into the world, and are nourished with their mother’s milk, yet therein the wonderful providence of God brightly shines forth. This miracle, it is true, because of its ordinary occurrence, is made less account of by us. But if ingratitude did not put upon our eyes the veil of stupidity, we would be ravished with admiration at every childbirth in the world. What prevents the child from perishing, as it might, a hundred times in its own corruption, before the time for bringing it forth arrives, but that God, by his secret and incomprehensible power, keeps it alive in its grave? And after it is brought into the world, seeing it is subject to so many miseries, and cannot stir a finger to help itself, how could it live even for a single day, did not God take it up into his fatherly bosom to nourish and protect it? It is, therefore, with good reason said, that the infant is cast upon him; for, unless he fed the tender little babes, and watched over all the offices of the nurse, even at the very time of their being brought forth, they are exposed to a hundred deaths, by which they would be suffocated in an instant. Finally, David concludes that God was his God. God, it is true, to all appearance, shows the like goodness which is here celebrated even to the brute creation; but it is only to mankind that he shows himself to be a father in a special manner. And although he does not immediately endue babes with the knowledge of himself, yet he is said to give them confidence, because, by showing in fact that he takes care of their life, he in a manner allures them to himself; as it is said in another place,

“He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry,” (<19E709>Psalm 147:9.)

Since God anticipates in this manner, by his grace, little infants before they have as yet the use of reason, it is certain that he will never disappoint the hope of his servants when they petition and call upon him. This is the argument by which David struggled with, and endeavored to overcome temptation.

11. Depart not far from me. Here he employs another argument to induce God to show him mercy, alleging that he is sorely pressed and hemmed in by the greatest distress. He doubtless set before his eyes the office which the Scriptures every where attribute to God of succouring the miserable, and of being the more ready to help us the more we are afflicted. Even despair itself, therefore, served as a ladder to elevate his mind to the exercise of devout and fervent prayer. In like manner, the feeling we have of our afflictions should excite us to take shelter under the wings of God, that by granting us his aid, he may show that he takes a deep interest in our welfare.

<192212>Psalm 22:12-16

12. Strong bulls have encompassed me; the bulls of Bashan have beset me round. 13. They have opened their mouth against me, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 14. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me to the dust of death. 16. For dogs have encompassed me; the assembly of the wicked have surrounded me: they have pierced my hands and my feet.

 

12. Strong bulls have encompassed me. The Psalmist now complains of the cruelty and barbarous rage of his enemies; and he compares them first to bulls, secondly to lions, and thirdly to dogs. When the anger of bulls is kindled, we know how fierce and terrible they are. The lion, also, is a cruel beast, and dreadful to mankind. And the eager and fierce boldness with which dogs, when once they are irritated, rush upon a man to do him injury, is well known. In short, David’s enemies were so blood-thirsty and cruel, that they more resembled wild beasts than men. He calls them not simply bulls, but strong bulls. Instead of rendering the original word ybr, rabbim, strong, as we have done, some would render it many:with which I cannot agree. David, it is true, was assailed by great hosts of enemies; but it appears, from the second clause of the verse, that what is here described is their strength, and not their number. He there terms them the bulls of Bashan; meaning by that expression, well-fed bulls, and, consequently, large and strong:for we know that the hill of Bashan was distinguished for rich and fat pastures. fa475

14. I am poured out like water. Hitherto he has informed us that being surrounded by wild beasts, he was not far from death, as if he had been at the point of being devoured every moment. He now bewails, in addition to this, his inward distress; from which we learn that he was not stupid or insensible in dangers. It could have been no ordinary fear which made him almost pine away, by which his bones were disjointed, and his heart poured out like water. We see, then, that David was not buffeted with the waves of affliction like a rock which cannot be moved, but was agitated within by sore troubles and temptations, which, through the infirmity of the flesh, he would never have been able to sustain had he not been aided by the power of the Spirit of God. How these sufferings are applicable to Christ I have informed you a little before. Being a real man, he was truly subject to the infirmities of our flesh, only without the taint of sin. The perfect purity of his nature did not extinguish the human affections; it only regulated them, that they might not become sinful through excess. The greatness of his griefs, therefore, could not so weaken him as to prevent him, even in the midst of his most excruciating sufferings, from submitting himself to the will of God, with a composed and peaceful mind. Now, although this is not the case with respect to us, who have within us turbulent and disorderly affections, and who never can keep them under such restraint as not to be driven hither and thither by their impetuosity, yet, after the example of David, we ought to take courage; and when, through our infirmity, we are, as it were, almost lifeless, we should direct our groanings to God, beseeching him that he would be graciously pleased to restore us to strength and vigor. fa476

15. My strength is dried up. He means the vigor which is imparted to us by the radical moisture, as physicians call it. What he adds in the next clause, My tongue cleaveth to my jaws, is of the same import. We know that excessive grief not only consumes the vital spirits, but also dries up almost all the moisture which is in our bodies. He next declares, that in consequence of this, he was adjudged or devoted to the grave:Thou hast brought me to the dust of death. By this he intimates, that all hope of life was taken from him; and in this sense Paul also says, (<470109>2 Corinthians 1:9,) that “he had received the sentence of death in himself.” But David here speaks of himself in hyperbolical language, and he does this in order to lead us beyond himself to Christ. The dreadful encounter of our Redeemer with death, by which there was forced from his body blood instead of sweat; his descent into hell, by which he tasted of the wrath of God which was due to sinners; and, in short, his emptying himself, could not be adequately expressed by any of the ordinary forms of speech. Moreover, David speaks of death as those who are in trouble are accustomed to speak of it, who, struck with fear, can think of nothing but of their being reduced to dust and to destruction. Whenever the minds of the saints are surrounded and oppressed with this darkness, there is always some unbelief mixed with their exercise, which prevents them from all at once emerging from it to the light of a new life. But in Christ these two things were wonderfully conjoined, namely, terror, proceeding from a sense of the curse of God; and patience, arising from faith, which tranquillised all the mental emotions, so that they continued in complete and willing subjection to the authority of God. With respect to ourselves, who are not endued with the like power, if at any time, upon beholding nothing but destruction near us, we are for a season greatly dismayed, we should endeavor by degrees to recover courage, and to elevate ourselves to the hope which quickens the dead.

16. They have pierced my hands and my feet. The original word, which we have translated they have pierced, is yrak, caari, which literally rendered is, like a lion. As all the Hebrew Bibles at this day, without exception, have this reading, I would have had great hesitation in departing from a reading which they all support, were it not that the scope of the discourse compels me to do so, and were there not strong grounds for conjecturing that this passage has been fraudulently corrupted by the Jews. With respect to the Septuagint version, there is no doubt that the translators had read in the Hebrew text, wrak, caaru, that is the letter w, vau, where there is now the letter y, yod. fa477 The Jews prate much about the literal sense being purposely and deliberately overthrown, by our rendering the original word by they have pierced:but for this allegation there is no color of truth whatever. What need was there to trifle so presumptuously in a matter where it was altogether unnecessary? Very great suspicion of falsehood, however, attaches to them, seeing it is the uppermost desire of their hearts to despoil the crucified Jesus of his escutcheons, and to divest him of his character as the Messiah and Redeemer. If we receive this reading as they would have us to do, the sense will be enveloped in marvellous obscurity. In the first place, it will be a defective form of expression, and to complete it, they say it is necessary to supply the verb to surround or to beset. But what do they mean by besetting the hands and the feet? Besetting belongs no more to these parts of the human body than to the whole man. The absurdity of this argument being discovered, they have recourse to the most ridiculous old wives’ fables, according to their usual way, saying, that the lion, when he meets any man in his road, makes a circle with his tail before rushing upon his prey:from which it is abundantly evident that they are at a loss for arguments to support their view.

Again, since David, in the preceding verse, has used the similitude of a lion, the repetition of it in this verse would be superfluous. I forbear insisting upon what some of our expositors have observed, namely, that this noun, when it has prefixed to it the letter k, caph, which signifies as, the word denoting similitude, has commonly other points than those which are employed in this passage. My object, however, is not here to labor to convince the Jews who in controversy are in the highest degree obstinate and opinionative. I only intend briefly to show how wickedly they endeavor to perplex Christians on account of the different reading which occurs in this place. When they object, that by the appointment of the law no man was fastened with nails to a cross, they betray in this their gross ignorance of history, since it is certain that the Romans introduced many of their own customs and manners into the provin ces which they had conquered. If they object that David was never nailed to a cross, the answer is easy, namely, that in bewailing his condition, he has made use of a similitude, declaring that he was not less afflicted by his enemies than the man who is suspended on a cross, having his hands and feet pierced through with nails. We will meet a little after with more of the same kind of metaphors.

<192217>Psalm 22:17-21

17. I will number all my bones; they look and stare upon me. 18. They part my garments among them, and cast the lot upon my vesture. 19. Be not thou then, O Jehovah! far from me. O thou: who art my strength, make haste to help me. 20. Deliver my soul from the sword; my only one fa478 from the hand [or power] of the dog. 21. Save me from the mouth of the lion, and hear me from the horns of the unicorns. fa479

 

17. I will number. The Hebrew word twmx[, atsmoth which signifies bones, is derived from another word, which signifies strength; and, therefore, this term is sometimes applied to friends, by whose defense we are strengthened, or to arguments and reasons which are, as it were, the sinews and the strength of the defense of a cause. Some, therefore, put this meaning upon the passage, — I will profit nothing by reckoning up all my arguments in self-vindication; for my enemies are fully determined to destroy me by some means or other, whether fair or foul, without having any regard to the dictates of justice. Others explain it thus:Although I should gather together all the aids which might seem to be capable of affording me succor, they would avail me nothing. But the exposition which is more generally received seems to me to be also the more simple and natural, and, therefore, I embrace it the more readily. It is this - that David complains that his body was so lean and wasted, that the bones appeared protruding from all parts of it; for he adds immediately after, that his enemies took pleasure in seeing him in so pitiable a condition. Thus the two clauses of the verse are beautifully connected together. The cruelty of his enemies was so insatiable, that beholding a wretched man wasted with grief, and as it were pining away, they took pleasure in feeding their eyes with so sad a spectacle.

What follows in the next verse concerning his garments is metaphorical. It is as if he had said, that all his goods were become a prey to his enemies, even as conquerors are accustomed to plunder the vanquished, or to divide the spoil among themselves, by casting lots to determine the share which belongs to each. Comparing his ornaments, riches, and all that he possessed, to his garments, he complains that, after he had been despoiled of them, his enemies divided them among themselves, as so much booty, accompanied with mockery of him; and by this mockery the villany of their conduct was aggravated, inasmuch as they triumphed over him, as if he had been a dead man. The Evangelists quote this place to the letter, as we say, and without figure; and there is no absurdity in their doing so. To teach us the more certainly that in this psalm Christ is described to us by the Spirit of prophecy, the heavenly Father intended that in the person of his Son those things should be visibly accomplished which were shadowed forth in David. Matthew, (<400816>Matthew 8:16, 17,) in narrating that the paralytic, the blind, and the lame, were healed of their diseases, says, that this was done “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bear our sicknesses;” although the prophet, in that place, sets before us the Son of God in the character of a spiritual physician. We are extremely slow and backward to believe; and it is not wonderful, that, on account of our dullness of apprehension, a demonstration of the character of Christ, palpable to our senses, has been given us, fa480 which might have the effect of arousing the sluggishness of our understandings.

19. Be not thou, then, far from me, O Jehovah! We must keep in mind all that David has hitherto related concerning himself. As his miseries had reached the utmost height, and as he saw not even a single ray of hope to encourage him to expect deliverance, it is a wonderful instance of the power of faith, that he not only endured his afflictions patiently, but that from the abyss of despair he arose to call upon God. Let us, therefore, particularly mark, that David did not pour out his lamentations thinking them to be in vain, and of no effect, as persons who are in perplexity often pour forth their groanings at random. The prayers which he adds sufficiently show that he hoped for such an issue as he desired. When he calls God his strength, by this epithet he gives a more evident proof of his faith. He does not pray in a doubting manner; but he promises himself the assistance which the eye of sense did not as yet perceive. By the sword, by the hand of the dog, by the mouth of the lion, and by the horns of the unicorns, he intimates that he was presently exposed to the danger of death, and that in many ways. Whence we gather, that although he utterly fainted in himself when thus surrounded by death, he yet continued strong in the Lord, and that the spirit of life had always been vigorous in his heart. Some take the words only soul, or only life, for dear and precious; fa481 but this view does not appear to me to be appropriate. He rather means, that, amidst so many deaths he found no help or succor in the whole world; as in <193517>Psalm 35:17 the words, only soul, fa482 are used in the same sense for a person who is alone and destitute of all aid and succor. This will appear more clearly from <192516>Psalm 25:16, where David, by calling himself poor and alone, doubtless complains that he was completely deprived of friends, and forsaken of the whole world. When it is said in the end of the 21st verse, Answer me, or, Hear me from the horns of the unicorns, this Hebrew manner of speaking may seem strange and obscure to our ears, but the sense is not at all ambiguous. The cause is only put instead of the effect; for our deliverance is the consequence or effect of God’s hearing us. If it is asked how this can be applied to Christ, whom the Father did not deliver from death? I answer, in one word, that he was more mightily delivered than if God had prevented him from falling a victim to death, even as it is a much greater deliverance to rise again from the dead than to be healed of a grievous malady. Death, therefore, did not prevent Christ’s resurrection from at length bearing witness that he had been heard.

<192222>Psalm 22:22-24

22. I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the assembly will I praise thee. 23. [Saying, fa483] Ye who fear Jehovah, praise him: all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 24. For he hath not despised nor disdained the poor; nor hath he hidden his face from him; and when he cried unto him he heard him.

 

22. I will declare thy name. fa484 David, in promising that when he is delivered he will not be ungrateful, confirms what I have previously stated, that he had never been so cast down by temptation as not to take courage to resist it. How could he be putting himself in readiness, as he is doing here, to offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, if he had not beforehand entertained the assured hope of deliverance? Should we even grant that this psalm was composed after David had actually obtained what he desired, there is no doubt that what he afterwards put into writing formed the meditations and reflections which had passed through his mind during the time of his heavy afflictions. It ought to be particularly noticed, that it is no ordinary token of gratitude which he promises, but such as God required for rare blessings; namely, that the faithful should come into his sanctuary, and there bear solemn testimony to the grace which they had received. The design of public and solemn thanksgiving is, that the faithful may employ themselves in all variety of ways, in serving and honoring God, and that they may encourage one another to act in the same manner. We know that God’s wonderful power shone forth in the protection of David; and that not only by one miracle, but by many. It is, therefore, not wonderful that he brings himself under obligation, by a solemn vow, to make open and public profession of his piety and faithfulness towards God. By his brethren he means the Israelites; and he gives them this appellation, not only because he and they were both descended from the same parentage, but rather because the religion which they had in common, as a sacred bond, kept them united to one another by a spiritual relationship. The apostle, (<580212>Hebrews 2:12) in applying this verse to Christ, argues from it, that he was a partaker of the same nature with us, and joined to us by a true fellowship of the flesh, seeing he acknowledges us as his brethren, and vouchsafes to give us a title so honorable. I have already repeatedly stated, (and it is also easy to prove it from the end of this psalms) that under the figure of David, Christ has been here shadowed forth to us. The apostle, therefore, justly deduces from this, that under and by the name of brethren, the right of fraternal alliance with Christ has been confirmed to us. This, no doubt, to a certain extent belongs to all mankind, but the true enjoyment thereof belongs properly to genuine believers alone. For this reason Christ himself, with his own mouth, limits this title to his disciples, saying,

“Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God,”
(<432017>John 20:17.)

The ungodly, by means of their unbelief, break off and dissolve that relationship of the flesh, by which he has allied himself to us, and thus render themselves utter strangers to him by their own fault. As David, while he comprehended under the word brethren all the offspring of Abraham, immediately after (verse 23) particularly addresses his discourse to the true worshippers of God; so Christ, while he has broken down “the middle wall of partition” between Jews and Gentiles, and published the blessings of adoption to all nations, and thereby exhibited himself to them as a brother, retains in the degree of brethren none but true believers.

23. Ye who fear Jehovah. Here, again, the Psalmist expresses more distinctly the fruit of public and solemn thanksgiving, of which I have spoken before, declaring, that by engaging in this exercise, every man in his own place invites and stirs up the church by his example to praise God. He tells us, that the end for which he will praise the name of God in the public assembly is to encourage his brethren to do the same. But as hypocrites commonly thrust themselves into the church, and as on the barn-floor of the Lord the chaff is mingled with the wheat, he addresses himself expressly to the godly, and those who fear God. Impure and wicked men may sing the praises of God with open mouth, but assuredly, they do nothing else than pollute and profane his holy name. It were, indeed, an object much to be desired, that men of all conditions in the world would, with one accord, join in holy melody to the Lord. But as the chief and most essential part of this harmony proceeds from a sincere and pure affection of heart, none will ever, in a right manner, celebrate the glory of God, except the man who worships him under the influence of holy fear. David names, a little after, the seed of Jacob and Israel, having a reference to the common calling of the people; and certainly, he put no obstacle in the way to hinder even all the children of Abraham from praising God with one accord. But as he saw that many of the Israelites were bastard and degenerate, he distinguishes true and sincere Israelites from them; and at the same time shows that God’s name is not duly celebrated, unless where there is true piety and the inward fear of God. Accordingly, in his exhortation he again joins together the praises of God and reverence towards him. — Fear him, ye seed of Israel, says he; for all the fair faces which hypocrites put on in this matter are nothing but pure mockery. The fear which he recommends is not, however, such as would frighten the faithful from approaching God, but that which will bring them truly humbled into his sanctuary, as has been stated in the fifth psalm. Some may be surprised to find David addressing an exhortation to praise God, fa485 to those whom he had previously commended for doing so. But this is easily explained, for even the holiest men in the world are never so thoroughly imbued with the fear of God as not to have need of being continually incited to its exercise. Accordingly, the exhortation is not at all superfluous when, speaking of those who fear God, he exhorts them to stand in awe of him, and to prostrate themselves humbly before him.

24. For he hath not despised. To rejoice in one another’s good, and to give thanks in common for each other’s welfare, is a branch of that communion which ought to exist among the people of God, as Paul also teaches,

“That for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf.”
(<470111>2 Corinthians 1:11,)

But this statement of David serves another important purpose — it serves to encourage every man to hope that God will exercise the same mercy towards himself. By the way, we are taught from these words that the people of God ought to endure their afflictions patiently, however long it shall please the Lord to keep them in a state of distress, that he may at length succor them, and lend them his aid when they are so severely tried.

<192225>Psalm 22:25-29

25. My praise shall proceed from thee fa486 in the great assembly; I will pay my vows in the presence of them that fear him. 26. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; they shall praise Jehovah that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. 27. All the ends of the earth shall remember, and turn to Jehovah; and all the tribes of the Gentiles shall prostrate themselves before his face. 28. For the kingdom is Jehovah’s, that he may be the governor among the nations. 29. All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship; all those who are going down to the dust shall bow before him; and he who quickeneth not his own soul, [or he who is unable to keep himself alive.]

 

25. My praise shall proceed from thee. I do not reject the other translation; but in my opinion, the Hebrew manner of expression here requires this sense - that David will take the matter of his song of praise from God. Accordingly, I supply the verb shall proceed, or shall flow, — My praise shall proceed or flow from thee; and he made this statement in order to testify that he owed his deliverance entirely to God. We know that there are many who, under pretense of praising God, trumpet forth their own praises, and those of their friends, and leaving God in the back-ground, take occasion from one thing or another to celebrate their own triumphs. The Psalmist repeats what he had touched upon a little before, that he will show the tokens of his gratitude in a public manner, in order thereby to edify others. He adds, that among these tokens will be the solemn exercise of godliness enjoined by the law:I will pay my vows in the presence of them that fear him. In important affairs, and when threatened with imminent danger, it was a common practice among God’s ancient people to vow a peace-offering, and after having obtained the object of their desire, they performed their vow. As David, therefore, belonged to the number of the saints, he conformed himself, as it became him, to that common and understood regulation of the Church. The vows which he promises to pay are those which he intimates he had made in his extreme distress, and he prepares himself to perform them with a noble and cheerful heart, yea, with a heart full of confidence. Now, although it behoved him to perform this solemn act of religion in the presence of the whole assembly without distinction, he again confesses it to be his desire, that all who should be present there to witness it should be the true worshippers of God. Thus, although it may not be in our power to cleanse the Church of God, it is our duty to desire her purity. The Papists, by wresting this passage to support their false and deceitful vows, show themselves so stupid and so ridiculous, that it is unnecessary to spend much time in refuting them. What resemblance is there between these childish fooleries, with which according to their own imagination they attempt to appease God, and this holy testimony of gratitude, which not only a true sense of religion and the fear of God suggested to the fathers, but which God himself has commanded and ratified in his law? Yea, how can they have the face to equal their foolish and infamous superstitions to the most precious of all sacrifices - the sacrifice of thanksgiving? even as the Scriptures testify, that the principal part of the service of God consists in this, that true believers publicly and solemnly acknowledge that he is the author of all good things.

26. The poor shall eat. The Psalmist has a reference to the custom which was at that time prevalent among the Jews, of feasting on their sacrifices, as is very well known. He here promises this feast, in order to exercise and prove his charity. And surely that is a pleasant and an acceptable oblation to God to which compassion and mercy are joined. Without these, the ceremonies by which men profess to worship God, with all their pomp and magnificence, vanish into smoke. David does not, however, simply promise to bestow upon the poor and the hungry something for the mere nourishment of the body. He declares that they shall be partakers of this feast for another purpose, namely, that matter of comfort being ministered to them, joy might be restored to their hearts and flourish afresh. For they saw in that feast, as in a mirror, the goodness of God set forth to all who are in affliction, which might assuage with wonderful consolation the grief arising from all their calamities. The Psalmist therefore adds, They shall praise Jehovah that seek him. The abundant repast of which they had partaken ought, no doubt, to have incited them to give thanks to God; but what is particularly meant is, praising God for that deliverance in grateful commemoration of which the sacrifice was offered. This appears still more clearly from the last clause of the verse:Your heart shall live for ever. One meal could not have sufficed to make their hearts live for ever. It was rather the hope which they entertained of having ready succor from God which did this; for all the faithful justly reckoned the deliverance of this one man as a deliverance wrought for themselves in particular. Whence it follows, that, in the peace-offerings, the praises of God were so celebrated, as that genuine worshippers also exercised their hope in them. Farther, as hypocrites content themselves with merely going through the bare and lifeless ceremony, the Psalmist restricts the right performance of this exercise to true and holy Israelites; They shall praise Jehovah that seek him; and to seek God is the certain mark of genuine godliness. Now, if the fathers under the law had their spiritual life renewed and invigorated by their holy feasts, this virtue will show itself much more abundantly at this day in the holy supper of Christ, provided those who come to partake of it seek the Lord truly, and with their whole heart.

27. All the ends of the earth shall remember. This passage, beyond all doubt, shows that David stops not at his own person, but that under himself, as a type, he describes the promised Messiah. For even then, it ought to have been a well-known point, that he had been created king by God, that the people might be united together and enjoy a happy life under one head; and this was at length completely fulfilled in Christ. David’s name, I admit, was great and renowned among the neighboring nations; but what was the territory which they occupied in comparison of the whole world? Besides, the foreign nations whom he had subdued had never been converted by him to the true worship of God. That forced and slavish submission, therefore, which the heathen nations had been brought by conquest to yield to an earthly king, was very different from the willing obedience of true godliness by which they would be recovered from their miserable wanderings, and gathered to God. Nor does the Psalmist mean an ordinary change, when he says, that the nations shall return to God, after having become well acquainted with his grace. Moreover, by uniting them to the fellowship of the holy feast, he manifestly grafts them into the body of the Church. Some explain these words, They shall remember, as meaning, that upon the restoration of the light of faith to the Gentiles, they should then come to remember God, whom they had for a time forgotten; fa487 but this seems to me too refined, and far from the meaning. I allow that the conversion or return of which mention is here made, implies that they had previously been alienated from God by wicked defection; but this remembrance simply means that the Gentiles, awakened by the signal miracles wrought by God, would again come to embrace the true religion, from which they had fallen away. Farther, it is to be observed, that the true worship of God proceeds from the knowledge of him; for the language of the Psalmist implies, that those shall come to prostrate themselves before God, in humble adoration, who shall have profited so far in meditation upon his works, as that they shall have no more desire proudly and contemptuously to break forth against him.

This sense is more fully confirmed by the reason fa488 which is added in the following verse, (28) The kingdom is Jehovah’s, that he may rule over the nations. Some explain these words thus:- It is not to be wondered at if the Gentiles should be constrained to yield honor to God, by whom they were created, and by whose hand they are governed, although he has not entered into a covenant of life with them. But I reject this as a meagre and unsatisfactory interpretation. This passage, I have no doubt, agrees with many other prophecies which represent the throne of God as erected, on which Christ may sit to superintend and govern the world. Although, therefore, the providence of God is extended to the whole world, without any part of it being excepted; yet let us remember that he then, in very deed, exercises his authority, when having dispelled the darkness of ignorance, and diffused the light of his word, he appears conspicuous on his throne. We have such a description of his kingdom by the prophet Isaiah,

“He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people.” (<230204>Isaiah 2:4)

Moreover, as God had not subdued the world to himself, prior to the time when those who before were unconquerable were subdued to a willing obedience by the preaching of the gospel, we may conclude that this conversion was effected only under the management and government of Christ. If it is objected, that the whole world has never yet been converted, the solution is easy. A comparison is here made between that remarkable period in which God suddenly became known every where, by the preaching of the gospel, and the ancient dispensation, when he kept the knowledge of himself shut up within the limits of Judea. Christ, we know, penetrated with amazing speed, from the east to the west, like the lightning’s flash, in order to bring into the Church the Gentiles from all parts of the world.

29. All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship. Lest it should be thought inconsistent that now the fat ones of the earth are admitted as guests to this banquet, which David seemed immediately before to have appointed only for the poor, let us remember that the first place was given to the poor, because to them principally comfort was set forth in the example of David. Yet it was necessary, in the second place, that the rich and the prosperous should be called to the feast, that they might not think themselves excluded from the participation of the same grace. They are not, it is true, urged, by the pressure of present calamities, to seek comfort for grief, but they have need of a remedy to prevent them from intoxicating themselves with their delights, and to excite them rather to lay up their joy in heaven. Again, since they also are subject to a variety of troubles, their abundance will be a curse to them, provided it keep their minds down to the earth. The amount of the Psalmist’s statement is, that this sacrifice will be common as well to those who are sound, lusty, and in opulent circumstances, as to those who are lean, poor, and half dead from the want of food; that the former, laying aside their pride, may humble themselves before God, and that the latter, though they may be brought low, may lift up their minds by spiritual joy to God, the author of all good things, as James (<590109>James 1:9, 10) admonishes both classes, in these words, “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted; but the rich in that he is made low.” Now, if God, under the law, joined the full with the hungry, the noble with the mean, the happy with the wretched, much more ought this to take place at the present day under the gospel. When, therefore, the rich hear that food is offered to them elsewhere than in earthly abundance, let them learn to use the outward good things which God has bestowed upon them for the purposes of the present life, with such sobriety as that they may not be disgusted with spiritual food, or turn away from it, through loathing. So long as they wallow in their own filth, they will never long for this food with a holy desire; and although they may have it at hand, they will never take pleasure in tasting it. fa489 Farther, as those who are fat must become lean, in order that they may present themselves to God to be fed and nourished, so David endeavors to inspire the famished with assured and undaunted confidence, lest their poverty should hinder them from coming to the banquet. Yea, he invites even the dead to come to the feast, in order that the most despised, and those who, in the estimation of the world, are almost like putrefying carcases, may be encouraged and emboldened to present themselves at the holy table of the Lord. The change which the Psalmist makes in the number, from the plural to the singular, in the end of the verse, somewhat obscures the sense; but the meaning undoubtedly is, that those who seem already to be reduced to dust, and whose restoration from death to life is, as it were, despaired of, shall be partakers of the same grace with him.

<192230>Psalm 22:30-31

30. Their seed shall serve him, and shall be registered to the Lord fa490 for a generation. 31. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness to a people that shall be born, because he hath done it.

 

30. Their seed shall serve him. The more to exalt the greatness of the benefit, he declares that it will be of such a character that posterity will never forget it. And he shows how it will come to be perpetuated, namely, because the conversion of the world, of which he has spoken, will not be for a short time only but will continue from age to age. Whence we again conclude, that what is here celebrated is not such a manifestation of the glory of God to the Gentile nations as proceeds from a transitory and fading rumor, but such as will enlighten the world with its beams, even to the end of time. Accordingly, the perpetuity of the Church is here abundantly proved, and in very clear terms:not that it always flourishes or continues in the same uniform course through successive ages, but because God, unwilling that his name should be extinguished in the world, will always raise up some sincerely to devote themselves to his service. We ought to remember that this seed, in which the service of God was to be preserved, is the fruit of the incorruptible seed; for God begets and multiplies his Church only by means of his word.

The expression, To be registered to the Lord for a generation, is explained in two ways. Some take the Hebrew word rwd, dor, for a succession of ages, and explain the clause thus:They shall be registered to the Lord age after age. Others take it for generation, in the sense in which the word natio [nation] is used in the Latin tongue. As both these senses suit very well, and come almost to the same thing, I leave my readers at liberty to choose between them. I am, however, I admit, rather inclined to the opinion, that by this word is designated God’s chosen people and peculiar nation, which may be accounted the heritage of God. Farther, as the name Jehovah, which is expressive of God’s essence, is not here used as it is a little before, but the word Adonai, I do not disapprove of the opinion of those who think that Christ is here expressly invested with authority over fa491 the Church, that he may register all who shall give in their names as on the side of God his Father. And, indeed, as our heavenly Father has committed all his chosen ones to the protection and guardianship of his own Son, he acknowledges as his people none but those who belong to the flock of Christ.

31. They shall come, and shall declare. The Psalmist here confirms what I have previously stated, that since the fathers will transmit the knowledge of this benefit to their children, as it were from hand to hand, the name of God will be always renowned. From this we may also deduce the additional truth, that it is by the preaching of the grace of God alone that the Church is kept from perishing. At the same time, let it be observed, that care and diligence in propagating divine truth are here enjoined upon us, that it may continue after we are removed from this world. As the Holy Spirit prescribes it as a duty incumbent on all the faithful to be diligent in instructing their children, that there may be always one generation after another to serve God, the sluggishness of those who have no scruple of conscience in burying the remembrance of God in eternal silence, a sin with which those are virtually chargeable who neglect to speak of him to their children, and who thus do nothing to prevent his name from utterly perishing, is condemned as involving the greatest turpitude. The term righteousness, in this place, refers to the faithfulness which God observes in preserving his people, of which we have a memorable example in the deliverance of David. In defending his servant from the violence and outrage of the wicked, he proved himself to be righteous. Hence we may learn how dear our welfare is to God, seeing he combines it with the celebration of the praise of his own righteousness. If then the righteousness of God is illustriously manifested in this, that he does not disappoint us of our hope, nor abandon us in dangers, but defends and keeps us in perfect safety, there is no more reason to fear that he will forsake us in the time of our need, than there is reason to fear that he can forget himself. We must, however, remember that it is not for any particular succor afforded to one individual, but it is for the redemption of the human race, that the celebration of the praise of God is required from us in this passage. In short, the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of David, recommends to us the publication of Christ’s resurrection. In the end of this psalm some commentators resolve the particle yk, ki, because, into the pronoun ra, asher, which, as if it had been said, The righteousness which he hath done. But the sentence will be fuller if we read, because, and explain the passage thus:They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness, because God shall have given proof, or demonstration, of his righteousness - shall have afforded evidence by the effect, or the deed itself, that he is the faithful guardian of his own people.


PSALM 23.

This psalm is neither intermingled with prayers, nor does it complain of miseries for the purpose of obtaining relief; but it contains simply a thanksgiving, from which it appears that it was composed when David had obtained peaceable possession of the kingdom, and lived in prosperity, and in the enjoyment of all he could desire. That he might not, therefore, in the time of his great prosperity, be like worldly men, who, when they seem to themselves to be fortunate, fa492 bury God in forgetfulness, and luxuriously plunge themselves into their pleasures, he delights himself in God, the author of all the blessings which he enjoyed. And he not only acknowledges that the state of tranquillity in which he now lives, and his exemption from all inconveniences and troubles, is owing to the goodness of God; but he also trusts that through his providence he will continue happy even to the close of his life, and for this end that he may employ himself in his pure worship.

A Psalm of David.

<192301>Psalm 23:1-4

1. Jehovah is my shepherd, I shall not want. fa493 2. He maketh me to lie down in pastures of grass; he leadeth me to gently flowing waters. fa494 3. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me by the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4. Though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy staff and thy crook comfort me.

 

1. Jehovah is my shepherd. Although God, by his benefits, gently allures us to himself, as it were by a taste of his fatherly sweetness, yet there is nothing into which we more easily fall than into a forgetfulness of him, when we are in the enjoyment of peace and comfort. Yea, prosperity not only so intoxicates many, as to carry them beyond all bounds in their mirth, but it also engenders insolence, which makes them proudly rise up and break forth against God. Accordingly, there is scarcely a hundredth part of those who enjoy in abundance the good things of God, who keep themselves in his fear, and live in the exercise of humility and temperance, which would be so becoming. fa495 For this reason, we ought the more carefully to mark the example which is here set before us by David, who, elevated to the dignity of sovereign power, surrounded with the splendor of riches and honors, possessed of the greatest abundance of temporal good things, and in the midst of princely pleasures, not only testifies that he is mindful of God, but calling to remembrance the benefits which God had conferred upon him, fa496 makes them ladders by which he may ascend nearer to Him. By this means he not only bridles the wantonness of his flesh, but also excites himself with the greater earnestness to gratitude, and the other exercises of godliness, as appears from the concluding sentence of the psalm, where he says, “I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for a length of days.” In like manner, in the 18th psalm, which was composed at a period of his life when he was applauded on every side, by calling himself the servant of God, he showed the humility and simplicity of heart to which he had attained, and, at the same time, openly testified his gratitude, by applying himself to the celebration of the praises of God.

Under the similitude of a shepherd, he commends the care which God, in his providence, had exercised towards him. His language implies that God had no less care of him than a shepherd has of the sheep who are committed to his charge. God, in the Scripture, frequently takes to himself the name, and puts on the character of a shepherd, and this is no mean token of his tender love towards us. As this is a lowly and homely manner of speaking, He who does not disdain to stoop so low for our sake, must bear a singularly strong affection towards us. It is therefore wonderful, that when he invites us to himself with such gentleness and familiarity, we are not drawn or allured to him, that we may rest in safety and peace under his guardianship. But it should be observed, that God is a shepherd only to those who, touched with a sense of their own weakness and poverty, feel their need of his protection, and who willingly abide in his sheepfold, and surrender themselves to be governed by him. David, who excelled both in power and riches, nevertheless frankly confessed himself to be a poor sheep, that he might have God for his shepherd. Who is there, then, amongst us, who would exempt himself from this necessity, seeing our own weakness sufficiently shows that we are more than miserable if we do not live under the protection of this shepherd? We ought to bear in mind, that our happiness consists in this, that his hand is stretched forth to govern us, that we live under his shadow, and that his providence keeps watch and ward over our welfare. Although, therefore, we have abundance of all temporal good things, yet let us be assured that we cannot be truly happy unless God vouchsafe to reckon us among the number of his flock. Besides, we then only attribute to God the office of a Shepherd with due and rightful honor, when we are persuaded that his providence alone is sufficient to supply all our necessities. fa497 As those who enjoy the greatest abundance of outward good things are empty and famished if God is not their shepherd; so it is beyond all doubt that those whom he has taken under his charge shall not want a full abundance of all good things. David, therefore, declares that he is not afraid of wanting any thing, because God is his Shepherd.

2. He maketh me to lie down in pastures of grass. With respect to the words, it is in the Hebrew, pastures, or fields of grass, for grassy and rich grounds. Some, instead of translating the word twan, neoth, which we have rendered pastures, render it shepherds’ cots or lodges. If this translation is considered preferable, the meaning of the Psalmist will be, that sheep-cots were prepared in rich pasture grounds, under which he might be protected from the heat of the sun. If even in cold countries the immoderate heat which sometimes occurs is troublesome to a flock of sheep, how could they bear the heat of the summer in Judea, a warm region, without sheepfolds? The verb ≈br, rabats, to lie down, or repose, seems to have a reference to the same thing. David has used the phrase, the quiet waters, to express gently flowing waters; for rapid streams are inconvenient for sheep to drink in, and are also for the most part hurtful. In this verse, and in the verses following, he explains the last clause of the first verse, I shall not want. He relates how abundantly God had provided for all his necessities, and he does this without departing from the comparison which he employed at the commencement. The amount of what is stated is, that the heavenly Shepherd had omitted nothing which might contribute to make him live happily under his care. He, therefore, compares the great abundance of all things requisite for the purposes of the present life which he enjoyed, to meadows richly covered with grass, and to gently flowing streams of water; or he compares the benefit or advantage of such things to sheep-cots; for it would not have been enough to have been fed and satisfied in rich pasture, had there not also been provided waters to drink, and the shadow of the sheep-cot to cool and refresh him.

3. He restoreth my soul As it is the duty of a good shepherd to cherish his sheep, and when they are diseased or weak to nurse and support them, David declares that this was the manner in which he was treated by God. The restoring of the soul, as we have translated it, or the conversion of the soul, as it is, literally rendered, is of the same import as to make anew, or to recover, as has been already stated in the 19th psalm, at the seventh verse. By the paths of righteousness, he means easy and plain paths. fa498 As he still continues his metaphor, it would be out of place to understand this as referring to the direction of the Holy Spirit. He has stated a little before that God liberally supplies him with all that is requisite for the maintenance of the present life, and now he adds, that he is defended by him from all trouble. The amount of what is said is, that God is in no respect wanting to his people, seeing he sustains them by his power, invigorates and quickens them, and averts from them whatever is hurtful, that they may walk at ease in plain and straight paths. That, however, he may not ascribe any thing to his own worth or merit, David represents the goodness of God as the cause of so great liberality, declaring that God bestows all these things upon him for his own name’s sake. And certainly his choosing us to be his sheep, and his performing towards us all the offices of a shepherd, is a blessing which proceeds entirely from his free and sovereign goodness, as we shall see in the sixty-fifth psalm.

4. Though I should walk. True believers, although they dwell safely under the protection of God, are, notwithstanding, exposed to many dangers, or rather they are liable to all the afflictions which befall mankind in common, that they may the better feel how much they need the protection of God. David, therefore, here expressly declares, that if any adversity should befall him, he would lean upon the providence of God. Thus he does not promise himself continual pleasures; but he fortifies himself by the help of God courageously to endure the various calamities with which he might be visited. Pursuing his metaphor, he compares the care which God takes in governing true believers to a shepherd’s staff and crook, declaring that he is satisfied with this as all-sufficient for the protection of his life. As a sheep, when it wanders up and down through a dark valley, is preserved safe from the attacks of wild beasts and from harm in other ways, by the presence of the shepherd alone, so David now declares that as often as he shall be exposed to any danger, he will have sufficient defense and protection in being under the pastoral care of God.

We thus see how, in his prosperity, he never forgot that he was a man, but even then seasonably meditated on the adversities which afterwards might come upon him. And certainly, the reason why we are so terrified, when it pleases God to exercise us with the cross, is, because every man, that he may sleep soundly and undisturbed, wraps himself up in carnal security. But there is a great difference between this sleep of stupidity and the repose which faith produces. Since God tries faith by adversity, it follows that no one truly confides in God, but he who is armed with invincible constancy for resisting all the fears with which he may be assailed. fa499 Yet David did not mean to say that he was devoid of all fear, but only that he would surmount it so as to go without fear wherever his shepherd should lead him. This appears more clearly from the context. He says, in the first place, I will fear no evil; but immediately adding the reason of this, he openly acknowledges that he seeks a remedy against his fear in contemplating, and having his eyes fixed on, the staff of his shepherd:For thy staff and thy crook comfort me. What need would he have had of that consolation, if he had not been disquieted and agitated with fear? It ought, therefore, to be kept in mind, that when David reflected on the adversities which might befall him, he became victorious over fear and temptations, in no other way than by casting himself on the protection of God. This he had also stated before, although a little more obscurely, in these words, For thou art with me. This implies that he had been afflicted with fear. Had not this been the case, for what purpose could he desire the presence of God? fa500 Besides, it is not against the common and ordinary calamities of life only that he opposes the protection of God, but against those which distract and confound the minds of men with the darkness of death. For the Jewish grammarians think that twmlx, tsalmaveth, which we have translated the shadow of death, is a compound word, as if one should say deadly shade. fa501 David here makes an allusion to the dark recesses or dens of wild beasts, to which when an individual approaches he is suddenly seized at his first entrance with an apprehension and fear of death. Now, since God, in the person of his only begotten Son, has exhibited himself to us as our shepherd, much more clearly than he did in old time to the fathers who lived under the Law, we do not render sufficient honor to his protecting care, if we do not lift our eyes to behold it, and keeping them fixed upon it, tread all fears and terrors under our feet. fa502

<192305>Psalm 23:5-6

5. Thou wilt prepare a table before me in the presence of my persecutors: thou wilt anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for a length of days.

 

5. Thou wilt prepare. These words, which are put in the future tense, here denote a continued act. David, therefore, now repeats, without a figure, what he has hitherto declared, concerning the beneficence of God, under the similitude of a shepherd. He tells us that by his liberality he is supplied with all that is necessary for the maintenance of this life. When he says, Thou preparest a table before me, he means that God furnished him with sustenance without trouble or difficulty on his part, just as if a father should stretch forth his hand to give food to his child. He enhances this benefit from the additional consideration, that although many malicious persons envy his happiness, and desire his ruin, yea, endeavor to defraud him of the blessing of God; yet God does not desist from showing himself liberal towards him, and from doing him good. What he subjoins concerning oil, has a reference to a custom which then prevailed. We know that in old time, ointments were used at the more magnificent feasts, and no man thought he had honourably received his guests if he had not perfumed them therewith. Now, this exuberant store of oil, and also this overflowing cup, ought to be explained as denoting the abundance which goes beyond the mere supply of the common necessaries of life; for it is spoken in commendation of the royal wealth with which, as the sacred historian records, David had been amply furnished. All men, it is true, are not treated with the same liberality with which David was treated; but there is not an individual who is not under obligation to God by the benefits which God has conferred upon him, so that we are constrained to acknowledge that he is a kind and liberal Father to all his people. In the meantime, let each of us stir up himself to gratitude to God for his benefits, and the more abundantly these have been bestowed upon us, our gratitude ought to be the greater. If he is ungrateful who, having only a coarse loaf, does not acknowledge in that the fatherly providence of God, how much less can the stupidity of those be tolerated, who glut themselves with the great abundance of the good things of God which they possess, without having any sense or taste of his goodness towards them? David, therefore, by his own example, admonishes the rich of their duty, that they may be the more ardent in the expression of their gratitude to God, the more delicately he feeds them. Farther, let us remember, that those who have greater abundance than others are bound to observe moderation not less than if they had only as much of the good things of this life as would serve for their limited and temperate enjoyment. We are too much inclined by nature to excess; and, therefore, when God is, in respect of worldly things, bountiful to his people, it is not to stir up and nourish in them this disease. All men ought to attend to the rule of Paul, which is laid down in <500412>Philippians 4:12, that they “may know both how to be abased, and how to abound.” That want may not sink us into despondency, we need to be sustained by patient endurance; and, on the other hand, that too great abundance may not elate us above measure, we need to be restrained by the bridle of temperance. Accordingly, the Lord, when he enriches his own people, restrains, at the same time, the licentious desires of the flesh by the spirit of confidence, so that, of their own accord, they prescribe to themselves rules of temperance. Not that it is unlawful for rich men to enjoy more freely the abundance which they possess than if God had given them a smaller portion; but all men ought to beware, (and much more kings,) lest they should be dissolved in voluptuous pleasures. David, no doubt, as was perfectly lawful, allowed himself larger scope than if he had been only one of the common people, or than if he had still dwelt in his father’s cottage, but he so regulated himself in the midst of his delicacies, as not at all to take pleasure in stuffing and fattening the body. He knew well how to distinguish between the table which God had prepared for him and a trough for swine. It is also worthy of particular notice, that although David lived upon his own lands, the tribute money and other revenues of the kingdom, he gave thanks to God just as if God had daily given him his food with his own hand. From this we conclude that he was not blinded with his riches, but always looked upon God as his householder, who brought forth meat and drink from his own store, and distributed it to him at the proper season.

6. Surely goodness and mercy. Having recounted the blessings which God had bestowed upon him, he now expresses his undoubted persuasion of the continuance of them to the end of his life. But whence proceeded this confidence, by which he assures himself that the beneficence and mercy of God will accompany him for ever, if it did not arise from the promise by which God is accustomed to season the blessings which he bestows upon true believers, that they may not inconsiderately devour them without having any taste or relish for them? When he said to himself before, that even amidst the darkness of death he would keep his eyes fixed in beholding the providence of God, he sufficiently testified that he did not depend upon outward things, nor measured the grace of God according to the judgment of the flesh, but that even when assistance from every earthly quarter failed him, his faith continued shut up in the word of God. Although, therefore, experience led him to hope well, yet it was principally on the promise by which God confirms his people with respect to the future that he depended. If it is objected that it is presumption for a man to promise himself a continued course of prosperity in this uncertain and changing world, I answer, that David did not speak in this manner with the view of imposing on God a law; but he hoped for such exercise of God’s beneficence towards him as the condition of this world permits, with which he would be contented. He does not say, My cup shall be always full, or, My head shall be always perfumed with oil; but in general he entertains the hope that as the goodness of God never fails, he will be favorable towards him even to the end.

I will dwell in the house of Jehovah. By this concluding sentence he manifestly shows that he does not confine his thoughts to earthly pleasures or comforts; but that the mark at which he aims is fixed in heaven, and to reach this was his great object in all things. It is as if he had said, I do not live for the mere purpose of living, but rather to exercise myself in the fear and service of God, and to make progress daily in all the branches of true godliness. He makes a manifest distinction between himself and ungodly men, who take pleasure only in filling their bellies with luxuriant fare. And not only so, but he also intimates that to live to God is, in his estimation, of so great importance, that he valued all the comforts of the flesh only in proportion as they served to enable him to live to God. He plainly affirms, that the end which he contemplated in all the benefits which God had conferred upon him was, that he might dwell in the house of the Lord. Whence it follows, that when deprived of the enjoyment of this blessing, he made no account of all other things; as if he had said, I would take no pleasure in earthly comforts, unless I at the same time belonged to the flock of God, as he also writes in another place,

“Happy is that people that is in such a case:yea, happy is that people whose God is the Lord,” (<19E415>Psalm 144:15.)

Why did he desire go greatly to frequent the temple, but to offer sacrifices there along with his fellow-worshippers, and to improve by the other exercises of religion in meditation upon the celestial life? It is, therefore, certain that the mind of David, by the aid of the temporal prosperity which he enjoyed, was elevated to the hope of the everlasting inheritance. From this we conclude, that those men are brutish who propose to themselves any other felicity than that which arises from drawing near to God.


PSALM 24.

As God stands related to all mankind as their Creator and Governor, David, from this consideration, magnifies the special favor which God manifested towards the children of Abraham, in choosing them to be his peculiar people, in preference to the rest of mankind, and in erecting his sanctuary as his house that he might dwell among them. He shows, at the same time, that although the sanctuary was open to all the Jews, God was not near to all of them, but only to those who feared and served him in sincerity, and who had cleansed themselves from the pollutions of the world, in order to devote themselves to holiness and righteousness. Moreover, as the grace of God was more clearly manifested after the temple was built, he celebrates that grace in a strain of splendid poetry, to encourage true believers with the more alacrity to persevere in the exercise of serving and honoring him.

A Psalm of David.

<192401>Psalm 24:1-4

1. The earth is Jehovah’s, and the fullness thereof; fa503 the world, and they that dwell therein: 2. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. 3. Who shall ascend unto the hill of Jehovah? who shall stand in his holy place? 4. He who is clean of hands, and pure of heart; who hath not lifted up his soul to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.

 

1. The earth is Jehovah’s. We will find in many other places the children of Abraham compared with all the rest of mankind, that the free goodness of God, in selecting them from all other nations, and in embracing them with his favor, may shine forth the more conspicuously. The object of the beginning of the psalm is to show that the Jews had nothing of themselves which could entitle them to approach nearer or more familiarly to God than the Gentiles. As God by his providence preserves the world, the power of his government is alike extended to all, so that he ought to be worshipped by all, even as he also shows to all men, without exception, the fatherly care he has about them. But since he preferred the Jews to all other nations, it was indispensably necessary that there should be some sacred bond of connection between him and them, which might distinguish them from the heathen nations. By this argument David invites and exhorts them to holiness. He tells them that it was reasonable that those whom God had adopted as his children, should bear certain marks peculiar to themselves, and not be altogether like strangers. Not that he incites them to endeavor to prejudice God against others, in order to gain his exclusive favor; but he teaches them, from the end or design of their election, that they shall then have secured to them the firm and peaceful possession of the honor which God had conferred upon them above other nations, when they devote themselves to an upright and holy life. fa504 In vain would they have been collected together into a distinct body, as the peculiar people of God, if they did not apply themselves to the cultivation of holiness. In short, the Psalmist pronounces God to be the King of the whole world, to let all men know that, even by the law of nature, they are bound to serve him. And by declaring that he made a covenant of salvation with a small portion of mankind, and by the erection of the tabernacle, gave the children of Abraham the symbol of his presence, thereby to assure them of his dwelling in the midst of them, he teaches them that they must endeavor to have purity of heart and of hands, if they would be accounted the members of his sacred family.

With respect to the word fullness, I admit that under it all the riches with which the earth is adorned are comprehended, as is proved by the authority of Paul; but I have no doubt that the Psalmist intends by the expression men themselves, who are the most illustrious ornament and glory of the earth. If they should fail, the earth would exhibit a scene of desolation and solitude, not less hideous than if God should despoil it of all its other riches. To what purpose are there produced so many kinds of fruit, and in so great abundance, and why are there so many pleasant and delightful countries, if it is not for the use and comfort of men? fa505 Accordingly, David explains, in the following clause, that it is principally of men that he speaks. It is his usual manner to repeat the same thing twice, and here the fullness of the earth, and the inhabitants of the world, have the same meaning. I do not, however, deny that the riches with which the earth abounds for the use of men, are comprehended under these expressions. Paul, therefore, (<461026>1 Corinthians 10:26) when discoursing concerning meats, justly quotes this passage in support of his argument, maintaining that no kind of food is unclean, because, “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”

2. For he hath founded it upon the seas. The Psalmist here confirms the truth, that men are rightfully under the authority and power of God, so that in all places and countries they ought to acknowledge him as King. And he confirms it from the very order manifested in the creation; for the wonderful providence of God is clearly reflected in the whole face of the earth. In order to prove this, he brings forward the proof of it, which is most evident. How is it that the earth appears above the water, but because God purposely intended to prepare a habitation for men? Philosophers themselves admit, that as the element of the water is higher than the earth, it is contrary to the nature of the two elements fa506 for any part of the earth to continue uncovered with the waters, and habitable. Accordingly, Job (<182811>Job 28:11, 25) extols, in magnificent terms, that signal miracle by which God restrains the violent and tempestuous ragings of the sea, that it may not overwhelm the earth, which, if not thus restrained, it would immediately do and produce horrible confusion. Nor does Moses forget to mention this in the history of the creation. After having narrated that the waters were spread abroad so as to cover the whole earth, he adds, that by an express command of God they retired into one place, in order to leave empty space for the living creatures which were afterwards to be created, (<010109>Genesis 1:9) From that passage we learn that God had a care about men before they existed, inasmuch as he prepared for them a dwelling-place and other conveniences; and that he did not regard them as entire strangers, seeing he provided for their necessities, not less liberally than the father of a family does for his own children. David does not here dispute philosophically concerning the situation of the earth, when he says, that it has been founded upon the seas. He uses popular language, and adapts himself to the capacity of the unlearned. Yet this manner of speaking, which is taken from what may be judged of by the eye, is not without reason. The element of earth, it is true, in so far as it occupies the lowest place in the order of the sphere, is beneath the waters; but the habitable part of the earth is above the water, and how can we account for it, that this separation of the water from the earth remains stable, but because God has put the waters underneath, as it were for a foundation? Now, as from the creation of the world, God extended his fatherly care to all mankind, the prerogative of honor, by which the Jews excelled all other nations, proceeded only from the free and sovereign choice by which God distinguished them.

3. Who shall ascend unto. It being very well known that it was of pure grace that God erected his sanctuary, and chose for himself a dwelling-place among the Jews, David makes only a tacit reference to this subject. fa507 He insists principally on the other point contained in the verse, that of distinguishing true Israelites from the false and bastards. He takes the argument by which he exhorts the Jews to lead a holy and righteous life from this, that God had separated them from the rest of the world, to be his peculiar inheritance. The rest of mankind, it is true, seeing they were created by him, belong to his empire; but he who occupies a place in the church is more nearly related to him. All those, therefore, whom God receives into his flock he calls to holiness; and he lays them under obligations to follow it by his adoption. Moreover, by these words David indirectly rebukes hypocrites, who scrupled not falsely to take to themselves the holy name of God, as we know that they are usually lifted up with pride, because of the titles which they take without having the excellencies which these titles imply, contenting themselves with bearing only outside distinctions; fa508 yea, rather he purposely magnifies this singular grace of God, that every man may learn for himself, that he has no right of entrance or access to the sanctuary, unless he sanctify himself in order to serve God in purity. The ungodly and wicked, it is true, were in the habit of resorting to the tabernacle; and, therefore, God, by the Prophet Isaiah, (<230112>Isaiah 1:12) reproaches them for coming unworthily into his courts, and wearing the pavement thereof. But David here treats of those who may lawfully enter into God’s sanctuary. The house of God being holy, if any rashly, and without a right, rush into it, their corruption and abuse are nothing else but polluting it. As therefore they do not go up thither lawfully, David makes no account of their going up; yea, rather, under these words there is included a severe rebuke, of the conduct of wicked and profane men, in daring to go up into the sanctuary, and to pollute it with their impurity. On this subject I have spoken more fully on the 15th psalm. In the second part of the verse he seems to denote perseverance, as if he had said, Who shall go up into the hill of Sion, to appear and stand in the presence of God? The Hebrew word wq, kum, it is true, sometimes signifies to rise up, but it is generally taken for to stand, as we have seen in the first psalm. And although this is a repetition of the same idea, stated in the preceding clause, it is not simply so, but David, by expressing the end for which they ought to go up, illustrates and amplifies the subject; and this repetition and amplification we find him often making use of in other psalms. In short, how much soever the wicked were mingled with the good in the church, in the time of David, he declares how vain a thing it is to make an external profession unless there be, at the same time, truth in the inward man. What he says concerning the tabernacle of the covenant must be applied to the continual government of the church.

4. He who is clean of hands, and pure of heart. Under the purity of the hands and of the heart, and the reverence of God’s name, he comprehends all religion, and denotes a well ordered life. True purity, no doubt, has its seat in the heart, but it manifests its fruits in the works of the hands. The Psalmist, therefore, very properly joins to a pure heart the purity of the whole life; for that man acts a ridiculous part who boasts of having a sound heart, if he does not show by his fruits that the root is good. On the other hand, it will not suffice to frame the hands, feet, and eyes, according to the rule of righteousness, unless purity of heart precede outward continence. If any man should think it absurd that the first place is given to the hands, we answer without hesitation, that effects are often named before their causes, not that they precede them in order, but because it is sometimes advantageous to begin with things which are best known. David, then, would have the Jews to bring into the presence of God pure hands, and these along with an unfeigned heart. To lift up, or to take his soul, I have no doubt is here put for to swear. It is, therefore, here required of the servants of God, that when they swear, they do it with reverence and in good conscience, fa509 and, under one particular, by synecdoche, is denoted the duty of observing fidelity and integrity in all the affairs of life. That mention is here made of oaths, appears from the words which immediately follow, And hath not sworn deceitfully, which are added as explanatory of what goes before. As, however, there is a twofold reading of the Hebrew word for soul, that is to say, as it may be read, my soul, or his soul, on account of the point hirek, some Jewish commentators read, Who hath not lifted up my soul to vanity, fa510 and understand the word my as spoken of God, an exposition which I reject as harsh and strained. It is a manner of speaking which carries in it great emphasis, for it means, that those who swear offer their souls as pledges to God. Some, however, may perhaps prefer the opinion, that to lift up the soul, is put for to apply it to lying, an interpretation to the adoption of which I have no great objection, for it makes little difference as to the sense. A question may here be raised — it may be asked, why David does not say so much as one word concerning faith and calling upon God. The reason of this is easily explained. As it seldom happens that a man behaves himself uprightly and innocently towards his brethren, unless he is so endued with the true fear of God as to walk circumspectly before him, David very justly forms his estimate of the piety of men towards God by the character of their conduct towards their fellow-men. For the same reason, Christ (<402323>Matthew 23:23) represents judgment, mercy, and faith, as the principal points of the law; and Paul calls “charity” at one time “the end of the law,” (<540105>1 Timothy 1:5) and at another “the bond of perfection” (<510314>Colossians 3:14.)

<192405>Psalm 24:5-6

5. He shall receive blessing from Jehovah, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6. This is the generation of them that seek him, of them that seek thy face, O Jacob! fa511 Selah.

 

5. He shall receive blessing. The more effectually to move the minds of the Israelites, David declares that nothing is more desirable than to be numbered among the flock of God, and to be members of the church. We must here consider that there is an implied contrast between true Israelites and those of them who were degenerate and bastards. The more license the wicked give themselves, the more presumptuous are they in pretending to the name of God, as if he were under obligation to them, because they are adorned with the same outward symbols or badges as true believers. Accordingly, the demonstrative pronoun this, in the following verse, is of great weight, for it expressly excludes all that bastard generation which gloried only in the mask of external ceremonies. And in this verse, when he speaks of blessing, he intimates that it is not those who boast of being the servants of God, while they have only the name, who shall be partakers of the promised blessing, but those only who answer to their calling with their whole heart, and without hypocrisy. It is, as we have already observed, a very powerful inducement to godliness and an upright life, when the faithful are assured that they do not lose their labor in following righteousness, since God has in reserve for them a blessing which cannot fail them. The word righteousness may be explained two ways. It either means all the benefits of God, by which he proves himself to be righteous and faithful towards his people in keeping his promises to them, or it denotes the fruit or reward of the believer’s righteousness. Indeed, David’s meaning is abundantly manifest. He intends to show on the one hand, that it is not to be expected that the fruit or reward of righteousness will be bestowed on those who unrighteously profane God’s sacred worship; and on the other hand, that it is impossible for God to disappoint his true worshippers; for it is his peculiar office to give evidence of his righteousness by doing them good.

6. This is the generation. I have just now observed, that by the demonstrative pronoun this, the Psalmist erases from the catalogue of the servants of God all counterfeit Israelites, who, trusting only to their circumcision and the sacrifices of beasts, have no concern about offering themselves to God; and yet, at the same time, they rashly thrust themselves into the church. Such persons may pretend to have delight in the service of God, by often coming to his temple, but they have no other design than to withdraw themselves from him as far as they can. Now, as nothing was more common in the mouths of each of them than to say, that they all belonged to the holy seed, the Psalmist has limited the name of holy generation to the true observers of the law; as if he had said, All who have sprung from Abraham, according to the flesh, are not, on that account, his legitimate children. It is, no doubt, truly said in many other places, as we shall see in <192701>Psalm 27, that those sought the face of God who, to testify their godliness, exercised themselves in the ceremonies before the ark of the covenant; that is to say, if they were brought thither by a pure and holy affection. But as hypocrites seek God externally in a certain way, as well as true saints, while yet they shun him by their windings and false pretences, fa512 David here declares that God is not sought in truth unless there go before a zealous cultivation of holiness and righteousness. To give the sentence greater emphasis, he repeats it, using the second person, and addressing his discourse to God. fa513 It is as if he summoned before the judgment-seat of God hypocrites, who account it nothing falsely to use the name of God before the world; and he thus teaches us, that whatever they may say in their empty talk among men, the judgment of God will be a very different matter. He adds the word Jacob, for the confirmation of the same doctrine putting it for those who were descended from Jacob; as if he had said, Although circumcision distinguishes all the seed of Jacob according to the flesh from the Gentiles, yet we can only distinguish the chosen people by the fear and reverence of God, as Christ said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (<430147>John 1:47.)

<192407>Psalm 24:7-10

7. Lift up your heads, O ye gates! and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors! and the King of glory shall enter in. 8. Who is this King of glory? Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle. 9. Lift up your heads, O ye gates! Be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors! and the King of glory shall enter in. 10. Who is this King of glory? Jehovah of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.

 

7. Lift up your heads, O ye gates! The magnificent and splendid structure of the temple, in which there was more outward majesty than in the tabernacle, not being yet erected, David here speaks of the future building of it. By doing this, he encourages the pious Israelites to employ themselves more willingly, and with greater confidence, in the ceremonial observances of the law. It was no ordinary token of the goodness of God that he condescended to dwell in the midst of them by a visible symbol of his presence, and was willing that his heavenly dwelling-place should be seen upon earth. This doctrine ought to be of use to us at this day; for it is an instance of the inestimable grace of God, that so far as the infirmity of our flesh will permit, we are lifted up even to God by the exercises of religion. What is the design of the preaching of the word, the sacraments, the holy assemblies, and the whole external government of the church, but that we may be united to God? It is not, therefore, without good reason that David extols so highly the service of God appointed in the law, seeing God exhibited himself to his saints in the ark of the covenant, and thereby gave them a certain pledge of speedy succor whenever they should invoke him for aid. God, it is true, “dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” nor does he take delight in outward pomp; but as it was useful, and as it was also the pleasure of God, that his ancient people, who were rude, and still in their infancy, should be lifted up to him by earthly elements, David does not here hesitate to set forth to them, for the confirmation of their faith, the sumptuous building of the temple, to assure them that it was not a useless theater; but that when they rightly worshipped God in it, according to the appointment of his word, they stood as it were in his presence, and would actually experience that he was near them. The amount of what is stated is, that in proportion as the temple which God had commanded to be built to him upon mount Sion, surpassed the tabernacle in magnificence, it would be so much the brighter a mirror of the glory and power of God dwelling among the Jews. In the meantime, as David himself burned with intense desire for the erection of the temple, so he wished to inflame the hearts of all the godly with the same ardent desire, that, aided by the rudiments of the law, they might make more and more progress in the fear of God. He terms the gates, everlasting, because the promise of God secured their continual stability. The temple excelled in materials and in workmanship, but its chief excellence consisted in this, that the promise of God was engraven upon it, as we shall see in <19D214>Psalm 132:14, “This is my rest for ever.” In terming the gates everlasting, the Psalmist, at the same time, I have no doubt, makes a tacit contrast between the tabernacle and the temple. The tabernacle never had any certain abiding place, but being from time to time transported from one place to another, was like a wayfaring man. When, however, mount Sion was chosen, and the temple built, God then began to have there a certain and fixed place of abode. By the coming of Christ, that visible shadow vanished, and it is therefore not wonderful that the temple is no longer to be seen upon mount Sion, seeing it is now so great as to occupy the whole world. If it is objected, that at the time of the Babylonish captivity the gates which Solomon had built were demolished, I answer, God’s decree stood fast, notwithstanding that temporary overthrow; and by virtue of it, the temple was soon after rebuilt; which was the same as if it had always continued entire. The Septuagint has from ignorance corrupted this passage. fa514 The Hebrew word yar, rashim, which we have rendered heads, is no doubt sometimes taken metaphorically for princes; but the word your, which is here annexed to it, sufficiently shows that we cannot draw from it another sense than this — that the gates lift up their heads, otherwise we must say, Your princes. Some, therefore, think that kings and magistrates are here admonished of their duty, which is to open up the way, and give entrance to God. This is a plausible interpretation, but it is too much removed from the design and words of the prophet. Above all, from the natural sense of the words, we may perceive how foolishly and basely the Papists have abused this passage for the confirmation of the gross and ridiculous notion by which they introduce Christ as knocking at the gate of the infernal regions, in order to obtain admission. fa515 Let us, therefore, learn from this, to handle the holy word of God with sobriety and reverence, and to hold Papists in detestation, who, as it were, make sport of corrupting and falsifying it in this manner, by their execrable impieties. fa516

8. Who is this King of glory? etc. The praises by which the power of God is here magnified are intended to tell the Jews that he did not sit idle in his temple, but took up his abode in it, in order to show himself ready to succor his people. It is to be observed, that there is great weight both in the interrogation, and in the repetition of the same sentence. The prophet assumes the person of one who wonders thereby to express with greater effect that God comes armed with invincible power to maintain and save his people, and to keep the faithful in safety under his shadow. We have already said, that when God is spoken of as dwelling in the temple, it is not to be understood as if his infinite and incomprehensible essence had been shut up or confined within it; but that he was present there by his power and grace, as is implied in the promise which he made to Moses,

“In all places where I record my name, I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee,” (<022024>Exodus 20:24.)

That this was no vain and empty promise, but that God truly dwelt in the midst of the people, is what the faithful experienced who sought him not superstitiously, as if he had been fixed to the temple, but made use of the temple and of the service which was performed in it for elevating their hearts to heaven. The amount of what is stated is, that whenever the people should call upon God in the temple, it would manifestly appear, from the effect which would follow, that the ark of the covenant was not a vain and an illusory symbol of the presence of God, because he would always stretch forth his omnipotent arm for the defense and protection of his people. The repetition teaches us that true believers cannot be too constant and diligent in meditation on this subject. The Son of God, clothed with our flesh, has now shown himself to be King of glory and Lord of hosts, and he is not entered into his temple only by shadows and figures, but really and in very deed, that he may dwell in the midst of us. There is, therefore, nothing to hinder us from boasting that we shall be invincible by his power. Mount Sion, it is true, is not at this day the place appointed for the sanctuary, and the ark of the covenant is no longer the image or representation of God dwelling between the cherubim; but as we have this privilege in common with the fathers, that, by the preaching of the word and the sacraments, we may be united to God, it becomes us to use these helps with reverence; for if we despise them by a detestable pride, God cannot but at length utterly withdraw himself from us.


PSALM 25.

This psalm consists of meditations mingled with prayers. Being rudely treated, and grievously distressed, by the cruelty of his enemies, David, in order to obtain assistance from God, first acknowledges that God had justly made use of this as a means of chastising and punishing him for his sins; and, therefore, he prays for their forgiveness, that he may at once enjoy assurance of the divine favor, and obtain deliverance. He then implores the aid of the Holy Spirit, that, sustained by it, he might, even in the midst of so many temptations, continue in the fear of God. And in various places he intermingles meditation, as the means of stirring up himself to increased confidence in God, and of withdrawing his thoughts from the allurements of the world.

A Psalm of David.

<192501>Psalm 25:1-3

1. Unto thee, O Jehovah! I have lifted up my soul 2. O my God! I have put my trust in thee; let me not be ashamed; let not mine enemies rejoice over me. 3. Yea, none of those that wait on thee shall be ashamed; but they shall be ashamed that deal falsely without cause.

 

1. Unto thee, O Jehovah! etc. The Psalmist declares at the very outset, that he is not driven hither and thither, after the manner of the ungodly, but that he directs all his desires and prayers to God alone. Nothing is more inconsistent with true and sincere prayer to God, than to waver and gaze about as the heathen do, for some help from the world; and at the same time to forsake God, or not to betake ourselves directly to his guardianship and protection. Those who imagine that David here declares that he had devoted himself entirely to God, as if he had offered up himself in sacrifice, do not properly understand the import of the passage. The meaning rather is, that in order to strengthen the hope of obtaining his request, he declares, what is of the greatest importance in prayer, that he had his hope fixed in God, and that he was not ensnared by the allurements of the world, or prevented from lifting up his soul fully and unfeignedly to God. In order, therefore, that we may pray aright to God, let us be directed by this rule — not to distract our minds by various and uncertain hopes, nor to depend on worldly aid, but to yield to God the honor of lifting up our hearts to him in sincere and earnest prayer. Moreover, although the verb is properly rendered, I will lift up, yet I have followed other interpreters in changing it into the past tense, I have lifted up. By the future tense, however, David denotes a continued act.

2. O my God! I have put my trust in thee. By this verse we learn, (what will appear more clearly afterwards,) that David had to do with men; but as he was persuaded that his enemies were, as it were, the scourges of God, he with good reason asks that God would restrain them by his power, lest they should become more insolent, and continue, to exceed all bounds. By the word trust he confirms what he had just said of the lifting up of his soul to God; for the term is employed either as descriptive of the way in which the souls of the faithful are lifted up, or else faith and hope are added as the cause of such an effect, namely, the lifting up of the soul. And, indeed, these are the wings by which our souls, rising above this world, are lifted up to God. David, then, was carried upward to God with the whole desire of his heart, because, trusting to his promises, he thereby hoped for sure salvation. When he asks that God would not suffer him to be put to shame, he offers up a prayer which is taken from the ordinary doctrine of Scripture, namely, that they who trust in God shall never be ashamed. The reason which is added, and which he here pleads, to induce God to have pity upon him, ought also to be noticed. It is this, that he might not be exposed to the derision of his enemies, whose pride is no less hurtful to the feelings of the godly than it is displeasing to God.

3. Yea, none of those, etc. If these words should be explained in the form of a desire, as if David had said, Let none who wait on thee be put to shame, fa517 then, in this verse, he continues his prayer, and extends to all the faithful in common what he had spoken of himself alone. But I am rather inclined to understand the words in a different sense, and to view them as meaning that David shows the fruit of divine grace which should proceed from his deliverance. And there is peculiar force in the word yea; for as he knew that he was seen by many, and that the report of his confidence in God was widely spread, his meaning is, that what shall be done in his person shall extend far and wide, as an example to others, and shall have the effect of reviving and animating all the children of God, on the one hand, and of casting to the ground the arrogance of the wicked, on the other. The words might also be understood in another sense, namely, that David, for the strengthening of his faith, sets before himself a promise which God frequently makes in his word. But the sense in which I have interpreted them seems to be more suitable. By the wicked that deal falsely without cause, he no doubt means especially his enemies. Accordingly, he declares that when he is delivered he will not enjoy exclusively the benefit of it; but that its fruit shall extend to all true believers; just as on the other hand, the faith of many would have been shaken if he had been forsaken of God. In the last clause of the verse, which he puts in opposition to the first, he argues that when the wicked lie confounded, it redounds to the glory of God, because the vaunting in which they indulge in their prosperity is an open mockery of God, while, in despite of his judgment, they break forth more boldly in doing evil. When he adds, without cause, it only tends to show the aggravated nature of the offense. The wickedness of a man is always the more intolerable, when, unprovoked by wrongs, he sets himself, of his own accord, to injure the innocent and blameless.

<192504>Psalm 25:4-7

4. O Jehovah! make me to know thy ways, and teach me thy paths. 5. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me;  for thou art the God of my salvation: I have waited for thee all the day. 6. Remember, O Jehovah! thy tender mercies and thy loving-kindnesses, for they have been from everlasting. 7. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy compassion, and for the sake of thy goodness, O Jehovah! do thou remember me.

 

4. O Jehovah! make me to know thy ways. By the ways of the Lord, David sometimes means, as we have seen in another place, the happy and prosperous issue of affairs, but more frequently he uses this expression to denote the rule of a holy and righteous life. As the term truth occurs in the immediately following verse, the prayer which he offers up in this place is, in my opinion, to this effect:Lord, keep thy servant in the firm persuasion of thy promises, and do not suffer him to turn aside to the right hand or to the left. When our minds are thus composed to patience, we undertake nothing rashly or by improper means, but depend wholly upon the providence of God. Accordingly, in this place David desires not merely to be directed by the Spirit of God, lest he should err from the right way, but also that God would clearly manifest to him his truth and faithfulness in the promises of his word, that he might live in peace before him, and be free from all impatience. fa518 If any one would rather take the words in a general sense, as if David committed himself wholly to God to be governed by him, I do not object to it. As, however, I think it probable, that, under the name of truth in the next verse, he explains what he means by the ways and paths of God, of which he here speaks, I have no hesitation in referring the prayer to this circumstance, namely, that David, afraid of yielding to the feeling of impatience, or the desire of revenge, or some extravagant and unlawful impulse, asks that the promises of God may be deeply impressed and engraven on his heart. For I have said before, that as long as this thought prevails in our minds, that God takes care of us, it is the best and most powerful means for resisting temptations. If, however, by the ways and paths of God, any would rather understand his doctrine, I, nevertheless, still hold this as a settled point, that in the language of the Psalmist there is an allusion to those sudden and irregular emotions which arise in our minds when we are tossed by adversity, and by which we are precipitated into the devious and deceitful paths of error, till they are in due time subdued or allayed by the word of God. Thus the meaning is, Whatever may happen, suffer me not, O Lord, to fall from thy ways, or to be carried away by a wilful disobedience to thy authority, or any other sinful desire; but rather let thy truth preserve me in a state of quiet repose and peace, by an humble submission to it. Moreover, although he frequently repeats the same thing, asking that God would make him to know his ways, and teach him in them, and lead him in his truth, there is no redundancy in these forms of speech. Our adversities are often like mists which darken the eyes; and every one knows from his own experience how difficult a thing it is, while these clouds of darkness continue, to discern in what way we ought to walk. But if David, so distinguished a prophet and endued with so much wisdom, stood in need of divine instruction, what shall become of us if, in our afflictions, God dispel not from our minds those clouds of darkness which prevent us from seeing his light? As often, then, as any temptation may assail us, we ought always to pray that God would make the light of his truth to shine upon us, lest, by having recourse to sinful devices, we should go astray, and wander into devious and forbidden paths.

At the same time, we ought to observe the argument which David here employs to enforce his prayer. By calling God the God of his salvation, he does so in order to strengthen his hope in God for the future, from a consideration of the benefits which he had already received from him; and then he repeats the testimony of his confidence towards God. Thus the first part of the argument is taken from the nature of God himself, and the duty which, as it were, belongs to him; that is to say, because he engages to maintain the welfare of the godly, and aids them in their necessities, on this ground, that he will continue to manifest the same favor towards them even to the end. But as it is necessary that our confidence in God should correspond to his great goodness towards us, David alleges it, at the same time, in connection with a declaration of his perseverance. For, by the expression all the day, or every day, he signifies that with a fixed and untiring constancy he depended upon God alone. And, doubtless, it is the property of faith always to look to God, even in the most trying circumstances, and patiently to wait for the aid which he has promised. That the recollection of the divine blessings may nourish and sustain our hope, let us learn to reflect upon the goodness which God has already manifested towards us, as we see that David did in making this the ground of his confidence, that he had found in his own personal experience God to be the author of salvation.

6. Remember, O Jehovah; From this it appears, in the first place, that David was grievously afflicted and tried, so much so that he had lost all sense of God’s mercy:for he calls upon God to remember for him his favor, in such a manner as if he had altogether forgotten it. This, therefore, is the complaint of a man suffering extreme anguish, and overwhelmed with grief. We may learn from this, that although God, for a time, may withdraw from us every token of his goodness, and, apparently regardless of the miseries which afflict us, should, as if we were strangers to him, and not his own people, forsake us, we must fight courageously, until, set free from this temptation, we cordially present the prayer which is here recorded, beseeching God, that, returning to his former manner of dealing, he would again begin to manifest his goodness towards us, and to deal with us in a more gracious manner. This form of prayer cannot be used with propriety, unless when God is hiding his face from us, and seems to take no interest at all in us. Moreover David, by having recourse to the mercy or compassion and goodness of God, testifies that he trusts not to his own merit as any ground of hope. He who derives every thing from the fountain of divine mercy alone, finds nothing in himself entitled to recompense in the sight of God. But as the intermission which David had experienced was an obstacle which prevented his free access to God, he rises above it, by the very best remedy — the consideration, that although God, who from his very nature is merciful, may withdraw himself, and cease for a time to manifest his power, yet he cannot deny himself; that is to say, he cannot divest himself of the feeling of mercy which is natural to him, and which can no more cease than his eternal existence. But we must firmly maintain this doctrine, that God has been merciful even from the beginning, so that if at any time he seem to act with severity towards us, and to reject our prayers, we must not imagine that he acts contrary to his real character, or that he has changed his purpose. Hence we learn for what end it is that the Scriptures every where inform us, that in all ages God has regarded his servants with a benignant eye, and exercised his mercy towards them. fa519 This, at least, we ought to regard as a fixed and settled point, that although the goodness of God may sometimes be hidden, and as it were buried out of sight, it can never be extinguished.

7. Remember not the sins of my youth. As our sins are like a wall between us and God, which prevents him from hearing our prayers, or stretching forth his hand to help us, David now removes this obstruction. It is indeed true, in general, that men pray in a wrong way, and in vain, unless they begin by seeking the forgiveness of their sins. There is no hope of obtaining any favor from God unless he is reconciled to us. How shall he love us unless he first freely reconcile us to himself? The right and proper order of prayer therefore is, as I have said, to ask, at the very outset, that God would pardon our sins. David here acknowledges, in explicit terms, that he cannot in any other way become a partaker of the grace of God than by having his sins blotted out. In order, therefore, that God may be mindful of his mercy towards us, it is necessary that he forget our sins, the very sight of which turns away his favor from us. In the meantime, the Psalmist confirms by this more clearly what I have already said, that although the wicked acted towards him with cruelty, and persecuted him unjustly, yet he ascribed to his own sins all the misery which he endured. For why should he ask the forgiveness of his sins, by having recourse to the mercy of God, but because he acknowledged, that by the cruel treatment he received from his enemies, he only suffered the punishment which he justly merited? He has, therefore, acted wisely in turning his thoughts to the first cause of his misery, that he may find out the true remedy; and thus he teaches us by his example, that when any outward affliction presses upon us, we must entreat God not only to deliver us from it, but also to blot out our sins, by which we have provoked his displeasure, and subjected ourselves to his chastening rod. If we act otherwise, we shall follow the example of unskilful physicians, who, overlooking the cause of the disease, only seek to alleviate the pain, and apply merely adventitious remedies for the cure. Moreover, David makes confession not only of some slight offenses, as hypocrites are wont to do, who, by confessing their guilt in a general and perfunctory manner, either seek some subterfuge, or else extenuate the enormity of their sin; but he traces back his sins even to his very childhood, and considers in how many ways he had provoked the wrath of God against him. When he makes mention of the sins which he had committed in his youth, he does not mean by this that he had no remembrance of any of the sins which he had committed in his later years; but it is rather to show that he considered himself worthy of so much the greater condemnation. fa520 In the first place, considering that he had not begun only of late to commit sin, but that he had for a long time heaped up sin upon sin, he bows himself, if we may so speak, under the accumulated load; and, in the second place, he intimates, that if God should deal with him according to the rigour of law, not only the sins of yesterday, or of a few days, would come into judgment against him, but all the instances in which he had offended, even from his infancy, might now with justice be laid to his charge. As often, therefore, as God terrifies us by his judgments and the tokens of his wrath, let us call to our remembrance, not only the sins which we have lately committed, but also all the transgressions of our past life, proving to us the ground of renewed shame and renewed lamentation. Besides, in order to express more fully that he supplicates a free pardon, he pleads before God only on the ground of his mere good pleasure; and therefore he says, According to thy compassion do thou remember me. When God casts our sins into oblivion, this leads him to behold us with fatherly regard. David can discover no other cause by which to account for this paternal regard of God, but that he is good, and hence it follows that there is nothing to induce God to receive us into his favor but his own good pleasure. When God is said to remember us according to his mercy, we are tacitly given to understand that there are two ways of remembering which are entirely opposite; the one when he visits sinners in his wrath, and the other when he again manifests his favor to those of whom he seemed for a time to take no account.

<192508>Psalm 25:8-11

8. Good and upright is Jehovah; therefore will he teach sinners in the way. 9. He will guide the poor in judgment, and will teach the poor fa521 his way. 10. All the ways of Jehovah are mercy and truth, to those who keep his covenant and his testimony. 11. For thy name’s sake, O Jehovah! be thou merciful to mine iniquity, for it is great.

 

8. Good and upright is Jehovah. Pausing for a little as it were in the prosecution of his prayer, he exercises his thoughts in meditation upon the goodness of God, that he may return with renewed ardor to prayer. The faithful feel that their hearts soon languish in prayer, unless they are constantly stirring themselves up to it by new incitements; so rare and difficult a thing is it to persevere steadfastly and unweariedly in this duty. And, indeed, as one must frequently lay on fuel in order to preserve a fire, so the exercise of prayer requires the aid of such helps, that it may not languish, and at length be entirely extinguished. David, therefore, desirous to encourage himself to perseverance, speaks to himself, and affirms that God is good and upright, that, gathering new strength by meditating on this truth, he may return with the more alacrity to prayer. But we must observe this consequence — that as God is good and upright, he stretches forth his hand to sinners to bring them back again into the way. To attribute to God an uprightness which he may exercise only towards the worthy and the meritorious, is a cold view of his character, and of little advantage to sinners, and yet the world commonly apprehends that God is good in no other sense. How comes it to pass that scarcely one in a hundred applies to himself the mercy of God, if it is not because men limit it to those who are worthy of it? No on the contrary, it is here said, that God gives a proof of his uprightness when he shows to transgressors the way; and this is of the same import as to call them to repentance, and to teach them to live uprightly. And, indeed, if the goodness of God did not penetrate even to hell, no man would ever become a partaker of it. Let the Papists then boast as they please of their imaginary preparations, but let us regard this as a sure and certain doctrine, that if God do not prevent men by his grace, they shall all utterly perish. David, therefore, here commends this preventing grace, as it is called, which is manifested either when God in calling us at first renews, by the Spirit of regeneration, our corrupt nature, or when he brings us back again into the right way, after we have gone astray from him by our sins. For since even those whom God receives for his disciples are here called sinners, it follows that he renews them by his Holy Spirit that they may become docile and obedient.

9. He will guide the poor in judgment. The Psalmist here specifies the second manifestation of his grace which God makes towards those who, being subdued by his power, and brought under his yoke, bear it willingly, and submit themselves to his government. But never will this docility be found in any man, until the heart, which is naturally elated and filled with pride, has been humbled and subdued. As the Hebrew word ywn[, anavim, denotes the poor or afflicted, and is employed in a metaphorical sense, to denote the meek and humble, it is probable that David, under this term, includes the afflictions which serve to restrain and subdue the frowardness of the flesh, as well as the grace of humility itself; as if he had said, When God has first humbled them, then he kindly stretches forth his hand to them, and leads and guides them throughout the whole course of their life. Moreover, some understand these terms, judgment and way of the Lord, as denoting a righteous and well ordered manner of life. Others refer them to the providence of God, an interpretation which seems more correct, and more agreeable to the context, for it is immediately added, All the ways of Jehovah are mercy and truth. The meaning therefore is, that those who are truly humbled in their hearts, and brought to place their confidence in God, shall experience how much care he has for his children, fa522 and how well he provides for their necessities. The terms, judgment and way of the Lord, therefore, are simply of the same import in this place as his government, in the exercise of which he shows that he, as a kind father, has a special interest in the welfare of his children, by relieving them when they are oppressed, raising them up when cast down, cheering and comforting them when sorrowful, and succouring them when afflicted. We perceive, then, by what order God proceeds in the manifestation of his grace towards us. First, he brings us again into the way when we are wandering and going astray from him, or rather, when we are already fugitives and exiles from him, he restrains our frowardness; and whereas we were before froward and rebellious, he now subdues us to the obedience of his righteousness:and, secondly, after he has afflicted and tried us, he does not forsake us; but after he has moulded and trained us by the cross to humility and meekness, he still shows himself to be a wise and provident father in guiding and directing us through life.

10. All the ways of Jehovah. This verse is erroneously interpreted by those who think that the doctrine of the law is here described as true and sweet, and that those who keep it feel it indeed to be so, as if this passage were of the same import as that which was spoken by Jesus Christ,

“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(<401130>Matthew 11:30)

Such an interpretation is not only strained, but may also be easily disproved by many similar passages in which the expression, The ways of the Lord, is taken in a passive signification, for the paternal manner in which he acts towards those who are his people, in defending and cherishing them; nay, even for his whole conduct in the government and direction of the affairs of this world. The amount of what is said is, that God acts in such a manner towards his people, as that, in all respects, they may find from experience that he is merciful and faithful. David is not here speaking of the character in which God acts towards mankind in general, but what his own children find him to be. We have already seen in <191826>Psalm 18:26, that he is stern and severe towards the obstinate and rebellious; and even though he act with kindness towards them, in mercifully exercising forbearance towards them notwithstanding their iniquity, yet we find, that so far from seeking their full enjoyment in him, and trusting to his promises, they have no sense of his goodness. Nay, as soon as any adversity befalls them, they either become passionate and fretful, accuse God of acting cruelly towards them, or else complain that he is deaf to their prayers; and when they enjoy prosperity, they despise and neglect him, and as much as they are able flee from his presence. David, therefore, in speaking of the mercy and faithfulness of God, justly describes them as a treasure peculiar to the godly; as if he had said, We have no reason to be afraid that God will deceive us if we persevere in his covenant. These words, covenant and testimony, are of the same import, unless that the second is added as an explanation of the first. They comprehend the whole doctrine of the law, by which God enters into covenant with his chosen people.

11. For thy name’s sake, O Jehovah! As in the original text the copulative and is inserted between the two clauses of this verse, some think that the first clause is incomplete, and that some word ought to be supplied; and then they read these words, Be thou merciful to mine iniquity, etc., as a distinct sentence by itself. And thus, according to their opinion, the sense would be, Lord, although I have not fully kept thy covenant, yet do not on that account cease to show thy kindness towards me; and that mine iniquity may not prevent thy goodness from being extended towards me, do thou graciously pardon it. But I am rather of the opinion of others, who consider that the copulative is here, as it is in many other places, superfluous, so that the whole verse may form one connected sentence. As to the tense of the verb, there is also a diversity of opinion among interpreters. Some render it in the past tense thus, Thou hast been merciful, as if David here renders thanks to God because he had pardoned his sin. But the other interpretation, which is the one more generally received, is also the most correct, namely, that David, in order to obtain pardon, again resorts to the mercy of God as his only refuge. The letter w, vau, which is equivalent to and, has often the force of changing the tense in the Hebrew verbs, so that the future tense is often taken in the sense of the optative. Moreover, I connect this verse with the preceding one in this way:The prophet, having reflected upon this, that God is kind and faithful to those who serve him, now examines his own heart, and acknowledges that he cannot be accounted of their number, unless God grant unto him the forgiveness of his sins; and, therefore, he betakes himself to prayer for pardon:as in <191913>Psalm 19:13, after having spoken of the reward which is laid up for the faithful who keep the law, he instantly exclaims, “Who can understand his errors?” Accordingly, although David is not ignorant that God promises liberally to bestow upon those who keep his covenant every thing which pertains to a life of happiness, yet, at the same time, considering how far he is as yet from the perfect righteousness of the law, he does not rest his confidence upon it, but seeks a remedy for the manifold offenses of which he feels himself to be guilty. And thus, in order that God may reckon us of the number of his servants, we ought always to come to him, entreating him, after the example of David, in his fatherly loving-kindness, to bear with our infirmities, because, without the free remission of our sins, we have no reason to expect any reward of our works. At the same time, let it be observed, that in order to show more distinctly that he depends entirely upon the free grace of God, he expressly says, for thy name’s sake; meaning by this, that God, as often as he vouchsafes to pardon his people, does so from no other cause than his own good pleasure; just as he had said a little before, in the same verse, for thy goodness’ sake. He was also constrained, by a consideration of the magnitude of his offense, to call upon the name of God:for he immediately adds, by way of confession, because mine iniquity is great, or manifold, (for the word br, rab, may be translated in both ways;) as if he had said, My sins are, indeed, like a heavy burden which overwhelms me, so that the multitude or enormity of them might well deprive me of all hope of pardon; but, Lord, the infinite glory of thy name will not suffer thee to cast me off.

<192512>Psalm 25:12-15

12. Who is the man that feareth Yehovah , he will teach him, in the way that he should choose. 13. His soul shalt dwell in good, and his seed shall inherit the earth. 14. The counsel fa523 of Jehovah is towards them that fear him, that he may make known his covenant to them. 15. Mine eyes are continually towards Jehovah, for he will bring my feet out of the net.

 

12. Who is the man. By again recalling to his mind the character in which God manifests himself towards his servants, he derives new strength and courage. For we have said, that nothing more readily occurs than a relaxation in earnest and attentive prayer, unless it be sustained by the recollection of God’s promises. There can, however, be no doubt, that David both accuses himself, and by entertaining a better hope, takes encouragement to continue in the fear of God. In the first place, by intimating that men are destitute of right understanding and sound judgment, because they yield not themselves to be governed by God with reverence and fear, he imputes it to his own indolence, that by reason of the darkness of his mind, he had wandered so far astray after his own lusts; and yet, on the other hand, he promises himself the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, if he only yield himself wholly to God, and show that he is willing to learn. Moreover, the interrogatory style of speaking, which he here employs, seems designed to show how few there are who fear God:for, although all men in general pray, and manifest some appearance of piety, yet where is there one among so many who is really in earnest? Instead of this, almost all men indulge themselves in their own drowsiness. The fear of God, therefore, is very rare; and on this account it is that the world, for the most part, continues destitute of the Spirit of counsel and wisdom.

Some interpreters render the word choose in the present tense, instead of the future, shall choose; as if it had been said, that God shows the way which he approves, and in which he wishes men to walk. With this interpretation I cannot agree; for, in my judgment, the word choose rather refers to every individual; as if it had been said, Provided we are disposed to fear God, he will not be wanting on his part, but will always direct us by the Spirit of wisdom to choose the right way. When we are called upon to adopt some particular course in life, we find ourselves as it were placed between two ways, and know not which of them to follow; fa524 nay, in almost all our affairs we are held in suspense and doubt, unless God appear to show us the way. David therefore says, that although men know not what is right, and what they ought to choose, yet provided they submit to God with pious docility of mind, and are willing to follow him, he will always manifest himself towards them as a sure and faithful guide. As, however, the fear of God is not naturally in us, it were foolish for any man to argue from this place, that God does not begin to take care of men until, by their own previous efforts, they insinuate themselves into his favor, that he may aid them in their pious endeavors. David has just declared, that this grace comes directly from God, when he says that God teaches the transgressors:and now he adds, in the second place, that after men have once been subdued and moulded to meekness of spirit, God still takes them under his charge, guiding and directing them till they are able, by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, to know what is their duty.

13. His soul shall dwell in good. If the supreme felicity of man consists in undertaking or attempting nothing except by the warrant of God, it follows that it is also a high and incomparable benefit to have him for our conductor and guide through life, that we may never go astray. But, in addition to this, an earthly blessing is here promised, in which the fruit of the preceding grace is distinctly shown, as Paul also teaches,

“Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8,)

The sum is, that those who truly serve God are not only blessed as to spiritual things, but are also blessed by him as to their condition in the present life. It is indeed true, that God does not always deal with them according to their desires, and that the blessings which they would wish do not always flow in a certain and uniform manner. On the contrary, it often happens that they are tossed with sickness and trouble, whilst the wicked enjoy prosperity. But we must know, that as often as God withdraws his blessing from his own people, it is for the purpose of awakening them to a sense of their condition, and discovering to them how far removed they still are from the perfect fear of God. And yet, in so far as it is expedient for them, they now enjoy the blessings of God, so that, in comparison of worldly men, and the despisers of God, they are truly happy and blessed, because, even in their greatest poverty, they never lose the assurance that God is present with them; and being sustained by this consolation, they enjoy peace and tranquillity of mind. It is indeed true, that all our miseries proceed from this one source — that by our sins we prevent the divine blessing from flowing down in a uniform course upon us; and yet, amidst such a state of confusion, his grace never ceases to shine forth, so that the condition of the godly is always better than that of others:for although they are not satiated with good things, yet they are continually made to experience a sense of the fatherly favor of God. And to this I am willing to refer the word soul, namely, that, in the reception of the gifts of God, they do not devour them without feeling a sense of their sweetness, but really relish them, so that the smallest competency is of more avail to satisfy them than the greatest abundance is to satisfy the ungodly. Thus, according as every man is contented with his condition, and cheerfully cherishes a spirit of patience and tranquillity, his soul is said to dwell in good. Some interpreters apply this word to dwell or abide to the time of death; but this interpretation is more subtle than solid. The inspired penman rather speaks, as we have already said, of the condition of the present life. fa525 He adds, in the second place, by way of illustration, that the posterity of the faithful shall inherit the land, and from this it follows, that God continues to extend his favor towards them. Hence we may again infer, that the death of God’s servants does not imply their utter destruction, and that they do not cease to exist when they pass out of this world, but continue to live for ever. It would be absurd to suppose that God would totally deprive of life those for whose sake he does good even to others. As to what is here said, that the children of the saints shall inherit the land, it has been touched upon elsewhere, and it will be shown still more fully on the thirty-seventh Psalm, in what respects, and how this is accomplished.

14. The counsel of Jehovah. The Psalmist here confirms what he had just said in a preceding verse, namely, that God will faithfully discharge the office of a teacher and master to all the godly; and, after his usual manner, he repeats the same sentiment twice in the same verse for the covenant of God is nothing else than his secret or counsel. By the use of the term secret, he means to magnify and extol the excellency of the doctrine which is revealed to us in the law of God. However much worldly men, through the pride and haughtiness of their hearts, despise Moses and the prophets, the faithful nevertheless acknowledge, that in the doctrine which they contain, the secrets of heaven, which far surpass the comprehension of man, are revealed and unfolded. Whoever, therefore, desires to derive instruction from the law, let him regard with reverence and esteem the doctrine which it contains. We are, farther, by this place admonished to cultivate the graces of meekness and humility, lest, in reliance upon our own wisdom, or trusting to our own understanding, we should attempt, by our own efforts, to comprehend those mysteries and secrets, the knowledge of which David here declares to be the prerogative of God alone. Again, since the fear of the Lord is said to be the beginning, and as it were the way that leads to a right understanding of his will, (<19B110>Psalm 111:10,) according as any one desires to increase in faith, so also let him endeavor to advance in the fear of the Lord. Moreover, when piety reigns in the heart, we need have no fear of losing our labor in seeking God. It is indeed true, that the covenant of God is a secret which far exceeds human comprehension; but as we know that he does not in vain enjoin us to seek him, we may rest assured that all those who endeavor to serve him with an upright desire will be brought, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the knowledge of that heavenly wisdom which is appointed for their salvation. But, in the meantime, David indirectly rebukes those who falsely and groundlessly boast that they are interested in the covenant of God, while they rest merely in the letter of the law, and have no saving impressions of the fear of God. God, it is true, addresses his word indiscriminately to the righteous and the wicked; but men do not comprehend it, unless they have sincere piety; just as <232911>Isaiah 29:11, says, that as regards the ungodly, the law is like “a book that is sealed.” And, therefore, it is no wonder that there is here made a distinction between those who truly serve God, and to whom he makes known his secret, and the wicked or hypocrites. But when we see David in this confidence coming boldly to the school of God, and leading others along with him, let us know, as he clearly shows, that it is a wicked and hateful invention to attempt to deprive the common people of the Holy Scriptures, under the pretense of their being a hidden mystery; as if all who fear him from the heart, whatever their state or condition in other respects may be, were not expressly called to the knowledge of God’s covenant.

15. Mine eyes are continually towards Jehovah. David here speaks of his own faith, and of its perseverance, not in the way of boasting, but to encourage himself in the hope of obtaining his requests, so that he might give himself the more readily and cheerfully to prayer. As the promise is made to all who trust in God, that they shall not be disappointed of their hope, and that they shall never be put to shame, the saints often make this their shield of defense. Meanwhile, David shows to others, by his own example, the right manner of prayer, telling them that they should endeavor to keep their thoughts fixed upon God. As the sense of sight is very quick, and exercises an entire influence over the whole frame, it is no uncommon thing to find all the affections denoted by the term eyes. The reason which immediately follows shows still more plainly, that in the mind of David hope was associated with desire; as if he had said, That in resting his confidence in the help of God, he did so, not in doubt or uncertainty, but because he was persuaded that he would be his deliverer. The pronoun He, it ought to be observed, is also emphatic. It shows that David did not gaze around him in every direction, after the manner of those who, being in uncertainty, devise for themselves various methods of deliverance and salvation, but that he was contented with God alone.

<192516>Psalm 25:16-22

16. Have respect unto me, and pity me, for I am alone and poor. 17. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring thou me out of my distresses. 18. Look upon mine affliction and my trouble, fa526 and take away all my sins. 19. Behold mine enemies, for they are increased; and they hate me with a violent fa527 hatred. 20. Preserve my soul, and deliver me, that I may not be ashamed; for I have put my trust in thee. 21. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I have waited upon thee. 22. Do thou, O God! redeem Israel from all his troubles.

 

16. Have respect unto me. As the flesh is ever ready to suggest to our minds that God has forgotten us, when he ceases to manifest his power in aiding us, David here follows the order which nature dictates, in asking God to have respect unto him, as if he had altogether neglected him before. Now, it appears to me that the words might be explained thus:Have respect unto me, in order to pity me. He accounts it at once the cause and the source of his salvation to be regarded of God; and then he adds the effect of it:for as soon as God, of his own good pleasure, shall vouchsafe to regard us, his hand also will be ready to help us. Again, in order to excite the compassion of God, he sets forth his own misery, expressly stating that he is alone, that is to say, solitary; fa528 and then he describes himself as poor. There can be no doubt that, in speaking thus, he alludes to the promises in which God declares that he will be always present with the afflicted and oppressed, to aid and help them.

17. The troubles of my heart are enlarged. In this verse he acknowledges not only that he had to contend outwardly with his enemies and the troubles which they occasioned him, but that he was also afflicted inwardly with sorrow and anguish of heart. It is also necessary to observe the manner of expression which he here employs, and by which he intimates that the weight and number of his trials had accumulated to such an extent that they filled his whole heart, even as a flood of waters bursting every barrier, and extending far and wide, covers a whole country. Now, when we see that the heart of David had sometimes been wholly filled with anguish, we need no longer wonder if at times the violence of temptation overwhelm us; but let us ask with David, that even whilst we are as it were at the point of despair, God would succor us.

18. Look upon mine affliction. By repeating these complaints so frequently, he plainly shows that the calamities with which he was assailed were not some slight and trivial evils. And this ought to be carefully marked by us, so that when trials and afflictions shall have been measured out to us after the same manner, we may be enabled to lift up our souls to God in prayer; for the Holy Spirit has set before our view this representation, that our minds may not fail us under the multitude or weight of afflictions. But in order to obtain an alleviation of these miseries, David again prays that his sins may be pardoned, recalling to his recollection what he had already stated, that he could not expect to enjoy the divine favor, unless he were first reconciled to God by receiving a free pardon. And, indeed, they are very insensible who, contented with deliverance from bodily affliction, do not search out the evils of their own hearts, that is to say, their sins, but as much as in them lies rather desire to have them buried in oblivion. To find a remedy, therefore, to his cares and sorrows, David begins by imploring the remission of his sins, because, so long as God is angry with us, it must necessarily follow, that all our affairs shall come to an unhappy termination; and he has always just ground of displeasure against us so long as our sins continue, that is to say, until he pardons them. fa529 And although the Lord has various ends in view in bringing his people under the cross, yet we ought to hold fast the principle, that as often as God afflicts us, we are called to examine our own hearts, and humbly to seek reconciliation with him.

19. Behold mine enemies. In this verse David complains of the number and cruelty of his enemies, because the more the people of God are oppressed, the more is he inclined to aid them; and in proportion to the magnitude of the danger by which they are surrounded, he assists them the more powerfully. The words, hatred of violence, fa530 are here to be understood of a cruel and sanguinary hatred. Now, as the rage of David’s enemies was so great, that nothing short of his death would satisfy them, he calls upon God to become the guardian and protector of his life; and from this it may be inferred, as I have already said, that he was now placed in extreme danger. The clause which immediately follows, That I may not be ashamed, may be understood in two ways. Some retain the future tense, I shall not be ashamed, as if David felt assured that he was already heard by God, and as the reward of his hope promised himself a gracious answer to his prayers. I am rather inclined to the opposite opinion — to consider these words as still forming a part of his prayer. The amount of what is stated therefore is, that as he trusts in God, he prays that the hope of salvation which he had formed might not be disappointed. There is nothing better fitted to impart a holy ardor to our prayers, than when we are able to testify with sincerity of heart that we confide in God. And, therefore, it behoves us to ask with so much the greater care, that he would increase our hope when it is small, awaken it when it is dormant, confirm it when it is wavering, strengthen it when it is weak, and that he would even raise it up when it is overthrown.

21. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me. Some are of opinion, that in these words David simply prays that he may be preserved from all mischief, on the ground that he had conducted himself inoffensively towards others, and had abstained from all deceit and violence. Others make the words to contain a twofold subject of prayer, and understand them as including at the same time a desire that God would bestow upon him a sincere and upright purpose of heart; and all this lest he should break forth into revenge, and other unlawful means of preserving his life. Thus the meaning would be:Lord, although my flesh may urge me to seek relief from whatever quarter it may appear, and mine enemies also may constrain me to it by their importunity, yet do thou subdue within me every sinful passion, and every perverse desire, so that I may always exercise over my mind a pure and entire control; and let integrity and uprightness suffice as two powerful means of preserving me. We prefer the first interpretation, because he immediately subjoins a proof of his integrity. Whosoever waits upon God with a meek and quiet spirit, will rather suffer any thing which men can inflict, than allow himself to contend unrighteously with his enemies. In my opinion, therefore, David protests that such was the rectitude of his behavior amongst men, that the persecution of his enemies was wholly unmerited and unjust; and being conscious of having given no offense to any, he calls upon God as the protector of his innocence. But as he has already, in three different places, acknowledged that he was justly visited with affliction, it may seem strange that he should now glory in his integrity. This apparent inconsistency has already been explained in another place, where we have shown that the saints, in respect of themselves, always come into the presence of God with humility, imploring his forgiveness:and yet this does not prevent them from setting forth before him the goodness of their cause, and the justice of their claims. At the same time, in saying that he trusted in God, he only states what indeed is essentially necessary; for, in undertaking our defense, it is not enough that we have justice on our side, unless depending upon his promises, we rely with confidence upon his protection. It often happens, that men of firmness and prudence, even when their cause is good, do not always succeed in its defense, because they confide in their own understanding, or rely upon fortune. In order, therefore, that God may become the protector and defender of our innocence, let us first conduct ourselves uprightly and innocently towards our enemies, and then commit ourselves entirely to his protection.

22. Do thou, O God! redeem Israel. By this conclusion David shows of what character the enemies were of whom he complained. From this it would appear that they were domestic enemies, who, like some disease raging within the bowels, were now the cause of trouble and vexation to the people of God. By the word redeem, which he here employs, we may infer that the Church was at that time oppressed with hard bondage; and, therefore, I have no doubt that in this psalm he alludes to Saul and others who reigned with him in a tyrannical manner. At the same time, he shows that he has respect not merely to his own benefit, but that he comprehends in his prayer the state of the whole realm, just as the mutual communion and connection which subsist among the saints require that every individual, deeply affected by a sense of the public calamities which befall the Church at large, should unite with all the others in lamentation before God. This contributed in no small degree to confirm the faith of David, when, regarding himself as in all things connected with the whole body of the faithful, he considered that all the afflictions and wrongs which he endured were common to himself with them. And we ought to regard it as of the greatest importance, that in accordance with this rule, every one of us, in bewailing his private miseries and trials, should extend his desires and prayers to the whole Church.


PSALM 26.

This psalm, for the most part, is similar to the preceding. The prophet, oppressed with numerous wrongs, and finding no succor in the world, implores the aid of God, entreating him to undertake the cause of a man unrighteously afflicted, and to assert his innocence. And as his contest was with hypocrites, he appeals to the judgment of God, sharply reproving them for making a false profession of God’s name. In the conclusion, as if he had obtained his wish, he promises a sacrifice of praise to God for his deliverance.

A Psalm of David.

<192601>Psalm 26:1-4

1. Judge me, O Jehovah! because I have walked in mine integrity, and trusted in Jehovah, I shall not stumble. 2. Prove me, O Jehovah! and try me; search my reins and my heart. 3. For thy goodness is before mine eyes: I have therefore walked in thy truth. 4. I have not sat with vain men, neither will I walk with deceitful men.

 

1. Judge me, O Jehovah! I have just said, that David betakes himself to the judgment of God, because he found neither equity nor humanity among men. The Hebrew word which is rendered to judge, signifies to undertake the cognisance of a cause. The meaning here, therefore, is as if David called upon God to be the defender of his right. fa531 When God leaves us for a time to the injuries and petulance of our enemies, he seems to neglect our cause; but when he restrains them from assailing us at their pleasure he clearly demonstrates that the defense of our cause is the object of his care. Let us, therefore, learn from the example of David, when we are destitute of man’s aid, to have recourse to the judgment-seat of God, and to rely upon his protection. The clause which follows is variously explained by interpreters. Some read it in connection with the first clause, Judge me, O Jehovah! because I have walked in mine integrity; but others refer it to the last clause, Because I have walked in mine integrity, therefore I shall not stumble. In my opinion, it may be properly connected with both. As it is the proper work of God to maintain and defend righteous causes, the Psalmist, in constituting him his defender, summons him as the witness of his integrity and trust, and thus conceives the hope of obtaining his aid. If, on the other hand, any one thinks that the clauses should be separated, it seems most probable that this sentence, judge me, O Lord! should be read by itself; and then that the second prayer should follow, that God would not allow him to stumble, because he had behaved himself inoffensively and uprightly, etc. But there is a force in the possessive pronoun my, which interpreters have overlooked. For David does not simply aver that he had been upright, but that he had constantly proceeded in an upright course, without being driven from his purpose, however powerful the devices by which he had been assailed. When wicked men attack us with a view to overwhelm us, either by force or fraud, we know how difficult it is to preserve always the same fortitude. We place our hope of victory in endeavoring resolutely and vigorously to oppose force to force, and art to art. And this is a temptation which so much the more affects honest and steady men, who are otherwise zealous to do well, when the cruelty of their enemies compels them to turn aside from the right path. Let us, therefore, learn from the example of David, even when an opportunity of injuring our enemies is offered us, and when by various methods they force and provoke us, to remain firm in our course, and not suffer ourselves to be diverted in any manner from persevering in the path of our integrity.

2. Prove me, fa532 O Jehovah! The more that David observed himself basely and undeservedly pursued with calumnies, the more powerfully was he excited by the vehemence of his grief fearlessly to assert his rectitude. Nor does he merely clear himself of outward sins; he glories also in the uprightness of his heart, and the purity of its affections, tacitly comparing himself, at the same time, with his enemies. As they were gross hypocrites, proudly boasting of their reverence for God, he lays open before him their shameless effrontery and hardihood. This protestation, too, shows how intimately acquainted he was with himself, when he durst offer to submit the whole recesses of his heart to the examination of God. It is to be observed, however, that it was the wickedness of his enemies which forced him to commend himself so much. Had he not been unjustly condemned by men, he would have humbly deprecated such an examination, as he well knew, notwithstanding his zeal to act aright, that he was far from perfection. But when he felt himself to be falsely accused, the injustice and cruelty of men emboldened him to appeal to God’s judgment-seat without hesitation. And as he knew that an external appearance of innocence was of no avail there, he brings forward the honest uprightness of his heart. The distinction which some make here, that the heart signifies the higher affections, and the reins those that are sensual (as they term them) and more gross, is more subtle than solid. We know that the Hebrews understood by the term reins that which is most secret in men. David, therefore, conscious of his innocence, offers the whole man to the examination of God; not like careless, or rather stupid men, who, flattering themselves, imagine that they will deceive God with their pretences. It is evident, on the contrary, that he had honestly and thoroughly searched himself, before he presented himself with such confidence in the divine presence. And this we must especially bear in mind, if we would desire to obtain the approbation of God, that when unjustly persecuted, we must not only abstain from retaliation, but also persevere in a right spirit.

3. For thy goodness is before mine eyes. This verse may be viewed as one sentence, or divided into two parts, but with almost the same sense. If the former reading is adopted, both the verbs will be emphatic, after this manner:“Because thy goodness, O Lord, has been ever before mine eyes, and I have trusted in thy faithfulness, I have restrained all wicked lusts in my heart, lest, provoked by the malice of mine enemies, I should be forced to retaliate.” By this interpretation there would be the rendering of a cause. The other exposition, also, is not unsuitable, namely, “Because thy goodness has been before mine eyes, I have walked in the truth which thou commandest.” In this case the conjunction, as is common among the Hebrews, is superfluous. But although this exposition is allied to the former, I would rather prefer one less remote from the words. As it is a rare and difficult virtue, not only to refrain one’s self from wicked actions, when greatly tempted thereto, but also to preserve integrity of heart; the prophet declares in what manner he pursued his course in the midst of such powerful temptations, telling us that it was by setting the goodness of God, which so carefully preserves his servants, before his eyes, lest, declining to evil practices, he might deprive himself of his protection; and by confiding in his faithfulness, he possessed his soul in patience, firmly persuaded that God would never forsake his faithful people who trusted in him. And certainly, had he not relied upon the goodness of God, he could not have so constantly prosecuted the path of integrity amidst such numerous and such severe assaults. It is, indeed, a remarkable difference between the children of God and worldly men, that the former, in the hope of a favorable issue at the Lord’s hand, rely upon his word, and are not driven by restlessness to mischievous practices; while the latter, although they maintain a good cause, yet because they are ignorant of the providence of God, are hurried hither and thither; follow unlawful counsels; betake themselves to craftiness; and, in short, have no other object than to overcome evil with evil. Whence, accordingly, their miserable and sorrowful, and often their tragical ends, but because, despising the favor of God, they give themselves up to cunning and deceit? In short, David was steady in preserving his uprightness, because he had resolved that God should be his guide. In the first place, therefore, he mentions his goodness, and afterwards he adds, his truth, because his goodness, which enables us to walk with unyielding courage in the midst of all temptations, is only known to us by his promises.

4. I have not sat with vain men. He again declares the very great dissimilarity which existed between him and his adversaries. For the contrast is always to be observed, that wicked men, by all the harm and mischief they wrought against him, could never drive him from the path of rectitude. This verse might likewise be joined with the former, as if completing the sentence, in this way, That David, by confiding in the favor of God, had withdrawn himself from deceivers. The words, sitting and walking, denote sharing in counsel and fellowship in working, according to what is said in the first psalm. David denies that he had any intercourse with vain and deceitful men. And certainly the best remedy to recall and save us from the assembly of the wicked is to fix our eyes upon God’s goodness; for he who walks in the confidence of God’s protection, committing all events to his providence, will never imitate their deceitfulness. Those whom he denominates in the first clause, men of vanity, he soon after terms yml[n, nalamim, that is, close and wrapped up in craftiness. fa533 For in this consists the vanity of dissimulation, that deceitful men conceal in their hearts another thing than that which their tongues declare. It is, however, absurd to derive this word from l[, alam, to play, for it is out of place here to compare their impostures to children’s play. I confess, indeed, that those who give themselves to craftiness are mockers; but why have recourse to such a forced exposition, when it is plain that the word shows the source from which all lying and deceit proceed? Thus faith, which steadily looks to God’s promises, is aptly opposed to all the crooked and iniquitous counsels in which unbelief involves us as often as we ascribe not proper honor to the guardianship of God. David teaches, by his own example, that we have not the slightest cause to fear that our integrity will make us a prey to the ungodly, when God promises us safety under his hand. The children of God, indeed, are prudent, but their prudence is altogether different from that of the flesh. Under the guidance and government of the Holy Spirit, they take every necessary precaution against snares, but in such a manner as not to practice any craftiness.

<192605>Psalm 26:5-7

5. I hate the assembly of transgressors, and I will not sit with the wicked. 6. I will wash my hands in purity, fa534 and will encompass thine altar, O Jehovah! 7. That I may make men to hear the voice of thy praise, and tell them of all thy wonderful works.

 

5. I hate the assembly. The Psalmist protests again how greatly he abhorred the ungodly. Formerly he denied that he had any fellowship with them; now he still more explicitly declares that he fled from their company with loathing, for that is the meaning of the phrase, I hate. It is indeed true, that the wicked are everywhere hated; but how few withdraw themselves from them, that they may not imitate their vices! David asserts both; he tells us that he hated their society, and that he had no communion with them, from which it appears that he warred not so much with their persons as with their evil doings. He mentions also as another qualification, that he shunned the wicked in such a manner as not on that account to forsake the congregation of God, or withdraw himself from the company of those with whom he was commanded by divine appointment to associate. Many err in this way grievously; imagining when they see the evil mingled with the good, that they will be infected with pollution, unless they immediately withdraw themselves from the whole congregation. This preciseness drove the Donatists of old, and prior to them the Cathari and the Novatians, into mischievous schisms. In our own times, too, the Anabaptists, from a similar conceit, have separated themselves from the sacred assemblies, because they reckoned them not so free from all defilement as could have been wished. Moreover, the Donatists made themselves a laughing-stock in a certain process, by tenaciously clinging to mere words. When an assembly was held to settle dissensions, and they were invited by the president of the meeting, with a view to do honor to them, to take a seat, they replied, they would stand, because it was not lawful to “sit with the wicked.” Why then, wittily replied Augustine, did your conscience permit you to come in amongst us? for the one is written as well as the other, I will not go in to the wicked, neither will I sit with the ungodly. David, therefore, prudently moderates his zeal, and while separating himself from the ungodly, ceases not to frequent the temple, as the divine commandment and the order prescribed in the law required. When he denominates them the assembly of the ungodly, we may unquestionably conclude, that their number was not few; nay, it is probable that they flaunted about at that time, as if they alone were exalted above the people of God, and were lords over them:yet this did not prevent David from coming as usual to the sacrifices. Public care, indeed, is to be used that the Church be not defiled by such wickedness, and every man ought privately to endeavor, in his own place, that his remissness and forbearance do not cherish the disorders which these vices occasion. Although, however, this strictness should not be exercised with that care which is necessary, there is nothing in this to hinder any of the faithful from piously and holily remaining in the fellowship of the Church. It is to be observed, in the meantime, that what retained David, was his communion with God and with sacred things.

6. I will wash my hands in purity. Referring, in these words, to the ordinary use of the sacrifices, he makes a distinction between himself and those who professed to offer the same divine worship, and thrust themselves forward in the services of the sanctuary, as if they alone had the sole right to perform them. As David, therefore, and these hypocrites were one in this respect, that they entered the sanctuary, and surrounded the sacred altar together, he proceeds to show that he was a true worshipper, declaring, that he not only diligently attended to the external rites, but came to worship God with unfeigned devotion. It is obvious that he alludes to the solemn rite of washing which was practiced under the law. fa535 He, accordingly, reproves the gross superstition of hypocrites, who in seeking only the purification of water, neglected true purification; whereas it was God’s design, in the appointment of the outward sign, to put men in mind of their inward pollution, and thus to encourage them to repentance. The outward washing alone, instead of profiting hypocrites, kept them at a greater distance from God. When the Psalmist, therefore, says, I will wash my hands in innocence, he intimates that they only gather more pollution and filth by their washings. The Hebrew word ˆwyqn, nikkayon, signifies the cleanness of any thing, and is figuratively used for innocence. We thus see, that as hypocrites derive no moral purity whatever from their washings, David mocks at the labor with which they vainly toil and torment themselves in such rites. However high, therefore, the wicked may be exalted in the Church, and though crowds of them should fill our sanctuaries, let us, after the example of David, celebrate the outward profession of our faith in such a manner as not deceitfully to substitute its external rites in the room of true devotion. Thus shall we be pure and free from all stain of wickedness. Moreover, as the people were not permitted to touch the altar, David uses the word encompass. fa536

7. That I may make men to hear, etc. In these words, he shows that he referred the sacrifices to their proper use and design, which hypocrites were far from doing. They neither know, nor do they consider, for what purpose God appointed the services of worship, but think it sufficient to thrust themselves into the divine presence with the pomp and form of their dissimulation. David, therefore, wishing to distinguish spiritual worship from that which is fictitious and counterfeit, affirms that he came into the sanctuary to set forth the praise of God’s name. There is, however, a synecdoche in his words, as only one kind of worship is mentioned, although, in offering the sacrifices, the exercise of repentance and faith was required, as well as the giving of thanks. But as the ultimate design of the sacrifices, or at least their principal object was to celebrate the goodness of God in thus acknowledging his blessings, there was no impropriety in comprehending the other parts of worship under this. Thus, in <190101>Psalm 1:14, the sacrifice of praise is preferred to all external ceremonies, as if the whole of devotion consisted in it alone. Likewise in <19B612>Psalm 116:12, it is said, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” Moreover, that he may the better commend the acknowledged power of God, and more impressively extol his benefits, David employs the phrase wondrous; as if he had said, that it was in no ordinary way that God had helped him.

<192608>Psalm 26:8-11

8. O Jehovah! I have loved the habitation of thy house, fa537 and the dwelling-place of thy glory. 9. Gather not my soul with wicked men, nor my life with blood; fa538 10. For in their hands is maliciousness, and their right hand is full of bribes. 11. But I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful to me.

 

8. O Jehovah! I have loved, etc. In this verse he confirms what he had said before, that he came not into the sanctuary in a careless manner, but with serious devotion. Irreligious men, although they often resort to the sacred assemblies, frequent them merely as lurking places, where they may escape the eye of God. On the contrary, the truly pious and pure in heart resort to them, not for the sake of vain ostentation, but as they are sincerely bent on seeking God, they willingly and affectionately employ the helps which he there affords them; and the advantage which they derive from them creates love to them in their hearts, and longings after them. This declaration farther shows, that however David excelled others in faith, yet he was not without fear lest the violence of his enemies might deprive him of the ordinary means of instruction which God had conferred on his Church. He felt his need of the Church’s common discipline and order, and he therefore anxiously labored to retain his enjoyment of them. From this we infer the impious pride of those who look with contempt on the services of religion as unnecessary, although David himself could not live without them. Another consideration, indeed, existed in those days, I confess, while the law, like a schoolmaster, held the ancient people in a state of servitude compared with ours. Our case, however, is one with theirs in this respect, that the weakness of our faith requires help as well as theirs. And as God for this purpose has appointed the sacraments, as well as the whole order of the Church, woe to the pride of those who recklessly desert the services which we perceive to have been held in such high esteem by the pious servants of God. The Hebrew word ˆw[m, me-on, according to some, is derived from a word fa539 which signifies an eye; and they translate it comeliness, or appearance. This is the translation of the Septuagint. fa540 But as the word is almost every where used to signify a dwelling-place, which is more simple, I prefer to retain it. The sanctuary is called God’s house, and the dwelling-place of his glory; and we know how frequently expressions of this kind are employed in Scripture to bear testimony to the presence of God. Not that God either dwelt in a tent, or wished to confine the minds of his people to earthly symbols; but it was needful to remind the faithful of God’s present goodness, that they might not think they sought him in vain, as we have elsewhere already said. Now, that God’s glory may dwell among us, it is necessary that a lively image of it should shine forth in word and sacraments. From this it follows, that the temples which are reckoned such among Papists are only filthy brothels of Satan.

9. Gather not my soul with wicked men. Having now affirmed his innocence, he has recourse again to prayer, and calls upon God to defend him. At first sight, indeed, it appears strange to pray that God would not involve a righteous man in the same destruction with the wicked; but God, with paternal indulgence, allows this freedom in prayer, that his people may themselves in this way correct their anxieties, and overcome the fears with which they are tempted. David, when he conceived this supplication, in order to free himself from anxiety and fear, placed before his eyes the righteous judgment of God, to whom nothing is more abhorrent than to mingle good and bad together without distinction. The Hebrew word psa, asaph, sometimes signifies to gather together, and sometimes to destroy. In this place, I am of opinion it signifies to gather into a heap, as was wont to be the case in a confused slaughter. This was the objection stated by Abraham,

“That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked:and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee.” (<011825>Genesis 18:25,)

Let us remember, therefore, that these forms of prayer are dictated by the Holy Spirit, in order that the faithful may unhesitatingly assure themselves that God still sits in inquisition upon every man’s case, in order to give righteous judgment at last. In the second clause, instead of the phrase, wicked men, he uses bloody men, amplifying what he had said. For although many wicked men rush not all at once to murder, yet in process of time they harden themselves to cruelty; nor does Satan allow them to rest until he precipitate them into deeds of blood.

10. For in their hands is maliciousness. The Hebrew word hmz, zimmah, signifies properly an inward stratagem, or device. But here it is not improperly applied to the hands, because David wished to intimate, that the wicked, of whom he was speaking, not only secretly imagined deceits, but also vigorously executed with their hands the malice which their hearts devised. When he farther says, Their right hands are full of bribes, we may infer from this, that it was not the common people whom he pointed out for observation, but the nobility themselves, who were most guilty of practising this corruption. Although the common and baser sort of men may be hired for reward, and suborned as agents in wickedness, yet we know that bribes are offered chiefly to judges, and other great men who are in power; and we likewise know, that at the time referred to here the worst of men bore sway. It was no wonder, therefore, that David complained that justice was exposed to sale. We are farther admonished by this expression, that those who delight in gifts can scarcely do otherwise than sell themselves to iniquity. Nor is it in vain, unquestionably, that God declares that

“gifts blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the hearts of the righteous,” (<051619>Deuteronomy 16:19.)

11. But I will walk in mine integrity. In this repetition there is to be remarked a circumstance which more clearly illustrates David’s righteousness; namely, that, in the midst of so many temptations, he steadily held on his way. He saw many become suddenly rich by gifts, as we still see those who sit at the helm of affairs accumulating to themselves, in a very brief space, a great abundance of wealth, building sumptuous palaces, and extending their lands far and wide. As no allurements could induce him to imitate their example in this, he gave a proof of rare and heroic virtue. He therefore affirms with truth, that although the world accounted them happy, he had not been seduced from his wonted integrity, that thus it might appear that he ascribed more to the providence of God than to evil practices. He, therefore, beseeches God to redeem him, because, being oppressed with wrongs, and tempted in various ways, he relied only on God, trusting that he would deliver him. From this we may conclude, that he was at this time reduced to great straits. He adds, Be merciful to me, by which he shows that this deliverance flows from the grace of God, as its true source; and we have already seen that the cause is often put for the effect.

<192612>Psalm 26:12

12. My foot hath stood in uprightness: fa541 in the congregations will I bless thee, O Jehovah!

 

This verse may be explained in two ways. Some are of opinion that David declares how carefully he had studied uprightness among men; but I rather think that he celebrates the grace of God towards him, and, at the same time, vows his gratitude. By the use of the metaphor, therefore, he tells us that he was preserved in safety. And as he knew that it was the hand of God alone which enabled him to stand, he therefore addresses himself to the exercise of praise and thanksgiving. Nor does he merely say, that he will acknowledge in private the goodness of God bestowed upon him, but in public also, that the assemblies of God’s people may be witnesses of it. It is highly necessary that every one should publicly celebrate his experience of the grace of God, as an example to others to confide in him. fa542


PSALM 27.

In this psalm, David rehearses the desires and meditations with which he had exercised himself in the midst of his great dangers. The thanksgivings which he mingles with them show that it was composed after his deliverance. It is also probable that he repeats at once the prayers which had exercised his thoughts in his different meditations. Hence it is to be seen here with what invincible fortitude of soul the holy man was endued, that he might overcome the most grievous assaults of his enemies. His wonderful piety shines forth in this, that he wished to live for no other purpose than to serve God:nor could he be turned aside from this purpose by any anxiety or trouble.

A Psalm of David.

<192701>Psalm 27:1-3

1. Jehovah is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? Jehovah is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? 2. When the wicked came upon me to eat up my flesh, when my oppressors and mine enemies came upon me, they stumbled and fell. 3. Though armies should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

 

1. Jehovah is my light. This commencement may be understood as meaning that David, having already experienced God’s mercy, publishes a testimony of his gratitude. But I rather incline to another meaning, namely, that, perceiving the conflict he had to wage with the sharpest temptations, he fortifies himself beforehand, and as it were brings together matter for confidence:for it is necessary that the saints earnestly wrestle with themselves to repel or subdue the doubts which the flesh is so prone to cherish, that they may cheerfully and speedily betake themselves to prayer. David, accordingly, having been tossed with various tempests, at length recovers himself, and shouts triumphantly over the troubles with which he had been harassed, rejoicing that whenever God displays his mercy and favor, there is nothing to be feared. This is farther intimated by the accumulation of terms which he employs, when he calls God not only his light, but his salvation, and the rock or strength of his life. His object was, to put a threefold shield, as it were, against his various fears, as sufficient to ward them off. The term light, as is well known, is used in Scripture to denote joy, or the perfection of happiness. Farther, to explain his meaning, he adds that God was his salvation and the strength of his life, as it was by his help that he felt himself safe, and free from the terrors of death. Certainly we find that all our fears arise from this source, that we are too anxious about our life, while we acknowledge not that God is its preserver. We can have no tranquillity, therefore, until we attain the persuasion that our life is sufficiently guarded, because it is protected by his omnipotent power. The interrogation, too, shows how highly David esteemed the Divine protection, as he thus boldly exults against all his enemies and dangers. Nor assuredly do we ascribe due homage to God, unless, trusting to his promised aid, we dare to boast of the certainty of our safety. Weighing, as it were, in scales the whole power of earth and hell, David accounts it all lighter than a feather, and considers God alone as far outweighing the whole.

Let us learn, therefore, to put such a value on God’s power to protect us as to put to flight all our fears. Not that the minds of the faithful can, by reason of the infirmity of the flesh, be at all times entirely devoid of fear; but immediately recovering courage, let us, from the high tower of our confidence, look down upon all our dangers with contempt. Those who have never tasted the grace of God tremble because they refuse to rely on him, and imagine that he is often incensed against them, or at least far removed from them. But with the promises of God before our eyes, and the grace which they offer, our unbelief does him grievous wrong, if we do not with unshrinking courage boldly set him against all our enemies. When God, therefore, kindly allures us to himself, and assures us that he will take care of our safety, since we have embraced his promises, or because we believe him to be faithful, it is meet that we highly extol his power, that it may ravish our hearts with admiration of himself. We must mark well this comparison, What are all creatures to God? Moreover, we must extend this confidence still farther, in order to banish all fears from our consciences, like Paul, who, when speaking of his eternal salvation, boldly exclaims,

“If God be for us, who can be against us ?” (<450834>Romans 8:34.)

2. When the wicked, etc. There is no reason for translating this sentence, as some interpreters do, into the future tense. fa543 But while we retain the past tense which the prophet employs, the words may be explained in a twofold manner. The meaning but in the prophetic writings it is often used for the future. There does not, however, as Calvin remarks, appear to be any necessity for translating the verbs into the future tense in this passage, in which David may be considered as contemplating the past evidences of the goodness of God towards him, and from them taking encouragement with respect to the future. either is, that David celebrates the victory which he had obtained by the blessing of God; or there is a reference to the manner in which he had encouraged himself to hope the best, even in the midst of his temptations, namely, by thinking of God’s former favors. The latter is the exposition which I prefer. They both, however, amount to the same thing, and imply that David had no reason henceforth to doubt of God’s assistance when he considered his former experience; for nothing is of greater use to confirm our faith, than the remembrance of those instances in which God has clearly given us a proof not only of his grace, but of his truth and power. I connect this verse, accordingly, with the following one. In the former, David recalls to mind the triumphs which, by God’s help, he had already obtained; and from this he concludes, that by what hosts soever he may be environed, or whatever mischief his enemies may devise against him, he would fearlessly stand up against them. The Hebrew word brq karab, signifies to approach; but here it refers to the irruption that David’s enemies made upon him when they assaulted him. Some translate it to fight, but this translation is flat. To testify his innocence, he calls them wicked or froward, and by saying that they came upon him to eat up his flesh, fa544 he expresses their savage cruelty.

3. Though armies should encamp. He infers from his former experience, as I have already mentioned, that whatever adversity may befall him, he ought to hope well, and to have no misgivings about the divine protection, which had been so effectually vouchsafed to him in his former need. He had asserted this, indeed, in the first verse, but now, upon farther proof of it, he repeats it. Under the terms, camps and armies, he includes whatever is most formidable in the world:as if he had said, Although all men should conspire for my destruction, I will disregard their violence, because the power of God, which I know is on my side, is far above theirs. But when he declares, My heart shall not fear, this does not imply that he would be entirely devoid of fear, — for that would have been more worthy of the name of insensibility than of virtue; but lest his heart should faint under the terrors which he had to encounter, he opposed to them the shield of faith. Some transfer the word translated in this to the following verse, meaning that he was confident that he would dwell in God’s house; but I am of opinion that it belongs rather to the preceding doctrine. For then does faith bring forth its fruit in due season, when we remain firm and fearless in the midst of dangers. David, therefore, intimates, that when the trial comes, his faith will prove invincible, because it relies on the power of God.

<192704>Psalm 27:4-6

4. One thing have I desired of Jehovah, this will I follow after; that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Jehovah, and diligently to survey his temple. 5. For he shall hide me in his tent in the day of evil: fa545 he shall hide me in the secret place of his tent; he shall set me up upon a rock. 6. And now shall he lift up my head above mine enemies who surround me: and I will offer sacrifices of joy in his tabernacle; I will sing and praise Jehovah.

 

4. One thing have I desired. Some consider this as a prophecy of the perpetuity of David’s kingdom, on which not only his own personal happiness depended, but also the happiness of his whole people; as if he had said, I am so well contented with this singular proof of God’s favor, that I can think on nothing else night and day. In my opinion, however, it appears a simpler interpretation to view the words as meaning, that although David was banished from his country, despoiled of his wife, bereft of his kinsfolk; and, in fine, dispossessed of his substance, yet he was not so desirous for the recovery of these, as he was grieved and afflicted for his banishment from God’s sanctuary, and the loss of his sacred privileges. Under the word one, there is an implied antithesis, in which David, disregarding all other interests, displays his intense affection for the service of God; so that it was bitterer to him to be an exile from the sanctuary, than to be denied access to his own house. That David desired only one thing, therefore, namely, to dwell in the house of the Lord, must be read in one sentence. For there is no probability that he means by this some secret wish which he suppressed, seeing he distinctly proclaims what it was that chiefly troubled him. He adds, too, steadiness of purpose, declaring that he will not cease to reiterate these prayers. Many may be seen spurring on with great impetuosity at first, whose ardor, in process of time, not only languishes, but is almost immediately extinguished. By declaring, therefore, that he would persevere in this wish during his whole life, he thereby distinguishes between himself and hypocrites.

We must, however, observe by what motive David was so powerfully stimulated. “Surely,” some may say, “he could have called on God beyond the precincts of the temple. Wherever he wandered as an exile, he carried with him the precious promise of God, so that he needed not to put so great a value upon the sight of the external edifice. He appears, by some gross imagination or other, to suppose that God could be enclosed by wood and stones.” But if we examine the words more carefully, it will be easy to see, that his object was altogether different from a mere sight of the noble building and its ornaments, however costly. He speaks, indeed, of the beauty of the temple, but he places that beauty not so much in the goodliness that was to be seen by the eye, as in its being the celestial pattern which was shown to Moses, as it is written in <022540>Exodus 25:40,

“And look that thou make them after this pattern which was showed thee in the mount.”

As the fashion of the temple was not framed according to the wisdom of man, but was an image of spiritual things, the prophet directed his eyes and all his affections to this object. Their madness is, therefore, truly detestable who wrest this place in favor of pictures and images, which, instead of deserving to be numbered among temple ornaments, are rather like dung and filth, defiling all the purity of holy things. We should now consider, whether the faithful are to be like-minded under the Christian or Gospel dispensation. fa546 I own, indeed, that we are in very different circumstances from the ancient fathers; but so far as God still preserves his people under a certain external order, and draws them to him by earthly instructions, temples have still their beauty, which deservedly ought to draw the affections and desires of the faithful to them. The Word, sacraments, public prayers, and other helps of the same kind, cannot be neglected, without a wicked contempt of God, who manifests himself to us in these ordinances, as in a mirror or image.

5. For he shall hide me in his tent. Here the Psalmist promises himself that his prayer would not be in vain. Although he is deprived of the visible sanctuary for a time, he doubts not that, wherever he may be, he shall experience the protecting power of God. And he alludes to the temple, because it was a symbol to the faithful of the divine presence; as if he had said, that in making the request which he mentioned he by no means lost his labor; for every one who shall seek God sincerely, and with a pure heart, shall be safely concealed under the wings of his protection. The figure of the temple, he therefore affirms, was not an unmeaning one, for there God, so to speak, spread forth his wings to gather true believers under his protection. From this he concludes, that as he had no greater desire than to flee for refuge under these wings, there would be a shelter ready for him in times of adversity, under the divine protection, which, under the figure of a rock, he tells us, would be impregnable like towers, which, for the sake of strength, were wont to be built, in ancient times, in lofty places. Although he was, therefore, at this time, environed by enemies on every side, yet he boasts that he shall overcome them. It is, indeed, a common form of speech in the Scriptures to say, that those who are oppressed with grief walk with a bowed down back and dejected countenance, while, on the other hand, they lift up their heads when their joyfulness is restored. Thus David spake, <190304>Psalm 3:4, “Thou, Lord, art the lifter up of mine head.” But because besieging is here put in opposition to this, he meant to say, that in that divine refuge he would be as it were lifted on high, so that he might fearlessly disregard the darts of his enemies, which might have otherwise pierced him. And in hoping for victory, though he was reduced to such straits as threatened instant death, he gives us a remarkable proof of his faith; by which we are taught not to measure the aid of God by outward appearances or visible means, but even in the midst of death to hope for deliverance from his powerful and victorious hand.

6. And I will offer sacrifices of triumph fa547 in his tabernacle. By making a solemn vow of thanksgiving, after he shall have been delivered from dangers, he confirms himself again in the hope of deliverance. The faithful under the Law, we know, were wont, by a solemn rite, to pay their vows, when they had experienced any remarkable blessing from God. Here, therefore, David, though in banishment, and prohibited from approaching the temple, boasts that he would again come to the altar of God, and offer the sacrifice of praise. It appears, however, that he tacitly sets the holy rejoicing and songs, in which he promises to give thanks to God, in opposition to the profane triumphings of the world.

<192707>Psalm 27:7-9

7. Hear, O Jehovah! my voice, with which I cry unto thee; have mercy upon me, and answer me. 8. My heart said to thee, fa548 Seek ye my face; therefore, fa549 thy face, O Jehovah! will I seek. 9. Hide not thy face from me; east not away thy servant in thy wrath: thou hast been my strength; leave me not, neither forsake me utterly, O God of my salvation!

 

7. Hear, O Jehovah! my voice. The Psalmist returns again to prayer, and in doing so, he declares with what armor he was furnished to break through his temptations. By the word cry, he expresses his vehemence, as I have elsewhere said, that he may thereby move God the sooner to help him. For the same purpose, also, he a little after mentions his misery, because the more the faithful are oppressed, the more does their very need induce God to extend his favor towards them.

8. My heart said to thee. The change of person in the verbs has occasioned a variety of interpretations of this verse. But whoever closely examines David’s design will perceive that the text runs perfectly well. As it becomes us not rashly to rush into the presence of God, until he first calls us, David first tells us, that he carefully considered how gently and sweetly God prevents his people, by spontaneously inviting them to seek his face; and then, recovering his cheerfulness, he declares he would come wheresoever God may call him. The sense of the Hebrew word ˚l, leka, is somewhat ambiguous. It may mean the same thing as tibi, to thee, in Latin. But as the Hebrew letter l, lamed, is often used for the preposition of, or concerning, it may properly enough be translated, my heart hath said of thee; an exposition to which the majority of interpreters incline. More probably, however, in my opinion, it denotes a mutual conversation between God and the prophet. I have just said, that no one can believingly rise to seek God until the way is first opened by God’s invitation, as I have elsewhere shown from the prophet’s declaration,

“I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God,” (<381309>Zechariah 13:9.)

David accordingly says, that in this way the door was opened for him to seek God:he brings forward this promise, and thus responds, as it were, to God. fa550 And, certainly, if this symphony does not precede, no man will conduct aright the chorus of the invitation. As soon, therefore, as we hear God presenting himself to us, let us cordially reply, Amen; and let us think with ourselves of his promises, as if they were familiarly addressed to us. Thus true believers have no need to seek any subtle artifice or tedious circuits to introduce themselves into God’s favor, since this preface prepares so easy a way for them, “However unworthy we are to be received by thee, O Lord, yet thy commandment, by which thou enjoinest upon us to come to thee, is sufficient encouragement to us.” The voice of God, therefore, ought to resound in our hearts, like an echo in hollow places, that from this mutual concord there may spring confidence to call upon him.

The term, face, is commonly explained to mean help or succor; as if it had been said, Seek me. But I am persuaded that the allusion here is also to the sanctuary, and that David refers to the mode of manifestation in which God was wont to render himself in some degree visible. No doubt, it is unlawful to form any gross or carnal idea of him, but as he appointed the ark of the covenant to be a token of his presence, it is, without any impropriety, every where denominated his face. It is indeed true, that we are far from God so long as we abide in this world, because faith is far removed from sight; but it is equally true, that we now see God as in a mirror, and darkly, (<461312>1 Corinthians 13:12,) until he shall openly show himself to us at the last day. Under this word, therefore, I am persuaded, are represented to us those helps by which God raises us to his presence, descending from his inconceivable glory to us, and furnishing us on earth with a vision of his heavenly glory. But as it is according to his own sovereign pleasure that God vouchsafes us to look upon him, (as he does in Word and sacraments,) it becomes us steadily to fix our eyes on this view, that it may not be with us as with the Papists, who, by means of the wildest inventions, wickedly transform God into whatever shapes please their fancy, or their brains have conceived.

9. Hide not thy face from me. The Psalmist elegantly continues the same form of speech, but with a different meaning. The face of God is now employed to describe the sensible effects of his grace and favor:as if it had been said, Lord, make me truly to experience that thou hast been near to me, and let me clearly behold thy power in saving me. We must observe the distinction between the theoretical knowledge derived from the Word of God and what is called the experimental knowledge of his grace. For as God shows himself present in operation, (as they usually speak,) he must first be sought in his Word. The sentence which follows, Cast not away thy servant in thine anger, some Jewish interpreters expound in too forced a manner to mean, Suffer not thy servant to be immersed in the wicked cares of this world, which are nothing but anger and madness. I, however, prefer to translate the Hebrew word hfn, natah, as many translate it, to turn away from, or to remove. Their meaning is more probable who interpret it, Make not thy servant to decline to anger. When a person is utterly forsaken by God, he cannot but be agitated within by murmuring thoughts, and break forth into the manifestations of vexation and anger. If any one think that David now anticipates this temptation, I shall not object, for he was not without reason afraid of impatience, which weakens us and makes us go beyond the bounds of reason. But I keep to the first exposition, as it is confirmed by the two words which follow; and thus the term anger imports a tacit confession of sin; because, although David acknowledges that God might justly cast him off, he deprecates his anger. Moreover, by recalling to mind God’s former favors, he encourages himself to hope for more, and by this argument he moves God to continue his help, and not to leave his work imperfect.

<192710>Psalm 27:10-12

10. When my father and mother shall forsake me, Jehovah will take me up. 11. Teach me thy way, O Jehovah! and lead me in the right path, because of mine adversaries. 12. Give me not up to the desire fa551 of mine oppressors: for false witnesses have risen up against me, and he who bringeth forth violence.

 

10. When my father and my mother shall forsake me. As it appears from the sacred history, that Jesse, so far as his opportunity admitted, performed his duty to his son David, some are of opinion that the nobles and councillors are here mentioned allegorically; but this is not suitable. Nor is it with any reason that they urge this scruple. David does not complain that he was unnaturally betrayed by his father or mother; but by this comparison he magnifies the grace of God, declaring, that he would ever find him ready to help him, although he might be forsaken of all men. The Hebrew particle yk, ki, for the most part, signifies for, but it is also known to be often employed for the adverb of time, when. David, therefore, meant to intimate, that whatever benevolence, love, zeal, attention, or service, might be found among men, they are far inferior to the paternal mercy with which God encircles his people. The highest degree of love among men, it is true, is to be found in parents who love their children as their own bowels. But God advances us higher, declaring, by the prophet Isaiah, that though a mother may forget the child of her womb, he would always be mindful of us, (<234915>Isaiah 49:15.) In this degree does David place him, so that he who is the source of all goodness far surpasses all mortals, who are naturally malevolent and niggardly. It is, however, an imperfect mode of speech, like that in <236316>Isaiah 63:16,

“Doubtless, thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not.”

The purport of the whole is this:However inclined by nature earthly parents are to help their children, nay, though they should endeavor to cherish them with the greatest ardor of affection, yet should affection be wholly extinguished in the earth, God would fulfill the duty both of father and mother to his people. From which it follows, that we basely undervalue the grace of God, if our faith rise not above all the affections of nature; for sooner shall the laws of nature be overturned a hundred times, than God shall fail his people.

11. Teach me thy way, O Jehovah! Many think that David here requests that God would guide him by his Spirit, lest he should surpass his enemies in acting violently and wickedly. This doctrine is, no doubt, very useful, but it does not seem to agree with the scope of the passage. It is a simpler interpretation, in my opinion, to consider that David desires, in order to escape the snares and violence of his enemies, that God would extend to him his hand, and safely conduct him, so as to give a happy issue to his affairs. He sets the right path in opposition to the difficulties and impediments which are in places which are rough, and of difficult access, to overcome which he was unequal, unless God undertook the office of a guide to lead him. But he who thus desires to commit himself to the safeguard and protection of God, fa552 must first renounce crafty and wicked devices. We must not expect that God, who promises to grant a happy issue only to the single in heart, and those who trust in his faithfulness, will bless crooked and wicked counsels.

12. Give me not up to the desire of mine oppressors. The Hebrew noun pn, nephesh, signifies lust, will, or desire; and the language of David implies, Deliver me not up to the pleasure or lust of mine enemies, and thus he intimates, that they greedily gaped for his destruction. God delivers his people in two ways; either by appeasing the cruelty of the wicked, and rendering them meek; or, if he permit them to burn with fury, by restraining their power and violence, so that they desire and endeavor in vain to do mischief. The Psalmist afterwards adds, that he is persecuted both with slanders and false accusations, and also by open violence; for when he says, that they bring forth violence, fa553 he means that they speak of nothing but of war and slaughter. We thus see that the holy man was miserably oppressed on every side. Even his integrity, which we know to have been singular, could not free him from bitter and deadly calumnies, and he was at the same time overwhelmed by the violence and force of his enemies. If the ungodly, therefore, should at any time rise against us, not only with menaces and cruel violence, but to give the semblance of justice to their enmity, should slander us with lies, let us remember the example of David, who was assaulted in both ways; nay, let us recall to mind that Christ the Son of God suffered no less injury from lying tongues than from violence. fa554 Moreover, this prayer was dictated for our comfort, to intimate that God can maintain our innocence, and oppose the shield of his protection to the cruelty of our enemies.

<192713>Psalm 27:13-14

13. Unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living: fa555 14. Wait thou on Jehovah; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait thou also on Jehovah.

 

13. Unless I had believed to see the goodness of Jehovah. It is generally agreed among interpreters, that this sentence is incomplete. Some, however, are of opinion, that the Hebrew particle alwl lul, is used for the purpose of affirmation, as if it were a species of oath; the Hebrews being accustomed to swear elliptically; for breaking off in the middle of the discourse and leaving it imperfect, they supplied an imprecation, namely, that God would punish them in case they perjured themselves. But the greater number give a different interpretation, namely, that David intimates that he was supported solely by faith, otherwise he had perished a hundred times. The meaning which they elicit, accordingly, is, Had I not relied on the promise of God, and been assuredly persuaded that he would safely preserve me, and had I not continued firm in this persuasion, I had utterly perished:There was no other remedy. Some understand by the land of the living, the heavenly inheritance; but this interpretation is forced, and disagrees with the usual style of Scripture. When Hezekiah laments in his song recorded in <233811>Isaiah 38:11, that he had no hope of seeing God “in the land of the living,” he means, without all doubt, the present life, as he immediately adds, “I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world.” A similar form of speech occurs also in another place, (<241119>Jeremiah 11:19.) David then believed that he would still enjoy the goodness of God in this world, although he was now deprived of all experience of his favor, and could see no spark of light. From the darkness of death, therefore, he promises himself a view of the divine favor, and by this persuasion his life is sustained, although, according to the judgment of carnal reason, it was past recovery and lost. It is to be observed, however, that David does not rashly go beyond the divine promise. It is true that “godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come,” (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8;) but he would have never dared to entertain this persuasion had he not been informed by a special revelation, and assuredly promised a successor, who should always sit upon his throne, (<19D211>Psalm 132:11, 12.) He was, therefore, justly persuaded that he would not die till this promise was fulfilled. Lest any man, therefore, by an unwarranted imitation of his example, should overleap the boundaries of faith, it is necessary to understand what was peculiar to him, and did not belong to us. In general, however, we ought all to hope that, although God may not openly work deliverance for us, or show us his favor in a visible manner, he will, nevertheless, be always merciful to us, even in the present life.

14. Wait thou on Jehovah. It may be doubted whether David, having in the preceding verses spoken of himself, here addresses his discourse to others, and exhorts them by his own example to fortitude and persevering patience, as he does in the conclusion of <193119>Psalm 31:19, where, after speaking concerning himself particularly, he makes a transition, and addresses himself to all the godly. But as he speaks here in the singular number, and uses no mark to show that he directs his discourse to others, it is in my opinion probable that he applies it to himself, the more to encourage his confidence in God, lest at any time his heart should faint. fa556 As he was conscious of his weakness, and knew that his faith was the great means of preserving him safe, he seasonably strengthens himself for the future. Under the word waiting, too, he puts himself in mind of new trials, and sets before his eyes the cross which he must bear. We are then said to wait on God, when, withdrawing his grace from us, he suffers us to languish under afflictions. David, therefore, having got through one conflict, prepares himself to encounter new ones. But as nothing is more difficult than to give God the honor of relying upon him, when he hides himself from us, or delays his assistance, David stirs himself up to collect strength; as if he had said, If fearfulness steal upon thee; if temptation shake thy faith; if the feelings of the flesh rise in tumult, do not faint; but rather endeavor to rise above them by an invincible resolution of mind. From this we may learn, that the children of God overcome, not by sullenness, but by patience, when they commit their souls quietly to God; as Isaiah says,

“In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength,”
(
<233015>Isaiah 30:15.)

As David did not feel himself equal to great and difficult efforts, he borrows strength from God by prayer. Had he said no more than Act like a man, fa557 he would have appeared to allege the motions of his own free-will, but as he immediately adds, by way of correction, that God would be at hand to strengthen his heart, he plainly enough shows, that when the saints strive vigorously, they fight in the strength of another, and not in their own. David does not, like the Papists, put his own efforts into the van, and afterwards supplicate for divine aid, but having done his own duty, although he knew that he was destitute of strength in himself, he requests that his deficiency may be supplied by the grace of the Holy Spirit. And as he knew that the war must be continued during his whole life, and that new conflicts would daily arise, and that the troubles of the saints are often protracted for a long period, he again repeats what he had said about waiting on God:Wait thou alone on Jehovah.


PSALM 28.

After being delivered by God’s help from great dangers, David, in this psalm, according to his custom, first records the vows that he had made in the midst of his difficulties, and then his thanksgivings and praises to God, to induce others to follow his example. It is probable that he speaks of his persecutions by Saul.

A Psalm of David.

<192801>Psalm 28:1-2

1. Unto thee, O Jehovah! will I cry; O my strength! hold not thy peace from me; lest, shouldst thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down to the grave. 2. Hear the voice of my prayers when I cry to thee, when I lift up my hands to the sanctuary of thy holiness.

 

1. Unto thee, O Jehovah! will I cry. The Psalmist begins by declaring that he would betake himself to the help of God alone, which shows both his faith and his sincerity. Although men labor every where under a multitude of troubles, yet scarcely one in a hundred ever has recourse to God. Almost all having their consciences burdened with guilt, and having never experienced the power of divine grace which might lead them to betake themselves to it, either proudly gnaw the bit or fill the air with unavailing complaints, or, giving way to desperation, faint under their afflictions. By calling God his strength, David more fully shows that he confided in God’s assistance, not only when he was in the shade and in peace, but also when he was exposed to the severest temptations. In comparing himself to the dead, too, he intimates how great his straits were, although his object was not merely to point out the magnitude of his danger, but also to show that when he needed succor, he looked not here and there for it, but relied on God alone, without whose favor there remained no hope for him. It is, therefore, as if he had said, I am nothing if thou leavest me; if thou succourest me not, I perish. It is not enough for one who is in such a state of affliction to be sensible of his misery, unless, convinced of his inability to help himself, and renouncing all help from the world, he betake himself to God alone. And as the Scriptures inform us that God answers true believers when he shows by his operations that he regards their supplications, so the word silent is set in opposition to the sensible and present experience of his aid, when he appears, as it were, not to hear their prayers.

2. Hear the voice of my prayers when I cry to thee. This repetition is a sign of a heart in anguish. David’s ardor and vehemence in prayer are also intimated by the noun signifying voice, and the verb signifying to cry. He means that he was so stricken with anxiety and fear, that he prayed not coldly, but with burning, vehement desire, like those who, under the pressure of grief, vehemently cry out. In the second clause of the verse, by synecdoche, the thing signified is indicated by the sign. It has been a common practice in all ages for men to lift up their hands in prayer. Nature has extorted this gesture even from heathen idolaters, to show by a visible sign that their minds were directed to God alone. The greater part, it is true, contented with this ceremony, busy themselves to no effect with their own inventions; but the very lifting up of the hands, when there is no hypocrisy and deceit, is a help to devout and zealous prayer. David, however, does not say here that he lifted his hands to heaven, but to the sanctuary, that, aided by its help, he might ascend the more easily to heaven. He was not so gross, or so superstitiously tied to the outward sanctuary, as not to know that God must be sought spiritually, and that men then only approach to him when, leaving the world, they penetrate by faith to celestial glory. But remembering that he was a man, he would not neglect this aid afforded to his infirmity. As the sanctuary was the pledge or token of the covenant of God, David beheld the presence of God’s promised grace there, as if it had been represented in a mirror; just as the faithful now, if they wish to have a sense of God’s nearness to them, should immediately direct their faith to Christ, who came down to us in his incarnation, that he might lift us up to the Father. Let us understand, then, that David clung to the sanctuary with no other view than that by the help of God’s promise he might rise above the elements of the world, which he used, however, according to the appointment of the Law. The Hebrew word rybd, debir, which we have rendered sanctuary, fa558 signifies the inner-room of the tabernacle or temple, or the most holy place, where the ark of the covenant was contained, and it is so called from the answers or oracles which God gave forth from thence, to testify to his people the presence of his favor among them.

<192803>Psalm 28:3-5

3. Draw me not away with wicked men, nor with the workers of iniquity, who speak peace to their neighbors, while malice is in their hearts. 4. Give them according to their works, and according to the wickedness of their doings; give them according to the work of their hands; render them their reward. 5. Because they regard not the doings of Jehovah, neither the work of his hands, let him destroy them, and not build them up.

 

3. Draw me not away with wicked men. The meaning is, that in circumstances so dissimilar, God should not mingle the righteous with the wicked in the same indiscriminate destruction. fa559 Undoubtedly, too, in speaking of his enemies, he indirectly asserts his own integrity. But he did not pray in this manner, because he thought that God was indiscriminately and unreasonably angry with men; he reasons rather from the nature of God, that he ought to cherish good hope, because it was God’s prerogative to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, and to give every one his due reward. By the workers of iniquity, he means man wholly addicted to wickedness. The children of God sometimes fall, commit errors, and act amiss in one way or other, but they take no pleasure in their evil doings; the fear of God, on the contrary, stirs them up to repentance. David afterwards defines and enlarges upon the wickedness of those whom he describes; for, under pretense of friendship they perfidiously deceived good men, professing one thing with their tongue, while they entertained a very different thing in their hearts. Open depravity is easier to be borne with than this craftiness of the fox, when persons put on fair appearances in order to find opportunity of doing mischief. fa560 This truth, accordingly, admonishes us that those are most detestable in God’s sight, who attack the simple and unwary with fair speeches as with poison.

4. Give them according to their works. Having thus requested God to have a regard to his innocence, the Psalmist thunders forth a curse against his enemies. And the accumulation of words shows that he had groaned long and grievously under the burden before he broke forth to desire such vengeance. He intimates that the wicked of whom he speaks had transgressed not once, nor for a short time, nor in one way, but that they had proceeded so far in their constant evil doings, that their audacity was no longer to be endured. We know how troublesome and grievous a temptation it is to see the ungodly proceeding without measure or end, as if God connived at their wickedness. David, therefore, wearied as it were with continual forbearing, and fainting under the burden, implores God, at length, to restrain the wantonness of his enemies, who of late ceased not to heap wickedness upon wickedness. Thus we perceive that there is nothing superfluous in this verse, when to works he adds the wickedness of their doings, and the work of their hands, and thrice petitions that they may receive the reward which they have deserved. Add to this, that he at the same time bears testimony to his own faith, to which boasting hypocrites often compel the children of God, while by their deceit and cavils, they impose upon the judgments of the world. We see how men who are distinguished for wickedness, not content with impunity themselves, cannot abstain from oppressing the innocent by false accusations, just as the wolf, desirous of making a prey fa561 of the lambs, according to the common proverb, accused them of troubling the water. David is therefore compelled by this exigency to call upon God for protection. Here again occurs the difficult question about praying for vengeance, which, however, I shall despatch in few words, as I have discussed it elsewhere. In the first place, then, it is unquestionable, that if the flesh move us to seek revenge, the desire is wicked in the Sight of God. He not only forbids us to imprecate evil upon our enemies in revenge for private injuries, but it cannot be otherwise than that all those desires which spring from hatred must be disordered. David’s example, therefore, must not be alleged by those who are driven by their own intemperate passion to seek vengeance. The holy prophet is not inflamed here by his own private sorrow to devote his enemies to destruction; but laying aside the desire of the flesh, he gives judgment concerning the matter itself. Before a man can, therefore, denounce vengeance against the wicked, he must first shake himself free from all improper feelings in his own mind. In the second place, prudence must be exercised, that the heinousness of the evils which offend us drive us not to intemperate zeal, which happened even to Christ’s disciples, when they desired that fire might be brought from heaven to consume those who refused to entertain their Master, (<420954>Luke 9:54.) They pretended, it is true, to act according to the example of Elias; but Christ severely rebuked them, and told them that they knew not by what spirit they were actuated. In particular, we must observe this general rule, that we cordially desire and labor for the welfare of the whole human race. Thus it will come to pass, that we shall not only give way to the exercise of God’s mercy, but shall also wish the conversion of those who seem obstinately to rush upon their own destruction. In short, David, being free from every evil passion, and likewise endued with the spirit of discretion and judgment, pleads here not so much his own cause as the cause of God. And by this prayer, he farther reminds both himself and the faithful, that although the wicked may give themselves loose reins in the commission of every species of vice with impunity for a time, they must at length stand before the judgment-seat of God.

5. Because they regard not the doings of Jehovah. In this verse he lays open the root of impiety, declaring that the ungodly are so bold to do mischief, because, while they are thus indulging their hatred, and perpetrating every species of wickedness, they think that they have nothing to do with God. And when conscience stings them, they soothe themselves with false hopes, and at last stubbornly harden themselves into insensibility. First, being intoxicated with prosperity, they flatter themselves that God is their friend, while he has no regard for those good men who are overwhelmed with so many afflictions; and, next, they persuade themselves that the world is governed by chance, thus blinding themselves in the midst of the clear light of day. In this manner, David’s adversaries, willingly ignorant that God had appointed him to be king, emboldened themselves to persecute him. He therefore complains of their gross ignorance of this, just as Isaiah (<230520>Isaiah 5:20) brings the same complaint, in general terms, against all the ungodly of his days. This doctrine, then, has a twofold use. First, it is no small consolation to the children of God to be persuaded, while they are unrighteously vexed, that by the providence of God they are thus profitably exercised to patience; and that while the affairs of this world are all in a state of disturbance and confusion, God nevertheless sits supreme in heaven conducting and governing all things. fa562 In the second place, this is a very proper curb to subdue the passions of our flesh, that we may not, like the Andabates, fa563 contend in the dark, and with shut eyes, as if God saw not and cared not about what is done here below. Let us, therefore, learn carefully to consider that the judgments which God executes are just so many proofs of his righteousness in governing mankind, and that although all things should be huddled together in confusion, the eye of faith should be directed to heaven, to consider God’s secret judgments. And as God never ceases, even in the midst of the greatest darkness, to give some tokens of his providence, it is inexcusable indolence not to attend to them. This perverseness the prophet aggravates, by repeating again, the works of God’s hands. He thus intimates, that the ungodly, by recklessly pursuing their course, trample under foot whatever of God’s works they may meet with to check their madness.

Let him destroy them, and not build them up. Some are of opinion that the first part of this verse is the nominative in the room of a substantive to the verbs in the last clause; as if David had said, This brutal madness shall destroy them; but the name of God should rather be supplied, and then the context will run excellently. As the verbs, however, in the Hebrew are in the future tense fa564 the sentence may be explained as meaning that David now assures himself of the destruction of the reprobates for which he had lately prayed. I do not reject this interpretation; but, in my opinion, the words are just a continuance of his petitions. In this way, he prays that the wicked may be overthrown, so as not to rise again, or recover their former state. The expression, Let him destroy them, and not build them up, is a common figure of speech among the Hebrews, according to what Malachi says concerning Edom, “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, They shall build, but I shall throw down,” (<390104>Malachi 1:4.) Lest we should be struck, therefore, with an incurable plague, let us learn to awake our minds to the consideration of God’s works, that we may be taught to fear him, to persevere in patience, and to advance in godliness.

<192806>Psalm 28:6-8

6. Blessed be Jehovah, for he hath heard the voice of my supplication. 7. Jehovah is my strength and my shield, my heart hath trusted in him, and I have been helped: therefore shall my heart rejoice, and with my song will I praise him. 8. Jehovah is their strength; and he is also the strength of the salvations [or deliverances] of his anointed.

 

6. Blessed be Jehovah, who hath heard. This is the second part of the psalm in which the prophet begins to give thanks to God. We have already seen how he employed himself in prayer in the midst of his dangers; and now by this thanksgiving he teaches us that his prayers were not in vain. Thus he confirms by his own example, that God is ready to bring help to his people whenever they seek him in truth and sincerity. He declares the same truth more fully in the next verse, calling God his strength and his shield; for he was persuaded that God had heard him from this, that he had been wonderfully preserved. He adds, that he had been helped in respect of his confidence and hope; for it often comes to pass, that those who call upon God, notwithstanding come short of his grace through their own unbelief. Thirdly, he says that he will add to his joy a testimony of his gratitude. Wicked men and hypocrites flee to God when they are overwhelmed with difficulties, but as soon as they escape from them, forgetting their deliverer, they rejoice with frantic mirth. In short, David trusted not in vain, since he truly found by experience that God possesses ever present power to preserve his servants; and that this was matter of true and solid joy to him, that he found God ever favorable to him. On this account, likewise, he promises that he would be mindful of God, and grateful to him. And undoubtedly, when God spreads cheerfulness through our hearts, it is to open our mouths to sing his praises.

8. Jehovah is their strength. By way of explanation, he repeats what he had said before, that God had been his strength; namely, because he had blessed his armies. David had indeed employed the hand and labor of men, but to God alone he ascribes the victory. As he knew that whatever help he had obtained from men proceeded from God, and that his prosperous success flowed likewise from his gratuitous favor, he discerned his hand in these means, as palpably as if it had been stretched forth from heaven. And surely it is passing shameful, that human means, which are only the instruments of God’s power, should obscure his glory; although there is no sin more common. It is a manner of speaking which has great weight, when, speaking of his soldiers, he uses only the pronoun their, as if he pointed to them with the finger. The second clause assigns the reason of the other. He declares that himself and his whole army were endued with victorious valor from heaven, because he fought under the standard of God. This is the meaning of the word anointed; for, had not God appointed him king, and freely adopted him, he would not have favored him any more than he did Saul. By this means, in extolling solely the power of God which advanced him to the kingdom, he attributes nothing to his own policy or power. In the meantime, we may learn, that when one is satisfied of the lawfulness of his calling, this doctrine encourages him to entertain good hope with respect to the prosperous issue of his affairs. In particular, it is to be observed, as we have briefly noticed in another place, that the fountain whence all the blessings God bestows upon us flows is, that he hath chosen us in Christ. David employs salvations or deliverances in the plural number, because he had been often and in various ways preserved. The meaning, therefore, is, that from the time when God had anointed him by the hand of Samuel, he never ceased to help him, but delivered him in innumerable ways, until he had accomplished the work of his grace in him.

<192809>Psalm 28:9

9. Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance; feed them, and lift them up for ever.

 

In this verse he shows that it was not so much his own welfare as the welfare of the whole Church which was the object of his concern, and that he neither lived nor reigned for himself, but for the common good of the people. He well knew that he was appointed king for no other end. In this he declares himself to be a type of the Son of God, of whom, when Zechariah (<380909>Zechariah 9:9) predicts that he would come “having salvation,” there is no doubt that he promises nothing to him apart from his members, but that the effects of this salvation would diffuse themselves throughout his whole body. By this example, accordingly, he prescribes a rule to earthly kings, that, devoting themselves to the public good, they should only desire to be preserved for the sake of their people. fa565 How very far otherwise it is, it is needless to say. Blinded with pride and presumption they despise the rest of the world, just as if their pomp and dignity raised them altogether above the common state of man. Nor is it to be wondered at, that mankind are so haughtily and contumeliously trampled under foot of kings, since the greatest part cast off and disdain to bear the cross of Christ. fa566 Let us therefore remember that David is like a mirror, in which God sets before us the continual course of his grace. Only we must be careful, that the obedience of our faith may correspond to his fatherly love, that he may acknowledge us for his people and inheritance. The Scriptures often designate David by the name of a shepherd; but he himself assigns that office to God, thus confessing that he is altogether unfit for it, fa567 save only in as far as he is God’s minister.


PSALM 29.

David, that he may humble all men before God, from the highest to the lowest, celebrates his terrible power in the various wonders of nature, which he affirms are not less fitted to arouse us to give glory to God, than if he were to assert his empire and majesty with his own voice. After he has struck fear into the proud, who are reluctant to yield, and addressed an exhortation to them accompanied by a gentle reproof, he sweetly invites the faithful voluntarily to fear the Lord.

A Psalm of David.

<192901>Psalm 29:1-4

1. Give unto Jehovah, ye sons of the mighty, give unto Jehovah glory and strength. 2. Give unto Jehovah the glory of his name; fa568 worship before Jehovah in the brightness of his sanctuary. 3. The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters; the God of glory thundereth; Jehovah is upon the great waters. 4. The voice of Jehovah is in strength, the voice of Jehovah is in beauty.

 

1. Give unto Jehovah, ye sons of the mighty. It was no doubt David’s design to lead all men to worship and reverence God; but as it is more difficult to reduce great men, who excel in rank, to order, he expressly addresses himself to them. It is obvious, that the LXX, in giving the translation, sons of rams, fa569 were led into a mistake by the affinity of the Hebrew words. fa570 About the signification of the word, indeed, the Jewish commentators are all agreed; but when they proceed to speak of its meaning, they pervert and obscure it by the most chilling comments. Some expound it of the angels, fa571 some of the stars; and others will have it, that by the great men who are referred to are meant the holy fathers. But David only intended to humble the princes of this world, who, being intoxicated with pride, lift up their horns against God. This, accordingly, is the reason why he introduces God, with a terrific voice, subduing by thunders, hail-storms, tempests, and lightnings, these stubborn and stiff-necked giants, who, if they are not struck with fear, refuse to stand in awe of any power in heaven. We see, therefore, why, passing by others, he directs his discourse particularly to the sons of the mighty. The reason is, because there is nothing more common with them than to abuse their lofty station by impious deeds, while they madly arrogate to themselves every divine prerogative. At least that they may modestly submit themselves to God, and, mindful of their frailty, place their dependence upon his grace, it is necessary, as it were, to compel them by force. David, therefore, commands them to give strength unto Jehovah, because, deluded by their treacherous imaginations, they think that the power which they possess is supplied to them from some other quarter than from heaven. In short, he exhorts them to lay aside their haughtiness, and their false opinion about their own strength, and to glorify God as he deserves. By the glory of God’s name, (ver. 2,) he means that which is worthy of his majesty, of which the great men of this world are wont to deprive him. The repetition, also, shows that they must be vehemently urged ere a proper acknowledgement be extorted from them. By the brightness of God’s sanctuary fa572 is to be understood, not heaven as some think, but the tabernacle of the covenant, adorned with the symbols of the divine glory, as is evident from the context. And the prophet designedly makes mention of this place, in which the true God had manifested himself, that all men, bidding adieu to superstition, should betake themselves to the pure worship of God. It would not be sufficient to worship any heavenly power, but the one and unchangeable God alone must be worshipped, which cannot come to pass until the world be reclaimed from all foolish inventions and services forged in the brains of men.

3. The voice of Jehovah is upon the waters. David now rehearses the wonders of nature which I have previously referred to; and well indeed does he celebrate the power of God as well as his goodness, in his works. As there is nothing in the ordinary course of nature, throughout the whole frame of heaven and earth, which does not invite us to the contemplation of God, he might have brought forward, as in <191901>Psalm 19:1, the sun and the stars, and the whole host of heaven, and the earth with its riches; but he selects only those works of God which prove not only that the world was at first created by him, and is governed by his power, but which also awaken the torpid, and drag them, as it were, in spite of themselves, humbly to adore him; as even Horace was compelled, though he was not only a heathen poet, but an Epicurean, and a vile contemner of Deity, to say of himself in one of his Odes, — (Lib. I. Ode 34.)

“A fugitive from heaven and prayer,
I mocked at all religious fear,
Deep scienced in the mazy lore
Of mad philosophy; but now
Hoist sail, and back my voyage plough
To that blest harbour which I left before.

“For, lo! that awful heavenly Sire,
Who frequent cleaves the clouds with fire,
Parent of day, immortal Jove;
Late through the floating fields of air,
The face of heaven serene and fair,
His thund’ring steeds, and winged chariot drove,” etc. fa573

Experience, too, tells us that those who are most daring in their contempt of God are most afraid of thunderings, storms, and such like violent commotions. With great propriety, therefore, does the prophet invite our attention to these instances which strike the rude and insensible with some sense of the existence of a God, fa574 and rouse them to action, however sluggish and regardless they are. He says not that the sun rises from day to day, and sheds abroad his life-giving beams, nor that the rain gently descends to fertilise the earth with its moisture; but he brings forward thunders, violent tempests, and such things as smite the hearts of men with dread by their violence. God, it is true, speaks in all his creatures, but here the prophet mentions those sounds which rouse us from our drowsiness, or rather our lethargy, by the loudness of their noise. We have said, that this language is chiefly directed to those who with stubborn recklessness, cast from them, as far as they can, all thought of God. The very figures which he uses sufficiently declare, that David’s design was to subdue by fear the obstinacy which yields not willingly otherwise. Thrice he repeats that God’s voice is heard in great and violent tempests, and in the subsequent verse he adds, that it is full of power and majesty.

<192905>Psalm 29:5-8

5. The voice of Jehovah breaketh the cedars; I say, Jehovah breaketh the cedars of Lebanon. 6. And he maketh Lebanon to skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young unicorn. 7. The voice of Jehovah striketh out [or heweth out] flames of fire. 8. The voice of Jehovah maketh the wilderness to quake, the voice of Jehovah maketh the wilderness of Kadesh to tremble.

 

5. The voice of Jehovah breaketh the cedars. We see how the prophet, in order to subdue the stubbornness of men, shows, by every word, that God is terrible. He also seems to rebuke, in passing, the madness of the proud, and of those who swell with vain presumption, because they hearken not to the voice of God in his thunders, rending the air with his lightnings, shaking the lofty mountains, prostrating and overthrowing the loftiest trees. What a monstrous thing is it, that while all the irrational portion of the creation tremble before God, men alone, who are endued with sense and reason, are not moved! Moreover, though they possess genius and learning, they employ enchantments to shut their ears against God’s voice, however powerful, lest it should reach their hearts. Philosophers think not that they have reasoned skilfully enough about inferior causes, unless they separate God very far from his works. It is a diabolical science, however, which fixes our contemplations on the works of nature, and turns them away from God. If any one who wished to know a man should take no notice of his face, but should fix his eyes only on the points of his nails, his folly might justly be derided. But far greater is the folly of those philosophers, who, out of mediate and proximate causes, weave themselves vails, lest they should be compelled to acknowledge the hand of God, which manifestly displays itself in his works. The Psalmist particularly mentions the cedars of Lebanon, because lofty and beautiful cedars were to be found there. He also refers to Lebanon and Mount Hermon, and to the wilderness of Kadesh, fa575 because these places were best known to the Jews. He uses, indeed, a highly poetical figure accompanied with a hyperbole, when he says, that Lebanon skips like a calf at God’s voice, and Sirion (which is also called Mount Hermon fa576) like a unicorn, which, we know, is one of the swiftest animals. He also alludes to the terrific noise of thunder, which seems almost to shake the mountains to their foundations. Similar is the figure, when he says, the Lord striketh out flames of fire, which is done when the vapours, being struck, as it were, with his hammer, burst forth into lightnings and thunderbolts. Aristotle, in his book on Meteors, reasons very shrewdly about these things, in so far as relates to proximate causes, only that he omits the chief point. The investigation of these would, indeed, be both a profitable and pleasant exercise, were we led by it, as we ought, to the Author of Nature himself. But nothing is more preposterous than, when we meet with mediate causes, however many, to be stopped and retarded by them, as by so many obstacles, from approaching God; fa577 for this is the same as if a man were to remain at the very rudiments of things during his whole life, without going farther. In short, this is to learn in such a manner that you can never know any thing. That shrewdness alone, therefore, is worthy of praise, which elevates us by these means even to heaven, in order that not a confused noise only may strike our ears, but that the voice of the Lord may penetrate our hearts, and teach us to pray and serve God. Some expound the Hebrew word lyjy, yachil, which we have translated to tremble, in another way, namely, that God maketh the wilderness of Kadesh to travail in birth; fa578 because of the manifold wonders which were wrought in it as the Israelites passed through it. But this sense I object to, as far too subtle and strained. David appears rather to refer to the common feelings of men; for as wildernesses are dreadful of themselves, they are much more so when they are filled with thunders, hail, and storms. I do not, however, object that the wilderness may be understood, by synecdoche, to mean the wild beasts which lodge in it; and thus the next verse, where hinds are mentioned, may be considered as added by way of exposition.

<192909>Psalm 29:9-11

9. The voice of Jehovah maketh the hinds to bring forth, and discovereth [or maketh bare] the forests, and in his temple every one speaketh of his praise. 10. Jehovah sitteth upon the flood; Jehovah, I say, sitteth king for ever. 11. Jehovah will give strength to his people; Jehovah will bless his people with peace.

 

9. The voice of Jehovah maketh the hinds to bring forth fa579 A tacit comparison, as I have said, is here made. It is worse than irrational, it is monstrous, that men are not moved at God’s voice, when it has such power and influence on wild beasts. It is base ingratitude, indeed, in men not to perceive his providence and government in the whole course of nature; but it is a detestable insensibility that at least his unusual and extraordinary works, which compel even wild beasts to obey him, will not teach them wisdom. Some interpreters think that hinds are mentioned, rather than other beasts, on account of their difficulty in bringing forth their young; which I disapprove not. The voice of the Lord is also said to discover or make bare the forests, either because there is no covering which can prevent it from penetrating into the most secret recesses and caverns; or, because lightnings, rains, and stormy winds, beat off the leaves and make the trees bare. Either sense is appropriate.

In his temple. God’s voice fills the whole world, and spreads itself to its farthest limits; but the prophet declares that his glory is celebrated only in his church, because God not only speaks intelligibly and distinctly there, but also there gently allures the faithful to himself. His terrible voice, which thunders in various ways in the air, strikes upon the ears, and causes the hearts of men to beat in such a manner, as to make them shrink from rather than approach him not to mention that a considerable portion turn a deaf ear to its sound in storms, rains, thunder, and lightnings. As men, therefore, profit not so much in this common school as to submit themselves to God, David wisely says especially that the faithful sing the praises of God in his temple, because, being familiarly instructed there by his fatherly voice, they devote and consecrate themselves wholly to his service. No man proclaims the glory of God aright but he who worships him willingly. This may be understood likewise as a complaint, in which David reproves the whole world of being silent in so far as the glory of God is concerned, fa580 and laments that although his voice resounds through all regions, yet his praises are no where sung but in his temple alone. He appears, however, after the example of all the godly, to exhort the whole of mankind to praise God’s name, and designedly to erect a temple as a receptacle for his glory, for the purpose of teaching us, that in order truly to know God, and praise him as is his due, we need another voice than that which is heard in thunders, showers, and storms in the air, in the mountains, and in the forests; for if he teach us not in plain words, and also kindly allure us to himself, by giving us a taste of his fatherly love, we will continue dumb. It is the doctrine of salvation alone, therefore, which cheers our hearts and opens our mouths in his praises, by clearly revealing to us his grace, and the whole of his will. It is from thence that we must learn how we ought to praise him. We may also unquestionably see that at that time there was nothing of the light of godliness in the whole world, except in Judea. Even philosophers, who appeared to approach nearest to the knowledge of God, contributed nothing whatever that might truly glorify him. All that they say concerning religion is not only frigid, but for the most part insipid. It is therefore in his word alone that there shines forth the truth which may lead us to true piety, and to fear and serve God aright. fa581

10. Jehovah sitteth upon the flood. Some think that David here alludes to that memorable instance of God’s vengeance, when he drowned the world at once by the flood, fa582 and thus testified to all ages that he is the judge of mankind. I agree to this in part, but extend his meaning still farther. In my opinion, he prosecutes the former subject, putting us in mind that those floods, which still threaten destruction to the earth, are controlled by the providence of God in such a way, as to make it evident that it is he alone who governs all things at all times. fa583 David, therefore, mentions this among other proofs of God’s power, that even when the elements appear to be mingled and confounded together by the utmost fury of the weather, God controls and moderates these commotions from his throne in heaven. He accordingly adds, for the sake of explanation, God sits King for ever.

11. Jehovah will give strength to his people. He returns to his former doctrine, namely, that although God exhibits his visible power to the view of the whole world indiscriminately, yet he exerts it in a peculiar manner in behalf of his elect people. Moreover, he here describes him in a very different manner from what he did formerly; that is to say, not as one who overwhelms with fear and dread those to whom he speaks, but as one who upholds, cherishes, and strengthens them. By the word strength is to be understood the whole condition of man. And thus he intimates that every thing necessary to the preservation of the life of the godly depends entirely upon the grace of God. He amplifies this by the word bless; for God is said to bless with peace those whom he treats liberally and kindly, so that nothing is awanting to the prosperous course of their life, and to their complete happiness. From this we may learn, that we ought to stand in awe of the majesty of God, in such a manner as, notwithstanding, to hope from him all that is necessary to our prosperity; and let us be assuredly persuaded, that since his power is infinite, we are defended by an invincible fortress.


PSALM 30.

David having been delivered from great danger, not only renders thanks to God apart by himself, but at the same time invites and exhorts all the pious to perform the same duty. He then confesses that he had flattered himself too confidently in his prosperity, and that his security had justly been chastised. In the third place, having briefly expressed his sorrow, he returns again to thanksgiving.

A psalm sung at the dedication of David’s house.

Interpreters doubt whether this psalm was composed by David, or by some of the prophets after the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity; for house means, in their opinion, the temple. But as the title expressly mentions David’s name, it is more probable that it is David’s private house which is here spoken of. Moreover, the supposition entertained by some, that when he was about to dedicate his palace, he was seized with heavy sickness, is founded upon no solid reason. We may rather conjecture from what is stated in sacred history, that as soon as he had built his royal palace, he dwelt in it quietly and at his ease. He said to the prophet Nathan, that he felt ashamed comfortably “to dwell within an house of cedar,” while “the ark of God dwelt under curtains,” (<100702>2 Samuel 7:2.) Besides, to restrict that to sickness which is here spoken generally concerning some kind of danger, is altogether groundless. It is more probable, that Absalom being dead, and his faction extinguished, and the fatal commotion which they had raised put down, David celebrated the divine favor toward him, as one who had returned from exile to his former station in his kingdom. For he mentions that he was chastised by God’s hand, because, exulting too much in his happy estate, and almost intoxicated with it, he falsely and foolishly promised himself entire freedom from adversity. Moreover, when he began to inherit the magnificent and royal palace, of which I have just spoken, his kingdom was yet scarcely restored to peace. It was not yet time, therefore, for forgetfulness of human frailty to creep upon him, which might provoke the wrath of God, and expose him to dangers which might bring him to the very verge of destruction. It is not unreasonable, therefore, to suppose, that in this psalm he celebrates God’s favor to him in restoring him to his former state. It was necessary again to dedicate his house, which had been defiled by the incestuous whoredoms of Absalom, and other wickednesses; and under this word seems to be denoted a double blessing, both his restoration to life and to his kingdom:as if he had said, that after settling the public affairs of his kingdom, he sung this song, and solemnly dedicated his house to God that he might live in his own family. But it must be briefly observed concerning this ceremony of the law, that as we are very slow and cold in thinking of God’s benefits, this exercise was enjoined upon his ancient people, that they might understand that there is no pure and lawful use of any thing without thanksgiving to God. As by offering the first-fruits to God, therefore, they acknowledged that they received the increase of the whole year from him, in like manner, by consecrating their houses to God, they declared that they were God’s tenants, confessing that they were strangers, and that it was he who lodged and gave them a habitation there. fa584 If a levy for war, therefore, took place, this was a just cause of exemption, when any one alleged that he had not yet dedicated his house. fa585 Besides, they were at the same time admonished by this ceremony, that every one enjoyed his house aright and regularly, only when he so regulated it that it was as it were a sanctuary of God, and that true piety and the pure worship of God reigned in it. The types of the law have now ceased, but we must still keep to the doctrine of Paul, that whatever things God appoints for our use, are still “sanctified by the word of God and prayer,” (<540404>1 Timothy 4:4, 5.)

<193001>Psalm 30:1-3

1. I will extol thee, O Jehovah! for thou hast lifted me up, fa586 and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. 2. O Jehovah my God! I have cried to thee, and thou hast healed me. 3. O Jehovah! thou hast brought up my soul from the grave; thou hast quickened me from among those who go down fa587 into the pit.

 

1. I will extol thee, O Jehovah! As David had been brought, as it were, from the grave to the life-giving air, he promises to extol the name of God. It is God who lifts us up with his own hand when we have been plunged into a profound gulf; and therefore it is our duty, on our part, to sing his praises with our tongues. By the foes who, he says, obtained no matter of rejoicing over him, we may understand both domestic and foreign enemies. Although wicked and evil disposed persons flattered him with servile adulation, they at the same time cherished secret hatred against him, and were ready to insult him as soon as an opportunity should occur. In the second verse, he concludes that he was preserved by the favor of God, alleging in proof of this, that when he was at the very point of death he directed his supplications to God alone, and that he immediately felt that he had not done so in vain. When God hears our prayers, it is a proof which enables us to conclude with certainty that he is the author of our salvation, and of the deliverance which we obtain. As the Hebrew word apr, rapha, signifies to heal, interpreters have been led, from this consideration, to restrict it to sickness. But as it is certain, that it sometimes signifies to restore, or to set up again, and is moreover applied to an altar or a house when they are said to be repaired or rebuilt, it may properly enough mean here any deliverance. The life of man is in danger in many other ways than merely from disease; and we know that it is a form of speech which occurs every where in the Psalms, to say that David was restored to life whenever the Lord delivered him from any grievous and extreme danger. For the sake of amplification, accordingly, he immediately adds, Thou hast brought up my soul from the grave. He reckoned that he could not sufficiently express in words the magnitude of the favor which God had conferred upon him, unless he compared the darkness of that period to a grave and pit, into which he had been forced to throw himself hastily, to protect his life by hiding, until the flame of insurrection was quenched. As one restored to life, therefore, he proclaims that he had been marvellously delivered from present death, as if he had been restored to life after he had been dead. And assuredly, it appears from sacred history, how completely he was overwhelmed with despair on every side.

<193004>Psalm 30:4-5

4. Sing unto Jehovah, O ye who are his meek ones! and acknowledge the memorial of his holiness. fa588 5. For his anger is only for a moment fa589 but life fa590 is in his favor; weeping will lodge in the evening, and rejoicing shall come in the morning.

 

4. Sing unto Jehovah. The better to testify his gratitude, David calls upon all the saints to join with him in singing the praises of God; and under one class he describes the whole body. As he had been preserved beyond all expectation, and by this instance had been instructed concerning God’s continual and infinite goodness towards all the godly, he breaks forth into this exhortation, in which he includes the general deliverance of the whole church as well as his own. He rehearses not only what God had been to himself, but also how bountifully and promptly he is accustomed to assist his people. In short, confirmed by one particular instance he turns his thoughts to the general truth. The meaning of the Hebrew term ydysj, chasidim, which we have translated meekness, by which David often describes the faithful, has been already shown in the sixteenth Psalm. Their heavenly adoption ought to excite them to the exercise of beneficence, that they may imitate their Father’s disposition,

“who maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,” (<400545>Matthew 5:45.)

There is nothing in which men resemble God more truly than in doing good to others. The memorial of his holiness, in the second clause of the verse, may refer to the tabernacle; as if David had exhorted all the children of God to go before the ark of the covenant, which was the memorial of God’s presence. The Hebrew letter fa591 l, lamed, often denotes a place. I readily subscribe, however, to their opinion, who think that memorial signifies the same thing as name; for God has assuredly rendered himself worthy of remembrance by his works, which are a bright representation of his glory, the sight of which should stir us up to praise him.

5. For his anger is only for a moment. It is beyond all controversy that life is opposed here to for a moment, and consequently signifies long continuance, or the constant progress of time from day to day. David thus intimates that if God at any time chastise his people, he not only mitigates the rigour of their punishment, but is immediately appeased, and moderates his anger; whereas he prolongs his kindness and favor for a long time. And, as I have already observed, he chose rather to couch his discourse in general terms, than to speak particularly of himself, that the godly might all perceive that this continued manifestation of God’s favor belongs to them. We are hereby taught, however, with how much meekness of spirit, and with what prompt obedience he submitted his back to God’s rod. We know that from the very first bloom of youth, during almost his whole life, he was so tried by a multiplied accumulation of afflictions, that he might have been accounted miserable and wretched above all other men; yet in celebrating the goodness of God, he acknowledges that he had been lightly afflicted only for a short period, and as it were in passing. Now, what inspired him with so great meekness and equanimity of mind was, that he put a greater value upon God’s benefits, and submitted himself more quietly to the endurance of the cross, than the world is accustomed to do. If we are prosperous, we devour God’s blessings without feeling that they are his, or, at least, we indolently allow them to slip away; but if any thing sorrowful or adverse befall us, we immediately complain of his severity, as if he had never dealt kindly and mercifully with us. In short, our own fretfulness and impatience under affliction makes every minute an age; while, on the other hand, our repining and ingratitude lead us to imagine that God’s favor, however long it may be exercised towards us, is but for a moment. It is our own perversity, therefore, in reality, which hinders us from perceiving that God’s anger is but of short duration, While his favor is continued towards us during the whole course of our life. Nor does God in vain so often declare that he is merciful and gracious to a thousand generations, long-suffering, slow to anger, and ready to forgive. And as what he says by the prophet Isaiah has a special reference to the kingdom of Christ, it must be daily fulfilled,

“For a small moment have I afflicted thee, but with everlasting mercies will I gather thee,” (<235407>Isaiah 54:7.)

Our condition in this world, I confess, involves us in such wretchedness, and we are harassed by such a variety of afflictions, that scarcely a day passes without some trouble or grief. Moreover, amid so many uncertain events, we cannot be otherwise than full of daily anxiety and fear. Whithersoever, therefore, men turn themselves, a labyrinth of evils surrounds them. But however much God may terrify and humble his faithful servants, with manifold signs of his displeasure, he always be-sprinkles them with the sweetness of his favor to moderate and assuage their grief. If they weigh, therefore his anger and his favor in an equal balance, they will always find it verified, that while the former is but for a moment, the latter continues to the end of life; nay, it goes beyond it, for it were a grievous mistake to confine the favor of God within the boundaries of this transitory life. And it is unquestionably certain, fa592 that none but those whose minds have been raised above the world by a taste of heavenly life really experience this perpetual and uninterrupted manifestation of the divine favor, which enables them to bear their chastisements with cheerfulness. Paul, accordingly, that he may inspire us with invincible patience, refers to this in <470417>2 Corinthians 4:17,

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.”

In the meantime, it is to be observed that God never inflicts such heavy and continued chastisements on his people, without frequently mitigating them, and sweetening their bitterness with some consolation. Whoever, therefore, directs his mind to meditation upon the heavenly life, will never faint under his afflictions, however long continued; and, comparing them with the exceeding great and manifold favors of God towards him, he will put such honor on the latter as to judge that God’s goodness, in his estimation, outweighs his displeasure a hundred-fold. In the second clause, David repeats the same thing figuratively:Weeping will lodge in the evening, and rejoicing shall come in the morning. He does not simply mean, that the affliction would be only for one night, but that if the darkness of adversity should fall upon the people of God, as it were, in the evening, or at the setting of the sun, light would soon after arise upon them, to comfort their sorrow-stricken spirits. The amount of David’s instruction is, that were we not too headstrong, we would acknowledge that the Lord, even when he appears to overwhelm us for a time with the darkness of affliction, always seasonably ministers matter of joy, just as the morning arises after the night.

<193006>Psalm 30:6-10

6. And in my tranquillity fa593 I had said, I shall never be moved. 7. O Jehovah! in thy good pleasure thou hast established strength to my mountain: thou hast hidden thy face, I have been terrified. 8. O Jehovah! I cried to thee, and to my Lord fa594 I made my supplication. 9. What profit is there in my blood, when I go down into the pit? fa595 Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth ? 10. Hear, O Jehovah! and have mercy upon me: O Jehovah! Be thou my helper.

 

6. And in my tranquillity I had said. This is the confession which I formerly mentioned, in which David acknowledges that he had been justly and deservedly punished for his foolish and rash security, in forgetting his mortal and mutable condition as a man, and in setting his heart too much on prosperity. By the term tranquillity, he means the quiet and flourishing state of his kingdom. Some translate the Hebrew word hwl, shiluah, which we have rendered tranquillity, by abundance, in which sense it is often used in other places; but the word tranquillity agrees better with the context; as if David had said, When fortune smiled upon me on every side, and no danger appeared to occasion fear, my mind sunk as it were into a deep sleep, and I flattered myself that my happy condition would continue, and that things would always go on in the same course. This carnal confidence frequently creeps upon the saints when they indulge themselves in their prosperity, and so to speak, wallow upon their dunghill. fa596 Hence Jeremiah (<243118>Jeremiah 31:18) compares himself to a wild bullock before the Lord tamed him and accustomed him to the yoke. This may at first sight appear to be but a small crime, yet we may gather from its punishment how much it is displeasing to God; nor will we wonder at this when we consider the root from which it springs and the fruits which it bears. As deaths innumerable continually hover before our eyes, and as there are so many examples of change to awaken us to fear and caution, those must be bewitched with devilish pride who persuade themselves that their life is privileged above the common lot of the world. They see the whole earth jumbled together in undistinguishing variety, and its individual parts in a manner tossed hither and thither; and yet, as if they did not belong to the human race, they imagine that they shall always continue stable and liable to no changes. Hence that wantonness of the flesh, with which they so licentiously indulge their lusts; hence their pride and cruelty, and neglect of prayer. How indeed should those flee to God, who have no sense of their need to instigate or move them to that? The children of God have also a pious security of their own, which preserves their minds in tranquillity amidst the troublesome storms of the world; like David, who, although he had seen the whole world made to shake, yet leaning upon the promise of God, was bound to hope well concerning the continuance of his kingdom. But although the faithful, when raised aloft on the wings of faith, despise adversity, yet, as they consider themselves liable to the common troubles of life, they lay their account with enduring them, — are every hour prepared to receive wounds, — shake off their sluggishness, and exercise themselves in the warfare to which they know that they were appointed, - and with humility and fear put themselves under God’s protection; nor do they consider themselves safe anywhere else than under his hand. It was otherwise with David, who, when ensnared by the allurements of his prosperous state, promised himself unbroken tranquillity not from the word of God but from his own feelings. The same thing also occurred to the pious King Hezekiah, who, although lately afflicted with a sore disease, as soon as all was well and according to his wish, was hurried by the vanity of the flesh to pride and vain boasting, (<143224>2 Chronicles 32:24.) By this we are taught to be on our guard when in prosperity, that Satan may not bewitch us with his flatteries. The more bountifully God deals with any one, the more carefully ought he to watch against such snares. It is not, indeed, probable that David had become so hardened as to despise God and defy all misfortunes, like many of the great men of this world, who, when immersed among their luxuries and surfeitings, insolently scoff at all God’s judgments; but an effeminate listlessness having come over his mind, he became more lukewarm in prayer, nor did he depend on the favor of God; in short, he put too much confidence in his uncertain and transitory prosperity.

7. O Jehovah! of thy good pleasure. This verse describes the difference which exists between the confidence which is founded upon the word of God and the carnal security which springs from presumption. True believers, when they rely upon God, are not on that account neglectful of prayer. On the contrary, looking carefully at the multitude of dangers by which they are beset, and the manifold instances of human frailty which pass before their eyes, they take warning from them, and pour out their hearts before God. The prophet now failed in duty as to this matter; because, by anchoring himself on his present wealth and tranquillity, or spreading his sails to the prosperous winds, he depended not on the free favor of God in such a manner as to be ready at any time to resign into his hands the blessings which he had bestowed upon him. The contrast should be observed between that confidence of stability which arises from the absence of trouble, and that which rests upon the gracious favor of God. When David says that strength was established to his mountain, some interpreters expound it of mount Zion. Others understand by it a stronghold or fortified tower, because in old time fortresses were usually built upon mountains and lofty places. I understand the word metaphorically to signify a solid support, and therefore readily admit that the prophet alludes to mount Zion. David thus blames his own folly, because he considered not, as he ought to have done, that there was no stability in the nest which he had formed for himself, but in God’s good will alone.

Thou hast hidden thy face. Here he confesses, that, after he was deprived of God’s gifts, this served to purge his mind as it were by medicine from the disease of perverse confidence. A marvellous and incredible method surely, that God, by hiding his face, and as it were bringing on darkness, should open the eyes of his servant, who saw nothing in the broad light of prosperity. But thus it is necessary that we be violently shaken, in order to drive away the delusions which both stifle our faith and hinder our prayers, and which absolutely stupify us with a soothing infatuation. And if David had need of such a remedy, let us not presume that we are endued with so good a state of heart as to render it unprofitable for us to be in want, in order to remove from us this carnal confidence, which is as it were diseased repletion which would otherwise suffocate us. We have, therefore, no reason to wonder, though God often hides his face from us, when the sight of it, even when it shines serenely upon us, makes us so wretchedly blind.

8. O Jehovah! I cried unto thee. Now follows the fruit of David’s chastisement. He had been previously sleeping profoundly, and fostering his indolence by forgetfulness; but being now awakened all on a sudden with fear and terror, he begins to cry to God. As the iron which has contracted rust cannot be put to any use until it be heated again in the fire, and beaten with the hammer, so in like manner, when carnal security has once got the mastery, no one can give himself cheerfully to prayer, until he has been softened by the cross, and thoroughly subdued. And this is the chief advantage of afflictions, that while they make us sensible of our wretchedness, they stimulate us again to supplicate the favor of God.

9. What profit is there in my blood? Some explain the verse after this manner:What will it avail me to have lived, unless thou prolongest my life till I shall have finished the course of my vocation? But this exposition seems too strained, especially as the term blood here signifies death, not life:as if David had said, What profit wilt thou derive from my death? This interpretation is farther confirmed by the following clause, where he complains that his lifeless body will then be useless for celebrating the praises of God. And he seems expressly to mention the truth of God, to intimate that it would be unsuitable to the character of God to take him out of the world by an untimely death, before God had accomplished the promise which he had made to him concerning his future heir. As there is a mutual relation between God’s promises and our faith, truth is, as it were, the medium by which God openly shows that he does not merely make liberal promises to us in words, to feed us with empty hopes, and afterwards to disappoint us. Moreover, to obtain a longer life, David draws an argument from the praises of God, to celebrate which we are born and nourished:as if he had said, For what purpose hast thou created me, O God! but that through the whole course of my life I may be a witness and a herald of thy grace to set forth the glory of thy name? But my death will cut short the continuance of this exercise, and reduce me to eternal silence. A question, however, arises here, Does not, it may be said, the death of true believers glorify God as well as their life? We answer, David speaks not simply of death, but adds a circumstance which I have already treated of in the sixth Psalm. As God had promised him a successor, the hope of living longer being taken from him, he had good reason to be afraid lest this promise should be frustrated by his death, and was therefore compelled to exclaim, What profit is there in my blood? It highly concerned the glory of God that he should be preserved alive, until by obtaining his desire, he should be able to bear witness to God’s faithfulness in completely fulfilling his promise to him. By inquiring in the end of the verse, Shall the dust praise thee? he does not mean that the dead are altogether deprived of power to praise God, as I have already shown in the sixth Psalm. If the faithful, while encumbered with a burden of flesh, exercise themselves in this pious duty, how should they desist from it when they are disencumbered, and set free from the restraints of the body? It ought to be observed, therefore, that David does not professedly treat of what the dead do, or how they are occupied, but considers only the purpose for which we live in this world, which is this, that we may mutually show forth to one another the glory of God. Having been employed in this exercise to the end of our life, death at length comes upon us and shuts our mouth.

10. Hear, O Jehovah! In this clause the Psalmist softens and corrects his former complaint; for it would have been absurd to expostulate with God like one who despaired of safety, and to leave off in this fretful temper. Having asked, therefore, with tears, what profit God would derive from his death, he encourages himself to a more unconstrained manner of prayer, and, conceiving new hope, calls upon God for mercy and help. He puts God’s favor, however, in the first place, from whom alone he could expect the help which he implored.

<193011>Psalm 30:11-12

11. Thou hast turned my mourning into dancing; thou hast loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness. 12. That my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent: O Jehovah my God! I will set forth thy praise for ever.

 

11. Thou hast turned my mourning into dancing. David concludes the psalm as he had begun it, with thanksgiving. He affirms that it was by the help and blessing of God that he had escaped safe; and he then adds, that the final object of his escape was, that he might employ the rest of his life in celebrating the praises of God. Moreover, he shows us that he was not insensible or obdurate under his afflictions, but mourned in heaviness and sorrow; and he also shows that his very mourning had been the means of leading him to pray to God to deprecate his wrath. Both these points are most worthy of our observation, in order, first, that we may not suppose that the saints are guilty of stoical insensibility, depriving them of all feeling of grief; and, secondly, that we may perceive that in their mourning they were exercised to repentance. This latter he denotes by the term sackcloth. It was a common practice among the ancients to clothe themselves with sackcloth when mourning, fa597 for no other reason, indeed, than that like guilty criminals, they might approach their heavenly Judge, imploring his forgiveness with all humility, and testifying by this clothing their humiliation and dissatisfaction with themselves. fa598 We know also that the orientals were addicted beyond all others to ceremonies. We perceive, therefore, that David, although he patiently submitted himself to God, was not free from grief. We also see that his sorrow was “after a godly sort,” as Paul speaks, (<470710>2 Corinthians 7:10;) for to testify his penitence he clothed himself with sackcloth. By the term dancing, he does not mean any wanton or profane leaping, but a sober and holy exhibition of joy like that which sacred Scripture mentions when David conveyed the ark of the covenant to its place, (<100616>2 Samuel 6:16.) If we may conjecture, however, we may gather from this, that the great danger of which David speaks in this psalm is by some improperly restricted to sickness, as it was very improbable that he would put on sackcloth when he was confined to a sick-bed. This, indeed, would not be a sufficient reason of itself, but in a doubtful case, as this is, it is not destitute of force. David therefore means, that, laying aside his mourning apparel, he returned from a state of heaviness and sorrow to joy; and this he ascribes to the grace of God alone, asserting that he had been his deliverer.

12. That my glory may sing praise to thee. In this verse he more fully expresses his acknowledgement of the purpose for which God had preserved him from death, and that he would be careful to render him a proper return of gratitude. Some refer the word glory to the body, and some to the soul, or the higher powers of the mind. Others, as the pronoun my, which we have supplied, is not in the Hebrew text, prefer to translate it in the accusative case, supplying the word every man, in this way: That every man may celebrate thy glory; as if the prophet had said, This is a blessing worthy of being celebrated by the public praises of all men. But as all these interpretations are strained, I adhere to the sense which I have given. The Hebrew word dwbk, kebod, which signifies glory, it is well known, is sometimes employed metaphorically to signify the tongue, as we have seen in <191609>Psalm 16:9. And as David adds immediately after, I will celebrate thy praise for ever, the context demands that he should particularly speak of his own duty in this place. His meaning, therefore, is, O Lord, as I know that thou hast preserved me for this purpose, that thy praises may resound from my tongue, I will faithfully discharge this service to thee, and perform my part even unto death. To sing, and not be silent, is a Hebrew amplification; as if he had said, My tongue shall not be mute, or deprive God of his due praise; it shall, on the contrary, devote itself to the celebration of his glory.


PSALM 31.

David, having been delivered from some great danger, or rather from many dangers, first relates the prayers which he had offered up to God amidst the terrors of death. He then subjoins his thanksgiving, which is no ordinary one; for he celebrates his deliverance at great length, and exhorts all the saints to be of good hope, as they had in him a most excellent and memorable example of God’s goodness.

To the chief musician. A psalm of David.

<193101>Psalm 31:1-4

1. In thee, O Jehovah! have I put my trust, let me not be ashamed for ever: deliver me in thy righteousness. 2. Incline thine ear unto me, deliver me speedily; be unto me a strong rock, a house of defense to save me. 3. For thou art my rock and my fortress: and for thy name’s sake thou wilt lead and guide me. fa599 4. Pluck me out of the net which they have hidden for me; for thou art my strength.

 

1. In thee, O Jehovah! have I put my trust. Some are of opinion that this psalm was composed by David, after he had most unexpectedly escaped out of the wilderness of Maon; to which I do not object, although it is only a doubtful conjecture. Certainly he celebrates one or more of the greatest of his dangers. In the commencement he tells us what kind of prayer he offered in his agony and distress; and its language breathes affection of the most ardent nature. He takes it for a ground of hope that he trusted in the Lord, or continued to trust in him; for the verb in the past tense seems to denote a continued act. He held it as a principle, that the hope which depends upon God cannot possibly be disappointed. Meanwhile, we see how he brings forward nothing but faith alone; promising himself deliverance only because he is persuaded that he will be saved by the help and favor of God. But as this doctrine has been expounded already, and will yet occur oftener than once, it is sufficient at present to have glanced at it. Oh! that all of us would practice it in such a manner as that, whenever we approach to God, we may be able with David to declare that our prayers proceed from this source, namely, from a firm persuasion that our safety depends on the power of God. The particle signifying for ever may be explained in two ways. As God sometimes withdraws his favor, the meaning may not unsuitably be, Although I am now deprived of thy help, yet cast me not off utterly, or for evermore. Thus David, wishing to arm himself with patience against his temptations, would make a contrast between these two things, — being in distress for a time, and remaining in a state of confusion. fa600 But if any one choose rather to understand his words in this way, “Whatever afflictions befall me, may God be ready to help me, and ever and anon stretch forth his hand to me, as the case requires,” I would not reject this meaning any more than the other. David desires to be delivered in the righteousness of God, because God displays his righteousness in performing his promise to his servants. It is too much refinement of reasoning to assert that David here betakes himself to the righteousness which God freely bestows on his people, because his own righteousness by works was of no avail. Still more out of place is the opinion of those who think that God preserves the saints according to his righteousness; that is to say, because having acted so meritoriously, justice requires that they should obtain their reward. It is easy to see from the frequent use of the term in The Psalms, that God’s righteousness means his faithfulness, in the exercise of which he defends all his people who commit themselves to his guardianship and protection. David, therefore, confirms his hope from the consideration of the nature of God, who cannot deny himself, and who always continues like himself.

2. incline thine ear unto me. These words express with how much ardor David’s soul was stimulated to pray. He affects no splendid or ornate language, as rhetoricians are wont to do; but only describes in suitable figures the vehemence of his desire. In praying that he may be delivered speedily there is shown the greatness of his danger, as if he had said, All will soon be over with my life, unless God make haste to help me. By the words, house of defense, fortress, and rock, he intimates, that, being unable to resist his enemies, his hope rests only on the protection of God.

3. For thou art my rock. This verse may be read as one sentence, thus:As thou art like a tower for my defense, for thy name’s sake direct and guide me during my whole life. And thus the conjunction, as in many similar cases, would be superfluous. But I rather prefer a different sense, namely, that David, by interjecting this reflection, encourages himself not only to earnestness in prayer, but also in the confident hope of obtaining his requests. We know, at all events, that it is usual with him to mingle such things in his prayers as may serve to remove his doubts, and to confirm his assurance. Having, therefore, expressed his need, he assures himself, in order to encourage and animate himself, that his prayer shall certainly have a happy answer. He had formerly said, Be thou my strong rock and fortress; and now he adds, Assuredly thou art my rock, and my fortress: intimating, that he did not throw out these words rashly, like unbelievers, who, although they are accustomed to ask much from God, are kept in suspense by the dread of uncertain events. From this he also draws another encouragement, that he shall have God for his guide and governor during the whole course of his life. He uses two words, lead and guide, to express the same thing, and this he does (at least so I explain it) on account of the various accidents and unequal vicissitudes by which the lives of men are tried:as if he had said, Whether I must climb the steep mountain, or struggle along through rough places, or walk among thorns, I trust that thou wilt be my continual guide. Moreover, as men will always find in themselves matter for doubt, if they look to their own merits, fa601 David expressly asks that God may be induced to help him for his own name’s sake, or from regard to his own glory, as, properly speaking, there is no other thing which can induce him to aid us. It must therefore be remembered, that God’s name, as it is opposed to all merit whatever, is the only cause of our salvation. In the next verse, under the metaphor of a net, he appears to designate the snares and artifices with which his enemies encompassed him. We know that conspiracies were frequently formed against his life, which would have left him no room for escape; and as his enemies were deeply skilled in policy, and hating him with an inconceivable hatred, were eagerly bent on his destruction, it was impossible for him to be saved from them by any human power. On this account he calls God his strength; as if he had said, He alone is sufficient to rend asunder all the snares with which he sees his afflicted people entangled.

<193105>Psalm 31:5-8

5. Into thy hand I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me, O Jehovah! God of truth. 6. I hate all that give heed to lying vanities; but I have trusted in Jehovah. 7. I will be glad and rejoice in thy goodness, because thou hast regarded my affliction: thou hast known my soul in distresses. 8. And thou hast not shut me up in the hand of mine enemy: fa602 thou hast set my feet in a large place.

 

5. Into thy hand I commit my spirit. David again declares his faith to God, and affirms that he had such high thoughts of his providence, as to cast all his cares upon it. Whoever commits himself into God’s hand and to his guardianship, not only constitutes him the arbiter of life and death to him, but also calmly depends on him for protection amidst all his dangers. The verb is in the future tense, “I will commit,” and it unquestionably denotes a continued act, and is therefore fitly translated into the present tense. It is also to be observed, that no man can possibly commit his life to God with sincerity, but he who considers himself exposed to a thousand deaths, and that his life hangs by a thread, or differs almost nothing from a breath which passes suddenly away. David being thus at the point of despair, leaves nothing to himself to do but this — to go on his way, trusting in God as the keeper and governor of his life. It is marvellous, that, although many things distress us all, scarcely one in a hundred is so wise as to commit his life into God’s hand. Multitudes live from day to day as merry and careless as if they were in a quiet nest, free from all disturbance; but as soon as they encounter any thing to terrify them, they are ready to die for anguish. It thus happens that they never betake themselves to God, either because they deceive themselves with vain delusions, flattering themselves that all will yet be well, fa603 or because they are so stricken with dread and stupified with amazement, that they have no desire for his fatherly care. Farther, as various tempests of grief disturb us, and even sometimes throw us down headlong, or drag us from the direct path of duty, or at least remove us from our post, the only remedy which exists for setting these things at rest is to consider that God, who is the author of our life, is also its preserver. This, then, is the only means of lightening all our burdens, and preserving us from being swallowed up of over-much sorrow. Seeing, therefore, that God condescends to undertake the care of our lives, and to support them, although they are often exposed to various sorts of death, let us learn always to flee to this asylum; nay, the more that any one is exposed to dangers, let him exercise himself the more carefully in meditating on it. In short, let this be our shield against all dangerous attacks — our haven amidst all tossings and tempests — that, although our safety may be beyond all human hope, God is the faithful guardian of it; and let this again arouse us to prayer, that he would defend us, and make our deliverance sure. This confidence will likewise make every man forward to discharge his duty with alacrity, and constantly and fearlessly to struggle onward to the end of his course. How does it happen that so many are slothful and indifferent, and that others perfidiously forsake their duty, but because, overwhelmed with anxiety, they are terrified at dangers and inconveniences, and leave no room for the operation of the providence of God?

To conclude, whoever relies not on the providence of God, so as to commit his life to its faithful guardianship, has not yet learned aright what it is to live. On the other hand, he who shall entrust the keeping of his life to God’s care, will not doubt of its safety even in the midst of death. We must therefore put our life into God’s hand, not only that he may keep it safely in this world, but also that he may preserve it from destruction in death itself, as Christ’s own example has taught us. As David wished to have his life prolonged amidst the dangers of death, so Christ passed out of this transitory life that his soul might be saved in death. This is a general prayer, therefore, in which the faithful commit their lives to God, first, that he may protect them by his power, so long as they are exposed to the dangers of this world; and, secondly, that he may preserve them safe in the grave, where nothing is to be seen but destruction. We ought farther to assure ourselves, that we are not forsaken of God either in life or in death; for those whom God brings safely by his power to the end of their course, he at last receives to himself at their death. This is one of the principal places of Scripture which are most suitable for correcting distrust. It teaches us, first, that the faithful ought not to torment themselves above measure with unhappy cares and anxieties; and, secondly, that they should not be so distracted with fear as to cease from performing their duty, nor decline and faint in such a manner as to grasp at vain hopes and deceitful helps, nor give way to fears and alarms; and, in fine, that they should not be afraid of death, which, though it destroys the body, cannot extinguish the soul. This, indeed, ought to be our principal argument for overcoming all temptations, that Christ, when commending his soul to his Father, undertook the guardianship of the souls of all his people. Stephen, therefore, calls upon him to be his keeper, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” (<440759>Acts 7:59.) As the soul is the seat of life, it is on this account, as is well known, used to signify life.

Thou hast redeemed me. Some translate the past tense here into the future; but, in my opinion, without any reason. For it is evident to me, that David is here encouraging himself to continued confidence in God, by calling to remembrance the proofs of his favor which he had already experienced. fa604 It is no small encouragement to us for the future, to be assuredly persuaded that God will watch over our life, because he hath been our deliverer already. Hence the epithet by which David recognises God. He calls him true or faithful, because he believes that he will continue the same to him for ever that he has already been. Accordingly, this is as it were a bond by which he joins to the former benefits which God had conferred upon him confidence in prayer, and the hope of aid for the time to come:as if he had said, Lord, thou who art ever the same, and changest not thy mind like men, hast already testified in very deed that thou art the defender of my life:now, therefore, I commit my life, of which thou hast been the preserver, into thy hands. What David here declares concerning his temporal life, Paul transfers to eternal salvation.

“I know,” says he, “whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him,”
(<550112>2 Timothy 1:12.)

And surely, if David derived so much confidence from temporal deliverance, it is more than wicked and ungrateful on our part, if the redemption purchased by the blood of Christ does not furnish us with invincible courage against all the devices of Satan.

6. I hate all that give heed to lying vanities. In order the better to express that his faith was firmly fixed on God, he affirms that he was free from the vile affections which usually turn away our minds from God, and under which unbelievers for the most part labor. For we know that by contrasting things which are opposite, a subject is better illustrated. To restrict the Hebrew word lbh, hebel, which we have rendered vanities, to magical arts, as some interpreters do, is absurd. fa605 I confess, indeed, that the Orientals were so much addicted to these impostures, that it was a common evil among them. But as the devices by which Satan ensnares the minds of men, and the allurements by which he draws them away from God, are innumerable, it is not at all probable that the prophet mentions one species only. Whatever vain hopes, therefore, we form to ourselves, which may draw us off from our confidence in God, David generally denominates vanities, yea, false or lying vanities, because, although they feed us for a time with magnificent promises, in the end they beguile and disappoint us. He affirms, therefore, that casting away the vanities which men usually invent to support their hopes, he relies solely on God. And as men not only intoxicate themselves personally with the deceitful allurements of the world, but in this respect also deceive one another, the prophet expressly declares, with a view that we may carefully avoid them, unless we wish to be wilfully entangled in their dangerous toils, that he hated all who involved themselves in such lies. The second clause, I have trusted in Jehovah, must be read in connection with the first, because it both assigns the cause of his hatred of lying vanities, and shows that it is impossible for men to have any true faith in God, unless they abhor whatever would draw them away from him.

7. I will be glad and rejoice in thy goodness. Here is inserted a thanksgiving, although many are rather of opinion that David’s prayer is suspended, and that he makes a vow, when he shall be delivered from present danger. But as no condition is annexed, I am rather inclined to think that stopping all at once in the middle of his prayer, he promises himself a deliverance, for which he will have abundant matter for giving thanks. Nor is it to be wondered at that different feelings are mingled in the psalms in which David has set forth his own temptations, as well as the resistance which his faith made to them, considering also that when he sung the praises of God, after having already obtained deliverance from him, he embraces different periods in his song, as he here says, that God had regarded his affliction, intimating by this the effect of the assistance which God had afforded him. And that he may the better confirm this, he adds, that he had not been delivered into the hands of his enemies: in which words there is an implied antithesis, namely, that when he was encompassed on every side by severe afflictions, he was marvellously delivered by God. This is also farther intimated by the following sentence, Thou hast set my feet in a large place, fa606 which denotes a sudden and unexpected change.

<193109>Psalm 31:9-13

9. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah! for I am in trouble: mine eye, my soul, and my belly, are consumed by reason of anger. 10. For my life is wasted by reason of grief, and my years with groaning; my strength faileth in my sorrow, and my bones are consumed. 11. I was a reproach by reason of all mine enemies, yea, exceedingly to my neighbors, and a fear to my acquaintances; and they who saw me abroad fled from me. 12. I am forgotten as one dead, I am become like a broken vessel. 13. For I have heard the railing of many, fa607 and fear encloseth me on every side, while they consult together against me, and plot to take away my life.

 

9. Have mercy upon me, O Jehovah! To move God to succor him, he magnifies the greatness of his misery and grief by the number of his complaints; not that God needs arguments to persuade him, but because he allows the faithful to deal familiarly with him, that they may disburden themselves of their cares. The greater the number of afflictions with which they are oppressed, the more do they encourage themselves, while bewailing them before God, in the hope of obtaining his assistance. These forms of expression may seem hyperbolical, but it is obvious that it was David’s purpose to declare and set forth what he had felt in his own person. First, he says that his eyes, his soul, and his belly, were consumed with grief. From this it appears that it was neither lightly nor for a short time that he was thus tormented and vexed by these calamities. Indeed, he was endued with so much meekness of spirit that he would not allow himself to be excited easily, and by a slight circumstance, nor vexed by immoderate sorrow. He had also been for a long time inured to the endurance of troubles. We must, therefore, admit that his afflictions were incredibly severe, when he gave way to such a degree of passion. By the word anger, too, he shows that he was not at all times of such iron-like firmness, or so free from sinful passion, as that his grief did not now and then break forth into an excess of impetuosity and keenness. Whence we infer that the saints have often a severe and arduous conflict with their own passions; and that although their patience has not always been free from peevishness, yet by carefully wrestling against it, they have at last attained this much, that no accumulation of troubles has overwhelmed them. By life some understand the vital senses, an interpretation which I do not altogether reject. But I prefer to explain it as simply meaning, that, being consumed with grief, he felt his life and his years sliding away and failing. And by these words again, David bewails not so much his pusillanimity of mind as the grievousness of his calamities; although he was by no means ashamed to confess his infirmity, for which he was anxiously seeking a remedy. When he says, that his strength failed under his sorrow, some interpreters prefer reading, under his iniquity; and I confess that the Hebrew word ˆw[, on, bears both significations, fa608 nay, more frequently it signifies an offense or a fault. But as it is sometimes used for punishment, I have chosen the sense which appears most agreeable to the context. And although it is true that David was accustomed to ascribe the afflictions which he at any time suffered to his own fault, yet, as he is only recounting his miseries here, without mentioning the cause of them, it is probable that, according to his usual manner, he expresses the same thing twice by different words.

11. I was a reproach by reason of all mine enemies. Others translate thus - more than mine enemies, and as the Hebrew letter m, mem, is often used as a sign of comparison, they interpret this clause to mean that David’s friends and acquaintances reproached him more than all his enemies. But, in my opinion, he intended to express a different idea, namely, that as he was everywhere hated, and his enemies had induced almost the whole realm to take part with them against him, he had an evil name even among his friends and neighbors; just as popular opinion, like a violent tempest, usually carries all before it. I suppose, therefore, that the Hebrew copula w, vau, is used for the sake of amplification, to show that David was an object of detestation, not only to strangers to whom he was formerly unknown, but also to his principal friends. He adds, likewise, that when they saw him abroad they fled from him. By the adverb, abroad, he means to say, that they did not think the miserable man worthy of a near approach to them; nay, that they fled from the very sight of him, at however great a distance, lest the contagion of his misery should reach them, and because they reckoned it would be injurious and disgraceful to them to show him any sign of friendship.

12. I am forgotten as one dead. The Psalmist still pursues the same idea, and complains that he was as completely blotted out of all men’s remembrance as if he had been dead. The memory of some men after their death flourishes for a time among survivors, but it more frequently vanishes; for there is no longer any intercourse between the quick and the dead, nor can the living be of any farther service to the dead. David illustrates this idea by the metaphor of a broken vessel, fa609 which denotes utter contempt and meanness; as if he had said, that he was accounted no longer worthy of any place or respect. He adds, in fine, that he was railed upon by the multitude, and agitated with terrors. I would, however, prefer translating the Hebrew word ybr, rabbim, by the great, fa610 rather than by many. When great men, who are often as powerful in judgment as in authority, slander and defame us as wicked persons, this adds to the indignity with which we are treated, because, whatever they say in condemnation of us has the effect of prejudicing the common people against us. It will therefore be very suitable to understand the words as meaning that David was ignominiously condemned by the whole order of the nobility; and thus the innocence of this afflicted man was thrown into the shade by their greatness. This interpretation is confirmed by what immediately follows:— Fear encloseth me on every side, fa611 while they consult together against me. As he is still speaking of the same persons, it is certain that this language applies more appropriately to the nobles than to the common people. Moreover, we see that the primary object of the wicked in the deceitful counsels by which they conspired to destroy David, was to create among the whole people hatred against him as a wicked and reprobate man. We also see that while they mangled his reputation, they did it in such a manner as that they covered their wickedness under the appearance of grave and considerate procedure, in consulting among themselves to destroy him as a man who no longer ought to be tolerated on the earth. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that his mind was wounded, as we have just seen, by so many and so sharp temptations.

<193114>Psalm 31:14-18

14. Yet have I trusted in thee, O Jehovah! I have said, Thou art my God. 15. My times are in thy hand; deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. 16. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; preserve me in thy goodness. 17. O Jehovah! let me not be ashamed; for I have called on thee: let the wicked be ashamed, let them be silent in the grave. 18. Let lying lips be put to silence, which speak a hard [or grievous] thing against the just, in pride and scorn.

 

14. Yet have I trusted in thee, O Jehovah! The rendering properly is, And I have trusted in thee; but the Hebrew copulative particle w, vau, and, is used here instead of the adversative particle yet, or nevertheless. David, setting the stedfastness of his faith in opposition to the assaults of the temptations of which he has made mention, denies that he had ever fainted, but rather maintains, on the contrary, that he stood firm in his hope of deliverance from God. Nor does this imply that he boasted of being so magnanimous and courageous that he could not be overthrown through the infirmity of the flesh. However contrary to one another they appear, yet these things are often joined together, as they ought to be, in the same person, namely, that while he pines away with grief, and is deprived of all strength, he is nevertheless supported by so strong a hope that he ceases not to call upon God. David, therefore, was not so overwhelmed in deep sorrow, and other direful sufferings, as that the hidden light of faith could not shine inwardly in his heart; nor did he groan so much under the weighty load of his temptations, as to be prevented from arousing himself to call upon God. He struggled through many obstacles to be able to make the confession which he here makes. He next defines the manner of his faith, namely, that he reflected with himself thus that God would never fail him nor forsake him. Let us mark his manner of speech:I have said, Thou art my God. In these words he intimates that he was so entirely persuaded of this truth, that God was his God, that he would not admit even a suggestion to the contrary. And until this persuasion prevails so as to take possession of our minds, we shall always waver in uncertainty. It is, however, to be observed, that this declaration is not only inward and secret - made rather in the heart than with the tongue - but that it is directed to God himself, as to him who is the alone witness of it. Nothing is more difficult, when we see our faith derided by the whole world, than to direct our speech to God only, and to rest satisfied with this testimony which our conscience gives us, that he is our God. And certainly it is an undoubted proof of genuine faith, when, however fierce the waves are which beat against us, and however sore the assaults by which we are shaken, we hold fast this as a fixed principle, that we are constantly under the protection of God, and can say to him freely, Thou art our God.

15. My times are in thy hand. That he might the more cheerfully commit the preservation of his person to God, he assures us, that, trusting to his divine guardianship, he did not trouble himself about those casual and unforeseen events which men commonly dread. The import of his language is, Lord, it is thy prerogative, and thou alone hast the power, to dispose of both my life and my death. Nor does he use the plural number, in my opinion, without reason; but rather to mark the variety of casualties by which the life of man is usually harassed. It is a cold exposition to restrict the phrase, my times, to the time which he had to live, as if David meant no more than that his time or his days on earth were in God’s hand. On the contrary, I am of opinion that, while he mused on the various revolutions and manifold dangers which continually hang over us, and the manifold unlooked-for events which from time to time happen, he nevertheless confidently reposed upon the providence of God, which he believed to be, according to the common saying, the arbiter both of good and of evil fortune. In the first clause we see that he not only denominates God the governor of the world in general, but also affirms that his life is in his hand; and not only so, but that to whatever agitations it might be subjected, and whatever trials and vicissitudes might befall him, he was safe under his protection. On this he founds his prayer, that God would preserve and deliver him from the hand of his enemies.

16. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. We have said formerly, and we shall see in many instances hereafter, that this form of speech is taken from the common apprehension of men, who think that God regards them not, unless he really show his care of them by its effects. According to the judgment of sense, afflictions hide his countenance, just as clouds obscure the brightness of the sun. David therefore supplicates that God, by affording him immediate assistance, would make it evident to him that he enjoyed his grace and favor, which it is not very easy to discern amidst the darkness of afflictions. Now, God is said to lift the light of his countenance upon us in two ways; either when he opens his eyes to take care of our affairs, or when he shows to us his favor. These two things are indeed inseparable, or rather, the one depends upon the other. But by the first mode of speech, we, according to our carnal conceptions, attribute to God a mutability which, properly speaking, does not belong to him:whereas the second form of speech indicates, that our own eyes, rather than the eyes of God, are shut or heavy when he seems to have no regard to our afflictions. By the word preserve David explains what he meant by the former expression; but as there was at that time no way of safety apparent to him, he encourages himself to hope for it by setting before him the goodness of God.

17. O Jehovah! let me not be ashamed. In these words, the Psalmist continues his prayer, and to strengthen his hopes, he contrasts himself with his enemies; for it would have been more than absurd to permit those who by their wickedness so openly provoked the wrath of God to escape with impunity, and that one who was innocent and relied upon God should be disappointed and made a laughing-stock. Here, accordingly, we perceive what the Psalmist’s comparison implies. Moreover, instead of speaking of his hope or trust, he now speaks of his calling upon God, saying, I have called on thee; and he does this with good reason, for he who relies on the providence of God must flee to him with prayers and strong cries. To be silent in the grave, implies that death, when it befalls the ungodly, restrains and prevents them from doing farther injury. This silence is opposed both to their deceitful and treacherous devices, and to their outrageous insolence. In the very next verse, therefore, he adds, Let lying lips be put to silence, which, in my opinion, includes both their craftiness, and the false pretences and calumnies by which they endeavor to accomplish their designs, and also the vain boasting in which they indulge themselves. For he tells us that they speak with harshness and severity against the righteous, in pride and scorn; because it was their froward conceit, which almost always begets contempt, that made David’s enemies so bold in lying. Whoever proudly arrogates to himself more than is his due, will almost necessarily treat others with contempt.

<193119>Psalm 31:19-21

19. O how great is thy goodness which thou hast hidden fa612 for them that fear thee! which thou hast performed for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! 20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret [or, in the hiding-place] of thy countenance from the pride of man; thou shalt hide them as in a tent from the strife of tongues. 21. Blessed be Jehovah! for he hath made wonderful his goodness towards me, as in a fortified city.

 

19. O how great is thy goodness which thou hast hidden for them that fear thee! In this verse the Psalmist exclaims that God is incomprehensibly good and beneficent towards his servants. Goodness here means those divine blessings which are the effects of it. The interrogatory form of the sentence has a peculiar emphasis; for David not only asserts that God is good, but he is ravished with admiration of the goodness which he had experienced. It was this experience, undoubtedly, which caused him break out into the rapturous language of this verse; for he had been marvellously and unexpectedly delivered from his calamities. By his example, therefore, he enjoins believers to rise above the apprehension of their own understanding, in order that they may promise themselves, and expect far more from the grace of God than human reason is able to conceive. He says that the goodness of God is hidden for his servants, because it is a treasure which is peculiar to them. It, no doubt, extends itself in various ways to the irreligious and unworthy, and is set before them indiscriminately; but it displays itself much more plenteously and clearly towards the faithful, because it is they alone who enjoy all God’s benefits for their salvation. God

“maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,”
(
<400545>Matthew 5:45,)

and shows himself bountiful even to the irrational creation; but he declares himself a Father, in the true and full sense of the term, to those only who are his servants. It is not without reason, therefore, that the goodness of God is said to be hidden for the faithful, whom alone he accounts worthy of enjoying his favor most intimately and tenderly. Some give a more subtle interpretation of the phrase, the goodness of God is hidden, explaining it as meaning that God, by often exercising his children with crosses and afflictions, hides his favor from them, although, at the same time, he does not forget them. It is more probable, however, that it should be understood of a treasure which God has set apart and laid up in store for them, unless perhaps we choose to refer it to the experience of the saints, because they alone, as I have said, experience in their souls the fruit of divine goodness; whereas brutish stupidity hinders the wicked from acknowledging God as a beneficent Father, even while they are devouring greedily his good things. And thus it comes to pass, that while the goodness of God fills and overspreads all parts of the world, it is notwithstanding generally unknown. But the mind of the sacred writer will be more clearly perceived from the contrast which exists between the faithful and those who are strangers to God’s love. As a provident man will regulate his liberality towards all men in such a manner as not to defraud his children or family, nor impoverish his own house, by spending his substance prodigally on others; so God, in like manner, in exercising his beneficence to aliens from his family, knows well how to reserve for his own children that which belongs to them as it were by hereditary right; that is to say, because of their adoption. fa613 The attempt of Augustine to prove from these words that those who unbelievingly dread God’s judgment have no experience of his goodness, is most inappropriate. To perceive his mistaken view of the passage, it is only necessary to look to the following clause, in which David says that God makes the world to perceive that he exercises inestimable goodness towards those who serve him, both in protecting them and in providing for their welfare. Whence we learn, that it is not of the everlasting blessedness which is reserved for the godly in heaven that the Psalmist here speaks, but of the protection and other blessings which belong to the preservation of the present life; which he declares to be so manifest that even the ungodly themselves are forced to become eye-witnesses of them. The world, I admit, passes over all the works of God with its eyes shut, and is especially ignorant of his fatherly care of the saints; still it is certain that there shine forth such daily proofs of it, that even the reprobate cannot but see them, except in so far as they willingly shut their eyes against the light. David, therefore, speaks according to truth, when he declares that God gives evidences of his goodness to his people before the sons of men, that it may be clearly seen that they do not serve him unadvisedly or in vain. fa614

20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy countenance. In this verse the Psalmist specially commends the grace of God, because it preserves and protects the faithful against all harm. As Satan assiduously and by innumerable means opposes their welfare, and as the greater part of the world is at deadly war with them, they must be exposed to many dangers. Unless God, therefore, protected them by his power, and came from time to time to their aid, their condition would be most miserable. The Psalmist makes an allusion to the hiding which he had just mentioned, and although the metaphor may, at first sight, appear somewhat harsh, it very aptly expresses, that provided the Lord take care of them, the faithful are perfectly safe under his protection alone. By this eulogium, therefore, he sublimely extols the power of divine Providence, because it alone suffices to ward off every species of evil, and while it shines upon the godly, it blinds the eyes of all the wicked, and weakens their hands. fa615 In the opinion of some, the Psalmist, when he speaks of the secret of God’s countenance, refers to the sanctuary, an interpretation which I do not altogether reject, although it does not appear to me sufficiently solid. Again, he says that God hides the faithful from the pride of man and the strife of tongues, because, if God restrain not the wicked, we know that they have the audacity to break forth with outrageous violence against the truly godly; but however unbridled their lust and insolence may be, God preserves his people from harm, by wondrously covering them with the brightness of his countenance. Some translate the Hebrew word yskyr, rikasim, conspiracies, fa616 others perversities, but without any reason; nor, indeed, does the etymology of the word admit of it, for it comes from a root which signifies to lift up, or to elevate. To pride is added the strife of tongues, because God’s children have cause to fear not only the inhuman deeds of their enemies, but also their still more wicked and violent calumnies, as David himself more than enough experienced. And as our innocence ought to be justly dearer to us than our life, let us learn to cultivate uprightness in such a manner as that, trusting to God’s protection, we may disregard every false calumny. And let us always remember that it is God’s peculiar prerogative to vindicate his people from all unjust reproaches.

21. Blessed be Jehovah! These general truths the Psalmist here proceeds to apply to his own circumstances, and he declares that the goodness of God in preserving his life was wondrously displayed. As he speaks of aid which had been suddenly and unexpectedly afforded him in very desperate circumstances, those interpreters judge aright who here supply as, the mark of similitude, fa617 in this way, as in a fortified city. David lay open to every blow, and had been exposed to every sort of injury, and he boasts that in his nakedness and destitution the assistance of God had been of greater service to him than a city well fortified, or an impregnable fortress would have been.

<193122>Psalm 31:22-24

22. And I said in my fear fa618 I am cast out of thy sight: yet truly thou hast heard the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. 23. O love Jehovah, all ye his meek ones! Jehovah preserveth the faithful, and plentifully fa619 recompenseth him who behaveth himself proudly. 24. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye who hope in Jehovah.

 

22. And I said in my fear. David here confesses that for his distrust he deserved to be deserted by God and left to perish. It is true that to confess this before men he felt to be a shameful thing; but that he may the more fully illustrate the grace of God to him, he hesitates not to publish the shame of his fault. He repeats almost the same acknowledgement in <19B611>Psalm 116:11, “I said in my haste, All men are liars.” I am aware that the Hebrew word zpj, chaphaz, is explained by some as meaning flight; as if David, in fleeing from death, because he was unable to make resistance, was stricken with this fear. But I refer it rather to his trouble of mind. Whether, therefore, we translate it haste or fear, it means that he had been, as it were, carried headlong to entertain the thought that he was neglected by God. And this haste is opposed to calm and deliberate consideration; for although David was stricken with fear, he did not faint under the trial, and this persuasion did not continue fixed in his mind. For we know that the faithful are often disquieted by fears and the heat of impatience, or driven headlong as it were by their too hasty or precipitate wishes, but afterwards they come to themselves. That David’s faith had never been overthrown by this temptation appears from the context, for he immediately adds, that God had heard the voice of his supplications; but if his faith had been extinguished, he could not have brought his mind earnestly to engage in prayer, and therefore this complaint was only a lapse of the tongue uttered in haste. Now if peevish hastiness of thought could drive this holy prophet of God, a man who was adorned with so many excellencies, to despair, how much reason have we to fear, lest our minds should fail and fatally ruin us? This confession of David, as we have already observed, serves to magnify the grace of God; but at the same time he sufficiently shows, in the second clause of the verse, that his faith, although severely shaken, had not been altogether eradicated, because he ceased not meanwhile to pray. The saints often wrestle in this manner with their distrust, that partly they may not despond, and that partly they may gather courage and stimulate themselves to prayer. Nor does the weakness of the flesh, even when they are almost overthrown, hinder them from showing that they are unwearied and invincible champions before God. But although David stoutly resisted temptation, he nevertheless acknowledges himself unworthy of God’s grace, of which he in some measure deprived himself by his doubt. For the Hebrew particle ˆka, aken, is here to be understood adversatively and rendered yet, intimating that David had been preserved without any desert of his own, inasmuch as God’s immeasurable goodness strove with his unbelief. But as it is a sign of affirmation in Hebrew, I have thought proper to translate it, Yet truly. I have no doubt that he opposes his language to the various temptations with which, it is probable, his mind had been driven hither and thither.

23. O love Jehovah, all ye his meek ones! In my opinion, the Psalmist does not here exhort the saints to fear and reverence God, as many think, but encourages them to confide in him; or, in other words, to devote themselves wholly to him, to put all their hope in him, and to rely entirely upon him, without seeking to any other. Whence is it that our own fond devices delight us, but because we do not delight in God so much as we ought, and because our affections do not cleave to him? This love of God, therefore, comprehends in it all the desires of the heart. By nature, all men greatly desire to be in a prosperous or happy state; but while the greater number are fascinated by the allurements of the world, and prefer its lies and impostures, scarcely one in a hundred sets his heart on God. The reason which immediately follows confirms this interpretation; for the inspired Psalmist exhorts the meek to love God, because he preserves the faithful, which is as if he had desired them to rest satisfied with his guardianship, and to acknowledge that in it they had sufficient succor. fa620 In the meantime, he admonishes them to keep a good conscience, and to cultivate uprightness, since God promises to preserve only such as are upright and faithful. On the other hand, he declares that he plentifully recompenses the proud, in order that when we observe them succeeding prosperously for a time, an unworthy emulation may not entice us to imitate them, and that their haughtiness, and the outrage they commit, while they think they are at liberty to do what they please, may not crush and break our spirits. The amount of the whole is this, Although the ungodly flatter themselves, while they proceed in their wickedness with impunity, and believers are harassed with many fears and dangers, yet devote yourselves to God, and rely upon his grace, for he will always defend the faithful, and reward the proud as they deserve. Concerning the meaning of the Hebrew word rtyAl[, al-yether, which we have rendered plentifully, fa621 interpreters are not agreed. Some translate it pride, meaning that to those who behave themselves proudly, God will render according to their pride; others translate it to overflowing, or beyond measure, because rty, yether, signifies in Hebrew residue or remnant; instead of which I have translated it plentifully. Some understand it as extending to their children and children’s children, who shall remain the residue of their seed. Besides, as the same word is frequently used for excellence, fa622 I have no doubt that the prophet elegantly rebukes the proud, who imagine that their fancied excellence is not only a shield to them, but, an invincible fortress against God. As their groundless authority and power blind, or rather bewitch them, so that they vaunt themselves intemperately and without measure against those who are lowly and feeble, the prophet elegantly says that there is a reward in store for them proportioned to the haughtiness with which they are puffed up.

24. Be of good courage. This exhortation is to be understood in the same way as the preceding; for the stedfastness which the Psalmist here enjoins is founded on the love of God of which he had spoken, when renouncing all the enticements of the world, we embrace with our whole hearts the defense and protection which he promises to us. Nor is his exhortation to courage and firmness unnecessary; because, when any one begins to rely on God, he must lay his account with and arm himself for sustaining many assaults from Satan. We are first, then, calmly to commit ourselves to the protection and guardianship of God, and to endeavor to have the experience of his goodness pervading our whole minds. Secondly, thus furnished with steady firmness and unfailing strength, we are to stand prepared to sustain every day new conflicts. As no man, however, is able of himself to sustain these conflicts, David urges us to hope for and ask the spirit of fortitude from God, a matter particularly worthy of our notice. For hence we are taught, that when the Spirit of God puts us in mind of our duty, he examines not what each man’s ability is, nor does he measure men’s services by their own strength, but stimulates us rather to pray and beseech God to correct our defects, as it is he alone who can do this.


PSALM 32.

David having largely and painfully experienced what a miserable thing it is to feel God’s hand heavy on account of sin, exclaims that the highest and best part of a happy life consists in this, that God forgives a man’s guilt, and receives him graciously into his favor. After giving thanks for pardon obtained, he invites others to fellowship with him in his happiness, showing, by his own example, the means by which this may be obtained.

A Psalm of David giving instruction.

The title of this psalm gives some idea of its subject. Some think that the Hebrew word lykm, maskil, which we have rendered giving instruction, fa622 is taken from verse 7th; fa623 but it is more accurate to consider it as a title given to the psalm in accordance with its whole scope and subject matter. David, after enduring long and dreadful torments, when God was severely trying him, by showing him the tokens of his wrath, having at length obtained favor, applies this evidence of the divine goodness for his own benefit, and the benefit of the whole Church, that from it he may teach himself and them what constitutes the chief point of salvation. All men must necessarily be either in miserable torment, or, which is worse, forgetting themselves and God, must continue in deadly lethargy, until they are persuaded that God is reconciled towards them. Hence David here teaches us that the happiness of men consists only in the free forgiveness of sins, for nothing can be more terrible than to have God for our enemy; nor can he be gracious to us in any other way than by pardoning our transgressions.

<193201>Psalm 32:1-2

1. Blessed are they whose iniquity is forgiven, and whose transgression is covered. 2. Blessed is the man to whom Jehovah imputeth no sin, and in whose spirit there is no guile.

 

1. Blessed are they whose iniquity is forgiven. This exclamation springs from the fervent affection of the Psalmist’s heart as well as from serious consideration. Since almost the whole world turning away their thoughts from God’s judgment, bring upon themselves a fatal forgetfulness, and intoxicate themselves with deceitful pleasures; David, as if he had been stricken with the fear of God’s wrath, that he might betake himself to Divine mercy, awakens others also to the same exercise, by declaring distinctly and loudly that those only are blessed to whom God is reconciled, so as to acknowledge those for his children whom he might justly treat as his enemies. Some are so blinded with hypocrisy and pride, and some with such gross contempt of God, that they are not at all anxious in seeking forgiveness, but all acknowledge that they need forgiveness; nor is there a man in existence whose conscience does not accuse him at God’s judgment-seat, and gall him with many stings. This confession, accordingly, that all need forgiveness, because no man is perfect, and that then only is it well with us when God pardons our sins, nature herself extorts even from wicked men. But in the meantime, hypocrisy shuts the eyes of multitudes, while others are so deluded by a perverse carnal security, that they are touched either with no feelings of Divine wrath, or with only a frigid feeling of it.

From this proceeds a twofold error:first, that such men make light of their sins, and reflect not on the hundredth part of their danger from God’s indignation; and, secondly, that they invent frivolous expiations to free themselves from guilt and to purchase the favor of God. Thus in all ages it has been everywhere a prevailing opinion, that although all men are infected with sin, they are at the same time adorned with merits which are calculated to procure for them the favor of God, and that although they provoke his wrath by their crimes, they have expiations and satisfactions in readiness to obtain their absolution. This delusion of Satan is equally common among Papists, Turks, Jews, and other nations. Every man, therefore, who is not carried away by the furious madness of Popery, will admit the truth of this statement, that men are in a wretched state unless God deal mercifully with them by not laying their sins to their charge. But David goes farther, declaring that the whole life of man is subjected to God’s wrath and curse, except in so far as he vouchsafes of his own free grace to receive them into his favor; of which the Spirit who spake by David is an assured interpreter and witness to us by the mouth of Paul, (<450406>Romans 4:6.) Had Paul not used this testimony, never would his readers have penetrated the real meaning of the prophet; for we see that the Papists, although they chant in their temples, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,” etc., yet pass over it as if it were some common saying and of little importance. But with Paul, this is the full definition of the righteousness of faith; as if the prophet had said, Men are then only blessed when they are freely reconciled to God, and counted as righteous by him. The blessedness, accordingly, that David celebrates utterly destroys the righteousness of works. The device of a partial righteousness with which Papists and others delude themselves is mere folly; and even among those who are destitute of the light of heavenly doctrine, no one will be found so mad as to arrogate a perfect righteousness to himself, as appears from the expiations, washings, and other means of appeasing God, which have always been in use among all nations. But yet they do not hesitate to obtrude their virtues upon God, just as if by them they had acquired of themselves a great part of their blessedness.

David, however, prescribes a very different order, namely, that in seeking happiness, all should begin with the principle, that God cannot be reconciled to those who are worthy of eternal destruction in any other way than by freely pardoning them, and bestowing upon them his favor. And justly does he declare that if mercy is withheld from them, all men must be utterly wretched and accursed; for if all men are naturally prone only to evil, until they are regenerated, their whole previous life, it is obvious, must be hateful and loathsome in the sight of God. Besides, as even after regeneration, no work which men perform can please God unless he pardons the sin which mingles with it, they must be excluded from the hope of salvation. Certainly nothing will remain for them but cause for the greatest terror. That the works of the saints are unworthy of reward because they are spotted with stains, seems a hard saying to the Papists. But, in this they betray their gross ignorance in estimating, according to their own conceptions, the judgment of God, in whose eyes the very brightness of the stars is but darkness. Let this therefore remain an established doctrine, that as we are only accounted righteous before God by the free remission of sins, this is the gate of eternal salvation; and, accordingly, that they only are blessed who rely upon God’s mercy. We must bear in mind the contrast which I have already mentioned between believers who, embracing the remission of sins, rely upon the grace of God alone, and all others who neglect to betake themselves to the sanctuary of Divine grace.

Moreover, when David thrice repeats the same thing, this is no vain repetition. It is indeed sufficiently evident of itself that the man must be blessed whose iniquity is forgiven; but experience teaches us how difficult it is to become persuaded of this in such a manner as to have it thoroughly fixed in our hearts. The great majority, as I have already shown you, entangled by devices of their own, put away from them, as far as they can, the terrors of conscience and all fear of Divine wrath. They have, no doubt, a desire to be reconciled to God; and yet they shun the sight of him, rather than seek his grace sincerely and with all their hearts. Those, on the other hand, whom God has truly awakened so as to be affected with a lively sense of their misery, are so constantly agitated and disquieted that it is difficult to restore peace to their minds. They taste indeed God’s mercy, and endeavor to lay hold of it, and yet they are frequently abashed or made to stagger under the manifold assaults which are made upon them. The two reasons for which the Psalmist insists so much on the subject of the forgiveness of sins are these, - that he may, on the one hand, raise up those who are fallen asleep, inspire the careless with thoughtfulness, and quicken the dull; and that he may, on the other hand, tranquillise fearful and anxious minds with an assured and steady confidence. To the former, the doctrine may be applied in this manner:“What mean ye, O ye unhappy men! that one or two stings of conscience do not disturb you? Suppose that a certain limited knowledge of your sins is not sufficient to strike you with terror, yet how preposterous is it to continue securely asleep, while you are overwhelmed with an immense load of sins?” And this repetition furnishes not a little comfort and confirmation to the feeble and fearful. As doubts are often coming upon them, one after another, it is not sufficient that they are victorious in one conflict only. That despair, therefore, may not overwhelm them amidst the various perplexing thoughts with which they are agitated, the Holy Spirit confirms and ratifies the remission of sins with many declarations.

It is now proper to weigh the particular force of the expressions here employed. Certainly the remission which is here treated of does not agree with satisfactions. God, in lifting off or taking away sins, and likewise in covering and not imputing them, freely pardons them. On this account the Papists, by thrusting in their satisfactions and works of supererogation as they call them, bereave themselves of this blessedness. Besides, David applies these words to complete forgiveness. The distinction, therefore, which the Papists here make between the remission of the punishment and of the fault, by which they make only half a pardon, is not at all to the purpose. Now, it is necessary to consider to whom this happiness belongs, which may be easily gathered from the circumstance of the time. When David was taught that he was blessed through the mercy of God alone, he was not an alien from the church of God; on the contrary, he had profited above many in the fear and service of God, and in holiness of life, and had exercised himself in all the duties of godliness. And even after making these advances in religion, God so exercised him, that he placed the alpha and omega of his salvation in his gratuitous reconciliation to God. Nor is it without reason that Zacharias, in his song, represents “the knowledge of salvation” as consisting in knowing “the remission of sins,” (<420177>Luke 1:77.) The more eminently that any one excels in holiness, the farther he feels himself from perfect righteousness, and the more clearly he perceives that he can trust in nothing but the mercy of God alone. Hence it appears, that those are grossly mistaken who conceive that the pardon of sin is necessary only to the beginning of righteousness. As believers are every day involved in many faults, it will profit them nothing that they have once entered the way of righteousness, unless the same grace which brought them into it accompany them to the last step of their life. Does any one object, that they are elsewhere said to be blessed “who fear the Lord,” “who walk in his ways,” “who are upright in heart,” etc., the answer is easy, namely, that as the perfect fear of the Lord, the perfect observance of his law, and perfect uprightness of heart, are nowhere to be found, all that the Scripture anywhere says, concerning blessedness, is founded upon the free favor of God, by which he reconciles us to himself.

2. In whose spirit there is no guile. In this clause the Psalmist distinguishes believers both from hypocrites and from senseless despisers of God, neither of whom care for this happiness, nor can they attain to the enjoyment of it. The wicked are, indeed, conscious to themselves of their guilt, but still they delight in their wickedness; harden themselves in their impudence, and laugh at threatenings; or, at least, they indulge themselves in deceitful flatteries, that they may not be constrained to come into the presence of God. Yea, though they are rendered unhappy by a sense of their misery, and harassed with secret torments, yet with perverse forgetfulness they stifle all fear of God. As for hypocrites, if their conscience as any time stings them, they soothe their pain with ineffectual remedies:so that if God at any time cite them to his tribunal, they place before them I know not what phantoms for their defense; and they are never without coverings whereby they may keep the light out of their hearts. Both these classes of men are hindered by inward guile from seeking their happiness in the fatherly love of God. Nay more, many of them rush frowardly into the presence of God, or puff themselves up with proud presumption, dreaming that they are happy, although God is against them. David, therefore, means that no man can taste what the forgiveness of sins is until his heart is first cleansed from guile. What he means, then, by this term, guile, may be understood from what I have said. Whoever examines not himself, as in the presence of God, but, on the contrary, shunning his judgment, either shrouds himself in darkness, or covers himself with leaves, deals deceitfully both with himself and with God. It is no wonder, therefore, that he who feels not his disease refuses the remedy. The two kinds of this guile which I have mentioned are to be particularly attended to. Few may be so hardened as not to be touched with the fear of God, and with some desire of his grace, and yet they are moved but coldly to seek forgiveness. Hence it comes to pass, that they do not yet perceive what an unspeakable happiness it is to possess God’s favor. Such was David’s case for a time, when a treacherous security stole upon him, darkened his mind, and prevented him from zealously applying himself to pursue after this happiness. Often do the saints labor under the same disease. If, therefore, we would enjoy the happiness which David here proposes to us, we must take the greatest heed lest Satan, filling our hearts with guile, deprive us of all sense of our wretchedness, in which every one who has recourse to subterfuges must necessarily pine away.

<193203>Psalm 32:3-4

3. When I kept silence, my bones wasted away, and when I cried out all the day. 4. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me; and my greenness was turned into the drought of summer.

 

3. When I kept silence, my bones wasted away. Here David confirms, by his own experience, the doctrine which he had laid down; namely, that when humbled under the hand of God, he felt that nothing was so miserable as to be deprived of his favor:by which he intimates, that this truth cannot be rightly understood until God has tried us with a feeling of his anger. Nor does he speak of a mere ordinary trial, but declares that he was entirely subdued with the extremest rigour. And certainly, the sluggishness of our flesh, in this matter, is no less wonderful than its hardihood. If we are not drawn by forcible means, we will never hasten to seek reconciliation to God so earnestly as we ought. In fine, the inspired writer teaches us by his own example, that we never perceive how great a happiness it is to enjoy the favor of God, until we have thoroughly felt from grievous conflicts with inward temptations, how terrible the anger of God is. He adds, that whether he was silent, or whether he attempted to heighten his grief by his crying and roaring, fa625 his bones waxed old; in other words, his whole strength withered away. From this it follows, that whithersoever the sinner may turn himself, or however he may be mentally affected, his malady is in no degree lightened, nor his welfare in any degree promoted, until he is restored to the favor of God. It often happens that those are tortured with the sharpest grief who gnaw the bit, and inwardly devour their sorrow, and keep it enclosed and shut up within, without discovering it, although afterwards they are seized as with sudden madness, and the force of their grief bursts forth with the greater impetus the longer it has been restrained. By the term silence, David means neither insensibility nor stupidity, but that feeling which lies between patience and obstinacy, and which is as much allied to the vice as to the virtue. For his bones were not consumed with age, but with the dreadful torments of his mind. His silence, however, was not the silence of hope or obedience, for it brought no alleviation of his misery.

4. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me. In this verse he explains more fully whence such heavy grief arose; namely, because he felt the hand of God to be sore against him. The greatest of all afflictions is to be so heavily pressed with the hand of God, that the sinner feels he has to do with a Judge whose indignation and severity involve in them many deaths, besides eternal death. David, accordingly, complains that his moisture was dried up, not merely from simply meditating on his sore afflictions, but because he had discovered their cause and spring. The whole strength of men fails when God appears as a Judge and humbles and lays them prostrate by exhibiting the signs of his displeasure. Then is fulfilled the saying of Isaiah,

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.” (<234007>Isaiah 40:77)

The Psalmist, moreover, tells us, that it was no common chastisement by which he had been taught truly to fear the divine wrath; for the hand of the Lord ceased not to be heavy upon him both day and night. From a child, indeed, he had been inspired with the fear of God, by the secret influence of the Holy Spirit, and had been taught in true religion and godliness by sound doctrine and instruction. And yet so insufficient was this instruction for his attainment of this wisdom, that he had to be taught again like a new beginner in the very midst of his course. Yea, although he had now been long accustomed to mourn over his sins, he was every day anew reduced to this exercise, which teaches us, how long it is ere men recover themselves when once they have fallen; and also how slow they are to obey until God, from time to time, redouble their stripes, and increase them from day to day. Should any one ask concerning David, whether he had become callous under the stripes which he well knew were inflicted on him by the hand of God, the context furnishes the answer; namely, that he was kept down and fettered by perplexing griefs, and distracted with lingering torments, until he was well subdued and made meek, which is the first sign of seeking a remedy. And this again teaches us, that it is not without cause that the chastisements by which God seems to deal cruelly with us are repeated, and his hand made heavy against us, until our fierce pride, which we know to be un-tameable, unless subdued with the heaviest stripes, is humbled.

<193205>Psalm 32:5-7

5. I have acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess against myself to Jehovah my wickedness; and thou didst remit the guilt fa626 of my sin. Selah. 6. Therefore shall every one that is meek pray unto thee in the time of finding thee; so that in a flood of many waters, fa627 they shall not come nigh unto him. 7. Thou art my hiding-place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.

 

5. I have acknowledged my sin unto thee. The prophet now describes the issue of his misery, in order to show to all the ready way of obtaining the happiness of which he makes mention. When his feeling of divine wrath sorely vexed and tormented him, his only relief was unfeignedly to condemn himself before God, and humbly to flee to him to crave his forgiveness. He does not say, however, that his sins merely came to his remembrance, for so also did the sins of Cain and Judas, although to no profit; because, when the consciences of the wicked are troubled with their sins, they cease not to torment themselves, and to fret against God:yea, although he forces them unwillingly to his bar, they still eagerly desire to hide themselves. But here there is described a very different method of acknowledging sin; namely, when the sinner willingly betakes himself to God, building his hope of salvation not on stubbornness or hypocrisy, but on supplication for pardon. This voluntary confession is always conjoined with faith; for otherwise the sinner will continually seek lurking-places where he may hide himself from God. David’s words clearly show that he came unfeignedly and cordially into the presence of God, that he might conceal nothing. When he tells us that he acknowledged his sin, and did not hide it, the latter clause is added, according to the Hebrew idiom, for the sake of amplification. There is no doubt, therefore, that David, when he appeared before God, poured out all his heart. Hypocrites, we know, that they may extenuate their evil doings, either disguise or misrepresent them; in short, they never make an honest confession of them, with an ingenuous and open mouth. But David denies that he was chargeable with this baseness. Without any dissimulation he made known to God whatever grieved him; and this he confirms by the words, I have said. While the wicked are dragged by force, just as a judge compels offenders to come to trial, he assures us that he came deliberately and with full purpose of mind; for the term, said, just signifies that he deliberated with himself. It therefore follows, that he promised and assured himself of pardon through the mercy of God, in order that terror might not prevent him from making a free and an ingenuous confession of his sins.

The phrase, upon myself, or against myself, intimates that David put away from him all the excuses and pretences by which men are accustomed to unburden themselves, transferring their fault, or tracing it to other people. David, therefore, determined to submit himself entirely to God’s judgment, and to make known his own guilt, that being self-condemned, he might as a suppliant obtain pardon.

And thou didst remit the guilt of my sin. This clause is set in opposition to the grievous and direful agitations by which he says he was harassed before he approached by faith the grace of God. But the words also teach, that as often as the sinner presents himself at the throne of mercy, with ingenuous confession, he will find reconciliation with God awaiting him. In other words, the Psalmist means that God was not only willing to pardon him, but that his example afforded a general lesson that those in distress should not doubt of God’s favor towards them, so soon as they should betake themselves to him with a sincere and willing mind. Should any one infer from this, that repentance and confession are the cause of obtaining grace, the answer is easy; namely, that David is not speaking here of the cause but of the manner in which the sinner becomes reconciled to God. Confession, no doubt, intervenes, but we must go beyond this, and consider that it is faith which, by opening our hearts and tongues, really obtains our pardon. It is not admitted that every thing which is necessarily connected with pardon is to be reckoned amongst its causes. Or, to speak more simply, David obtained pardon by his confession, not because he merited it by the mere act of confessing, but because, under the guidance of faith, he humbly implored it from his judge. Moreover, as the same method of confession ought to be in use among us at this day, which was formerly employed by the fathers under the law, this sufficiently refutes that tyrannical decree of the Pope, by which he turns us away from God, and sends us to his priests to obtain pardon.

6. Therefore shall every one that is meek pray unto thee. Here the Psalmist expressly states that whatever he has hitherto set forth in his own person belongs in common to all the children of God. And this is to be carefully observed, because, from our native unbelief, the greater part of us are slow and reluctant to appropriate the grace of God. We may also learn from this, that David obtained forgiveness, not by the mere act of confession, as some speak, but by faith and prayer. Here he directs believers to the same means of obtaining it, bidding them betake themselves to prayer, which is the true sacrifice of faith. Farther, we are taught, that in David God gave an example of his mercy, which may not only extend to us all, but may also show us how reconciliation is to be sought. The words, every one, serve for the confirmation of every godly person; but the Psalmist at the same time shows, that no one can obtain the hope of salvation but by prostrating himself as a suppliant before God, because all without exception stand in need of his mercy.

The expression, The time of finding, which immediately follows, some think, refers to the ordinary and accustomed hours of prayer; but others more accurately, in my opinion, compare it fa628 with that place in Isaiah, (<235506>Isaiah 55:6,) where it is said, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” It is never out of season, indeed, to seek God, for every moment we need his grace, and he is always willing to meet us. But as slothfulness or dullness hinders us from seeking him, David here particularly intimates the critical seasons when believers are stimulated by a sense of their own need to have recourse to God. The Papists have abused this place to warrant their doctrine, that we ought to have advocates in heaven to pray for us; fa629 but the attempt to found an argument in support of such a doctrine from this passage is so grossly absurd that it is unworthy of refutation. We may see from it, however, either how wickedly they have corrupted the whole Scripture, or with what gross ignorance they blunder in the plainest matters.

In the flood of many waters. This expression agrees with that prophecy of Joel,

“Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be delivered.” (<290232>Joel 2:32)

The meaning is, that although the deep whirlpools of death may compass us round on every side, we ought not to fear that they shall swallow us up; but rather believe that we shall be safe and unhurt, if we only betake ourselves to the mercy of God. We are thus emphatically taught that the godly shall have certain salvation even in death, provided they betake themselves to the sanctuary of God’s grace. Under the term flood are denoted all those dangers from which there appears no means of escape.

At last the Psalmist gives himself to thanksgiving, and although he uses but few words to celebrate the divine favor, there is, notwithstanding, much force in his brevity. In the first place, he denies that there is any other haven of safety but in God himself. Secondly, he assures himself that God will be his faithful keeper hereafter; for I willingly retain the future tense of the verb, though some, without any reason, translate it into the past. He is not, however, to be understood as meaning that he conceived himself safe from future tribulations, but he sets God’s guardianship over against them. Lastly, whatever adversity may befall him, he is persuaded that God will be his deliverer. By the word compass, he means manifold and various kinds of deliverance; as if he had said, that he should be under obligation to God in innumerable ways, and that he should, on every side, have most abundant matter for praising him. We may observe in the meantime, how he offers his service of gratitude to God, according to his usual method, putting songs of deliverance instead of help.

<193208>Psalm 32:8-11

8. I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way that thou mayest walk: I will counsel thee with mine eye. fa630 9. Be not like the horse or mule, which have no understanding: thou shalt bind his jaw with bit and bridle, lest they kick against [or become obstreperous against or obstinately disobey] thee. fa631 10. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but the man who hopeth in Jehovah, mercy shall surround him. 11. Be glad in Jehovah, and rejoice, ye righteous: sing all ye that are upright in heart.

 

8. I will instruct thee, and teach thee. That his exhortation may have the greater force, the divine speaker directs his discourse to every man individually; for the doctrine which is spoken penetrates the mind more readily, when every man applies it particularly to himself. When the way of salvation is here shown to the children of God, the greatest care must be taken that no man depart from it in the slightest degree. We may also learn from this place, that we are reconciled to God upon condition that every man endeavor to make his brethren partakers of the same benefit. David, the more strongly to mark his care about them, describes it by the sight of the eye. fa632 By the way it should be observed, that those who are solicitous about our welfare are appointed by the Lord as guides of our way, from which it appears how great is the paternal solicitude which he has about us.

9. Be not like the horse or mule. David now briefly explains the amount of the counsel which he formerly said he would give. He exhorts all to learn with quietness, to lay aside stubbornness, and to put on the spirit of meekness. There is much wisdom, too, in the advice which he gives to the godly to correct their hardihood; for if we were as attentive to God’s corrections as we ought, every one would eagerly hasten to seek his favor. Whence is so much slowness to be found in all, but that we are either stupid or refractory? By likening the refractory, therefore, to brute beasts, David puts them to shame, and at the same time declares that it will avail them nothing to “kick against the pricks.” Men, says he, know how to tame the fierceness of horses by bridles and bits; what then do they think God will do when he finds them intractable?

10. Many sorrows shall be to the wicked. Without a figure he here declares what will be the condition of the rebellious and stiff-necked. fa633 He mentioned before that God wanted not bridles and bits with which to restrain their frowardness; and now he adds, that there would be no end or measure of their miseries until they were utterly consumed. Although God, therefore, may spare us for a time, yet let this denunciation fill us with fear, and preserve us from hardening ourselves, because we are as yet unpunished; nor let our prosperity, which is cursed by God, so deceive us as to close our minds against reflecting on those unseen sorrows which he threatens against all the wicked. And as the Psalmist has told us, on the one hand, that God is armed with innumerable plagues against the wicked, so he adds, on the other hand, that he is furnished with infinite goodness, with which he can succor all who are his. The sum is, that there is no other remedy for our afflictions but to humble ourselves under God’s hand, and to found our salvation on his mercy alone; and that those who rely on God shall be blessed in all respects, because, on whatever side Satan may assault them, there will the Lord oppose him, and shield them with his protecting power.

11. Be glad in Jehovah. After teaching how ready and accessible true happiness is to all the godly, David, with much reason, exhorts them to gladness. He commands them to rejoice in the Lord, as if he had said, There is nothing to prevent them from assuring themselves of God’s favor, seeing he so liberally and so kindly offers to be reconciled to them. In the meantime, we may observe that this is the incomparable fruit of faith which Paul likewise commends, namely, when the consciences of the godly being quiet and cheerful, enjoy peace and spiritual joy. Wherever faith is lively, this holy rejoicing will follow. But since the world’s own impiety prevents it from participating in this joy, David, therefore, addresses the righteous alone, whom he denominates the upright in heart, to teach us that the external appearance of righteousness which pleases men is of no avail in the sight of God. But how does he call those righteous, whose whole happiness consists in the free mercy of God not imputing their sins to them? I answer, that none others are received into favor but those who are dissatisfied with themselves for their sins, and repent with their whole heart; not that this repentance merits pardon, but because faith can never be separated from the spirit of regeneration. When they have begun to devote themselves to God, he accepts the upright disposition of their hearts equally as if it were pure and perfect; for faith not only reconciles a man to God, but also sanctifies whatever is imperfect in him, so that by the free grace of God, he becomes righteous who could never have obtained so great a blessing by any merit of his own.


PSALM 33.

David, or whoever was the author of this psalm, in order to excite believers to praise God, founds his argument upon the general providence of God, by which he sustains, protects, and governs the whole world. Afterwards he celebrates God’s paternal kindness towards his chosen people, showing at the same time how necessary it is that the godly should be cherished by his special care.

<193301>Psalm 33:1-4

1. Rejoice in Jehovah, ye righteous; praise is comely fa634 for the upright. 2. Praise Jehovah upon the harp; sing unto him upon the viol, and an instrument of ten strings. 3. Sing a new song to him; sing loudly with joyfulness: 4. For the word of Jehovah is right; and all his works are in faithfulness. fa635

 

1. Rejoice in Jehovah, ye righteous. Here the inspired writer addresses believers or the righteous by name, because they alone are capable of proclaiming the glory of God. Unbelievers, who have never tasted his goodness, cannot praise him from the heart, and God has no pleasure in his name being pronounced by their unholy tongues. But the context shows more distinctly why this exhortation is suitable for believers only. Many, accordingly, expound the latter clause, Praise is comely for the upright, as meaning, that if the ungodly or hypocrites attempt this exercise, it will turn to the reproach and dishonor of God rather than to his praise; nay, more, that they only profane his holy name. It is, no doubt, very true, as I have already remarked, that God creates for himself a church in the world by gracious adoption, for the express purpose, that his name may be duly praised by witnesses suitable for such a work. But the real meaning of the clause, Praise is comely for the upright, is, that there is no exercise in which they can be better employed. And, assuredly, since God by his daily benefits furnishes them with such matter for celebrating his glory, and since his boundless goodness, as we have elsewhere seen, is laid up as a peculiar treasure for them, it were disgraceful and utterly unreasonable for them to be silent in the praises of God. The amount of the matter is, that the principal exercise in which it becomes the righteous to be employed is to publish among men the righteousness, goodness, and power of God, the knowledge of which is implanted in their minds. Following other interpreters, I have translated the clause, Praise is comely, but the word rendered comely may also be properly rendered desirable, if we view it as derived from the Hebrew word hwa, avah, which signifies to wish or desire. And certainly, when God allures believers so sweetly, it is proper that they employ themselves in celebrating his praises with their whole hearts. It is also to be observed, that when the prophet, after having in the first clause used the appellation, the righteous, immediately adds the words, the upright, which comprehend the inward integrity of the heart, he defines what true righteousness is, or in what it consists.

2. Praise Jehovah upon the harp. It is evident that the Psalmist here expresses the vehement and ardent affection which the faithful ought to have in praising God, when he enjoins musical instruments to be employed for this purpose. He would have nothing omitted by believers which tends to animate the minds and feelings of men in singing God’s praises. The name of God, no doubt, can, properly speaking, be celebrated only by the articulate voice; but it is not without reason that David adds to this those aids by which believers were wont to stimulate themselves the more to this exercise; especially considering that he was speaking to God’s ancient people. There is a distinction, however, to be observed here, that we may not indiscriminately consider as applicable to ourselves, every thing which was formerly enjoined upon the Jews. I have no doubt that playing upon cymbals, touching the harp and the viol, and all that kind of music, which is so frequently mentioned in the Psalms, was a part of the education; that is to say, the puerile instruction of the law:I speak of the stated service of the temple. For even now, if believers choose to cheer themselves with musical instruments, they should, I think, make it their object not to dissever their cheerfulness from the praises of God. But when they frequent their sacred assemblies, musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews. Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostle is far more pleasing to him. Paul allows us to bless God in the public assembly of the saints only in a known tongue, (<461416>1 Corinthians 14:16.) The voice of man, although not understood by the generality, assuredly excels all inanimate instruments of music; and yet we see what St Paul determines concerning speaking in an unknown tongue. fa636 What shall we then say of chanting, which fills the ears with nothing but an empty sound? Does any one object, that music is very useful for awakening the minds of men and moving their hearts? I own it; but we should always take care that no corruption creep in, which might both defile the pure worship of God and involve men in superstition. Moreover, since the Holy Spirit expressly warns us of this danger by the mouth of Paul, to proceed beyond what we are there warranted by him is not only, I must say, unadvised zeal, but wicked and perverse obstinacy.

3. Sing unto him a new song. As the Psalmist afterwards treats of the mighty works of God, and particularly concerning the preservation of the Church, it is not wonderful that he exhorts the righteous to sing a new, that is, a rare and choice song. The more closely and diligently that believers consider the works of God, the more will they exert themselves in his praises. It is no common song, therefore, which he exhorts them to sing, but a song corresponding to the magnificence of the subject. This is also the meaning of the second clause, in which he urges them to sing loudly. In this sense, I understand the Hebrew word bytyh, heytib, although others refer it rather to the proper setting of the notes.

4. For the word of Jehovah is right. As I have just remarked, the Psalmist first sets forth God’s general providence by which he governs the whole world; and he tells us that he so exerts his power in the whole course of his operations, that the most perfect equity and faithfulness shine forth everywhere. Some will have the terms word and work to be synonymous; but I think there is a distinction, and that word means the same thing as counsel or ordinance, while work signifies the effect or execution of his counsel. I grant that here the same subject is repeated in different words, as is the case in other places; but a slight variation will be found in such repetitions, that the same thing may he expressed in various ways. The amount of what is stated is, that whatever God appoints and commands is right; and whatever he brings to pass in actual operation is faithful and true. Meanwhile, it ought to be observed, that the term word is not to be understood of doctrine, but of the method by which God governs the world.

<193305>Psalm 33:5-9

5. He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of Jehovah. 6. By the word of Jehovah were the heavens established; and all the host of them by the spirit fa637 of his mouth. 7. He gathered together the waters of the sea as into a heap; He hath laid up the deeps in treasures. 8. Let all the earth fear Jehovah; let the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him: 9. For he spake, and it was; he commanded, and it stood.

 

5. He loveth righteousness and judgment. This is a confirmation of the preceding verse, and intimates to us that God of his own nature loves righteousness and equity. It therefore follows, that froward affections cannot hurry him, after the manner of men, to evil devices. At first sight, indeed, this appears but a common commendation of God, and of small importance, because all confess that he observes the most perfect rule of righteousness in all his works. Why then, may some one say, has a new song just been spoken of, as if it had been about some unusual matter? We answer, in the first place, because it is too obvious how wickedly a great part of the world shut their eyes to God’s righteousness, while they either carelessly overlook innumerable proofs of his providence, or imagine that they happen by chance. But there is often a worse fault than this; namely, that if our wishes are not gratified, we instantly murmur against God’s righteousness; and although the maxim, “God doeth all things righteously,” is in every man’s mouth, yet scarcely one in a hundred firmly believes it in his heart, otherwise, as soon as this truth is pronounced, “Thus it pleaseth God,” every man would obediently submit himself to God’s will. Now, as men in adversity are with the utmost difficulty brought to this point - to acknowledge that God is just, and as, in prosperity, they soon fall from the acknowledgement of it, it is not to be wondered at that the prophet, in order to persuade men that God is an upright governor, affirms that he loveth righteousness. Whoever, therefore, has thoroughly embraced this doctrine, let him know that he has profited much.

Others explain this to mean, that God loveth righteousness in men. This, indeed, is true; but it is far from the sense of the text, because the design of the Holy Spirit here is to maintain the glory of God in opposition to the poison of ungodliness, which is deeply seated in many hearts. In the second clause of the verse, the Psalmist commends another part of God’s excellence, namely, that the earth is full of his goodness. The righteousness of God ought justly to incite us to praise him, but his goodness is a more powerful motive; because, the more experience which any man has of his beneficence and mercy, the more strongly is he influenced to worship him. Farther, the discourse is still concerning all the benefits of God which he scatters over the whole human race. These, the inspired writer declares, meet us wherever we turn our eyes.

6. By the word of Jehovah. That he may stir us up to think more closely of God’s works, he brings before us the creation of the world itself; for until God be acknowledged as the Creator and Framer of the world, who will believe that he attends to the affairs of men, and that the state of the world is controlled by his wisdom and power? But the creation of the world leads us by direct consequence to the providence of God. Not that all men reason so justly, or are endued with so sound a judgment, as to conclude that the world is at this day maintained by the same divine power which was once put forth in creating it:on the contrary, the great majority imagine that he is an idle spectator in heaven of whatever is transacted on earth. But no man truly believes that the world was created by God unless he is also firmly persuaded that it is maintained and preserved by him. Wisely and properly, therefore, does the prophet carry us back to the very origin of the world, in order to fix in our minds the certainty of God’s providence in the continual order of nature. By the figure synecdoche, he uses the term heavens for the whole fabric of the world, because, as I have elsewhere remarked, the sight of the heavens more than all the other parts of creation transports us with admiration. He therefore immediately adds, And all the host of them, by which phraseology, according to the usual method of Scripture, he means the stars and planets; for if the heavens were destitute of this ornament, they would in a manner be empty. In saying that the heavens were created by the word of God, he greatly magnifies his power, because by his nod alone, fa638 without any other aid or means, and without much time or labor, fa639 he created so noble and magnificent a work. But although the Psalmist sets the word of God and the breath of his mouth in opposition both to all external means, and to every idea of painful labor on God’s part, yet we may truly and certainly infer from this passage, that the world was framed by God’s Eternal Word, his only begotten Son. Ancient interpreters have, with considerable ingenuity, employed this passage as a proof of the eternal Deity of the Holy Spirit against the Sabellians. But it appears from other places, particularly from <231104>Isaiah 11:4, that by the breath of the mouth is meant nothing else but speech. For it is there said concerning Christ, “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.” As powerful and effective speech is there allegorically denominated the rod of his mouth; so in like manner, for another purpose it is denominated in the immediately succeeding clause the breath of his mouth, to mark the difference that exists between God’s speech and the empty sounds which proceed from the mouths of men. In proving the Divinity of the Holy Spirit, therefore, I durst not press this text against Sabellius. Let us account it sufficient that God has formed the heavens by his Word in such a manner as to prove the eternal Deity of Christ. Should any object that these divine persons would not appear distinct if the terms Word and Breath are synonymous; I answer, that the term breath is not employed here simply as in other places, in which there is evidently a distinction made between the Word and the Spirit; but the breath of his mouth is used figuratively for the very utterance of speech; as if it had been said, As soon as God uttered the breath of his mouth, or proclaimed in word what he wished to be done, the heavens were instantly brought into existence, and were furnished, too, with an inconceivable number and variety of stars. It is indeed true that this similitude is borrowed from men; but the Scriptures often teach in other places, that the world was created by that Eternal Word, who, being the only begotten Son of God, appeared afterwards in flesh.

7. He gathered together the waters of the sea as into a heap. fa640 Here the Psalmist does not speak of all that might have been said of every part of the world, but under one department he comprehends all the rest. He celebrates, however, a signal and remarkable miracle which we see in looking on the surface of the earth; namely, that God gathers together the element of water, fluid and unstable as it is, into a solid heap, and holds it so at his pleasure. Natural philosophers confess, and experience openly proclaims, that the waters occupy a higher place than the earth. How is it then that, as they are fluid and naturally disposed to flow, they do not spread abroad and cover the earth, and how is it that the earth, which is lower in position, remains dry? In this we certainly perceive that God, who is ever attentive to the welfare of the human race, has inclosed the waters within certain invisible barriers, and keeps them shut up to this day; and the prophet elegantly declares that they stand still at God’s commandment, as if they were a heap of firm and solid matter. Nor is it without design that the Holy Spirit, in various passages, adduces this proof of divine power, as in <240522>Jeremiah 5:22, and <183808>Job 38:8.

In the second part of the verse, he seems to repeat the same idea, but with amplification. God not only confines the immense mass of waters in the seas, but also hides them, by a mysterious and incomprehensible power, in the very bowels of the earth. Whoever will compare the elements among themselves, will reckon it contrary to nature that the bottomless depths, or the immeasurable gulfs of waters, whose native tendency is rather to overwhelm the earth, should lie hid under it. That so many hollow channels and gulfs, accordingly, should not swallow up the earth every moment, affords another magnificent display of divine power; for although now and then some cities and fields are engulfed, yet the body of the earth is preserved in its place.

8. Let all the earth fear Jehovah. The Psalmist concludes that there is just reason why the whole world should reverently submit itself to the government of God, who gave it being, and who also preserves it. To fear Jehovah, and to stand in awe of him, just means to do honor to, and to reverence his mighty power. It is a mark of great insensibility not to bow at God’s presence, from whom we have our being, and upon whom our condition depends. The prophet alludes to both these things, affirming that the world appeared as soon as God spake, and that it is upheld in being by his commandment; for it would not have been enough for the world to have been created in a moment, if it had not been supported in existence by the power of God. He did not employ a great array of means in creating the world, but to prove the inconceivable power of his word, he ordered that so soon as he should as it were pronounce the word, the thing should be done. fa641 The word command, therefore, confirms what I formerly said, that his speech was nothing else than a nod, or wish, and that to speak implies the same thing as to command. It is proper, however, to understand that in this nod, or command, the eternal wisdom of God displayed itself.

<193310>Psalm 33:10-12

10. Jehovah scattereth the counsel of the nations, and bringeth to nought the imaginations of the people. fa642 11. The counsel of Jehovah shall stand for ever, and the thoughts of his heart from age to age. fa643 12. Blessed are the people whose God is Jehovah, the people whom he hath chosen for his inheritance.

 

10. Jehovah scattereth the counsel of the nations. After briefly touching upon the creation of the world, the Psalmist returns to his former subject, namely, to show that the events which daily come to pass are undoubted proofs of the providence of God. And lest any man should be surprised, that he should exhibit God as an adversary to men, scattering their counsels rather than establishing and bringing them to a happy issue, he selects an instance which had the greatest power to comfort the saints. We know how many things men continually venture upon and contrive against all law and justice, and how they endeavor by their devices to turn the world upside down, that they may tyrannically acquire power to trample upon the good and simple. What creatures then would be more miserable than we, if men, possessed of such a variety of wicked affections, were permitted to act with unlicensed wantonness towards us? But when God declares from heaven to us, that it is his work to dash in pieces their devices, and to bring their determinations to nought, there is no reason why we should not keep ourselves quiet, even when they bestir themselves most tumultuously. God is, therefore, said to overthrow the counsels of men, not because he professedly delights in frustrating them, but to check their wantonness; for they would immediately throw all things into confusion were they to succeed according to their wishes:yea, as in outraging equity, and vexing the upright and innocent, they fail not to fight against God himself, it is very necessary to consider that God’s power and protection is set in opposition to their fury. And as the great majority of men, despising all modesty, rush headlong into indiscriminate licentiousness, the prophet speaks not only of individual men, but of whole nations; in other words, he affirms, that however men may conspire among themselves, and determine to attempt this or that with great hosts, yet shall their purposes be brought to nought, because it is as easy for God to scatter multitudes as to restrain a few. But although it is God’s design in this place to fortify us with good hope against the boldness of the wicked, he warns us, at the same time, to undertake nothing without his command and guidance.

11. The counsel of Jehovah. The prophet extols the infinite power of God in such a manner as that he may build up our faith in its greatness; for he does not here commend a counsel of God which is hidden in heaven, and which he would have us to honor and revere at a distance. But as the Lord everywhere in Scripture testifies that he loveth righteousness and truth; that he cares for the righteous and good; and that he is ever inclined to succor his servants when they are wrongfully oppressed; — the prophet means, that all this shall remain sure and stedfast. Thus he declares for what end God bringeth to nought the counsels of the nations, namely, because without discrimination they run headlong into the violation of all order.

In the first place, then, let us learn to look at God’s counsel in the glass of his word; and when we have satisfied ourselves that he has promised nothing but what he has determined to perform, let us immediately call to mind the stedfastness of which the prophet here speaks. And as many, or rather whole, nations sometimes endeavor to impede its course by innumerable hinderances, let us also remember the preceding declaration, that when men have imagined many devices, it is in God’s power, and often his pleasure, to bring them to nought. The Holy Spirit unquestionably intended to have our faith exercised in this practical knowledge; otherwise what he here says of the counsel of God would be but cold and fruitless. But when we shall have once persuaded ourselves of this, that God will defend his servants who call upon his name, and rid them of all dangers; whatever mischief the wicked may practice against them, their endeavors and attempts shall in nowise terrify us, because, so soon as God sets himself in opposition to their machinations, no craft on their part will be able to defeat his counsel.

12. Blessed are the people whose God is Jehovah. This verse excellently agrees with the preceding, because it would profit us little to observe what is said of the stability of God’s counsel if that counsel referred not to us. The prophet, therefore, in proclaiming that they are blessed whom God receives into his protection, reminds us that the counsel which he had just mentioned is not a secret which remains always hidden in God, but is displayed in the existence and protection of the Church, and may there be beheld. Thus we see, that it is not those who coldly speculate about the power of God, but those alone who apply it to their own present benefit, who rightly acknowledge God as the Governor of the world. Moreover, when the Psalmist places all our blessedness in this, that Jehovah is our God, in touching upon the fountain of divine love towards us, he comprehends, in one word, whatever is wont to be desired to make life happy. For when God condescends to undertake the care of our salvation, to cherish us under his wings, to provide for our necessities, to aid us in all our dangers, all this depends on our adoption by him. But lest it should be thought that men obtain so great a good by their own efforts and industry, David teaches us expressly that it proceeds from the fountain of God’s gracious electing love that we are accounted the people of God. It is indeed true, that, in the person of Adam, men were created at first for the very purpose that they should be the sons of God; but the estrangement which followed upon sin deprived us of that great blessing. Until God, therefore, freely adopt us, we are all by nature wretched, and we have no other entrance to or means of attaining happiness but this, that God, of his own good pleasure, should choose us who are altogether unworthy. It appears, accordingly, how foolishly they corrupt this passage, who transfer to men what the prophet here ascribes to God, as if men would choose God for their inheritance. I own, indeed, that it is by faith that we distinguish the true God from idols; but this principle is always to be held fast, that we have no interest in him at all unless he prevent us by his grace.

<193313>Psalm 33:13-17

13. Jehovah looked down from heaven; he beheld the children of Adam. 14. From the dwelling-place of his throne he looked on all the inhabitants of the earth. 15. He who fashioned their hearts altogether, fa644 who understandeth all their works. 16. A king is not saved for the multitude of his host, nor a giant delivered for the greatness of his strength. 17. A horse is a deceitful thing for safety, fa645 and will not deliver by the greatness of his strength.

 

13. Jehovah looked down from heaven. The Psalmist still proceeds with the same doctrine, namely, that human affairs are not tossed hither and thither fortuitously, but that God secretly guides and directs all that we see taking place. Now he here commends God’s inspection of all things, that we on our part may learn to behold, and to contemplate with the eye of faith, his invisible providence. There are, no doubt, evident proofs of it continually before our eyes; but the great majority of men, notwithstanding, see nothing of them, and, in their blindness, imagine that all things are under the conduct of a blind fortune. Nay, the more plenteously and abundantly that he sheds his goodness upon us, the less do we raise our thoughts to him, but preposterously settle them down immovably on the external circumstances which surround us. The prophet here rebukes this base conduct, because no greater affront can be offered to God than to shut him up in heaven in a state of idleness. This is the same as if he were to lie buried in a grave. What kind of life would God’s life be, if he neither saw nor took care of any thing? Under the term throne, too, the sacred writer shows, from what is implied in it, what an absurd infatuation it is to divest God of thought and understanding. He gives us to understand by this word, that heaven is not a palace in which God remains idle and indulges in pleasures, as the Epicureans dream, but a royal court, from which he exercises his government over all parts of the world. If he has erected his throne, therefore, in the sanctuary of heaven, in order to govern the universe, it follows that he in no wise neglects the affairs of earth, but governs them with the highest reason and wisdom.

15. He who fashioned their hearts altogether. It appears that this is added for the express purpose of assuredly persuading believers, that, however the wicked might craftily, deceitfully, and by secret stratagems, attempt to withdraw themselves from God’s sight, and hide themselves in caverns, yet his eyes would penetrate into their dark hiding-places. And the Psalmist argues from the very creation that God cannot but bring men’s devices and doings into reckoning and judgment; because, though each man has intricate recesses concealed in his bosom, so that there is a wonderful diversity of different minds in this respect, and this great variety creates a most confounding obscurity; yet the eyes of God cannot be dazzled and darkened, so that he may not be a competent judge and take cognisance of his own work. By the adverb together, therefore, he does not mean that the hearts of men were formed at the same moment of time; but that all of them were fashioned even to one, and without a single exception; so that those manifest great folly who attempt to hide, or to withdraw the knowledge of their hearts from him who framed them. The discourse may also be understood as meaning, that men cannot, by the erring devices of their own thoughts, diminish the authority of God over them, so that he may not govern by his secret providence the events which seem to them to happen by chance. We see, indeed, he in forming their vain hopes, they despoil God of his power, and transfer it to the creatures, at one time to this object, and at another time to that, conceiving that they have no need of his aid, so long as they are furnished with outward means and helps to protect themselves.

It therefore follows, A king is not saved for the multitude of his host, etc. By this the inspired writer means to teach us, that the safety of men’s lives depends not upon their own strength, but upon the favor of God. He names particularly kings and giants rather than others; because, as they are not of the common class of men, but of a higher condition, they appear to themselves to be beyond the reach of all danger from darts, and if any adversity befall them, they promise themselves an easy deliverance from it. In short, intoxicated with a presumptuous confidence of their own strength, they scarcely think themselves mortal. They are still more hardened in this pride by the foolish admiration of the common people, who stand amazed at the greatness of their power. If, therefore, neither a king is saved by his troops, nor a giant by his strength, when they are exposed to danger, in vain do mankind neglect the providence of God, and look around them for human help. From this it follows, that the condition, both of the strong and the weak, is miserable, until they learn to rely on the protection of God.

17. A horse is a deceitful thing for safety. In this verse, the Psalmist, by the figure synecdoche under the name of horse, is to be understood as meaning any kind of help. The sense is, that in general those who conceive that their life is well protected by earthly means, are commonly disappointed at the very crisis of danger, and are miserably beguiled to their utter undoing, so that God therein clearly shows them their folly. It is true, that kings are not armed with the sword in vain, nor is the use of horses superfluous, nor are the treasures and resources which God furnishes to defend men’s lives unnecessary, provided a right method of employing them be observed. But as the greater part of men the more they are surrounded with human defences, withdraw themselves the farther from God, and by a false imagination persuade themselves that they are in a haven safe from all disturbance, God acts most justly in disappointing this madness. This is the reason why his gifts often pass away without effect, because the world, by separating them from the giver, is also justly deprived of his blessing.

<193318>Psalm 33:18-19

18. Behold, the eye of Jehovah is upon them that fear him, upon those who hope in his mercy; 19. To deliver their souls from death, and to give them life in the time of famine.

 

18. Behold, the eye of Jehovah is upon them that fear him. Having shown that what men account their best defences often profit them nothing, or rather are utterly worthless, when men depend upon them; the Psalmist now shows, on the other hand, that believers, although they are neither men of great power nor of great wealth, are nevertheless sufficiently protected by God’s favor alone, and shall be safe for ever. His meaning is not a little illustrated by this comparison, that kings and giants derive no aid from their invincible strength, while God supports the life of the saints in famine and dearth, as really as if he were to restore life to them when dead. We consequently understand better why the prophet lays low all the strength of the world; not, surely, that men should lie prostrate, or be so heart-broken as to pine away in despair; but that, laying aside their pride, they should fix their thoughts on God alone, and persuade themselves that their life depends on his protection. Moreover, in saying that the eye of God is bent upon them that fear him to save them, he expresses more than if he had said that his hand and power were sufficient to preserve them. A doubt might creep into the minds of the weak, whether God would extend this protection to every individual; but when the Psalmist introduces him as keeping watch and ward, as it were, over the safety of the faithful, there is no reason why any one of them should tremble, or hesitate with himself a moment longer, since it is certain that God is present with him to assist him, provided he remain quietly under his providence. From this, also, it appears still more clearly how truly he had said a little before, that the people are blessed whose God is Jehovah, because, without him, all the strength and riches which we may possess will be vain, deceitful, and perishing; whereas, with a single look he can defend his people, supply their wants, feed them in a time of famine, and preserve them alive when they are appointed to death. The whole human race, no doubt, are maintained by the providence of God; but we know that his fatherly care is specially vouchsafed to none but his own children, that they may feel that their necessities are truly regarded by him.

Again, when it is affirmed, that God, in times of famine and dearth, has remedies in readiness to preserve the lives of the godly, we are taught that the faithful only pay due honor to his providence when they allow not their hearts to despond in the extremest indigence; but, on the contrary, raise their hopes even from the grave. God often suffers his servants to be hungry for a time that he may afterwards satiate them, and he overspreads them with the darkness of death that he may afterwards restore them to the light of life. Yea, we only begin to place our trust firmly in him when death comes to present itself before our eyes; for, until we have known by experience the vanity of the aids of the world, our affections continue entangled in them, and wedded to them. The Psalmist characterises believers by two marks, which comprehend the whole perfection of our life. The first is, that we reverently serve the Lord; and the second, that we depend upon his grace. Hypocrites may loudly boast of their faith, but they have never tasted even a little of the divine goodness, so as to be induced to look to him for what they need. On the contrary, when the faithful give themselves with their whole heart to the service and fear of God, this affection springs from faith; or rather the principal part of right worship, which the faithful render to God, consists in this, that they depend upon his mercy.

<193320>Psalm 33:20-22

20. Our soul waiteth upon Jehovah, he is our help and our shield. 21. Surely our heart shall rejoice in him, because fa646 we will trust in his holy name. 22. Let thy mercy be upon us, O Jehovah: according as we have trusted in thee.

 

20. Our soul waiteth upon Jehovah. What the Psalmist has hitherto spoken concerning God’s providence, and particularly concerning that faithful guardianship by which he protects his people, he has spoken not so much from himself as from the mouth of the Holy Spirit. He now, therefore, in the name of the whole Church, raises his song to declare that there is nothing better than to commit our welfare to God. Thus we see that the fruit of the preceding doctrine is set forth to all true believers, that they may unhesitatingly cast themselves with confidence, and with a cheerful heart, upon the paternal care of God. In this matter, the Psalmist declares nothing concerning himself in particular, but unites the whole of the godly with him in the acknowledgement of the same faith. There is an emphasis in the word soul which should be attended to; for, although this is a common mode of speech among the Hebrews, yet it expresses earnest affection; as if believers should say, We sincerely rely upon God with our whole heart, accounting him our shield and help.

21. Surely our heart shall rejoice in him. As the particle yk, ki, which is twice employed in this verse, has various meanings in Hebrew, it may be understood in a twofold sense here. If we expound it affirmatively in both clauses, the sense will be, that believers glory both in their joy and in their hope. Nor do I think it improper that these two should be referred to distinctly in the same context thus:Surely God shall always be our joy; surely his holy name shall be like an impregnable fortress for our refuge. Whence is it that believers continue perseveringly to call upon God, but because, satisfied with his favor, they have always, amidst their sorrows and griefs, this comfort, which is sufficient to maintain their cheerfulness? Justly, therefore, do believers affirm, in the first place, that their heart rejoices in the Lord; because, freed from wandering after the fascinations of the world, they neither waver nor hesitate at every change of fortune, but place the whole felicity of their life in enjoying the free and paternal favor of God. They afterwards add, in the second place, that they trust in his holy name. If any one, however, choose to understand the particle yk, ki, as meaning because, assigning a cause or reason, the sense will be no less properly and elegantly expressed in this way:Because our hope is fixed on God, he will be equally ready on his part to minister to us continual matter of joy. And experience undoubtedly proves, that when men are overwhelmed with sorrow, and pine away with care, grief, and anxiety, it is that they may receive the recompense of their folly; seeing that there is nothing to which they are led with more difficulty, than to set their hopes on God alone, and not to exult in their own deceitful imaginations, with which they please themselves.

22. Let thy mercy be on us, O Jehovah! At length the psalm concludes with a prayer, which the sacred writer offers in the name of all the godly, that God would make them feel from the effect that they have not relied on the divine goodness in vain. In the meantime, the Spirit, by dictating to us this rule of prayer by the mouth of the prophet, teaches us, that the gate of divine grace is opened for us when salvation is neither sought nor hoped for from any other quarter. This passage gives us another very sweet consolation, namely, that if our hope faint not in the midst of our course, we have no reason to fear that God will fail to continue his mercy towards us, without intermission, to the end of it.


PSALM 34.

A Psalm of David, when he changed his countenance before Abimelech, who banished him from his presence, and he departed from him.

David gives thanks to God for a signal deliverance, and takes occasion from it to celebrate his perpetual grace towards all the saints, and to exhort them both to trust in him, and to the study of godliness; affirming, that the only way to pass through life happily, is to walk holily and harmlessly in the world, in the service and fear of God. It is obvious from the title what particular instance of God’s favor he here celebrates. When he was driven to King Achish, as recorded in <092702>1 Samuel 27:2, fa647 whom, with the exception of Saul, he accounted the deadliest of all his enemies, it was not probable that he would ever be able to make his escape from him. The only means, therefore, he had of saving his life was to feign himself mad by frothing at the mouth, looking fiercely, and disfiguring his countenance. Nor is this to be wondered at; for Achish, being disappointed of the confident hope of victory which he had, and attributing to David alone both the loss which he had sustained and the dishonor which he had received, burned with implacable hatred against him. In allowing him to escape, therefore, contrary to his own expectation, and the expectation of all other men, David acknowledges that there had been exhibited a memorable instance of God’s favor towards him, which may be serviceable for the general instruction of the whole Church. Instead of Achish, fa648 Abimelech is here employed; and it is probable that the latter name had been the common designation of the monarchs of the Philistines, as Pharaoh was the common name of the monarchs of Egypt, and Caesar that of the Roman Emperors, which was borrowed from the name of Julius Caesar, who had first seized the imperial power among the Romans. We know that many ages before David was born, the kings who reigned in Gerar in the time of Abraham were called Abimelech. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that this name should be handed down from age to age among their posterity, and become the common name of all the kings of Palestine. The Hebrew word [f, tam, which I have translated countenance, signifies also tasting, understanding, fa649 and therefore might be pertinently interpreted in this manner, that he appeared foolish and without taste. The verb from which it is derived properly signifies to taste, and therefore is often transferred to reason, understanding, and all the senses. Accordingly, David having feigned himself mad, the term understanding is very appropriate. Now, although he escaped by this subtle device, he doubts not that he was delivered by the hand of God; nor does he ascribe the praise of his safety to the pretense of madness, but rather acknowledges that the cruelty of his enemy had been softened by the secret influence of God, so that he who formerly burned with rage against him had been pacified by an artifice. Certainly it was not to be expected that Achish would have driven away in contempt from him so brave a man, whom he had found a dangerous enemy to his whole kingdom, and from whom he had suffered such severe losses. This gives rise to the question, Whether David feigned himself mad under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? For by his appearing to connect together these two things, - the pretense of madness and the happy result of this pretense, it might be inferred that the same Spirit by whom this psalm was dictated suggested this stratagem fa650 to the mind of David, and directed him in deceiving King Achish. I answer, that although God sometimes delivers his people, while at the same time they err in choosing the means, or even fall into sin in adopting them, yet there is nothing inconsistent in this. The deliverance, therefore, was the work of God, but the intermediate sin, which is on no account to be excused, ought to be ascribed to David. In this way Jacob obtained the blessing by the favor and good pleasure of God; and yet the subtlety of the mother, with which the obtaining of it was mixed up, was, we know, sinful on her part. It may then sometimes happen that the event shall be brought to pass by the Spirit of God, and yet the saints whom he may employ as instruments shall swerve from the path of duty. It would therefore be a superfluous task to endeavor to exculpate David, who is rather to be blamed, because, by not committing his life entirely to God, he exposed himself and the grace of the Spirit, by whom he was governed, to the derision of the ungodly. I would not positively assert it, but there appears in this deception some token of infirmity. If it should be said that David here magnifies the grace of God, because by changing his countenance and his speech he escaped death, I again reply, that David expressly mentions this circumstance, in order to render the grace of God still more illustrious, in that his fault was not laid to his charge.

<193401>Psalm 34:1-6

1. I will bless Jehovah at all times: his praise shall always be in my mouth. 2. My soul shall make her boast in Jehovah: the humble shall hear of it, and be glad. 3. Magnify Jehovah with me, and let us exalt his name together. 4. I sought Jehovah, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. 5. They shall look to him, and shall flow to him; and their faces shall not be ashamed. 6. This poor man cried, and Jehovah heard him, and delivered him from all his troubles.

 

1. I will bless Jehovah at all times. fa651 David here extols the greatness of God, promising to keep in remembrance during his whole life the goodness which he had bestowed upon him. God assists his people daily, that they may continually employ themselves in praising him; yet it is certain that the blessing which is said to be worthy of everlasting remembrance is distinguished by this mark from other benefits which are ordinary and common. This, therefore, is a rule which should be observed by the saints — they should often call into remembrance whatever good has been bestowed upon them by God; but if at any time he should display his power more illustriously in preserving them from some danger, so much the more does it become them earnestly to testify their gratitude. Now if by one benefit alone God lays us under obligation to himself all our life, so that we may never lawfully cease from setting forth his praises, how much more when he heaps upon us innumerable benefits? fa652 In order to distinguish the praise which he had before said would be continually in his mouth from the empty sound of the tongue, in which many hypocrites boast, he adds, in the beginning of the second verse, that it would proceed from the heart.

2. My soul shall make her boast in Jehovah. The term soul in this place signifies not the vital spirit, but the seat of the affections; as if David had said, I shall always have ground of boasting with my whole heart in God alone, so that I shall never suffer myself to fall into forgetfulness of so great a deliverance. In the second clause he specifies this as the fruit of his thanksgiving, that the afflicted and miserable shall derive from it ground of hope. The Hebrew word ywn[, anavim, which we have rendered humble, signifies not all the afflicted fa653 in general, but those who, being humbled and subdued by afflictions, instead of breathing the spirit of pride, are cast down, and ready to abase themselves to the very dust. These, he says, shall be partakers of his joy; but not, as some have coldly explained it, simply from a feeling of sympathy, but because, being persuaded that in the example of David, God had given them a general testimony of his grace, their hearts would recover from sorrow, and would be lifted up on high. Accordingly, he says that this joy shall spring from hope, because, having received a pledge of their deliverance, they shall cheerfully have recourse to God.

3. Magnify Jehovah with me. The Psalmist shows still another fruit which would be the result of his giving thanks to God, namely, that he shall induce others by his example to the same exercise of devotion; nay more, he calls upon all the godly to unite with him in this exercise, inviting and exhorting them heartily and with one consent to extol the Lord. Let us therefore learn, from the many instances in which God may have given helps to any of his people, to abound in hope; and when each recites the personal benefits which he has received, let all be animated unitedly and in a public manner to give praise to God. We give thanks publicly to God, not only that men may be witnesses of our gratitude, but also that they may follow our example.

4. I sought Jehovah, and he answered me. The Psalmist here explains more plainly and more fully what he had said concerning joy. In the first place, he tells us that his prayers had been heard. This he applies to all the godly, that, encouraged by a testimony so precious, they might stir themselves up to prayer. What is implied in seeking God is evident from the following clause. In some places it is to be understood in a different sense, namely, to bend the mind in earnest application to the service of God, and to have all its thoughts directed to him. Here it simply means to have recourse to him for help; for it immediately follows that God answered him; and he is properly said to answer prayer and supplication. By his fears the Psalmist means, taking the effect for the cause, the dangers which sorely disquieted his mind; yet doubtless he confesses that he had been terrified and agitated by fears. He did not look upon his dangers with a calm and untroubled mind, as if he viewed them at a distance and from some elevated position, but being grievously tormented with innumerable cares, he might justly speak of his fears and terrors. Nay more, by the use of the plural number, he shows that he had been greatly terrified not only in one way, but that he had been distracted by a variety of troubles. On the one hand, he saw a cruel death awaiting him; while on the other, his mind may have been filled with fear, lest Achish should send him to Saul for his gratification, as the ungodly are wont to make sport to themselves of the children of God. And since he had already been detected and betrayed once, he might well conclude, even if he should escape, that the hired assassins of Saul would lay wait for him on all sides. The hatred too which Achish had conceived against him, both for the death of Goliath and the destruction of his own army, might give rise to many fears; especially considering that his enemy might instantly wreak his vengeance upon him, and that he had good reason to think that his cruelty was such as would not be appeased by subjecting him to some mild form of death. fa654 We ought to mark this particularly, in order that, if at any time we are terrified because of the dangers which surround us, we may not be prevented by our effeminacy from calling upon God. Even David, who is known to have surpassed others in heroism and bravery, had not such a heart of iron as to repel all fears and alarms, but was sometimes greatly disquieted and smitten with fear.

5. They shall look to him, and shall flow to him. I have already intimated, that this verse and the following should be read in connection with the preceding verse. In relating his own experience David has furnished an example to others, that they should freely and without fear approach God in order to present their prayers before him. Now, he says that they shall come, and this too with a happy issue. The first two verbs are expressed in the past time in the Hebrew; but I have, notwithstanding, no doubt that the sentence ought to be explained thus:When they shall have looked to him, and flowed to him, their faces shall not be ashamed. I have therefore translated them in the future tense. David is not relating things which had happened, but is commending the fruit of the favor which had been manifested to himself. Some interpreters, I know, refer the words to him to David, fa655 because immediately after he speaks of himself in the third person. Others with greater propriety explain it; of God himself. A difference of opinion also exists as to the Hebrew verb wrhn, naharu, which some, supposing it to be derived from the root rwa, or, render to be enlightened. fa656 But, in my opinion, the natural signification of the word appears very appropriate to this place; as if he had said, There shall now be a mirror set forth, in which men may behold the face of God serene and merciful; and therefore the poor and afflicted shall henceforth dare to lift up their eyes to God, and to resort to him with the utmost freedom, because no uncertainty shall any longer retard them or render them slothful. If, however, any one should prefer the word enlighten, the meaning will be, They who formerly languished in darkness shall lift up their eyes to God, as if a light had suddenly appeared unto them, and they who were cast down and overwhelmed with shame, shall again clothe their countenances with cheerfulness. But as the meaning in either case is substantially the same, I am not much disposed to contend which of the two interpretations ought to be preferred.

6. This poor man cried, and Jehovah heard him. David here introduces all the godly speaking of himself, the more emphatically to express how much weight there is in his example to encourage them. This poor man, say they, cried; therefore God invites all the poor to cry to him. They contemplate in David what belongs to the common benefit of all the godly; for God is as willing and ready at this day to hear all the afflicted who direct their sighs, wishes, and cries, to him with the same faith, as he was at that time to hear David.

<193407>Psalm 34:7-10

7. The angel of Jehovah encampeth fa657 round about them that fear him, and will deliver them. 8. Taste and see that Jehovah is good: blessed is the man who trusteth in him. 9. Fear Jehovah, ye his saints, for there is no want to them that fear him. 10. The young lions are destitute and famished: but they who fear Jehovah shall not want any good thing.

 

7. The angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear him. David here discourses in general of God’s fatherly favor towards all the godly; and as the life of man is exposed to innumerable dangers, he at the same time teaches us that God is able to deliver them. The faithful especially, who are as sheep in the midst of wolves, beset as it were with death in every form, are constantly harassed with the dread of some approaching danger. David therefore affirms, that the servants of God are protected and defended by angels. The design of the Psalmist is to show, that although the faithful are exposed to many dangers, yet they may rest assured that God will be the faithful guardian of their life. But in order to confirm them the more in this hope, he adds at the same time, and not without reason, that those whom God would preserve in safety he defends by the power and ministration of angels. The power of God alone would indeed be sufficient of itself to perform this; but in mercy to our infirmity he vouchsafes to employ angels as his ministers. It serves not a little for the confirmation of our faith to know that God has innumerable legions of angels who are always ready for his service as often as he is pleased to aid us; nay, more, that the angels too, who are called principalities and powers, are ever intent upon the preservation of our life, because they know that this duty is intrusted to them. God is indeed designated with propriety the wall of his Church, and every kind of fortress and place of defense fa658 to her; but in accommodation to the measure and extent of our present imperfect state, he manifests the presence of his power to aid us through the instrumentality of his angels. Moreover, what the Psalmist here says of one angel in the singular number, ought to be applied to all the other angels:for they are distinguished by the general appellation of

“ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them who shall be the heirs of salvation,” (<580114>Hebrews 1:14 ;)

and the Scriptures in other places teach us, that whenever it pleases God, and whenever he knows it to be for their benefit, many angels are appointed to take care of each of his people, (<120615>2 Kings 6:15; <199111>Psalm 91:11; <421622>Luke 16:22.) The amount then of what has been said is, that however great the number of our enemies and the dangers by which we are surrounded may be, yet the angels of God, armed with invincible power, constantly watch over us, and array themselves on every side to aid and deliver us from all evil.

8. Taste and see that Jehovah is good. In this verse the Psalmist indirectly reproves men for their dulness in not perceiving the goodness of God, which ought to be to them more than matter of simple knowledge. By the word taste he at once shows that they are without taste; and at the same time he assigns the reason of this to be, that they devour the gifts of God without relishing them, or through a vitiated loathing ungratefully conceal them. He, therefore, calls upon them to stir up their senses, and to bring a palate endued with some capacity of tasting, that God’s goodness may become known to them, or rather, be made manifest to them. The words literally rendered are, Taste and see, for the Lord is good; but the particle yk, ki, for, is taken exegetically. David’s meaning, therefore, is, that there is nothing on the part of God to prevent the godly, to whom he particularly speaks in this place, from arriving at the knowledge of his goodness by actual experience. From this it follows, that they also are infected with the common malady of dulness. This doctrine is confirmed by the promise immediately added, Blessed is the man who trusteth in him; for God never disappoints the expectations of those who seek his favor. Our own unbelief is the only impediment which prevents him from satisfying us largely and bountifully with abundance of all good things.

9. Fear Jehovah, ye his saints. Here the people of God are exhorted to the pursuit of holiness and righteousness, that they may open up a channel for divine blessings. We know that men are accustomed to provide for their wants, by resorting to fraud, plunder, and even to wrongful violence. Nor is it possible but that the faithful must feel some stirrings of a desire to imitate the wicked, and envy them in some degree in their prosperity, so that they permit themselves sometimes to howl among the wolves. And although they voluntarily abstain from all wrongful violence, yet the common way of living among those around them carries them away like a tempest; and, in the meantime, they think that the plea of necessity is sufficient to excuse them. David represses, as with a bridle, these temptations, promising that all will be well with the people of God, provided they keep themselves in the fear of God, which he opposes to all wicked and deceitful counsels; because the greater part of men reckon those to be fools who aim at simplicity, since in so doing they do not consult their own interests and profit. While, therefore, ungodly men are afraid of poverty, and carnal reason urges them to attempt whatever their fancy may suggest for keeping themselves from it, David here testifies that God takes care of the godly, so that he never suffers them to be in want. Let no fear or distrust, says he, withdraw you from the pursuit of what is right, because God never forsakes those who walk righteously before him. The Psalmist, therefore, bids them yield to God the honor of expecting more from him alone than the wicked expect from their deceitful traffic and unlawful practices. Moreover, as iniquity rages with unbridled fury everywhere throughout the world, he calls expressly upon the saints to be on their guard, because he would be of no service to the promiscuous multitude. It is a sentiment contrary to the generally received opinion among men, that while the integrity of the good and simple is exposed to the will of the wicked, there should yet be greater security in integrity than in all the resources of fraud and injustice. There is, therefore, no inconsistency in his admonishing the saints who, of their own accord, are endeavoring to walk uprightly, not to depart from the fear of God; for we know how easily the light of piety may be obscured and extinguished, when there appears no hope of living happily and prosperously, except in the pursuit of the world and its enticing pleasures.

The Psalmist illustrates this doctrine by a very apposite comparison, namely, that God provides every thing necessary for his people, and relieves their wants, whilst the lions, which surpass in ferocity all the wild beasts of the earth, prowl about in a famishing condition for their prey. Some think, that under the name of lions, those men who are addicted to violence and plunder are metaphorically described; but this, in my opinion, is too refined. David simply asserts, that those who guard against all unrighteousness should profit more by so doing than by rapine and plunder; because the Lord feeds his people, while even the lions and other beasts of prey often suffer hunger. What he says, then, is, that sooner shall the lions perish with hunger and want, than God will disappoint of their necessary food the righteous and sincere, who, content with his blessing alone, seek their food only from his hand. Whoever, therefore, shall in this way cast his cares upon God, and confide implicitly in his paternal goodness and bounty, shall live quietly and peaceably among men, and suffer no injury. If it is objected, that the good and the virtuous are not always exempted from penury, I answer, that the hand of God is stretched out to succor them in due season, when they are reduced to the greatest straits, and know not to what side to turn, fa659 so that the issue always shows that we seek not in vain from him whatever is necessary to the sustenance of life.

<193411>Psalm 34:11-14

11. Come, children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of Jehovah. 12. Who is the man who desireth life, loving days in which he may see good? 13. Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking deceit. 14. Turn away from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

 

11. Come, children, fa660 hearken unto me. The Psalmist continues, with increased earnestness, to exhort the faithful, that they may know that nothing can be more profitable for them than to conduct themselves justly and harmlessly towards all men. As the greater part of men imagine that the best and the shortest way to attain a life of happiness and ease consists in striving to surpass other men in violence, fraud, injustice, and other means of mischief, it is necessary frequently to repeat this doctrine. Moreover, as it is necessary that the minds of men should be brought to a chastened and humble state, by calling them his children, he endeavors, by this gentle and courteous appellation, to allay all froward affections. None will stand unmoved amidst so many assaults, but those who have been endued by the Spirit of meekness with the greatest modesty. The prophet, therefore, tells them at the outset, that the rule of life which he prescribes can be observed and obeyed by those only who are meek and submissive. To the same purpose is the word come, and the command to hearken; and they imply, that men laying aside all wilfulness of spirit, and having subdued the ardor and impetuosity of their minds, should become docile and meek. He has put the fear of the Lord for the rule of a pious and holy life:as if he had said, Whilst virtue and righteousness are in every man’s mouth, there are few who lead a holy life, and live as they ought; because they know not what it is to serve God.

12. Who is the man who desireth life? The prophet does not inquire if there be any man so disposed, as if all men voluntarily brought upon themselves the miseries which befall them; for we know that all men without exception desire to live in the enjoyment of happiness. But he censures severely the blindness and folly which men exhibit in the frowardness of their desires, and the vanity of their endeavors to obtain happiness; for while all men are seeking, and eagerly intent upon acquiring what is for their profit, there will be found scarcely one in a hundred who studies to purchase peace, and a quiet and desirable state of life, by just and equitable means. The prophet therefore admonishes his disciples, that nearly the whole world are deceived and led astray by their own folly, while they promise themselves a happy life from any other source than the divine blessing, which God bestows only upon the sincere and upright in heart. But there is in this exclamation still greater vehemence, the more effectually to awaken dull and drowsy minds to the course of this world; as if he had said, Since all men earnestly desire happiness, how comes it to pass, that scarcely any one sets himself to obtain it, and that every man, by his own fault, rather brings upon himself various troubles ?

13. Keep thy tongue from evil The precept which David here delivers relates to a virtue which is very rare, namely, that we should be truthful and free from deceit in our discourse. Some, indeed, understand it in a much more extended sense, supposing that slander is condemned in this first clause. But it seems to me more simple, and more to the purpose, to understand this as of the same import with what he repeats in the second clause, that we should not speak deceitfully with our neighbors, so as that our words may prove the means of ensnaring them. And since nothing is more difficult than to regulate our discourse in such a manner as that our speech may be a true representation of our hearts, David calls upon us to exercise over it a strict and watchful control, not suffering it to run riot, lest it should prove the occasion of our deceiving others.

14. Turn away from evil, and do good. Here the Psalmist commands the children of God to abstain from all evil, and to devote themselves to the work of doing good to their neighbors. This verse is generally quoted as if David here treated of the two parts of repentance. The first step in the work of repentance is, that the sinner forsake the vices to which he is addicted, and renounce his former manner of life; and the second, that he frame his behavior according to righteousness. But in this place we are more especially taught how we ought to deal with our neighbors. As it often happens, that the man who is not only liberal, but also prodigal towards some, or, at least, helps many by acts of kindness, wrongs others by defrauding and injuring them, David, with much propriety, begins by saying, that those who desire to have their life approved before God, ought to abstain from doing evil. On the other hand, since many think, that provided they have neither defrauded, nor wronged, nor injured any man, they have discharged the duty which God requires from them, he has added, with equal propriety, the other precept concerning doing good to our neighbors. It is not the will of God that his servants should be idle, but rather that they should aid one another, desiring each other’s welfare and prosperity, and promoting it as far as in them lies. David next inculcates the duty of maintaining peace:Seek peace, and pursue it. Now we know that this is maintained by gentleness and forbearance. But as we have often to do with men of a fretful, or factious, or stubborn spirit, or with such as are always ready to stir up strife upon the slightest occasion; and as also many wicked persons irritate us; and as others by their own wickedness alienate, as much as in them lies, the minds of good men from them, and others industriously strive to find grounds of contention; he teaches us not merely that we ought to seek peace, but if at any time it shall seem to flee from us, he bids us use our every effort without ceasing in pursuing it. This, however, must be understood with some limitation. It will often happen, that when good and humble men have done every thing in their power to secure peace, so far from softening the hearts of the wicked, or inclining them to uprightness, they rather excite their malice. Their impiety, also, often constrains us to separate from them, and to avoid them; nay, when they defy God, by proclaiming, as it were, open war against him, it would be disloyalty and treason on our part not to oppose and resist them. But here David means only that in our own personal affairs we should be meek and condescending, and endeavor, as far as in us lies, to maintain peace, though its maintenance should prove to us a source of much trouble and inconvenience.

Psalm 15-17

15. The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. 16. The face of Jehovah fa661 is upon them that do evil, to cut off their remembrance from the earth. 17. They cried, and Jehovah heard them, and delivered them from all their troubles.

 

15. The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous. The best support of our patience is a firm persuasion that God regards us, and that according as every man perseveres in a course of uprightness and equity, so shall he be preserved in peace and safety under his protection. In order, therefore, that the faithful may not think that they are exposed to the caprice of the world, while they are endeavoring to keep themselves innocent, and that they may not, under the influence of this fear, go astray from the right path, David exhorts them to reflect upon the providence of God, and to rest assured that they are safe under his wings. He says, then, that the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, to preserve them, in order that the good and simple may persevere the more cheerfully in their uprightness. At the same time, he encourages them to supplication and prayer, if at any time the world should unjustly persecute them. In saying that the ears of the Lord are open to their cry, he teaches that the man who is wantonly and unjustly persecuted, will find a ready and suitable remedy in all afflictions, by calling upon God as his avenger. On the other hand, he declares, that although God sometimes appears to wink at the misdeeds of men, and seems to overlook them, because he does not inflict immediate punishment upon them, yet nothing escapes his inspection. Whilst the wicked, says he, by reason of their impunity harden themselves in sin, God is watching, that he may cut off their remembrance from the earth, (<600510>1 Peter 5:10.) He speaks particularly of this kind of punishment, because the ungodly not only expect that they shall be happy during their whole life, but also imagine that they shall enjoy immortality in this world. Peter, in his First Epistle, fa662 applies this passage very judiciously, for the purpose of assuaging our sorrows and appeasing our impatience, as often as the pride and arrogance of the wicked may carry us beyond due limits. Nothing is more useful for preserving our moderation than to depend upon God’s help, and having the testimony of a good conscience, to rely upon his judgment. If it is objected, that good men experience the contrary, who, after having been long afflicted, at length find no help or comfort; I reply, that the aid which God affords to the righteous is not always made manifest, nor bestowed in the same measure; and yet he so alleviates their troubles as never to forsake them. Besides, even the best of men often deprive themselves of the help of God; for scarcely one in a hundred perseveres in such a course of integrity as not, by his own fault, to deserve the infliction of some evil upon himself. But as soon as they fall, lest sin should take root in them, God chastises them, and often punishes them more severely than the reprobate, whom he spares to utter destruction. fa663 And yet, however much things may appear to be mingled and confused in the world, good men will find that God has not promised them help in vain against the violence and injuries of the wicked.

17. They fa664 cried, and Jehovah heard them. The Psalmist’s meaning is, that they are heard as often as they cry. This is a doctrine applicable to all times; and David does not merely relate what God has done once or twice, but what he is accustomed to do. It is also a confirmation of the preceding sentence, where he had said that the ears of the Lord are open to the cry of the righteous; for he now demonstrates by the effect, that God is not deaf when we lay our complaints and groanings before him. By the word cry we are taught, that although God defend the righteous, they are not exempt from adversity. He regulates the protection which he affords them in such a wonderful manner, as that he notwithstanding exercises them by various trials. In like manner, when we here see that deliverance is promised only to those who call upon God, this ought to prove no small encouragement to us to pray to him; for it is not his will that the godly should so regard his providence as to indulge in idleness, but rather that, being firmly persuaded that he is the guardian of their safety, they should direct their prayers and supplications to him.

<193418>Psalm 34:18-22

18. Jehovah is nigh to those who are broken of heart; he will save those who are bruised of spirit. 19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but Jehovah will deliver him from them all. 20. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken fa665 21. But malice shall slay the wicked; and those who hate the righteous shall be destroyed. 22. Jehovah redeemeth the soul of his servants, and those who trust in him shall not perish.

 

18. Jehovah is nigh to those who are broken of heart. David here exemplifies and extends still more the preceding doctrine, that God is the deliverer of his people, even when they are brought very low, and when they are, as it were, half-dead. It is a very severe trial, when the grace of God is delayed, and all experience of it so far withdrawn, as that our spirits begin to fail; nay more, to say that God is nigh to the faithful, even when their hearts faint and fall them, and they are ready to die, is altogether incredible to human sense and reason. But by this means his power shines forth more clearly, when he raises us up again from the grave. Moreover, it is meet that the faithful should be thus utterly cast down and afflicted, that they may breathe again in God alone. From this we also learn, that nothing is more opposed to true patience than the loftiness of heart of which the Stoics boast; for we are not accounted truly humbled until true affliction of heart has abased us before God, so that, having prostrated ourselves in the dust before him, he may raise us up. It is a doctrine full of the sweetest consolation, that God departs not from us, even when we are overwhelmed by a succession of miseries, and, as it were, almost deprived of life.

19. Many are the afflictions of the righteous. The Psalmist here anticipates the thought which often arises in the mind, “How can it be that God has a care about the righteous, who are continually harassed with so many calamities and trials? for what purpose does the protection of God serve, unless those who are peaceably inclined enjoy peace and repose? and what is more unreasonable, than that those who cause trouble to no one should themselves be tormented and afflicted in all variety of ways?” That, therefore, the temptations by which we are continually assailed may not shake our belief in the providence of God, we ought to remember this lesson of instruction, that although God governs the righteous, and provides for their safety, they are yet subject and exposed to many miseries, that, being tested by such trials, they may give evidence of their invincible constancy, and experience so much the more that God is their deliverer. If they were exempted from every kind of trial, their faith would languish, they would cease to call upon God, and their piety would remain hidden and unknown. It is, therefore, necessary that they should be exercised with various trials, and especially for this end, that they may acknowledge that they have been wonderfully preserved by God amidst numberless deaths. If this should seldom happen, it might appear to be fortuitous, or the result of chance; but when innumerable and interminable evils come upon them in succession, the grace of God cannot be unknown, when he always stretches forth his hand to them. David, therefore, admonishes the faithful never to lose their courage, whatever evils may threaten them; since God, who can as easily deliver them a thousand times as once from death, will never disappoint their expectation. What he adds concerning their bones, seems not a little to illustrate the truth of this doctrine, and to teach us that those who are protected by God shall be free from all danger. He therefore declares, that God will take care that not one of their bones shall be broken; in which sense Christ also says, that

“the very hairs of our head are all numbered,” (<421207>Luke 12:7.)

21. But malice shall slay the wicked. The Hebrew word h[r, rah, which I have translated malice, some would rather render misery, so that the meaning would be, that the ungodly shall perish miserably, because in the end they shall be overwhelmed with calamities. The other translation, however, is more expressive, namely, that their wickedness, with which they think themselves fortified, shall fall upon their own heads. As David therefore taught before, that there was no defense better than a just and blameless life, so now he declares, that all the wicked enterprises of the wicked, even though no one should in any thing oppose them, shall turn to their own destruction. In the second clause of the verse he states, that it is for the sake of the righteous that it is ordered, that the ungodly are themselves the cause and instruments of their own destruction. Those, says he, who hate the righteous shall be destroyed. Let this, therefore, be to us as a wall of brass and sure defense; that however numerous the enemies which beset us may be, we should not be afraid, because they are already devoted to destruction. The same thing David confirms in the last verse, in which he says, that Jehovah redeems the soul of his servants. How could they be preserved in safety, even for a moment, among so many dangers, unless God interposed his power for their defense? But by the word redeem there is expressed a kind of preservation which is repugnant to the flesh. For it is necessary that we should first be adjudged or doomed to death, before God should appear as our redeemer. From this it follows, that those who hurry forward too precipitately, and are unable to realize God’s power unless he appear speedily, working deliverance for them, intercept the communication of his grace. Moreover, that none might form their judgment of the servants of God by moral or philosophic virtue only, as it is called, David specifies this as a principal mark by which they may be known, that they trust in God, on whom also their salvation depends.


PSALM 35.

So long as Saul was the enemy of David, the nobles, and such as at that time bore any authority, had (according to the subservient spirit which always prevails in the courts of kings) eagerly conspired to destroy an innocent man. They had also succeeded in inducing the common people to participate with them in their hatred and cruelty, so that all of them, from the highest to the lowest, burned with implacable hatred against him. But as he knew that the greatest part of them were thoughtlessly impelled to this by error and folly, and ignorance of the true state of affairs, he accounts those only his enemies who, from deliberate malice and wickedness, endeavored in this way to please Saul, in order to obtain his favor. Against them he calls upon God for vengeance. And, first, as he was conscious of no crime, he alleges his innocence before God; and, secondly, as they sought to inflict unmerited punishment upon him, he implores God for deliverance. After he has complained of their impious cruelty, he calls down upon them the punishment which they deserved. Moreover, as in confident reliance upon the oracle of God, which had been spoken by Samuel, and the holy anointing, he hoped for a better issue, he intersperses throughout the psalm testimonies of his thankfulness. Finally, he concludes the psalm by saying, that after he has been delivered, he will celebrate the praises of God all his life.

A Psalm of David.

<193501>Psalm 35:1-3

1. Plead my cause, O Jehovah! with them that plead against me; fight against them who fight against me. 2. Take the shield and the buckler, and rise up for my help. 3. Bring forth the spear, and oppose my persecutors: say unto my soul, “I am thy salvation.”

 

1. Plead my cause, O Jehovah! As the enemies of David not only avowedly sought to take away his life, but also troubled him by calumny and misrepresentation, he pleads for the redress of both these grievances. In the first place, by appealing to God for his aid in defense of his cause, he intimates, that he has to do with wicked and maligning men. In the second place, by urging him to take up arms, he shows that he was grievously oppressed. It was a very dishonorable thing, that this holy man, alike eminent for his beneficence and inoffensiveness towards all men, and who by his courtesy and meekness had merited, both in public and private, the esteem and favor of all, was not permitted to escape the reproach and calumny of wicked men; but it is important for us to know this, and it sets before us a very profitable example. If even David did not escape the malice of wicked men, it ought not to seem wonderful or strange to us, if they blame and bite at us. The injuries they inflict upon us may be grievous and painful, but there is incomparable consolation presented to us in this consideration, that God himself interposes for our protection and defense against false accusations. Though calumniators, then, should arise, and tear us, as it were, to pieces, by falsely charging us with crimes, we need not be disturbed, so long as God undertakes to plead our cause against them. There can be no doubt, that in the second clause of the verse David implores God to resist the armed violence of his enemies. The amount of the whole is, that being falsely accused and cruelly persecuted, and finding no help at the hands of men, the Prophet commits the preservation of his life and his reputation to God.

2. Take the shield. These words certainly cannot be applied, in the strict and proper sense, to God, who has no need of the spear or buckler:for by the breath of his mouth alone, or merely with his nod, he is able to overthrow all his enemies. But although such figures at first sight appear rude, yet the Holy Ghost employs them in accommodation to the weakness of our understanding, for the purpose of impressing more effectually upon our minds the conviction that God is present to aid us. When troubles and dangers arise, when terrors assail us on every side, when even death presents itself to our view, it is difficult to realize the secret and invisible power of God, which is able to deliver us from all anxiety and fear; for our understandings, which are gross and earthly, tend downward to the earth. That our faith, therefore, may ascend by degrees to the heavenly power of God, he is here introduced armed, after the manner of men, with sword and shield. In the same way, also, when he is in another place termed “a man of war,” it is doubtless in adaptation to the imperfection of our present state, because our minds, from their limited capacity, could in no other way comprehend the extent of that infinite power, which contains in itself every form of help, and has no need of aid from any other quarter. This, therefore, is a prayer that God, by the exercise of his secret and intrinsic power, would show that he alone is able to encounter the whole strength and forces of the ungodly. Some suppose that the Hebrew word hnx, tsinnah, here used, means a dart, or some other kind of weapon; but as we have already seen, in the fifth psalm, that it properly signifies a buckler, I see no reason why it should be differently interpreted in this place. Nor is there any thing at all inconsistent in connecting here, as is often done in other places, the buckler and the shield. fa666 If the expression here employed had been designed to signify a dart, or a similar weapon, it would have been more natural to connect it with the spear, of which mention is made in the following verse. David, then, first makes mention of defensive armor, praying that God would sustain and repel the assaults of the enemy. The Hebrew word qyr, rik, which signifies to unsheath, or make bare, I take simply to mean, to draw out, or bring forth. The Hebrew word rwgs, segor, which I have translated to oppose, literally signifies to shut or to close. But as David’s meaning is, that God, by setting himself as a wall or rampart, would prevent his enemies from approaching him, it appears to me that I have faithfully translated it. At the same time, if any should prefer the translation to shut, or close the way, or to impede it by some obstacle, the meaning; is substantially the same. The opinion of those who contend that it is a noun, fa668 is not at all probable.

3. Say to my soul. Some expound these words thus:Declare to me by secret inspiration; and others, Make me to feel indeed that my salvation is in thy hand. In my opinion, David desires to have it thoroughly fixed in his mind, and to be fully persuaded that God is the author of his salvation. This he was unable, from the present aspect of things, to ascertain and determine; for such is the insensibility and dulness of our natures, that God often delivers us whilst we sleep and are ignorant of it. Accordingly, he makes use of a very forcible manner of expression, in praying that God would grant him a lively sense of his favor, so that being armed with this buckler, he might sustain every conflict, and surmount every opposing obstacle; as if he had said, Lord, whatever may arise to discourage me, confirm me in this persuasion, that my salvation is assuredly in thee; and although temptations drive me hither and thither, recall my thoughts to thee in such a manner, as that my hope of salvation may rise superior to all the dangers to which I shall be exposed; fa669 nay, more, that I may become as infallibly certain as if thou hadst said it, that through thy favor I shall be saved.

<193504>Psalm 35:4-7

4. Let those who seek my soul be confounded and put to shame; and let those who devise my hurt be turned back, and brought to confusion. 5. Let them be as chaff before the wind, and let the angel of Jehovah thrust [or impel] them. fa669 6. Let their way be darkness and slipperiness, and let the angel of Jehovah pursue them. 7. For they have hid for me without cause their net in a pit, without cause they have digged a pit fa670 for my soul.

 

4. Let those who seek my soul be confounded. David now calls upon God to take vengeance upon his enemies; and he asks not only that he would disappoint and destroy their designs, but also that he would recompense them according to their deserts. In the first place, he desires that they may be confounded and put to shame in seeing their expectation and desire fail; and then he proceeds farther, desiring that while they imagine themselves to be firmly established, and deeply rooted, they may be like chaff or stubble. As the chaff is driven with the wind, so also he desires, that, being disquieted by the secret impulse of the angel of the Lord, they may never have rest. The imprecation which follows is even more dreadful, and it is this:that wherever they go they may meet with darkness and slippery places; and that in their doubt and perplexity the angel of the Lord would pursue them. In fine, whatever they devise, and to whatever side they turn, he prays that all their counsels and enterprises may come to a disastrous termination. When he desires that they may be driven by the angel of the Lord, we learn from this that the reason why the ungodly are troubled, though no man pursues them, is, that God smites them with a spirit of amazement, and distracts them with such fears that they tremble and are troubled.

The same thing he expresses more clearly in the following verse, praying that the angel of the Lord would drive them through dark and slippery places, so that reason and understanding might fail them, and that they might not know whither to go, nor what to become, nor have even time given them to draw their breath. We need not be surprised that this work should be assigned to the angels, by whose instrumentality God executes his judgments. At the same time, this passage may be expounded of the devils as well as of the holy angels, who are ever ready to execute the divine behests. We know that the devil is permitted to exercise his dominion over the reprobate; and hence it is often said that “an evil spirit from God came upon Saul,” (<091810>1 Samuel 18:10.) But as the devils never execute the will of God, unless compelled to do it when God wishes to serve himself of them; the Sacred Scriptures declare that the holy and elect angels are in a much higher sense the servants of God. God, then, executes his judgments by the wicked and reprobate angels; but he gives the elect angels the pre-eminence over them. On this account, also, good angels only are called rightfully “principalities,” as in <490310>Ephesians 3:10; <510116>Colossians 1:16, and other similar passages. If it is objected that it is not meet that the angels, who are the ministers of grace and salvation, and the appointed guardians of the faithful, should be employed in executing judgment upon the reprobate, the explanation is simply this, that they cannot watch for the preservation of the godly without being prepared for fighting — that they cannot succor them by their aid without also opposing their enemies, and declaring themselves to be against them. The style of imprecation which the Psalmist here employs can be explained only by bearing in mind what I have elsewhere said, namely, that David pleads not simply his own cause, nor utters rashly the dictates of passion, nor with unadvised zeal desires the destruction of his enemies; but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit he entertains and expresses against the reprobate such desires as were characterised by great moderation, and which were far removed from the spirit of those who are impelled either by desire of revenge or hatred, or some other inordinate emotion of the flesh.

7. For they have hid for me without a cause. He here declares that he did not take the name of God in vain, nor call upon him for protection without just cause, for he openly asserts his innocence, and complains that he was thus severely afflicted without having committed any crime, or given any occasion to his enemies. It becomes us carefully to mark this, so that no one may rush unadvisedly into God’s presence, nor call upon him for vengeance, without the assurance and testimony of a good conscience. When he says that he was assailed by stratagem, fraud, and wicked practices, there is implied in this a tacit commendation of his own integrity.

<193508>Psalm 35:8-10

8. Let confusion of which he is not aware come upon him; and let his own net which he hath hidden catch himself: let him fall into it with confusion. 9. And my soul is joyful in Jehovah, it shall be glad in his salvation. 10. All my bones shall say, O Jehovah! who is like thee, that deliverest the poor from him that is stronger than he, the poor and miserable from him that spoileth him ?

 

8. Let confusion of which he is not aware come upon him. David again prays that God would cause to return upon the head of his enemies the mischief which they had directed against a just and an inoffensive man. The change from the plural to the singular number, even when the same subject, is spoken of, is, we know, a thing very common among the Hebrews. Accordingly, what is here said of one man is applicable to all David’s enemies in general, unless, perhaps, we are rather inclined to suppose that allusion is here made to Saul or some one of his nobles. But as it is certain that the prayer which he here offers against Saul as the head extends to the whole body, in other words, to all his followers, fa671 it matters little in which way we understand it. The Hebrew word haw, shoah, sometimes signifies confusion, and sometimes destruction; and, therefore, many translate it, Let destruction, or desolation, or ruin, come upon him. The other rendering, however, seems more suitable, for he immediately adds, Let his own net which he hath hidden catch him, let him fall into it with confusion. The way in which others render it, Let him fall into destruction itself, is certainly forced and unnatural. But the meaning of the clause will be brought out very suitable if it is viewed as a prayer of David, that as the wicked settle down like wine upon the lees, in present enjoyments, and fear nothing, as if they were placed beyond the reach of all danger, some calamity which they think not of may suddenly come upon them like a tempest, and overwhelm them. It never for a moment occurs to them as at all possible that their stratagems and craft, their wicked practices, and all the snares which they lay for the good and the simple, turn to the destruction of themselves who have devised them. David, therefore, very properly desires that they may fall with confusion into the nets which they have laid; in other words, that they may be filled with amazement and terror when they are suddenly and unexpectedly visited with calamity. The more unbounded and extravagant the exultation of men is, through their vainly and foolishly imagining that they shall escape unpunished, the more are they filled with amazement and fear when calamity suddenly overtakes them. I have, however, no doubt that David here refers to some strange and extraordinary calamity. Let confusion, then, of which he thinks not, come upon him; that is to say, when he shall have persuaded himself that all goes well with him, and promised himself peace in his deceitful fascinations, then let unwonted terror strike him to the heart, and let him feel by his tumultuous fear that he is caught in his own snares.

9. And my soul is joyful in Jehovah. Others read this in the optative mood, May my soul rejoice in Jehovah, and may it be glad in his salvation. But instead of continuing to express his desires, David, in my opinion, rather promises in this verse that he will be grateful to God. This is still more evident from the following verse, in which extolling very highly the goodness of God, he says that he will celebrate the remembrance of it with every member of his body. While, therefore, some ascribe to fortune, and others to their own skill, the praise of their deliverance from danger, and few, if any, yield the whole praise of it to God, David here declares that he will not forget the favor which God had bestowed upon him. My soul, says he, shall rejoice, not in a deliverance of the author of which it is ignorant, but in the salvation of God. To place the matter in a still stronger light, he assigns to his very bones the office of declaring the divine glory. As if not content that his tongue should be employed in this, he applies all the members of his body to the work of setting forth the praises of God. The style of speaking which he employs is hyperbolical, but in this way he shows unfeignedly that his love to God was so strong that he desired to spend his sinews and bones in declaring the reality and truth of his devotion.

10. O Jehovah! who is like thee? Here he explains more fully the nature of his joy in the salvation of God of which he had spoken, showing that it consisted in his ascribing entirely to God the deliverance which he had obtained. Men, in general, praise God in such a manner that he scarcely obtains the tenth part of his due. But David, distinguishing him from all others, distinctly declares that the whole glory of his deliverance is due to him alone. And, certainly, we then only yield to God what belongs to him, when, investing him with his own power, we rest all our hopes on him. For what purpose does it serve, loudly to celebrate the name of God with our mouths, if we tear in pieces his power and goodness at our pleasure? David, therefore, in the true spirit of godliness, extols the greatness of God by this high encomium, that he is the guardian and defender of the poor, and rescues the needy and afflicted from the hand of those who oppress them; as if he had said, It is God’s peculiar duty to succor the miserable. By these words we are taught to cling to the hope of better things in adversity; for the power and resources of our enemies, however great they may be, is no reason why we should lose our confidence, since God declares to us from heaven that he reigns expressly for the purpose of resisting the strong and powerful. If the children of this world, who employ their power in injuring and oppressing the weak, had the least degree of sound understanding, it would certainly serve to restrain their audacity, and prevent them proceeding farther in provoking the wrath of God.

<193511>Psalm 35:11-15

11. Violent witnesses rise up, they charge me with things which I know not. 12. They render me evil for good, to the bereaving fa672 of my soul. 13. But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I afflicted my soul with fasting; and have poured my prayer into my own bosom. 14. I behaved myself towards him as if he had been my friend and brother: I humbled myself as one that mourneth heavily for his mother. 15. But they rejoiced at my halting, they gathered themselves together; yea, even the abjects whom I knew not gathered themselves against me: they have torn me with their lips, and have not ceased.

 

11. Violent witnesses fa673 rise up. The Hebrew is, they shall rise up; but in using the future tense, the Psalmist intimates that he is speaking of what he had suffered for a long time. And he complains that he was so oppressed with calumny that he had no opportunity of defending himself; than which nothing more grievous and painful can ever happen to those of an ingenuous mind, and who are conscious of no blame. Besides, he not only says that he had been falsely accused, but he also condemns the audacity and insolence of those who violently rose up to bear witness against him. To this belongs what he adds, They charge me with things which I know not. David then was not only spoiled of his worldly goods, and basely driven into exile, but was also accused and loaded with infamy under color of justice. Being involved in such distress, he resorted directly to God, hoping that he would maintain his innocence. So ought the children of God to walk through good report and bad report, and patiently suffer reproach, until he assert and declare their innocence from on high. In old times, it was a common proverb among the heathen, “There is no theater more beautiful than a good conscience;” and in this they uttered a noble sentiment; but no man can be sustained and supported by the purity of his conscience unless he has recourse to God.

12. They render me evil for good. David again shows that the malice of his enemies was of a very aggravated character, because they not only oppressed him wrongfully, seeing he was innocent, and had given them no occasion of offense, but also because even those who had received much enjoyment and many favors from him, recompensed him in a very strange and ungrateful manner. Such disgraceful conduct wounds the feelings of good men very severely, and seems quite intolerable. But it is an inexpressibly great consolation when we can testify before God, that we have attempted by every means in our power to soothe the minds of our enemies, and to bow them to gentleness, although, notwithstanding, they are hurried on by insatiable cruelty in desiring our hurt; for God will not suffer this barbarous and brutal ingratitude to pass unpunished. Their cruelty is farther expressed when it is said that they endeavored to bereave (for so it is properly in the Hebrew fa674) the soul of a meek and peaceable man; that is to say, to deprive it of comfort, and render it so desolate as to overwhelm it with despair and destroy it. David afterwards recounts certain acts of kindness which he had done them, and which, if they had had any sense of equity and humanity, ought to have been as so many sacred bonds of mutual love. He does not say that he aided them with money or with goods, or that he had by some other means exercised liberality towards them, for it may sometimes happen that when the hand is open the heart may be shut; but he mentions certain tokens of true and genuine love — that he lamented their misfortunes before God, and was troubled for them, as if he had mourned for the death of his mother; and, finally, that he felt for and took an interest in them as if they had been his own brothers. Since then he had thus laid them under high obligations to him, of what baser ingratitude could they be guilty than to vomit against him in his adversity the poison of their hatred? With respect to the meaning of the words, I take the term sickness, in this place, to signify metaphorically any kind of trouble or sorrow. David’s meaning is, that as often as any calamity had befallen them he was a partaker of their grief. A good evidence of this was the prayer which he says he poured out into his own bosom. The proper meaning of the expression is, that he did not ostentatiously utter his prayers aloud before men, like many who pretend much more affection than they really feel, but that by praying in secret, and without making the world privy to it, he showed that he was sincerely and from the heart distressed by reason of their affliction. As we say that a man rejoices in his own bosom, who is satisfied with the secret and inward feeling of his heart, without declaring it to others, so also one may be said to weep or pray in his own bosom, who pours not forth his tears and prayers before men to secure their favor, but, contented with having God alone for his witness, conceals his emotions in his own heart. I do not, however, deny that in this manner of speaking there is expressed the attitude of one who prays, as if the Psalmist had said, that he bowed down his body, and prayed with his head hanging down, and his arms folded, as men in heaviness are accustomed to do. fa675 But this especially we ought to regard as his meaning, that there was no dissimulation in his prayer. Some think that there is an imprecation in his words, and they explain them in this sense. Lord, if it is true that I have not desired all prosperity to them, let all mischief fall upon me:but this is a forced explanation. There is still another exposition, which has as little plausibility in it; and it is this:Because I profited nothing by praying for them, the fruit of my prayer returned to myself. The sense, which is more in unison with the purpose and also the words of the prophet, is, I prayed for them just as I pray for myself. But what I have already advanced concerning the secret affection of the Psalmist will, I hope, prove satisfactory to the judicious reader. With respect to sackcloth and fasting, he used them as helps to prayer. The faithful pray even after their meals, and do not observe fasting every day as necessary for prayer, nor consider it needful to put on sackcloth whenever they come into the presence of God. But we know that those who lived in ancient times resorted to these exercises when any urgent necessity pressed upon them. In the time of public calamity or danger they all put on sackcloth, and gave themselves to fasting, that by humbling themselves before God, and acknowledging their guilt, they might appease his wrath. In like manner, when any one in particular was afflicted, in order to excite himself to greater earnestness in prayer, he put on sackcloth and engaged in fasting, as being the tokens of grief. When David then, as he here tells us, put on sackcloth, it was the same as if he had taken upon himself the sins of his enemies, in order to implore from God mercy for them, while they were exerting all their power to accomplish his destruction. Although we may reckon the wearing of sackcloth and sitting in ashes among the number of the legal ceremonies, yet the exercise of fasting remains in force amongst us at this day as well as in the time of David. When God, therefore, calls us to repentance, by showing us signs of his displeasure, let us bear in mind that we ought not only to pray to him after the ordinary manner, but also to employ such means as are fitted to promote our humility. In conclusion, the Psalmist says that he behaved and acted towards them as if each of them had been his brother.

15. But they rejoiced at my halting. I see no reason why interpreters should trouble themselves as they do about the word halting. Some conjecture that David had his leg put out of joint, and others suppose that he halted from some disease. But when we consider carefully the whole passage, nothing is more evident than that he refers by this expression to the calamities which befell him; as if he had said, As soon as they saw me begin to stagger and ready to fall, they did as it were gather together against me, and endeavored entirely to overthrow me. There is, therefore, in this expression almost the same metaphor as we have already seen in the word sickness. Now, as men often relent at seeing the misfortunes of their enemies, so that they cease to hate or persecute those who are already miserably wretched, it was an evidence of the very cruel and fierce spirit by which David’s former friends were actuated against him, when, upon seeing him cast down and afflicted, they were rather by this incited furiously and insolently to assail him. At the commencement he speaks only of a few; but immediately after, in order to show still farther the indignity which had been done to him, he adds to them the base and ignoble of the common people; not that he blames all alike, but that he may the better show with what bitter hostility he was assailed on all sides. It is probable that those who were then in power were as it were firebrands, who endeavored to kindle every where the flame of hatred against David, that the people every where might rise up to destroy him, and strive with each other in this enterprise. And he repeats twice that they gathered themselves together, in order to show how resolute and determined they were in their opposition to him; unless, perhaps, some would prefer to explain the words thus:They gathered themselves together, not only those who had some pretext for doing so, but even the lowest of the people. The Hebrew word ykn, nekim, literally signifies the whipped, or beaten, fa676 but it is here to be understood as denoting base and disreputable persons. Some interpreters, indeed, derive it from the word hak, kah, which signifies to make sad, and expound it actively, Those who make me sad:but the previous interpretation agrees better with the design of the passage, namely, that David was shamefully treated by the lowest dregs of the people. The words, I knew not, may be referred to the cause as well as to the persons. I, however, explain it as referring to the persons in this sense:So far from having any cause to complain that I have offended them, or done them any harm, I did not even know them. At the same time, these words may be understood as implying a complaint on the part of David, that the people were enraged against him without any cause, since he is conscious of no crime, and can conceive of no ground for such fierce hatred towards him. As to the last clause of the verse, also, although interpreters entertain different opinions, it appears to me that I have given the true and natural meaning. Literally it is, they did cut, and ceased not; but there can be no doubt that the language is metaphorical, and that the word cut fa677 signifies that they opened their mouth; as if David had said, They have insolently poured forth with open mouth their scoffing and reproachful words against me. The additional clause in the sentence, and ceased not, is a repetition common in the Hebrew language, and is employed to express the vehemence with which David’s enemies proceeded against him. It implies that there was no end or measure to their evil-speaking, and that they continued to pour forth with distended throats whatever first occurred to them.

<193516>Psalm 35:16-18

16. Among perfidious jesters at feasts, they gnash upon me with their teeth. 17. O Lord! fa678 how long wilt thou look on? deliver my soul from their tumults, and my only one fa679 from the lions. 18. I will magnify thee in the great congregation: fa680 I will praise thee before a great people. fa681

 

16. Among perfidious jesters. Others translate it, With hypocrites, but in my opinion David simply relates the combination of his enemies. And the meaning of the expression is to this effect, That among men of a crafty disposition, who had been addicted to deceit, and were consequently lost to all sense of shame, the only and the constant subject of their deliberations was, how they might destroy this afflicted man. David again reverts to the leaders of the people, and to those in power, as the source whence all the mischief took its rise; for this description could not apply to a great part of the common people, who acted rather by thoughtless impulse. He therefore speaks particularly of the rulers, and others of a similar character, and accuses them of cruelty, saying, that they gnash their teeth upon him like furious wild beasts. He first calls them perfidious or wicked, that he may the more easily obtain help and aid of God, as if calling upon him in the extremity of distress; and, secondly, he calls them jesters or mockers, by which he means that they have such effrontery, and are so far lost to all sense of shame, that there is nothing which they will not dare to do. As to the meaning of the word gw[m, maog, which follows, interpreters are not agreed. Properly, it signifies bread baked upon the hearth upon the embers. Some, however, because they could not elicit from it a meaning suitable to the passage, have thought that it should be taken for talkative jesting, or idle speech. Others, presuming to give a still wider range to their fancy, have supposed the meaning of the Psalmist to be, that the scoffing of such persons was as bread to them, because they take pleasure in scoffing and jesting. To me, it appears that we ought to retain the proper signification of the word, while, at the same time, it may be understood in a twofold sense. Some taking gw[m, maog, for a cake or tart, are of opinion that David here censures people of a delicate taste, who seek after fine and dainty fare, many of whom are always to be found in the courts of princes. Others rather suppose that he rebukes persons of a servile and sordid spirit, who, for the most trifling consideration, would employ their tongues in reviling others, just as in all ages there have been found men who, for a bit of bread, as we say, set their tongues to sale. When I carefully consider other passages in which David describes the nature and character of his enemies, I am disposed to think that those who indulged in jesting and scoffing at feasts, and who, in sitting over their cups, consulted about putting David to death, are here referred to. He therefore complains, that even in the midst of their feasting and banqueting, the ungodly, who had shaken off all shame, communed how they might take away his life.

17. O Lord! how long wilt thou look on? The meaning of the word which I have translated how long, is ambiguous in the Hebrew. In Latin it signifies, How long wilt thou see it, and suffer it without uttering a word? But the other interpretation is equally appropriate, namely, After having seemed to take no notice of the matter for a long time, when wilt thou at length begin to see it? The meaning, however, is substantially the same, for David complains of God’s long forbearance, declaring that while the wicked are running to every excess, God connives at them, and delays too much to take vengeance. And although God inculcates upon the faithful the duty of quietly and patiently waiting till the time arrive when he shall judge it proper to help them, yet he allows them to bewail in prayer the grief which they experience on account of his delay. At the same time, David shows, that in so speaking he is not carried headlong merely by the importunity of his desire, but that he is constrained to it by the extremity of his distress. For he says that they tumultuously rush upon him to take away his life, and he compares them to lions, and calls his soul solitary, or alone. Some think that the expression, only soul, means clear and precious, or well beloved; but such do not sufficiently consider the design of David, as has been stated in the 22nd Psalm at the twenty-first verse.

18. I will magnify thee in the great congregation. In this verse David again engages to give thanks to God for all his goodness, since the faithful can render him no other recompense than the sacrifice of praise, as we shall see in <19B617>Psalm 116:17. Thus even whilst he was surrounded by the impetuous billows of fear and danger, he sets himself to the exercise of giving thanks, as if he had already obtained his desire; and by this he intended to encourage and confirm himself in the assurance of obtaining his requests. In this we may discern a striking and decided evidence of invincible fortitude, for though an outcast and a fugitive, destitute of all help, and, in short, in a state of great extremity and despair as to all his affairs, yet still he thinks of praising God’s grace, and makes vows of solemn sacrifice to him, as if, in the midst of the darkness of death, he saw deliverance clearly shining upon him. And he speaks not only of giving thanks in private, but of such thanksgiving as those who were delivered out of any great perils were wont to yield in the public assembly, by the appointment of the law. Some translate the latter clause of the verse a strong and powerful people, fa682 but I do not see the propriety of it. It is a mere subtilty to argue that the Church is endued with great strength, and therefore is called a strong people. But as David simply means the great crowd and multitude of people who were wont to go up to the sanctuary to hold their solemn assembly before God, I have no doubt that when he speaks of the great congregation, and afterwards of much people, he only repeats, according to his custom, the same thing twice, for the Hebrew word is used in both these senses.

<193519>Psalm 35:19-23

19. Let not those who are my enemies wrongfully rejoice over me; neither let those who hate me without a cause wink with the eye. 20. For they speak not peace; fa683 but devise deceitful words upon the clefts of the earth. 21. They have opened their mouth against me: they have said, Aha! aha! our eye hath seen it. fa684 22. O Jehovah! thou hast also seen it: keep not silence: O Lord! be not far from me. 23. Stir up thyself, and awake for my judgment, O my God! even for my cause, O my Lord!

 

19. Let not those who are my enemies wrongfully rejoice over me. Because David’s enemies already exulted in the hope of seeing his overthrow and destruction, he prays that God would not suffer them to realize a desire so wicked. In order to render God favorable to his cause, he again protests that they hated him without any fault or occasion on his part, and that it was their own malice which urged them to such cruelty against him; for in order to secure the help of God, it is necessary to come before him with the testimony of a good conscience.

The Hebrew word rq, sheker, which we have rendered wrongfully, is by some translated deceitfully, as if David meant that his enemies lay in wait for him. But this is to reason with too much subtilty. Besides, the repetition which immediately follows shows that he complains of their wilful hatred, inasmuch as of their own accord, and from deliberate design, they persecuted a man who had given them no cause of offense, but was their friend and benefactor. The Hebrew word ≈rq, karats, here signifies to wink with the eyes askance in mockery, as in <192208>Psalm 22:8, it denotes, to wag the head, and to shoot out the lip.

In the following verse, that he may cherish still greater confidence in God, David again declares, that he has to do with enemies of an irreconcilable character, and who are fully bent upon cruelty. Of this we ought to be firmly persuaded, that the more grievously we are oppressed, so much the more certainly ought we to expect deliverance. He therefore says, that they speak of nothing but of tumults and slaughter. The meaning of the latter clause is somewhat obscure, arising from the ambiguous signification of the word [gr, rige. As the word from which it is derived sometimes signifies to cut, and sometimes to rest, or to be quiet and peaceable, there are some who translate it the meek and peaceable of the earth:others translate it, with the tranquil and easy of the earth; meaning by this, those who live in the midst of riches and abundance, in the enjoyment of undisturbed repose. Both these seem to me to be forced interpretations. Others, too, though not more correctly, expound the word in caves or secret places, in order that, as they say, the wicked and deceitful counsels of such persons may not come to light. But it may be very appropriately rendered, the clefts of the earth, and by this metaphor are meant the miserable and afflicted, who are, as it were, broken and maimed. David, therefore, declares that as soon as his enemies see any opening, that is to say, some calamity befall him, they instantly put forth all their efforts to accomplish his destruction. Those who, in the time of his prosperity and power, never dared even to utter a word against him, began now, when they saw that his influence was feeble, to plot his ruin, just as we know that the wicked are for the most part persons of a servile and cowardly disposition, and assume not the tone of insolence save when an advantageous opportunity presents itself, as when the good and simple are in adversity. To the same purpose he represents them in the next verse, as crying out with open mouth, Aha! aha! and clapping their hands for joy that they saw David overcome, and, as it were, laid prostrate in the dust, a spectacle in which they took great delight.

22. O Jehovah! thou hast also seen it. There is in these words an implied contrast between the view which God is here represented as taking, and the sight at which, as we are told in the preceding verse, the ungodly rejoiced. The import of David’s language is, You have rejoiced exceedingly at the sight of my miseries; but God also sees and takes notice of the cruelty and malice of those who feel a pleasure and gratification in seeing others afflicted and in trouble. David, however, in thus speaking, stays not to reason with his enemies, but rather addresses himself directly to God, and sets his providence as a rampart of defense in opposition to all the assaults of those who sought to shake his confidence, and who caused him much trouble. And certainly, if we would fortify ourselves against the scoffing and derision of our enemies, the best means which we can employ for this end is to overlook them, and to elevate our thoughts to God, and in the confidence of his fatherly care over us, to entreat him to show, in very deed, that our troubles are not unknown to him; yea, that the more he sees the wicked eagerly watching every opportunity to accomplish our ruin, he would the more speedily come to our aid. This David expresses by these various forms of expression Keep not silence, be not far from me, stir up thyself, awake for my judgment. He might justly make use of such expressions, seeing he was already fully persuaded that God regards the poor and afflicted, and marks all the wrongs which are done to them. If, therefore, we would frame our requests aright, a clear conviction and persuasion of the providence of God must first shine into our hearts; nor is it necessary only that this should precede, in point of order, all our desires; it must also restrain and govern them.

<193524>Psalm 35:24-28

24. Judge me, O Jehovah my God! According to thy righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me. 25. Let them not say in their heart, Aha! our soul! fa685 let them not say, We have swallowed him up. 26. Let those who rejoice at my hurt be ashamed and confounded together; let those who magnify themselves against me be clothed with shame and dishonor. 27. But let those who favor my righteous cause shout and be glad, and let them say continually, Jehovah be magnified, who loveth the peace of his servant. 28. And my tongue shall declare thy righteousness and thy praise all the day.

 

24. Judge me, O Jehovah my God! David here confirms the prayer of the preceding verse that God would be his defender, and would maintain his righteous cause. Having been for a time subjected to suffering as one who had been forsaken and forgotten, he sets before himself the righteousness of God, which forbids that he should altogether abandon the upright and the just. It is, therefore, not simply a prayer, but a solemn appeal to God, that as he is righteous, he would manifest his righteousness in defending his servant in a good cause. And certainly, when we seem to be forsaken and deprived of all help, there is no remedy which we can employ, more effectual to overcome temptation than this consideration, that the righteousness of God, on which our deliverance depends, can never fail. Accordingly, the Apostle Paul, in exhorting the faithful to patience, says in <530106>2 Thessalonians 1:6,

“It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation
to them that trouble you.”

Now David again appeals to God in this place, and entreats him to manifest his righteousness in restraining the insolence of his enemies:for the more proudly they assail us, God is so much the more ready to help us. Besides, by again introducing them as speaking, he portrays in a graphic style the cruelty of their desires; and by this he means to show, that if things should happen according to their wishes, they would set no limit to their frowardness. But as the more they vaunt themselves, the more they provoke the wrath of God against them, David with good reason uses this as an argument to encourage his hope, and employs it for his support and confirmation in prayer.

26. Let those who rejoice at thy hurt be ashamed and confounded together. This imprecation has already been expounded; and it is only necessary to remark, that there is peculiar force in the expression, together, or at once. It shows that it was not only one or two, but a great multitude, who waged war against him, and that he yielded not to the influence of fear, but believed that as soon as God should lift up his hand, he could at one stroke easily overthrow them all. When it is said that they seek after and rejoice in David’s hurt, this shows that they were filled with cruel hatred against him. And when it is said, that they magnify themselves against him, this is a token of pride. David, therefore, in order to render them more hateful in the sight of God, represents them as filled with pride and cruelty. And as this form of prayer was dictated by the Holy Spirit to David, there can be no doubt that the end of all the proud shall be such as is here predicted, that they shall turn back overwhelmed with shame and disgrace.

27. Let those who favor my righteous cause rejoice and be glad. These two expressions, which are rendered in the optative mood, might have been translated with equal propriety in the future tense; but as this is a matter of little consequence, I leave it undecided. David here extols the deliverance which he asks of God, and exults in the results which should flow from it; namely, that it would be an occasion of general rejoicing and good hope to all the godly, while at the same time it would stir them up to celebrate the praises of God. He attributes to all the faithful the credit of desiring, that as an innocent man his righteous cause should be maintained. David, it is true, was the object of almost universal hatred among the simple and unsuspecting, who were imposed upon by false and unjust reports made concerning him; but it is certain that there were among the people some who formed a just and impartial estimate of things, and who were sorely grieved that a holy man, and one too whose benevolence was well known, should have been so unjustly and so wrongfully oppressed. And surely the common feelings of humanity require, that when we see men unjustly oppressed and afflicted, if we are not able to help them, we should at least pity them. When David uses the language, Jehovah be magnified, his design seems to be tacitly to set this in opposition to the pride of the wicked, of which he made mention above. As they presume in the pride, of their hearts, and by their insolent and overbearing conduct, to obscure, as far as in them lies, the divine glory, so may the faithful, on the other hand, with good reason present the prayer that God would shine forth in the majesty of his character, and demonstrate in very deed that he exercises a special care over all his servants, and takes a peculiar pleasure in their peace. Finally, the Psalmist again declares, in the conclusion of the psalm, his resolution to celebrate in appropriate praises the righteousness of God, by which he had been preserved and delivered.


Psalm 36

Almost all interpreters agree in supposing, that in this psalm David in general expresses his wonder and amazement at the goodness of God, because, in the exercise of his favor and mercy, he bears with the wicked, who, notwithstanding, basely contemn him. The opinion which I have formed is somewhat different. I think that the holy prophet, being grievously troubled and harassed by wicked and ungodly men, first complains of their depravity, and then seeks refuge in the infinite goodness of God, which extends not only to all men in general, but in a particular and special manner to his own children; and this he does in order to console, and, so to speak, take his breath, in the assurance that he shall at length be delivered since God is favorable to him. This is evident from the conclusion of the psalm, in which he arms and fortifies himself against all the assaults of the ungodly, by reflecting that he is safe under the protection of God.

To the chief musician. A Psalm of David, the servant of Jehovah.

Why the appellation, the servant of God, is ascribed to David only in this place and in the eighteenth psalm, rather than elsewhere, cannot positively be ascertained, unless that having been victorious in a conflict, of all others the most difficult, he proved himself to be a valiant warrior and an invincible champion in the sight of God. We know how rare and singular a virtue it is, when ungodliness is prevailing without restraint, and when the shade of its obscurity darkens our spiritual vision, to look up, notwithstanding, by the eye of faith, to the providence of God, which, by disposing our minds to patience, may keep us constantly in the fear of God.

<193601>Psalm 36:1-4

1. Ungodliness saith to the wicked in the midst of my heart, There is no fear of God before his eyes. 2. For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. fb1 3. The words of his mouth are iniquity fb2 and deceit; he hath left off to understand that he may do good. 4. He meditates [or devises] iniquity upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; and abhorreth not evil.

 

1. Ungodliness saith to the wicked in the midst of my heart. Commentators are not agreed as to the interpretation of the first verse. Literally it is, The saying [or speech] of transgression, or rather, Transgression saith to the wicked. As, however, the letter l, lamed, is in Hebrew sometimes used for ˆm, min, some translate it thus, Ungodliness or transgression speaketh of the wicked in my heart; as if the prophet had said, I clearly perceive from the wickedness which the ungodly commit, that they are not influenced by the fear of God. But as there is no need to depart from the proper signification of the words, I rather agree with others in supposing that the language of the prophet is to this effect: The malice of the wicked, though seemingly hidden and unknown, speaks aloud in my heart, and I am a sure witness of what it says or suggests.

And, first, it is to be observed, that the prophet speaks not of outward faults, but penetrates even to the very source; as if he had said, Although the wicked cloak their malice with wily dissimulation, yet I know it so well that I seem to hear it speaking. It is indeed true, that as the ungodly and profane rush headlong into every kind of wickedness, as if they were never to be called to render up an account of it, the judgment which David here expresses may be formed even from their life; but his language is much more emphatic when he says, that the servants of God openly perceive the depravity of such persons hidden within the heart. Now David does not speak of the wicked generally, but of the abandoned despisers of God. There are many who indulge in their vices, who, notwithstanding, are not intoxicated by the wretched infatuation which David here censures. But when a man becomes hardened in committing sin, ungodliness at length reduces him to such a state of insensibility, that, despising the judgment of God, he indulges without fear in the practice of every sin to which his depraved appetite impels him. A reckless assurance, therefore, in the commission of sin, and especially where it is associated with a contempt and scorn of every holy admonition, is, as it were, an enchantment of Satan, which indicates that the condition of such a person is indeed hopeless. And although true religion has the effect of keeping the hearts of the godly in the fear of God, and drives wicked thoughts far from their minds, yet this does not prevent them from perceiving and understanding in their hearts how the ungodly are agitated with horrible fury when they neither regard God nor are afraid of his judgments.

There is no fear of God before his eyes. David shows in these few words the end of all evil suggestions; and it is this, that the sense both of good and evil being destroyed or suppressed, men shrink from nothing, as if there were not seated in heaven a God, the Judge of all. The meaning therefore is, Ungodliness speaks in my heart to the wicked man, urging him to the extremity of madness, so that, laying aside all fear of God, he abandons himself to the practice of sin; that is to say, I know as well what the ungodly imagine in their hearts, as if God had set me as a witness or judge to unveil their hypocrisy, under the mask of which they think their detestable malice is hidden and deeply buried. When the wicked, therefore, are not restrained by the fear of God from committing sin, this proceeds from that secret discourse with themselves, to which we have referred, and by which their understanding is so depraved and blinded, that, like brute beasts, they run to every excess in rioting. Since the eyes are, as it were, the guides and conductors of man in this life, and by their influence move the other senses hither and thither, it is therefore said that men have the fear of God before their eyes when it regulates their lives, and by presenting itself to them on every side to which they may turn, serves like a bridle to restrain their appetites and passions. David, by using here a contrary form of expression, means that the ungodly run to every excess in licentiousness, without having any regard to God, because the depravity of their own hearts has completely blinded them.

2. For he flattereth himself in his own eyes. Here the Psalmist shows by their fruits or the marks of their character, that there is no fear of God among the wicked, seeing they take such pleasure in committing deeds of wickedness, that, although hateful in the sight of all other men, they still cherish the natural obstinacy of their hearts, and wilfully harden themselves in their evil course. First, he says that they nourish their vices by flatteries, fb3 that they may not be dissatisfied with themselves in sinning. But when he adds, until their iniquity be found to be hateful, by these words he is to be understood as referring to their determined obstinacy; for the meaning is, that while they falsely flatter themselves, they proceed to such an extent in their evil course, that their iniquity becomes hateful to all men. Some translate the words thus: So that he himself finds his own iniquity to be hateful; and understand them as meaning, that the wicked persist in rushing headlong into sin without restraint, until, satiated or glutted with the indulgence of their depraved desires, they begin to loathe it: for even the most depraved are sometimes dissatisfied with themselves on account of their sinful conduct. The first interpretation is, however, the more natural, namely, that the wicked, though they are hateful to all men on account of their iniquity, which, when once discovered and made manifest, excites a general feeling of displeasure, are not affected by any displeasure against themselves, but, on the contrary, rather applaud themselves, whilst the people despise them, and abhor the wickedness of their lives. The prophet, therefore, condemns them for their infatuation in this, that while all others are offended at their disgraceful conduct, they themselves are not at all affected by it. As far as in them lies, they abolish all distinction between good and evil, and lull their conscience into a state of insensibility, lest it should pain them, and urge them to repentance. Certainly the infatuation here described ought to be the subject of our serious consideration, the infatuation which is manifested in this, that men who are given up to a reprobate mind, while they render themselves hateful in the sight of all other men, are notwithstanding destitute of all sense of their own sins.

3. The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit. The two clauses of this verse may be understood as referring to the same thing, namely, that the wicked indulging in deceit and vanity, will not receive or admit the light of understanding. This, I apprehend, is the meaning of David. He reproves the wicked not merely for circumventing others by their wiles and stratagems, but especially because they are altogether destitute of uprightness and sincerity. We have already said that the Psalmist is here speaking not of sinful and wicked men, in whose hearts there still remains some fear of God, but of the profane despisers of his name, who have given themselves up entirely to the practice of sin. He therefore says that they have always in their mouth some frivolous excuses and vain pretexts, by which they encourage themselves in rejecting and scoffing at all sound doctrine. He then adds, that they purposely suppress in themselves all knowledge or understanding of the distinction between good and evil, because they have no desire to become better than they are. We know that God has given understanding to men to direct them to do what is good. Now David says that the wicked shun it, and strive to deprive themselves of it, that they may not be constrained to repent of their wickedness, and to amend their lives. We are taught from this passage, that if at any time we turn aside from the path of rectitude, the only remedy in such a case is to open the eyes of our understanding, that we may rightly distinguish between good and evil, and that thus we may be led back from our wandering. When, instead of doing this, a man refuses instruction, it is an indication that he is in a state of depravity altogether desperate.

4. He meditates iniquity upon his bed. Here the sacred writer shows that the wickedness of the ungodly man is of a secret and very determined character. It sometimes happens that many, who otherwise are not disposed to wickedness, err and fall into sin, because occasion presents itself all on a sudden; but David tells us, that the wicked, even when they are withdrawn from the sight of men, and in retirement, form schemes of mischief; and thus, although there is not presented before them any temptation, or the evil example of others to excite them to it, they, of their own accord, devise mischief, and urge themselves to it without being impelled by any thing else. Since he describes the reprobate by this distinguishing mark of character, that they devise mischief upon their beds, true believers should learn from this to exercise themselves when alone in meditations of a different nature, and to make their own life the subject of examination, so that they may exclude all evil thoughts from their minds. The Psalmist next refers to their stubbornness, declaring that they set themselves in a crooked and perverse way; that is to say, they purposely and wilfully harden themselves in doing evil. Finally, he adds the reason of their doing this: They abhor not evil. Wilfully shutting their eyes, they rush forward in their headlong course till they spontaneously yield themselves the slaves of wickedness. Let us now shortly state the contrast between the ungodly and the people of God, contained in the preceding verses. The former deceive themselves by flattery; the latter exercise over themselves a strict control, and examine themselves with a rigid scrutiny: the former, throwing loose the reins, rush headlong into evil; the latter are restrained by the fear of God: the former cloak or disguise their offenses by sophistry, and turn light into darkness; the latter willingly acknowledge their guilt, and by a candid confession are brought to repentance: the former reject all sound judgment; the latter always desire to vindicate themselves by coming to the open light of day: the former upon their bed invent various ways of doing evil; the latter are sedulously on their guard that they may not devise or stir up within themselves any sinful desire: the former indulge a deep and fixed contempt of God; the latter willingly cherish a constant displeasure at their sins.

<193605>Psalm 36:5-9

5. O Jehovah! thy mercy is unto the heavens, and thy truth even unto the clouds. 6. Thy righteousness is as the mountains of God; fb4 thy judgments are a great deep: fb5 O Jehovah! thou preservest man and beast. 7. O God! how excellent fb6 is thy loving-kindness! therefore, the children of men shall trust in the shadow of thy wings. 8. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them to drink of the river of thy pleasures. 9. For with thee fb7 is the fountain of life; and in thy light fb8 shall we see light.

 

5. O Jehovah! thy mercy is unto the heavens. Commentators think that David, after having described the great corruption and depravity which every where prevail in the world, takes occasion from thence to extol in rapturous praises the wonderful forbearance of God, in not ceasing to manifest his favor and good-will towards men, even though they are sunk in iniquity and crime. But, as I have already observed, I am of a somewhat different opinion. After having spoken of the very great depravity of men, the prophet, afraid lest he should become infected by it, or be carried away by the example of the wicked, as by a flood, quits the subject, and recovers himself by reflecting on a different theme. It usually happens, that in condemning the wicked, the contagion of their malice insinuates itself into our minds when we are not conscious of it; and there is scarcely one in a hundred who, after having complained of the malice of others, keeps himself in true godliness, pure and unpolluted. The meaning therefore is, Although we may see among men a sad and frightful confusion, which, like a great gulf, would swallow up the minds of the godly, David, nevertheless, maintains that the world is full of the goodness and righteousness of God, and that he governs heaven and earth on the strictest principles of equity. And certainly, whenever the corruption of the world affects our minds, and fills us with amazement, we must take care not to limit our views to the wickedness of men who overturn and confound all things; but in the midst of this strange confusion, it becomes us to elevate our thoughts in admiration and wonder, to the contemplation of the secret providence of God. David here enumerates four cardinal attributes of Deity, which, according to the figure of speech called synecdoche, include all the others, and by which he intimates, in short, that although carnal reason may suggest to us that the world moves at random, and is directed by chance, yet we ought to consider that the infinite power of God is always associated with perfect righteousness. In saying that the goodness of God is unto the heavens, David’s meaning is, that in its greatness it is as high as the heavens. In the same sense he adds, Thy truth is even unto the clouds. The term truth in this place may be taken either for the faithfulness which God manifests in accomplishing his promises, or for the just and well regulated character of his government, in which his rectitude is seen to be pure and free from all deception. But there are many other similar passages of Scripture which constrain me to refer it to the promises of God, in the keeping and fulfilling of which he is ever faithful.

6. Thy righteousness is as the mountains of God. In this verse there is a commendation of God’s righteousness, which the sacred writer compares to the high mountains, (this being the manner of the expression — “the mountains of God,” for we know that the Hebrews were accustomed to distinguish by the appellation divine, or of God, whatever is excellent,) because his glory shines forth more clearly there. In the last place, it is said, that his judgments are like a great and bottomless abyss. By these words he teaches us, that to whatever side we turn our eyes, and whether we look upward or downward, all things are disposed and ordered by the just judgment of God. This passage is usually quoted in a sense quite different, namely, that the judgments of God far exceed our limited capacity, and are too mysterious for our being able to comprehend them; and, indeed, in this sense the similitude of an abyss is not inappropriate. It is, however, obvious from the context, that the language of the Psalmist is to be understood in a much more extensive sense, and as meaning, that however great the depth of wickedness which there is among men, and though it seems like a flood which breaks forth and overflows the whole earth, yet still greater is the depth of God’s providence, by which he righteously disposes and governs all things. Whenever, therefore, our faith may be shaken by the confusion and disorder of human affairs, and when we are unable to explain the reasons of this disorder and confusion, let us remember that the judgments of God in the government of the world are with the highest propriety compared to a great depth which fills heaven and earth, that the consideration of its infinite greatness may ravish our minds with admiration, swallow up all our cares, and dispel all our sorrows. When it is added in the end of the verse, O Jehovah! thou preservest man and beast, the meaning is to this effect, that since God vouchsafes to extend his providential care even to the irrational creation, much more does he provide for the wants of men. And, indeed, whenever any doubt may arise in our minds regarding the providence of God, we should fortify and encourage ourselves by setting before us this consideration, that God, who provides food for the beasts of the field, and maintains them in their present state, can never cease to take care of the human race. The explanation which some have given of the term beasts, interpreting it allegorically of beastly men, I regard as too forced, and reject it.

7. O God! how precious is thy loving-kindness! Some explain these words in this sense: That the mercy of God is precious, and that the children of men who put their trust in it are precious; but this is a sense too far removed from the words of the text. Others understand them as meaning, that the mercy of God is very great to the gods, that is to say, to the angels and the sons of men; but this is too refined. I am also surprised that the Jewish Rabbins have wearied and bewildered themselves, without any occasion, in seeking to find out new and subtile interpretations, since the meaning of the prophet is of itself perfectly evident; namely, that it is because the mercy of God is great and clearly manifested, that the children of men put their trust under the shadow of it. As David has hitherto been speaking in commendation of the goodness of God, which extends to every creature, the opinion of other commentators, who consider that David is here discoursing of the peculiar favor which God manifests towards his children, is in my judgment very correct. The language seems to refer in general to all the sons of men, but what follows is applicable properly to the faithful alone. In order to manifest more clearly the greatness of divine grace, he thus speaks in general terms, telling us, that God condescends to gather together under his wings the mortal offspring of Adam, as it is said in <190804>Psalm 8:4,

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
and the son of man, that thou visitest him?”

The substance of the passage is this: The ungodly may run to every excess in wickedness, but this temptation does not prevent the people of God from trusting in his goodness, and casting themselves upon his fatherly care; while the ungodly, whose minds are degraded, and whose hearts are polluted, never taste the sweetness of his goodness so as to be led by it to the faith, and thus to enjoy repose under the shadow of his wings. The metaphorical expression of wings, as applied to God, is common enough in Scripture. fb9 By it God teaches us that we are preserved in safety under his protecting care, even as the hen cherishes her chickens under her wings; and thus he invites us kindly and affectionately to return to him.

8. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of that house. I have no doubt that by the fatness of God’s house the prophet means the abundance of good things which is not designed for all men indiscriminately, but is laid up in store for the children of God who commit themselves wholly to his protection. Some restrict the expression to spiritual graces; but to me it seems more likely, that under it are comprehended all the blessings that are necessary to the happiness and comfort of the present life, as well as those which pertain to eternal and heavenly blessedness. It ought, however, to be observed, that in the style of speaking which the prophet here employs, the use of earthly blessings is connected with the gracious experience of faith, in the exercise of which we can alone enjoy them rightfully and lawfully to our own welfare. When the ungodly glut themselves with the abundance of God’s benefits, their bodies indeed grow fat like the flesh of cattle or swine, but their souls are always empty and famished. It is the faithful alone, as I have said, who are satisfied with the goodness of God towards them, because it is to them a pledge of his fatherly love. The expression meat and drink denotes a complete and perfect fullness, and the term river, fb10 denotes an overflowing abundance.

9. For with thee is the fountain of life. The Psalmist here confirms the doctrine of the preceding verse, the knowledge of which is so profitable that no words can adequately express it. As the ungodly profane even the best of God’s gifts by their wicked abuse of them, unless we observe the distinction which I have stated, it were better for us to perish a hundred times of hunger, than to be fed abundantly by the goodness of God. The ungodly do not acknowledge that it is in God they live, move, and have their being, but rather imagine that they are sustained by their own power; and, accordingly, David, on the contrary, here affirms from the experience of the godly, and as it were in their name, that the fountain of life is in God. By this he means, that there is not a drop of life to be found without him, or which flows not from his grace. The metaphor of light, in the last clause of the verse, is tacitly most emphatic, denoting that men are altogether destitute of light, except in so far as the Lord shines upon them. If this is true of the light; of this life, how shall we be able to behold the light of the heavenly world, unless the Spirit of God enlighten us? for we must maintain that the measure of understanding with which men are by nature endued is such, that

“the light shineth in darkness,
but the darkness comprehendeth it not,” (<430105>John 1:5;)

and that men are enlightened only by a supernatural gift. But it is the godly alone who perceive that they derive their light from God, and that, without it, they would continue, as it were, buried and smothered in darkness.

<193610>Psalm 36:10-12

10. Prolong fb11 thy mercy to them that know thee, and thy righteousness to the upright in heart. 11. Let not the foot of pride come upon me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me. 12. There the workers of iniquity are fallen: they are thrust down, and shall not be able to rise.

 

10. Prolong thy mercy to them that know thee. David now sets himself to pray. And, first, he asks in general, that God would continue his mercy to all the godly, and then he pleads particularly in his own behalf, imploring the help of God against his enemies. Those who affirm that God is here said to prolong or extend his mercy because it is exalted above the heavens, indulge in a style of speaking too puerile. When David spake of it in such terms in a preceding verse, his intention was not, as I have already said, to represent the mercy of God as shut up in heaven, but simply to declare that it was diffused throughout the world; and here what he desires is just this, that God would continue to manifest, even to the end, his mercy towards his people. With the mercy of God he connects his righteousness, combining them as cause and effect. We have already said in another place, that the righteousness of God is manifested in his undertaking the defense of his own people, vindicating their innocence, avenging their wrongs, restraining their enemies, and in proving himself faithful in the preservation of their welfare and happiness against all who assail them. Now, since all this is done for them freely by God, David, with good reason, makes mention particularly of his goodness, and places it first in order, that we may learn to depend entirely upon his favor. We ought also to observe the epithets by which he describes true believers; first, he says, that they know God; and, secondly, that they are upright in heart. We learn from this that true godliness springs from the knowledge of God, and again, that the light of faith must necessarily dispose us to uprightness of heart. At the same time, we ought always to bear in mind, that we only know God aright when we render to him the honor to which he is entitled; that is, when we place entire confidence in him.

11. Let not the foot of pride come upon me. As I have observed a little before, the Psalmist here applies to his own circumstances the prayer which he had offered. But by including in his prayer in the preceding verse all the children of God, he designed to show that he asked nothing for himself apart from others, but only desired that as one of the godly and upright, who have their eyes directed to God, he might enjoy his favor. He has employed the expressions, the foot of pride, fb12 and the hand of the wicked, in the same sense. As the wicked rush boldly to the destruction of good men, lifting up their feet to tread upon them, and having their hands ready to do them wrong, David entreats God to restrain their hands and their feet; and thus he confesses that he is in danger of being exposed to their insolence, abuse, and violence, unless God come speedily to his aid.

12. There the workers of iniquity are fallen. Here he derives confidence from his prayer, not doubting that he has already obtained his request. And thus we see how the certainty of faith directs the saints to prayer. Besides, still farther to confirm his confidence and hope in God, he shows, as it were, by pointing to it with the finger, the certain destruction of the wicked, even though it lay as yet concealed in the future. In this respect, the adverb there fb13 is not superfluous; for while the ungodly boast of their good fortune, and the world applaud them, David beholds by the eye of faith, as if from a watch-tower, their destruction, and speaks of it with as much confidence as if he had already seen it realised. That we also may attain a similar assurance, let us remember, that those who would hasten prematurely the time of God’s vengeance upon the wicked, according to the ardor of their desires, do indeed err, and that we ought to leave it to the providence of God to fix the period when, in his wisdom, he shall rise up to judgment. When it is said, They are thrust down, the meaning is, that they are agitated with doubt, and totter as in a slippery place, so that in the midst of their prosperity they have no security. Finally, it is added, that they shall fall into utter destruction, so that it can never be expected that they shall rise again.


PSALM 37

This psalm, the title of which shows it to have been composed by David, contains most profitable instruction. Since the faithful, so long as they pursue their earthly pilgrimage through life, see things strangely confused in the world, unless they assuaged their grief with the hope of a better issue, their courage would soon fail them. The more boldly any man despises God, and runs to every excess in wickedness, so much the more happily he seems to live. And since prosperity appears to be a token of God’s favor towards the ungodly, what conclusion, it may be said, can be drawn from this, but either that the world is governed by chance, and that fortune bears the sovereignty, or else that God makes no difference between the good and the bad? The Spirit of God accordingly confirms and strengthens us in this psalm against the assaults of such a temptation. However great the prosperity which the wicked enjoy for a time, he declares their felicity to be transient and evanescent, and that, therefore, they are miserable, while the happiness of which they boast is cursed; whereas the pious and devoted servants of God never cease to be happy, even in the midst of their greatest calamities, because God takes care of them, and at length comes to their aid in due season. This, indeed, is paradoxical, and wholly repugnant to human reason. For as good men often suffer extreme poverty, and languish long under many troubles, and are loaded with reproaches and wrongs, while the wicked and profligate triumph, and are regaled with pleasures, might we not suppose that God cares not for the things that are done on earth? It is on this account that, as I have already said, the doctrine of this psalm is so much the more profitable; because, withdrawing our thoughts from the present aspect of things, it enjoins us to confide in the providence of God, until he stretch forth his hand to help those who are his servants, and demand of the ungodly a strict account of their lives, as of thieves and robbers who have foully abused his bounty and paternal goodness.

A Psalm of David.

<193701>Psalm 37:1-6

1. Fret not thyself because of the wicked, and be not envious at the workers of iniquity: 2. For they shall soon be cut down like grass; and they shall wither as the green and tender herb. 3. Put thy trust in Jehovah, and do good; dwell in the land, and be fed in truth, [or faithfully. fb14] 4. And delight thyself in Jehovah, and he will give thee the desires of thy heart. 5. Roll [or devolve] thy ways on Jehovah, and trust in him, and he will bring it to pass. 6. And he will bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgments fb15 as the noon day.

 

1. Fret not thyself because of the wicked. David lays down this as a general principle, that the prosperity of the wicked, in which they greatly rejoice, should on no account vex or disquiet the children of God, because it will soon fade away. On the other hand, although the people of God are afflicted for a time, yet the issue of their afflictions shall be such, that they have every reason to be contented with their lot. Now all this depends upon the providence of God; for unless we are persuaded that the world is governed by him in righteousness and truth, our minds will soon stagger, and at length entirely fail us. David then condemns two sinful affections of the mind, which are indeed closely allied, and the one of which is generated by the other. He first enjoins the faithful not to fret on account of the wicked; and, secondly, that they should not indulge an envious spirit towards them. For, in the first place, when they see the wicked enjoying prosperity, from which it might naturally be supposed that God regards not the affairs of men, there is a danger lest they should shake off the fear of God, and apostatise from the faith. Then another temptation follows, namely, that the influence of the example of the wicked excites in them a desire to involve themselves in the same wickedness with them. This is the natural sense. The Hebrew words, rjttAla, al-tithechar, which we have rendered, Fret not thyself, are by some translated, Do not mingle thyself with. fb16 But this interpretation is too forced, and may be disproved by the context; for in the eighth verse, where mention is expressly made of wrath and anger, it would surely be absurd to interpret in another sense the same verb which immediately follows these two words, and which is there used in the same sense and for the same end as in this first verse. In the second place, the order which David observes is very natural; for when the prosperity of the wicked has irritated our minds, we very soon begin to envy them their happiness and ease. First, then, he exhorts us to be on our guard, lest a happiness which is only transitory, or rather imaginary, should vex or disquiet us; and, secondly, lest envy should lead us to commit sin. The reason by which he enforces this exhortation is added in the following verse: for if the wicked flourish to-day like the grass of the field, to-morrow they shall be cut down and wither. We need not wonder that this similitude is often to be met with in the sacred writings, since it is so very appropriate; for we see how soon the strength of the grass decays, and that when cast down by a blast of wind, or parched with the heat of the sun, even without being cut by the hand of man, it withers away. fb17 In like manner, David tells us that the judgment of God, like a scythe in the hand of man, shall cut down the wicked, so that they shall suddenly perish.

3. Put thy trust in Jehovah, and do good. The inspired writer now goes on, in the second place, to say, that every thing in the end shall be well with the righteous, because they are under the protection of God. But as there is nothing better or more desirable than to enjoy the fostering and protecting care of God, he exhorts them to put their trust in him, and at the same time to follow after goodness and truth. It is not without good reason that he begins with the doctrine of faith, or trust in God; for there is nothing more difficult for men than to preserve their minds in a state of peace and tranquillity, undisturbed by any disquieting fears, whilst they are in this world, which is subject to so many changes. On the other hand, while they see the wicked becoming rich by unjust means, extending their influence, and acquiring power by unrestrained indulgence in sin, it is no less difficult for them steadily to persevere in a life of piety and virtue. Nor is it sufficient merely to disregard those things that are commonly sought after with the greatest eagerness. Some of the philosophers of antiquity were so noble-minded, that they despised riches unjustly acquired, and abstained from fraud and robbery; nay, they held up to ridicule the vain pomp and splendor of the wicked, which the common people look upon with such high admiration. But as they were destitute of faith, they defrauded God of his honor, and so it happened that they never knew what it was to be truly happy. Now, as David places faith first in order, to show that God is the author of all good, and that by his blessing alone prosperity is to be looked for; so it ought to be observed that he connects this with a holy life: for the man who places his whole confidence in God, and gives himself up to be governed by him, will live uprightly and innocently, and will devote himself to doing good.

Dwell in the land. This language is much more expressive than if he had promised that the righteous should dwell securely in the land. fb18 It is just as if he had led them to the place, and put them in possession of it. Moreover, by these words he declares that they shall long enjoy it. They are, it is true, only strangers or sojourners in this world, yet the hand of the Lord is stretched forth to protect them, so that they live in security and peace. This David again confirms by the following clause, Thou shalt be fed in truth. Assured of the protection of God, he exhorts them to place entire and unsuspecting confidence in him. It is surprising to find how interpreters have wrested, and as it were mangled this clause, by the different meanings they have put upon it. Some take the verb to feed in an active signification; and others understand the expression to feed on faith as denoting to cherish within the heart the promises of God. Others are of opinion that David exhorts us to feed our brethren with faith by ministering to them the pure word of God, which is the spiritual food of the soul. Others render the term for faith in the sense of sincerity, so that the expression to feed on faith would signify to behave in an upright and honest manner among men. But the scope and connection of the passage necessarily require, and it is quite in accordance with the nature of the Hebrew language, that the verb h[r, re-eh, should be taken in a passive signification, Be fed. This, too, is the opinion of the greater part of commentators, who, notwithstanding, afterwards differ in explaining its meaning. Some of them adopt the interpretation, that we are fed with faith, when the promises of God suffice us, and we are satisfied with them. Others give this explanation, Feed thyself with the fruit of faith, because God will indeed show that we have not believed his word in vain. Others explain it in this way, Let truth be thy food, and let nothing give thee greater pleasure than to converse sincerely and frankly with thy neighbors. There is still another interpretation which, although in some respects different, is similar to the preceding, namely, Live not upon spoil, but be content with lawful sustenance; that is to say, with that which is lawfully acquired. fb19 It is certainly a shameful and disgraceful thing that so many learned men should have erred in a matter so plain and obvious. fb20 Had not every one been led by his own ambition to seek for something new, the true and natural meaning of the prophet would have occurred at once, which is this, Dwell in the land, that thou mayest enjoy it in sure and lasting repose. The Hebrew word hnwma, emunah, not only signifies truth or faith, but also secure continuance for a long period. And who does not see that since the possession of the land was given to the righteous, this latter clause was added by way of exposition?

4. And delight thyself in Jehovah. This delight is set in opposition to the vain and deceitful allurements of the world, which so intoxicate the ungodly, that despising the blessing of God, they dream of no other happiness than what presents itself for the time before their eyes. This contrast between the vain and fickle joys with which the world is deluded, and the true repose enjoyed by the godly, ought to be carefully observed; for whether all things smile upon us, or whether the Lord exercise us with adversities, we ought always to hold fast this principle, that as the Lord is the portion of our inheritance, our lot has fallen in pleasant places, fb21 as we have seen in <191605>Psalm 16:5, 6. We must therefore constantly recall to our minds this truth, that it can never be well with us except in so far as God is gracious to us, so that the joy we derive from his paternal favor towards us may surpass all the pleasures of the world. To this injunction a promise is added, that, if we are satisfied in the enjoyment of God alone, he will liberally bestow upon us all that we shall desire: He will give thee the desires of thy heart. This does not imply that the godly immediately obtain whatever their fancy may suggest to them; nor would it be for their profit that God should grant them all their vain desires. The meaning simply is, that if we stay our minds wholly upon God, instead of allowing our imaginations like others to roam after idle and frivolous fancies, all other things will be bestowed upon us in due season.

5. Roll fb22 thy ways upon Jehovah. Here David illustrates and confirms the doctrine contained in the preceding verse. In order that God may accomplish our desires, it behoves us to cast all our cares upon him in the exercise of hope and patience. Accordingly, we are taught from this passage how to preserve our minds in tranquillity amidst anxieties, dangers, and floods of trouble. There can be no doubt, that by the term ways we are here to understand all affairs or businesses. The man, therefore, who, leaving the issue of all his affairs to the will of God, and who, patiently waiting to receive from his hand whatever he may be pleased to send, whether prosperity or adversity, casts all his cares, and every other burden which he bears, into his bosom; or, in other words, commits to him all his affairs, — such a person rolls his ways upon Jehovah. Hence, David again inculcates the duty of hope and confidence in God: And trust in him. By this he intimates, that we render to him the honor to which he is entitled only when we intrust to him the government and direction of our lives; and thus he provides a remedy for a disease with which almost all men are infected. Whence is it that the children of God are envious of the wicked, and are often in trouble and perplexity, and yield to excess of sorrow, and sometimes even murmur and repine, but because, by involving themselves immoderately in endless cares, and cherishing too eagerly a desire to provide for themselves irrespective of God, they plunge, as it were, into an abyss, or at least accumulate to themselves such a vast load of cares, that they are forced at last to sink under them? Desirous to provide a remedy for this evil, David warns us, that in presuming to take upon us the government of our own life, and to provide for all our affairs as if we were able to bear so great a burden, we are greatly deceived, and that, therefore, our only remedy is to fix our eyes upon the providence of God, and to draw from it consolation in all our sorrows. Those who obey this counsel shall escape that horrible labyrinth in which all men labor in vain; for when God shall once have taken the management of our affairs into his own hand, there is no reason to fear that prosperity shall ever fail us. Whence is it that he forsakes us and disappoints our expectations, if it is not because we provoke him, by pretending to greater wisdom and understanding than we possess? If, therefore, we would only permit him, he will perform his part, and will not disappoint our expectations, which he sometimes does as a just punishment for our unbelief.

6. And he will bring forth thy righteousness as the light. This David says, in order to anticipate the misgivings which often trouble us when we seem to lose our labor in faithfully serving God, and in dealing uprightly with our neighbors; nay, when our integrity is either exposed to the calumnies of the wicked, or is the occasion of injury to us from men; for then it is thought to be of no account in the sight of God. David, therefore, declares, that God will not suffer our righteousness to be always hid in darkness, but that he will maintain it and bring it forth to the light; namely, when he will bestow upon us such a reward as we desire. He alludes to the darkness of the night, which is soon dispelled by the dawning of the day; as if he had said, We may be often grievously oppressed, and God may not seem to approve our innocence, yet this vicissitude should no more disturb our minds than the darkness of the night which covers the earth; for then the expectation of the light of day sustains our hope.

<193707>Psalm 37:7-11

7. Be silent to Jehovah, and wait for him; fret not because of the man who prospereth in his way, against the man who commits wickedness. fb23 8. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself so as to do evil, 9. For the wicked shall be cut off; but those that wait upon Jehovah shall inherit the earth. 10. Yet a little while; and the wicked shall not be; and thou shalt look upon his place, and shalt not find him. 11. But the meek shall inherit the earth, fb24 and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.

 

7. Be silent to Jehovah. The Psalmist continues the illustration of the same doctrine, namely, that we should patiently and meekly bear those things that usually disquiet our minds; for amid innumerable sources of disquietude and conflict there is need of no small patience. By the similitude of silence, which often occurs in the sacred writings, he declares most aptly the nature of faith; for as our affections rise in rebellion against the will of God, so faith, restoring us to a state of humble and peaceful submission, appeases all the tumults of our hearts. By this expression, fb25 therefore, David commands us not to yield to the tumultuous passions of the soul, as the unbelieving do, nor fretfully to set ourselves in opposition to the authority of God, but rather to submit peacefully to him, that he may execute his work in silence. Moreover, as the Hebrew word lwj, chul, which we have rendered to wait, sometimes signifies to mourn, and sometimes to wait, the word llwjth, hithcholel, in this place is understood by some as meaning to mourn moderately, or to bear sorrow patiently. It might also be rendered more simply to mourn before God, in order that he might be a witness of all our sorrows; for when the unbelieving give way to doubt and suspense, they rather murmur against him than utter their complaints before him. As, however, the other interpretation is more generally received, namely, that David is exhorting us to hope and patience, I adhere to it. The prophet Isaiah also connects hope with silence in the same sense, (<233015>Isaiah 30:15.)

David next repeats what he had said in the first verse, Fret not because of the man who prospereth in his way, or who brings his ways to a happy issue; nor against the man who behaveth himself wickedly, or  who accomplishes his devices. Of these two interpretations of this last clause, the latter is more in accordance with the scope of the psalm. I confess, indeed, that the word twmzm mezimmoth, is commonly taken in a bad sense for fraud and stratagem. But as mz zamam, sometimes signifies in general to meditate, the nature of the Hebrew language will bear this meaning, that to execute his devices is of the same import as to effect what he has purposed. Now we see that these two things are connected, namely to dispose his ways according to his desires, or to prosper in his way, and to accomplish his devices. It is a very great temptation to us and difficult to bear, when we see fortune smiling upon the ungodly, as if God approved of their wickedness; nay, it excites our wrath and indignation. David, therefore, not contented with a short admonition, insists at some length upon this point.

The accumulation of terms which occurs in the next verse, in which he lays a restraint as with a bridle upon anger, allays wrath and assuages passion, it is not superfluous; but, as in necessary, he rather prescribes numerous remedies for a disease which it is difficult to cure. By this means, he reminds us how easily we are provoked, and how ready we are to take offence, unless we lay a powerful restraint upon our tumultuous passions, and keep them under control. And although the faithful are not able to subdue the lusts of the flesh without much trouble and labour, whilst the prosperity of the wicked excites their impatience, yet this repetition teaches us that we ought unceasingly to wrestle against them; for if we steadily persevere, we know that our endeavors shall not be in vain in the end. I differ from other commentators in the exposition of the last clause. They translate it, at least to do evil; as if David meant that we should appease our anger lest it should lead us to do mischief. But as the particle ˚a, ach, which they translate at least, is often used affirmatively in Hebrew, I have no doubt that David here teaches, that it cannot be otherwise than that the offense which we take at the prosperity of the wicked should lead us to sin, unless we speedily check it; as it is said in another Psalm,

“God will break the cords of the ungodly, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity,” (<19C503>Psalm 125:3.)

9. For the wicked shall be cut off. It is not without cause that he repeatedly inculcates the same thing, namely, that the happiness and prosperity which the ungodly enjoy is only a mask or phantom; for the first sight of it so dazzles our senses, that we are unable to form a proper estimate of what will be its issue, in the light of which alone we ought to judge of the value of all that has preceded. But the contrast between the two clauses of the verse ought to be observed. First, in saying that the wicked shall be cut off, he intimates that they shall flourish fresh and green till the time of their destruction shall arrive; and, secondly, in allotting the earth to the godly, saying, They shall inherit the earth, he means that they shall live in such a manner as that the blessing of God shall follow them, even to the grave. Now, as I have already said, the present condition of men is to be estimated by the state in which it will terminate. From the epithet by which he distinguishes the children of God, we learn that they are exercised by a severe conflict for the trial of their faith; for he speaks of them, not as righteous or godly, but as those that wait upon the Lord. What purpose would this waiting serve, unless they groaned under the burden of the cross? Moreover, the possession of the earth which he promises to the children of God is not always realised to them; because it is the will of the Lord that they should live as strangers and pilgrims in it; neither does he permit them to have any fixed abode in it, but rather tries them with frequent troubles, that they may desire with greater alacrity the everlasting dwelling-place of heaven. The flesh is always seeking to build its nest for ever here; and were we not tossed hither and thither, and not suffered to rest, we would by and by forget heaven and the everlasting inheritance. Yet, in the midst of this disquietude, the possession of the earth, of which David here speaks, is not taken away from the children of God; for they know most certainly that they are the rightful heirs of the world. Hence it is that they eat their bread with a quiet conscience, and although they suffer want, yet God provides for their necessities in due season. Finally, although the ungodly labor to effect their destruction, and reckon them unworthy to live upon the earth, yet God stretches forth his hand and protects them; nay, he so upholds them by his power, that they live more securely in a state of exile, than the wicked do in their nests to which they are attached. And thus the blessing, of which David speaks, is in part secret and hidden, because our reason is so dull, that we cannot comprehend what it is to possess the earth; and yet the faithful truly feel and understand that this promise is not made to them in vain, since, having fixed the anchor of their faith in God, they pass their life every day in peace, while God makes it manifest in their experience, that the shadow of his hand is sufficient to protect them.

10. Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be. This is a confirmation of the preceding verse. It might well have been objected, that the actual state of things in the world is very different from what David here represents it, since the ungodly riot in their pleasures, and the people of God pine away in sickness and poverty. David, therefore, wishing to guard us against a rash and hasty judgment, exhorts us to be quiet for a little while, till the Lord cut off the wicked entirely, and show the efficacy of his grace towards his own people. What he requires then on the part of the true believers is, that in the exercise of their wisdom they should suspend their judgment for a time, and not stop at every trifle, but exercise their thoughts in meditation upon divine providence, until God show out of heaven that the full time is come. Instead, however, of describing them as those who wait upon the Lord, he now speaks of them as the meek; and this he does not without good reason: for unless a man believe that God preserves his own people in a wonderful manner, as if they were like sheep among wolves, he will be always endeavoring to repel force by force. fb26 It is hope alone, therefore, which of itself produces meekness; for, by restraining the impetuosity of the flesh, and allaying its vehemence, it trains to equanimity and patience those who submit themselves to God. From this passage it would seem, that Christ has taken that which is written in <400505>Matthew 5:5. The word peace is generally employed in the Hebrew to denote the prosperous and happy issue of things; yet another sense will agree better with this place, namely, that while the ungodly shall be agitated with inward trouble, and God shall encompass them on every side with terror, the faithful shall rejoice in the abundance of peace. It is not meant that they are exempted from trouble, but they are sustained by the tranquillity of their minds; so that accounting all the trials which they endure to be only temporary, they now rejoice in hope of the promised rest.

<193712>Psalm 37:12-15

12. The wicked plotteth against the righteous, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. 13. But the Lord fb26 shall laugh at him; for he seeth that his day is coming. 14. The wicked draw their sword, and bend their bow, to cast down the poor and needy, and to slay those that are of upright ways. 15. But their sword shall enter into their own heart, and their bow shall be broken.

 

12. The wicked plotteth against the righteous. David here anticipates an objection which might have been taken to the preceding verse. Where, it might be said, can tranquillity and joy be found when the wicked are mad with rage, and plot every kind of mischief against the children of God? And how shall they cherish good hope for the future who see themselves surrounded with innumerable sources of death? David therefore replies, That although the life of the godly should be assailed by many dangers, yet they are secure in the aid and protection of God; and that however much the wicked should plot against them, they shall be continually preserved. Thus, the design of David is to obviate our fears, lest the malice of the ungodly should terrify us above measure, as if they had the power of doing with us according to their pleasure. fb28 He indeed confesses that they are not only full of fraud, and expert in deceiving, but also that they burn with anger, and a raging desire of doing mischief, when he says, that they plot mischief deceitfully against the righteous, and gnash upon them with their teeth. But after making this statement, he immediately adds, that their endeavors shall be vain. Yet he seems to provide very coldly for our consolation under sorrow, for he represents God as merely laughing. But if God values highly our salvation, why does he not set himself to resist the fury of our enemies, and vigorously oppose them? We know that this, as has been said in <190204>Psalm 2:4, is a proper trial of our patience, when God does not come forth at once, armed for the discomfiture of the ungodly, but connives for a time and withholds his hand. But as the eye of sense in such circumstances reckons that he delays his coming too long, and from that delay concludes that he indulges in ease, and feels no interest in the affairs of men, it is no small consolation to be able by the eye of faith to behold him laughing; for then we are assured that he is not seated idly in heaven, nor closes his eyes, resigning to chance the government of the world, but purposely delays and keeps silence because he despises their vanity and folly.

And lest the flesh should still murmur and complain, demanding why God should only laugh at the wicked, and not rather take vengeance upon them, the reason is added, that he sees the day of their destruction at hand: For he seeth that his day fb29 is coming. Whence is it that the injuries we sustain from the wickedness of man so trouble us, if it be not that, when not obtaining a speedy redress, we begin to despair of ever seeing a better state of things? But he who sees the executioner standing behind the aggressor with drawn sword no longer desires revenge, but rather exults in the prospect of speedy retribution. David, therefore, teaches us that it is not meet that God, who sees the destruction of the wicked to be at hand, should rage and fret after the manner of men. There is then a tacit distinction here made between God and men, who, amidst the troubles and confusions of the world, do not see the day of the wicked coming, and who, oppressed by cares and fears, cannot laugh, but because vengeance is delayed, rather become so impatient that they murmur and fret. It is not, however, enough for us to know that God acts in a manner altogether different from us, unless we learn to weep patiently whilst he laughs, so that our tears may be a sacrifice of obedience. In the meantime, let us pray that he would enlighten us by his light, for by this means alone will we, by beholding with the eye of faith his laughter, become partakers thereof, even in the midst of sorrow. Some, indeed, explain these two verses in another sense; as if David meant to say, that the faithful live so happily that the wicked envy them. But the reader will now perceive that this is far from the design of the prophet.

14. The wicked draw their sword, and bend their bow. David now goes on to say, that the ungodly, being armed with sword and bow, threaten with death the children of God; and this he does in order to meet the temptation which would otherwise overwhelm them. The promises of God do not have place in a time of quietness and peace, but in the midst of severe and terrible conflicts. And, therefore, David now teaches us that the righteous are not deprived of that peace of which he had spoken a little before, although the wicked should threaten them with instant death. The sentence ought to be explained in this way: Although the wicked draw their swords and bend their bows to destroy the righteous, yet all their efforts shall return upon their own heads, and shall tend to their own destruction. But it is necessary to notice the particular terms in which the miserable condition of the righteous is here described, until God at length vouchsafe to help them. First, they are called poor and needy; and, secondly, they are compared to sheep devoted to destruction, fb30 because they have no power to withstand the violence of their enemies, but rather lie oppressed under their feet. Whence it follows, that a uniform state of enjoyment here is not promised to them in this psalm, but there is only set before them the hope of a blessed issue to their miseries and afflictions, in order to console them under them. But as it often happens that the wicked are hated and treated with severity for their iniquity, the Psalmist adds, that those who thus suffered were those who were of upright ways; meaning by this, that they were afflicted without cause. Formerly he described them as the upright in heart, by which he commended the inward purity of the heart; but now he commends uprightness in the conduct, and in fulfilling every duty towards our neighbor; and thus he shows not only that they are unjustly persecuted, because they have done no evil to their enemies, and have given them no cause of offense, but also, that though provoked by injuries, they nevertheless do not turn aside from the path of duty.

In the 15th verse, David is not speaking of the laughter of God, but is denouncing vengeance against the ungodly, just as we have already seen in the second psalm, at the fourth verse, that although God, by conniving at the wicked, has often suffered them for a time to run to every excess in mirth and rioting, yet he at length speaks to them in his anger to overthrow them. The amount of what is stated is, that the ungodly should prevail so little, that the sword which they had drawn should return into their own bowels, and that their bow should be broken in pieces.

<193716>Psalm 37:16-19

16. Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. fb31 17. For the arms of the wicked shall be broken; but Jehovah upholdeth the righteous. 18. Jehovah knoweth the days of the upright, and their inheritance shall be everlasting. 19. They shall not be ashamed in the season of adversity; and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.

 

16. Better is the little of the righteous, etc. This verse, without any sufficient reason, has been variously rendered. The word ˆwmh, hamon, fb32 which is rendered abundance, indeed, sometimes signifies a great multitude of men, and sometimes abundance of things; sometimes, too, an adjective of the plural number is joined to a substantive of the singular number. But those who wrest David’s words to this sense, that a few righteous persons are better than a great multitude of the ungodly, fb33 plainly destroy their import, and pervert the meaning of the whole sentence. Nor can I receive the explanation which others have given, that the little which the just man possesses is better than the great abundance of the wicked; for I see no necessity for connecting, contrary to the rules of grammar, the word ˆwmh, hamon, which denotes abundance, with the word ybr, rabbim. which signifies many or great, and not with the word y[r, reshaim, which means wicked. I have therefore no doubt; that David here contrasts the limited possessions of one righteous man with the riches and wealth of many wicked men. The Hebrew word ybr, rabbim, however, which I have rendered many, may also be properly taken to denote persons of great authority and power. Certainly, it is not difficult to understand that David means to say, that although the wicked excel in this world, and are enriched with its possessions in great abundance and trust in their riches, yet the little which the just man possesses is far better than all their treasures. From this we learn, that David is here speaking, not so much of external grandeur and wealth, as of the secret blessing of God which truly enriches the righteous; for although they live from hand to mouth, yet are they fed from heaven as it were with manna; while the ungodly are always hungry, or else waste away in the very midst of their abundance.

To this also belongs the reason which is added in the next verse, namely, that there is nothing stable in the world except it be sustained by the power of God; but we are plainly told that the righteous only are upheld by him, and that the power of the ungodly shall be broken. Here again we see, that in order to form a right and proper estimate of true felicity, we must look forward to the future, or contemplate by the eye of faith the secret grace of God, and his hidden judgments. Unless we are persuaded by faith that God cherishes us in his bosom as a father does his children, our poverty will always be a source of trouble to us; and, on the other hand, unless we bear in mind what is here said concerning the wicked, that their arms shall be broken, we will make too great account of their present condition. But if this doctrine be deeply fixed in the hearts of the faithful, as soon as they shall have learned to rely upon the divine blessing, the delight and joy which they will experience from their little store shall be equal to the magnanimity with which they shall look down, as it were from an eminence, upon the vast treasures in which the ungodly glory. At the same time, we are here admonished, that whilst the ungodly rely upon their own strength, and proudly boast of it, we ought to wait patiently till God arise and break their arms in pieces. As for us, the best consolation which we could have in our infirmity is, that God himself upholds and strengthens us.

18. Jehovah knoweth the days of the upright. fb34 It is not without good reason that David so frequently inculcates this doctrine, that the righteous are blessed because God provides for their necessities. We see how prone the minds of men are to distrust, and how much they are vexed by an excess of cares and anxieties from which they are unable to extricate themselves, while, on the other hand, they fall into another error in being more anxious regarding the future than there is any reason for; and yet, however active and industrious in the formation of their plans, they are often disappointed in their expectations, and not unfrequently fail altogether of success. Nothing, therefore, is more profitable for us than to have our eyes continually set upon the providence of God, which alone can best provide for us every thing we need. On this account, David now says, that God knoweth the days of the righteous; that is to say, he is not ignorant of the dangers to which they are exposed, and the help which they need. This doctrine we ought to improve as a source of consolation under every vicissitude which may seem to threaten us with destruction. We may be harassed in various ways, and distracted by many dangers, which every moment threaten us with death, but this consideration ought to prove to us a sufficient ground of comfort, that not only are our days numbered by God, but that he also knows all the vicissitudes of our lot on earth. Since God then so carefully watches over us for the maintenance of our welfare, we ought to enjoy, in this our pilgrimage on earth, as much peace and satisfaction as if we were put in full possession of our paternal inheritance and home. Because we are regarded by God, David from this concludes, that our inheritance is everlasting. Moreover, in declaring that those who are upright are thus carefully protected by God, he exhorts us to the sincere pursuit of truth and uprightness; and if we desire to be placed in safety under the protection of God, let us cultivate meekness, and reject with detestation this hellish proverb, “We must howl among wolves.”

19. They shall not be ashamed in the season of adversity. This verse also shows us, that the faithful have no right to expect such exemption as the flesh would desire from affliction and trial, but they are assured of deliverance in the end; which, though it be indeed obtained, yet it is of such a nature as can be realised only by faith. We must regard these two things as inseparably connected, namely, that as the faithful are mingled among the wicked in this world, so hunger and adversity are common to both. The only difference betwixt them is, that God stretches forth his hand towards his own people in the time of their need, while he abandons the ungodly, and takes no care of them. If it should be objected, that the wicked often fare sumptuously in the time of famine, and gratify all their desires, whilst the faithful are oppressed with poverty and want, I answer, that the fullness of which mention is here made consists chiefly in this, that the faithful, though they live sparingly, and often labor hard to acquire the means of subsistence, are nevertheless fed by God as truly as if they had a greater abundance of this world’s goods than the ungodly, who greedily devour the good things of this life in all their variety and abundance, and yet are never satisfied. Besides, as I have elsewhere said, these temporal blessings are not always seen flowing in one uniform course. The hand of God is indeed always open, but we are straitened and limited in our desires, so that our own unbelief is no small hinderance to his liberality. Moreover, as our corrupt nature would soon break forth into excess, God deals with us more sparingly; and lest he might corrupt us by too great indulgence, he trains us to frugality by bestowing with a sparing hand what he was ready otherwise to lavish upon us in full abundance. And, indeed, whoever shall consider how much addicted we are to sensuality and pleasure, will not be surprised that God should exercise his own people with poverty and want. But although God may not bestow upon us what is necessary for our gratification, yet, unless our own ingratitude prevent us, we shall experience, even in famine and want, that be nourishes us graciously and liberally.

<193720>Psalm 37:20-22

20. For the wicked shalt perish, and the enemies of Jehovah shall be consumed as the preciousness fb35 of lambs; they shalt be consumed into smoke. fb36 21. The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again; but the righteous is merciful, and giveth. 22. For those who are blessed by him shall inherit the earth; and those who are cursed of him shall be cut off.

 

20. For the wicked shall perish. The causal particle yk, ki, which is here translated for, might also be rendered as if used adversatively by but or although, unless, perhaps, some would prefer to expound the sentence as of much higher import. But the preferable interpretation is, that there is here a contrast between the subjects spoken of, namely, that the righteous are satisfied in the time of famine, whereas the ungodly shall perish in the midst of their affluence; for, while they trust in their abundance, God brings them to nought by the use of means that are secret and hidden. In calling them the enemies of Jehovah, he teaches us, that they are justly overwhelmed by his vengeance, which they bring upon themselves by their own wickedness. When he says, that they shall be consumed as the excellency of lambs, this is understood by some to refer to the fat of them. But as rky, yakar, signifies excellency, as I have said elsewhere, I have no doubt that this expression denotes the very best of lambs, and such as are of extraordinary fatness: and this is very suitable to the contrast here stated. We learn from this what another prophet likewise teaches, that the ungodly are fattened for the day of slaughter; so that the more sumptuously they shall have lived, the more suddenly shall their destruction come upon them. To be consumed into smoke is of the same import as to vanish away quickly; as if it had been said, There is no stability or substance in them. Those who understand the term rqy, yakar, to mean fat, explain this latter clause in this sense: that the wicked are consumed into smoke as fat melts or wastes away. fb37 But the reader will see that the first interpretation is better.

21. The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again. Those are mistaken who suppose that the wicked are here blamed for their treachery in carrying off the goods of others by fraud and deception; and that, on the other hand, the children of God are commended for their kindness in being always ready to relieve the wants of their poorer brethren. The prophet rather extols, on the one hand, the blessing of God towards the godly; and declares, on the other, that the ungodly never have enough. The meaning therefore is, that God deals bountifully with his own people, that they may be able to aid others; but that the ungodly are always in want, so that their poverty leads them to have recourse to fraud and rapine. And were we not blinded by insensibility and indifference, we could not fail to perceive the many proofs of this which are daily presented to our view. However great the abundance of the ungodly, yet their covetousness is so insatiable, that, like robbers, they plunder right and left, and yet are never able to pay; fb38 while God bestows upon his own people a sufficiency not only for the supply of their own ordinary wants, but also to enable them to aid others. I do not indeed deny, that the wicked are reproved for wasteful extravagance, by which they defraud their creditors of what is their due, and also that the righteous are praised for applying to a proper use the bounty of God; but the design of the prophet is to show the high value of the divine blessing. This is confirmed by the following verse, in which he illustrates the difference resulting from the blessing and the curse of God. It then it is asked, whence the children of God are able to relieve the wants of the needy, and to exercise liberality towards them? and why it is that the ungodly are continually contracting debts from which they are never able to extricate themselves? David answers, that the former are blessed of the Lord, and that the latter are brought to utter ruin by his curse. Some expound the word wykrbm, meborakayv, actively, as if it were, Those who bless the righteous shall possess, etc.; fb39 but this is constrained and absurd. The meaning is simply this, that whatever we need for the preservation and maintenance of life, and for the exercise of humanity towards others, comes to us neither from the heavens nor from the earth, but only from the favor and blessing of God; and that if he once withdraw his grace, the abundance of the whole world would not satisfy us.

<193723>Psalm 37:23-26

23. The footsteps of a man are directed by Jehovah, and he will delight [or, take pleasure] in his way. 24. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for Jehovah upholdeth him with his hand. 25. I have been young, I am also become old; and yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. 26. He is daily merciful, and lendeth, and his seed is for blessing.

 

23. The footsteps of a man are directed by Jehovah. Some join together these two things, first, that the footsteps of the godly are ordered by the grace of God, since men do not in their own strength follow what is just and right, but only in so far as the Spirit of God directs them; and hence the second follows, namely, that God favors and approves what is his own. But David simply continues his commendation of the divine blessing towards the faithful, of whom this is especially worthy of being remembered, that whatever they undertake always has a favorable and happy result. At the same time, the reason why God crowns with prosperity and success all our efforts throughout the course of our life is to be observed, namely, because we attempt nothing which is not pleasing to him. For I consider the copula and, in the second clause of the verse, to be used instead of the causal particle because, and resolve the whole verse in this way: Because the way of the godly is acceptable to God, he directs their footsteps to a happy issue; so that the meaning is, As God sees that the faithful act conscientiously, and do not turn aside from the way which he has appointed, he blesses their efforts. And, certainly, since the prophet speaks generally — and yet it is certain that the faithful only are here spoken of — the second clause must necessarily be considered as spoken by way of exposition. Accordingly, the term way denotes their manner and course of living; as if he had said, that the godly have no other object in view but to frame their lives agreeably to the will of God, and to obey what he commands. The term footsteps I consider as referring to external success.

24. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down. This verse has generally been interpreted proverbially, and as meaning, that though the righteous may fall into sin, his fall is not deadly; but this is not at all in accordance with the design of the prophet, who is discoursing of the happiness of the godly. The simple meaning is, that when God visits his servants with severe afflictions, he at the same time mitigates them that they may not faint under them; fb40 as Paul declares,

“We are persecuted, but not forsaken;
cast down, but not destroyed.”— (<470409>2 Corinthians 4:9)

Some say that the righteous are not utterly cast down, because they lose not their courage, but rather bear with invincible fortitude whatever burden is laid upon them. I readily admit that the reason why they are not overwhelmed is, that they are not so tender and delicate as to sink under the burden. I, however, understand the words in a more extensive sense, and explain them thus: That the miseries of the godly are so tempered with God’s fatherly mercy, that they fail not under their burden, and even when they fall, sink not into destruction. From these words we learn that the godly, although they serve God sincerely, and study to lead a blameless life, are not suffered to continue unmoved, and always in the same condition, but are often afflicted and cast down by various trials; and that the only difference between them and the unbelieving is, that their falls are not deadly. We know that if God smite the reprobate, though it be but very slightly, it becomes the cause of their final destruction. Solomon speaks still more expressly when he says,

“For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again,”
 (<202416>Proverbs 24:16,)

and by these words he teaches us, that the godly are not only subjected to frequent afflictions in this life, but that they are visited with daily trials, and yet are never forsaken of the Lord. We must also shortly observe, that even the slightest fall would be enough to destroy us utterly, did not God uphold us by his hand.

25. I have been young, I am also become old. The meaning of these words is not in the least doubtful, namely, that David, even when he was become an old man, had not seen any of the righteous, or any of their children, begging their bread. But here there arises a question of some difficulty with respect to the fact stated; for it is certain that many righteous men have been reduced to beggary. And what David here declares as the result of his own experience pertains to all ages. Besides, he refers in this verse to the writings of Moses, for in <051504>Deuteronomy 15:4, begging is reckoned among the curses of God; and the law, in that place, expressly exempts from it those who fear and serve God. How then does the consistency of this appear, that none of the righteous ever begged his bread, since Christ placed Lazarus among the most abject of them? (<421620>Luke 16:20.) I answer, that we must bear in mind what I have before said upon this subject, that with respect to the temporal blessings which God confers upon his people, no certain or uniform rule can be established. There are various reasons why God does not manifest his favor equally to all the godly in this world. He chastises some, while he spares others: he heals the secret maladies of some, and passes by others, because they have no need of a like remedy: he exercises the patience of some, according as he has given them the spirit of fortitude; and, finally, he sets forth others by way of example. But in general, he humbles all of them by the tokens of his anger, that by secret warnings they may be brought to repentance. Besides, he leads them, by a variety of afflictions, to fix their thoughts in meditation upon the heavenly life; and yet it is not a vain or imaginary thing, that, as is set forth in the Law, God vouchsafes earthly blessings to his servants as proofs of his favor toward them. I confess, I say, that it is not in vain, or for nought, that an abundance of earthly blessings, sufficient for the supply of all their wants, is promised to the godly. This, however, is always to be understood with this limitation, that God will bestow these blessings only in so far as he shall consider it expedient: and, accordingly, it may happen that the blessing of God may be manifested in the life of men in general, and yet some of the godly be pinched with poverty, because it is for their good. But if it happen that any of the faithful are brought to beggary, they should lift up their minds on high, to that blessed state in which God will largely recompense them for all that is now wanting in the blessings of this transitory life. We must also bear this in mind, that if God sometimes involve the faithful in the same punishments by which he takes vengeance upon the ungodly — seeing them, for example, affected with the same diseases, — in doing so there is no inconsistency; for although they do not come the length of contemning God, nor are devoted to wickedness, nor even act according to their own inclination, nor yield themselves wholly to the influence of sin like the wicked, yet are they not free of all blame; and, therefore, it need not surprise us though they are sometimes subjected to temporal punishments. We are, however, certain of this, that God makes such provision for his own people, that, being contented with their lot, they are never in want; because, by living sparingly, they always have enough, as Paul says, Philippians 6:12,

“I am instructed both to abound and to suffer need.”

26. He is daily merciful. The Psalmist here repeats what he had already said, that the grace of God is a fountain of all blessings which can never be exhausted; and, therefore, while it is displayed towards the faithful, they not only have enough for the supply of their own wants, but are able also liberally to assist others. What he adds concerning their seed is variously expounded. That he is speaking of the children of the godly, there can be no doubt; and this is evident from the preceding verse. But when he says that they shall be for blessing, fb41 some understand it as if he had said, They shall be the ministers of God’s liberality: so that, according to them, the sense would be, that they shall follow the good example of their fathers in helping the poor, and in exercising liberality towards all men. But I fear that this exposition is too refined. Nor do I admit the interpretation which has been given by others, that the meaning is, that the grace of God shall be so signally manifested towards the children of the godly, that their names shall be employed in a form of prayer, when prosperity and success are prayed for. This mode of expression, I allow, is to be so understood in various places; but here, in my opinion, David designs nothing more than to extol the continuation of God’s favor from the fathers to their children: as if he had said, God’s blessing does not terminate with the death of the righteous man, but it extends even to his children. fb42 And there is indeed no inheritance more certain to which our children may succeed us, than when God, receiving them in like manner into his fatherly favor, makes them partakers of his blessing.

<193727>Psalm 37:27-29

27. Depart from evil, and do good, and dwell for ever. 28. For Jehovah loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his meek ones: they shall be preserved for ever: and the seed of the wicked shall be cut off. 29. The righteous shall inherit the earth, and shall dwell for ever upon it.

 

27. Depart from evil, and do good. In this verse David argues, that, in order to realize the blessedness of which he has spoken, we must abstain from all evil, perform the duties of humanity, and exert ourselves in doing good to our neighbors. This doctrine is at variance with the dictates of corrupt human nature; but it is, notwithstanding, certain that many of the troubles and distresses in which the whole human race are involved, proceed from no other cause than this, that every man respectively, in his own sphere, being given to injustice, fraud, extortion, and evil-dealing, contemptuously rejects the blessing of God. Thus, it is in consequence of the barriers which men throw in their own way, that they do not attain happiness in this world, and that every man in his own place does not possess the peace and quietness which belong to him. It is then with the highest propriety that David passes from the doctrine of the preceding context to this exhortation: for if the meek possess the earth, then every one, as he regards his own happiness and peace, ought also to endeavor to walk uprightly, and to apply himself to works of beneficence. It should also be observed, that he connects these two things, first, that the faithful should strictly do good; and, secondly, that they should restrain themselves from doing evil: and this he does not without good reason: for as we have seen in the thirty-fourth psalm, it often happens that the same person who not only acts kindly towards certain persons, but even with a bountiful hand deals out largely of his own, is yet all the while plundering others, and amassing by extortion the resources by means of which he displays his liberality. Whoever, therefore, is desirous to have his good offices approved by God, let him endeavor to relieve his brethren who have need of his help, but let him not injure one in order to help another, or afflict and grieve one in order to make another glad. Now David, under these two expressions, has briefly comprised the duties of the second table of the law: first, that the godly should keep their hands free from all mischief, and give no occasion of complaint to any man; and, secondly, that they should not live to themselves, and to the promotion merely of their own private interests, but should endeavor to promote the common good of all according to their opportunities, and as far as they are able. But we have already said, that the blessing which is promised to the righteous, that “they shall inherit the earth,” is not always realised in an equal degree as to all the people of God; and the reason we assigned for this is, that God cannot find among men an example of such great uprightness, but that even the most perfect procure to themselves much misery by their own fault: and therefore it need not surprise us though God withdraw, at least in some measure, his blessing even from his own. We know too to what excess the lusts of the flesh run riot, unless the Lord lay a restraint upon them. Besides, there is no one who is ready cheerfully to engage in meditation upon the divine life, who is not urged and encouraged to it by various motives. Hence it is that the possession of the earth, which David here assigns to the children of God, does not (as the lawyers would define the term) always consist in having the feet planted within it, and in being securely established in it; for there are many sources of disquietude and affliction here to trouble them. And yet it does not follow that it is a mere fiction or imaginary thing which he promises. For although daily experience shows us that the children of God do not as yet inherit the earth, yet, according to the measure of our faith, we feel how efficacious the blessing of God is, which, like a spring that cannot be drained, flows continually. They are indeed more than blind who do not perceive that the righteous have at present this reward, that God defends and upholds them by his power.

28. For Jehovah loveth judgement. This, it ought to be observed, is a confirmation of the doctrine contained in the preceding sentence; and it is here made to rest upon a higher principle, namely, that God takes pleasure in righteousness and truth. The argument indeed appears to be incomplete; but as David takes for granted — what ought to be deeply fixed in the hearts of all the faithful — that the world is directed by the providence of God, his conclusion is admirable. In the first place, then, it must be admitted that the condition of the human race is not under the direction of chance, but of the providence of God, and that the world is conducted and governed by his counsel: so that he regulates according to his pleasure the issue of all things, and controls them by his power; and, secondly, to this it must be added what David here states, that righteousness and truth are pleasing to God. Hence it follows, that all who lead an upright and blameless life among men shall be happy, because, enjoying the favor of God, every thing at length must in regard to them have a happy and successful result. But let us bear in mind, that the promise which is spoken of in this verse is to be understood in this sense, that while God has undertaken the preservation of the godly, it is not to cherish them continually in retirement and ease, but after he has for a time exercised them under the cross, at length to come to their help: for the language here employed, Jehovah forsaketh not his meek ones, is tacitly very emphatic. Those, therefore, who separate the exercise of patience from the favor which God bestows upon the godly in this life, misinterpret this psalm. On the contrary, lest any one should hastily and rashly pronounce judgment, the prophet entreats the faithful to suspend their judgment, until God manifest his displeasure after the death of the wicked, in inflicting punishment upon their posterity: The seed of the wicked shall be cut off. This is of the same import as if he had again asserted, that although the judgements of God are not immediately executed upon the wicked and ungodly, yet they are not on that account anything the better of it, since the punishment justly due to them will extend to their children. If then the curse of God is not forthwith inflicted upon them, it need not surprise us if he delay for a time to manifest the favor which he bears towards the faithful.

29. The righteous shall inherit the earth. The repetition of the same doctrine here is not superfluous, since it is so very difficult to impress it deeply upon our minds. For while all men seek after happiness, scarcely one in a hundred looks for it from God, but rather all, on the contrary, in making provision for themselves, provoke the vengeance of God, as it were deliberately, and strive to excel each other in doing so, so that some of them stain themselves with fraud and perjury, some indulge in robbery and extortion, some practice all sorts of cruelty, and others commit violence and outrage even with the sword and poison. Moreover, I have just now, and on several other occasions, stated the sense in which this everlasting habitation upon the earth, which is here promised to the righteous, is to be understood, namely, that although they are surrounded by the troubles and changes which occur in this world, yet God preserves them under his wings; and although there is nothing lasting or stable under heaven, yet he keeps them in safety as if they were sheltered in a secure haven. And, finally, they enjoy in addition to this that inward peace of mind which is better than a hundred lives, and which is therefore justly regarded as a privilege surpassing in value and importance all others.

<193730>Psalm 37:30-33

30. The mouth of the righteous will speak wisdom, and his tongue will utter judgment. 31. The law of his God is in his heart: his steps shall not slide. 32. The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him. 33. Jehovah will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged.

 

30. The mouth of the righteous will speak wisdom. As it is customary with hypocrites confidently to draw to their own advantage whatever the Spirit of God declares concerning the just and upright, David here gives a definition of the righteousness which God requires on the part of his children, and divides it into three principal parts — that their speech should be in sincerity and truth; that the law of God should reign in their heart; and that they should order their conversation aright. Some give a different exposition of the first part from what we have given: they say that the righteous serve as teachers and guides, by instructing others to live well, and leading them in the way; and, therefore, to speak wisdom, and to utter judgment, is, in their view, of the same import as to instruct others in holy doctrine, and to train them to the fear of God. I do not altogether disapprove of this exposition, but I fear it is too restricted. Wisdom and uprightness are here opposed as much to the profane and filthy language by which the wicked endeavor to blot out the name of God, as to cunning and fraud, and every species of stratagem and deceit; and also to the threats and terrors by which they endeavor to frighten the simple. fb43 The meaning therefore is, first, that the righteous speak honourably and reverently of the righteousness of God, that they may cherish in themselves and others, to a large extent, the knowledge and the fear of God; fb44 secondly, that both in their own affairs and those of others, they approve, without disguise or deceit, of what is just and reasonable, and are not given to justify what is wrong under the color and varnish of sophistry; and, finally, that they never depart from the truth.

To this there is added integrity of heart: The law of the Lord is in his heart. This, though it should precede in point of order, is not improperly put in the second place here. For the Scriptures are not particular in observing an exact arrangement in the enumeration of virtues and vices. Besides, the source whence this integrity of heart proceeds is, that the Law of God has its seat in the heart; and it is it alone which prescribes the best rule of life, restrains all the depraved affections and lusts, and imbues the minds of men with the love of righteousness. No man will constantly and steadily devote himself to a life of uprightness, exert himself in behalf of others in preference to his own personal interests, renounce covetousness, subdue pride, and maintain a constant warfare with his own nature, unless he is endued with the fear of God. There next follows the third division, which relates to the external conduct: His steps shall not slide. Some, indeed, think that this is a promise; but I have no doubt, that in this clause David still continues the definition of righteousness. The meaning therefore is, that although the children of God are tempted in a variety of ways to commit sin, and many things occur urging them to it, — and although men, for the most part, too, endeavor, as far as in them lies, by their maliciousness to turn them aside from the fear of God, — yet, because the Law of God rules and reigns in their hearts, they do not slide, but stand to their purpose with firm and determined resolution, or at least adhere to the right course.

32. and 33. The wicked watcheth the righteous, etc. David here illustrates more plainly the nature of the possession of the earth, of which he had spoken, namely, that God preserves his own people, though they are beset with enemies round about. And hence we are again taught, that the faithful are not promised in the preceding context a quiet state of life, and one free from all trouble and distress. If so, these two statements would be contradictory: first, that the faithful possessing an inheritance, enjoy repose and pleasure; and, secondly, that yet they are daily delivered as sheep out of the mouth of wolves. These two verses, however, contain this special ground of consolation, that the faithful, though surrounded by such a variety of dangers, shall notwithstanding escape, and be preserved in safety by the help of God. Accordingly, David here teaches them, that when they shall see their enemies lying in wait for them, and seeking by every means in their power to annoy them, they, on the contrary, ought to consider how deeply interested God is in the welfare of his own people, and how carefully he watches over them to preserve them in safety. David indeed confesses that the stratagems to which the wicked have recourse in seeking not only to deprive good men of their property, but even to take away their lives, are terrible in themselves, because they cruelly plot their destruction; but still he teaches us at the same time, that we ought to continue to preserve firm and undaunted courage, because God has promised that he will be our guardian and defender: Jehovah will not leave him in his hand. This circumstance, however, ought to be considered, that God does not always grant us deliverance at the first, but often delays it till we seem to be even at the point of death. In the last clause of the verse, we are also admonished, that however carefully good men may guard against giving offense to any, and endeavor to secure the good-will of all, and shun debate and strife, yet they shall not be exempted from false accusations: Jehovah will not condemn them when they are judged. David does not say that they shall receive the applause of the world, and that their virtues shall be celebrated in such praises as they deserve; but he exhorts them, when they shall be haled to judgment, and as it were overwhelmed with slander, so that they already resemble those who are condemned, to rest contented with the protection of God, who will at length manifest their innocence, and maintain it against the unrighteous judgments of men. If any one object, that, on the contrary, many of the children of God, after having been condemned, have suffered a cruel and bitter death, I answer, that their avenger nevertheless is in heaven. Christ was put to death in the most cruel form, and in circumstances of the deepest ignominy, but notwithstanding, as the prophet Isaiah says, <235308>Isaiah 53:8, “he was taken from that distress and condemnation;” and in the same manner God is still acting daily towards those who are his members. If it may still be objected, that David is here discoursing not of the life to come, but of the state of the godly in the present life, I must again repeat in answer to this, the explanation which I have given before, namely, that earthly blessings are at God’s disposal, and are regulated entirely according to his will; and hence it is that he never bestows them in an equal measure upon all, but according to his wisdom, and as he sees meet, sometimes withdrawing them either in whole or in part, and at other times displaying them to the view of all. Accordingly, it may happen, that the holy martyrs, after they have been condemned, may also be put to death, as if God had forsaken them; but this is only because it is better for themselves, and because they desire nothing more than to glorify God by their death. Yet he who permits the ungodly to exercise their cruelty, ceases not to be the assertor of the righteousness of his servants: for he openly shows before his angels, and before his whole Church, that he approves it, and declares that he will make inquisition for it; nay, more, raising them from the darkness in which they have been hid, he makes their ashes yield a sweet and pleasant odour. Finally, after the Lord has suffered them to be overwhelmed by reproach and violence, he will pronounce the judgment by which he will vindicate their righteous cause from wicked calumnies and false accusations.

<193734>Psalm 37:34-36

34. Wait upon Jehovah, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee, that thou mayest inherit the earth: when the wicked are cut off thou shalt see it. 35. I have seen the wicked terrible, fb45 and spreading himself like a green bay tree: fb46 36. And he passed away, fb47 and, lo! he was not: and I sought for his place, and he was not found.

 

34. Wait upon Jehovah, and keep his way. David again returns to the style of exhortation, in order that the faithful, trusting to God’s promises and sustained by them, may not suffer themselves to be drawn hither and thither by any temptations through devious and sinful ways, but may persevere stedfastly in the service of God. In the first place, he exhorts them to hope and patience, as if he wished them, amidst the tumults and troubles of life, to trust in God, and hold their peace till he again show them his countenance, which for a time he had hid from them. Hence arises, in the second place, another exhortation, that they should not turn aside from the way of the Lord; for wherever hope and patience prevail, they will so restrain the minds of men that they will not break out into any thing unlawful and wicked. It will doubtless be found, that the reason why every man endeavors to promote his own advantage by wicked practices is, that no one depends upon God, or else that he thinks, if fortune do not quickly smile upon him, that it is vain for him to persevere in the practice of equity and uprightness. Moreover, we may learn from this place, that if many, even of the good and the upright, are subjected to poverty, and lead a life of protracted affliction and trial, they suffer their punishment justly, because, so far from being firmly persuaded that it belongs to God as his proper office not only to lift up his servants from the dunghill, but also to bring them forth even from their graves, scarcely one in a hundred of them patiently waits upon God, and continues perseveringly in the right course. Nor is it without good reason that David makes use of the word exalt, that we may know that God often stretches forth his hand to the faithful when they appear to be overwhelmed by the weight of their calamities. He then adds, that the wicked shall perish before the eyes of the godly. If their end were not very different from that of the righteous, the state in which the reprobate now rejoice for a time would easily allure even the best of men to evil. And, indeed, God would make us daily to behold such sights if we had eyes to behold his judgments. And yet, although the whole world were blinded, God does not cease to render a just reward to the wickedness of men; but by punishing them in a more private manner, he withdraws from us that fruit of which our own dulness deprives us.

35. and 36. I have seen the wicked terrible, etc. David here confirms from his own experience what I have just said, namely, that although the wicked are intoxicated with their prosperity, and held in admiration by all on account of it, yet their happiness is transitory and evanescent, and, therefore, nothing else than a mere illusion. In the 35th verse he tells us, that it is no strange or unwonted thing for the ungodly, puffed up with their prosperity, to spread themselves far and wide, and to give occasion of terror to the innocent. Then he adds, that their greatness, which had been regarded with so much wonder, disappears in a moment. As to the meaning of the words, ≈yr[, arits, which we have rendered terrible, might also be translated strong, because the word from which it is derived signifies sometimes to terrify, and sometimes to strengthen. The word hr[tm, mithareh, is taken by some for green, but it rather means discovering or spreading himself out, as high and broad trees spread out their branches. David, I have no doubt, here rebukes the insolence of those who vaunt themselves immoderately. To pass away, in the 36th verse, is used for to vanish away; and thus he admonishes us to sit still for a time, in order that it may appear, after it has passed away, that all that the world admires in the prosperity of the wicked has been only a mist.

<193737>Psalm 37:37-40

37. Observe the perfect man, and consider the just for the end of that man is peace. 38. But the transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off. 39. The salvation of the righteous is from Jehovah: he is their strength in the time of trouble. 40. Jehovah shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked: he shall preserve them, because they trust in him.

 

37. Observe the perfect man. David exhorts the faithful diligently to consider every instance they may meet with of the grace of God, as well as of his judgment; but he teaches, at the same time, that it is in vain for any to sit in judgment upon the first aspect of things. When men do not wait patiently and quietly the time which God has appointed in his good pleasure, it often happens that faith is extinguished, and trust in the promises of God, at the same time, perishes with it. This is the reason why David exhorts us to observe and consider, for when our minds are preoccupied by the temptation which is once presented to our view, hasty judgment is then the cause of our being deceived. But if a man extend his view, as if it were from a watch-tower, to a great distance, he will find that it has been said with truth, that the end of the reprobate and the end of the righteous respectively are at length very different. This clause, with respect to the end of these two classes of men, seems to be added by way of caution, that we may learn to suspend our judgment, if God should not immediately accomplish what he has spoken. If we should become impatient in our desires, let us moderate our minds by the reflection, that the end is not yet come, and that it behoves us to give God time to restore to order the confused state of things. Some explain the word tyrja, acharith, which we have rendered the end of the wicked, of their posterity. This, however, is incorrect. David refers only to the difference which subsists between them and the righteous in the end; for God, after he has severely tried his servants, and exercised their patience, in the end converts their adversity into a blessing, while he turns the mirth of the ungodly into mourning.

39. The salvation of the righteous is from Jehovah. The sum of the whole is, that whatever may happen, the righteous shall be saved, because they are in the hand of God, and can never be forgotten by him. This ought to be particularly noticed, that those who are greatly afflicted may be sustained by the assurance that the salvation which they expect from God is infallibly certain, because God is eternal, and governs the world by his power; as Christ said,

“My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all,”
(<431029>John 10:29.)

David still inculcates this principle, that as righteousness is approved of God, it can never happen that he should forsake his faithful servants, and deprive them of his help. He, therefore, exhorts true believers to depend upon God, not only when things prosper according to their desires, but even when they are sorely afflicted. By these words he teaches that it is enough, if God only impart strength to his servants, so that, when severely afflicted and oppressed with anguish, they may not faint under it, or that, when groaning under the weight of severe afflictions, they may not sink under the burden. To the same purpose also is the expression which David uses twice in the last verse, that God will deliver. By this he admonishes the children of God to learn patiently to endure afflictions, and that, if God should prolong them, they should often recall this to their remembrance, that after he has tried their patience, he will in the end deliver them.


Footnotes

PSALM 19

fta406 “L’entour du ciel et de l’air.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, the cope or vault of the heaven and of the air.” Bishop Mant reads also expanse, which he considers more correct than firmament. “The latter word,” says he, “is adopted from the Greek version; but the Hebrew word is derived from a verb, signifying to spread abroad, stretch forth, extend, expand. The proper rendering therefore is, ‘expanse,’ agreeably to other passages of Scripture which speak of the Creator as stretching out the heavens as a curtain, and spreading them out as a tent to dwell in.” (See <19A402>Psalm 104:2; <234022>Isaiah 40:22.) “The expanse of heaven is a frequent phrase with Milton, as with other poets.”

fta407 “Un jour desgorge propos a l’autre jour, et la nuict declare science a l’autre nuict.” — Fr. “One day uttereth speech to another day, and the night declares knowledge to another night.

fta408 Dr Geddes has remarked, in reference to this psalm, that “no poem ever contained a finer argument against Atheism, nor one better expressed.”

fta409 Both Calvin and the translators of our English version appear to have followed the Septuagint and Vulgate versions in inserting the word where, which is not in the Hebrew text.

fta410 “C’est as avoir ces mots, Lequel, Laquelle, etc., comme yci Il n’y a langage, il n’y a paroles esquelles la voix de ceux ne soit ouye.” — Fr.

fta411 ylb, beli, commonly signifies not; but it is also often used for all sort of exclusive particles, without, besides, unless. Hence Grotius renders it here without. As, lb bal, means in Arabic but, and as the Arabic is just a dialect of the Hebrew, Hammond concludes that this may have been its meaning among the Jews; and therefore proposes to render the verse thus:— “Not speech, nor words, but, or notwithstanding, [ylb, beli, ] their voice is, or has been heard.”

fta412 “Et se fait ouir en totals endroits.” — Fr.

fta413 The reading in the English Geneva Bible is, “Their line is gone forth through all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” The marginal note in explanation of this is, “The heavens are as a line of great capital letters to show unto us God’s glory.”

fta414 Paul reads, “their sound,” quoting from the Septuagint, the version of the Old Testament then chiefly used, and it employs here the word fqo>ggov.

fta415 “Quasi stadia.” — Lat. “Comme des lieues ordonnees dedans les quelles elles font leurs courses.” — Fr.

fta416 “Aucuns l’entendent de sa chaleur vegetative, qu’on appelle, c’est dire par laquelle ces choses basses ont vigueur, sont maintenues, et prenent accrossement.” — Fr.

fta417 Here our author uses Dominus, but in the Hebrew text it is hwhy, Yehovah.

fta418 In Tyndale’s Bible the reading is, “And giveth wisdom even unto babes.” Babes is the word employed in most of the versions.

fta419 In the Hebrew text it is hwhy, Yehovah.

fta420 “Apres lesquelles les hommes se tourmentent en vain.” — Fr.

fta421 “Et ce qui distille des rais de miel.” — Fr.

fta422 “Lequel les Latins ont nomm, Aurum obryzum.” — Fr.

fta423 The rendering of the Septuagint is, liqon timion , precious stone; and in <19B9127>Psalm 119:127, they translate the same Hebrew word, topazion, a topaz, which is a precious stone. This last Greek word, according to Hesychius, is derived from the Hebrew word zp, paz.

fta424 The word is evidently used for fine gold in <192103>Psalm 21:3, and <182817>Job 28:17.

fta425 Or to consolidate:and hence zp, paz, means solid gold, or gold “well purified” for the more it is purified, it is the more solid, and consequently of greater weight and value.

fta426 “Veu qu’en commandant elle nous espouante, a cause que nous deraillons tous en l’observation d’icelle?” — Fr.

fta427Ses fautes.” — Fr. “His faults.” “Erreurs ou ignorances.” — Fr. marg. “Errors or ignorances.”

fta428 The word which our author uses denotes literally arrogances or proudnesses; and this is also the literal rendering of the Hebrew word here used. Calvin has the following note on the margin of the French version, explanatory of arrogances, “Pechez commis par contumace et rebellion.” — Fr.

fta429 From much wickedness. This translation conveys the precise meaning of what David intended. He was afraid of incurring accumulated guilt. In our English translation it is “the great transgression,” on which Walford remarks, “The insertion of the definite article ‘the’ is not authorised by the original, and leads to a supposition which is incorrect, that some definite crime, such as ‘the sin against the Holy Ghost,’ is intended.”

fta430 “Dont a bon droict toutes pechez ausquels les hommes se laschent la bride, pource qu’ils ne sentent pas abon escient le real qui y est, et sont deceus par les allechemens de la chair, sont nommez du mot Hebrie a duquel David use yci qui signifie Fautes ou Ignorances.” — Fr.

fta431 “Il se trouvera en nous un tel abysme de pechez, qu’il n’y aura no fond ne rive, comme on dit.” — Fr.

fta432 “Cela ne diminue en rien l’absurdite de ce beau decret.” — Fr.

fta433 That is, known and evident to the person committing them. He sins against knowledge.

PSALM 20

fta434 “Et de le il nous convient recueiller, ce que jay dit, que sous a figure d’un regne temporel nous est descrie un gouvernement bien plus excellent.” — Fr.

fta435 As the people of Israel here unite in prayer with and for the monarch of Israel, whom we may picture to our minds as repairing to the tabernacle to offer sacrifices, where this animated ode was sung by the priests and people.

fta436 “Si non qu’il marche derant, et nous conduise a Dieu.” — Fr.

fta437 That is, May he accept it! The best and fattest of the flocks and herds were, according to the Mosaic injunction, to be offered to God, and were consequently the sacrifices he most approved of.

fta438 Meaning, “We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God will we set up our banners.”

fta439 “Ou A puissances le salut de sa dextre.” — Fr. marg. “In mightiness the salvation of his right hand.” The rendering which Horsley gives is this:“In powers or in strengths, salvation of his right hand” and he views this clause as a complete sentence by itself. He explains it thus:— “In situations of power and strength, whatever a man’s natural means of deliverance may be, his preservation must be the work of God’s right hand.” “This seems,” says he, “to be the best exposition of this line, which is a clause by itself, not a part of the preceding sentence; [y is a noun substantive, the subject of the verb substantive understood. The chariots and horses mentioned in the next verse are expository of trrg in this line, and all that follows of this psalm is an amplification of his general sentiment.”

fta440 In the Hebrew text there is here an ellipsis, the reading being, “Some in chariots, and some in horses” etc. All the ancient versions read the words as they are in the Hebrew text, without supplying any verb. Calvin does the same in his Latin version; but in the French he supplies the verb “Se foyent,” “trust,” the same supplement as that which is made in our English version.

fta441 Different from “the sanctuary” mentioned in verse second.

fta442 This is the reading of the Septuagint. Its words are, Kurie swson ton basilea. The reading of the Vulgate is the same. Calvin’s rendering, which is also that of our English version, agrees with the masoretical punctuation; but the Septuagint has followed a different pointing.

PSALM 21

fta443 “What was anticipated in the preceding psalm, the present poem appears to celebrate as having been achieved.” — Drake’s Harp of Judah.

fta444 The Hebrew word is zp, paz, denoting fine gold, the purest gold, the same word which is used in <191910>Psalm 19:10.

fta445 Reading “blessings of goodness;” that is, the best or most excellent blessings.

fta446 Splendour and beauty. “Parkhurst observes, that the two words thus translated are often joined in Scripture. The former seems to denote ‘the splendor or glory itself; the latter the ornament, beauty, or majesty, resulting from that glory.” — Bishop Mant.

fta447 “Que la grace de Dieu se monstre favorable envers leur Roy.” — Fr.

fta448 Walford reads this clause — “Thou hast made him glad with the joy of thy presence.”

fta449 This is rendered according to the pointing in the French version. According to the pointing in the Latin version, Jehovah is joined to the preceding clause thus:— “In the time of thy anger, O Jehovah!”

fta450 French and Skinner’s translation of these words is the same, and so also is that of Rogers. This last author observes, “The common interpretation, Thou shalt make them like a fiery oven, etc., is not very intelligible. I consider rwtk as put by ellipsis for rwntbk Thou shalt place them as it were [in] a furnace of fire.” — (Rogers’ Book of Psalms, in Hebrew, metrically arranged, vol. 2:p. 178.) Poole takes the same view. Calvin, however, in his French version, gives a translation much the same as that of our English version:“Tu les rendras comme une fournaise de feu en temps de ta cholere.” “Thou shalt make them like a furnace of fire, in the time of thy anger.” This is exactly the rendering of Horsley, in which he is followed by Walford. “It describes,” says the learned prelate, “the smoke of the Messiah’s enemies perishing by fire, ascending like the smoke of a furnace. ‘The smoke of their torment shall ascend for ever and ever.’“ “How awfully grand,” says Bishop Mant, “is that description of the ruins of the cities of the plain, as the prospect struck on Abraham’s eye on the fatal morning of their destruction:’And he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and lo! the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.’“

fta451 The allusion is to the fabulous giants of heathen mythology, who waged war against heaven.

fta452 “Mais qu’il le fait mesme regorger au sein des enfans d’iceux.” — Fr. See <236506>Isaiah 65:6, 7.

fta453 “Ou, ont decliner.” — Fr. , Or, have turned aside.”

fta454 This verse explains the reason why they could not accomplish what they had devised.

fta455 “Pour icello empescher et comme engloutir.” — Fr.

fta456 Kimchi and others read, “Thou wilt put them into a corner;” which has been understood in this sense, “Thou wilt thrust them into a corner, and then direct thine arrows against their faces.” — See Poole’s Synopsis Criticorum.

fta457 This is the view taken by Ainsworth, Castellio, Cocceius, Diodati, Dathe, Horsley, and Fry. Horsley translates the verse thus:—

“Truly thou shalt make them a butt for thine arrows;
Thou shalt take a steady aim against them.”

“I take,” says he, “˚nwk, [the word which he translates a steady aim,] to be a technical term of archery, to express the act of taking aim at a particular object.” In our English version it is, Therefore thou shalt make them turn their backs.” In defense of this sense of k, shekem, see Merrick’s Annotations. Gesenius takes the word in the same sense. Literally, “thy bow-string.”

PSALM 22

fta458 “En toutes les sortes qu’il est possible de penser.” — Fr. “In every way which it is possible to conceive.”

fta459 And this title they say is prefixed to the psalm, because the whole of it is concerning Christ the morning star.

fta460 Those who render it strength derive the word from lya, eyl, strength, and observe, that the cognate word in verse 20, ytwlya, eyaluthi, is rendered by the Septuagint thn bohqeian mou, my aid or strength. By the strength of the morning they understand the dawning of the day.

fta461 This is the sense in which Lightfoot understands the words.

fta462 “Mon Dieu, je crie tout le jour.” — Fr. “O my God, I cry all the day.”

fta463 “Ce qu il ne pouvoit faire si non en resistant vivement a la apprehension contraire.” — Fr.

fta464 “Et de faict, il n’estoit point de si petit courage, que pour quelque real leger il hurlast ainsi comme une beste brute.” — Fr. “The original word [for roaring] properly denotes the roaring of a lion, and is often applied to the deep groaning of men in sickness. See among other places, <193203>Psalm 32:3; 38:9.” — Bishop Mant.

fta465 “Pour crainte de charger Christ de ce blasme.” — Fr.

fta466 In the Hebrew it is, “He rolled [himself] upon God.” In the Latin version our author reads, “Devolvit ad Jehovam;” and in the French, “Il a remis disent-ils, au Seigneur son a l’aime.”

fta467Let him deliver him, let him deliver him. This repetition is also the rendering adopted by Street, and it is approved by Poole. “The same thing,” says Poole, “is twice repeated, to show both the vehemence of their hatred and their confidence of success against him.”

fta468 As by, yashab, not only signifies to inhabit, but also to remain or continue, (see <19A213>Psalm 102:13,) Hammond thinks this last is the meaning here, and renders the word, “But thou remainest or continuest to be holy, O thou, the praises of, or who art the praises of Israel, that is, the object of all their praises; or more simply, But thou remainest holy, the praises of Israel.”

fta469 Bishop Horsley reads these words, “All who see me insult [me] with gestures of derision:” and says, “I can no otherwise render the verb g[l, than by this periphrasis. Bishop Mant translates the whole verse thus,

“All who to slaughter see me led,
Deride my state distrest;
They curl the lip, they shake the head,
They point the taunting jest:”

And observes, “The distinctness and colouring of the prophetic picture here are as striking to the imagination, as the subject is painful to the heart.”

fta470 “To protrude the lower lip is, in the East, considered a very strong indication of contempt. Its employment is chiefly confined to the lower orders.” — Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible.

fta471 hpb, besaphah, with the lip.

fta472 “Qu’il avoit Dieu au ciel pour garent qui s’avoir bien faire la vengence de ses mesdisans.” — Fr.

fta473 “Qui m’as donne asseurance, lorsque je suchoye les mammelles de ma mere.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, thou gavest me confidence whilst I sucked the breasts of my mother.”

fta474 “Abandonne entre tes mains.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, left among thy hands.” Poole, applying this to Christ says, “I was like one, forsaken by his parent, and cast wholly upon thy providence. I had no father upon earth; and my mother was poor and helpless.”

fta475 “The bull is known to be a fierce animal, and those of Bashan, from its luxuriant pastures, were uncommonly so.” — Dr Geddes.

fta476 “Ace qu’il luy plaise nous remettre sus, et nous rendre force et vigueur.” — Fr.

fta477 This word has created much discussion. In the Hebrew Bible, the kethib or textual reading is, yrak, caari, like a lion; the keri, or marginal reading, is wrak, caaru, “they pierced,” from hrk, carah, to cut, dig, or pierce. Both readings are supported by MSS. There is, however, no ground to doubt that the genuine reading is, wrak, caaru. As the Septuagint here reads wruxan, they pierced, the translators, doubtless, considered that the correct reading of the Hebrew text was wrak, caaru. The Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic, give a similar rendering. All the Evangelists also quote and apply the passage to the crucifixion of Christ. Besides, the other reading, yrak, caari, as a lion, renders the passage unintelligible. The Chaldee version has combined both the ideas of pierced and as a lion, reading, “Biting, as a lion, my hands and my feet.” Our author supposes that the text has been fraudulently corrupted by the Jews, who have intentionally changed wrak, caaru, into yrak, caari. But there is no necessity for supposing that there has been any fraud in the case. In the process of transcription, the change might have been made unintentionally, by the substitution of the letter y, yod, for the letter w, vau, which it so nearly resembles. Walford observes, “that the present reading [yrak, caari] is quite satisfactory, if it be taken as a participle plural in reflexive, and be translated, ‘Wounders of my hands and my feet.’“

fta478 “Asgavoir, vie, qui est seule.” — Note, Fr. marg. “Namely, my life, which is alone.”

fta479 “Et me respon, en me sauvant des cornes des licornes.” — Fr. “And answer me, by saving me from the horns of the Unicorns.”

fta480 “Il nous a este faite une demonstration si grossiere, qu’on la pouvoit taster, au doigt.” — Fr. “There has been given us a demonstration so palpable, that it might be touched with the finger.

fta481 That is, my life, which is dear and precious to me.

fta482 “La vie esseulee.” — Fr. “Life deserted or left alone.”

fta483Disant.” — Fr.

fta484 The second part of the psalm here commences. There is a transition from language of the deepest anguish to that of exalted joy and gratitude. The suffering Messiah here contemplates the blessed results of his sufferings.

fta485 It is “praise God,” both in the Latin and French versions; but the train of thought seems to require that it should be “fear God.”

fta486 “Ate laus mea.” — Lat. “Ma louange proviendra de toy.” — Fr. “Ou, ma louange sera de toy.” — Ft. marg. “Or, my praise shall be of thee.”

fta487 As it is not said what they should remember, some commentators explain it thus:That they shall remember, with penitence, their sins; and, particularly, their idolatry. Others, that they shall remember the goodness and mercy of God, through Christ, to a lost world. And others, that they shall remember God whom they had forgotten, worshipping, instead of him, wood and stones. This last seems to be the view to which Calvin refers.

fta488 The reason why the Gentiles shall remember, and turn to the Lord.

fta489 “Et encores qu’ils les ayent en main, ils ne pourront prendre plaisir in les savourer.” — Fr.

fta490 The Hebrew word here is ynda, Adonai.

fta491 The Hebrew word Adonai is derived from a verb which signifies to direct, rule, judge; and it therefore signifies director, ruler, judge.

PSALM 23

fta492 “Lesquels ayans le vent a gre, comme on dit.” — Fr. “Who having the wind to their mind, as we say.”

fta493 “Le Seigneur est mon pasteur, porquoy je n’auray faute de rien.” — Fr. “The Lord is my shepherd, therefore I shall not want any thing.”

fta494 “Il me mene aux eaux quoyes.” — Fr. “He leadeth me to the quiet [or peaceful] waters.”

fta495 “Qui se contiene en la crainte de Dieu se selon la modestie et temperance qui seroit requise.” — Fr.

fta496 “Mais rememorant les benefices qu’il repoit de luy.” — Fr.

fta497 “Que sa seule providence est suffisante pour nous administrer toutes nos necessitez.” — Fr.

fta498 Walford adopts and defends this view. His reading is, “He leadeth me in straight paths.” “This version,” says he, “may perhaps prove not altogether agreeable to the feelings of the reader in consequence of his being accustomed to a different expression in the English Bible. But the consistency of the imagery requires the alteration; as otherwise, we have an incongruous mixture of physical and moral figures. A careful shepherd leads his sheep to verdant pastures, conducts them near peaceful waters, affords them the means of refreshment when wearied, and guides them away from r ugged and tortuous paths to such as are direct and easy.”

fta499 “Celuy qui est arme d’une constance invincible pour resister a toutes les fraycurs qui penvent survenir.” — Fr.

fta500 “Car s’il n’y eust point en de crainte, a quel propos desireroit il la presence de Dieu?” — Fr.

fta501 “The original, twmlx aynk, is very emphatic, ‘In or through the valley of death-shade.’ This expression seems to denote imminent danger, (<240206>Jeremiah 2:6,) sore affliction, (<194419>Psalm 44:19,) fear and terror, (<19A710>Psalm 107:10, 14; <182417>Job 24:17,) and dreadful darkness, (<181021>Job 10:21, 22.) — Morison’s Commentary on the Psalms.

fta502 “Si non qu’eslevans la nos yeux et les y ayans fichez, nons foullions aux pieds craintes et espouantemens.” — Fr.

PSALM 24

fta503 “Son contenu.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, its contents.”

fta504 “Qu’adonc ils entrerent en ferme et paisible possession de l’honneur que Dieu leur a fait par dessus les autres nations.” — Fr.

fta505 “Car a quelle fin font produits des fruits de tant de sortes, et en telle abondance, et qu’il y a tant de vieux de plaisance, si non pour l’usage et commodite des hommes ?” — Fr.

fta506 “C’est contre la nature des deux elemens.” — Fr.

fta507 “Il n’en fait yci que bien petite mention et comme en passant.” — Fr. “He here only slightly adverts to this subject, and as it were in passing.”

fta508 “Comme nous s’avons que c’est leur coustume de s’eslever par orgueil a cause des titres qu’ils prenent sans avoir l’effect, se contentans de porter seulement les marques par dehors.” — Fr.

fta509 “Par ainsi il est yci requis des serviteurs de Dieu, que quand ils jurent, ce soit avec reverence et en bonne conscience.” — Fr.

fta510 The textual reading is wpn, naphshiv, his soul; the marginal reading is wpn, naphshi, my soul. But the textual reading, from its clearness and simplicity, is, without doubt, the correct one. “The points,” says Hammond, “direct to render tpn my soul, and so the interlinear reads anilmain roeare, my soul or life, as if it were making God the speaker of this verse, and then it is God’s life or soul. But the text writing w not y, and the context agreeing with it, the punctuation must, in reason, give place; and, accordingly, all the ancient interpreters appear to have read it wpn, his soul, meaning by that his own soul, or the soul of the swearer.”

fta511Asfavoir, Jacob.” — Fr. “Namely, Jacob.”

fta512 “Lequel toutesfois ils fuyent par leurs destours et faux semblans.” — Fr.

fta513 He first says, “That seek him,” and next, “That seek thy face.”

fta514 The Septuagint reads, Arate pu>la<v oiJ a]rcontev uJmw~n, which may be rendered, “Ye princes, lift up your gates.” The reading of the Vulgate is similar:“Attollite portas principes vestras” and so is that of the Arabic and Ethiopic. But that rendering, as Calvin justly Observes, inadmissible; for in the Hebrew text, the affix k, kem, your, is joined to yar, roshey, heads, and not to yr[, shearim, gates. Although, however the reading of the Septuagint may be translated as above, “Ye princes, lift up your gates,” Hammond thinks it more probable, that the translators intended oiJ a]rcontev uJmw~n, your princes, to represent kyar, rashekem, as myertin, by mistake, the construction of the sentence, so your heads, as to give this reading, “Your heads, or princes, lift up the gates, instead of, “Ye gates, lift up your heads.”

fta515 “Par lesquels ils introduissent Christ frappant a la porte pour entrer les enfers.” — Fr.

fta516 “Qui comme sacrileges execrables tienent pour jeu de la corrompre et falsifier en ceste sorte.” — Fr.

fta517 “Que tons ceux qui s’attendant a toy ne soyent point confus.” — Fr.

fta518 “Et sans estre trouble d’impatience.” — Fr.

fta519 “Et use de douceur envers eux.” — Fr.

fta520 “Redevable de tant plus grande condemnation.” — Fr.

fta521 “Humbles.” — Fr. “Humble.”

fta522 “Quel soin il ha de ses enfans.” — Fr.

fta523 “Ou, secret.” — Fr. “Or, secret.”

fta524 “Les gachans lequel prendre.” — Fr.

fta525 Horsley refers the words to the blessedness of a future state. He reads, “His soul shall rest in bliss;” and has the following note:— “˚ylt, pernoctavit. The words seem to allude to the happy state of the good man’s departed soul, while his posterity prosper in the present world.” That is, the land of Canaan, which God promised to perpetuate to the obedient Israelites and their posterity. “It was promised and given,” says Poole, “as an earnest of the whole covenant of grace and all his promises, and, therefore, is synecdochically put for all of them. The sense is, his seed shall be blessed.”

fta526 “Mon souci et travail.” — Fr. marg. “My care and labor.”

fta527 “C’est, cruelle.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, cruel.”

fta528 The Hebrew word here used is dyjy, yachid, unus, one, which is not infrequently put, as in this place, for a solitary and desolate person. David was now deserted, desolate, and destitute of all help. The word is used in the same sense in <192220>Psalm 22:20, and <193517>35:17.

fta529 “Cependant que nos pechez demeurent c’est a dire iusaues a ce qu’il les pardonne.” — Fr.

fta530 The Hebrew words literally rendered are, “With hatred of violence.”

PSALM 26

fta531 Hammond renders the original word, “Plead for, or defend me;” and Green, “Vindicate me.” The word denotes both the act of a judge and of an advocate. This last view agrees very well with the scope of the psalm, which, from the strong assertions of innocence with which it abounds, appears to have been written by David in vindication of himself from various crimes which had been alleged against him; although the particular events to which it refers are not indicated.

fta532 The primary signification of the Hebrew word rx, tsaraph is to try as the refiner tries his gold by dissolving and melting it, In this sense it is used in <196610>Psalm 66:10, “Thou hast tried us as silver is tried.”

fta533 Horsley renders the word, “Those who seek concealment.” In like manner, the Chaldee paraphrases it, “They that hide themselves that they may do evil.”

fta534 “Innocence.” — Fr. marg

fta535 The washing of the hands in solemn protestation of innocence, on particular occasions, was enjoined by the Mosaic ritual, and was common among the Jews, <052106>Deuteronomy 21:6, 7. It was in common use among them before prayer; and the priests, in particular, were not to perform any sacred office in the sanctuary until they had poured water from the laver, which was set in the temple for that purpose, and washed their hands, <024030>Exodus 40:30-33.

fta536 Mudge conjectures that the expression, encompass, is probably taken from the custom of forming a ring round the altar at the time of worship. And Goodwyn informs us, that at the feast of tabernacles the people, on the seventh day, encompassed the altar seven times, carrying branches of palm trees in their hands in remembrance of the overthrow of Jericho, and singing hosannas. — Moses and Aaron, p. 132. David, however, may refer to the practice of the priests, who, when they offered sacrifices, went round about the altar; and his meaning may simply be, that as the priests first washed their hands, and then performed their sacred office at the altar; so he deeply felt the necessity of personal purity, in order to his engaging in the service of God.

fta537 The habitation of thy house — a Hebraism for the house which thou inhabitest. This name was given to the tabernacle, <090229>1 Samuel 2:29, 32, and afterwards to Solomon’s temple, <143615>2 Chronicles 36:15.

fta538 Hebrew:— men of blood. See <190507>Psalm 5:7.

fta539 Namely ˚y[, ayin.

fta540 The word which it employs is ejupre>rpeia.

fta541 “C’est, en lieu plain et droict; c’est a dire, seur.” — Fr. marg. “That is, in a plain and straight; that is to say, sure place.”

fta542 “Qu’elle soit celebree publiquement; afin qu’elle serve d’exempleaux autres pour se confermer en Dieu.” — Fr.

PSALM 27

fta543 The rendering of the learned Castellio is, “Si invadant — offensuri sunt atque casuri;” — “If they invade me they shall stumble and fall. The Hebrew verbs for “stumble” and “fall”

fta544 French and Skinner read, “to devour my flesh;” and observe, that “this image is taken from a wild beast. Compare <190307>Psalm 3:7, and <192213>Psalm 22:13.”

fta545 “C’est, d’adversite.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, of adversity.”

fta546 “Sous le regne de Christ.” — Fr.

fta547 “Sacrificia jubili.” — Lat. “Sacrifice de triomphe.” — Fr. Ainsworth reads, “Sacrifices of shouting, or of triumph, of joyful sounding and alarm.” “This,” says he, “hath respect to the law which appointed over the sacrifices trumpets to be sounded, <041010>Numbers 10:10, whose chiefest, most loud, joyful, and triumphant sound was called trughnah, [or h[wrt, truah, the word here used,] ‘triumph,’ ‘alarm,’ or ‘jubilation,’ <041005>Numbers 10:5-7.”

fta548 “Ou dit de toy.” — Fr. marg. “Or said of or concerning thee.”

fta549Pourtant.” — Fr.

fta550 Calvin’s meaning appears to be this:- God has given us in his word that gracious command or invitation, “Seek ye my face,” inviting us to seek him by prayer and the other exercises of religion. Now, when David says, “My heart said to thee, Seek ye my face,” he means that his heart reminded God of his command or invitation; and by this he encouraged himself to seek God’s face, which he expresses his resolution to do in the following clause, “Thy face, O Jehovah! will I seek.”

fta551 “C’est, plaisir.” — Fr. marg. “That is, will or pleasure.”

fta552 “En la sauvegarde et protection de Dieu.” — Fr.

fta553 Hammond renders the words “breathers or speakers of injury or rapine; smj, signifying injury or rapine, and jwp, speak.” Ainsworth reads, “He that breatheth or puffeth out violent wrong.

fta554 “De glaives et autre tels efforts.” — Fr. “From the sword and other such weapons.”

fta555 In the Hebrew this verse is elliptical, as Calvin here translates it. In the French version he supplies the ellipsis, by adding to the end of the verse the words, “C’estoit fait de moy,” “I had perished.” In our English version, the words, “I had fainted,” are introduced as a supplement, in the beginning of the verse. Both the supplement of Calvin, and that of our English version, which are substantially the same, doubtless explain the meaning of the passage; but they destroy the elegant abrupt form of the expression employed by the Psalmist, who breaks off in the middle of his discourse without completing the sentence, although what he meant to say is very evident. “Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living, What! what, alas! should have become of me!” - Dr Adam Clarke. As, however, alwl, lul, which is rendered unless, is omitted by the ancient versions and several MSS., some consider it an interpolation, and translate the verse without an ellipsis. Thus Walford renders it, “I have believed that I shall behold the goodness of Jehovah in the land of the living.”

fta556 “A ce que sa foy ne soit jamais esbranier” — Fr. “That his faith might never be shaken.”

fta557 Calvin here seems to use the Septuagint version. What he renders in the text, “Be of good courage,” is rendered by the Septuagint, ajndri>zou “Be manly, or act like a man.” The Vulgate reads, “vinliter a,,e,” following the Septuagint, as it generally does. Paul uses the same phraseology in <461613>1 Corinthians 16:13. “These,” says Ainsworth, “are the words of encouragement against remissness, fear, faintness of heart, or other infirmities.”

PSALM 28

fta558 rybd, debir, is derived from rbd, dabar, to speak.

fta559 The verb ˚m, mashak, here rendered draw, “signifies,” as Hammond observes, “both to draw and apprehend,” and may “be best rendered here, Seize not on me, as he that seizeth on any to carry or drag him to execution. The Septuagint, after having literally rendered the Hebrew by Mh< sunelku>sh|v thn yuch>n mou, draw not my soul together with, etc., adds Ki>an mh< sunapole>sh|v me etc., and destroy me not together with, etc. Calvin here evidently takes the same view; though he does not express it in the form of criticism.

fta560 “Que ceste finesse de renard, quand on use de beaux semblans pour avoir occasion de nuire.” — Fr.

fta561 “Voulant devorer les agneaux.” — Fr.

fta562 “Conduisant et gouvernant toutes choses.” — Fr.

fta563 “C’estoyent certains peuples ou escrimeurs qui souloyent ainsi comme etre. Voyez les Chiliades d’Erasme.” — Note, Fr. marg. “These were certain people or fencers, who were wont to fight in this manner. See the Chiliades of Erasmus.”

fta564 “He will destroy them, and not build them up.”

fta565 “Que tout la prospetite qu’ils se souhaitent soit a cause du peuple. — Fr. “That all the prosperity they desire should be for the sake of the people.”

fta566 “Veu que la plus grand part rejette et desdaigne de porter le joug de Christ.” — Fr.

fta567 “Qu’il n’en est pas digne.” — Fr. “That he is not worthy of it.”

fta568 “C’est, digne de son nom.” — Note, Fr. Marg. “That is, worthy of his name.”

fta569 The entire reading of the verse in the Septuagint is, “Ene>gkate tw|~ Kuri>w| uJioi< Qeou~ ene>gkate tw|~ Kuri>w| uJiou<v kriw~n“Bring to the Lord, ye sons of God, bring to the Lord young rams.” Thus the LXX, as is not unusual in other places, render the words for “Ye sons of the mighty” twice; first, in the vocative case, addressing them, Uioi< Qeou, Ye sons of God, and then in the accusative case, uJiou<v kriw~n, young rams, being apparently doubtful which was the correct rendering, and, therefore, putting down both. The Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic, exactly follow them. Jerome also reads, “Afferte Domino filios arietum;” although he does not give a double translation of the original words. But the correct rendering, we have no doubt, is, “Ye sons of the mighty;” which is just a Hebrew idiomatic expression for “Ye mighty ones,” or, “Ye princes;” and to them the inspired writer addresses an invitation to acknowledge and worship God from the manifestation of his majesty and power in the wonders of nature.

fta570 The Hebrew word which Calvin renders “mighty,” is yla, elym, a word which means gods. The Hebrew word ylya, eylim, which means rams, nearly resembles it, having only an additional y, yod, and this letter is often cut off in nouns.

fta571 The Chaldee paraphrases it thus:— “The assembly of angels, sons of God,” meaning by God angels.

fta572 This translation conveys a somewhat different meaning from that of our English version; but it is supported by several critics. Green reads, “In his beautiful sanctuary;” and Fry, “Worship Jehovah with holy reverence,” or, “Worship Jehovah in the glorious places of the sanctuary.” “Where the Hebrews read trdhb” says Hammond, “in the glory or beauty of holiness, from rdh, to honor, or beautify, the LXX. read, ejn aujlh~| aJgi>a| aujtou, in his holy court, as if it were from, “penetrale, thalamus, area, a closet, a marriage-chamber, a court; and so the Latin and Syriac follow them, and the Arabic, in his “holy habitation.”

fta573 Dr Francis’ Translation of Horace.

fta574 “Qui contraignent les barbares et gens esbestez sentir qu’il y a un Dieu.” — Fr. “Which constrain the rude and insensible to feel that there is a God.”

fta575 That is, the wilderness of Zin, <043308>Numbers 33:86. It is described in <050119>Deuteronomy 1:19, as the “great and terrible wilderness.” The Israelites passed through this wilderness in their way from Egypt to the promised land, <041327>Numbers 13:27. It received its name from the city of Kadesh, by which it lay, <042001>Numbers 20:1, 16.

fta576 The Sidonians applied to Hermon the name of Sirion, <050309>Deuteronomy 3:9.

fta577 “D’approcher de Dieu.” — Fr.

fta578 “Fait avortir.” — Fr. “To miscarry or prove abortive.”

fta579 Bishop Lowth reads, “Maketh the oaks to tremble,” (Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, vol. 2:p.253,) in which he is followed by Dimock, Green, Seeker, Horsley, Fry, and others. But Dathe, Berlin, De Rossi, Dr Adam Clarke, Rogers, etc., adhere to the common interpretation, in which they are supported by all the ancient versions, except the Syriac, which seems to favor the view of Lowth. A main argument of Lowth and those who follow him in support of his rendering is, that the common translation, which supposes the passage to relate to the hinds bring forth their young, agrees very little with the rest of the imagery either in nature or dignity; whereas the oak struck with lightning, is a far nobler image, and one which falls in more naturally with the scattering of a forest’s foliage under the action of a storm. But Rogers justly observes, that “we are not warranted in altering the Hebrew text, because the oriental imagery which we meet with does not correspond with our ideas of poetical beauty and grandeur,” (Book of Psalms in Hebrew, metrically arranged, vol. it. p. 186.) With respect to the sense conveyed by the common reading, it may be observed, that birds bring forth their young with great difficulty and pain, bowing themselves, bruising their young ones, and casting out their sorrows, (<183904>Job 39:4, 6;) and it therefore heightens the description given of the terrific character of the thunder-storm, when the thunder, which is here called the voice of God, is represented as causing, through the terror which it inspires, the hinds in their pregnant state prematurely to drop their young; although, according to our ideas of poetical imagery, this may not accord so well with the other images in the passage nor appear so beautiful and sublime as the image of the oaks trembling at the voice of Jehovah.

fta580 “Etant que touche la gloire de Dieu.” — Fr.

fta581 “Pour le craindre et servir comme il appartient.” — Fr.

fta582 “Par le deluge.” — Fr. This is the view taken of the passage by the ancient versions. “God,” says the Chaldee, “in the generation of the deluge sat in judgment.” The Septuagint reads, “God shall make the deluge to be inhabited,” or “make the world habitable after it”; the Syriac, “God called back the deluge;” and the Arabic, “God restrained the deluge.” Ainsworth reads, “Jehovah sat at the flood,” and explains it as meaning “Noah’s flood.”

fta583 “Que c’est luy seul qui gouverne toutes choses en tout temps.” — Fr.

fta584 “Se recognoissans estrangers, et que c’estoit luy qui les y logeoit et leur bailloit demeurance.” — Fr.

fta585 “Quand l’homme allegoit qu’il n’avoit encores dedid sa maison.” — Fr.

fta586 Ainsworth reads, “Thou hast drawn up me,” which he explains to mean, “drawn as out of a pit of waters;” “for,” says he, “this word is used for ‘drawing of waters,’ <020216>Exodus 2:16; waters signifying troubles.” “ybtyld, Thou hast drawn me up as it were out of a dungeon.” — Rogers’ Book of‑Psalms.

fta587 “D’entre ceux que descendent.” — Fr.

fta588 “Ou chantez afin qu’il soit memoire.” — Fr. marg. “Or sing, that he may be remembered.”

fta589 Literally, “There is but a moment in his anger;” and this is also the literal rendering of the Hebrew.

fta590 “C’est, un long temps.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, a long time.”

fta591 rkzl, lezeker, at the memorial.

fta592 “Et de faict, c’est un poinct tout resolu.” — Fr.

fta593 “C’est, en ma prosperite.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, in my prosperity.”

fta594 Our author here uses Dominus; but in the Hebrew it is hwhy, Yehovah

fta595 The Septuagint has “Eijv diaqora>n” — to corruption. The rendering of Jerome is the same, “In corruptionem.”

fta596 “Qu’ils se mignardent en leur prosperite, et par maniere de dire, croupessent sur leur fumier. — Fr.

fta597 This custom was not confined to the Israelites. It was practiced also among the heathen nations. An instance of this is recorded in <320305>Jonah 3:5-8. It appears from Plutarch, that this was also sometimes practiced among the Greeks. The Hebrew word for sackcloth is q, sak; and it is remarkable that the word sak exists in various languages, denoting the same thing. It shows the unaffected character of real sorrow, leading men to neglect the adorning of their persons, when we find several nations manifesting it by wearing the same dismal garb, and employing a word of the same sound to express it.

fta598 “Ne monstrant qu’abjection et desplaisanee d’eux-mesmes. — Fr.

fta599 “Ou, adresse moy et conduy.” — Fr. marg. “Or, do thou direct and guide me.”

fta600 “Feroit une antithese entre ces deux choses, Estre en destresse pour un temps, et demeurer confus.” — Fr.

fta601 “Si los hommes regardent a leur dignite.” — Fr.

fta602 Dr Geddes observes, that this is the literal translation of the Hebrew words; “but,” says he, “as negative propositions in Hebrew are often equivalent in sense to opposite positives, I deemed it better to use an equivalent as more agreeable to what precerdes and follows.” His rendering is, “Rescued me from the hand of mine enemy.”

fta603 “Se faisans a croire que de leur faict ce ne sera que triomphe.” — Fr.

fta604 Horsley, while his translation is similar to that of Calvin, “Thou hast delivered me,” takes a somewhat different view of the meaning. “Thou hast, i.e., Thou most surely wilt. — The thing is as certain as if it were done.”

fta605 Hammond considers “vanities” as referring to the practice of superstitiously having recourse to auguries and divinations for advice and direction, a practice which prevailed among the heathen, when they met with any difficulty or danger. To the responses of augury, they showed the greatest regard; although they were deceived and disappointed in the confidence which they reposed in them. David declares that he detested all such practices, and trusted for aid to God alone. French and Skinner, by lying vanities, understand idols. “Idols,” says Walford, “are often thus denominated; though the term is not to be confined to this sense, as all the pursuits of iniquity may be justly comprehended under it. - Vide <053221>Deuteronomy 32:21; <320208>Jonah 2:8.”

fta606 “There is a contrast in the expression between the straits to which he had been confined, and the freedom which was now bestowed upon him.” — Walford.

fta607 “Ou, des grans.” — Fr. marg. “Or, of the great.”

fta608 “The word ˚w[,” says Hammond, “as it signifies sin, so it signifies also the punishment of sin, <235306>Isaiah 53:6, 11;” and in this last sense this critic here understands it, that it may be connected with grief and sighing, which are mentioned in the preceding clause, and may express those miseries which David’s sins had brought upon him. “[zw” observes Rogers, “signifies here and in some other places, affliction, the punishment or consequence of sin; see <010413>Genesis 4:13; <092810>1 Samuel 28:10; <120709>2 Kings 7:9,” etc. - Book of Psalms in Hebrew, metrically arranged, vol. 2:p.188. The Septuagint reads, in poverty or affliction, in which it is followed by the Syriac and Vulgate.

fta609 “I am become like a broken vessel;” that is, utterly neglected as being worthless.

fta610 Horsley takes the same view. He reads, “the mighty.”

fta611Fearfulness on every side, or terror round about. In Heb., magor missabib, which name Jeremiah gave to Pashur the priest, signifying that he should be a terror to himself and to all his friends; <242003>Jeremiah 20:3, 4.” — Ainsworth. Horsley reads,

“Truly I heard the angry muttering of the mighty,
of them that are the general dread.”

On this he has the following note:“rwgm bybsm, I take this to be a phrase describing the mighty, whose malignant threats against him he overheard, as persons universally dreaded for their power and their cruelty.”

fta612 “C’est, reservee.” — Fr. marg. “That is, laid up.”

fta613 “C’est a dire, a cause de leur adoption.” — Fr.

fta614 “Before the sons of men, i.e. openly, so that the world must acknowledge ‘there is a reward for the righteous man.’ Compare <195811>Psalm 58:11.” — French and Skinner.

fta615 “Et que quand elle luit sur les fideles, ses rayons sont pour esblouir les yeux de tous les iniques, et affoiblir leur mains.”. — Fr.

fta616 This is the reading adopted by Walford. “yskrm, skr, colligavit:hence ‘bands,’ ‘conspiracies.’”

fta617 “The particle of similitude is wanting in Hebrew, as is not uncommon. The intention of the Psalmist is evidently to describe by a metaphor his signal deliverance, as if he had been guarded by invincible fortifications.” — Walford.

fta618 “Ou, perturbation; ou, hastivete.” — Fr. marg. “Or, perturbation; or, haste.”

fta619”Ou, par excellence.” — “Or, excellently.” — Fr. marg.

fta620 “Et recognoistre qu’en icelle ils ont assez de secours.” — Fr.

fta621 Literally, “with plenty.”

fta622 The word hag, gah, from which hwag, gavah, which we have rendered proudly, is derived, signifies elatus est, eminuit; and hwag, gavah, “is sometimes taken in a bad sense for pride or arrogance, as in <191002>Psalm 10:2; and sometimes in a good sense for splendor, magnificence, strength, excellence. In the latter sense it is used of God, <196834>Psalm 68:34, His height, or excellence and strength, are in the clouds.” — Hammond.

fta623 “Pour lequel nous avons traduit, Donnant instruction.” — Fr.

fta624 Where it is said, “I will instruct thee and teach thee.”

fta625 The translation of this verse in our English Bible is, “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long;” on which Street observes, “I must own I do not understand how a man can be said to keep silence who roars all the day long.” Accordingly, instead of When I kept silence, he reads, While I am lost in thought; observing that, the verb rj, in the Hiphil conjugation, signifies to ponder, to consider, to be deep in thought.” But according to the translation and exposition of Calvin, there is no inconsistency between the first and the second clause of the verse. To avoid the apparent contradiction of being at once silent and yet roaring all the day long, Dr Boothroyd, instead of roaring, reads pangs.

fta626 “Ou, peine.” — Fr. marg. “Or, punishment.”

fta627 “De grandes eaux.” — Fr. “Of great waters.”

fta628 In the Septuagint version it is rendered, “In the time of finding favor;” in the Arabic, “In a time of hearing;” and in the Syriac, “In an acceptable time.”

fta629 “Qu’ils nous faut avoir des advocats au ciel qui prient pour nous.” — Fr.

fta630 “Ou, je guideray de mon oeil.” — Fr. marg. “Or, I will guide thee with mine eye.”

fta631 This verse in the Hebrew is very elliptical and obscure. Hence, besides the translation of Calvin, which agrees very well with the scope of the passage, various other translations have been given of it. In our English Bible, the last clause is rendered, “lest they come near unto thee,” that is, to attack thee. But this is evidently an incorrect translation. This is not the common practice of these animals, which are timid, and not ferocious; bits and bridles are not used for the purpose of keeping them away from us, but of subduing, guiding, and making them subservient to our will; and were this the sense, the figure would be inappropriate, since the object of the Psalmist is to induce men to approach God. The clause, therefore, is rendered by many critics, “Or they will not come nigh unto thee;” that is, they will flee from thee. The Hebrew for this last phrase is, “There is not a coming to thee.”

fta632 Most commentators consider Jehovah as the person speaking in this verse. Calvin, however, views David as the speaker. In this opinion he is followed by Walford. “In <195113>Psalm 51:13,” says this critic, “written about the same time and on the same occasion, David urges as a reason why God should restore to him the joy of his salvation, that he might be enabled to teach transgressors his ways, and that sinners might be converted to him. So in the passage before us, he addresses himself to sinners, and says, ‘I will instruct time, and teach thee the way in which thou shalt go.’“

fta633 Fry reads, “Many are the wounds of the refractory;” on which he has the following note:- “We perceive in this place the exact idea of jfb, in its allusion to the restive, disobedient, unyielding, ungovernable mule or horse. It is opposed to ,, to confide in, to yield to, or succumb, as the gentle beast fully confides and yields himself to the management of his guide.”

PSALM 33

fta634 “Ou, digne d’estre aimee par les,” etc. — Fr. marg. “Or, is worthy of being loved by them.”

fta635 “Fideles, c’est, fermes et permanentes.” — Fr. marg. “Faithful, that is, firm and permanent.”

fta636 “Et neant moins nous voyons ce que Sainct Paul en determine.” — Fr.

fta637 “C’est, le soufie, le vent.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, the breath.”

fta638 “Par son simple vouloir et commandement.” — Fr. “Simply by his will and commandment.”

fta639 “Sans aussi y employer beaucoup de temps ou travail.” — Fr.

fta640 In <010109>Genesis 1:9 we read, “God said, Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear:and it was so.” The Psalmist here probably has a reference to that passage, as in the 9th verse there is evidently an imitation of the style in which God is described in the first chapter of Genesis as performing the work of creation.

fta641 “Il a commande que si tost qu’il auroit comme prononce le mot, la chose aussi se trouvast faire.” — Fr.

fta642 The Septuagint here adds a sentence which is not in the Hebrew, namely, “Kai< ajqetei~ boula<v ajrco>ntwn”- “And frustrates the counsels of princes.” The Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic, copying from the Septuagint, have the same addition. But it is not in the Chaldee and Syriac versions, which agree with our Hebrew Bibles; and from this we are led to conclude that the translators of the Greek version have added this by way of paraphrase; a liberty which we find them using in other places.

fta643 Hebrews To generation and generation.

fta644 “C’est, sans en excepter un.” — Note, Fr. marg, “That is, without a single exception.”

fta645 “Hebrews est mensonge a salut.” — Fr. marg. “Hebrews is a lie for safety.”

fta646 “Ou, certes.” — Fr. marg. “Or, certainly.”

PSALM 34

fta647 It should be <092111>1 Samuel 21:11, 12.

fta648 Achish may have been his particular name, while Abimelech was the common title of the Kings of Gath. The word Abimelech signifies Father — King.

fta649 Ainsworth reads, His behavior, or his sense, reason; and observes, that it is “properly the taste, as in verse 9, <180606>Job 6:6, and often elsewhere, which is used both for one’s in ward sense or reason, and outward gesture and demeanour, (as the Gr. here translateth it, face,) because by it a man is discerned and judged to be wise or foolish, as meats are discerned by the taste.”

fta650 “Luy melt aussi au coeur ceste finesse.” — Fr.

fta651 “That is, in all circumstances; in every posture of my affairs.” — Horsley.

fta652 “Quand il ne cesse de nous bien-faire?” — Fr. “When he never ceases from doing us good ?”

fta653 The word ywn[, anavim, may also be rendered the afflicted. Our author in his exposition combines both the ideas of humble and afflicted.

fta654 “Et qu’il avoit bien occasion de penser que la cruaute d’iceluy ne se pourroit pas appaiser a le faire mourir de quelque legere mort.” — Fr.

fta655 Those who take this view explain the words as meaning that the humble or afflicted, upon looking to David, saw how graciously God had dealt with him, and were enlightened, revived, and encouraged. They also consider, as Calvin himself does, the humble or afflicted as the persons who speak in the sixth verse, where, pointing as it were with the finger to David, they say, “This poor man cried,” etc.

fta656 This is the rendering adopted by Horsley, who understands by the expression the illumination of the soul by the light of Divine truth. He reads the verb in the imperative mood, and his translation of the entire verse is as follows:“Look towards him, and thou shalt be enlightened; And your faces shall never be ashamed.” This reading is sanctioned by the Septuagint. It supposes two alterations on the text. First, that instead of wfybh, they looked, we should read wfybh, habitu, look ye; and this last reading is supported by several of Dr Kennicott’s and De Rossi’s MSS. The other alteration is, that instead of hynpw, upeneyhem, their faces, we should read kynpw, upeneykem, your faces. Poole, in defense of reading your instead of their, observes, “that the change of persons is very frequent in this book.”

fta657 This description seems to have been suggested by Jacob’s vision of angels, recorded in <013201>Genesis 32:1, 2, “And Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, This is God’s host; and he called the name of that place Mahanaim,” (i.e., encampments.)

fta658 “Toute sorte de forteresse et lieu de defense.” — Fr.

fta659 “Et ne s’avent plus de quel cost a se tourner.” — Fr.

fta660 By this affectionate appellation, Hebrew teachers were wont to address their scholars.

fta661 That is, the anger of God. The face of God is often put for the anger of God, because this passion manifests itself particularly in the face. Thus in <250416>Lamentations 4:16, we read, “The anger [literally faces] of the Lord hath divided them.” And in <032003>Leviticus 20:3, we read, “I will set my face [that is, my anger] against that man.”

fta662 In his First Epistle, (<600310>1 Peter 3:10, 11, 12,) he quotes the 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 verses of this psalm. He quotes from the Septuagint.

fta663 “Lesquels il espargne pour un temps, afin de les ruiner eternellement.” – “Whom he spares for a time, to destroy them eternally.” – Fr.

fta664 It is wicked men who are spoken of in the immediately preceding verse; but they here evidently refers not to them, but to the righteous, mentioned in the fifteenth verse; and, accordingly, in all the ancient versions, and in our English Bible, the words the righteous are supplied. It is supposed by those who make this supplement, that the word yqydx, tsaddikim, has been lost out of the text. But if we read the 16th verse as a parenthesis, it will not be necessary to make any supplement, and the words may be read exactly as they are in the Hebrew, They cried.

fta665 The last clause of this verse is applied in the Gospel of John (<431936>John 19:36) to Christ, and represented as receiving its fulfillment in him.

PSALM 35

fta666 The word rendered shield is in the Hebrew text ˚gm, magen, which was a short buckler intended merely for defense. The word rendered buckler is hnx, tsinnah, for an account of which see note, p. 64. The tsinnah was double the weight of the magen, and was carried by the infantry; the magen, being lighter and more manageable, was used by the cavalry. The tsinnah answered to the scutum, and the magen to the clypeus, among the Romans. — See Paxton’s Illustrations of Scripture, vol. 3:pp. 866, 867.

fta667 Those who are of opinion that rwgs, segor, is a noun, translate it “the scymitar,” and read, “Draw out the spear, and the scymitar, to oppose my persecutors.” According to Drusius, Vitringa, Michaelis, Dr Kennicott, and others, the word means sagariv, or scymitar, a sort of battle-axe, which was used by the Persians, Scythians, and other nations in ancient times.

fta668 “Que l’esperance de mon salut surpasse tous les dangers qui me seront livrez. “— Fr.

fta669 “C’est, chasse et presse.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, chase and pursue them.”

fta670 The allusion here is to the custom of digging pits and putting nets in them, covered with straw, etc., to catch wild beasts.

fta671 “Qu’il fait yci contre Saul comme le chef, s’estend a tout le corps, c’est a dire, tous ses adherens.” — Fr.

fta672 “C’est, desconforter.” Note, Fr. marg. “That is, to the discomfort;”

fta673smj yd[ witnesses of wrong or violence; i.e., witnesses deponing to acts of violence, as committed by the person accused. See <192712>Psalm 27:12.” — Horsley.

fta674 “Ont tasch, de rendre orpheline car il y a ainsi proprement en Hebrieu” — Fr.

fta675 “When the Orientals,” says Boothroyd, “pray seriously in grief, they hide their face in their bosom:and to this custom the Psalmist here alludes. Rabbi Levi, Dathe, and others, explain it in like manner.”

fta676 The word is derived from hkn, nakah, to strike or to smite. The LXX. render it mastigev, scourges; and Jerome reads percutientes, smiters, in which he is followed by Ainsworth, who understands the word as meaning smiters with the tongue, or calumniators, and who thinks that the LXX., in translating it scourges, alluded to the scourge of the tongue, as in <180521>Job 5:21; and if smiters is the proper rendering, we may certainly conclude, that as this smiting is represented as done upon the person who was its object in his absence, it was a smiting by the tongue. At the same time, this critic observes, that the word may be read the smitten, that is, abjects, vile persons, as in <183008>Job 30:8. Dr Kennicott translates it by verbcrones, whipt slaves, vile scoundrels. Another meaning of the word, according to Buxtorff, is, the wry-legged, the lame. In this sense it is used in <100404>2 Samuel 4:4, and 9:3; and hence the epithet of Necho was given to one of the Pharaohs, who halted in his gait. Thus it easily came to be employed as a term of contempt. Calvin and the translators of our English Bible agree in the meaning which they attach to this word.

fta677 The verb [rq, kara, for cut, “is significant of tearing or rending, and by an easy metaphor, is applicable to wounds inflicted by evil speaking and slander.” — Walford.

fta678 Domine — Lat. ynda, Adonai. — Hebrews “More than fifteen copies collected by Dr Kennicott have hwhy here instead of ynda Among which is one of the best manuscripts that has been collated. The Jews, in later ages, had a superstitious fear of pronouncing the word hwhy and therefore inserted ynda or yhla ,c’est a dire in the place of it very frequently.” — Street.

fta679 “Assavoir, mon ame unique; c’est a dire, solitaire et delaissee.” — Note, Fr. marg. “Namely, my soul alone; that is to say, solitary and forsaken.” See note 3, p. 432. In our English Bible the phrase is, “My darling;” but David rather means to intimate his forsaken and unprotected condition, unless God interposed in his behalf. Green reads, “my helpless person.”

fta680 “Devant un grand peuple.” — Fr.

fta681 “C’est, beaucoup de peuple.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, much people.”

fta682 Horsley takes this view. He reads, “Among a mighty people;” and observes, that this is the rendering of the Chaldee, and that x[, seems more properly to express strength or power than number.

fta683 “C’est, ne tienent propos d’amis.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, their discourse is not that of friends.”

fta684 “C’est, ce que nous desirions.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, that which we desire.” French and Skinner read, “Aha! aha! our eye seeth!” “that is,” they observe, “beholds our enemy in the fallen condition in which we desire to see him. See verse 25, compare <199211>Psalm 92:11.”

fta685 “C’est, nostre desire nous avons ce que desirions:ou, nostre ame, assavoir s’esjouisse, comme on dit en nostre langue, Grande chere.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, our desire — we have what we desire:or, our soul, that is to say, is glad:as we say in our language, Great cheer.” French and Skinner read, “Let them not say in their hearts, Aha! our desire!” and observe, “that our desire! means our desire is accomplished.”

Psalm 36

ftb1 “C’est, tant que chacun commence a avoir en haine l’iniquite d’iceluy.” — Fr. marg. “That is, so that every one begins to hate his iniquity.”

ftb2 “Mensonge.” — Fr. “Falsehood.”

ftb3 The verb lj, chalak, which is rendered flattereth, signifies to smooth, and means here, that the wicked man described endeavors by plausible arguments to put a soft, smooth, and fair gloss on his wickedness, as if there were nothing repulsive and hateful about it, nothing amiss or blame-worthy in it; and in this way he deceives himself. This is the sense expressed in the literal translation of Montanus, which seems very forcible: “Quoniam lenivit ad se in oculis ipsius, ad inveniendum iniquitatem suam ad odiendam.” — “For he has smoothed over [or set a polish] to himself in his own eyes, with respect to the finding out of his iniquity, [that is, so as not to find it out,] to hate it.” Horsley reads,

“For he giveth things a fair appearance to himself,
In his own eyes, so that he discovers not his own
iniquityto hate it.”

“He sets such a false gloss, “ says this critic, “in his own eyes, upon his worst actions, that he never finds out the blackness of his iniquity, which, were it perceived by him, would be hateful even to himself.” The wicked in all ages have thus contrived to put a fair appearance upon the most unprincipled maxims and pernicious practices. It will be seen that Montanus’ and Horsley’s translation of the last clause of the verse gives a different meaning from that given by Calvin. The original text is somewhat obscure and ambiguous from its brevity; but it seems to support the sense given by these critics. The Hebrew is, anlwnw[ axml, limtso avono lisno, to find, or to, for, or concerning the finding of, [the first word being an infinitive with the prefix l, lamed,] his iniquity to hate [it.] “The prefix l,” says Walford, “cannot, I imagine, be translated with any propriety by until.” His rendering is,

 “For he flattereth himself in his own sight,
That his iniquity will not be found to be hateful:”

That is, will not be viewed by others as the hateful thing which it really is. The original words will easily bear this sense as well as that given by Montanus and Horsley.

ftb4 In the French version it is, “Comme hautes montagnes;” — “as the high mountains;” and in the margin Calvin states that the Hebrew is, “Montagnes de Dieu;” — “Mountains of God.” The Hebrews were accustomed to describe things eminent, as Calvin observes in his exposition of the verse, by adding to them the name of God; as, “river of God”; <196509>Psalm 65:9; “mount of God,” <196815>Psalm 68:15; “cedars of God,” <198010>Psalm 80:10; “the trees of the Lord,” <19A416>Psalm 104:16. “The mountains of God,” therefore, here mean the highest mountain.

ftb5 Lowth reads, “A vast abyss.”

ftb6 Heb. — how precious.

ftb7 “En toy.” — Fr. “In thee.”

ftb8 “Par ta clarte.” — Fr. “By thy light.”

ftb9 “Frequens in Psalmis figura ab alio Cherubinorum Arcae,” etc. i.e. “A common figure in the Psalms, taken more immediately, in my opinion, from the wings of the Cherubim overshadowing the mercy-seat which covered the ark; but more remotely from birds, which defend their young from the solar rays by overshadowing them with their wings. See <191708>Psalm 17:8; 57:1; 61:4; 91:4, etc., and <053211>Deuteronomy 32:11.” — Bishop Hare.

ftb10 The words in the original are, ˚yt[ ljn, nachal adanecha, the river of thy Eden, in which there is probably an allusion to the garden of ˆr[ Eden, and to the river which flowed through and watered it.

ftb11 Heb. Draw out at length.

ftb12 That is, the foot of the proud man, as the Chaldee translates it, the thing being put for the person in whom it is; a mode of expression of frequent occurrence in Scripture. Thus deceit, in <201227>Proverbs 12:27, is put for a deceitful man; poverty, in <122414>2 Kings 24:14, for poor people, etc. There appears to be here an allusion to the ancient practice of tyrants in treading upon their enemies, or in spurning those who offended them from their presence with their feet.

ftb13 Heb. sham, there, that is, (pointing with the finger to a particular place,) see there! lo! the workers of iniquity are fallen. “It represents strongly before the eye,” says Mudge, “the downfall of the wicked. Upon the very spot where they practice their treachery, they receive their downfall.” A similar mode of expression occurs in <191405>Psalm 14:5.

Psalm 37

ftb14 “C’est, jouy des biens d’icelle en repos ferme et asseure.” — Fr. marg. “That is, enjoy the good things of it in quietness and security.”

ftb15 “C’est, ton bon droict.” — Fr. marg. “That is, thy just cause, or thy rectitude.

ftb16 That is, do not enter into fellowship with.

ftb17 The fitness of this figure to express the transient and short-lived character of the prosperity of the wicked, will appear in a still more striking light when we take into consideration the great heat of the climate of Palestine.

ftb18 Some read, “Thou shalt dwell in the land.” The Hebrew verb is in the imperative mood; but the imperative in Hebrew is sometimes used for the future of the indicative. — Glass. tom. 1, can. 40, p. 285.

ftb19”C’est dire, qui te vient loyaument.” — Fr.

ftb20 Modern critics have varied as much in their interpretations of this clause of the verse as those who preceded Calvin, of whom he complains. For example, Ainsworth reads, “Thou shalt be fed by faith;” Archbishop Secker,” Thou shalt be fed in plenty;” Parkhurst, “Thou shalt be fed in security;” Dathe, “Tunc terram inhabitabis et secure vivas,” assigning the reason for this translation to be, that “pascere securitatem, sive si malis, in securitate, nihil aliud est quam secure vivere;” and Gesenius reads, “Follow after truth,” or, “seek to be faithful,” deriving the verb from a root which signifies to take delight in, or to follow after.

ftb21 “D’autant que Dieu est la part de nostre heritage, que nostre lot est escheu en lieux plaisan,.” — Fr.

ftb22Calvin here gives the exact sense of the Hebrew verb llg, galal. It literally signifies to roll, or to devolve; and in this passage it evidently means, Roll or devolve all thy concerns upon God; “cast thy burden upon him,” as it is in <195522>Psalm 55:22; “the metaphor being taken,” says Cresswell, “from a burden put by one who is unequal to it upon a stronger man.” But Dr Adam Clarke thinks that the idea may be taken from the camel who lies down till his load be rolled upon him.

ftb23 “Ou, qui vient a bont de ses entreprises.” — Fr. marg. “Or, who accomplishes his devices.”

ftb24 “C’est, y auront leurs plaisirs avec grande prosperite.” — Fr. marg. “That is, shall have their enjoyment in it with great prosperity.”

ftb25 The Hebrew verb rendered silent is wd, dom, from which the English word dumb appears to be derived. The silence here enjoined is opposed to murmuring or complaining. The word is rendered by the Septuagint, uJpotagnqi, be subject; which is not an exact translation of the original term: but it well expresses the meaning; for this silence implies the entire subjection of ourselves to the will of God.

ftb26 “De se venger, et de rendre mal pour mal.” — Fr. “To take revenge, and to render evil for evil.”

ftb27 Dominus. Heb. yta, Adonai.

ftb28 “Comme s’ils avoyent puissance de faire de nous a leur plaisir.” — Fr.

ftb29 “Day is often used”, says Ainsworth, “for the time of punishment; as, ‘the posterity shall be astonied at his day,’ <181820>Job 18:20; ‘Woe unto them, for their day is come!’ <240102>Jeremiah 1:27. So ‘the day of Midian,’ <230904>Isaiah 9:4; ‘the day of Jezreel,’ <280111>Hosea 1:11; ‘the day of Jerusalem,’ Psalm 137: 7.”

ftb30 “De brebis destinees au sacrifice.” — Fr.

ftb31 “Ou, aux grans qui sont meschans.” — Fr. marg. “Or, to the great who are wicked.”

ftb32 Ainsworth renders this word, “plenteous mammon,” which, he remarks, “signifieth multitude, plenty, or store of riches, or any other thing.” The Septuagint renders it riches. The English word mammon is derived from this Hebrew word.

ftb33 This is the view taken by Fry, who renders the words,

 

“Better are the few of the Just one,
Than the great multitude of the wicked.”

By the Just One, he understands Christ.

ftb34 “‘Depositeth the days of the upright,” — lays them up in safety for them: for such is the original idea of [ry.” — Fry.

ftb35 “Ou, l’excellence, c’est, les agneaux plus beaux et plus gras.” — Fr. marg. “Or, the excellency, that is, the finest and fattest lambs.”

ftb36 “C’est, s’esvanouiront en brief.” — Fr. marg. “That is, shall speedily vanish away.”

ftb37 It is generally supposed that there is here an allusion to the sacrificial services of the former dispensation. Lambs were then offered in large numbers as burnt-offerings; and if the allusion is to these sacrifices, as is highly probable, the doctrine taught is, that as the fat of them melted away, and was wholly and rapidly consumed by the fire of the altar of burnt-offering, so the wicked shall melt away and be quickly consumed in the fire of Jehovah’s wrath. The Chaldee paraphrases the last clause thus: — “They shall be consumed in the smoke of Gehenna,” or of hell.

ftb38 “Comme escumeurs de mer sans jamais avoir de quoy satisfaire.” — Fr. “Like pirates, without ever having any thing to pay.”

ftb39 “Comme s’il y avoit, Ceux qui beniront les justes, possederont,” etc. — Fr.

ftb40 “Neither the text,” says Dr Adam Clarke, “nor any of the versions, intimate that a falling into sin is meant; but a falling into trouble, difficulty,” etc.

ftb41 This is also the reading of the Septuagint, To< spe>zma aujtou eijv eujlogi>an e[stai.

ftb42 Ainsworth reads, “And his seed are in the blessing,” and understands the words as meaning, that the children of the just man “are in the blessing, or are appointed to the blessing, as the heirs thereof,” <012803>Genesis 28:3; <600309>1 Peter 3:9; and that they have still abundance, notwithstanding the liberality of their parents; for “the blessing of the Lord maketh rich,” <201022>Proverbs 10:22.

ftb43 “Par lesquelles ils taschent d’espouvanter les simples.” — Fr.

ftb44 “En toutes les parties de la cognoissance et crainte de Dieu.” — Fr.

ftb45 Striking terror in all around.

ftb46 The proper signification of the word jrza, azrach, has been controverted among interpreters, and it has been variously rendered. Most of the Rabbins, and many modern commentators, as Mudge, Waterland, Gesenius, and others, are of opinion, that the preferable reading is, “like an indigenous or native tree;” that is, a tree which flourishes in its native soil, where it grows most vigorously, and acquires its largest and most luxuriant growth. The Septuagint translates it, w<v ta<v ce>drouv tou Liba>nou, “as the cedars of Lebanon;” being self-growing, spreading, and lofty trees. Some suppose that the translators of this version must have had a different reading in their Hebrew Bibles from what is in our present copies; and others that, as is common with them, they paraphrase the original words, the more clearly to express their meaning. The translation of the Septuagint is followed by the Vulgate, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, by Houbigant, Boothroyd, Geddes, and other good authorities. Ainsworth reads, “as a green self-growing laurel.” Bythner says he is at a loss for the reason of translating the word laurel. “For the reading of bay tree,” says the illustrated Commentary upon the Bible, “we are not aware of any authority, except the very feeble one which is offered by some of the older of the modern versions in this country and on the Continent.”

ftb47 The Suptuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic versions, Jerome, Houbigant, Horsley, and Walford, read the verb in the first person, “But I passed by.” The Chaldee adheres to the Hebrew, “And he passed, or failed, from the age, or world, and, lo! he was not.”

 


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