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,^'i OF PRIIVCfJg;^ 

s^fOtOGICAL StVi^^ 













F.ntered according to Act of Congress, in tho j-ear 1850, by 


In the Cleric's Office of tlic United States District Conrt for the District of 

New Jersey. 


'iOl William st. 


The present publication owes its origin to Hengstenberg's 
Commentary on the Psahns. The original design was to 
make that work, by abridgment and other unessential 
changes, more acceptable and useful to the English reader 
than it could be in the form of an exact translation. It 
was soon found, however, that by far the most important 
part of such a book would be a literal version of the He- 
brew text, and that this was precisely what could not be 
obtained at second hand, by the awkward and unsatisfying 
process of translating a translation, but must be derived 
directly from an independent scrutiny of the original. In 
attempting this, the deviations from Hengstenberg, con- 
tinually in form and not unfrequently in substance, ren- 
dered it wholly inexpedient and improper to make him 
responsible for what was really a new translation. The 
only course remaining therefore was to make this general 
acknowledgment, that his work is the basis of the one 
now offered to the public, and that more has been directly 
drawn from that source than from all others put together. 
The present writer has so freely availed himself of Heng- 
stenberg's translations, exegetical suggestions, and illus- 
trative citations, in preparing his own version and expla- 


natory comments, that nothing could have led him to 
forego the advantage of inserting that distinguished name 
upon his title-page, except a natural unwillingness to 
make it answerable for the good or evil which is really his 
own. At the same time, he considers it by no means the 
least merit of the book, that it presents, in a smaller com- 
pass and a more familiar dress, the most valuable results 
of so masterly an exposition. 

In justice to his work and to himself, the author wishes 
it to be distinctly understood, that he has aimed exclu- 
sively at explanation, the discovery and statement of the 
meaning. To this he has confined himself for several 
reasons ; first, because a wider plan would have required 
a larger book than was consistent with his general pur- 
pose ; then, because this is really the point in which 
assistance is most needed by the readers of the Psalter ; 
and lastly, because he had especially in view the wants 
of ministers, who are better able than himself to erect a 
doctrinal, devotional, or practical superstructure on the 
exegetical basis which he has endeavoured here to furnish. 
It follows of course, that the book is not designed to su- 
persede the admirable works in common use, except so fai 
as it may be found to correct their occasional errors of 
translation or verbal exposition. 

It may be thought that in order to accomplish this de- 
sign, the author might have satisfied himself with a 
bare translation. But experience has more and more 
convinced him, that the meaning of an author cannot be 
fully given in another language by the use of exact equi- 
valents, which are in fact so few, that the deficiency can 
only be supplied by the addition of synonymous expressions, 


or by explanatory paraphrase, or by exegetical remark 
directly added to the text, or by the use of all these means 
together. The idea which he has endeavoured here to 
realize is that of an amplified translation. In the version 
properly so called, he has endeavoured to preserve, not only 
the strength but the peculiar form of the original, which 
is often lost in the English Bible, by substituting literal for 
figurative and general for specific terms, as well as by a 
needless deviation from the order of the words in Hebrevv^, 
upon which the emphasis, if not the sense, is frequently 
dependent, and which has here been carefully restored 
wherever the difference of idiom would suffer it, and 
sometimes, it may possibly be thought, without regard to 
it. Another gratuitous departure from the form of the 
original, which has been perhaps too scrupulously shunned, 
but not, it is believed, without advantage to the general 
character of the translation, arises from the habit of con- 
founding the tenses, or merging the future and the past 
in a jejune and inexpressive present. The instances 
where this rule has been pushed to a rigorous extreme 
may be readily detected, but will not perhaps be thought 
to outweigh the advantage of preserving one of the most 
marked and striking features of the Hebrew language. 

The plan of the book, as already defined, has excluded 
not only all devotional and practical remark, but all at- 
tempt to give the history of the interpretation, or to enu- 
merate the advocates and authors of conflicting expositions. 
This, although necessary to a complete exegetical work, 
would rather have defeated the design of this one, both 
by adding to its bulk and by repelling a large class of 
readers. It has therefore been thought better to exclude 


it, or rather to reserve it for a kindred work upon a larger 
scale, if such should hereafter be demanded by the public. 
The same course has been taken with respect to a great 
mass of materials, relating to those topics which would 
naturally find their place in a Critical Introduction. 
Many of these, and such as are particularly necessary to 
the exposition, have been noticed incidentally as they 
occur. But synoptical summaries of these, and full dis- 
cussions of the various questions, as to the age and authors 
of the several psalms, the origin and principle of their ar- 
rangement, the best mode of classification, and the prin- 
ciples on which they ought to be interpreted, would fill a 
volume by themselves, without materially promoting the 
main object of the present publication. As the topics 
thus necessarily excluded will probably constitute a prin- 
cipal subject of the author's private and professional 
studies for some time to come, he is not without the hope 
of being able to bring something of this kind before the 
public, either in a separate work upon the Psalms, or in a 
general Introduction to the Scriptures. 

The difficulty of discussing these preliminary matters 
within reasonable compass, although great in the case of any 
important part of Scripture, is aggravated by the peculiar 
structure of the Psalter, the most miscellaneous of the 
sacred books, containing a hundred and fifty compositions, 
each complete in itself, and varying in length, from two 
sentences (Ps. cxvii) to a hundred and seventy-six (Ps. cxix), 
as well as in subject, style, and tone, the work of many au- 
thors, and of difterent ages ; so that a superficial reader 
might be tempted to regard it as a random or fortuitous 
collection of unconnected and inconf^ruous materials. 


A closer inspection shows, however, that this heteroge- 
neous mass is not without a bond of union ; that these 
hundred and fifty independent pieces, different as they 
are, have this in common, that they are all poetical, not 
merely imaginative and expressive of feeling, but stamped 
externally with that peculiar character of parallelism, 
which distinguishes the higher style of Hebrew composi- 
tion from ordinary prose. A still more marked resemblance 
is that they are all not only poetical but lyrical, i. e. songs, 
poems intended to be sung, and with a musical accompa- 
niment. Thirdly, they are all religious lyrics, even those 
which seem at first sis^ht the most secular in theme and 
spirit, but which are all found on inquiry to be strongly 
expressive of religious feeling. In the fourth place, they 
are all ecclesiastical lyrics, psalms or hymns, intended to 
be permanently used in public worship, not excepting 
those which bear the clearest impress of original connec- 
tion with the social, domestic, or personal relations and 
experience of the writers. 

The book being thus invested with a certain unity of 
spirit, form, and purpose, we are naturally led to seek for 
something in the psalms themselves, which may determine 
more definitely their relation to each other. The first 
thing of this kind that presents itself is the existence, in 
a very large proportion, of an ancient title or inscription, 
varying in length and fulness ; sometimes simply descri- 
bing the composition, as a psalm, a song, a prayer, etc. ; 
sometimes stating the subject or historical occasion, either 
in plain or enigmatical expressions ; sometimes directing 
the performance, by indicating the accompanying instru- 
ment, by specifying the appropriate key or mode, or by 

yiii PREFACE. 

naming the particular performer ; these various intimations 
occurring sometimes singly, but frequently in combination. 

The strenuous attempts which have been made by 
modern writers to discredit these inscriptions, as spurious 
additions of a later date, containing groundless and erro- 
neous conjectures, often at variance with the terms and 
substance of the psalm itself, are defeated by the fact that 
they are found in the Hebrew text, as far as we can trace 
its history, not as addenda, but as integral parts of the 
composition ; that such indications of the author and the 
subject, at the commencement of a composition, are familiar 
both to classical and oriental usage ; and that the truth 
of these inscriptions may in every case be vindicated, and 
in none more successfully than those which seem at first 
sight least defensible, and which have therefore been ap- 
pealed to, with most confidence, as proofs of spuriousness 
and recent date. 

The details included in this general statement will be 
pointed out as they occur, but are here referred to by an- 
ticipation, to explain and vindicate the constant treatment 
of the titles in this volume as an integral part of the sacred 
text, which in some editions of the Bible has been muti- 
lated by omitting them, and in others dislocated or con- 
fused, for purposes of reference, by passing them over in 
the numeration of the verses. As this last arrangement 
is familiar to all readers of the English Bible, an attempt 
has been made in the following exposition to consult their 
convenience, by adding the numbers of the English to 
those of the Hebrew text, wherever they are difterent. 

Another point of contact and resemblance between 
these apparently detached and independent compositions 


is the frequent recurrence of set phrases and of certain 
forms extending to the structure of whole psalms, such as 
the alphabetical arrangement, in which the successive 
sentences or paragraphs begin with the letters of the He- 
brew alphabet. This is the more remarkable because 
these alphabetic psalms have all a comrnon character, 
distinguishing them from the rest, to wit, that instead 
of a progression of ideas, they consist of variations 
on a theme propounded at the outset, whether this be re- 
garded as the cause or the effect of the peculiar form 

The same inquiries which have led to these conclusions 
also show, that the arrangement of the psalms in the col- 
lection is by no means so unmeaning and fortuitous as 
may at first sight seem to be the case, but that in many 
instances at least, a reason may be found for the juxtapo- 
sition, in resemblance or identity of subject or historical 
occasion, or in some remarkable coincidence of general 
form or of particular expressions. If in some cases it is 
difficult to trace the reason of the collocation, there are 
others in which two psalms bear so intimate and obvious 
a mutual relation, that they seem to constitute a pair or 
double psalm, either because they were originally meant 
to match each other, or because one has been subsequently 
added for the purpose. Sometimes, particularly in the 
latter part of the collection, we may trace not only pairs 
but trilogies and even more extensive systems of con- 
nected psalms, each independent of the rest, and yet to- 
gether forming beautiful and striking combinations, par- 
ticularly when the nucleus or the basis of the series is an 
ancient psalm, for instance one of David's, to which others 


have been added, in the way of variation or of imitation, 
at a later period, such as that of the Captivity. 

Although the facets jast mentioned are sufficient to 
evince, that the Book of Psalms was not thrown together 
at random, but adjusted by a careful hand, the principle 
of the arrangement is not always so apparent, or of such a 
nature, as to repress the wish to classify the psalms and 
reduce them to some systematic order. The most obvious 
arrangement would be that by authors, if the data were 
sufficient. But although the titles ascribe one to Moses, 
seventy-two to David, two to Solomon, twelve to Asaph, 
one to Ethan, and eleven to the Sons of Korah, it is 
doubtful in some of the cases, more particularly those last 
mentioned, whether the title was designed to indicate the 
author or the musical performer, and more than fifty are 
anonymous. In some of these the hand of David may be 
still distinctly traced, but as to most, we are abandoned 
to conjecture, which of course affords no solid basis for a 
satisfactory or useful distribution. 

Another principle of classification is the internal char- 
acter, the subject, style, and manner of the psalms. This 
was applied by the older writers, in accordance with the 
forms of artificial rhetoric, and with endless variety in the 
result. But the best application of the principle is that 
proposed by Hengstenberg, and founded on the tone of 
pious feeling which the psalm expresses ; whether joyous, 
as in the general psalms of praise and more especially in 
those of thanksgiving ; or sad, as in the querulous and 
penitential psalms ; or calm, as in most of the prophetic 
and didactic psalms. All these, however, are arrange- 
ments which the reader can make best to please himself, 


and which are rather the results of exposition than pre- 
liminary aids to it. 

Apart from these attempts at systematic distribution 
and arrangement, there is also a question with respect to 
the division of the Psalter as it stands. There is an an- 
cient division into five parts, corresponding, as the Rabbins 
say, to the five books of Moses, and indicated by doxologies 
at the close of Ps. xli, Ixxii, Ixxxix, cvi, while Ps. cl 
is itself a doxology, winding up the whole. The modern 
critics, more especially in Grermany, have tasked their 
ingenuity to prove that these are distinct collections, con- 
temporaneous or successive, of detached compositions, 
afterwards combined to form the present Psalter. But 
they never have been able to account, with any plausi- 
bility or show of truth, for the remarkable position which 
the psalms of David occupy in all parts of the book. A 
much more probable hypothesis, though coupled with a 
theory, to say the least, extremely dubious, is that of 
Hengstenberg, who looks upon the actual arrangement as 
the work of Ezra, or some other skilful and authoritative 
haad, and accounts for the division into five books as fol- 
lows. The first book (Ps. i — xli) contains only psalms 
of David, in which the use of the divine name Jehovah is 
predominant. The second (Ps. xlii — Ixxii) contains 
psalms of David and his contemporaries, i. e. Solomon, 
Asaph, and the Sons of Korah, in which the predominant 
divine name is Elohim. The third (Ps. Ixxiii — Ixxxix) 
contains psalms of Asaph and the Sons of Korah, in which 
the name Jehovah is predominant. The fourth (Ps. 
xc — cvi) and fifth (cvii — cl) contain, for the most part, 
psalms of later date, the principal exceptions being one by 


Moses (Ps. xc), and several of David's, to which others in 
the same strain have been added, in the way ah-eady 

However ingenious this hypothesis may be, it will be 
seen at once that it contributes very little to the just ap- 
preciation or correct interpretation of the several psalms, 
except by enabling us, in certain cases, to derive illustra- 
tion from a more extended context, as the reader will find 
stated in its proper place. Even granting therefore the 
historical assumption upon which it rests, and the favourite 
doctrine as to the divine names, with which it is to some 
extent identified, it will be sufficient for our present pur- 
pose to have stated it in outline, leaving the reader to 
compare it with the facts as they successively present 
themselves, and reserving a more full investigation of the 
general question to another time and place. 

The best arrangement for the ordinary student of the 
Psalter is the actual arrangement of the book itself ; first, 
because we have no better, and the efforts to invent a 
better have proved fruitless ; then, because, as we have 
seen, there are sufficient indications of a principle or pur- 
pose in this actual arrangement, whether we can always 
trace it there or not ; and lastly, because uniform tradi- 
tion and analogy agree in representing it as highly pro- 
bable, that this arrangement was the work of Ezra, the 
inspired collector and redacteur of the canon, so that even 
if nothing more should ever be discovered, w^ith respect to his 
particular design or plan, we have still the satisfaction of 
relying, not on chance, but on a competent or rather an 
infallible authority, as well as the advantage of studying 
the psalms in a connection and an order which may pos- 

PREFACE. xiii 

sibly throw light upon them, even when it seems to us 
most fortuitous or arbitrary. 

If any subdivision of the book is needed, as a basis or a 
means of more convenient exposition, it may be obtained 
by taking, as the central column of this splendid fabric, 
its most ancient portion, the sublime and affecting Prayer 
of Moses, known from time immemorial as the Ninetieth 
Psalm, and suffering this, as a dividing line, to separate 
the whole into two great parts, the first composed entirely 
of psalms belonging to the times of David, the other of a 
few such, with a much greater number of later composi- 
tions, founded on them and connected with them. 

This simple distribution seems to secure all the sub- 
stantial advantages of Hengstenberg's hypothesis, without 
its complexity or doubtful points. Among the latter may 
be reckoned the extraordinary stress laid by this eminent 
interpreter on what may be called Symbolical Arithmetic, 
or the significance ascribed to the number of verses, of 
Selahs, of Jehovahs, of Elohims, used in any given psalm. 
Setting out from the unquestionable fact, that certain 
numbers are symbolically used in the Old Testament ; 
that seven is the symbol of the covenant, twelve of the 
theocracy, ten of completeness or perfection, five of the 
reverse, etc., he attempts to trace the application of this 
principle throughout the psalms, and not, as might have 
been expected, without many palpable failures to estab- 
lish his favourite and foregone conclusion. The effect 
which this singular prepossession might have had upon 
his exposition is prevented by his happily restricting 
it entirely to form and structure, and putting it pre- 
cisely on a level with the alphabetical arrangement 


of the Hebrews, and with rhyme as used by other 
nations. There is still, however, reason to regret the 
space allotted to this subject in his volumes, and good 
ground for excluding it from works of an humbler and 
more popular description. As all the views of such a 
mind, however, are at least entitled to consideration, this 
subject may appropriately take its place among the topics 
of a Critical Introduction. 

With respect to the historical relations of the Psalter 
and its bearings on the other parts of Scripture, it will be 
sufficient to remind the reader, that the Mosaic system 
reached its culminating point and full development in the 
reign of David, when the land of promise was in full pos- 
session, the provisions of the law for the first time fully 
carried out, and a permanent sanctuary secured and, we 
may even say, prospectively erected. The chain of Mes- 
sianic promises, which for ages had been broken, or con- 
cealed beneath the prophetic ritual, was now renewed by 
the addition of a new link, in the great Messianic promise 
made to David (2 Sam, vii) of perpetual succession in his 
family. As the head of this royal race from which the 
Messiah was to spring, and as the great theocratical model 
of succeeding ages, who is mentioned more frequently in 
prophecy and gospel than all his natural descendants put 
together, he was inspired to originate a new kind of sacred 
composition, that of Psalmody, or rather to educe from 
the germ which Moses had planted an abundant harvest of 
religious poetry, not for his own private use, but for that 
of the Church, in the new form of public service which 
he added by divine command to the Mosaic ritual. As an 
inspired psalmist, as the founder and director of the tem- 


pie-music, and as a model and exemplar to those after him, 
David's position is unique in sacred history. As his mili- 
tary prowess had been necessary to complete the conquest 
of the land, so his poetical and musical genius was ne- 
cessary to secure his influence upon the church forever. 
The result is, that no part of the Bible has been so long, 
so constantly, and so extensively familiar, both to Jews 
and Christians, as the Psalms of DAvm. This denominatio 
a potiori is entirely correct, as all the other writers of the 
psalms, excepting Moses, merely carry out and vary what 
had been already done by David ; and as if to guard the 
system from deterioration, the further we proceed the 
more direct and obvious is this dependence upon David, 
as " the man raised up on high, the anointed of the Grod of 
Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Sam. xxiii. 1), 
the master and the model of all other psalmists, from the 
days of Solomon to those of Ezra. 

The interesting questions which have so often been dis- 
cussed, as to the theology and ethics of the Psalter, and 
especially in reference to the doctrine of a Messiah and a 
future state, and to the so-called imprecations of the 
psalms, can be satisfactorily settled only by detailed in- 
terpretation of the passages concerned, and any summary 
anticipation of the general result may here be spared, al- 
though it would be highly appropriate in a Critical Intro- 

After this brief statement of preliminary points which 
might be fully treated in an Introduction, it only remains 
to add, in explanation of the plan adopted in the work 
itself, that the reader is constantly supposed to be familiar 
with the Hebrew text and with the authorized version. 


but that in order to make the exposition accessible to a 
larger class of educated readers, the original words have 
been introduced but sparingly, and only for the purpose 
of saving space and avoiding an awkward circumlocution. 
The translation of the text is printed in italic type as 
prose, partly for a reason just assigned, to save room ; 
partly because it is really prose and not verse, according 
to the common acceptation of those terms ; partly, be- 
cause the effect of the poetical element, so far as it exists, 
is weakened rather than enhanced when printed as irre- 
gular blank verse ; but especially because the version is 
not meant to stand by itself or to be continuously read, but 
to be part and parcel of the exposition, and to be qualified 
by the accompanying paraphrase and comments. 

The religious uses of the Psalms, both doctrinal and 
practical, though not directly aimed at in these volumes, 
are so far from being undervalued by the author, and in- 
deed so essential to his ultimate design, that any effect 
which the book may have, however humble or remote, in 
the promotion of this end, will be esteemed by him as its 
most flattering success and the most acceptable reward of 
his exertions. 

Princeton^ May 1, 1850. 



The book opens with an exquisite picture of the truly Happyf 
Man, as seen from the highest ground of the old dispensation. 
He is described both literally and figujcatively, positively and 
negatively, directly and by contrast, with respect both to his 
character and his condition, here and hereafter. The compres- 
sion of all this into so short a composition, without confusion 
or obscurity, and with a high degree of graphic vividness, 
shows what the psalm is in a rhetorical or literary point of view, 
apart from its religious import and divine authority. Its moral 
design is both didactic and consolatory. There is no trace of 
any particular historical occasion or allusion. The terms em- 
ployed are general, and admit of an easy application to all 
times and places where the Vvord of God is known. The 
psalm indeed contains a summary of the doctrine taught in this 
book and in the scriptures generally, as to the connexion be-- 
tween happiness and goodness. It is well placed, therefore, as 
an introduction to the whole collection, and although anonymous, 
was probably composed by David. It is altogether worthy of 
this origin, and corresponds, in form and substance, to the next 
psalm, which is certainly by David. The two seem indeed to 
form a pair or double psalm, of which arrangement there are 
several other instances. The structure of the first psalm is 

VOL. I. 1 


symmetrical but simple, and the style removed from that of ele- 
vated prose by nothing but the use of strong and lively figures. 

1. The Happy Man is first described in literal but negative 
expressions, i. e. by stating what he does not habitually do. The 
description opens with a kind of admiring exclamation. {Oh) 
the blessedness of the man! The plural form of the original 
{^felicities or happinesses), if anything more than a grammatical 
idiom like ashes, tneans, &c. in our language, may denote ful- 
ness and variety of happiness, as if he had said. How completely 
happy is the Qnan ! The negative description follows. Happy 
the man ivho has not walked, a common figure for the course 
of life or the habitual conduct, which is furthermore suggested 
by the use of the past tense, but without excluding the present, 
who has not walked and does not walk, in the counsel, i. e. live 
after the manner, on the principles, or according to the plans, of 
wicked {men), and in the way of sinners has not stood. The 
word translated sinners properly denotes those who fall short 
of the standard of duty, as the word translated ivicked denotes 
those who positively violate a rule by disorderly conduct. To- 
gether they express the whole idea of ungodly or unrighteous 
men. And in the seat, not the chair, but the company, or the 
place where men convene and sit together, of scorners, scoffers, 
those who treat religion with contempt, has not sat. The three 
verbs denote the three acts or postures of a waking man, namely, 
walking, standing, sitting, and are therefore well adapted to 
express the whole course of life or conduct. It is also possible 
that a climax was intended, so that walking, standing and sitting 
in the company of sinners will denote successive stages of dete- 
rioration, first occasional conformity, then fixed association, then 
established residence among the wicked, not as a mere spectator 
or companion, but as one of themselves. The same kind of 
negative description reappears in Psalm xxvi. 4, 5, and in Jer. 
XV. 17. It is of course implied that no one, of whom any of 


these things can be affirmed, is entitled to the character of a 
Happy Man. 

2. A positive trait is now added to the picture. Having 
shown what the truly happy man does not, the Psalmist shows 
us what he does. But, on the contrary, in contrast with the 
previous description, in the law of Jehovah, i. e. the written 
revelation of his will, and more especially the Pentateuch or 
Law of Moses, which lay at the foundation of the Hebrew 
Scriptures, {is) his delight, not merely his employment, or his 
trust, but his pleasure, his happiness. And in his laiv he will 
meditate, i. e. he does so and will do so still, not merely as a 
theme of speculation or study, but as a cherished object of 
affection, a favourite subject of the thoughts, day and night, 
i. e. at all times, in every interval of other duties, nay in the 
midst of other duties, this is the theme to which his mind spon- 
taneously reverts. The cordial attachment to an unfinished 
revelation, here implicitly enjoined, shows clearly what is due 
to the completed word of God which we possess. 

3. The literal description of the Happy Man, both in its 
negative and positive form, is followed by a beautiful comparison, 
expressive of his character and his condition. And he is, or he 
shall be ; the present and the future insensibly run into each 
other, so as to suggest the idea of continuous or permanent con- 
dition, like the past and present in the first verse. And he is, 
or shall be, like a tree, a lively emblem of vitality and fruitful- 
ness. He is not, however, like a tree growing wild, but like a 
tree planted, in the most favourable situation, on or over, i. e. 
overhanging, streams of water. The original words properly 
denote canals or channels, as customary means of artificial 
irrigation. Hence the single tree is said to overhang more than 
one, because surrounded by them. The image presented is 
that of a highly cultivated spot, and implies security and care. 


such as could not be enjoyed in the most luxuriant wilderness 
or forest. The divine culture thus experienced is the cause of 
the effect represented by the rest of the comparison. Which 
(tree) will give, or yield, its fruit in its season, and its leaf 
shall not wither; it shall lose neither its utility nor beauty. 
This is then expressed in a more positive and prosaic form. 
And all, or every thing, which he, the man represented by the 
verdant fruitful tree, shall do, he shall 7nake to 'prosper, or do 
prosperously, with good success. This pleasing image is in 
perfect keeping with the scope of the psalm, which is not to de- 
scribe the righteous man, as such, but the truly happy man, with 
whom the righteous man is afterwards identified. The neglect 
of this peculiar feature of the composition impairs its moral as 
well as its rhetorical effect, by making it an austere declaration 
of what will be expected from a good man, rather than a joy- 
ous exhibition of his happy lot. That the common experience, 
even of the best men, falls short of this description, is because 
their character and life fall short of that presented in the two 
preceding verses. The whole description is not so much a pic- 
ture drawn from real life, as an ideal standard or model, by striv- 
ing to attain which onr aims and our attainments will be eleva- 
ted, though imperfect after all. 

4. Not so the ivicked. The direct description of the Happy 
Man is heightened and completed by comparison with others. 
Not so the ivicked, i. e. neither in condition nor in character. 
The dependence of the one upon the other is suggested by de- 
scribing them as wicked, rather than unhappy. Not so, i. e. 
not thus happy, (are) the ivicked, because they are wicked, and 
are therefore destitute of all that constitutes the happiness be- 
fore described. The immediate reference, in the phrase not so, 
is to the beautiful, well-watered, green, and thriving tree of the 
preceding verse. To this delightful emblem of a healthful 
happy state the Psalmist now opposes one drawn likewise from 


the vegetable world, but as totally unlike the first as possible. 
The wicked are not represented by a tree, not even by a barren 
tree, a dead tree, a prostrate tree, a shrub, a weed, all which are 
figures not unfrequent in the Scriptures. But all these are more 
or less associated with the natural condition of a living plant, 
and therefore insufficient to present the necessary contrast. 
This is finely done by a comparison with chaff, which, though 
a vegetable substance, and connected in its origin with one of 
the most valuable products of the earth, is itself neither living, 
fruitful, nor nutritious, but only fit to be removed and scattered 
by the wind, in the ancient and oriental mode of winnowing. 
There is a double fitness in the emblem here presented, as 
suggesting the idea of intrinsic worthlessness, and at the same 
time that of contrast with the useful grain, with which it came 
into existence, and from which it shall be separated only to be 
blown away or burnt. Not so the wicked, but like the chaff, 
which the wind drives away. The same comparison is used 
in Psaim xxxv. 5. Isa. xvii. 1.3. xxix. 5. Hos. xiii. .3. Zeph. 
ii. 2. Job xxi. 18, and by John the Baptist, in Mat. iii. 12, with 
obvious allusion to this psalm, but with a new figure, that of 
burning, which seems to be intended to denote final and com- 
plete destruction, while in all the other cases, the idea suggested 
by the chaff being blown away is that of violent and rapid 

5. Therefore, because they are unlike a living tree, and 
like the worthless chaff, fit only to be scattered by the wind, 
wicked (men) shall not stand, i. e. stand their ground or be able 
to sustain themselves, in the judgment; i. e. at the bar of God. 
This includes two ideas, that of God's unerring estimation of 
all creatures at their real value, and that of his corresponding 
action towards them. The wicked shall neither be approved 
by God, nor, as a necessary consequence, continue to enjoy his 
favour, even in appearance. Whatever providential inequali- 

"6 PSALM I. 

ties may now exist will all be rectified hereafter. The wicked 
shall not always be confounded with their betters. They shall 
not stand in the judgment, either present intermediate judg- 
ments, or the final judgment of the great day. And sinners^ 
the same persons under another name, as in v. 1, [shall not 
sta7id) in the congregation, or assembly, of righteous (men.) 
They shall not continue intermingled with them in society as 
now, and, \vhat is more important, they shall not forever seem 
to form part of the church or chosen people, to which the word 
translated congregation is constantly applied in the Old Testa- 
ment. Whatever doubt may now exist, the time is coming 
when the wicked are to take their proper place and to be seen 
in their true character, as totally unlike the righteous. 

6. The certainty of this event is secured by God's omniscience, 
from which his power and his justice are inseparable. How- 
ever men may be deceived in their prognostications, he is not. 
The Lord, Jehovah, the God of Revelation, the covenant God 
of Israel, knoivs, literally (is) knoiving, i. e. habitually knows, 
or knows from the beginning to the end, the ivay of righteous 
(men), i. e. the tendency and issue of their character and con- 
duct. As if he had said, the Lord knows whither they are go- 
ing and where they will arrive at last. This is a clear though 
indirect assertion of their safety, here and hereafter. I The figure 
of a way is often used to express the character and conduct it- 
self ; but this idea is here implied or comprehended in that of 
destiny, as determined by the character and conduct. There is 
no need, therefore, of taking the verb know in any other than 
its usual and proper sense. The verse is an appeal to the 
divine omniscience for the truth of the implied assertion, that 
the righteous are safe and will be happy, as well as for that of 
the express assertion, with which the whole psalm closes. The 
way of loicked {^men,) in the same sense as before, shall 
perish, i. e. end in ruin. The apparent solecism of making a 


way perish only brings out in more prominent relief the truth 
really asserted, namely, the perdition of those who travel it. 
This completes the contrast, and sums up the description of the 
truly Happy Man, as one whose delight is in the law and his 
happiness in the favour of Jehovah, and whose strongest nega- 
tive characteristic is his total want of moral likeness here to 
those from whom he is to dwell apart hereafter. 

PSALM 11. 

A SUBLIME vision of the nations in revolt against Jehovah and 
his Anointed, with a declaration of the divine purpose to main- 
tain his King's authority, and a warning to the world that it 
must bow to him or perish.- The structure of this psalm is ex- 
tremely regular. It naturally falls into four stanzas of three 
verses each. In the first, the conduct of the rebellious nations 
is described. In the second, God replies to them by word and 
deed. In the third, the Messiah or Anointed One declares the 
divine decree in relation to himself. In the fourth, the Psalmist 
exhorts the rulers of the nations to submission, with a threaten- 
ing of divine wrath to the disobedient, and a closing benedic- 
tion on believers. The several sentences are also very regular 
in form, exhibiting parallelisms of great uniformity. Little as 
this psalm may, at first sight, seem to resemble that before it, 
there is really a very strong affinity between them. Even in 
form they are related to each other. The number of verses 
and of stanzas is just double in the second, which moreover 
begins, as the first ends, with a threatening, and ends, as the 



first begins, with a beatitude. There is also a resemblance in 
their subject and contents. The contrast indicated in the first 
is carried out and rendered more distinct in tlie second. The 
Arst is in fact an introduction to tlie second, and the second to 
-.rhat follows. And as the psalms which follow bear the name 
of David, there is the strongest reason to believe that these two 
are his likewise, a conclusion confirmed by the authority of Acts 
iv. 25, as well as by the internal character of the psalm itself. 
The imagery of the scene presented is evidently borrowed from 
the warlike and eventful times of David. He cannot, however, 
be himself the subject of the composition, the terms of which 
are wholly inappropriate to any king but the Messiah, to 
whom they are applied by the oldest Jewish writers, and again 
and again in the New Testament. This is the fhst of those 
prophetic psalms, in which the promise made to David, with 
respect to the Messiah (2 Sam. vii. 16. 1 Clir. xvii. 11 — 14), is 
wrought into the lyrical devotions of the ancient church. The 
supposition of a double reference to David, or some one of his 
successors, and to Christ, is not only needless and gratuitous, 
but hurtful to the sense by the confusion which it introduces, 
and forbidden by the utter mappropriateness of some of the ex- 
pressions used to any lower subject. The style of this psalm, 
although not less pure and simple, is livelier than that of the 
first, a difference arising partly from tlie nature of the subject, 
but still more from the dramatic structure of the composition. 

1 . This psalm opens, like the first, with an exclamation, here 
expressive of astonishment and indignation at the wickedness 
and folly of the scene presented to the psalmist's view. TV/it/ 
do 7iations make a 7ioise, tumultuate, or rage? The Hebrew 
verb is not expressive of an internal feeling, but of the outward 
agitation which denotes it. There may be an allusion to the 
rolling and roaring of the sea, often used as an emblem of popu- 
lar commotion, both in the Scriptures and the classics. The 


PSALM II. * 9 

past tense of this verb (ivhy have they raged ?) refers to the 
commotion as ah-eady begun, while the future in the next clause 
expresses its continuance. And peoples, not people in the col- 
lective sense of persons, but in the proper plural sense of na- 
tions, races, will imagine, i. e. are imagining and will continue 
to imagine, vanity, a vain thing, something hopeless and im- 
possible. The interrogation in this verse implies that no ra- 
tional solution of the strange sight could be given, for reasons 
assigned in the remainder of the psalm. This implied charge 
of irrationality is equally well founded in all cases where the 
same kind of opposition exists, though secretly and on the 
smallest scale. 

2. The confused scene presented in the first verse now be- 
comes more distinct by a nearer view of the contending parties. 
( Why will) the Icings of earth set themselves, or, without re- 
peating the interrogation, the kings of earth will set themselves^ 
or take their stand, and rulers consult together, literally sit to- 
gether, but with special reference to taking counsel, as in Ps. 
xxxi. 14 (13), against Jehovah and against his Anointed, or 
Messiah, which is only a modified form of the Hebrew word here 
used, as Christ is a like modification of the corresponding term 
in Greek. External unction or anointing is a sign, in the Old 
Testament, of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially of 
those conferred on prophets, priests, and kings, as ministers of 
the theocracy, and representatives of Christ himself. To kings 
particularly, as the highest and most comprehensive order, and 
peculiar types of Christ in his supremacy as Head of the Church, 
the sacred history applies the title of the Lord's Anointed. 
The rite of unction is explicitly recorded in the case of Saul, 
David, and Solomon, and was probably repeated at the coro- 
nation of their successors. From the verse before us, and 
from Dan. ix. 26, the name Messiah had, before the Advent, 

come into use among the Jews as a common designation of the 


great Deliverer and King whom they expected. (Compare John 
i. 41 with V. 49 of the same chapter, and with Mark xv. 32.) 
The intimate relation of the Anointed One to God himself is 
indicated even here by making them the common object of at- 
tack or rather of revolt. In Acts iv. 25 — 27, this description is 
applied to the combination of Herod and Pilate, Jews and Gen- 
tUes, against Jesus Christ, not as the sole event predicted, but 
as that in which the gradual fulfilment reached its culmination. 
From that quotation, and indeed from the terms of the prophecy 
itself, we learn that nations here does not mean gentiles or 
heathen as opposed to jews, but whole communities or masses 
of mankind, as distinguished from mere personal or insulated 
cases of resistance and rebellion. 

3. Having described the conduct of the disaffected nations 
and their chiefs, he now introduces them as speaking. In the 
preceding verse, they were seen, as it were, at a distance, tak- 
ing counsel. Here they are brought so near to us, or we to 
them, that we can overhear their consultations. Let us break 
their bands, i. e. the bands of the Lord and his Anointed, 
the restraints imposed by their authority. The form of the 
Hebrew verb may be expressive either of a proposition or 
of a fixed determination. We will break their bands, we are 
resolved to do it. This is in fact involved in the other version, 
where let us break must not be understood as a faint or dubi- 
ous suggestion, but as a summons to the execution of a formed 
and settled purpose. The same idea is expressed, with a slight 
modification, in the other clause. And ive will casty or let us 
cast aiva,y from us their cords, twisted ropes, a stronger term 
than bands. The verb, too, while it really implies the act of 
breaking, suggests the additional idea of contemptuous facility, 
as if they had said, let us fling away from us with scorn these 
feeble bands by which we have been hitherto confined. The 
application of this passage to the revolt of the Ammonites and 


other conquered nations against David, or to any similar rebel- 
lion against any of the later Jewish kings, as the principal sub- 
ject of this grand description, makes it quite ridiculous if not 
profane, and cannot therefore be consistent with the principles 
of sound interpretation. The utmost that can be conceded is 
that David borrowed the scenery of this dramatic exhibition 
from the wars and insurrections of his own eventful reign. The 
language of the rebels in the verse before us is a genuine ex- 
pression of the feelings entertained, not only in the hearts of 
individual sinners, but by the masses of mankind, so far as they 
have been brought into collision with the sovereignty of God 
and Christ, not only at the time of his appearance upon earth, 
but in the ages both before and after that event, in which the 
prophecy, as we have seen, attained its height, but was not 
finally exhausted or fulfilled, since the same rash and hopeless 
opposition to the Lord and his Anointed still continues, and is 
likely to continue until the kingdoms of this world are become 
the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, (Rev. xi. 15), an 
expression borrowed from this very passage. 

4, As the first strophe or stanza of three verses is descriptive 
of the conduct of the rebels, so the next describes the corre- 
sponding action of their sovereign, in precisely the same order, 
telling first what he does (in vs. 4, 5), and then what he says 
(in V. 6), so that these two stanzas are not only regular in their 
internal structure but exactly fitted to each other. This sym- 
metrical adjustment is entitled to attention, as that feature of the 
Hebrew poetry which fills the place of rhythm and metre in 
the poetry of other nations. At the same time it facilitates 
interpretation, when allowed to speak for itself without artifi- 
cial or unnatural straining, by exhibiting the salient points 
of the passage in their true relation. The transition here is a 
sublime one, from the noise and agitation of earth to the safety 
and tranquillity of heaven. No shifting of the scene could be 


more dramatic in effect or form. While the nations and their 
kings exhort each other to cast off their allegiance to Jehovah, 
and thereby virtually to dethrone him, he reposes far above 
them and beyond their reach. Sitting in the heavens, i. e. 
resident and reigning there, lie laughs or will laugh. This 
figure, strong and almost startling as it is, cannot possibly be 
misunderstood by any reader, as a vivid expression of con- 
temptuous security on God's part, and of impotent folly on the 
part of men. At them may be supplied from Ps. xxxvii. 13, 
and lix. 9 (8) ; but it is not necessary, and the picture is perhaps 
more perfect, if we understand the laughter here to be simply 
expressive of contempt, and the idea of directly laughing at 
them to be first suggested in the other clause. The Lord, not 
Jehovah, as in v. 2, but Adhonai, the Hebrew word properly 
denoting Lord or Sovereign as a divine title, the Lord shall 
mock thetn, or mock at them, as the strongest possible expres- 
sion of contempt. This verse conveys in the most vivid man- 
ner, one indeed that would be inadmissible in any uninspired 
writer, the fatuity of all rebellious opposition to God's will. 
That such is often suffered to proceed long with impunity, is 
only, in the figurative language of this passage, because God 
first laughs at human folly and then smi:tes it. " Who 
thought," says Luther, "when Christ suffered and the Jews 
triumphed, that God was laughing all the time ?" Beneath 
this bold anthropomorphism there is hidden a profound truth, 
namely, that to all superior beings, and above all to God him- 
self, there is something in sin not only odious but absurd, some- 
thing which cannot possibly escape the contempt^of higher 
much less of the highest intelligence. 

5. This contemptuous repose and seeming indifference shall 
not last forever. Then, after having thus derided them, then, 
as the next stage in this fearful process, he will speak to them,., 
as they, after rising up against him, spoke to one another in v. 


3. And in his heat, i. e. his hot displeasure, the wrath to which 
the laughter of v. 4 was but a prelude, he %vill agitate them, 
terrify them, make them quake with fear, not as a separate act 
from that described in the first clause, but by the very act of 
speaking to them in his anger, the words spoken being given in 
the following verse. 

6. The divine address begins, as it were, in the middle of a 
sentence ; but the clause suppressed is easily supplied, being 
tacitly involved in what precedes. As if he had said, you 
renounce your allegiance and assert your independence, and I, 
on my part, the pronoun when expressed in Hebrew being 
commonly emphatic, and here in strong antithesis to those who 
are addressed. You pursue your course and I mine. The 
translation yet, though inexact and arbitrary, brings out the 
antithesis correctly in a different form from that of the original. 
And I have constituted, or created, with allusion in the 
Hebrew to the casting of an image, or as some less probably 
suppose to unction, I have constituted my King, not simply a 
king, nor even the king, neither of which expressions would 
be adequate, but my king, one who is to reign for me and in in- 
dissoluble union with me, so that his reigning is identical with 
mine. This brings out still more clearly the intimate relation 
of the Anointed to Jehovah, which had been indicated less 
distinctly in v. 2, and thus prepares us for the full disclosure 
of their mutual relation in v. 7. And I have constituted my 
King upon Zion, my hill of holiness, or holy hill, i. e. con- 
secrated, set apart, distinguished from all other hills and other 
places, as the seat of the theocracy, the royal residence, the 
capital city, of the Lord and of his Christ, from the time that 
David took up his abode, and deposited the ark there. The 
translation over Zion would convey the false idea, that Zion 
was itself the kingdom over which this sovereign was to xeign, 
whereas it was only the visible and temporary centre* of a 


kingdom coextensive with the earth, as we expressly read in 
V. 8 below. This shows that the application of the verse 
before us to David himself, although intrinsically possible, is 
utterly at variance with the context and the whole scope of the 

7. We have here another of those changes which impart to 
this whole psalm a highly dramatic character. A third person- 
age is introduced as speaking without any formal intimation in 
the text. As the first stanza (v. 1 — 3) closes with the words 
of the insurgents, and the second (v. 4 — 6) with the words of 
the Lord, so the third (vs. 7 — 9) contains the language of the 
king described in the preceding verse, announcing with his own 
lips the law or constitution of his kingdom. / will declare^ or 
let me declare, the same form of the verb as in v. 3, the decree, 
the statute, the organic law or constitution of my kingdom. 
The Hebrew verb is followed by a preposition, which may be 
expressed in English, without any change of sense, by render- 
ing the clause, / will declare, or make a declaration, i. e. a 
public, formal announcement, {as) to the law or constitution of 
my kingdom. This announcement is then made in a historical 
form, by reciting what had been said to the king at his inaugu- 
ration or induction into office. Jehovah said to me, My son 
(art) thou, this day have I begotten thee. Whether this be re- 
garded as a part of the decree or law itself, or as a mere pre- 
amble to it, the relation here described is evidently one which 
carried with it universal dominion as a necessary consequence, 
as well as one which justifies the use of the expression my king 
in V. 6. It must be something more then than a figure for 
intense love or peculiar favour, something more than the filial 
relation which the theocratic kings, and Israel as a nation, bore 
to God. (Ex. iv. 22. Deut. xiv. 1, 2. xxxii. 6. Isai. Ixiii. 16. 
Hos. xi. 1. Mal. i. 6. Rom. ix. 4.) Nor will any explanation 
of the terms fully meet the requisitions of the context except 


one which supposes the relation here described as manifest in 
time to rest on one essential and eternal. This alone accounts 
for the identification of the persons as possessing a common 
interest, and reigning with and in each other. This profound 
sense of the passage is no more excluded by the phrase this 
day, implying something recent, than the universality of Christ's 
dominion is excluded by the local reference to Zion. The point 
of time, like the point of space, is the finite centre of an infinite 
circle. Besides, the mere form of the declaration is a part of 
the dramatic scenery or costume, with which the truth is here 
invested. The ideas of a king, a coronation, a hereditary suc- 
cession, are all drawn from human and temporal associations. 
This day have I begotten thee may be considered therefore as 
referring only to the coronation of Messiah, which is an ideal 
one. The essential meaning of the phrase I have begotten thee 
is simply this, / aTn thy father. The antithesis is perfectly 
identical with that in 2 Sam. vii. 14, " I will be his father, and 
he shall be my son." Had the same form of expression been 
used here, this day am I thy father, no reader would have 
understood this day as limiting the mutual relation of the par- 
ties, however it might limit to a certain point of time the formal 
recognition of it. It must also be observed, that even if this 
day be referred to the inception of the filial rela<|ph, it is thrown 
indefinitely back by the form of reminiscence or narration in 
the first clause of the verse. Jehovah said to me, but when ? 
If understood to mean from everlasting or eternity, the form of 
expression would be perfectly in keeping with the other figu- 
rative forms by which the Scriptures represent things really 
ineff'able in human language. The opinion that this passage is 
applied by Paul, in Acts xiii. 33, to Christ's resurrection, rests 
upon a misapprehension of the verb raised up, which has this 
specific meaning only when determined by the context or the 
addition of the words from the dead, as in the next verse of the 
same chapter, which is so far from requiring the more general 

16 PSALM 11. 

expressions of the preceding verse to be taken in the same sense, 
that it rather forbids such a construction, and shows that the 
two verses speak of different stages in the same great process, 
first the raising up of Jesus in the same sense in which God 
is said to have raised him up in Acts ii. 30. iii. 22, 26. vii. 
36, i. e. bringing him into being as a man, and then the raising 
up from the dead, which the Apostle himself introduces as 
another topic in Acts xiii. 34. There is nothing, therefore, incon- 
sis-tent with the statement that the Psalmist here speaks of 
eternal sonship, either in the passage just referred to, or in Heb. 
V. 5, where the words are only cited to prove the solemn recog- 
nition of Christ's sonship, and his consequent authority, by God 
himself. This recognition was repeated, and, as it were, real- 
ized at our Saviour's baptism and transfiguration (Matth. iii. 17. 
xvii. 5), when a voice from heaven said, " This is my beloved 
Son in whom I am v/ell pleased, hear ye him I" 

8. The recital of Jehovah's declaration to his Son is still con- 
tinued. Ask of me and I will give nations {as) thy heritage^ 
i. e. thy portion as my son, and {as) thy {2^e7'manent) 2'>ossession, 
from a verb denoting to hold fast, the ends of the earthy a com- 
mon Old Testament expression for the whole earth, the re- 
motest bounds ♦id all that lies between them. The phrase is 
never applied to a particular country, and cannot therefore be 
explained of Palestine or David's conquests, without violently 
changing the sublime to the ridiculous. The only subject, 
who can be assumed and carried through without absurdity, is 
the Messiah, who, as the Son and heir of God, had a right to 
ask this vast inheritance. That he had asked it and received 
it, is implied in the dominion claimed for him in vs. 2 and 3, 
where the nations are represented in revolt against him as their 
rio'htful sovereign. It was to justify this claim that the divine 
decree is here recited, the constitution of Messiah's kingdom, 
in which its limits are defined as coextensive with the earth. 


9. This extensive grant had been accompanied by that of 
power adequate to hold it. That power was to be exercised in 
wrath as well as mercy. The former is here rendered promi- 
nent, because the previous context has respect to audacious 
rebels, over whom Messiah is invested with the necessary 
power of punishment, and even of destruction. Thou shalt 
break them ivith a rod (or sceptre) of iron, as the hardest metal, 
and therefore the best suited to the use in question. By a 
slight change of pointing in the Hebrew, it may be made to 
mean, thou shalt feed them (as a shepherd) with a rod of 
iro7i, which is the sense expressed in several of the ancient 
versions, and to which there may be an ironical allusion, as 
the figure is a common one to represent the exercise of regal 
power. (See for example 2 Sam. vii. 7, and Micah vii. 14.) 
Like a letter's vessel thou shalt shiver them, or dash them in 
pieces, which last however weakens the expression by mul- 
tiplying words. The idea suggested by the last comparison is 
that of easy and immediate destruction, perhaps with an im- 
plication of worthlessness in the object. This view of the 
Messiah as a destroyer is in perfect keeping with the New 
Testament doctrine, that those Avho reject Christ will incur an 
a"-o-ravated doom, and that Christ himself is in^me sense the 
destroyer of those who will not let him be then- Saviour, or, to 
borrow terms from one of his own parables, in strict agreement 
with the scene presented by the psalm before us, " those mine 
enemies which would not that I should reign over them, bring 
hither and slay them before me." (Luke xix. 27.) That false 
view of the divine nature which regards God as delighting in 
the death of the sinner, is more revolting but not more danger- 
ous than that which looks upon his justice as extinguished by 
his mercy, and supposes that the death of Christ has rendered 
perdition impossible, even to those who will not believe in him. 
The terms of this verse are repeatedly applied to Christ in the 
Book of Revelation (ii. 27. xii. 5. xix. 15.) 


10. The description having reached its height in the preced- 
ing verse, there is here a sudden change of manner, a transition 
to the tone of earnest admonition, still addressed, however, to 
the characters originally brought upon the scene. And now 
{oh) kings, after all that you have seen and heard, after this 
demonstration that you cannot escape from the dominion of 
Messiah, and that if you persist in your rebellion he will cer- 
tainly destroy you, be wise, act wisely ; be warned, be admon- 
ished of your danger and your duty, (oh) judges of the earth ! 
A specific function of the regal oflice is here used as an equiva- 
lent or parallel to Icings in the first clause, just as rulers is 
employed for the same purpose in v. 2. The change of tone 
in this last strophe shows that the previous exhibition of Mes- 
siah as invested with destroying power was, as it usually is in 
Scripture, only introductory to another aspect of the same 
great object, which becomes more clear and bright to the con- 
clusion of the psalm. At the same time the original dramatic 
structure is maintained ; for the speaker, in this closing stanza, 
is the Psalmist himself, 

11. Ser'ce the Lord, Jehovah, in the way that he requires, 
by acknowledging his Anointed as your rightful sovereign. 
Serve the Lord with fear, religious awe, not only on account 
of his tremendous majesty, but also in view of his vindicatory 
justice and destroying power. And shout, as a customary 
recognition of a present sovereign, with trembling, an external 
sign of fear, employed as an equivalent or parallel to fear itself. 
The word translated shout may also mean rejoice, as joy is 
often publicly expressed by acclamation. The sense will then 
be, and rejoice with trembling, i. e. exercise those mingled 
feelings which are suited to your present situation, in full view 
of God's wrath on one side, and his mercy on the other. This 
explanation agrees well with the transition, in these verses, 

PSALM 11. X9 

from the tone of terrible denunciation to that of friendly admo- 
nition and encouragement. 

12. Lest the exhortation, in the preceding verse, should seem 
to have respect to Jehovah as an absolute sovereign, without 
reference to any other person, the attention is again called to 
his King, his Anointed, and his Son, as the sovereign to whom 
homage must be paid in order to escape destruction. Kiss the 
Son, an ancient mode of doing homage or allegiance to a king 
(1 Sam. X. 1), sometimes applied to the dress, and sometimes to 
the person, either of the sovereign or the subject himself. 
Even in modern European courts the kissing of the hand has 
this significance. In the case before us, there may possibly be 
an allusion to the kiss as a religious act among the heathen. 
(1 Kings xix. 18. Hos. xiii. 2. Job xxxi. 27.) Kiss the Soil, 
the Son of God, the Messiah, so called by the Jews in Christ's 
time (John i. 50. Matth. xxvi. 63. Mark xiv. 61. Luke 
xxii. 70) ; do him homage, own him as your sovereign, lest he 
he angry, and ye lose the way, i. e. the way to happiness and 
heaven, as in Ps. i. 6, or perish from the way, w^hich is the 
same thing in another form, or 'perish by the way, i. e. before 
you reach your destination. All these ideas are suggested by 
the Hebrew phrase, which is unusual. The necessity of prompt 
as well as humble submission is then urged. For his wrath 
will soon burn, or be kindled. The translation, " when his 
wrath is kindled but a little," does not yield so good a meaning, 
and requires two of the original expressions to be taken in a 
doubtful and unusual sense. The same view of the Messiah 
as a judge and an avenger, which appeared in v. 9, is again 
presented here, but only for a moment, and as a prelude to the 
closing beatitude or benediction. Blessed {are) all, oh the feli- 
cities of all, those trusting him, believing on him and confid- 
ing in him. This delightful contrast of salvation and perdition, 
at one and the same view, is characteristic of the Scriptures, 


and should teach us not to look ourselves, and not to turn the 
eyes of others, towards either of these objects without due 
regard to the other also. The resemblance in the language 
of this verse to that of Ps. i. 1 and 6, brings the two into 
connexion, as parts of one harmonious composition, or at least 
as kindred and contemporaneous products of a single mind, 
under the influence of one and the same Spirit. 


This Psalm contains a strong description of the enemies and 
dangers by w^hich the writer was surrounded, and an equally 
strong expression of confidence that God would extricate him 
from them, with particular reference to former deliverances of 
the same kind. Its place in the collection does not seem to be 
fortuitous or arbitrary. It Avas probably among the first of David's 
lyrical compositions, the two which now precede it having been 
afterwards prefixed to the collection. In these three psalms 
there is a sensible gradation or progressive development of one 
great idea. The general contrast, which the first exhibits, of 
the righteous and the wicked, is reproduced, in the second, as 
a war ajjainst the Lord and his Anointed. In the third, it is 
still further individualized as a conflict between David, the 
great historical type of the Messiah, and his enemies. At the 
same time, the expressions are so chosen as to make the psalm 
appropriate to its main design, that of furnishing a vehicle of 
pious feeling to the church at large and to its individual mem- 


bers, in their own emergencies. The structure of the psahn is 
regular, consisting of four double verses, besides the title. 

1. A Fsalm of David, literally {pelonging) to David, i. e. 
as the author. This is not a mere inscription, but a part of the 
text and inseparable from it, so far as we can trace its history. 
It was an ancient usage, both among classical and oriental 
writers, for the author to introduce his own name into the first 
sentence of his composition. The titles of the psalms ought, 
therefore, not to have been printed in a different type, or as 
something added to the text, which has led some editors to omit 
them altogether. In all Hebrew manuscripts they bear the same 
relation to the body of the Psalm, that the inscriptions in the 
Prophets or in Paul's epistles bear to the substance of the com- 
position. In the case before us, as in every other, the inscrip- 
tion is in perfect keeping with the psalm itself, as well as with 
the parallel history. Besides the author's name, it here states 
the historical occasion of the composition. A Psalm of David, 
in his fleeing, when he fled, /row the face, from the presence, or 
before, Absalom his son. (See 2 Sam. xv. 14, 17, 30.) Such 
a psalm might well be conceived, and even composed, if not 
actually written, in the midst of the dangers and distresses 
which occasioned it. There is no need therefore of supposino- 
the reference to be merely retrospective. That the terms used 
are so general, is because the psalm, though first suggested by 
the writer's personal experience, was intended for more general 

2 (1). Oh Lord, Jehovah, the name of God as self-existent 
and eternal, and also as the covenant God of Israel, how many, 
or how multijjlied, are my foes, my oppressors or tormentors I 
This is not a question, but an exclamation of surprise and grief. 
Many risiir^ vp agaifist me. The sentence may either be 
completed thus : many (are they) that rise up against me ; or 


the construction of the other clause may be continued. (How) 
vnany (are there) rising up agai?ist me! The same peri- 
phrasis for enemies is used by Moses, Deut. xxviii. 7. What 
is here said of the multitude of enemies agrees well with the 
historical statement in 2 Sam. xv. 13. xvi. 18. 

3 (2). (There are) many saying, or, (how) many (are there) 
saying, to my soul, i. e. so as to affect my heart, though really 
said of him, not directly addressed to him. (Compare Ps. xxxv. 
3. Isai. li. 23.) There is ru> salvation, deliverance from evil, 
whether temporal, spiritual, or eternal. There is no salvation 
for him, the sufferer, and primarily the psalmist himself, in God^ 
i. e. in his power, or his purpose, implying either that God does 
not concern himself about such things, Ps. x. 11, or that he has 
cast the sufferer ofi; Ps. xlii. 4, 1 1 (3, 10). Ixxi. 1 1 . xxii. 8, 9. (7, 8). 
Matth. xxvii. 43. This is the language, not of despondent 
friends, but of malignant enemies, and is really the worst that 
even such could say of him. For, as Luther well says, all the 
temptations in the world, and in hell too, melted together into 
one, are nothing when compared with the temptation to despair 
of God's mercy. — The first stanza, or double verse, closes, like 
the second and fourth, with the word Selah. This term occurs 
seventy-three times in the Psalms and three times in the 
prophecy of Habakkuk. It corresponds to rest, either as a noun 
or verb, and like it is properly a musical term, but generally 
indicates a pause in the sense as well as the performance. See 
below, on Ps. ix. 17 (16). Like the titles, it invariably forms 
part of the text, and its omission by some editors and trans- 
lators is a mutilation of the word of God. In the case before 
us, it serves as a kind of pious ejaculation to express the writer's 
feelin2:s, and at the same time warns the reader to reflect on 
what he reads, just as our Saviour was accustomed to say, He 
that hath ears to hear let him hear. 


4 (3). From his earthly enemies and dangers he looks up to 
God, the source of his honours and his tried protector. The 
connexion is similar to that between the fifth and sixth verses 
of the second psalm. The and (not but) has reference to a 
tacit comparison or contrast. This is my treatment at the 
hands of men, and thoii, on the other hand, oh Lord, Jehovah, 
(art) a shield about me, or around me, i. e. coverino- my whole 
body, not merely a part of it, as ordinary shields do. This is a 
favourite metaphor with David; see Ps. vii. 11 (10). xviii. 3 
(2). xxviii. 7. It occurs, however, more than once in the 
Pentateuch. See Gen. xv. 1. Deut. xxxiii. 29.— My honour, 
i. e. the source of the honours I enjoy, with particular refer- 
ence, no doubt, to his royal dignity, not as a secular distinction 
merely, but in connexion with the honour put upon him, as a 
type and representative of Christ. The honour thus bestowed 
by God he might well be expected to protect. My honour, 
and the {one) raising my head, i. e. making me look up from 
my despondency. The whole verse is an appeal to the Psalm- 
ist's previous experience of God's goodness, as a ground for the 
confidence afterwards expressed. 

5 (4). (With) my voice to the Lord, Jehovah, I will call, or 
cry. The future form of the verb is probably intended to 
express continued or habitual action, as in Ps. i. 2. I cry and 
will cry still. And he hears me, or, then he hears me, i. e. 
when I call. The original construction shows, in a peculiar 
manner, the dependence of the last verb on the first, which can 
hardly be conveyed by an exact translation. The second verb 
is not the usual verb to hear, but one especially appropriated to 
the gracious hearing or answering of prayer. And he hears 
(or answers) me from his hill of holiness, or holy hill. This, 
as we learn from Ps. ii. 6, is Zion, the seat and centre of the 
old theocracy, the place where God visibly dwelt among his 
people. This designation of a certain spot, as the earthly resi- 


dence of God, was superseded by the incarnation of his Son, 
whose person thenceforth took the place of the old sanctuary. 
It was, therefore, no play upon words or fanciful allusion, 
when our Saviour " spake of the temple of his body" (John ii. 
21), but a disclosure of the true sense of the sanctuary under 
the old system, as designed to teach the doctrine of God's 
dwelling with his people. The same confidence with which 
the Christian now looks to God in Christ the old believer felt 
towards the holy hill of Zion. Here again the strophe ends 
with a devout and meditative pause, denoted as before by 

6 (5). /, even I, whose case you regarded as so desperate, 
have lain down, ayid slept, {and) awaked, notwithstanding all 
these dangers, for the Lord, Jeliovah, will sustain me, and I 
therefore have no fears to rob me of my sleep. This last clause 
is not a reason for the safety he enjoys, which would require 
the past tense, but for his freedom from anxiety, in reference to 
wiiich the future is entirely appropriate. This construction, 
the only one which gives the Hebrew words their strict and 
full sense, forbids the supposition that the Psalm before us was 
an evening song, composed on the night of David's flight from 
Jerusalem. If any such distinctions be admissible or necessary, 
it may be regarded as a morning rather than an evening hymn. 

7 (6). The fearlessness implied in the preceding verse is here 
expressed. / tvill owt he afraid of myriads, or multitudes, 
the Hebrew word being used both in a definite and vague 
sense. It also contains an allusion to the first verb in v. 2 (1), 
of which it is a derivative. I will not he afraid of myriads 
of people, either in the sense of persons, men, or by a poetic 
license for the people, i. e. Israel, the great mass of whom had 
now revolted. Whom they, my enemies, have set, or posted, 
rimnd ahoiU against me. This is a simpler and more accurate 

PSALM 111. 25 

construction than the reflexive one, wlio have set {themselves) 
against me round about, althousfh the essential meanins; still 
remains the same. The sum of the whole verse is, that the 
same courage, which enabled him to sleep without disturbance 
m the midst of enemies and dangers, still sustained him when 
those enemies and dangers were presented to his waking 

8 (7). That this courage was not founded upon self-reliance, 
he now shows by asking God for that which he before ex- 
pressed his sure hope of obtaining. Arise, oh Lord, Jehovah ! 
This is a common scriptural mode of calling upon God to mani- 
fest his presence and his power, either in wrath or favour. By 
a natural anthropomorphism, it describes the intervals of such 
manifestations as periods of inaction or of slumber, out of 
which he is besought to rouse himself. Save me, even me, of 
whom they say, there is no help for him in God. See above, 
V. 3 (2). Save me, oh my God, mine by covenant and mutual 
engagement, to whom I therefore have a right to look for 
deliverance and protection. This confidence is warranted 
moreover by experience. For thou hast, in former exigencies, 
smitten all my enemies, without exception, {on the) cheek or 
jaw, an act at once violent and insulting. See 1 Kings xxii. 
24. Micah iv. 14 (v. 1.) Lam. iii. 30. The teeth of the tvicked, 
here identified with his enemies, because he was the champion 
and representative of God's cause, thou hast broken, and thus 
rendered harmless. The image present to his mind seems to 
be that of wild beasts eager to devour him, under which form 
his enemies are represented in Ps. xxvii. 2. 

9 (8). To the Lord, Jehovah, the salvation, which I need 
and hope for, is or belongs, as to its only author and dispenser. 
To him therefore he appeals for the bestowment of it, not on 
himself alone, but on the church of which he was the visible 

VOL. I 2 


and temporary head. On thy people {be) thy blessing I This 
earnest and disinterested intercession for God's people forms a 
noble close or winding up of the whole psalm, and is therefore 
preferable to the version, on thy p)^ople (is) thy blessing, 
wiiich, though equally grammatical, is less significant, and 
indeed little more than a repetition of the fact asserted in the 
first clause, whereas this is really an importunate petition 
founded on it. The whole closes, like the first and second 
stanzas, with a solemn and devout pause. Selah. 


The Psalmist prays God to deliver him from present as from 
past distresses, v. 2(1.) He assures the haters of his regal dig- 
nity, that God bestowed it and will certainly protect it, vs. 3, 4 
(2, 3.) He exhorts them to quiet submission, righteousness, and 
trust in God, vs. 5, 6 (4, 5.) He contrasts his own satisfaction, 
springing from such trust, with the hopeless disquietude of 
others, even in the midst of their enjoyments, vs. 7, 8 (6, 7.) 
He closes with an exquisite proof of his tranquillity by falling 
asleep, as it were, before us, under the divine protection, v. 9 
(8.) The resemblance of the last verse to v. 6 (5) of the pre- 
ceding psalm, together with the general similarity of structure, 
shows that, like the first and second, they were meant to form a 
pair or double psalm. For the reasons given in explaining Ps, 
iii. 6 (5), the third may be described as a morning and the fourth 
as an evening psalm. The historical occasion is of course the 
same in both, though mentioned only in the title of the third, 


while the musical directions are given in the title of the fourth. 
The absence of personal and local allusions is explained by 
the object of the composition, which was not to express private 
feelings merely, but to furnish a vehicle of pious sentiment for 
other sufferers and the church at large. 

1 . To the chief musician, literally the overseer or superin- 
tendent, of any work or labour (2 Chron. ii. 1, 17. xxxiv. 12), 
and of the temple music in particular (1 Chron. xv. 21.) The 
psalm is described as belonging to him, as the performer, or as 
intended /or him, to be given to him. This shows that it was 
written for the use of the ancient church, and not for any 
merely private purpose. That this direction was not added by 
a later hand, is clear from the fact that it never appears in the 
latest psalms. The same formula occurs at the beginning of 
fifty-three psalms, and at the close of the one in the third chap- 
ter of Habakkuk. A more specific musical direction follows. 
In, on or with, stringed instruments. This may either qualify 
chief musician, as denoting the leader in that particular style 
of performance, or direct him to perform this particular psalm 
with that kind of accompaniment. A psalm to David, i. e. 
belonging to him as the author, just as it belonged to the chief 
musician, as the performer. The original expression is the 
same in both cases. Of David conveys the sense correctly, 
but is rather a paraphrase than a translation. 

2 (1). The psalm opens with a prayer for deliverance founded 
on previous experience of God's mercy. In my calling, when 
I call, hear me, in the pregnant sense of hearing favourably, 
hear and answer me, grant me what I ask. Oh my God of 
righteousness, my righteous God ! Compare my hill of holi- 
ness, Ps. ii. 6, and his hill of holiness, Ps. iii. 5 (4). The 
appeal to God, as a God of righteousness, implies the justide 
of tlie Psalmist's cause, and shows that he asks nothin£? incon- 


sistent with God's holiness. The same rule should govern all 
oar prayers, which must be impious if they ask God to deny 
himself. The mercy here asked is no new or untried favour. 
It is because he has experienced it before that he dares to ask 
it now. In the pressure^ or confinement, a common figure for 
distress, which I have heretofore experienced, thou hast 
widened, or made room, for me, the corresponding figure for 
relief. All he asks is that this may be repeated. Have mercy 
upon ine, or he gracious unto me, now as in former times, and 
hear my prayer. This appeal to former mercies, as a ground 
for claiming new ones, is characteristic of the Bible and of true 
religion. Among men, past favours rq,ay forbid all further ex- 
pectations ; but no siich rule applies to the Divine compassions. 
The more we draw from this source, the more copious and 
exhaustless it becomes. 

3 (2). ^ons of man! In Hebrew, as in Greek, Latin, and 
German, there are two words answering to maji, one generic 
and the other specific. When placed in opposition to each 
other, they denote men of high and low degree, as in Ps. xlix. 3 
(2.) Ixii. 10 (9.) Prov. viii. \. It seems better, therefore, to give 
the phrase here used its emphatic sense, as signifying men of 
note or eminence, rather than the vague one of men in general 
or human beings. This agrees moreover with the probable 
occasion of this psalm, viz. the rebellion of Absalom, in which 
the leading men of Israel were involved. To tvhat {titne), i. e. 
how long, or to ivhat (^point), degree, of wickedness ; most 
probably the former. How long {shall) my honour, not merely 
personal but official, {be) for shame, i. e. be so accounted, or 
{be converted) into shame, by my humiliation ? David never 
loses sight of his religious dignity, as a theocratical king and 
a type of the Messiah, or of the insults off"ered to the latter in 
liis person. The question, how longl impjies that it had lasted 
lono" enough, nay too long, even when it first began, in other 


words that it was wrong from the beginning. (Hoiv long) loill 
ye love vanity, or a vain thing, in the sense both of a fooUsh 
hopeless undertalving, and of something morally defective or 
worthless. The same word is used above in reference to the 
insurrection of the nations against God and Christ (Ps. ii. 1), 
{How long) will ye seek a lie, i. e. seek to realize a vain 
imagination or to verify a false pretension, with particular refer- 
ence perhaps to the deceitful policy of Absalom (2 Sam. xv. 4, 
7.) As the love of the first clause denotes the bent of their 
affections, so the seek of this clause signifies the acting out of 
their internal dispositions. Compare Ps. xxxiv. 15 (14) and 
Zeph. ii. 3. The feeling of indignant surprise, implied in the 
interrogation, is expressed still further by a solemn pause. 
Selah. See above, on Ps. iii. 3 (2). The position of this 
word, here and in v. 5 (4) below, seems to forbid the division 
of the psalm into strophes or stanzas of equal length. 

4 (3). The pause at the close of the preceding verse ex- 
presses feeling. The connexion of the verses, as to sense, is as 
intimate as possible. The and at the beginning of the verse 
before us has reference to the exhortation implied in the fore- 
going question. (See above, on Ps. ii. 6.) Cease to love 
vanity and seek a lie, and know, be assured, that the Lordy 
Jehovah, hath set apart, the same verb used to signify the 
segregation of Israel from the rest of men (Ex. viii. 18. ix. 4. 
xi. 7. xxxiii. 16), here applied to the designation of an indi- 
vidual to the highest theocratical dignity. The Lord hath set 
apart for himself, for his own service, the execution of his 
own plans, and the promotion of his own honour. It was not 
therefore an attack on David, but on God himself and the 
Messiah whom he represented. The Hebrew word "l^pn^ de- 
rived from "ipri love to God or man, may either signify an ob- 
ject of the divine mercy, or one actuated by religious love. If 
both ideas are included, which is altogether probable, neither 


godly nor any other single word in English is an adequate 
translation. The predominant idea seems to be the passive 
one, so that the words are not so much descriptive of religions 
character as of divine choice : and know that the Lord hath 
set apart for the accomplishment of his own purpose one 
selected in his sovereign mercy for that purpose. This is 
mentioned as a proof that their hostility \vas vain, and that the 
prayer of v. 2 (1) would certainly be heard and answered.. 
This followed as a necessary consequence from the relation 
which the Psalmist bore to God, not only as a godly man, but 
as a theocratic sovereign. The Lord, Jehovah, will hear, in 
my calling, when I call, unto him. The terms of the open- 
ing petition are here studiously repeated, so as to connect the 
prayer itself with the expression of assured hope that it will be 

5 (4). The address to his enemies is still continued, but 
merely as a vehicle of truth and his own feelings. Rage and 
sin not, i. e. do not sin by raging, as you have done, against me, 
the Lord's Anointed, and indirectly therefore against himself. 
This construction of the Hebrew words, though not the most 
obvious or agreeable to usage, agrees best with the context and 
with the Septuagint version, adopted by Paul in Ephesians iv. 
26, where the precept, he ye angry and sin not, seems to be 
a positive prohibition of anger, i, e. of its wilful continuance, 
as appears from what the Apostle adds, perhaps in allusion to 
the last clause of the verse before us. Some, it is true, have 
understood Paul as meaning, be angry upon just occasions, but 
be careful not to sin by groundless anger or excess. But even 
if this be the sense of the words there, it is entirely inappro- 
priate here, where the anger of the enemies was altogether 
sinful, and they could not therefore be exhorted to indulge it. 
There is still another meaning Avhich the Hebrew words will 
bear. The verb strictly means to be violently moved with any 


passion or emotion, whether anger (Prov. xxix. 9), grief (2 Sam. 
xviii. 33), or fear (Isai. xxxii. 11.) It might therefore be translated 
here, tremble, stand in awe, mid sin not. But tliis, although 
it yields a good sense, cuts off all connexion between David's 
words and those of Paul, and makes the explanation of the latter 
still more difficult. The English word rage not only conveys 
the sense of the original correctly, but is probably connected 
with it in its etymology. — The command to cease from raging 
against God and his Anointed is still further carried out in the 
next clause. Say in your heart, to yourselves, and not aloud, 
much less with clamour, w^hat you have to say. The Hebrew 
verb does not mean to speak but to so.y, and, like this English 
word, is always followed by the words spoken, except in a few 
cases where they can be instantly supplied from the context. 
E. g. Ex. xix. 2-5, " So Moses went unto the people and said 
(not spake) to them" what God had just commanded him. 
Gen. iv. 8, " And Cain said to Abel his brother (not talked 
with him)," let us go into the field, as appears from what 
immediately follows. Compare 2 Chron. ii. 10 (11.) It might 
here be rendered, say {so) in your heart, i. e. say we will no 
longer sin by raging against David ; but the other is more 
natural, and agrees better with what follows. Say (what you 
do say) in your heart, iipon your bed, i. e. in the silence of the 
night, often spoken of in Scripture as the season of reflection 
(Eph. iv, 26), and he still, be silent, implying repentance and 
submission to authority. The effect of this exhortation to be 
still is beautifully strengthened by a pause in the performance. 

6 (5). Before his enemies can be successful they must have a 
fear of God and a faith, of which they are entirely destitute. 
This confirmation of the Psalmist's hopes is clothed in the 
form of an exhortation to his enemies. Offer offerings, or 
sacrifice sacrifices, of righteousness, i. e. righteous sacrifices. 


prompted by a right motive, and implying a correct view of 
the divine nature. There may be an allusion to the hypocrit- 
ical services of Absalom, and especially his pretended vow (2 
Sam. XV. 7, 8.) The form of expression here is borrowed 
from Deut. xxxiii. 19. As an indispensable prerequisite to 
such a service, he particularly mentions faith. A7id trust 
ill the Lord, Jehovah, not in any human help or temporal ad- 

7 (6). Many {there are) saying, Who ivill show lis good? 
This may be an allusion to the anxious fears of his companions 
in misfortune, but is more probably a picture of the disquiet 
and unsatisfied desire arising from the want of faith and right- 
eousness described in the foreo:oin2: verse. Of all who do not 
trust in God it may be said, that they are continually asking 
tvho U'ill shoiv ns good, who will show us Avherein happiness 
consists, and how we may obtain it ? In contrast with this 
restlessness of hope or of despair, he shows his own acquaint- 
ance with the true source of tranquillity by a petition founded 
on the ancient and authoritative form in which the High Priest 
was required to bless the people (Num. vi. 24 — 26.) •' The 
Lord bless thee and keep thee ; the Lord make his face shine 
upon thee and be gracious unto thee ; the Lord lift up his 
countenance upon thee and give thee peace." Two of these 
solemn benedictions are here mingled in a prayer. Lift upon 
us the light of thy countenance, oh Lord, Jehovah! The 
light of the countenance is a favourite figure in the Psalms, for 
a favourable aspect or expression. See Ps. xxxi. 17 (16.) xliv. 
4 (3). Ixxx. 4 (3.) The "lifting up may have reference to the 
rising of the sun, or be put in opposition to the act of looking 
lown or away from any object, as a token of aversion or dis- 
pleasure. TJpo7i us extends the prayer to his companions in 
misfortune, or to all God's people, or to men in general, as if he 
had said, this is the only hope of our lost race. The pliural 


form may be compared with those in the Lord's Prayer, as 
indicating the expansive comprehensive spirit of true piety. 

8 (7). The faith, of which his enemies were destitute, he 
possessed in such a measure, that the mere anticipation of 
God's favour made him happier, in the midst of his distresses, 
than his foes in the actual possession of their temporal advan- 
tages. Thou hast given gladness in tny heart, not to my 
heart, but to me in my heart, i. e. a real, inward, heartfelt 
gladness, more than the time, or more than when, i. e. more 
than they ever enjoyed when, their corn and their ivine 
abounded, or increased. The original nouns properly denote 
the new corn and wine of the passing year, the fresh fruits of the 
field and vineyard. The reference may be either to the pro- 
verbial joy of harvest and of vintage, or to the abundant stores 
of David's enemies contrasted with his own condition when 
dependent on a faithful servant for subsistence (2 Sam. xvi. 

9 (8). With this faith in the divine protection, he has no- 
thing even to disturb his rest. In 'peace, tranquillity, com- 
posure, at once, or at the same time, by the same act, I loill 
lie down and will sleep, or rather go to sleep, fall asleep, which 
is the meaning of the Hebrew verb in Gen. ii. 21. xli. 5. 1 Kings 
xix, 5, and elsewhere. Nothing could be more natural and 
beautiful, as a description of complete tranquillity, than this 
trait borrowed from the physical habits of the young, the 
healthy, and those free from all anxiety, to whom the act of 
lying down and that of sleeping are almost coincident. The 
ground of this security is given in the last clause. For thou^ 
Lord, Jehovah, alone in safety, or security, wilt make me 
du'ell. The future form, though not exclusive of the present 
(see above, on Ps. i. 2), should be retained because it indicates 
the Psalmist's assured Hope of something not yet realized, and 

VOL. I. 2^ 


is thus in perfect keeping with v. 8 (7.) — Alone may be con- 
nected with what goes before : for thou Lord, and no other, 
thou, even though all other friends and advanta2;es should fail 
me, art sufficient to protect me and provide for me. Or it may- 
be connected with what follows : alone, in safety, thou tvilt 
tnake me divell. There is then an allusion to the repeated 
application of the same Hebrew word to Israel as dwelling 
apart from other nations under God's protection and in the en- 
joyment of his favour. See Num. xxiii. 9. Dent, xxxiii. 28, 29, 
and compare Micah vii, 14. Jer. xlix. 31. Deut. iv. 7, 8. 
2 Sam, vii. 23. What was originally said of the people is 
then transferred, as in v. 4 (3) above, to David, not as a private 
member of the ancient church, however excellent, but as its 
theocratic head and representative, in whom, as afterwards 
more perfectly in Christ, the promises to Israel were verified 
and realized. This last interpretation of alone is so striking, 
and agrees so well with the other allusions in this context to 
the Pentateuch, e. g. to Lev. xxv. 18, 19, and Deut. xxxiii. 12 
in this verse, and to Num. vi. 24 — 26 in v. 7 (6), that some 
combine the two constructions, and suppose alone to have a 
kind of double sense, as if he had said, thou alone wilt make 
me dwell alone. — Although the form of this verse has respect 
to the particular historical occasion of the psalm, the sentiment 
is so exj^ressed as to admit of an unforced application to the 
case of every suffering believer, and to the distresses of the 
church at large, for whose use it was not only left on record 
but originally written. 

PSALM V. 35 


The Psalmist prays for the divine help, v. 2 (1), on the 
ground that Jehovah is his King ^nd his God, v. 3 (2), that he 
early and constantly invokes his aid, v. 4 (3), that the ene- 
mies, from whom he seeks to be delivered, are the enemies of 
God, vs. 5, 6 (4, 5), and as such must inevitably perish, v. 
7 (6), while he, as the representative of God's friends, must 
be rescued, v. 8 (7). He then goes over the same ground 
afresh, asking again to be protected from his enemies, v. 9 (8), 
again describing them as desperately wicked, v. 10 (9), again 
appealing to God's justice to destroy them, v. 11 (10), and 
again anticipating certain triumph, v. 12 (11), on the ground of 
God's habitual and uniform dealino" with the ricrhteous, v. 13 
(12). As the two preceding psalms appeared to constitute a 
pair, so this one seems to contain such a pair or double psalni 
within itself. It is also obvious, that this is but a fu^rther vari- 
ation of the theme which runs through the preceding psalms, 
and therefore an additional proof that their arrangement in the 
book is not fortuitous or arbitrary. If v. 4 (3) of this psalm be 
supposed to mark it as a morning hymn, its affinity to the two 
before it becomes still more close and striking. 

1 . To (or for) the Chief Musician. See above, on Ps. iv. 
1. To (or for) Nehiloth. This, though undoubtedly a part 
of the original inscription, is obscure and enigmatical. Its 
very obscurity indeed may be regarded as a proof of its an- 
tiquity and genuineness. Some understand it to mean flutes^ 
or wind-instruments in general, as Neginoth, in the title of the 



fourth psalm, means stringed instruments. The sense woul 1 
then be : (to be sung) to (an accompaniment of) flutes or wind- 
instruments. But as the Hebrew word is nowhere else used 
in this sense, and the preposition here employed is not the one 
prefixed to names of instruments, and flutes are nowhere men- 
tioned as a part of the temple music, others make Nehiloth 
the name of a tune, or of another song to the melody of wiiich 
this was to be adapted : (to be sung) to (the air of) Nehiloth. 
Others follow the ancient versions in making it refer, not to the 
musical performance, but the subject of the psalm : (as) to 
inheritances, lots, or destinies, viz. those of the righteous and 
the wicked. This is favoured by the circumstance, that most 
of the other enigmatical inscriptions of the psalms may be 
more probably explained as having reference to their theme or 
subject than in any other manner. — The title closes, as in the 
foregoing psalm, by ascribing it to David, as its author. Nor 
is there any thing, as we shall see, to militate against the truth 
of this inscription. 

2 (1). To my ivorcls, oh Loi'd, Jehovah, give ear, perceive 
■my tlioiight. Attend not only to my vocal and audible peti- 
tions, but to my unexpressed desires, to those " groanings which 

.cannot be uttered," but are no less significant to God than lan- 
guage. (Rom. viii. 26, 27.) The second verb suggests the 
idea of attention, as well as that of simple apprehension. 

3 (2). Hearken to the voice of my crying, or my cry for 
help, to which the Hebrew word is always specially applied. 
My king and my God, not as a mere creator and providential 
ruler, but as the covenant God and king of Israel, whom David 
represented. As he was himself the king of Israel, so God 
was his king, the lord paramount or sovereign, in whose right 
he reigned. This address in\'olves a reason why his prayer 
must be heard. God, as the king of his people, could not deny 

PSALM V. ^7 

them his protection, and they asked no other. For to thee, and 
thee only, ivill I pray. As if he had said : it is in this capa- 
city that I invoke thee, and I therefore must be heard. This 
is a specimen of that na^Q^oia^ or freedom of speech towards 
God, which is recognized as an effect and evidence of faith, in 
the New as well as the Old Testament. Heb. iv. 16. x. 19. 
35. 1 John ii. 28. iii. 21. iv. 17. v. 14. 

4 (3). Oh Lord, Jehovah, {in) the morning thou shalt hear 
my voice. This is not so much a request to be heard as a 
resolution to persist in prayer. The reference may be either 
to stated hours of prayer or to early devotion as a proof of 
earnestness and faith. See Ps. Iv. 18 (17.) Ixxxviii. 14 (13). 
{Iri) the mor?iing I will set (my prayer) in order, to (or for) 
thee. There is here a beautiful allusion to the Mosaic ritual, 
which is unavoidably lost in a translation. The Hebrew verb 
is the technical term used in the Old Testament to signify the 
act of arranging the wood upon the altar (Gen. xxii. 9. Lev. i. 
7. 1 Kings xviii. 33) and the shewbread on the table (Exod. 
xl. 23. Lev. xxiv. 6, 8.) It would therefore necessarily sug- 
gest the idea of prayer as an oblation, here described as a kind 
of morning sacrifice to God. And I ivill look out, or watch, 
for an answer to my prayers. The image presented is that of 
one looking from a wall or tower in anxious expectation of 
approaching succour. A similar use of the same verb occurs 
in Hab. ii. 1 and Micah vii. 7. True faith is not contented 
with the act of supplication, but displays itself in eager expect- 
ation of an answer. 

5 (4.) Here, as elsewhere, the Psalmist identifies his cause 
with God's, and anticipates the downfal of his enemies because 
they are sinners and therefore odious in God's sight. For not 
a God delighting in %oickedness {art) thou, as might appear 
to be the case if these should go unpunished. It is necessary, 

38 PSALM V. 

therefore, for the divine honour, that they should not go un- 
punished. Not ivith thee, as thy guest or friend, shall evil, or 
the hod {inan), dwell. For an opposite use of the same figure, 
see below, Ps. xv. 1. Ixi. 5 (4.) It is still implied, that the im- 
punity of sinners would appear as if God harboured and abetted 
them, and therefore must be inconsistent with his honour as a 
holy God. 

6 (5). What was said in the preceding verse of sin is here, 
to prevent misapprehension, said of sinners. They shall not 
stand, the proud, or insolent, here put for wicked men in 
general and for the Psalmist's enemies in particular, before 
thine eyes. Thou canst not bear the presence of thy moral 
opposites. Sin is not only opposed to God's will, but repug- 
nant to his nature. By ceasing to hate it, he would cease to 
be holy, cease to be perfect, cease to be God. This idea is 
expressed more directly in the other clause. Thou hast hated, 
and must still hate, all doers of iniquity. This last word is 
originally a negative, meaning inanity or nonentity, but like 
several other negatives in Hebrew, is employed as a strong 
term to denote moral deficiency and worthlessness. 

7 (6.) As the preceding verse extends what was said of sin 
in the abstract to personal offenders, so here what was said of 
the divine dispositions is applied to divine acts. That which 
God hates he must destroy. Particular classes of transgressors 
are here put, as before, by way of specimen or sample, for the 
whole ; with special reference, however, to the sins of David's 
enemies. Thou ivilt destroy speakers of falsehood ; see above, 
on Ps. iv, 3 (2.) A man of blood, literally bloods, the plural 
form being commonly used where there is reference to blood- 
guiltiness or murder. See Gen. iv. 10, 11. Ps. li. 16 (14.) A 
man of blood and fraud, a bloody and deceitful man, the 
hardy Jehovah, will ablior; he must and will show his abhor- 

PSALM V. 39 

rence by the punishment of such offenders. This confident 
anticipation of God's righteous retributions really involves a 
prayer for the deliverance of the Psalmist from his enemies. 

8 (7.) For the same reason he is equally confident in the 
anticipation of his own deliverance. Since his enemies must 
perish as the enemies of God, he must escape, not on account 
of his own merit, nor simply as an object of God's favour, but 
as the champion of his cause, his earthly vicegerent, the type 
and representative of his Messiah. And I, as distinguished 
from these sinners, in the abundance of thy mercy, which 
excludes all reliance on his own strength or goodness, will 
come to thy house, the tabernacle set up on Mount Zion by 
David. I ivill worship, literally prostrate or bow myself, to- 
wards thy temple of holiness, thy holy temple, or rather 
palace, so called as the residence of Israel's divine king, and 
therefore no less applicable to the tabernacle than the temple. 
See 1 Sam. i. 9. iii. 3. Ps. xxvii. 4. xxviii. 2. Towards, not 
in, because the worshippers did not go into the sanctuary itself, 
but worshipped in the court, with their faces turned towards 
the place of God's manifested presence. Such usages are now 
superseded by the advent of the true sanctuary. See above, on 
Ps. iii. 5 (4.) I7i thy fear, the reverence engendered even by 
the view and the experience of God's mercy. There may be 
an allusion in this verse to David's painful sense of his exclu- 
sion from the house of God (2 Sam. xv. 25) ; but it cannot be 
merely an anticipation of renewed acc^ to the sanctuary, 
which was equally open to all others, and could not therefore 
be used to indicate the contrast between his condition and that 
of others. The verse is rather an engagement to acknowledge 
God's delivering mercy in the customary manner. See below, 
Ps. Ixvi. 13. As if he had said : while my enemies perish by 
the hand of God, I shall be brought by his mercy to give thank? 
for my deliverance at his sanctuary. 

40 PSALM V. 

9 (8.) The Psalmist here begins his prayer and argument 
anew, pursuing the same order as before. Oil Lord, Jehovah, 
lead me, guide me safely, in thy righteousness, i. e. in the 
exercise of that same justice which destroys my enemies, on 
accoimt of my enemies, that they may not triumph ; make 
straight before iny face thy way, i. e. mark out a safe and easy 
path for me to tread. The explanation of the %vay as that of 
duty and obedience, although not at variance with scriptural 
usage, is less suited to the context here, in which the prayer 
throughout is for protection and deliverance. 

10 (9.) The same reason as before is now assigned for his 
deliverance from his enemies, viz. because they were the ene- 
mies of God, and they were such because they were atrocious 
sinners. For there is nothing in his onouth, i. e. the mouth 
of any one of them, or of all concentrated in one ideal person, 
sure or certain, i. e. true. Their inside, their heart, their real 
disposition, as distinguished from the outward appearance, (w) 
mischiefs, injuries, or crimes, consists of nothing else. A grave 
opened, to receive the victim, {is) their throat, like that of a 
devouring monster. Or the throat may be mentioned as an 
organ of speech, as in Ps. cxlix. 6. cxv. 7, and compared with 
the grave as a receptacle of corruption or a place of destruction. 
Their tongue they smooth, or make smooth, by hypocrisy or 
flattery, as the wicked woman is said to make her words smooth^ 
Pro v. ii. 16. vii. 5. The Septuagint version of this clause is 
quoted by Paul (Rom. iii. 13), with several other passages from 
the Old Testament, as a strong description of human depravity. 
The last words are rendered in that version, ' with their tongues 
they have used craft or deceit,' an idea really included in the 
literal translation. 

11 (10.) Condemn them, literally make them guilty, i. e. re- 
cognize and treat them as such, oh God ! They shall fall, i. e. 

PSALM V. 41 

they must, they cannot but fall, a common figure for destruction 
(Ps. xxxvi. 13. cxli. 10), from their plans, i. e. before they can 
accomplish them, or in consequence, by means of them. (Com- 
pare Hos. xi. 6.) In the fullness, or abundance, of their sins, 
thrust them forth, cast them out from thy presence, and down 
from their present exaltation. For they have rebelled against 
thee, not me, or against me only as thy instrument and repre- 
sentative. Or the opposition may be between rebelling against 
God and simply sinning against man. The imperative and 
future forms, in this verse, both express the certainty of the 
event, with an implication of approving acquiescence. Such 
expressions, in the Psalms, have never really excited or en- 
couraged a spirit of revenge in any reader, and are no more 
fitted to have that effect than the act of a judge who condemns 
a criminal to death or of the officer who executes the sentence. 
The objections often urged against such passages are not 
natural, but spring from over-refinement and a false view of the 
Psalms as expressions of mere personal feeling. See below, on 
Ps. vii. 13 (12.) 

12 (11.) The transition and contrast are the same as in v. 8 
(7) above. While the wicked perish, the righteous shall have 
cause for everlasting joy. And all {those) trusting in thee, 
making thee their refuge, shall be glad; forever shall they 
shout (or sing) for joy, and (not wit'hout cause, for) thon loilt 
cover over (or protect) them ; and in thee, in thy presence and 
thy favour, shall exult, or triumph, (the) lovers of thy name, 
i. e. of thy manifested excellence, which is the usual sense of 
this expression in the Old Testament. The believers and lovers 
of God's name, here spoken of, are not merely friends of the 
Psalmist who rejoice in his deliverance, but the great congre- 
gation of God's people, to which he belonged, and of which he 
was the representative, so that his deliverance was theirs, and 


a rational occasion of their joy, not only on his account but on 
their own. 

13 (12.) The confident hope expressed in the foregoing verse 
was not a groundless or capricious one, but founded on the 
nature of God and the uniform tenor of his dispensations. The 
Psalmist knows what God will do in this case, because he 
knows what he does and will do still in general. For thou 
wilt bless, and art wont to bless, the righteous, the opposite of 
those described in vs. 5 — 7 (4 — 6) and 10, 11 (9, 10), oh Loi'd, 
Jehovah I Like the shield, as the shield protects the soldier, 
{so with) favour thou ivilt surroujid him, or enclose him, still 
referring to the righteous. See the same comparison in Ps. iii. 
4 (3.) The confident assertion that God will do so, implies 
that he has done so, and is wont to do so, to the righteous as a 
class. And this affords a reasonable ground for the belief, 
expressed in the preceding verse, that he will do so also in the 
present case. 


The Psalmist prays for the removal of God's chastisements, 
v. 2 (1), because they have already brought him very low, vs. 
3, 4 (2, 3), because the divine glory will be promoted by his 
rescue, v. 5 (4), and obscured by his destruction, v. 6 (o), and 
because, unless speedily relieved, he can no longer bear up 
under his sufferings, vs. 7, 8 (6, 7.) He is nevertheless sure of 
the divine compassion, v. 9 (8.) His prayer is heard and will 


be answered, v. 10 (9), in the defeat and disappointment of his 
enemies, by whose malignant opposition his distress was caused, 
V. 11 (10.) This reference to his enemies constitutes the Unk 
of connexion between this psalm and the foregoing series, 
and maintains the contrast, running through that series, be- 
tween two great classes of mankind, the righteous and the 
wicked, the subjects of Messiah and the rebels against him, the 
friends and foes of the theocracy, the friends and foes of David, 
as an individual, a sovereign, and a type of the Messiah. At the 
same time, this psalm differs wholly from the others in its tone 
of querulous but humble grief, which has caused it to be 
reckoned as the first of the Penitential Psalms. This tone is 
suddenly exchanged, in v. 9 (8), for one of confident assur- 
ance, perfectly in keeping with what goes before and true to 

1. For the Chief Musicia7t, (to be sung) ivith stringed 
instruments ujdoji the eighth. This last word corresponds 
exactly to our. octave ; but its precise application in the 
ancient music, we have now no means of ascertaining. An 
instrument of eight strings, which some suppose to be the 
sense, could hardly be described by the ordinal number eighth. 
We probably lose little by our incapacity to understand these 
technical expressions, while at the same time their very ob- 
scurity may serve to confirm our faith in their antiquity and 
genuineness, as parts of the original composition. This psalm, 
like the three which immediately precede it, describes itself as 
a psalm of (or by) David, belonging to David, as its author. 
The correctness of this statement there is as little- reason to dis- 
pute in this as in either of the other cases. 

2 (1). Oh Lord, Jehovah, do not in thine anger rebuke me, 
and do 7iot in thy heat, or hot displeasure, chasten me. Both 
the original verbs properly denote the conviction and reproof of 


an offender in words, but are here, as often elsewhere, applied 
to providential chastisements, in which God speaks with a re- 
proving voice. This is not a prayer for the mitigation of the 
punishment, like that in Jer. x. 24, but for its removal, as 
appears from the account of the answer in vs. 9 — 11 (8 — 10.) 
Such a petition, Avhile it indicates a strong faith, at the same 
time recognises the connexion between suffering and sin. In 
the very act of asking for relief, the Psalmist owns that he is 
justly punished. This may serve to teach us how far the con- 
fident tone of the preceding psalms is from betraying a self- 
righteous spirit, or excluding the consciousness of personal 
unworthiness and ill-desert. The boldness there displayed is 
not that of self-reliance, but of faith. 

3 (2.) Have 7nercy upon me, or he g7'acious unto me, oh 
Lord, Jehovah, for drooping, languishing, <2W I. The original 
construction is, for I am (o?2e who) droojos or withers, like a 
blighted plant. Like a child complaining to a parent, he 
describes the greatness of his suffering as a reason for relieving 
him. Heal 7ne oh Lord, Jehovah, for shaken, agitated with 
distress and terror, are my bones, here mentioned as the strength 
and framework of the body. This might seem to indicate 
corporeal disease as the whole from which he prays to be 
delivered. But the absence of any such allusion in the latter 
part of the psalm, and the explicit mention there of enemies as 
the occasion of his sufferings, shows that the pain of body here 
described was that arising from distress of mind, and which 
could only be relieved by the removal of the cause. To 
regard the bodily distress as a mere figure for internal anguish, 
would be wholly arbitrary and destructive of all sure interpre- 
tation. The physical effect here ascribed to moral causes is 
entirely natural and confirmed by all experience. 

4 (3). The Psalmist himself guards against the error of sup- 


posing that his worst distresses were corporeal. Aiid my soul, 
as well as my body, or more than my body, which merely sym- 
pathizes with it, is greatlij agitated, terror-stricken, the same 
word that was applied to the bones in the preceding verse. The 
description of his suffering is then interrupted by another apos- 
trophe to God. And thou, oh Lord, Jehovah, until when, 
how long ? The sentence is left to be completed by the reader : 
how long wilt thou leave me thus to suffer ? how long before 
thou wilt appear for my deliverance ? This question, in its 
Latin form, Domine quousque, was Calvin's favourite ejacula- 
tion in his times of suffering, and especially of painful sick- 


5 (4.) The expostulatory question is now followed by direct 
petition. Return, oh Lord, Jehovah, deliver my soul, my life, 
my self, from this impending death. As God seems to be ab- 
sent Avhen his people suffer, so relief is constantly described as 
his return to them. {Oh) save me, a still more comprehensive 
term than that used in the first clause, for the sake of thy mer- 
cy, not merely according to it, as a rule or measure, but to vin- 
dicate it from reproach and do it honour, as a worthy end to be 
desired and acconiDlished. 

6 (5.) As a further reason for his rescue, he now urges that 
without it God will lose the honour, and himself the happiness, 
of his praises and thanksgivings. For there is 7iot in death, or 
the state of the dead, thy remembrance, any remembrance of 
thee, hi Sheol, the grave, as a general receptacle, here paral- 
lel to death, and like it meaning the unseen world or state of 
the dead, ivho ivill acknowledge, or give thanks, to thee ? The 
Hebrew verb denotes that kind of praise called forth by the expe- 
rience of goodness. The question in the last clause is equivalent 
to the negative proposition in the first. This \^erse does not 
prove that David had no belief or expectation of a future state, 


nor that the intermediate state is an unconscious one, but only 
that in this emergency he looks no further than the close of life, 
as the appointed term of thanksgiving and praise. Whatever 
might eventually follow, it was certain that his death would put 
an end to the praise of God, in that form and those circum- 
stances, to which he had been accustomed. See below, on Ps. 
XXX. 10 (9.) Ixxxviii. 11—13 (10—12.) cxv. 17, 18, and com- 
pare Isaiah xxxviii. 18. So far is the argument here urged 
from being weakened by our clearer knowledge of the future 
state, that it is greatly strengthened by the substitution of the 
second or eternal death. 

7 (6). J am iveary in (or of) my groaning, I have become 
wearied with it, and unless I am relieved, I shall (still as 
hitherto) make my bed swim every night, tny couch with tears I 
shall dissolve, or make to flow. The uniform translation of 
the verbs as presents does not bring out their full meaning, or 
express the idea, suggested in the Hebrew by the change of 
tense, that the grief which had already become Avearisome must 
still continue without mitigation, unless God should interpose 
for his deliverance. Thus understood, the verse is not a mere 
description, but a disguised prayer. 

8 (7.) Mine eye has failed, grown dim, a common symptom 
both of mental and bodily distress, from vexation, not mere 
grief, but grief mixed with indignation at my enemies. It has 
groicn old, dim like the eye of an old man, a still stronger ex- 
pression of the same idea, in (the midst of) all my enemies, or 
in (consequence of) all my enemies, i. e, of their vexatious 
conduct. Compare Ps. xxxi. 10 (9.) In these two verses he 
resumes the description of his own distress, in order to show 
that the argument in v. 6 (5) was appropriate to his case, as 
that of one draw'ing near to death, and therefore likely soon to 
lose the capacity and opportunity of praising God. 


9 (8). Here the key abruptly changes from the tone of sor- 
rowful complaint to that of joyful confidence. No gradual 
transiJ;ion could have so successfully conveyed the idea, that the 
prayer of the psalmist has been heard and will be answered. 
The effect is like that of a whisper in the sufferer's ear, while 
still engrossed with his distresses, to assure him that they are 
about to terminate. This he announces by a direct and bold 
address to his persecuting enemies. Depart from me, all ye 
doers of iniquity, the same phrase that occurs in Ps. v. 6 (5.) 
The sense is not that he will testify his gratitude by abjuring 
all communion with the wicked, but that his assurance of di- 
vine protection relieves him from all fear of his wicked foes. 
When God arises, then his enemies are scattered. This sense 
is required by the last clause of v. 8 (7), and confirmed by a 
comparison with v. 11 {\{))—For the Lord, Jehovah, hath 
heard the voice of my iveeping, or my weeping voice. The 
mfrequency of silent grief is said to be characteristic of the 
orientals, and the same thing may be observed in Homer's pic- 
tures of heroic manners. 

10 (9.) Jehovah hath heard my supplication. The assu- 
rance of this fact relieves all fear as to the future. Jehovah my 
prayer will receive. The change of tense is not unmeaning or 
fortuitous. The combination of the past and future represents 
the acceptance as complete and final, as already begun and 
certain to continue. The particular petition thus accepted is 
the one expressed or implied in the next verse. 

11 (10.) Ashamed and confounded, i. e. disappointed and 
struck with terror, shall be all my enemies. The desire that 
they may be, is not expressed, but involved in the confident 
anticipation that they will be. In the second verb there is an 
obvious allusion to its use in vs. 3, 4 (2, 3.) As he had been 
terror-stricken, so shall they be. As they filled him with con- 


sternation, so shall God fill them. They shall return^ turn 
l)ack from their assault repulsed ; they shall he ashamed, filled 
\vi th shame at their defeat ; and that not hereafter, (^?^) a ino- 
nient^ instantaneously. 


The Psalmist still prays for deliverance from his enemies, 
Vs. 2, 3 (1, 2), on the ground that he is innocent of that where- 
with they charge him, vs. 4 — 6 (3 — 5.) He prays for justice 
to himself and on his enemies, as a part of that great judical 
process which belongs to God as the universal judge, vs. 7 — 
10 (6 — 9.) He trusts in the divine discrimination between 
innocence and guilt, vs. 11, 12 (10, 11.) He anticipates God's 
vengeance on impenitejit offenders, vs. 13, 14 (12, 13.) He 
sees them forced to act as self-destroyers, vs. 15 — 17 (14 — IG.) 
At the same time he rejoices in God's mercy to himself, and to 
the whole class whom he represents, v. 18 (17.) 

The penitential tone, ^vhich predominated in the sixth psalm, 
here gives way again to that of self-justification, perhaps be- 
cause the Psalmist here speaks no longer as an individual, but 
as the representative of the righteous or God's people. The 
two views which he thus takes of himself are perfectly con- 
sistent, and should be suffered to interpret one another. 

1. Shiggaion, i. e. wandering, error. The noun occurs only 
here and, in the plural form, Hab. iii. 1, but the verb from 


which it is derived is not uncommon, and is applied by Saul 
to his own errors with respect to David. 1 Sam. xxvi. 21. 
See also Ps. cxix. 10, 118. Hence some explain the word 
here as denoting moral error, sin, and make it descriptive of 
the subject of the psalm. See above, on Ps. v. 1. Still more 
in accordance with the literal meaning of the root is the 
opinion that it here denotes the wandering of David at the 
period when the psalm was probably conceived. In either 
case, it means a song of wandering or error, which he sang, in 
the literal sense, or in the secondary one of poetical com- 
position, as Virgil says, I sing the man and arms, i. e. they are 
the subject of my poem. To the Lord, Jehovah, to whom a 
large part of the psalm is really addressed. Concerning (or 
because of) the ivords of Cush the Benjamite. It is clear 
from vs. 4 — 6 (3 — 5), that the ivords referred to were calum- 
nious reports or accusations. These may have been uttered by 
one Cush, a Benjamite, who nowhere else appears in history. 
But as this very circumstance makes it improbable that he 
would have been singled out, as the occasion of this psalm, 
from among so many slanderers, some suppose Cush to be 
Shimei, who cursed David when he fled from Absalom (2 Sam. 
xvi. 5 — 13.) As the psalm, however, seems much better 
suited to the times of Saul, some suppose Cush, which is pro- 
perly the Hebrew name of Ethiopia, to be here an enigmatical 
name applied to Saul himself, in reference to the blackness of 
his heart, and perhaps to his incorrigible wickedness. See 
Jer. xiii. 23 and Amos ix. 7. The description Benjamite, is 
equally appropriate to Saul (1 Sam. ix. 1, 2. xvi. 5, 11) and 
Shimei, who indeed w^ere kinsmen. This explanation of the 
word Cush is less forced than it might otherwise appear, be- 
cause enigmatical descriptions of the theme are not unfrequent 
in the titles of the Psalms. See above, on Ps. v. 1, and be- 
low, on Ps. ix. 1. xxii. 1. liii. 1. Ivii. 1. Ix, 1. 

VOL. I. , 3 


2 (1). The Psalm opens with an expression of strong con- 
fidence in God, and a prayer founded on it. Oh Lord, Jeho- 
vah, 77iy God, not merely by creation but by special covenant, 
in thee, as such, and tiierefore in no other, / have trusted, and 
do still trust. This relation and this trust entitle him to audi- 
ence and deliverance, ^ave me frorii all my persecutoj-s, or 
pursuers, a term frequently employed in David's history. See 
1 Sam. xxiv. 15 (14.) xxvi. 20. By these we are here to under- 
stand the whole class of worldly and ungodly men, of which 
Saul was the type and representative. The all suggests the 
urgency of the necessity, as a motive to immediate inter- 
j)osition. — And exti-icate me, or deliver me. The primary idea 
of the verb translated save is that of making room, enlarging. 
See above, on Ps. iv. 2 (1.) 

3 (2.) Liest he tear, like a lio7i, 'my soul. The singular 
form, following the plural in the foregoing verse, may have 
particular reference to Saul, or to the class of which he was a 
type, personified as an ideal individual. The imagery of the 
verse is borrowed from the habits of wild beasts, with which 
David was familiar from a child. See 1 Sam. xvii. 34 — 37. 
The soul or life is mentioned as the real object of attack, and 
not as a mere periphrasis for the personal pronoun, as if my 
soul were equivalent to me. Rending, or breaking the bones, 
and there is none delivering, or with none to deliver. 

4 (3.) He proceeds upon the principle that God will not hear 
the prayer of the wicked, and that he must hear that of the 
righteous. He proceeds, therefore, to assert his innocence, not 
his freedom from all sin, but from that particular offence with 
which he had been charged. Oh Lord, Jehovah, my God, as 
in V. 2 (1), if I have done this, which follows, or this of which 
I am accused, referring to " the Avords of Gush," the calum- 
nies, which gave occasion to the psalm itself. If there is. 


with emphasis on the verb, which might have been omitted in 
Hebrew, and is therefore emphatic, if there is indeed, as my 
accusers say, perverseness, iniquity, in tny palms^ in the palms 
of my hands, here mentioned as instruments of evil. The 
apodosis of the sentence is contained in v. 6 (5) below. 

5 (4.) If I have repaid my friend, one at peace with me, 
evil, and spoiled, plundered, {one) distressing me, acting as 
my enemy, without a cause. There seems to be an allusion 
here to the two periods of David's connexion with Saul, that 
of their friendly intercourse, and that of their open enmity. 
During neither of these had David been guilty of the sins 
charged upon him. He had not conspired against Saul while 
in his service (1 Sam. xxii, 7, 8), and when persecuted by him 
he had spared his life (1 Sam. xxiv. 10, 11.) Some suppose 
this last fact to be here referred to, and translate the second 
clause, yea I have delivered him that without cause is mine 
enemy. The Hebrew verb is certainly used elsewhere in this 
sense (2 Sam. xxii. 20. Ps. vi. 5), but its primary meaning seems 
to be that of stripping or spoiling a conquered enemy. The 
first construction above given is moreover much more natural, 
and agrees better with the grammatical dependence of the 
second verb upon the first. 

6 (5.) His consciousness of innocence is expressed in the 
strongest manner by invoking the divine displeasure if the 
charge can be established. A71 enemy, or by poetic licence, 
the enemy, whether Saul or the ideal enemy referred to in v. 3 
(2,) shall p)ursue, or tnay pursue, which is equivalent to say- 
ing, let the enemy pursue my soul, the figure being still the 
same as in v. 3 (2) above, but carried out with more minute- 
ness, and overtake (it), and trample to the earth tny life, and 
'W,y honour in the dust make dwell, i. e. completely prostrate 
and degrade. Some regard honour as equivalent to soul aiid 


life, the intelligent and vital part, which is the glory of man's 
constitution. But the analogy of Ps. iii. 4 (3) and iv. 3 (2) makes 
it more probable that in this case also there is reference to the 
Psalmist's personal and official honour. The allusion, however, 
is not so much to posthumous disgrace as to present humiliation. 
All this he imprecates upon himself if really guilty of the 
charges calumniously brought against him. The solemnity of 
this appeal to God, as a witness and a judge, is enhanced by 
the usual pause. Selah. 

7 (6.) Upon this protestation of his innocence he founds a 
fresh prayer for protection and deliverance. Arise, arouse thy 
self, oh Lord, Jehovah. See above, on Ps. iii. 8 (7.) Arise in 
thhie anger, raise thyself, or he exalted, in, i. e. amidst, the 
r agings of my enemies. The idea because of tny enemies is 
rather implied than expressed. The sense directly intended 
seems to be that as his enemies are ras-ino:, it is time for God 
to arise in anger too. As they rage against hnn, he calls upon 
God to rise in anger against them. And aivake, a still stronger 
figure than arise, because implying sleep as well as inactivity. 
Aivake unto me, at my call and for my benefit. Judgtnent 
hast thou co7nnianded or ordained. Let that judgment now 
be executed. He appeals to the general administration of 
God's justice, as a ground for expecting it in this one case. 
As it was part of the divine plan or purpose to do justice, both 
on friends and foes, here was an opportunity to put it into 

8 (7.) Aiid the congregation of natioiis shall surround thee, 
which in this connexion is equivalent to saying, let it sur- 
round thee. The most probable sense of these obscure words 
is, appear in the midst of the nations as their judge. The 
same connexion between God's judicial government in general 
and his judicial acts in a particular case, that is implied in the 


preceding verse, is here embodied in the figure of an oriental 
king dispensing justice to liis subjects in a popular assembly. 
And above it, the assembly, to the high place, or the height, 
return thou. This may either mean, return to heaven when 
the judgment is concluded, or, which seems more natural, 
resume thy seat as judge above this great ideal congregation. 
Above it, thus assembled to receive thee, to the high place, or 
the judgment seat, return thou, after so long an absence, pre- 
viously intimated by the summons to arise and awake. In- 
action, sleep, and absence from the judgment seat, are all bold 
metaphors for God's delay to save his people and destroy their 

9 (8.) The same thing is now expressed in a direct and for- 
mal manner. Jehovah ivill judge, is to judge, the nations. 
This is laid down as a certain general proposition, from which 
the Psalmist draws a special inference in the shape of a petition. 
Judge 7ne, oh Lord, Jehovah I If it be true that God will 
judge the world, redress all wrong, and punish all iniquity, let 
him begin with me. Let me share now in the justice which 
is to be universally administered. Judge me, oh Lord, accord- 
ing to tny right, and ony completejiess, or perfection, over me^ 
i. e. according to my innocence which covers and protects me. 
All such expressions must be qualified and explained by the 
confession of unworthiness in Ps. vi. and elsewhere, which suf- 
ficiently demonstrates that the Psalmist here makes no claim to 
absolute perfection and innocence, nor to any whatever that is 
independent of God's sovereign mercy. 

10 (9.) Let cease, I pray, the badness of ivicked (men). 
The future has an optative meaning given to it by the Hebrew 
particle (b53) which is often rendered ?tow, not as an adverb of 
time, but of entreaty. Between man and man, it is frequently 
equivalent to if you please in modern parlance. When ad- 


dressed to God, it scarcely admits of any other version than I 
pray. The assonance or paronomasia in the common version, 
tvickedness of the ivicked, is not found in the original, where 
two words, not akin to one another, are employed. The plural 
form of wicked is also lost or left ambiguous in the common 
version. — And thoic wilt confirm, or establish, a righteous 
{inan), and a trier of hearts and reins, constantly used in 
Scripture for the internal dispositions, {is the) righteous God, or 
{cirt thou) oh righteous God, which last agrees best with the 
direct address to God in the preceding clauses. This does not 
merely mean that God is omniscient, and therefore able thus to 
try the hearts and reins, but that he actually does it. Here he 
is specially appealed to, as a judge or umpire between Saul, or 
" the wicked" whom he represented, and " the righteous," of 
whom David w^as the type and champion. 

11 (10.) My shield (is) upon God. My protection or de- 
fence depends on him alone. The figure is the same as in Ps. 
iii. 4 (3) and v. 13 (12.) Here again the hope of personal de- 
liverance is founded on a general truth, as to the course of the 
divine administration. My shield {is) upon God, saving, or ivho 
saves, the Saviour of, the upright, straight-forward, or sincere 
in heart. This is a new indirect assertion of his own integrity 
and innocence. 

12 (11.) The second word in the original of this verse may 
be either a participle or a noun, so that the clause admits of 
two translations, God {is) a righteous judge, and, God {is) 
judging, i. e. judges, the righteous. The first would be a re- 
petition of the general truth taught in v. 9 (8) above, but here 
applied to the punishment of the wicked, as it is there to the 
salvation of the innocent. According to the other construction, 
the verse before us presents both ideas : God judges the right- 
eous, i. e. does him justice, and God is angry every day. The 


object of this anger, although not expressed, is obvicms, and is 
even rendered more conspicuous by this omission. As if he 
had said : ' God, who does justice to the righteous, has Ukewise 
objects for his indignation.' 

13 (12). If he, the sinner at whom God is angry, will not 
turn, i. e. turn back from his impious and rebeUious under- 
takings, his sivord he ivill %vhet, i. e. with a natural though 
sudden change of subject, God will whet his sword, often re- 
ferred to as an instrument of vengeance. His how lie has trod- 
den on, alluding to the ancient mode of bending the large and 
heavy bows used in battle, a7id made it ready. The bow and 
the sword were the most common weapons used in ancient 
warfare. The past tense of these verbs implies that the instru- 
ments of vengeance are prepared already, and not merely 
viewed as something future. 

14 (13.) And at him (the wicked enemy) he has aimed, or 
directed, the instruments of death, his deadly weapons. This 
is still another step in advance. The weapons are not only 
ready for him, but aimed at him. His arroivs to {be) burning 
he will make, i. e. he will make his arrows burning arrows, in 
allusion to the ancient military custom of shootino- io-nited darts 
or arrows into besieged towns, for the purpose of setting them 
on fire, as well as that of personal injury. The figurative terms 
in these two verses all express the certainty and promptness of 
the divine judgments on incorrigible sinners. For even these 
denunciations are not absolute, but suspended on the enemy's 
repentance or persistency in evil. That significant phrase, if Jie 
will not turn, may be tacitly supplied as qualifying every 
threatening in the book, however strong and unconditional in 
its expressions. 

15 (14.) Behold, he, the wicked man, will writhe, or travial^ 


[with) iniquity, (towards others), and co7iceive mischief (to him- 
self), and bring forth falsehood, self-deception, disappointment. 
The meEining seems to be that while bringing his malignant 
schemes to maturity, he will unconsciously conceive and bring 
forth ruin to himself. 

16 (15.) The same idea is then expressed by other figures, 
borrowed perhaps from certain ancient modes of hunting. A 
ivell he has digged, i. e. a pitfall for his enemy, and hoUoioed 
it, or made it deep, and fallen into the pit he is making, or 
about to make. The change from the past tense to the future 
seems to place the catastrophe between the inception and com- 
pletion of the plan. The translation of the last verb as a sim- 
ple preterite is entirely ungrammatical. 

17 (16.) Still a third variation of the same theme. His Tnis- 
chief shall return upon his owji head, literally into it, like a 
falling body which not only rests upon an object but sinks and 
is embedded in it. And o?i his own crowji his violence, includ- 
ing* the ideas of injustice and cruelty, shall come down. 

18 (17.) While the wicked enemy of God and his people is 
thus made to execute the sentence ofi himself, the Psalmist al- 
ready exults in the experience of God's saving mercy. I will 
praise the Lord, Jehovah, i. e. acknowledge his favours. See 
above, on Ps, vi. 6 (5.) Acccn'ding to his right, desert, or due, 
as in V. 9 (8) above. Or according to his righteousness, his 
justice, i.e. the praise shall correspond to the display just made 
of this attribute, as well in the deliverance of the Psalmist as in 
the destruction of his enemies, A7id I tvill sing praise, praise 
by singing, praise in song, the name, the manifested excellence, 
(see above, on Ps. v. 12 (11),) of the Lord, Jehovah, High or 
Most High. He will praise the Lord in this exalted character, 
as manifested by his dealings in the case which gave occasion 


to the Psalm. The resolution thus expressed may be considered 
as fulfilled in the Psalm itself, so confident is he that it cannot 
be performed before his prayer is ansAvered, Or the words may 
be understood as engaging to continue these acknowledgments 


This psalm begins and ends with an admiring recognition of 
God's manifested excellence, vs. 2 (1) and 10 (9.) In the in- 
termediate verses, the manifestation is traced, first in the inani- 
mate creation, vs. 3, 4 (2, 3), and then in animated nature, 
vs. 5 — 9 (4 — 8), with particular reference to man's superiority. 
This is indeed the main subject of the psalm, the glory of God 
in nature being only introduced to heighten his goodness to 
mankind. We have here, therefore, a description of the dig- 
nity of human nature, as it was at first, and as it is to be re- 
stored in Christ, to whom the descriptive terms may therefore 
be applied, without forced or fanciful accommodation on the one 
hand, and without denying the primary generic import of the 
composition on the other. 

1. To the Chief Musician, on (or according to) the Gittith. 
This word, which reappears in the titles of two other psalms 
(the eighty-first and eighty-fourth), would seem, from its form, 
to be the feminine of Gitti, which always means a Gittite or 
inhabitant of Gath. See Josh.xiii. 3. 2 Sam. vi. 10. xv. 18. As 
David once resided there, and had afterwards much intercourse 


■with the inhabitants, the word may naturally here denote an 
instrument there invented or in use, or an air, or a style of per- 
formance, borrowed from that city. Some prefer, however, to 
derive it from the primary sense of Gath in Hebrew, which is 
ivine-press, and apply it either to an instrument of that shape, 
or to a melody or style Avhich usage had connected with the 
joy of vintage or the pressing of the grapes. Either of these 
explanations is more probable than that which derives Gittith 
from the same root with neginoth in the titles of Ps. iv and vi. 
and gives it the same sense, viz. stringed instruments, or the 
music of stringed instruments. Besides the dubious etymology 
on which this explanation rests, it is improbable that two 
such technical terms would have been used to signify precisely 
the same thing. The only further observation to be made upon 
this title is, that all the psalms to which it is prefixed are of a 
joyous character, which agrees well with the supposition that 
it signities an air or style of musical performance. The as- 
cription of this Psabn to David, as its author, is fully con- 
firmed by its internal character. 

2 (1). Jehovah, our Lord, not of the Psalmist only, but of 
all men, and especially all Israel, hoiv glorious (is) thy 7ia??ie, 
thy manifested excellence, (see above, Ps. v. 11. vii. 17.) in all 
the earth, ivJiich give thy glory, i. e. which glory of thine give 
or place, above the heavens. The verbal form here used is, in 
every other place where it occurs, an imperative, and should 
not therefore, without necessity, be otherwise translated. Thus 
understood, the clause contains a prayer or \vish, that the 
divine glory may be made still more conspicuous. To give or 
place glory on an object, is an idiomatic phrase repeatedly used 
elsewhere, to denote the conferring of honour on an inferior. 
See Num. xxvii. 20. 1 Chron. xxix. 25. Dan. xi. 21. It here 
implies that the glory belonging to the frame of nature is not 
inherent but derivative. 


3 (2). From the mouth of babes and sucJclings thou hast 
founded strength. The instinctive admiration of thy works, 

even by the youngest children, is a strong defence against those 
who would question thy being or obscure thy glory. The 
Septuagint version of the last words in this clause, thou hast 
prepared (or provided) praise, conveys the same idea with a 
change of form, since it is really the praise or admiration of the 
child that it is described in the original as strength. This ver- 
sion is adopted by Matthew, in his record of our Lord's reply 
to the Pharisees, when they complained of the hosannas uttered 
by the children in the temple (Matth. xxi. 16). That allusion 
does not prove that Christ was the primary subject of this 
psalm, but only that the truth expressed in the words quoted 
was exemplified in that case. If the Scriptures had already 
taught that even the unconscious admiration of the infant is a 
tribute to God's glory, how much more might children of ma- 
turer age be suffered to join in acclamations to his Son. The 
sense thus put upon the words of David agrees better with the 
context than the one preferred by some interpreters, viz. that 
the defence in question is afforded by the structure and progress 
of the child itself. If this had been intended, he would hardly 
have said from the mouth, or have confined his subsequent 
allusions to the splendor of the firmament. — The effect or 
rather the legitimate tendency of this spontaneous testimony is 
to silence enemy and avenger, i. e. to stop the mouths of all 
malignant railers against God, whose cavils and sophisms are 
put to shame by the instinctive recognition of God's being and 
his glory by the youngest children. 

4 (3.) When I see thy heave7is, the ivork of thy fingers, an 
expression borrowed from the habits of men, to whom the fin- 

. gers are natural organs of contrivance and construction, tJie 
moon and the stars vjhich thou hast fixed, or settled in their 
several spheres. As we constantly associate the sky and sun 


together, the latter, although not expressly mentioned, may be 
considered as included in the subject of the first clause. Or 
the mention of the moon and stars without the sun may be un- 
derstood to mark this as an evening hymn. There is no ground, 
however, for referring this psalm to the pastoral period of 
David's life, or for doubting that it was composed when he 
was king. 

5 (4). The sentence begun in the preceding verse is here 
completed. When I see thy heavens, &c. what is man, frail 
man, as the original Avord signifies, that thou shouldst remem- 
her him, think of him, attend to him, and {any) son of man, 
ox the son of man, as a generic designation of the race, that 
thou shouldst visit him, i. e. according to the usage of this 
figure, manifest thyself to him, either in wrath or mercy. See 
Gen. xviii. 14. xxi. 1. Pwuth i. 6. &c. Here of course the latter 
is intended. The scriptural idea of a divine visitation is of 
something which reveals God's special presence and activity, 
whether as a friend or foe. The interrogation in this verse 
implies a strong negation of man's worthiness to be thus 
honoured, not in comparison with the material universe, to 
which he is in truth superior, but with the God whose glory 
the whole frame of nature was intended to display and does 
display, even to the least matured and cultivated minds. It 
was with a view to this comparison, and not for its own sake, 
or as the main subject of the psalm, that the glory of creation 
was referred to the foregoing verse. 

6 (5.) A7id remove him little from divinity, i. e. from a 
divine and heavenly, or at least a superhuman state. The 
Hebrew noun is the common one for God, but being plural in 
its form, is sometimes used in a more vague and abstract sense, 
for all conditions of existence higher than our own. 1 Sam. 
xxviii. 13. Zech. ix. 7. Hence it is sometimes rendered aw^e/s 


in the Septuagint, which version, although inexact, is retained 
in the New Testament (Heb. ii. 7), because it sufficiently 
expresses the idea which was essential to the writer's argument. 
The verb in this clause strictly means to make or let one want, 
to leave deficient. Eccles. iv. 8. vi. 2. The form here used 
(that of the future with vav conversive) connects it in the closest 
manner with the verb of the preceding verse, a construction 
which maybe imperfectly conveyed by the omission of the aux- 
iliary verbs in English. ' What is man that thou shouldst 
remember him, and visit him, and make him want but little of 
divinity, and crown him with honour and glory V The Hebrew 
order of the last clause is : and (tvith) ho?iour and glory crown 
him. These nouns are elsewhere put together to express royal 
dignity. Ps. xxi. 1. 6 (5.) xlv. 4 (3.) Jer. xxii. 18. 1 Chron. xxix. 
25. There is an obvious allusion to man's being made in the 
imao-e of God, with dominion over the inferior creation. Gen. 
1. 26, 28. ix. 2. This is predicated not of the individual but of 
the race, which lost its perfection in Adam and recovers it in 
Christ. Hence the description is pre-eminently true of him, 
and the application of the words in Heb. ii. 7 is entirely legiti- 
mate, although it does not make him the exclusive subject of 
the psalm itself. 

7 (6.) The same construction is continued through the first 
clause of this verse. Make him rule, i. e. what is man that 
thou shouldest make him rule, in, among, and by implica- 
tion over, the ivorks, the Other and inferior creatures, of thy 
hands. The use of the future form in Hebrew up to this 
point is dependent on the question and contingent particle (ivhat 
is man that) in v. 5 (4.) The question being now exhausted 
or exchanged for a direct affirmation, the past tense is resumed. 
All, every thing, hast thou put under his feet, i. e. subjected to 
his power. The application of these terms to Christ, (1 Cor. 
XV. 27. Eph. i. 22) as the ideal representative of human nature 


in its restored perfection, is precisely similar to that of the ex- 
pressions used in the preceding verse. 

8 (7.) This verse contains a mere specification of the general 
term all in the verse before it. Sheep, or ratherj^ocA-5, including 
sheep and goats, and oxen, as a generic term for larger cattle, 
a7id also, not only these domesticated animals but also, beasts 
of the field, which always means in scripture wild beasts, 
(Gen. ii. 20. iii. 14. 1 Sam. xvii. 44. Joel 1.20) field being used 
in such connexions to denote not the cultivated land but the 
open, unenclosed, and wilder portions of the country. The 
whole verse is a general description of all quadrupeds or beasts, 
whether tame or wild. 

9 (8). To complete the cycle of animated nature, the inhabit- 
ants of the air and water are now added to those of the earth, 
Bird of heaven, a collective phrase, denoting the birds of the 
sky, i, e. those which fly across the visible heavens. The com- 
mon version, ** fowl of the air," is descriptive of the same objects, 
but is not a strict translation. And fishes of the sea, and 
{every thing) passing in, or through, the paths of the sea. 
Some read, without supplying any \M\\\^, fishes of the sea pass- 
ing through the paths of the sea. But this weakens the 
expression, and is also at variance with the form of the original, 
where ^j(255m^ is a singular. Others construe it with man, who 
is then described as passing over the sea and ruling its inhabit- 
ants. But neither the syntax nor the sense is, on the whole, so 
natural as that proposed above, which makes this a residuary 
comprehensive clause, intended to embrace whatever might not 
be included in the more specific terms by which it is preceded. 
The dominion thus ascribed to man, as a part of his original pre- 
rogative, is not to be confounded with the coercive rule which 
he still exercises over the inferior creation (Gen. ix. 2. James 

rSALM IX. 63 

iii. 7), although this is really a relic of his pristine state, and at 
the same time an earnest of its future restoration. 

10 (9.) Jehovah, our Lord, how glorious is thy name in all 
the earth, not only made so by the splendor of the skies, but by 
God's condescending goodness to mankind. With this new 
evidence and clearer view of the divine perfection, the Psalmist 
here comes back to the point from which he started, and closes 
with a solemn repetition of the theme propounded in the open- 

ing sentence. 


This psalm expresses, in a series of natural and striking al- 
ternations, gratitude for past deliverances, trust in God's power 
and disposition to repeat them, and direct and earnest prayer 
for such repetition. We have first the acknowledgment of 
former mercies, vs. 2 — 7 (1 — 6) ; then the expression of trust 
for the future, vs. 8 — 13 (7 — 12) ; then the petition founded on 
it, vs. 14, 15 (13, 14.) The same succession of ideas is re- 
peated : recollection of the past, vs. 16, 17 (15, 16) ; anticipation 
of the future, vs. 18, 19 (17, 18) ; prayer for present and imme- 
diate help, vs. 20, 21 (19, 20). This parallelism of the parts 
makes the structure of the psalm remarkably like that of the 
seventh. The composition was intentionally so framed as to 
be a vehicle of pious feeling to the church at any period of 
strife and persecution. The form is that of the Old Testament ; 



but the substance and the spirit are common to both dispen- 

1. To the Chief Musician. Al-muth-lahhen. This enig- 
matical title has been variously explained. Some understand 
it as descriptive of the subject, and make lahhen an anagram 
of Nabal, the name of one of David's enemies, and at the 
same time an appellative denoting fool, in which sense it is 
frequently applied to the wicked. See for example Ps, xiv. 1. 
The whole would then mean 07i the death of the fool, i. e. the 
sinner. Such enigmatical changes are supposed to occur in 
Jer. XXV. 26. li. 1. 41. Zech. ix. 1 . Others, by a change of point- 
ing in the Hebrew, for al-muth read alamoth, a musical term 
occurrino; in the title of Ps. xlvi. or a coonate form ahnuth, and 
explain lahhen to mean for Ben, or the {children of) Ben, one 
of the Levitical singers mentioned in 1 Chr. xv. 18. Neither 
of these explanations seem so natural as a third, which sup- 
poses muth-lahben to be the title, or the first words, or a pro- 
minent expression, of some other poem, in the style, or to the 
air of which, this psalm was composed. After the maniier, or 
to the air, of (the song or poem) Death to the son, or the death 
of the son. Compare 2 Sam. i. 18, where David's elegy on 
Saul appears to be called Kesheth or the Bow, because that 
word is a prominent expression in the composition. As it can- 
not be supposed that the expression was originally without 
meaning, the obscurity, in this and many similar cases, is rather 
a proof of antiquity than of the opposite. 

2 (1.) / will thank Jehovah, praise him for his benefits, with 
all my heart, sincerely, cordially, and with a just appreciation 
of the greatness of his favours. I ivill recount all thy won- 
ders, the wonderful things done by thee, with special reference 
to those attested by his own experience. The change from the 
third to the second person is entirely natural, as if the Psalmist's 


warmth of feeling would not suffer him to speak any longer 
merely of God, as one absent, but compelled him to turn to 
him, as the immediate object of address. There is no need, 
therefore, of supplying thee in the first clause, and construing 
Jehovah as a vocative, 

3 (2). I ivill joy and triumph hi thee, not merely in thy 
presence, or because of thee, i, e. because of what thou hast 
done, but in communion with thee, and because of my personal 
interest in thee. The form of the verbs, both here and in the 
last clause of the preceding verse, expresses strong desire and 
fixed determination. See above, on Ps. ii. 3, I tvill praise, 
or celebrate in song. See above, on Ps. vii. 18 (17,) Thy 
name, thy manifested excellence. See above, on Ps, v. 12 (11.) 
(Thou) Highest, or Most High! See above, on Ps. vii, 18 
(17.) Here again there is special reference to the proofs of 
God's supremacy afforded by his recent dealings with the 
Psalmist and his enemies. 

4 (3.) In the turning of my enemies back, i. e. from their 
assault on me, which is equivalent to saying, in their retreat, 
their defeat, their disappointment. This may either be con- 
nected with what goes before, and understood as a statement 
of the reason or occasion of the praise there promised — ' I 
will celebrate thy name when (or because) my enemies turn 
back' — or it may begin a new sentence, and ascribe their defeat 
to the agency of God himself — * when my enemies turn back 
(it is because) they are to stumble, ajid perish from thy 
presence, from before thee, or at thy presence, i. e. as soon as 
thou appearest. The Hebrew preposition has both a causative 
and local meaning. The form of the verbs does not neces- 
sarily imply that the deliverance acknowledged was still 
future, but only that it might occur again, and that in any such 
case, whether past or yet to come, Jehovah was and would be 


the -true author of the victory achieved. The act of stumbling 
implies that of falling as its natural consequence, and is often 
used in Scripture as a figure for complete and ruinous failure. 

5 (4.) This was not a matter of precarious expectation, but 
of certain experience. Fo?' thou hast made, done, executed, 
wrought out, and thereby maintained, w?/ cause and my right. 
This phrase is always used elsewhere in a favourable sense, 
and never in the vague one of simply doing justice, whether to 
the innocent or guilty. See Deut. x. 18. 1 Kings viii. 45, 4-9. 
Ps. cxl. 12, and compare Isaiah x. 2. And this defence was 
not merely that of an advocate, but that of a judge, or rather 
of a sovereign in the exercise of those judicial functions which 
belong to royalty. See Prov. xx. 8. Thoii hast sat, and sit- 
test, 071 a throne, the throne of universal sovereignty, judging 
right, i. e. rightly, or a judge of righteousness, a righteous 
judge. See above, on Ps. vii. 12 (11). In this august character 
the Psalmist had already seen Jehovah, and he therefore gives 
it as a reason for expecting him to act in accordance with it 

6 (5.) The forensic terms of the preceding verse are now 
explained as denoting the destruction of God's enemies. Thou 
hast rebuked nations, not merely individuals but nations. 
God's chastisements are often called rebukes, because in them 
he speaks by act as clearly as he could by word. Thou hast 
destroyed a ivicked (one), i. e. many a wicked enemy, in former 
times, in other cases, and that not with a partial ruin, but with 
complete extermination even of their memory. Their name, 
that by which men are distinguished and remembered, thou 
hast blotted out, erased, effaced, obliterated, to perpetuity and 
eternity, an idiomatic combination, coincident in sense, though 
not in form, with the English phrase, forever and ever. This 
vpr^e does not refer exclusively to any one manifestation of God's 


power and wrath, but to the general course of his dealings with 
his enemies, and especially to their invariable issue, the destruc- 
tion of the adverse party. 

7 (6.) The enemy, or as to the enemy, a nominative absolute 
placed at the beginning of the sentence for the sake of empha- 
sis — -finished, completed, are (Jiis) ruiJis, desolations, forever, 
i. e. he is ruined or made desolate forever. The construction 
of the first word as a vocative — oh enemy, ended are {thy) de- 
solations forever, i. e. the desolations caused by thee — affords a 
good sense, but is neither so agreeable to usage nor to the con 
text as the one first given. Still less so are the other versions 
which have been given of this difficult clause. E. g. The 
enemies are completely desolate forever ; — the enemies are con- 
sumed, (there are) ruins (or desolations) forever, &c. The address 
is still to Jehovah, as in the preceding verse. And (their) cities, 
viz. those of the enemy, hast thou destroyed. According to 
the second construction above given, this would mean, thou (oh 
enemy) hast destroyed cities, but art now destroyed thyself. 
The same reasons as before require us to prefer Jehovah as the 
object of address. Gone, perished, is their very memory. The 
idiomatic form of the original in this clause cannot be retained 
in a translation. The nearest approach to it would be, gone is 
their memory, themselves. This may either mean their me- 
mory, viz. {that of) themselves, i. e. their own ; or, 'perished is 
their memory {ajid) themselves {with it.) There seems to be 
an obvious allusion to the threatenings against Amalek in the 
books of Moses (Exod. xvii. 14. Num. xxiv. 20. Deut. xxv. 19), 
which received their literal fulfilment in the conquests of Saul 
and David (1 Sam. xv. 3, 7. xxvii. 8, 9. xxx. 1, 17. 2 Sam. viii. 
12. 1 Chron. iv. 43.) But this is evidently here presented 
merely as a sample of other conquests over the surrounding 
nations (2 Sam. viii. 11 — 14), and even these as only samples 


of the wonders wrought by God for his "^wn people, and cele- 
brated in V. 2 (1) above. 

8 (7.) And Jehovah to eternity, forever, ivill sit, as he sits 
novv^ upon the throne and judgment-seat. He has set up for 
judgment, for the purpose of acting as a judge, his throne. 
It is not as an absolute or arbitrary ruler, but as a just judge, 
that Jehovah reigns. This recognition of God's judicial cha- 
racter and othce as perpetual is intended to prepare the way for 
an appeal to his righteous intervention in the present case. 

9 (8.) And lie, himself, with emphasis upon the pronoun, is 
to judge the ivorld, the fruitful and cultivated earth, as the 
Hebrew word properly denotes, here put for its inhabitants, in 
justice, or righteousness, i. e. in the exercise of this divine per- 
fection. He ivill judge, a different Hebrew verb, to which we 
have no equivalent, he will judge nations, peoples, races, not 
mere individuals, in equities, in equity, the plural form denot- 
ing fulness or completeness, as in Ps. i. 1. As the preceding 
verse describes Jehovah's kingship as judicial, so the verse be- 
fore us represents him in the actual exercise of his judicial 

10 (9.) And (so) will Jehovah be a high place, out of reach 
of danger, hence a refuge, /br the oppressed, literally the bruised 
or broken in pieces, a high place, refuge, hi times of distress, 
literally at tivies in distress, i. e. at times (when men are) in 
distress. God's judicial sovereignty is exercised so as to relieve 
the sufferer and deliver those in danger. 

11 (10). A7id in thee loill trust, as now so in all time to 
come, the knowers of thy name, those who know the former 
exhibitions of thy greatness and thy goodness, all which are 
included in the name of God. See v. 3 (2), and Ps. viii. 2 (1) 



vii. 18 (17.) V. 12 (11.) For thoit hast not forsaken thy seekers, 
or {those) seeking thee, oh Lord, Jehovah, i. e. seeking thy 
favour in general, and thy protection against their enemies in 
particular. The certain knowledge of this fact is laid as the 
foundation of the confidence expressed in the first clause. 

12 (11). Sing, make music, give praise by song or music, to 
Jehovah, as the God of Israel, inhabiting Zion, i. e. the 
sanctuary there established. Or the words may mean sit- 
ting, as a king, enthroned, (in) Zion, which agrees well with the 
use of the same verbs in vs. 5, 8 (4, 7,) above, although the 
other version is favoured by the obvious allusion to the sym- 
bolical import of the sanctuary under the Mosaic law, as 
teaching the great doctrine of God's dwelling among men. 
See above, on Ps. iii. 5 (4). v. 7 (6.) Zion is here represented 
as the centre of a circle reaching far beyond the house of 
Israel, and indeed co-extensive with the earth. Tell, declare, 
make known, in, among, the nations, his exploits, his noble 
deeds, the wonders mentioned in v. 2 (1.) We have here, in 
this inspired formula of worship, a clear proof that the ancient 
church believed and understood the great truth, that the law 
was to go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jeru- 
salem. Isai. ii. 3. Mic. iv. 2. 

13 (12.) For seeking blood, or as an inquisitor of blood, he 
has remembered, he remembers, it, i. e. the blood ; he has not 
forgotten the cry of the distressed. God is here revealed in the 
character which he assumes in Gen. ix. 5, where the same verb 
and noun are used as in the first clause of the verse before us. 
The word translated blood is in the plural form. See above, on 
Ps. V. 7 (6.) Hence the literal translation of the next words is, 
he has remembered them, i. e. the bloods or murders. The cry 
meant is the cry of suffering and complaint, with particular 
reference to Gen. iv. 10. Accordinsc to another reading? of the 


last clause, the cry is that of the meek or humble, not of the 
distressed. But the common text affords a better sense and 
really includes the other, as the innocence of the sufferers is 
implied, though not expressed. The general import of the 
verse is that God's judgments, though deferred, are not aban- 
doned, that he does not forget even what he seems to disregard, 
and that sooner or later he will certainly appear as an avenger. 
Murder is here put, as the highest crime against the person, for 
all others, and indeed for wickedness in general. 

14 (13.) Have mercy upon me, or be gracious to me, oh 
Jehovah, see 7ny suffering from my haters, raising me from 
the gates of death. The view previously taken of God's faith- 
fulness and justice is now made the ground of an importunate 
petition for deliverance from present dangers and distress. "My 
haters, those who hate me. From my haters may be taken as 
a pregnant construction, meaning : see my suffering (and free 
me) from my enemies. Thus in 2 Sam. xviii. 19, * Jehovah hath 
judged him from the hand of his enemies' means * hath done him 
justice (and so freed him) from the power of his enemies.' See 
a similar expression in Ps. xxii. 22 (21) below. It seems more 
natural and obvious, however, in the case before us, to give 
from a causal meaning. ' See my distress (arising) from, or 
caused by, those who hate me.' Raising me does not denote 
an accompanying act, as if he had said, see my distress, and at 
the same time lift me up, &c. It is rather descriptive of a cer- 
tain divine character or habit, and agrees with the pronoun of 
the second person understood. ' Thou that liftest me up,' that 
art accustomed so to do, that hast done so in other cases, with an 
implied prayer, do so now. The gates of death may have refer- 
ence to the image of a subterranean dungeon, from which no 
prisoner can free himself; or it may be simply a poetical ex- 
pression for the entrance to the grave or the state of the dead. 
Compare Isai. xxxviii. 10 and Matth. xvi. 18. 


15 (14.) That I may recount all tliy praise in the gates of 
the daughter of Zio7i, may joy in thy salvation. This is 
one important end for which he asks to be delivered, namely, 
that God may have the praise of his deliverance. There is a 
trace, in the Hebrew text, of an original plural form, praises, 
which might then denote praiseworthy deeds, actions worthy 
to be celebrated. But the singular form occurs with all in Ps. 
cvi. 2 below. — The gates here mentioned are contrasted with 
those of the preceding verse. The God who saves him from 
the gates of death shall be praised for this deliverance in the 
gates of the daughter of Zion. This last expression is supposed 
by some to be a personification of the people inhabiting Zion 
or Jerusalem, who are then put for Israel at large, as the 
church or chosen people. Others regard the genitive construc- 
tion as equivalent to a simple apposition, as in river of Eu- 
phrates, or in our familiar phrase, the city of Jerusalem. The 
personification is then that of the city itself, considered as an 
ideal virgin, and on that account called daughter, by a usage 
similar to that of the corresponding word in French. In either 
case, there is an obvious reference to the ancient church, as the 
scene or the witness of the Psalmist's praises. — The verb in the 
last clause may be made to depend upon the particle at the 
beginning of the verse, (that) I may exult ; or it may be still 
more emphatically construed as an independent proposition, I 
will exult in thy salvation. The form of the verb is the same 
as in Ps. ii. 3 above. The second verb itself occurs in v. 11 of 
that psalm, and as in that case, may either denote an inward emo- 
tion or the outward expression of it, I ivill shout. — In thy sal- 
vation, i. e. in the possession or experience of it, and in ac- 
knowledgment of having thus experienced or possessed it. 

16 (15.) Sunk are nations in a pit they made; in a net 
which they hid, taken is their foot. This may be either a 
confident anticipation of the future as if already past, or a fur- 


ther reference to previous deliverance, as a ground of hope for 
others yet to come. — Nations^ whole nations, when opposed to 
God. Compare Ps. ii. 1. The accessory idea of Gentiles, 
heathen, would be necessarily suggested, at the same time to a 
Hebrew reader. Most versions have the definite forms, the 
pit, the net ; but the indefinite form of the original is equally 
intelligible in English, and therefore preferable as a more exact 
translation. The ellipsis of the relative, a pit (which) they 
inade, is common to the Hebrew idiom and our own. The 
fio-ures are borrowed from ancient modes of huntinor. See 
above, on Ps. vii. 16 (15.) — Their foot, their own foot, not that 
of the victim, whose destruction they intended. 

17 (16.) Known is Jehovah, or has made himself known. 
Justice has he done, or judgment has he executed. In the 
work of his (picn) hands ensnared is a wicked {^nan), Hig- 
goAon, meditation. Selah, pause. God has revealed himself 
as present and attentive, notwithstanding his apparent oblivion 
and inaction, by doing justice on his enemies, or rather by 
making them do justice on themselves, converting their devices 
against others into means of self-destruction. In view of this 
most striking attestation of God's providential government, the 
reader is summoned to reflect, and enabled so to do by a signifi- 
cant and solemn pause. The sense of meditation or reflection 
is clear from Ps. xix. 15 (14) and Lam. iii. 62. See below, on 
Ps. xcii. 4 (3). The addition of Uiggaion to Selah here con- 
firms the explanation already given of the latter word. See 
above, on Ps. iii. 3 (2). With this understanding of the terms, 
we may well say, to ourselves or others, in view of every 
signal providential retribution, especially where sin is con- 
spicuously made its own avenger, Uiggaion Selah ! 

18 (17.) The ivicked shall turn back even to hell, to death, 
or to the grave, all nations forgetful of God. The enemies 


of God and of his people shall be not only thwarted and re- 
pulsed but driven to destruction ; and that not merely indi- 
viduals but nations. For the meaning of Sheol, see above, on 
Ps. vi. 6 (5.) The figure of turning back, retreating, failing, is 
the same as in v. 4 (3) above. The idea expressed is not that of 
being turned directly into hell, but that of turning back, first to 
one's original position, and then beyond it, to the grave or hell. 
In the last clause there is an allusion to the implied charge of 
forgetfulness on God's part in v. 13 (12) above. He had not 
forgotten the 'poor innocents,' as they feared and as their 
enemies believed ; but these very enemies had forgotten him, 
and must now abide the consequences of their own forgetful- 
ness. — The future forms of this verse may have reference to 
the same things mentioned in the verse preceding as already 
past. It seems more natural, however, to explain them as a 
confident anticipation of results precisely similar to those which 
had already been produced by the same causes. As Jehovah 
had already caused the heathen to become their own destroyers, 
so he might be expected to renew the same judicial process in 
another case. 

19 (18.) For not forever shall the poor he forgotten, (and) 
the hope of the hiinihle perish to eternity. However long 
God may appear to be forgetful of his suffering people, even 
this seeming oblivion is to have an end. Still another allusion 
to the charge or imputation of forgetfulness implied in v. 13 
(12) above. The difference between the readings humble and 
afflicted (0*1135 and d^'^SJ') is not essential, as the context shows 
that the humble meant are humble suff'erers. 

20 (19.) Arise, Jehovah! Let not man, frail man, be 
strong. Let nations, or the heathen, be judged, and as a 
necessary consequence condemned, before thy face, in thy pre- 
sence, . at thy bar. Here again, as in vs. 13, 14 (12, 13), the 

VOL. I. 4 


expression of strong confidence is made tlie occasion of an 
earnest prayer. So far is an implicit trust from leading men 
to cast off fear and restrain prayer before God. — On the 
exhortation to arise, as from a state of previous inaction, see 
above, Ps. iii. 7 (G.) For the full sense of the word translated 
man^ see above, on Ps. viii. 5 (4.) — Let him 7iot he strong, i. e. 
let him not so appear, or so esteem himself. Let him have no 
occasion, by indulgence or prolonged impunity, to cherish this 
delusion or to practise this imposture. The absurdity of mak- 
ing man the stronger party in this strife with God is so pre- 
posterous, that God is summoned to arise for the purpose 
of exploding it. — To be judged, in the case of the wicked, 
is of course to be condemned. To be judged in God's pre- 
sence, or at his tribunal, is of course to be condemned without 

21 (20.) Se?, place, or join, oh Jehovah, fear to them. Let 
nations kiiow, or then shall nations know, {that) man, not 
God, («re) they. Selah. God is entreated so to frighten them, 
that they may become conscious of their own insignificance and 
weakness. — The word translated fear is elsewhere used to sig- 
nify a razor. Hence some would render the first clause, apply 
the razor to them, i. e. shave them, in allusion to the oriental 
feeling with respect to the beard. But this seems far-fetched, 
and the masoretic reading yields a better sense. The precise 
import of the first phrase seems to be, set fear as a guard over 
them (Ps. cxli. 3) or join it to them as a constant companion. 
The word translated tnan is still the same as in the foreo-oino; 
verse, and was therefore intended to suggest the idea of human 
frailty as contrasted with divine omnipotence. 

PSALM X. 75 


The Psalmist complains of God's neglect and of the malice of 
his enemies, vs. 1 — 11. He prays that both these subjects of 
complaint may be removed, vs. 12 — 15. He expresses the 
most confident assurance that his prayer will be heard and an- 
swered, vs. 16 — 18. 

The Septuagint and Vulgate unite this with the ninth psalm 
as a single composition. But each is complete in itself, and the 
remarkable coincidences even of expression only show that both 
were meant to form a pair or double psalm like the first and 
second, third and fourth &c. From the same facts it is clear, 
that this psalm, though anonymous, is like the ninth the work 
of David, and that both were probably composed about the same 
time. ^ 

1. For what (cause), why, oh Jehovah, tvilt thou stand afar, 
wilt thou hide at times (when we are) in trouble ? The ques- 
tion really propounded is, how this inaction can be reconciled 
with what was said of God in Ps. ix. 10 (9.) — To stand afar 
off, is to act as an indifferent or at the most a curious spectator. 
Wilt thou hide, i. e. thy self or thine eyes, by refusing to see, 
as in Lev. xx. 4. 1 Sam. xii. 3. The futures imply present 
action and the prospect of continuance hereafter. The question 
is not merely why he does so, but why he still persists in doing 
so. — The singular phrase, at times in trouble, occurs only here 
and in Ps. ix. 10 (9), a strong proof of the intimate connexion 
of the two psalms, and perhaps of their contemporary composi- 

76 PSALM X. 

tion. — This expostulation betrays no defect either of reverence 
or faith, but on the contrary indicates a firm belief that God is 
able, and must be Avilling, to deliver his own people. Such 
demands are never uttered either by skepticism or despair. 

2. In the pride of the wicked hums the sufcrer ; they are 
caught in devices which they have contrived. This very ob- 
scure verse admits of several different constructions. The first 
verb sometimes means to persecute, literally to bur7i after, or 
pursue hotly. Gen. xxxi. 36. 1 Sam. xvii. 53. In one case it 
seems to have this meaning even without the preposition after- 
Lam. iv. 19. The sense would then be, i7i the pride of the 
wicked he ivill persecute, &cc. But the collocation of the words 
seems to point out 'iDJ as the subject, not the object, of the 
verb. The sufferer's burning may denote either anger or an- 
guish, or a mixed feeling of indignant sorrow. — The adjective 
ip^ means afflicted, suffering, whether from poverty or pain. 
Poor is therefore too specific a translation. In the Psalms this 
word is commonly applied to innocent sufferers, and especially 
to the people of God, as objects of malignant persecution. It 
thus suggests the accessory idea, which it does not formally 
express, of righteousness or piety. — In the last clause there is 
some doubt as to the subject of the first verb. If referred to 
the wicked, the sense will be, that they are taken in their own 
devices. If to the poor, that they are caught in the devices of 
the wicked. The first is favoured by the analogy of Ps. vii. 
15—17 (14—16) and Ps. ix. 16, 17 (15, 16.) But the other 
agrees better with the context, as a description of successful 

3. For a ivicked (9na7i) boasts of (or sirmply praises) the desire of 
his soul, a?id win?ii?ig, (i. e. when he wins) blesses, despises Jeho- 
vah. This seems to be a description of the last stage of corruption, 
in which men openly defend or applaud their own vices, and im- 

PSALM X. 77 

piously thank God for their dishonest gains and other iniquitous 
successes. — The preterite forms, has praised &c. denote that it 
always has been so, as a matter of familiar experience. The 
desire of his soul means his natural selfish inclination, his heart's 
lust. And ivinning, i. e. when he wins or gains his end, with 
special reference to increase of wealth. Hence the word is 
sometimes used to signify the covetous or avaricious grasper 
after wealth by fraud or force. The same participle, joined with 
a cognate noun, is rendered "greedy of gain" in Prov. i. 19. 
XV. 27, and" given to covetousuess" in Jer. vi. 3. viii. 10. See 
also Hab. ii. 9, where the true sense is given in the margin of 
the English Bible, — He who gains an evil gain blesses (and) 
despises Jehovah, i. e. expresses his contempt of him by thank- 
ing him, whether in jest or earnest, for his own success. He 
blesses God, and thereby shows that he despises him. An 
illustrative parallel is Zech. xi. 4, 5. "Thus saith the Lord my 
God, Feed the flock of the slaughter, whose possessors slay 
them and hold themselves not guilty, and they that sell them 
say, Blessed is the Lord, for I am rich." This parallel more- 
over shows that blesses, in the verse before us, does not mean 
blesses himself, as some suppose, but blesses God. 

4. A ivicked {inari), according to his pride, ivill not seek. 
There is no God (are) all his thoughts. Pride is here ex- 
pressed by one of its outward indications, loftiness of look, or as 
some suppose the Hebrew phrase to signify originally, elevation 
of the nose. — Will not seek, i. e. seek God, in prayer (Ps. xxxiv. 
4), or in the wider sense of worship (Ps. xiv. 2), or in that of 
inquiring the divine w^U (Gen. xxv. 22), all which religious 
acts are at variance with the pride of the human heart. — All 
his thoughts, not merely his opinions, but his plans, his pur- 
poses, which is the proper meaning of the HebreAV word. The 
language of his life is, that there is no God. — Another construc- 
tion of the first clause is as follows. Tlie wicked, according to 

78 PSALM X. 

Ids 2')ride, {says), He, i. e. God, toill not require, judicially in- 
vestigate, and punish, as in Ps. ix. 13 (12), and in v. 13 below, 
where there seems to be a reference to the words before us, as 
uttered by the wicked man himself. — A third construction thus 
avoids the necessity of supplying says. ' As to the wicked in 
his pride — He will not require, there is no God — are all his 
thoughts.' This may be transferred into our idiom as follows. 
All the thoughts of the wicked in his pride are, that God will 
not require, or rather that there is no God, In favour of the 
first construction given is the fact that it requires nothing to be 
supplied like the second, and does not disturb the parallelism 
of the clauses like the third. Common to all is the imputation 
of proud self-confidence and practical atheism to the sinner, 

5, His ivays are Jinn, or will be firm, in all time, always. 
A height, or high thing, {are) thy judgments from before him, 
away from him, out of his sight. {As foi^ his enemies he ivill 
pifff at the7n, as a natural expression of contempt, or he will 
blow upon them, i, e, blow them away, scatter them, "with ease. 
This describes the prosperity and success of sinners, not only 
as a fact already familiar, but as something which is likely to 
continue. Hence the future forms, Avhich indicate continuance 
hereafter, just as the preterites in v, 3 indicate actual ex- 
perience, — The only other sense which can be put upon the 
first clause is, his ways are tivisted, i. e. his actions are per- 
verse. But the Chaldee paraphrase, the cognate dialects, and 
the analogy of Job xx. 21, are in favour of the rendering, Ids 
ways are strong, i. e, his fortunes are secure, his life is prosper- 
ous, which moreover agrees best with the remainder of the 
verse, as a description of the sinner's outward state. Thus 
understood, the second clause describes him as untouched or 
unaffected by God's providential judgments, and the third as 
easily ridding himself of all his human adversaries. Both 
ton^ether represent him as impregnable on all sides, in appear- 



ance equally beyond the reach of God and man. (Compare 
Luke xviii. 2, 4.) As this immunity from danger, strictly un- 
derstood, could exist only in appearance, the whole verse may 
be regarded as an expression of the sinner's own opinion rather 
than his true condition. 

6. He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved ; to gen- 
eration and generation, (I am one) who (shall) not (be) in evil, 
or as the same Hebrew phrase is rendered in the English ver- 
sion of Ex. V. 19, in evil case, i. e. in trouble, in distress. This 
is a natural expression of the proud security engendered in the 
natural man by great prosperity. He hath said, implying that 
the cause has already been in operation long enough to show 
its natural effect. In his heart, to himself, in a spirit of self- 
gratulation and self-confidence. To age and age, throughout 
all ages or all generations. The strength of this expression 
shows that the speaker is not a real person, but the ideal type of 
a whole class. The sinner, who thus says in his heart, is not 
the sinner of one period or country, but the sinner of all times 
and places, one who never disappears or ceases thus to feel and 
act. — The form of the last clause in Hebrew is peculiar and 
emphatic. He does not simply say, I shall never be in evil or 
adversity, but I am he, I am the man, who shall never be in 
evil, as if the very supposition of such a contingency, however 
justified by general experience, would be not only groundless 
but absurd in this one case. (Compare Isaiah xlvii. 8 — 10.) 
There could scarcely be a stronger expression of the self-rely- 
ing spirit of the sinner, as contrasted with the saints' implicit 
confidence in God's will and power, not only to preserve him 
from falling, but to raise him when he does fall. 

7. {Of) cursing his mouth is full and deceits and oppres- 
sion. Under his tongue {are) trouble and iniquity. He now 
gives a more particular description of the Avicked man, bes;in- 

80 PSALM X. 

ning with his sins against his neighbour, and among these with 
his sins of word or speech. If this be a correct view of the 
whole verse, the cursing, mentioned in the first clause, is most 
probably false swearing, or the invocation of God's name, and 
imprecation of his wrath upon one's self, in attestation of a 
falsehood. This kind of cursing is closely connected with the 
fraud and violence which follow. The Hebrew word ij?;, to 
which the older writers gave the sense of fraud, is now com- 
monly explained to mean oppression, so that with the noun 
preceding it denotes injustice, injury to others, both by fraud 
and violence. — Under the tongue may have reference to the 
poison of serpents, or to the use of the tongue for speaking, as 
in Ps. Ixvi. 17, where the same phrase occurs in the original, 
though not in the common version. — Toil, labour, trouble, en- 
dured by others as the consequence of his deceits and violence. 
— For the meaning of the last word in the verse, see above, 
on Ps. v. 6 (5.) — Oppression is here reckoned among sins of 
speech, because the latter may be made the means of violent 
injustice, by tyrannical command, by unjust judgment, or by 
instigating others to deprive the victim of his rights. If only 
fraud had been referred to, this description of the sins commit- 
ted with the tongue would have been palpably defective. 

8. He IV ill sit in the lurking place of villages ; iji the secret 
places he ivill slay the innocent ; his eyes for the sufferer ivill 
hide, watch secretly, or lie in wait. From sins of word he 
now proceeds to those of deed or outward action. The wicked 
enemy is here represented as a robber. The futures, as in v. 5, 
imply that what is now is likely to continue. Sitting implies 
patient waiting for his prey or victim, Tlie hirking place, 
the place where murderers and robbers usually lurk or lie in 
wait. Where such crimes are habitually practised, there is 
commonly some spot especially associated with them, either as 
the scene of the iniquity itself, or as a place of refuge and 
resort to those who perpetrate it. — The mention of villages is 

PSALM X. 81 

no proof that the psalm relates to any specific case of lawless 
violence, but only that the Psalmist gives individuality to his de- 
scription by traits directly drawn from real life. A slight change 
in the form of expression would convert it into a poetic simile. 
* As the robber sits in the lurking-place of villages &c.' The 
verb hidehas the same sense as in Prov. i. 11, 18. — The word 
translated sufferer (nsbn for '?{b^ri) is peculiar to this psalm, and 
was not improbably coined for the occasion, as a kind of enig- 
matical description, in which David seems to have delighted. 
A Jewish tradition makes it mean thy host, i. e. the church of 
God ; but this, besides being forced in itself, is forbidden by the 
use of the plural in v. 10 below. Others derive it from an 
Arabic root, meaning to be black, dark, gloomy, sad, unhappy. 
A third hypothesis explains it as a compound of two Hebrew 
words, one meaning weak or sick, the other sad or sorrowful, 
and both together representing the object of the enemy's 
malice, in the strongest light, as a sufferer both in mind and 

9. He will lurk in the hiding-place as a lion in his den ; 
he ivill lurk (or lie in wait) to catch the sufferer ; he ivill 
catch the sufferer by dratvi7ig him into his net, or in draw- 
i7ig him {toimrds him) loith his net. That the preceding 
verse contains a simile, and not a description of the enemy as 
an actual robber, is here rendered evident by the addition of 
two ncAv comparisons, applied to the same object. In the first 
clause he is compared to a lion, in the second to a hunter. See 
above, on Ps. vii. 16 (15). ix. 16 (15), and below, on Ps. xxxv. 
7. Ivii. 7 (6). The force of the futures is the same as in the 
foregoing verse. — His den, his shelter, covert, hiding-place. 
The Hebrew word is commonly applied to any temporary shed 
or booth, composed of leaves and branches. He lies in wait 
to seize the prey, and he succeeds, he accomplishes his purpose 
A third possible construction of the last clause is : in his draw- 
ing (i. e. when he dratvs) his net. The whole verse, with the 

82 PSALM X. 

one before it, represents the wicked as employing craft no less 
than force for the destruction of the rio-hteons. 

10. And hrinsed he will sink ; and by (or in, i. e. into the 
power of) his stroiig ones fall the si(ffe?-ers, the victims. 
These are represented, in the first clause, by a collective singu- 
lar, and in the second by a plural proper, that of the unusual 
word used in v. 8 above. Its peculiar etymology and form 
might be imitated in an English compound, such as sick-sad, 
weak-sad, or the like. By his strong ones some would under- 
stand the strong parts of the lion, teeth, claws &c. ; others the 
same parts personified as w^arriors. But even in the foregoing 
verse, the figure of a lion is exchanged for that of a hunter, 
and this again gives place here to that of a military leader or 
a chief of robbers, thus insensibly returning to the imagery of 
V. 8. These numerous and rapid changes, although not in 
accordance with the rules of artificial rhetoric, add greatly to 
the life of the description, and are not without their exegetical 
importance, as evincing that the whole is metaphorical, a varied 
tropical exhibition of one and the same object, the combined 
craft and cruelty of wicked men, considered as the enemies of 
God and of his people. According to this view of the passage 
by his strong ones we may understand the followers of the 
hostile chief, those who help him and execute his orders, or the 
ideal enemy himself, before considered as an individual, but 
now resolved into the many individuals, of whom the class, 
which he represents, is really composed. 

11. He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten, he 
hath hidden his face, he hath not seen, doth not see, and will 
not see, forever. The opening words are the same, and have 
the same sense, as in v. 6 above. The three parallel clauses 
which follow all express the same idea, namely, that God takes 
no note of human offences. This is first expressed by the 

PSALM X. 83 

figure of forgetfulness ; then by that of deliberately refusing to 
see, as in v. 1 above ; then by a literal and direct affirmation 
that he does not see, either the sufferings of his people or the 
malice of their enemies ; and that this is not a transient or 
occasional neglect, but one likely to continue forever. 

12. Arise, Jehovah! Almighty {God), raise thy hajid! 
Forget not suffei-ers (or the wretched)! The impious incre- 
dulity, expressed in the preceding verse, is now made the 
ground of an importunate petition. God is besought to do 
a"\vay with the appearance of inaction and indifference. See 
above, on Ps. vii. 7 (6). Blaise thy hand, exert thy power. 
The second name by which God is addressed (bs^) is one ex- 
pressive of omnipotence, and may be correctly rendered by our 
phrase. Almighty God. As the name Jehovah appeals to his 
covenant relation to his people, as a reason for granting their 
requests, so this invokes his power as necessary to their de- 
liverance and the vindication of his own honour from the im- 
putation of forgetfulness cast upon him by his enemies. This 
imputation he is entreated, in the last clause, to wipe off by 
showing that he does remember. Forget not is, in this con- 
nexion, tantamount to saying, show that thou dost not forget. 
Here, as in Ps. ix. 13 (12), the margin of the Hebrew Bible 
reads (fi'ii25>) meek or humble, while the text has (d't^^S') suf- 
fering or afflicted. The Kethib, or textual reading, is re- 
garded by the highest critical authorities, as the more ancient, 
and therefore, except in some rare cases, entitled to the pre- 

13. On what (ground) has the wicked contemned God, has 
he said in his heart, Thou ivilt not require ? The question 
implies the sin and folly of the conduct described. The past 
tense suggests the inquiry why it has been suffered to go on 
so long. Contemned, i, e, treated with contempt. The refer- 

84 PSALM X. 

ence is not to inward feeling merely, but to its external mani- 
festation. The second clause shows how the feeling has been 
manifested. Said in his heart, is here repeated for the third 
time in this psalm. See vs. 6, 11, above. — The direct address 
to God in the last clause is peculiarly emphatic. The wicked 
man not only speaks irreverently of him, but insults him to his 
face. — Thou ivilt not reqiih'e. The Hebrew verb includes the 
ideas of investigation and exaction. Thou wilt not inquire 
into my conduct or require an account of it. See v. 4 above, 
and compare Ps. ix. 13 (12.) The whole verse contains an in- 
direct expostulation or complaint of the divine forbearance 
towards such high-handed and incorrigible sinners. 

14. Thou hast seen (this particular instance of iniquity); 
for trouble, the suffering occasioned by such sins, and jprovo- 
cation, that afforded by such sins, thou ivilt behold, it is thy 
purpose and thy habit to behold it, to give ivitJi thy hand a 
becoming recompense, or to give into thy hand, i. e. to lay it 
up there in reserve, as something to be recompensed hereafter. 
Upon thee the sufferer ivill leave (his burden), will rely. An 
or2:)han, here put for the whole class of innocent and helpless 
sufferers, thou hast beeyi helping; God has ever been a 
helper of the friendless, and may therefore be expected to do 
likewise now. The whole verse is an argument drawn from 
the general course of the divine administration. Hence the 
preterite and future forms. Thou hast seen in this case, for 
thou always wilt see in such cases. — For the meaning of trouble 
2L\idi provocation, see above, on Ps. vi. 8 (7). vii. 15 (14.) 

15. Break thou the arm, destroy the power, of the iviched ; 
and the bad {inaii), or as to the bad man, thou ivilt seek 
for his wickedness (and) not find it. This may either mean, 
thou wilt utterly destroy him and his wickedness, so that when 
sought for it cannot be found (Ps. xxxvii. 36,) or, thou wilt judi- 

PSALM X. 85 

cially investigate his guilt, and punish it till nothing more is 
left to punish. The Hebrew verb (tT)^"!) has then the same sense 
as in vs. 4, 13, above, and there is a direct allusion to the sin- 
ner's boast tliat God will not inquire into men's acts or require 
an account of them. There may be a latent irony or sarcasm, 
as if he had said, thou wilt find nothing, as he boasts, but in a 
very different sense ; not because there is nothing worthy of pun- 
ishment, but because there will be nothing left unpunished. 

16. Jehovah {is) Icing ! He is not dethroned, as his enemies 
imagine ; he is still king, and will so remain, perpetuity and 
eternity, forever and ever. Lost, perished, are nations, the 
heathen, i. e. hostile nations, yro?^^, out of, his land, the Holy 
Land, the Land of Israel, the land of which he is the king in a 
peculiar sense, distinct from that of providential ruler. The 
Psalmist sees Jehovah still enthroned, not only as the sovereign 
of the world, but as the sovereign of his people. (See Num. 
xxiii. 21. Deut. xxxiii. 5.) The nations or heathen of this 
verse may be either literal or spiritual gentiles (Jer. ix. 25. 
Ezek. xvi. 3.) The Psalm is so framed as to express the feel- 
ings of God's people in various emergencies. The preterite 
tense in the last clause represents the destruction of God's ene- 
mies as already past, not only on account of its absolute cer- 
tainty, but because the process of destruction, although not 
completed, is begun and will infallibly continue. Here, as often 
elsewhere, earnest prayer is followed by the strongest expres- 
sion of confidence and hope. 

17. The desire of the meek (or humble) thou hast heard ^ 
Jehovah! Their desire is already accomplished. And this 
not merely once for all. Thou tvilt settle (or confirni) their 
heart, i. e. dispell their fears and give them courage, by new 
assurances of favour and repeated answers to their prayers. 
Thou tvilt incline thine ear, or make it attentive, caiise it to 


listen, to their future no less than their past petitions. The 
figure of a fixed or settled .heart recurs more than once below. 
See Ps. li. 12 (1 0). Ivii. 8 (7). cxii. 7. The essential idea is that 
of a firm resolution, as opposed to timid doubt and vacillation. 

18. To judge, or do justice to, the orphan and the bruised, 
or oppressed. See above, on Ps. ix. 10 (9.) This clause 
seems properly to form a part of the preceding verse ; thou 
wilt incline thine ear to judge &c. The remainder of the verse is 
a distinct proposition. He shall not add (or continue) any 
longer to resist, or defy, i. e. to set God at defiance. The sub- 
ject of these verbs is placed last for the sake of greater emphasis. 
'Man, frail man, from the earth, springing from it, and belong- 
ing to it. See Gen iii. 19. For the full sense of the ^vord 
translated man, see above, on Ps. viii. 5 (4). ix. 20 (19,) and com- 
pare the whole prayer in the latter passage with the one before 
us. The sense here is, that weak and shortlived man shall not 
continue to insult and defy Almighty God. It implies a wish 
or prayer, but is in form a strong expression of the Psalmist's 
confident assurance that it will be so, and in connexion with the 
similar expressions of the two preceding verses, forms a worthy 
and appropriate close of the entire composition. The original 
of this verse is commonly supposed to exhibit an example of the 
figure called paronomasia, an intentional resemblance, both in 
form and sound, between two words of very difi'erent meaning. 
The Avords supposed to be so related here are those translated 
to defy (f^S'') and earth ("fli^). This peculiarity of form, if 
really designed and significant, is one which cannot be com- 
pletely reproduced in any version. There is reason to suspect, 
however, that in this as in many other eases, the resemblance is 
fortuitous, like that which frequently occurs in a translation, 
without anything to match it in the original. E, g. in the Vul- 
gate version of Gen. viii. 22, astus and cBStas, and in that of 
Gen. xii. 16, oves et boves. 



The Psalmist is advised, by friends or foes, to escape by 
flight from the inextricable difficulties in which he finds him- 
self involved, vs. 1 — 3. This he refuses to do, as inconsistent 
with his faith in the rip:hteousness and grace of God, vs. 4 — 7. 
The logical relation of these parts makes the form of the whole 
somewhat dramatic, although this peculiarity is much less 
marked than in the second psalm. The language is not so 
much that of a historical person as of an ideal sufferer, repre- 
senting the wbole class of persecuted innocents. There is no 
specific reference to any incidents in David's life, although some 
of the images were probably suggested by his recollections, 
both of Saul's persecution and of Absalom's rebellion. The gen- 
eral resem.blance of this psalm to that before it, and the special 
resemblance of v. 2 to Ps. x. 8, 9, may account for its position 
in the Psalter. The very difficulties of this psalm are proofs of 
its antiquity and strong corroborations of the title, which as- 
cribes it to David. 

1. To the chief musician, belonging to him as the performer, 
and to David, as the author. In Jehovah I have trusted, and 
do still trust. Hoiv will (or ca7i) ye say to my soul. Flee 
(to) your mountain (as) a bird ? The profession of confi- 
dence in God at the beginning is the ground of the following 
interrogation, Avhich implies wonder and disapprobation. How 
can ye say so ? really means, ye should not say so. The ques- 
tion seems to be addressed to timid or desponding friends, rather 
than to taunting and exulting enemies, as some suppose, — To 


nny soul does not simply mean to me, but so as to affect my 
feelings. See above, on Ps. iii. 3 (2.) In the genuine text the 
Yetbjiee is plural, because addressed to the whole class repre- 
sented by the ideal sufferer in this case. Hence the frequent 
change of number throughout the psalm. See above, on Ps. x. 
10. The exhortation to flee must be understood as implying 
that there is no longer any hope of safety. — To your moun- 
tain, as a customary place of refuge, not for birds, but for per- 
secuted men. The comparison with a bird has no particular 
connexion with this clause, but is a kind of afterthought, sug- 
gesting the idea of a solitary helpless fugitive. (Compare 
1 Sam. xxvi. 20 and Lam. iii. 52.) There may be an allusion to 
the words of the angel in Gen. xix. 17, as there certainly is to 
one or both these places in our Lord's exhortation to his follow- 
ers, Matth. xxiv. 16. 

2. For lo, the wicked will tread (i. e. hend) the hoio ; they 
have fixed their arrow on the string, to shoot in darkness at the 
straightforward (upright) of heart. These are still the words 
of the advisers introduced in the preceding verse, assigning a 
reason for the advice there given. — Tread the how ; see above, 
on Ps. vii. 13 (12.) Will tread, are about to tread, are tread- 
ing. The preterite which follows refers to a later point of time. 
The speakers are supposed to describe what they see actually 
passing. ' They are bending the bow, (and now) they have 
fixed the arrow on the string.' The graphic vividness of the 
description is impaired, if not destroyed, by giving both the 
verbs a present form. — Fixed, i. e. in its proper place. The 
same verb occurs above, in Ps. vii. 13 (12.) Make ready is too 
vao"ue in the case before us. — hi darkness, in the dark, in se- 
cret, treacherously. See above, Ps. x. 8, 9. — The straight of 
heart, the upright and sincere. "We do not use the adjective in 
this sense ; but we have the cognate substantive, rectitude^ 
which properly means straightness. 


3. For the pillars {or foundations) ivill he (are about to be) 
destroyed : tvhat has the righteous done, i. e. accomplished ? 
The pillars or foundations are those of social order or society 
itself. These are said to be destroyed, when truth and right- 
eousness prevail no longer, but the intercourse of men is gov- 
erned by mere selfishness. The question in the last clause 
implies that the righteous has ejffected nothing, in opposition to 
the prevalent iniquity. The past tense represents this as a 
matter of actual experience, but as one Avhich still continues. 
The substitution of any other form in the translation is gratui- 
tous and ungrammatical. The true relation of the tenses is 
correctly given in the Prayer Book Version. For the founda- 
tions i(7iU be cast doivn, and what hath the righteous done ? 

4. Jehovah {is) in his palace (or temple) of holiness ; Je- 
hovah (or as to Jehovah), in the heavens {is) his throne. His 
eyes behold, his eyelids prove the sons of men. He is so ex- 
alted that he can see, and so holy that he must see and judge the 
conduct of his creatures. By an equally grammatical but less 
natural construction, the whole verse may be thrown into a sin- 
gle proposition. ' Jehovah in his holy temple, Jehovah whose 
throne is in heaven, his eyes, &c.'— For the meaning of the 
word translated temple, see above on Ps. v. 8 (7) — Eyelids are 
mentioned as a poetical parallel to eijes, being the nearest equiva- 
lent afforded by the language.— Tr?/ or prove, as if by seeing 
through them. With the whole verse compare Ps. cii. 20 (lO.") 

5. Jehovah the righteous will prove, will prove the righteous, 
and the ivicked and the lover of violence his soul hates. The 
sentence might also be divided thus : Jehovah tvill prove the 
righteous and the ivicked, and the lover of violence his soid 
hates. Different from both is the masoretic interpunction, 
which seems, however to be rather musical than grammatical 
or logical.— The divine proof or trial of the righteous implies 


favour and approval like the knowledge spoken of in Ps. i. 6 ; 

but in neither case is it expressed. Violence, including the 
ideas of injustice and cruelty. See above, on Ps. vii. 17 (16.) 
His soul has hated and still hates. This is not simply equiva- 
lent to he hates, but denotes a cordial hatred. Odit ex animo. 
He hates with all his heart. 

6. He will rain on wicked i^nen) snares, fire and brimstone, 
and a raging loiyid, the portion of their cup. The mixed 
metaphors show that the whole description is a tropical one, in 
which the strongest figures elsewhere used, to signify destruc- 
tion as an effect of the divine wrath, are combined. Rain is a 
natural and common figure for any copious communication from 
above, whether of good or evil. Snares are a favourite meta- 
phor of David for inextricable difficulties. See above, vii. 16 (15), 
ix. 16 (15), X. 9. — Fire and bi'i^nstone zxe familiar types of .sud- 
den and complete destruction, with constant reference to the 
great historical example of Sodom and Gomorrah. See Gen. xix. 
24, and compare Ezek. xxxviii. 22. Job xviii. 15. — Raging 
wind, literally wind (or blast) of furies, is another natural but 
independent emblem of sudden irresistible inflictions. The 
second Hebrew word is elsewhere used for strong indignation 
(Ps. cxix. 53), and is once applied to the ragings (or ravages) 
of famine. (LiB.m. v. 10.)— The portion of their cup, or their 
cup-portion, something measured out for them to drink, ac- 
cording to the frequent Scriptural representation, both of God's 
wrath and favour, as a draught, or as the cup containing it. 
Compare Ps. xvi. 5. xxiil. 5, with Matt. xx. 22, 23. xxvi. 39. The 
meaning of the whole verse is that, notwithstanding the pre- 
sent security of the ungodly, they shall, sooner or later, be 
abundantly visited with every variety of destructive judgment. 

7. For righteous (is) Jehovah; righteousness he loves; the 
upright (man) shall his face behold. The for suggests the 


intimate connexion between God's judgments on the wicked 
and his favour to the righteous. The second clause is a neces- 
sary inference from the first. The nature of God determines 
his judgments and his acts. He who is righteous in himself 
cannot but approve of righteousness in others. The righteous- 
ness of others is in fact nothing more than conformity to his 
will and nature. Nor does he merely approve of righteous- 
ness in the abstract ; he rewards it in the person of the right- 
eous man. This idea is expressed in the last clause, which 
admits of several constructions. It may mean that the upright 
shall behold his face, i. e. enjoy his favourable presence, as in 
Ps. xvii. 15. But the collocation of the singular noun and the 
plural verb, with the analogy of v. 4 above, is in favour of a 
different construction : his face shall behold (or does behold) 
the righteous, i. e. view them with favour and affection. Be- 
cause the original expression is not properly his face, but their 
face OY faces, Luther explains this as a reason why God loves 
the righteous, to wit, because their faces look upon {the) right, 
or that which is right. Another construction, founded on the 
same fact, is, the righteous shall behold (it with) their faces. 
It is better, however, to regard this as an instance of that re- 
markable idiom in Hebrew, which applies to the One True 
God, verbs, nouns, and pronouns in the plural, and which some 
explain as a pluralis majestaticus, like that employed by kings 
at present, and others as a form of speech transferred from poly- 
theism to the true religion. Most probably, however, it was 
intended to express the fulness of perfection in the divine na- 
ture, not without a mystical allusion to the personal distinction 
in the godhead. The most remarkable examples of this usage 
may be found in Gen. i. 26. iii. 22. xi. 7. Job xxxv. 10. Ps. 
Iviii. 12. Ecc. xii. 1. Isai. vi. 8. liv. 5. — The face is here, like 
the eyelids in v. 4, a poetical equivalent to eyes, and the same 
parallelism reappears in Ps. xxxiv. 16, 17 (15, 16): ' the eyes 


of Jehovah (are) towards the righteous ;' * the face of Jehovah 
(is) against evil-doers.' 


This psalm consists of two parts easily distinguished ; a 
complaint with an expression of desire, and a promise with 
an expression of confidence and hope. The Psalmist laments 
the waning number of good men, v. 2 (1), and the abounding 
of iniquity, v. 3 (2), to which he desires and expects that God 
will put an end, vs. 4, 5 (3, 4). In answer to this prayer, he 
receives an assurance of protection and deliverance for the 
righteous, v. 6 (5), on which he rests as infallibly certain, v. 7 
(6), and consoles himself under present trials, v. 8 (7). 

There seems to be no specific reference to the persecution of 
the Jews by the Gentiles, or of David by Absalom or Saul. 
The contrast exhibited is rather that between the risfhteous 
and the wicked as a class, and the psalm seems designed to be 
a permanent vehicle of pious sentiment for the church or 
chosen people under persecution by malignant enemies. It 
contains an unusual number of difficult expressions in propor- 
tion to its length ; but these are not of such a nature as to 
make its general import doubtful or obscure. 

1. To the Chief Musician, on, the eighth (or octave), a Psahyi 
of David. This title is identical with that of the sixth Psalm, 
except that Neginoth is here omitted. 


2 (1.) Save, Jehovah, for the merciful (or the object of 
divine mercy) ceaseth, for the faithful fail from {among) the 
sons of men. The adjective n^cn^ whether taken in an active 
or a passive sense, is descriptive of the pious or godly man. 
See above, on Ps. iv. 4 (3.) The preterite form of the verbs 
(lias ceased, have failed,) represents the fearful process as 
already begun. The word rendered faithful in the last clause 
may also have the abstract sense of truth, fidelity. See below, 
Ps. XXXI. 24 (23), and compare Isai. xxvi. 2. In either case, 
the whole verse is a strong hyperbolical description of the 
small number of good men left in the community, and their 
consequent exposure to the malice of the wicked. Such 
expressions, as Luther well suggests, are too familiar in the 
dialect of common life to be mistaken or produce perplexity. 

3 (2.) Va7iity, i. e. falsehood, the^j will speak; as they now 
do, so will they persist in doing ; {each) man with his neighbour, 
not merely with another man, but with his friend, his brother, 
towards whom he was particularly bound to act sincerely. 
Compare Eph. iv. 25. A lip of smoothness, or of smooth 
things, i. e. flattering. See above, on Ps. v. 10 (9.) This may 
be connected either with what goes before or with what fol- 
lows. * They speak falsehood, each to his neighbour, with a 
flattering lip.' Or, ' (With) a flattering lip (and) with a double 
heart will they speak.' A heart and a heart, i. e. a double 
heart, as a stone and a st07ie means "divers weio-hts." Deut. 
XXV. 13. By a double heart we are probably to understand, 
not mere dissimulation or hypocrisy, but inconsistency and 
instability of temper, which leads men to entertain opposite 
feelings towards the same object. Compare the description of 
the " doubleminded man" in James i. 8. 

4 (3.) May Jehovah destroy all lips of smoothness, flattering 
lips, {and every) to?igue speaking great things, i. e. speaking 


proudly, boasting. The form of the Hebrew verb is one com- 
monly employed to express an optative meaning ; but as this 
form is often poetically used for the future proper, it might be 
rendered here, Jehovah ivill destroy. There is no inconsistency 
between the flattering lips and the boastful tongue, because 
the subject of the boasting, as appears from what follows, is 
the flattery or deceit itself. As if he had said, Jehovah will 
destroy all flattering lips, and every tongue that boasts of their 
possession or use. For an example of such boasting, see Isaiah 
xxviii. 15. 

5 (4.) Who have said, By our tongues will lue do mightily, 
our lips {are) with tis, who is lord to us, or over us ? This is an 
amplified specification of the phrase speaking great things in 
the preceding verse. By our tongues, literally, as to, with 
respect to our tongues. The idea of agency or instrumentality 
is suggested by the context. Do mightily, exercise power, 
show ourselves to be strong. Our lips are with us may either 
mean they are our own, at our disposal, or, they are on our side. 
The idea of the whole verse is, by our own lips and our tongues 
we can accomplish what we will. 

6 (5.) From the desolation of the lur etched, from the sighing 
of the poor, noio ivill I arise, shall Jehovah say, I will place 
in safety hiin that shall jiOb^^i for it. The preposition from 
has a causal meaning, because of, on account of. The tvretcJied, 
afflicted, suff'erers. See above, on Ps. ix. 13 (12). I ivill arise ; 
see above, on Ps. iii. 8 (7). The future, shall Jehovah say^ 
implies that the promise is not yet uttered, much less fulfilled. 
An analogous use of the same form of the same verb runs 
through some of the prophecies and especially the later chap- 
ters of Isaiah. — The last clause is obscure and may also be 
translated, ' from him that puff'eth at him, — ' him at whom they 
puff' — 'him whom they would blow away,' &;c. The most; 


probable meaning is the one first given, according to which the 
verse contains a promise of deliverance to those who especially 
desire and need it. 

7 (6.) TJte sayings of Jehovah are pure sayi7igs, silver 
purged in a furrmce of earthy refined seven times. The 
Psalmist does not use the term commonly translated words, but 
one derived from the verb to say, with obvious allusion to the 
use of the verb itself in the preceding verse. What Jehovah 
there says, the promises there given, are here declared to be 
true without any mixture of mistake or falsehood. This is ex- 
pressed by the favourite figure of pure metallic ore. The idea 
of extreme or perfect purity is conveyed by the idiomatic 
phrase, purified seven times, i. e. repeatedly, or sevenfold, i. e. 
completely. Compare Dan. iii. 19. The general meaning of 
the verse is clear, but it contains one phrase which is among 
the most doubtful and disputed in the whole book. This is the 
phrase y^i^b 'b^^'$'2. To the common version above given, m a 
furnace of earth, and to another somewhat like it, purged in a 
furnace as to (i. Q.frotn) the earth, or earthy particles, it has been 
objected, that y^5^ never means earth as a material. Some avoid 
this difficulty by translating, in a furnace on the earth (or 
ground^ or, in the workshop (laboratory) of the earth, i. e. the 
mhie ; but this is not the place where ores are purified. It is 
further objected to all these translations, that they attach a sup- 
posititious meaning to the noun b'^bs'. It is therefore explained by 
some as a variation of bs'in, lord or master, and the whole clause 
made to mean, purified silver of a lord of the earth, i. e. refined 
not for ordinary use but for that of some great prince or noble. 
The obscurity which overhangs the meaning of this clause is 
less to be regretted as the main idea must, on any supposition 
still be that of unusual and perfect purity. 

8 (7.) Thou, Jehovah, wilt keep them ; thou wilt guard 


hini from this generation to eternity, i. e. forever. In the 
first clause, though not in the second, the pronoun thou is ex- 
pressed in Hebrew, and may therefore be regarded as em- 
phatic. See above, on Ps. ii. 6. iii. 4 (3.) Thou and no other, 
or, thou without the aid of others, wilt preserve them. The 
plural pronoun in the first clause, and the singular in the 
second, refer to the same persons, viz. the sufferers mentioned 
in V. 7 (6). By a license common in the psalms, they are first 
spoken of as a plurality, and then as an ideal person. See 
above, on Ps. x. 10. This generation, this contemporary race 
of wicked men, with reference perhaps to the description, in 
V. 2 (1), of the disproportion between these and the righteous. 
Forever, as long as the necessity or danger lasts, so long 
shall the injured innocent experience the divine protection. 

9 (8.) Rou7id about ivill the ivicked walk. This may either 
mean that they shall walk at liberty and have full license, or 
that they shall encompass and surround the righteous. Com- 
pare Ps. iii. 7 (6.) The other clause is one of the most doubt- 
ful and disputed in the whole book. The particle ^ may denote 
either time or resemblance and the noun ni^t which occurs 
no where else, has been variously explained to mean a storm, 
an earthquake, vileness or contempt, &c. Among the different 
senses put upon the whole phrase are the following. ' When 
the vileness (or vilest) of men is exalted.' 'Like the rising of a 
storm upon the sons of men.' ' When they rise (or are exalted) 
there is shame (or disgrace) to the sons of men.' ' When 
disgrace arises to the sons of men.' * Like exaltation is dis- 
grace to the sons of man.' In favour of this last it has 
been urged, that it gives to each word its most natural and 
obvious sense, and that it closes with a prospect of relief, and 
not with an unmitigated threatening, which Avould be at va- 
riance with the usage of the Psalms. The meaning of the 
verse is then, that although the wicked are now in the ascend- 


ant and the righteous treated with contempt, this disgrace is 
really an exaltation, because only external and in man's jud^j:- 
nient, not in God's, who will abundantly indemnify his people 
for the dishonor which is put upon them. The unusual and 
almost unintelligible form, in which this idea is expressed, is 
supposed to agree well with David's fondness for obscure and 
enigmatical expressions. See above, on Ps. v. 1 and vii. 1. 


This psalm consists of a complaint, vs. 2, 3 (1, 2), a prayer 
for deliverance, vs. 4, 5 (3, 4), and an expression of strong con- 
fidence that God will grant it, v. 6 (5, 6). 

There is no trace of a specific reference to any particular 
period in the life of David, or to any persecution of the ancient 
Israel by heathen enemies. The psalm appears to be intended 
as a vehicle of pious sentiment, for the church at large, and 
individual believers, under any affliction of the sort here de- 
scribed, namely, that arising from the spiteful hostility of wicked 
men. The tone, as in several of the foregoing psalms, varies 
from that of deep depression to that of an assured hope, con- 
nected, as in actual experience, by one of strong desire and fer- 
vent supplication. 

1. To the Chief Musician, a Psalm of David. This title 
differs from that of the fourth psalm, as the title of the twelfth 
does from that of the sixth, to wit, by the omission of m^'^aii. 

VOL. I. 5 


2 (i). Until ivhen, how long, Jehovah, vAlt thou for get me 
■forever ? Until when ivilt thou hide thy face from me 1 The 
refusal or delay of the divine help is here, as often elsewhere, 
represented by the figures of forgetful ness and an averted coun- 
tenance. See above, on Ps. ix. 13, 19 (12, 18). x. 11, 12. The 
apparent solecism of combining how long with, forever may be 
avoided by supposing two interrogations, hoiv long ? forever ? 
It may also be avoided by giving to nr^ the sense of continu- 
ously, uninterruptedly. But even the obvious construction, 
which is more agreeable to usage and the masoretic interpunc- 
tion of the sentence, may be justified as a strong but natural 
expression of the conflict between sense and faith. To the eye 
of sense and reason, the abandonment seemed final ; but faith 
still prompted the inquiry, hoiv long, which implies that it was 
not to last forever. As if he had said : how long wilt thou per- 
sist in the purpose of forgetting me forever ? 

3 (2.) Till ivhen, how long, shall I place (or lay up) coun- 
sels, plans, in my soul, grief in my heart by day? Till 
when shall my enemy he high above me ? The idea in the 
first clause seems to be that of accumulating methods or expe- 
dients of escape, as in a store-house, without finding any that 
will answer the purpose. The same figure may be continued 
in the second clause : (how long shall I lay up) sorrow in my 
heart ? The sense is then that the multiplication of devices 
only multiplies his sorrows. Or the figure of laying up may 
be confined to the first clause, and the noun grief governed by 
a verb understood : (how long shall I feel) sorrow in my heart 1 
The common version, having sorrow, conveys the same idea . 
but supplies a verb unknown to the Hebrew and its cognatt 
languages. — By day is elsewhere put in opposition to by night, 
as for instance in Ps. 1, 2 above. Here it may possibly mean 
all day, but more probably means every day, daily, as in Ezek. 
XXX. 16. — Be high: the original expression is a verb alone. 


How long shall my enemy soar or tower above me, i. e. be 
superior, prevail ? This clause determines the precise form of 
suffering complained of, namely, that occasioned by the malice 
of a powerful persecutor or oppressor. In all such cases Saul 
was no doubt present to the mind of David, but only as a spe- 
cimen or type of the whole class to which the psalm relates. 

4 (3). Look, hear me, Jehovah, my God, lighten my eyeSy 
lest I sleep the death. The complaint is now followed by a 
corresponding prayer. In allusion to the hiding of the face in 
V. 2 (1), he now beseeches God to look towards him, or upon 
him, to show by his acts that he has not lost sight of him. As 
he before complained of God's forgetting him, so here he prays 
that he will hear and answer him. See above, on Ps. iii. 5 (4). 
The idea of Jehovah as a God in covenant with his people is 
brought out still more fully by the phrase m,y God, i. e. one on 
whom I have a right to call, with a Avell-founded hope of being 
heard. See above on Ps. iii. 8 (7.) — Enlighten my eyes, or 
make them shine, is by some understood to mean, dispel my 
doubts and extricate me out of my perplexities, with reference 
to the plans or counsels mentioned in the preceding verse. 
Others with more probability suppose an allusion to the dim- 
ness of the eyes produced by extreme weakness or approaching 
death, and understand the prayer as one for restoration and de- 
liverance from imminent destruction. Compare 1 Sam. xiv. 
27, 29, where the relief of Jonathan's debility occasioned by long 
fasting is described by saying that his eyes were enlightened. — 
Lest I sleep {in) death, or lest I sleep the (sleep of) death, as in 
the common version. Compare the beautiful description of 
death as a sleep of perpetuity, a perpetual or everlasting sleep, 
in Jer. li. 39, 57. 

5 (4.) Lest my enemy say, I have overpowered him (and) 
my adversaries shout when I am shaken, or because 1 shall be 


shaken. — The vero '^n'b^"' strictly means, I have been able. 
The unusual construction with a pronoun (T^nb^"^) cannot be 
literally rendered into English, but the meaning evidently is, I 
have been able (to subdue) him, or, I have been strong (in com- 
parison with) him. As to the combinaiion of the singular and 
plural {enemy and adversaries), see above, on Ps. x. 11 (10.) — 
Shout, i. e. for joy, or in a single word, triumph. See above, 
on Ps. ii. 11 — The last verb (t5l72iS5) has the same sense as in 
Ps. X. 6, viz. that of being moved or cast down from one's firm 

6 (5, 6). And I in thy mercy have trusted ; let my heart ex- 
%dt hi thy salvation ; I ivill sing to Jehovah, for he hath do7ie 
7ne good, or acted kindly towards me. The transition indi- 
cated by the phrase and I, is the same as in Ps. ii. 6 above. 
Such are the enemies and dangers which environ me, and {yet) 
I have trusted in thy mercy. The past tense of the verb de- 
scribes the trust, not as something to be felt hereafter, or as 
just beginning to be felt at present, but as already entertained 
and cherished, and therefore likely to be still continued. I have 
trusted, and do still trust, and will trust hereafter. — There is a 
beautiful gradation in the clauses of this verse. First a fact is 
stated : ' I have trusted in thy mercy ;' then a desire is ex- 
pressed : * let my heart rejoice in thy salvation ;' then a fixed 
purpose is announced : ' I will sing unto Jehovah.' The 
reason annexed to this determination or engagement implies an 
assured expectation of a favourable issue. As if he had said : 
I know the Lord will treat me kindly, and I am resolved to 
praise him for so doing. — In thy salvation, not merely on ac- 
count of it, but in the contemplation, the possession, the enjoy- 
ment of it. See above, Ps. v. 12 (11). ix. 3 (2.) The verb 
b^3 which occurs above in Ps. vii. 5 (4), corresponds most 
nearly to the English treat, in the sense of dealing with or act- 
ing towards ; but when absolutely used, as here, almost inva- 


riably has a good sense, and specifically means to treat well or 
deal kindly with a person. The idea of requital or reward, 
which is frequently attached to it in the English version, is 
suggested, if at all, not by the word itself but by the context. 

The Septuagint has an additional clause, which is retained 
in the Prayer Book version and thus rendered : yea I will 
praise the name of the Lord most Highest. The words are 
not found in any Hebrew manuscript. 


We have first a description of human depravity as universal, 
vs. 1 — 3 ; then a confident anticipation of destructive judgments 
on the incorrigibly wicked, vs. 4 — 6, and an earnest wish for the 
speedy deliverance of God's elect from the evils of their natural 
condition and from the malice of their unconverted enemies, 
V. 7. 

There seems to be no reference to any particular historical 
occasion. The psalm was, no doubt, originally written to ex- 
press the feelings of God's people, in all times and places, with 
respect to the original depravity of all men and the obstinate 
persistency in evil of the greater number. The points of resem- 
blance and of diff'erence between this psalm and the fifty-third 
will be considered in the exposition of the latter. 


1. To the Chief Musician, by David. The fool has said 
in his heart, There is 9io God. They have done corruptly ^ 
they have done abominably (in) deed (or act) ; there is none 
doing good. Sin is constantly held up to view in Scripture 
as the height of folly, and the sinner as the fool by way of emi- 
nence. See Gen. xxxiv. 7. Jos. vii. 15. Ps. xxxix. 9 (8.) 
The term is here collective and applied to the whole race, as 
appears from the plurals which follow, and the negative state- 
ment in the last clause. The preterites include the present, but 
suggest the additional idea, that the truth here asserted is the 
result of all previous experience and observation. — In his hearty 
to himself, if not to others, as above, in Ps. x. 11. That the 
error is one of the affections, and not merely of the under- 
standing, is supposed by some to be implied in the use of the 
word hearty which is often used however to denote the mind or 

soul in general '^'^ifj is properly a noun and means nonentity 

or non-existence : * nothing of God,' or ' no such thing as God.' 
It cannot be explained as a wish — ' No God I' i. e. oh that 
there were no God I — because yj^ in usage always includes the 
substantive verb, and denies the existence, or at least the pre- 
sence, of the person or thing to which it is prefixed. This is 
also clear from the use of the same word in the last clause, 
where its sense is unambiguous. — The addition of the word act 
or deed shows that the atheism described is not merely theo- 
retical but practical. — There is obvious allusion, in this verse, lo 
the description of the general antediluvian corruption in Gen. 
vi. 12. This makes it the more certain that the description 
here was not intended either for Jews or Gentiles, as such, but 
for wicked men of either class, and that Paul's application of 
the words, in Kom. iii. 10, 12, is perfectly legitimate, and not 
a mere accommodation of the Psalmist's lano^uaoe to another 

2. Jehovah from heaven has loohed down on the sons of man^ 


to see if there were {one) acting ivisely, seeking God. While 
the fool denies the being of a God, Jehovah's eye is on him and 
his fellow-men. Yet even that omniscient eye can discern no 
exception to the general depravity and folly. The earnestness 
of the inspection is suggested by the verb in the first clause, 
which originally means to lean or bend over, and is peculiarly 
appropriate to the act of one gazing intently down upon a lower 
object. The force of the preterite tense is the same as in the 
preceding verse. The inquiry has been made already and proved 
fruitless. It is no longer a doubtful question, but one defini- 
tively settled. — Acting wisely, in contrast to the atheistical 
folly mentioned in v. 1. The test of wisdom is in seeking 
God, whether in the general religious sense of seeking his favour 
and communion with him, or in the special sense of seeking 
proofs of his existence. As if he had said : even those who 
think there is no God, if they were wise, would seek one ; but 
these fools take pleasure in the hideous neo-ation. The imag-e 
presented in this verse may be compared with that in Gen. vi. 
12. xi. 5. xviii. 21. See also Ps. xxxiii. 13, 14. 

3. The wlwle has apostatised; together they have putre- 
fied ; there is none doing good ; there is 7iot even one. Total 
and universal corruption could not be more clearly expressed 
than by this accumulation of the strongest terms, in which, as 
Luther well observes, the Psalmist, not content with saying all, 
adds together, and then negatively, no not one. It is plain that 
he had no limitation or exception in his mind, but intended to 
describe the natural condition of all 77ien, in the widest and 
most unrestricted sense. — The whole, not merely all the indi- 
viduals as such, but the entire race as a totality or ideal per- 
son. TJie ivhole [race) has departed, not merely from the right 
way, but from God, instead of seeking him, as intimated in v. 
4. Together, not merely altogether or without exception, but 
in union and by one decisive act or event. — The etymological 


import of the verb inbs^l] is to turn sour, to spoil. It is applied 
to moral depravation not only here but in Job. xv. 16. The 
Septuagint version of these words is quoted by Paul in Rom. 
iii. 12, as a part of his scriptural description of human deprav- 
ity, the rest of which is taken from Ps. v. 10 (9), x. 7. xxxvi. 
2 (1,) cxl. 4. Isai. lix. 7, 8. Under the false impression that 
he meant to quote a single passage, some early Christian copy- 
ist appears to have introduced the whole into the Septuagint 
version of this Psalm, where it is still found in the Codex Vati- 
canus, as well as in the Vulgate, and even in one or tAvo He- 
brew manuscripts of later date. The interpolation is also 
retained in the Anglican Psalter. It is evident, however, that 
the Apostle's argument is strengthened by the fact of his proofs 
being drawn not from one but several parts of the Old Testament. 

4. Do they not kn&iv, all (these) icorlxers of iniquity, eating 
my people {as) they eat bread, {and) on Jehovah call not? 
The question is elliptical ; the object of the verb must be sup- 
plied from the context. Do they not know that they are thus 
corrupt and estranged from God, and therefore objects of his 
wrath '? Is it because they do not know this or believe it, that 
they thus presume to oppress and persecute his people ? The 
figure of devouring occurs often elsewhere, e, g, Prov. xxx. 14. 
Mic. iii. 3. Hab. iii. 14. See below, on Ps. xxvii. 2 (1.) As 
Hiey eat brxad may either mean for their support — living on 
the plunder and oppression of my people ; or for pleasure — 
feeding on them with delight ; or with indifference and as 
little sense of guilt as when they take their ordinary food. — 
Call not on Jehovah, do not worship him, as they were before 
said not to seek him, nor even to acknowledge his existence, all 
which are periplirastical descriptions of the wicked as a class. 
The general description of their wickedness is here exchanged 
for a specific charge, that of persecuting the righteous. The 
mention of two classes here is not at variance with the uni- 



versal terms of the preceding context, nor does it render any 
limitation of those terms necessary. All men are alike " chil- 
dren of wrath," but some are elected to be " vessels of mercy," 
and thereby become objects of hatred to the unconverted mass 
who still represent the race in its apostacy from God. — My 
'people does not make it necessary to regard these as the words 
of God himself, who is no where introduced as speaking in 
this psalm, and is spoken of in the third person in the very next 
clause. The Psalmist, as a member of the body, calls it his, 
and the same form of expression occurs elsewhere. See 1 Sam. 
V. 10. Isai. iii. 12. liii. 8, Micah iii. 3. — For the meaning of 
the phrase, workers of iniquity^ see above, on Ps. v. 6 (5). 

5. There have they feared a fear, for God (is) in the right- 
eous generation. A later period is now present to his view. 
They who seemed incapable of fear have now begun to be 
afraid at last. There, without any change of place or outward 
situation. Where they before denied the being of a God, even 
there they have begun to fear. See below, on Ps. xxxvi. 13 
(12.) The reason is given in the next clause. God, though 
denied by them, exists and is present and will manifest his pre- 
sence by the protection and deliverance of his people. Feared 
a fear, is a common Hebrew idiom for greatly feared, were sore 
afraid. — Generation, contemporary race, as in Ps. xii. 8 (7.) 

6. The plan (or coioisel) of the sufferer (the afflicted) ye 
will shame, because Jehovah is his refuge. The workers of 
iniquity are here addressed directly. The sufferer is the per- 
secuted innocent. Poor is too restricted a translation. See 
above, on Ps. ix. 13, 19 (12, 18). The plan or counsel is de- 
Fcribed in the last clause, to wit, that of trusting in Jehovah. 
This very trust is an object of contempt to the wicked. Until 
they are made to fear by the manifestation of God's presence 

with his people, they will continue to despise it. The Psalmist 


liere seems to revert to the interval which should precede the 
divine interposition. As if he had said : you will one day be 
made to fear, but in the mean time you will shame the counsel 
of the poor. Some however give rt!J''Dri its usual sense of put- 
ting to shame, disappointing, and understand the clause as an 
ironical concession : you may shame his counsel if you can. 

7. Who ivill give out of Zio?i salvation to Israel, in Jelw- 
vah's returning the captivity of his people? Let Jacob exult, 
let Israel joy ! The phrase who ivill give is an idiomatic 
optative in Hebrew, equivalent to oh that with a verb, and oh 
for with a noun in English. Oh for the salvation of Israel ! 
Or, oh that the salvation of Israel (might come) out of Zion, 
as the earthly residence of God and seat of the theocracy. 
The same local designation is connected with the prayer or 
promise of divine help, in Ps. iii. 5 (4), xx. 3 (2), cxxviii. 5. 
cxxxiv, 3. (Compare Ps. xxviii. 2.) This shows that the Psalm 
does not belong to the period of the Babylonish exile, and that 
the captivity referred to is not literal, but a metaphorical 
description of distress, as in the case of Job (xlii. 10). The 
same idea is elsewhere expressed by the figure of confinement 
and incarceration (Ps. cxlii. 8. Is. xlii. 7. xlix. 9.) The sense 
remains essentially the same in this case, whether the verb 
return be transitive or intransitive. Most interpreters prefer 
the former sense and understand the clause to mean, ' in Jeho- 
vah's bringing back the captivity of his people.' But as ri^'^: 
in every other combination means to come back, and, like other 
verbs of motion, often governs a noun of place directly (Ex. 
iv. 19, 20. Num. x. 36), it is better to understand the words as 
meaning that the salvation wished for would consist in God's 
revisiting his captive or afflicted people. This sense is also 
admissible, if not necessary, in such places as Deut. xxx. 3. 
Ps. Ixxxv. 5 (4), Isai. Iii. 8. Hos. vi. 11. Nah.ii.3(2.)— ie^J Jacob 
shout (for joy) I This is both an exhortation and a wish, but 

PSALM XV. 107 

the latter is the prominent idea, as the parallelism of the clauses 
shows. Oh that the salvation of Israel ivere come! corres- 
ponds exactly to, May Jacob exult, may Israel he glad! The 
common version is forbidden by the optative form (^3^^) of the 
Hebrew verb, and by the masoretic interpunction, which con- 
nects in the Lord's returning ^c, not with what follows 
as a specification of time, but with what goes before as an 
explanatory clause. The whole may be paraphrased as follows. 
* Oh that Jehovah, from his throne in Zion, Avould grant salva- 
tion to his people, by revisiting them in their captive and for- 
saken state, and that occasion of rejoicing might be thus 
afforded to the church I' Or more closely thus : ' Oh may 
Israel's salvation (soon) come forth from Zion, in Jehovah's 
return to the captivity of his people I (In such a restoration) 
may Jacob (soon have reason to) exult and Israel (to) triumph ! 


This Psalm teaches the necessity of moral purity as a con- 
dition of the divine protection. It first propounds the ques- 
tion who shall be admitted to God's household and the privi- 
leges of its inmates, v. 1. This is answered, positively, v. 2, 
and negatively, v. 3, then positively again, v. 4, and negatively, 
V. 5. The last clause of the last verse winds up by declaring, 
that the character just described shall experience the protec- 
tion tacitly referred to in the first verse. As the contrast ex- 
hibited in this psalm and the fourteenth may account for its 
position in the Psalter, so its obvinu;= resemblance to the 

108 PSALM XV. 

twenty-fourth makes it not improbable that their historical 
occasion was identical. 

1. A Psahn hy David. Jehovah, who shall sojourn in thy 
tent 1 ii'ho shall dwell in thy hill of holiness ? The holy hill 
is Zion, as in Ps. ii. 6 ; the tent is the tabernacle which David 
pitched there for the ark, when he removed it from Gibeon. 
(2 Sam. vi. 17. 1 Chron. xv. 1. xvi. 1, 39. 2 Chron. i. 3—5.) 
Both together signify the earthly residence of God. See above, 
on Ps. iii. 5 (4). The idea is not that of frequenting Zion as a 
place of worship, but of dwelling there, as a guest or as an 
inmate of God's family. The same figure for intimate com- 
munion with Jehovah, and participation of his favour, re- 
appears in Ps. xxiii. 6. xxvii. 4, 5. xxiv. 3. Ixi. 5. Ixv. 5 (4.) 
Ixxxiv. 5 (4.) So too in Eph. ii. 19, believers are described as 
members of God's family {oIheIoi toO 6eov.) 

2. Walking 'perfect, and doing right, and sjieaking truth, 
in his heart. The Psalmist, speaking in behalf of God, here 
answers his own question. The only person who can be 
admitted to domestic intercourse with God is one walking per- 
fect &c. Walking is put for the habitual course of life. (See 
above, on Ps. i. 1.) Perfect, complete, as to all essential fea- 
tures of the character, without necessarily implying perfection 
in degree. The form of expression seems to be borrowed from 
Gen. xvii. 1. A remarkably analogous expression is that used 
by Horace : integer vitae scelerisqiie purus. The next phrase, 
doing right, practising rectitude, may be either a synonymous 
parallel to the first, or a specification under it, parallel to speak- 
ing truth. The general idea of Avalking perfect is then re- 
solved into the two particular ideas of doing right and speak- 
ing truth. In his heart, i. e. sincerely, as opposed to outward 
show or hypocritical profession. This phrase seems to qualify 
not merely what precedes, speaking truth, but the whole de- 




scription, as of one who sincerely and internally, as well 
outwardly, leads a blameless life by doing right and* speaking 

3. ( Who) hath not slandered with his tongue, {ivho) hath 
not done his neighbour harm, and a scandal hath not taken 
up against his neighbour. The positive description of the 
foregoing verse is now followed by a negative one. (Compare 
Ps i. 1, 2.) The social virtues are insisted on, and their oppo- 
sites excluded, because they are apt to be neglected by hypo- 
crites, against whom this psalm is directed. The past tense 
of the verbs denotes a character already marked and deter- 
mined by the previous course of life. The verb bai seems 
strictly to denote the act of busy or officious tale-bearing. 
There seems to be an allusion to Lev. xix. 16. With his 
tongue, literally on his tongue, as we say to live on, i. e. by 
means of any thing, an idiom which occurs in Gen. xxvii. 40. 
(Compare Isai. xxxviii. 16.) The next clause adds deed to 
word, as in the foregoing verse. Scandal, reproach, defama- 
tory accusation. The verb s^taj is by some explained as mean- 
ing to take up upon the lips (Ps. xvi. 4), and then to utter or 
pronounce. Others give it the same sense as in Gen. xxxi. 17. 
where b^ H'lTD means to lift up upon, i. e. to burden. The idea 
then is, that he has not helped to load his neighbour with re- 
proach. Friend and neighbour does not mean any other man, 
but one sustaining a peculiarly intimate relation, such as that 
of the members of the chosen people to each other. See 
above, on Ps. xii. 3 (2). 

4. Despised in his eyes (is) a reprobate, and the fearers of 
Jehovah he ivill honour ; he hath sioorn to his own hurt and 
will not change. The Chaldee Paraphrase, followed by the 
Prayer Book version, makes the first clause descriptive of humi- 
lity. He is despised in his own eyes (and) rejected. But the 

110 rSALM XV. 

parallelism with the next clause shows that a contrast was 
designed between his estimation of two opposite classes, and 
as one of these is those u'ho fear Jehovah, the other must be 
represented by Dii?23 , rejected, i. e. by Jehovah, reprobate. The 
future form, as usual, suggests the idea of a present act re- 
peated or continued in the future. He honours, and will still 
persist in honouring, the fearers of Jehovah. The Septuagint 
and Vulgate explain 5'^,nb to the neighbour, and some modern 
versions to the had (jnan.) But the sense is determined by the 
obvious allusion to Lev. v. 4 : " if a soul swear to do evil 
(5^n';) or to do good," i. e. whether to his own advantage or 
the contrary. So here the phrase must mean ' he hath sworn to 
injure (himself)' not designedly, but so as to produce that effect. 
He will not change, literally, exchange, i. e. substitute some- 
thing else for what he has promised. 

5. His silver he hath not given for usury, and a bribe 
against a guiltless [pe?'so?i) hath not taken. Doing tliese 
{things) he shall not be moved forever. In Hebrew as in 
French, silver is put for money in general. There is obvious 
allusion to the frequent prohibition in the Mosaic law, not of 
lending money upon interest for commercial purposes, a prac- 
tice then unknown, but of usurious lending to the poor, and 
especially to poor Israelites. See Ex. xxii. 24. Lev. xxv. 37. 
Deut. xxiii. 20, and compare Prov. xxviii. 8. Ezek. xviii. 8. 
The taking of judicial bribes is also expressly forbidden in Ex. 
xxiii. 8. Deut. xvi. 19. xxvii. 25. The masoretic interpunc- 
tion of this sentence seems to be merely rhythmical or 
musical, as in Ps. xi. 5. The words doing these cannot be 
separated from what follows without destroying the sense. 
This last clause is an answer to the question in v. 1, but with a 
change of form, implying that admission to God's household 
was itself security against all danger. Compare Ps. Iv. 23 (2^). 
For the sense of t:'in» see above, on Ps. x. 6. xiii. 5. 




A SUFFERER, in imminent danger of death, expresses his 
strong confidence in God, v. 1, as the sole source and author of 
his happiness, v. 2, and at the same time his attachment to 
God's people, v. 3, his abhorrence of all other gods, v. 4, his 
acquiescence in God's dealings with him, vs. o, 6, and his as- 
sured hope of future safety and blessedness, vs. 7 — 11. 

The Psalm is appropriate to the whole class of pious suffer- 
ers, of which Christ is the most illustrious representative. It 
is only in him, therefore, that some parts of it can be said to 
have received their highest and complete fulfilment. This will 
be shown more fully in the exposition of the ninth and tenth 

1 . Michtara of David. Preserve me, oh God, for I have trust- 
ed in thee. Some explain Michtam as a compound terra ; but it 
is most probably a simple derivative of a verb meaning to hide^ 
and signifies a mystery or secret. The similar word Michtab 
in the title of Hezekiah's psalm (Isai. xxxviii. 9) is probably an 
imitation of the form here used, or at least involves an allusion 
to it. It seems to be substituted for the usual terms so?ig, 
psalm, &c. not only here but in the titles of Ps. Ivi — Ix. It 
probably indicates the depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in 
these sacred compositions. The derivation from a noun mean- 
ing gold is much less probable. — This verse may be said to 
contain the sum and substance of the whole psalm, and is 
merely amplified in what follows. The prayer. Keep, save, or 

112 PSALiM XVI. 

preserve me, implies actual suffering or imminent danger, while 
the last clause, / have trusted in thee, states the ground of his 
assured hope and confident petition. The verb used is one 
that seems especially appropriate to the act of seeking shelter 
under some overshadowing object. See Judges ix. 15. Isai. 
XXX. 2. Ps. Ivii. 2 (1.) Ixi. 5 (4.) The preterite form implies 
that this is no new or sudden act, but one performed already. 
He not only trusts in God at present, but has trusted him be- 
fore. Compare Ps. vii. 2 (1.) xi, 1. 

2. Thou hast said to Jehovah, The Lord (art) thou ; my 
good (is) not besides thee (or beyond thee) The verb in the 
first clause has the form of a second person feminine, which 
some regard as an abbreviation of the first person, 'p^y^'H^ for 
'ipi'n?2&^ and translate accordingly, I have said. But this 
neither agrees so well with usage, nor affords so good a sense 
as the old construction which supplies as the object of address 
the same that is expressed in Ps. xlii. 6 (5), 12 (11). xliii. 5. 
Jer. iv. 19. Lam. iii. 24, 25. A similar ellipsis is assumed by 
some in 1 Sam. xxiv. 11, and 2 Sam. xiii. 39. By this peculiar 
form of speech the Psalmist calls upon himself to remember his 
own solemn acknowledi>;ment of Jehovah as the Lord or Su- 
preme God. — The obscure clause which follows has been very 
variously explained. Some understand by good moral good- 
ness, merit, and explain the whole to mean, ' my goodness is 
not such as to entitle me to thy regard.' Most interpreters 
however give to good its usual sense of good fortune, happi- 
ness (see Ps. cvi. 5. Job ix. 25), and make the whole clause 
mean, « my happiness is not obligatory or incumbent on thee, 
thou art not bound to provide for it' ; or ' my happiness is not 
above thee ; I have no higher happiness than thee.' The true 
sensis is probably afforded by a modification of this last : ' my 
happiness is not beside thee, independent of, or separable from 
thee,' with allusion to the form of expression in the Hebrew of 


the first commandment (Ex. xx. 3.) The verse then contains 
a twofold acknowledgment of God, as the universal sovereign, 
and as the only source of individual enjoyment. Compare Ps. 
Ixxiii. 25. That this recognition was not a mere momentary 
act, but a habitual affection of the mind, seems to be indicated 
by the Psalmist's appeal to his own soul as having made the 
acknowledgment already, hitherto or heretofore. 

3. To (or with) the saints who {are) in the la?id, and the 
nobles in whom (is) all my delight. The construction of the 
first clause, and its connexion with the preceding verse, are very 
obscure. Some make to synonymous with as to. ' As to the 
saints who are iri the land, and the nobles, in them is all my 
delight.' Or, ' as to the saints who are in the land, they are 
the nobles in whom is all my delight.' Others understand to 
the saints and to Jehovah as correlative expressions. ' To Jeho- 
vah I have said thus ; to the saints thus.' Or, as the English 
Bible has it, ' my goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the 
saints &c.' The least violent construction seems to be that 
which takes the preposition in its usual sense, that of belonging 
to, as in tlie phrases, to David, to the chief Musician, and in 
1 Kino-s XV. 27. The meanins; then is that the Psalmist's re- 
cognition of Jehovah as The Lord, and as the only source of 
happiness, is not peculiar to himself, but common to the whole 
body of the saints or holy ones. This epithet denotes personal 
character, not as its primary meaning, but as the effect of a 
peculiar relation to God, as the objects of his choice, set apart 
from the rest of men for this very purpose. See Ex. xix. 6. 
Deut. vii. 6. Ps. xxxiv. 10 (9.) Dan. vii. 21. viii. 24. 1 Pet. ii. 9. 
The pre-eminence of these over others, as the fruit of the divine 
election, is expressed by the word nobles, which like saints 
denotes moral character only in an indirect and secondary man- 
ner. The construction in this part of the verse is strongly idio- 
matic ; the literal translation is, the nobles of all my delight in 


them. Under the old dispensation, the nobles or elect of God 
had their local habitation in the land of promise. Hence they 
are here described as the * saints or consecrated ones who are in 
the land,' not in the earthy which would be too indefinite and 
not so well suited to the context. As thus explained, the whole 
verse may be paraphrased as follows. * This profession of my 
trust in God I make, not merely as an individual believer, but 
as one belonging to the great body of the saints or consecrated 
ones, the nobles of the human race, not such by any original or 
natural pre-eminence, but by the sovereign and distinguishing 
favour of Jehovah, whom they trust as I do, and are therefore 
the rightful objects of my warmest love.' 

4. Many (or TnultipUed) shall be their sorrows — ajiother 
they have purchased — I will not pour their drink-offering of 
blood, and ivill not take their names ujoon my lips. With the 
happiness of those who like himself trust the Lord, he contrasts 
the wretchedness of those who have chosen any other object of 
supreme affection. The relative construction in the English 
version, ' their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten &c.,' gives 
the sense correctly, but with more variation from the Hebrew 
idiom, which conveys the same idea by means of short inde- 
pendent propositions. — In the word translated their sorrows 
(Qrii223>) there seems to be an allusion to a very similar form 
which would mean their idols ( tri'is^SJ), as if to suggest that 
false ffods are mere troubles and vexations. — Another means 
another god, in opposition to the one true God, Jehovah, as in 
Isai. xlii. 8, xlviii. 11. The contrast which is there expressed 
is here to be supplied from vs. 2 and 5, and from the general 
antithesis, running through the context, between God and gods, 
not idols merely, but any created object of supreme affection. 
The verb 'nn'^ in its derived forms means to hasten, and is so 

~ T 

translated here by the English and some other versions. But in 
the only other place where the primitive verb occurs (Ex. xxii. 


15) it means to endow a wife, or secure her by the payment of 
a dowry, according to the ancient oriental custom. The same 
usage of the verb exists in several of the cognate dialects. It 
seems here to have the general sense of purchasing, by costly 
sacrifice or self-denial, but with particular allusion to the con- 
jugal relation which is constantly described in scripture as ex- 
isting between worshippers and their gods. See Hos. iii. 2. and 
viii. 9. Ezek. xvi. 33, 34. In the last clause he abjures all 
communion with such idolaters. He will not join in their impious 
services, nor even name the names of their divinities. Drink- 
offerings of bloody libations no less loathsome than if composed 
of human blood, perhaps with an allusion to the frequent poeti- 
cal description of wine as the blood of the grape. See Gen. 
xlix. 11. Deut. xxxii. 14. Isai. Ixiii. 3. To take the name upon 
the lips is to stain or pollute them by pronouncing it. Both here 
and in Hos. ii. 19, there is an obvious allusion to the solemn 
prohibition of the law (Ex. xxiii. 13) : " Make no mention of the 
name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth." 
The pronoun their ^ in this whole clause, refers not to the wor- 
shippers but to their divinities, as comprehended under the col- 
lective term ajiotker. 

5. Jehovah (is) my alloted portion and my cup ; them wilt 
enlarge my lot. The other side of the contrast is again exhi- 
bited. The idea is that in the Lord the Psalmist has all that he 
can wish or hope for. The figures are borrowed from the regu- 
lar supply of food and drink. Compare Ps. xi. 6. xxiii. 5. There 
may also be allusions to the language of the Pentateuch in re- 
ference to the tribe of Levi. Deut. x. 9. xviii. 1, 2. — The com- 
mon version of the last clause, thou upholdest my lot, is neither 
so grammatical nor yields so good a sense as that above given, 
where enlarge implies both honour and abundance, and the 
future form expresses confident assurance that the favour now 
experienced will be continued. 


6. The lines are fallen to me in pleasant things (or pleasant 
places) ; yea, my heritage is goodly. The lines here spoken 
of are those used in measuring and dividing land. Falleyi, i. e. 
assjo-ned, with or without allusion to the lot, as the means of 
distribution. Compare Num. xxxiv. 2. Judges xviii. 1. The 
idea oi p>laces is suggested by the context, or the plural adjective 
may have the abstract sense of pleasure, pleasures, like the cog- 
nate form in Job xxxvi. 11. — The particle /t]5<) which introduces 
the last clause is more emphatic than the simple copulative and. 
It properly means also, and implies that this clause contains 
something more than that before it. The original construction 
of the last clause is : a heritage is goodly to me or upon me, 
with allusion to the natural and common image of gifts or 
favours as descending from above. The heritage or portion 
thus described is God himself, but considered as including all 
desirable possessions. 

7. I ivill bless Jehovah who Imth counselled me; also by 
night have my reins prompted me. He praises God for having 
counselled or persuaded him to choose this goodly heritage in 
preference to every other portion. — The second clause begins 
with yea or also, as in the preceding verse. It here implies 
that under the divine control just mentioned, his own habitual 
dispositions tended to the same point. — By night, literally, 
nights, an idiom not unknown in vulgar English. The plural 
may in this case be emphatic, meaning whole nights, all night 
long. The night is mentioned, both as a time naturally favour- 
able to reflection, and as showing that the same subject occupied 
his thoughts by night as well as by day. See above on Ps. i. 2. 
The reins are figuratively put like the heart, bowels &c. for the 
afl'ections. See above, on Ps. vii. 10 (9). — WLy reikis have 
taught me, warned me, prompted me, to utter the praise men- 
tioned in the first clause, or to make the choice described in vs. 
1, 2, 5. 

PSALM XVr. 117 

8. / have set Jehovah before me always ; because (fie is) at 
my right hand, I shall not be moved. I have set him before 
me, i. e. I recognise his presence and confide in his protection. 
The actual expression of this confidence is given in the other 
clause. The right hand is here mentioned not as a post of 
honour, but as that of a guard or defender. See below, on Ps. 
cix, 31. ex. 5. cxxi. 5. — I shall not be moved from my secure 
position. See above, on Ps. x. 6. xv. 5. The whole verse is a 
varied repetition and amplification of the last clause of v. 1, I 
have trusted (or sheltered myself) in thee. — The Septuagint 
version of this sentence is quoted in Acts ii. 25, with an express 
recognition of David as the author of the Psalm. 

9. Therefore has rejoiced my heart and exulted my glory ; 
yea, my flesh shall divell 171 security (or confidence.) — There- 
fore, because God is my ever present helper. Gloi'y seems 
here to mean his nobler part, his soul, but not as wholly sepa- 
rate from the body, as appears from what follows. See above, 
on Ps. vii. 6 (5.) — Flesh may either mean the body, as distin- 
guished from the soul, or the whole person as including both. 
Compare Ps. Ixiii. 2 (1.) Ixxxiv. 3 (2.) — The idea of dwelling in 
security or confidence of safety is borrowed from the Pentateuch. 
See Deut. xxxiii. 12, 28, and compare Judges xviii. 7. Jer. 
xxiii. 6. xxxiii. 16. A similar allusion has been found already 
in Ps. iv. 9. (8.) The Septuagint version of the sentence, 
although it substitutes tongue for glory, is substantially correct, 
and therefore retained in Acts ii. 26. — The second clause is not 
simply parallel and equivalent to the first, but is rather an 
actual performance of the duty there described. Having there 
said that his heart did triumph in the certainty of God's protec- 
tion, he here proves the truth of his assertion, by professing his 
assured hope that his whole person, not excepting his mate- 
rial part, shall dwell in safety under that protection. This is 
applicable both to preservation from death and preservation in 


death, and may therefore without violence be understood, in a 
lower sense, of David, who did die and see corruption but whose 
body is to rise again, as well as in a higher sense of Christ, 
whose body, though it died, was raised again before it saw cor- 

10. For thou wilt not leave my soiil to Hell ; thou wilt not 
give thy Holy One to see corruption. He now assigns the 
ground or reason of the confidence expressed in the preceding 
verse. * I am sure my soul and body will be safe, because thou 
canst not, without ceasing to be God and my God, give me up 
to the destroyer.' He does not say leave in, but to, i. e. aban- 
don to, give up to the dominion or possession of another. The 
same Hebrew phrase occurs, with the same sense, in Lev. xix. 
10. Job xxxix. 14, and in Ps. xlix. 11 (10) below. — Hell is 
here to be taken in its wide old English sense, as correspond- 
ino; to the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades, the invisible 
world or state of the dead. See above, on Ps. vi. 6 (5) and ix. 
18 (17.) — Give i. e. permit, or more emphatically, give up, aban- 
don, which makes the parallelism of the clauses more exact. 
Thy Holy One, or more exactly, thy favourite, the object of 
thy special favour. See above, on Ps. iv. 4 (3.) The textual 
reading is a plural form ('I'^TiDn), the singular (liion) being a 
marginal correction or keri. The Jews contend for the former 
and most Christians for the latter, which is favoured by the old- 
est versions and retained in the New Testament. The essen- 
tial ditference between the two is less than it may seem at first 
sight, since even the singular is really collective and includes 
the whole class of God's chosen and favoured ones, of whom 
Christ is the head and representative. — To see, i. e. to experi- 
ence or undergo corruption. Compare the phrase to see death, 
Luke ii. 26. — It has been disputed whether tniD is derived from 
n^r and means a pit, or from rinid and means corruption. Both 
allegations are probably true, the antecedent improbability of 


such a double sense and derivation being counterbalanced by the 
clear analogy of rin:, which is of a different sense and gender 
as derived from rn^ and n^!;. The use of this equivocal ex- 
pression may have been intentional, in order to make it applica- 
ble both to David and to Christ. (See above, on the preceding 
verse.) To both, the Avords contain a promise of deliverance 
from death, but in the CEise of Christ with a specific reference to 
his actual escape from the corruption which is otherwise insepa- 
rable from dissolution. Believers in general are saved from the 
perpetual dominion of death, but Christ was saved even from 
the first approach of putrefaction. In this peculiar and most 
pregnant sense the words are applied to Christ exclusively by 
two apostles, and in that sense declared to be inapplicable to 
David. (Acts ii. 29 — 31. xiii. 35 — 37.) Their reasoning would 
utterly forbid the application to any lower subject, were it not 
for the ambiguity or twofold meaning of the Hebrew word, 
which cannot therefore be explained away without embarrassing 
the interpretation of this signal prophecy. 

11. Thou wilt teach 7ne the way of life, fulness of joy ivith 
thy face (or presence,) pleasures in thy right hand forever. He 
trusts God not only for deliverance from death, but for guidance 
in the way to life, or blessed immortality. (Compare Prov. ii. 
19.) The Hebrew verb is causative and means thou ivilt make 
me know, point out, or show to me. Fulness, satiety, or rather 
satisfaction, in its strongest sense, including the ideas of con- 
tentment and abundance. The plural, joys, denotes not only 
richness but variety. The next phrase may simply mean 
before thy face or in thy presence. But it will also bear 
a stronger sense and represent God's presence or the sight of 
him, not merely as the place, but the source of enjoyment. See 
above, on Ps. iv. 7 (6,) and compare Ps. xvii. 15. Ixxx. 4 (3.) 
So in the last clause, the idea is not merely at thy right hand, 
as a place of honour and of safety, but in thy right hand, as 


the depository of eternal joys, or with thy right hand, as the 
instrument by which they are dispensed. See below, on Ps. 
xvii. 7. — This last clause is omitted in Peter's citation of the 
passage, Acts ii. 27, no doubt because it is a mere poetical re- 
iteration of the one before it, which is itself only added to com- 
plete the period, and not because it was essential to the apostle's 
purpose. That purpose was accomplished by applying the two 
preceding verses to our Saviour, not exclusively indeed, but by 
way of eminence and in a peculiar sense, which we learn how- 
ever from Acts ii. 30, 31, was actually present to the mind of the 
inspired Psalmist. The same argumentative interpretation of 
the prophecy is given by Paul in Acts xiii. 35 — 37. 


A SUFFERER, in imminent danger, professes his sincere confor- 
mity to God's will, and invokes his favour and protection, vs. 
1 — 5. This petition is enforced by an appeal to former mercies, 
vs. 6, 7, and a description of the wickedness of his enemies, vs. 
8 — 12, whose character and spirit he contrasts with his own, 
vs. 13—15. 

The position of this Psalm in the collection seems to have 
been determined by the resemblance of its subject, tone, and 
diction, to those of the sixteenth, with which it may be said to 
form a pair or double psalm, like the first and second, third and 
fourth, ninth and tenth, &c. 

1. A Praye?-. By David. Hear oh Jehovah, the rights 
hearken to tny cry, give ear to my prayer not with lips of 


deceit. This psalm is called a prayer because petition is its 
burden, its characteristic feature, its essential element. By 
David, literally, to Dojvid, i. e. belonging to him as its author. 
— The rigJit, righteousness or justice in the abstract, here put 
for a just cause, or perhaps for one who is in the right, who has 
justice on his side. The prayer that God will hear the right 
implies that no appeal is made to partiality or privilege, but 
merely to the merits of the case. The righteousness claimed is 
not merely that of the cause but that of the person, not inherent 
but derived from the imputed righteousness of faith according to 
the doctrine of the Old as well as the New Testament. The 
quality alleged is not that of sinless perfection but that of sin- 
cere conformity to the divine will. — The last clause, not with 
lijys of deceit, applies to all that goes before, and represents 
smcerity as necessary to acceptance. The original expression 
is still stronger and conveys much more than a negative. It 
does not merely say, Jiot with deceitful lips, but more positively 
with lips not deceitful. 

2. From before thee iny judgment shall co7ne forth ; thine 
eyes shall liehold equities. This sentence really involves a 
prayer, but in form it is the expression of a confident hope. 
From before thee, from thy presence, thy tribunal. My judg- 
niefit, my acquittal, vindication; or tny justice, i. e. my just 
cause, my cause considered as a just one. Shall come forth, to 
the view of others, shall be seen and recognised in its true cha- 
racter, as being what it is. The reason is, because God's judg- 
ments are infallible. His eyes carmot fail to see innocence or 
righteousness where it exists. The plural, rectitudes or equities, 
is an emphatic abstract. See above, on the parallel passage, 
Ps. xi. 7. 

3. Thou hast tried r}iy heart, hast visited (me) by night, 
hast assayed me ; thou wilt not find ; my mmith shall not eX' 

VOL. I 6 


ceed my thought. He still appeals to God as the judge and 
witness of his own sincerity. The preterites represent the pro- 
cess as no new one, although still continued in the present. 
Visited for the purpose of examination or inspection, in wiiich 
specific sense the English verb is often used. By night, as the 
time when men's thoughts are least under restraint, and when 
the evil, if there be any, is most certain of detection. Purged 
me, as the purity of metals is tested by fire, to which process the 
Hebrew word is specially applied. Thou shall not find any 
thing at variance with the sincerity of this profession. — The 
future form implies that the investigation is to be continued, but 
without any change in the result. — The last clause is doubtful 
and obscure. The common version, I am purposed {that) my 
mouth shall not transgress, agrees well enough with the form 
of the words, but is forbidden by the accents. The reversed 
construction, my thoughts shall not exceed ony mouth or 
{speech), is ungrammatical ; nor does either of these construc- 
tions suit the context so well as the first, which makes the 
clause a renewed profession of sincerity. 

4. {As) to the worlds of man, by the ivord of thy lips I have 
kept the paths of the violent {transgressor). The Avorks of 
man are the sinful courses to which man is naturally prone. 
The generic term 7na7i (Q"iK) is often used in reference to the 
sinful infirmities of human nature. See 1 Sam. xxiv. 10 (9.) 
Hos. vi. 7. Job xxxi. 33. The word of God's lips is the word 
uttered by him, with particular reference to his precepts or com- 
mands, but including his entire revelation. By this word, by 
means of it as an instrument, and in reliance on it as an author- 
ity. — The verb (I'^r') translated kept properly means ivatched, 
and is elsewhere applied to the observance of a rule, but in this 
place seems to mean xcatched for the purpose of avoiding, as we 
say in English to keep away from or keep out of danger. — From 
the verb {^'is) to break forth, elsewhere applied to gross iniqui- 



ties (Hos. iv. 2), comes the adjective (f^'iB) violent, outrageous, 
here used as an epithet of the flagrant sinner. 

5. My steps have laid hold of thy paths, my feet have not 
swerved. His profession of integrity is still continued. The 
first verb is in the infinitive form, but determined by tlie preter- 
ites before and after. The English language does not furnish 
equivalents to the parallel terms in Hebrew, both which denote 
footsteps. The common version violates the context by con- 
verting the first clause into a prayer, which would here be out of 

6. / have hivoked thee because thou wilt answer me, oh 
God ! Incline thiiie ear to me, hear m^y speech. The altern- 
ation of the tenses is significant. * I have invoked thee hereto- 
fore, and do so still, because I know that thou wilt hear me.' 
It is needless to observe how much the sentence is enfeebled by 
the change of either to the present. — Thou tvilt hear me, in 
the pregnant sense of hearing graciously or answering a prayer. 
See above, on Ps. iii. 5 (4.) — Oh (mighty) God! The divine 
name here used is the one denoting God's omnipotence. See 
above, Ps. v. 5 (4.) vii. 12 (11.) x. 11, 12. xvi. 1. — My speech^ 
what I say, nn72J< from '-i?2i5 to say. 

7. Distinguish thy mercies, {oh thoii) saving those trusting, 
frotn those rising up, with thy right hand. The first verb is 
the same that occurs in Ps. iv, 4 (3.) Here, as there, it means 
to set apart, or single out, but with particular reference to ex- 
traordinary favours, implying an unusual necessity. Such 
mercy is described as perfectly in keeping with the divine mode 
of action in such cases. — Trusting, seeking refuge, i. e. in God. 
See above, on Ps. xvi. 1. The same ellipsis may be assumed 
after rising up, or we may supply against ^/iem.-— With thy 
right hand, as the instrument of deliverance. Compare Ps. xvi. 


11. These words must be connected in construction with 

8. Keep me as the apple of the eye, in the shadow of thy 
wings thou wilt hide me. The first verb means to watch over, 
guard, preserve with care. See above, on v. 4, where it occurs in 
a figurative application. The pupil or apple of the eye is a pro- 
verbial type of that which is most precious and most easily in- 
jured, and which therefore has a double claim to sedulous pro- 
tection. The original phrase is strongly idiomatic, exhibiting 
what seems to be a singular confusion of the genders. Its lite- 
ral meaning is, supplying the articles omitted by poetic license, 
the man (or the little man, or the manlike part), the daughter 
of the eye. The first word has reference to the image reflected 
in the pupil, which is then described as belonging to the eye, 
by an oriental idiom which uses personal relations, son, daugh- 
ter, &c. to denote the mutual relations even of inanimate objects. 
The comparison is borrowed from Deut. xxxii. 10, where it is 
followed by another with the eagle's treatment of her young, to 
which there seems to be allusion in the last clause of the verse 
before us. The imperatix'^e form of the first verb is no reason 
for departing from the future form of the other, which is much 
more expressive. What he asks in one clause he expresses his 
assured hope of obtaining in the other. 

9. From the face of the wicked ivho have wasted me ; 7nine 
enemies to the soul will surround me. The preceding sentence 
is continued, with a more particular description of the objecrs of 
his dread. ' Thou wilt hide me from the face, sight, or presence 
of the wicked.' Wasted, desolated, destroyed, with allusion 
perhaps to the siege of a town or the invasion of a country. The 
same term is applied to a dead man in Judg. v. 27. The ene- 
onies of the last clause are identical with the wicked of the firsi. 
Enemies in soul may mean cordial haters, or enemies who 


seek the soul or life, called deadly enemies in the English ver- 
sion. Or 'j'^^s may be construed with the verb : surround me 
eagerly (with craving appetite) ; or surround me against my 
soul or life, i. e. with a view to take it. — The future form sus:- 
gests that the danger which the first clause had described as 
past, was still present and likely to continue. As if he had 
said, ' from my wicked foes who have already wasted me, and 
will no doubt still continue to surround me.' In this description 
present danger is included, whereas if we substitute the present 
form, we lose the obvious allusion to the future and the past. 

10. Their fat they have closed ; (ivith) their' tnonth they 
have spoken in 'pride. The first clause, though not exactly ren- 
dered, is correctly paraphrased in the English Bible : they are 
enclosed in tJieir own fat. This is no uncommon metaphor in 
Scripture for moral and spiritual insensibility. See Deut. xxxii. 
15. Job XV. 27. Ps. Ixxiii. 7. cxix. 70. The literal sense of the 
expressions derives some illustration from Judg. iiL 22. Some 
give lo fat the specific sense of heart, which it is said to have 
in Arabic : ' their heart they have closed.' But the other ex- 
planation yields the same sense in a more emphatic form, and 
with closer conformity to Hebrew usage. 

11. hi our footsteps noio have they surrounded us ; their 
eyes they ivill set, to go astray in the land. The meaning of 
the first words, in our foot stejis, seems to be, ^vherever we go. 
Compare Ps. cxxxix. 3, 5. For the masoretic reading us, the text 
has 7716, which, although harsher, amounts to the same thing, as 
the sufferer is an ideal person representing many real ones. The 
parallel clauses exhibit the usual combination of the preterite 
and future forms, implying that what had been done was likely 
to be still continued. — They fix their eyes, upon this as the end 
at which they aim. To go astray or turn aside, i. e. from the 
way of God's commandments, to which the Psalmist, in v. o, 


had declared his own adherence. The translations bowwg down 
and castiiig doivn are less in accordance with the context and 
with the usage of the Hebrew verb, which is constantly employ- 
ed to express departure from God and aberration from the path 
of duty. See 1 Kings xi. 9. Job xxxi. 7. Ps..xliv. 19 (18.) cxix. 
51,157. To the earth or in the eartli, although grammatical, 
affords a less appropriate sense than in the land, i. e. the holy 
land or land of promise, the local habitation of God's people un- 
der the old economy. See above, on Ps. xvi. 3, and compare 
Isaiah xxvi. 10. 

12. His likeness (is) as a lion ; he is craving to tear ; and as 
a young lion sitting in secret places. The singular sufRx refers 
to the enemy as an ideal person. The future (riiolD'^) means 
that he is just about to feel or gratify the appetite for blood. 
To tear in pieces, as a wild beast does his prey before devour- 
ing it. — Sitting, lurking, lying in wait, Avith special reference 
to the patient promptness of the wild beast in such cases. — The 
comparison is the same as in Ps. x. 8 — 10. 

13. Arise, Jehovah, go before his face, make him how, save 
ony soul from the ivicked (with) thy swoid. On the meaning 
of the prayer that God would arise, see above on Ps. iii. 8 (7.) 
— Go before his face : the same Hebrew phrase occurs below 
(Ps. xcv. 2) in the sense of coming into one's presence. Here 
the context gives it the move emphatic sense of meeting, encoun- 
tering, withstanding. Make him bend or boiv, as the conquered 
Dows beneath the conqueror. — The construction of thy sword 
seems to be the same with that of their mouth in v. 10. The 
Septuagint puts thy sword in apposition with my soul, the 
Vulgate with the word immediately preceding, "tnen {ivJw are) 
thy sword, as the Assyrian is said to be the rod in God's hand 
(Isai. X. 5.) But such a representation of the enemy as God's 
chosen instruments, instead of enforcing would enfeeble the 


petition. — The verb translated save is a causative strictly mean- 
ing make to escape. 

14. From men {with) thy hand, from the ivorld ; their por- 
tion is in [this) life, and with thy hoard thou wilt fill their 
belly ; they shall have enough of sons^ and leave their residue 
to their babes. All the parts of this obscure verse have been 
variously explained. As in the preceding verse, some here read 
men {which are) thy hand, i. e. the instrument of thy wrath. 
The difficult expression "ibniz is by some understood as a de- 
scription of their character and spirit — men of the world — men 
who belong to it, and whose hearts are set upon it. Others 
give -[^n its primary meaning of duration and make the phrase 
descriptive of prosperity — men of duration or perpetuity — who 
not only prosper now, but have long done so, and seem likely to 
continue. The simplest construction is that given in the pray- 
er-book version, which takes the preposition in the same sense 
before both nouns — ''from the men, I say, and from the evil 
world." " World is then simply a collective equivalent to the 
plural men. This translation of the former word is justified by 
the analogy of Ps. xlix. 2 (1.) — Life is by some understood to 
mean a life of ease or pleasure ; but this is far less natural than 
the obvious sense of this life, this present state as distinguished 
from futurity. The rest of the verse shows that their desires 
have not been disappointed. To the eye of sense God some- 
times seems to have reserved his choicest gifts for the ungodly. 
Thy hidden {treasure), i. e. hoarded, carefully secreted. Fill 
their belly, satisfy their appetite. The future form implies that 
the state of things described is likely to continue. — The next 
clause may be also rendered : {their) sons shall be satisfied, and 
leave their residue to their babes. This would be a strong de- 
scription of prosperity continued from generation to generation. 
According to the version before given, the men of the world are 
represented as having their largest wishes gratified not only in 

128 PSALM XVir. 

the number but the prosperous condition of their children. See 
Ps. cxxvii. 3. cxxviii. 3, 4. Job xxi. 111. The Avhole is only a 
description of things as they seem to man, before God's judg- 
ments interpose to change them. 

15. / in 7'ighteousness shall see thy face ; I shall be satis- 
fied in awaking ivith thy appearance. The pronoun expressed 
at the beginning of the sentence is emphatic. I, in opposition 
to the men described in the preceding verse, 'They may re- 
joice in richer providential gifts, and be satisfied with what they 
thus possess. But I enjoy what they do not, the sense of ac- 
ceptance in thy sight, righteousness, justification, recognition as 
a righteous person.' The ambiguity of construction in the last 
clause is the same both in Hebrew and in English. The pre- 
position ivith may connect what follows either with aicaking 
or with satisfied. Thus the prayer-book version reads, 'and 
when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it ;' 
but the authorised version : " I shall be satisfied, when I awake, 
with thy likeness." The latter construction is the one required 
by the accents and preferred by most interpreters, the rather as 
the last word does not mean resemblaiice in the abstract, but 
form, shape, or visible appearance. Ex. xx. 4. Num. xii. 8. 
Deut. iv. 16, 23, 25. Job. iv. 16. The idea here suggested is 
the sight of thee, exactly corresponding to behold thy face, in 
the parallel clause. — In awaking, or when I shall aicake, is 
understood by some to mean, when I awake to-morrow, and 
from this expression they infer that the psalm was originally 
composed, and intended to be used, as an evening-song or pray- 
er. See above, on Ps. iii. 6 (5.) iv. 9 (8.) v. 4(3.) Others give 
the phrase the same sense but a wider application; in awakingj 
i. e. whenever I awake. As if he had said, uiiile the men of 
the world think day and night of their possessions and their 
pleasures, I rejoice, whenever I awake, in the sight of God's 
reconciled countenance and the consciousness of friendship with 


him.' A third interpretation puts a still higher sense upon the 
phrase as referring to the act of awaking from the sleep of 
death. But this excludes too much from view the enjoyment of 
God's favour and protection even here, which is the burden of 
the whole prayer. If the hope of future blessedness had been 
enough, the previous petitions would have been superfluous. 
The utmost that can be conceded to this view of the passage is 
that, by a natural association, what is is here said of awaking 
out of sleep in this life may be extended to that great awaking 
wiiich awaits us all hereafter. The same state of mind and 
heart which enables a man now to be contented with the partial 
views which he enjoys of God will prepare him to be satisfied 
hereafter with the beatific vision through eternity. 


This Psalm consists of five unequal parts. In the first, David 
announces his desire to praise God for his wonderful deliver- 
ances, V. 2 — 4 (1 — 3.) In the second, these are described, 
not in historical form, but by the use of the strongest poetical 
figures, vs. 5 — 20 (4 — 19.) In the third, he declares them to 
have been acts of righteousness as well as mercy, and in strict 
accordance with the general laws of the divine administration, 
vs. 21 — 28 (20 — 27.) In the fourth, he goes again into particu- 
lars, but less in the way of recollection than of anticipation, 
founded both on what he has experienced and on what God has 
promised, vs. 29 — 46 (28 — 45.) In the fifth, this change of 
form is accounted for by summing up the promises referred to, 
and applying them not merely to David as an individual, but to 


his posterity forever, thus including Christ and showing the 
whole composition to be one of those Messianic psalms, in which 
he is the principal subject of the prophecy, though not the only 
one nor even the one nearest to the eye of the observer, vs. 46 — 
51 (45_50.) 

1. To the Chief Musician. By a Serva7it of Jehovah. By 
David, U'ho spake unto Jehovah the words of this song, in the 
day Jehovah freed him from the hand of all his foes and from 
the hand of Saul. The first clause of the title shows, in this 
as in other cases, that the composition was designed from the 
beginning to be used in the public worship of the ancient church, 
and has reference therefore to the experience of the writer, not 
as a private person, but as an eminent sei'vayit of the Loi'd, i. e. 
one entrusted with the execution of his purposes, as an instru- 
ment or agent. The expressions, spake unto Jehovah hz,Q,. are 
borrowed from Ex. xv. 1 and Deut. xxxi. 30. This is the more 
observable because the psalm contains obvious allusions to the 
song of Moses in Deut. ch. xxxii. An analogous case is found in 
2 Sam. xxiii. 1, where the form of expression is evidently bor- 
rowed from Num. xxiv. 3. — The repetition of hand is not found 
in the original, where the first word (t)5) properly denotes the 
palm or inside of the hand, but is poetically used as an equiva- 
lent to T. The hand is a common figure for power and pos- 
session. This whole clause bears a strong analogy to Ex. xviii. 
10, where " out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand 
of Pharaoh" corresponds exactly to " out of the hand of all his 
foes and out of the hand of Saul,'" i. e. and especially of Saul. 
Compare "Judah and Jerusalem" Isaiah i. 1, "the land and 
Jericho" Josh. ii. 1. This form of expression does not imply 
that Saul was the last of his enemies, but rather that he was 
the first, both in time and in importance, so that he might be con- 
sidered equal to all the others put together. And accordingly 
we find their idea carried out in the structure of this psalm, one 


half of which seems to relate especially to Saul and the remain- 
der to his other enemies. The general expressions of this title 
show that the psalm was not occasioned by any particular event, 
but by a retrospect of all the deliverances from persecution 
which the writer had experienced. 

2. A7icl said, I ivill love thee, Jehovah, tiiy strength ! The 
sentence is continued from the foregoing verse, who sang unto 
the Lord . . . atul said. The future form, I ivill love, re- 
presents it as a permanent affection, and expresses a fixed pur- 
pose. I not only love thee now, but am resolved to do so for- 
ever. The verb itself occurs nowhere else in its primitive form, 
but often in one of its derived forms, to express the compassion- 
ate regard of a superior to an inferior. The simple form is here 
used to denote the reciprocal affection of the inferior party. 
From its etymology the verb seems to express the strongest and 
most intimate attachment, being properly expressive of gtoq/-^ 
or parental love. The noun translated strength is also peculiar 
to this passage, though its root and cognate forms are very com- 
mon. Combined with one of the divine names it constitutes 
the name Ilezekiah, which may have been suggested by the 
verse before us. Mi/ strength, i. e. the giver of my strength or 
the supplier of its deficiencies, the substitute for my strength, 
my protector and deliverer. 

3 (2.) Jehovah (is) my rock and my fortress and my de- 
liverer ; my God (is) my rock, I ivill trust in him; my shield 
and my horn of salvation, my height (or high place.) By 
this accumulation of descriptive epithets the Psalmist represents 
God as the object of his trust and his protector. The first two 
figures, my rock and 7ny fortress, contain an allusion to the 
physical structure of the Holy Land, as well as to David's per- 
sonal experience. The caves and fissures of the rocks, with 
which the land abounded, had often afforded him shelter and 


concealment when pursued by Saul. See Judges vi. 2. 1 Sam. 
sxiv. 3. 2 Sam. v. 7. The literal expression, m'?/ deliverer, 
seems to be added as an explanation of the figures which pre- 
cede. Mf/ God may also be explained as one of the descriptive 
terms ; but it seems more natural to make it the subject of a 
new proposition, equivalent and parallel to that in the first 
clause. Here again we are obliged to use the same English 
word as a translation of two different words in Hebrew. As 
the fock (S-'^s) of the first clause suggests the idea of conceal- 
ment and security, so the rock ("l^s) of the second clause sug- 
gests that, of strength and immobility. The figure is borrowed 
from Deut. xxxii. 4, and re-appears in Ps. xcii. 16 (15.) Com- 
pare Isaiah's phrase, a rocJc of ages (Isaiah xxv^i. 4), and Jacob's 
phrase, the stone of Israel (Gen. xlix. 24), where sto7ie, like 
rock in the clause before us, denotes not the place but the mate- 
rial, not a stone but stone, as one of the hardest and least muta- 
ble substances with which we are acquainted, and therefore 
an appropriate figure for combined immutability and strength. 
For the figurative use of shield in such connexions, see above, 
on Ps. iii. 4 (3). The next phrase has allusion to the defensive 
habits of horned animals. The figure seems to be borrowed 
from Deut. xxxiii. 17. (Compare 1 Sam. ii. 10. Job xvi. 15.) 
M.y horn of salvation may be understood to mean, my horn, 
to ivit, ony salvation, so that the second noun is explanatory of 
the first. More probably however the expression means the 
horn that saves nie, by repelling or destroying all my enemies. 
In Luke i. 69, the same phrase is applied to Christ by Zacharias. 
The last term in the description belongs to the same class with 
the first, and was probably suggested by the Psalmist's early 
wanderings among the rocks and caverns of Judea. The He- 
brew word properly denotes a place so high as to be beyond the 
reach of danger. See above, on Ps. ix. 10 (9), where the same 
word is twice used in the same sense and figurative application. 


4. (3) To be praised I ivill call Jehovah y and from 7ny ene- 
mies I shall be saved. ' I will invoke God as a being worthy 
of all praise.' The first Hebrew word, which has the force of 
a future passive participle, is a standing epithet of Jehovah in 
the lyrical style of 'the Old Testament. See Ps. xlviii. 2 (1), 
xcvi. 4. cxiii. 3. cxlv. 3. 1 Chron. xvi. 25. The connexion of 
the clauses is, that the believing invocation of Jehovah in his 
true character and with a just appreciation of his excellence 
must needs be followed by the experience of his favor. They 
who cry and are not heard, as we read in v. 42 (41) below, cry 
indeed to Jehovah, but they do not invoke him as the one to be 
praised, they do not see him as he is, and cannot pray to him as 
they ought. They ask and receive not because they ask amiss, 
(James iv. 3.) 

5. (4) The bands of death have enclosed me, and the streams 
of tcorthlessness (or Belial) loill {still) affright me. From the 
general acknowledgment contained in vs. 1 — 4, he proceeds to a 
more particular description of his danger. By bands we are proba- 
bly to understand the cordage of a net, such as fowlers spread for 
birds. This is a favorite metaphor with David to denote dangers, 
and particularly those of an insidious and complicated kind. 
See below, Ps. cxvi. 3. The word Belial properly means 
worthless, good for nothing. The reference is here to wicked 
men, whose number and violence are indicated by the figure of 
torrents, overflowing streams. The use of the future in the 
last clause shows that the writer, as in many other cases, 
takes his position in the midst of the event, and views it as 
partly past and partly future. This bold assumption of an ideal 
situation greatly adds to the life and vividness of the description. 

6 (5.) The bands of hell surrounded me, the snares of death 
encountered me. This verse merely repeats and amplifies the 
first clause of the fifth. Hell, in the wide old English sense, is 


a poetical equivalent to death. See above, on Ps. vi. 6 (5.) The 
explicit mention of snares in the last clause confirms the expla- 
nation before given of hands. Encountered, met me, crossed 
my path. The sense "prevented or anticipated does not suit the 
context, and that of surprised is not sufficiently justified by 
usage. See above, on Ps. xvii. 13. 

7 (6.) In my distress I will invoke Jehovah and to ony God 
will cry ; he ivill hear from his palace my voice, and Qny pray- 
er before him will come, into his ears. The verbs are in the 
future because they express the feelings not of one looking back 
upon the danger as already past but of one actually implicated 
in it. See above, on v. 5. (4.) The literal meaning of the 
words is, in distress to me. Compare the phrase, at times in 
distress, Ps. ix. 10 (9), x. 1. My God implies a covenant rela- 
tion and a hope of audience founded on it. The verb transla- 
ted C7'y is specially appropriated to a cry for help. His palace 
here means heaven, as God's royal residence. See above, on 
Ps. xi. 4. Into his ears is a kind of afterthought, designed to 
strengthen the preceding expression. It shall not only reach 
his presence, but as it were shall penetrate his ears. The whole 
expresses an assured hope of being heard, and is really tanta- 
mount to an assertion that he was heard. 

8 (7.) Then did the earth shake and quake and thefounda- 
tioyis of the mountains trembled and ivere shaken because he 
was angry. The idea of succession expressed by the English 
then is conveyed in Hebrew by the form of the verb. The re- 
semblance, in form and sound, of shake and quake, corresponds 
to that of the original verbs (■:;5'"n!7in 'i:3>3t}l). A reflexive or em- 
phatic passive form of the first verb appears in the second 
clause. The closing words of this clause strictly mean because 
it was inflamed {or enkindled) to him, with an ellipsis of the 
noun {^\ anger. The full construction maybe found in Deut. 


vi. 15 and Ps. cxxiv. 3. The ipluase foundations of the moun- 
tains is copied from Deut. xxxii. 22. 

9. There went up smoke in his wrath and fire from his 
mouth devours ; coals are kindled from it. Smoke and fire 
are mentioned as natural concomitants and parallel figures, both 
denoting anger and suggested by the phrase it was infiamed to 
him in the preceeding verse. Compare Deut. xxxii. 22. xxix. 
19 (20). Ps. xxiv. 1. The translation nostrils rests on a confu- 
sion of two collateral derivatives from the verb to breathe. 
(See my note on Isai. xlviii. 9.) Nor is this sense required by 
the parallelism, unless mouth and nose must always go together. 
There seems to be some allusion to the fire and smoke at Sinai, 
Ex. xix. 18. From it may have reference to fire ; but the 
nearest antecedent is his mouth. Compare Job xli. 11 — 13 (19 
— 21.) There is no need of supplying any object with de- 
vours ; the idea is that of a devouri7ig fire, i. e. one capable of 
consuming whatever combustible material it may meet with. 

10 (9.) So he bowed the heavens and came down, and gloom 
(was) under his feet. The scene seems here to be transferred 
from heaven to earth, where the Psalmist sees not only the di- 
vine operation but the personal presence of Jehovah. The word 
so, familiarly employed in English to continue a narrative, here 
represents the vau conversive of the Hebrew. The word trans- 
lated gloom is not the usual term for darkness, but a poetical 
expression specially applied to dense clouds and vapours. The 
expression seems to be derived from Deut. v. 22. Compare 
with this clause Ex. xix. 16. and with the first Is. Ixiii. 19 
(Ixiv. 1.) 

11 (10.) And he rode on a cherub andfiew, and soared on 
the wings of a wind. The cherubim of the Mosaic system 
were visible representations of the whole class of creatures su- 


perior to man. The singular form cherub seems to be used here 
to convey the indefinite idea of a superhuman but created being. 
The whole verse is a poetical description of God's intervention, 
as a scene presented to the senses. As earthly kings are car. 
ried by inferior animals, so the heavenly king is here described 
as borne through the air in his descent by beings intermediate 
between himself and man. The word soared in the second 
clause is used to represent a poetical term in the original bor- 
rowed from Deut. xxviii. 49. With the whole verse compare 
Ps. Ixviii. 18 (17) and civ. 3. 

12 (11.) (And) set darkness {as) his covert about him, his 
shelter, darkness of waters, clouds of the skies. This conceal- 
ment suggests the idea of a brightness insupportable by mor. 
tal sight. Compare Deut. iv. 11. Job xxxvi. 29. Ps. xcvii. 2, 
Darkness of icaters does not mean dark waters but watery 
darkness, a beautiful description of clouds charged with rain^ 
The two nouns in the last clause both mean clouds, but the 
second is used only in the plural, and seems properly to desig- 
nate the whole body of vapours constituting the visible heavens 
or sky. A somewhat similar combination occurs in Ex. xix. 9. 

13 (12.) From the blaze before him his clouds 'passed — hail 
and coals of fire. The dark clouds which enveloped him are 
now described as penetrated by the light within. Passed, i. e. 
passed away, were dispelled. The last clause may be construed 
as an exclamation such as an eye-witness might have uttered. 
The combination is borrowed from Ex. ix. 24. (Compare Ps. 
Ixxviii. 47, 48.) Hail, as an instrument of the divine vengeance, 
is also mentioned in Jos. x. 11. 

14 (13.) Then thundered in the heavens Jehovah, and the 
Highest gave his voice — hail ojid coals of fire. The second 
clause is a poetical repetition of the first. ' The Most Hi2:h 


gave his voice ' means in this connexion neither more nor less 
than that he ' thundered in the heavens.' Though visibly pre- 
sent upon earth he is described as still in heaven. Compare 
Gen. xi. 5, 7. xviii. 21. John iii. 13. The last clause may be con- 
strued as in V. 13, or made dependent on the verb gave, as in 
Ex. ix. 23 : "Jehovah gave thunder and hail." This clause is 
repeated because the hail and lightning were not merely terrific 
circumstances, but appointed instruments of vengeance and 
weapons of destruction. 

15 (14.) Thoi sent he his arroivs and scattered them, and 
shot forth lightnings and confounded them. The lightnings 
of the last clause may be understood as explaining the arrows 
of the first. Instead of shot forth lightnings some translate 
and lightnings much, i. e. many, in which sense the Hebrew 
word ( !:^ ) occurs sometimes elsewhere. (Ex. xix. 21. 1 Sam. 
xiv. 6. Num. xxvi, 54.) In several other places it seems to 
mean enough or too much. (Gen. xlv. 28. Ex. ix. 28. Num. 
xvi. 3, 7. Deut. i, 6.) If either of these constructions is adopted, 
the verb sejit must be repeated from the other clause. The 
version first given, shot, is justified by the analogy of Gen. xlix. 
23. The last verb in the sentence is a military term denoting 
the confusion of an army produced by a surprise or sudden 
panic. See Ex. xiv. 24. xxiii. 27. Jos. x. 10, and with the whole 
verse compare Ps. cxliv. 6. 

16 (15.) Then ivere seerh the channels of ivater and uncover' 
ed the foundations of the ivorld, at thy rebuke, Jehovah, at the 
blast of the breath of thy ivrath. The idea meant to be con- 
veyed by this poetical description is that of sudden and complete 
subversion, the turning of the whole earth upside down. The 
lan£!:uao-e is not designed to be exactly expressive of any real 
physical change whatever. From or at thy rebuke, i. e. after 
it and in consequence of it. The breath of thy wrath, thy angry 

138 PSALM XVm. 

breath, might also be rendered, the wind of thy wrath, thy angry 
or tempestuous wind. Tliat the Hebrew words do not mean thy 
nose or nostrils, see above, on v. 9 (8.) Some suppose an alhi- 
sion, in the figures of this verse, to the fioods of worthlessyiess 
in V. 5 (4), and the hands of hell in v. 6 (5.) 

17 (16.) He ivill send frovi above, he ivill take me, he will 
draw me out of ma7iy waters. Here again the writer seems 
to take his stand between the inception and the consummation of 
the great deliverance and to speak just as he might have spoken 
while it was in progress. * All this he has done in preparation, 
and now he is about to send &c.' This seems to be a more sat- 
isfactory explanation of the future forms than to make them 
simple presents, and still more than to make them preterites, 
which is wholly arbitrary and ungrammatical, although the acts 
described by these futures were in fact past at the time of com- 
position. To send from above in our idiom means to send a 
messenger ; but in Hebrew this verb is the one used with hand 
where we say stretch out, e. g. in the parallel passage Ps. cxliv. 
7. (See also Gen. viii. 9. xlviii. 14.) The noun however is 
sometimes omitted, and the verb used absolutely to express the 
sense of the whole phrase, as in 2 Sam. vi. 6. Ps. Ivii. 4 (3.) From 
above, from on high, from the height or high place, i. e. heaven, 
the place of God's manifested presence. There is peculiar beau- 
ty in the word translated draw, which is the root of the name 
Moses, and occurs, besides the place before us, only in the ex- 
planation of that name recorded by himself, Ex. ii. 10. The 
choice of this unusual expression here involves an obvious 
allusion both to the historical fact and the typical meaning of 
the deliverance of Moses, and a kind of claim upon the part of 
David to be reo;arded as another Moses. 


18 (17.) He IV ill free me from my enemy (because he is) 
strong, and from my haters, because tJiey are mightier than 


/. The futures are to be explained as in the verse preceding. 
The enemy here mentioned is an ideal person, representing a 
whole class, of whom Saul was the chief representative. The 
idiomatic phrase, rtiy enemy strong, may be understood as sim- 
ply meaning my strong ene77iy ; but the true construction seems 
to be indicated by the parallelism. His own weakness and the 
power of his enemies is given as a reason for the divine interpo- 

19 (18.) They will encounter me in the day of my calamity ^ 
and Jehovah has been for a stay to me. The first clause seems 
to express a belief that his trials from this quarter are not ended, 
while the other appeals to past deliverances as a ground of con- 
fidence that God will still sustain him. Most interpreters, how- 
ever, make the future and preterite forms of this verse perfectly 
equivalent. ' They encountered me in the day of my calamity, 
and the Lord was for a stay to me.' As to the meaning of the 
first verb, see above, on v. 6 (5.) It is not improbable that Da- 
vid here alludes to his sufierings in early life when fleeing before 
Saul. See above on v. 3 (2.) 

20 (19.) And brought me out into the wide place ; he will 
save me because he delights in me. The construction is contin- 
ued from the foregoing sentence. As confinement or pressure is a 
common figure for distress, so relief from, it is often represented 
as enlargement, or as coming forth into an open space. See 
above, on Ps. iv. 2 (1.) Here, as in the preceding verse, most 
interpreters make no distinction between preterite and future. 
The meaning may however be that he expects the same deliver- 
ance hereafter which he has experienced already. 

21 (20.) Jehovah will treat me according to tny righteous- 
ness ; according to the cleanness of my hands ivill lie repay 
me. The future verbs have reference to the condition of the 


Psalmist under his afflictions, and the hopes which even then he 
was enabled to cherish. At the same time they make this the 
announcement of a general and perpetual truth, a law by which 
God's dispensations are to be controlled forever. The hands are 
mentioned as organs or instruments of action. Compare Isai. i- 
15. Job ix. 30. xxii. 30. The righteousness here claimed is not 
an absolute perfection or entire exemption from all sinful infir- 
mity, but what Paul calls submission to the righteousness of God 
(Rom. X. 3), including faith in his mercy and a sincere governing 
desire to do his will. This is a higher and more comprehensive 
sense than innocence of some particular charge, or innocence in 
reference to man though not in reference to God. 

22 (21.) For I have kept the icays of Jehovah, and have not 
apostatised from my God. The Lord's ways are the ways 
which he marks out for us to walk in, the ways of duty and of 
safety. To keep them is to keep one's self in them, to observe 
them so as to adhere to them and follow them. The last clause 
strictly means, I have not been ivickcd (or guilty) from my 
God ; a combination of the verb and preposition whicli shows 
clearly that the essential idea in the writer's mind was that of 
apostacy or total abjuration of God's service. It is of this mortal 
sin, and not of all particular transgressions, that the Psalmist 
here professes himself innocent. 

23 (22.) For all his judgments [are) before 7ne, and his stat- 
utes I u'ill not put from m^e. Judicial decisions and permanent 
enactments are here used as equivalent expressions for all God's 
requisitions. To have these before one is to observe them, and 
the opposite of putting them away or out of sight. The terms 
of this profession have been evidently chosen in allusion to such 
dicta of the law itself as Deut. v. 29. xvii. 11. From the past 
tense of the foregoing verse he here insensibly slides into the 
present and the future, so as to make his profession of sincerity 


include his former life, his actual dispositions, and his settled 
purpose for all time to come. 

24 (23.) And I have been 'perfect ivith him, and have kept 
myself from my iniquity. He not only will be faithful, but he 
has been so already, in the sense before explained. There is 
evident reference in the first clause to the requisition of the Law, 
" thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God," Deut. xviii. 13 
(Compare Gen. xvii. L) With means not merely in his pres- 
ence, or his sight, as distinguished from men's estimate of moral 
objects, but ' in my intercourse and dealing with him.' Com- 
pare 1 Kings xi. 4. and the description of David in 1 Kings xiv, 
8. XV. 5. In the last clause some see an allusion to David's ad- 
venture in the cave, when his conscience smote him for meditat- 
ing violence against Saul, See 1 Sam. xxiv. 6., and compare 
1 Sam. xxvi. 23. 24. But whether this be so or not, the clause 
undoubtedly contains a confession of corruption. M:y iniquity 
can only mean that to which I am naturally prone and subject. 
We have here then a further proof that the perfection claimed 
in the first clause is not an absolute immunity from sin, but an 
upright purpose and desire to serve God. 

25 (24.) And Jehovah has requited me according to my righ- 
teousness, according to the cleanness of my hands before his 
eyes. This verse shows clearly that the futures in v. 21 (20) 
must be strictly understood. What he there represents himself 
as confidently hoping, he here professes to have really experi- 
enced. In the interveninsr verses he shows how he had done 
his part, and now acknowledges that God had faithfully per- 
formed his own. 

26, 27 (25, 26.) With the gracious thou wilt show thyself 
gracious ; with the perfect man thou wilt show thyself perfect ; 
with the purified thou wilt show thyself pure, and with the 


crooked thou wilt show thyself perverse. What he had previ- 
ously mentioned as the method of God's dealings towards himself 
he now describes as a general law of the divine administration. 
The essential idea is that God is, in a certain sense, lo men pre- 
cisely what they are to him. The particular qualities specified 
are only given as examples, and might have been exchanged for 
others without altering the general sense. The form of ex- 
pression is extremely strong and bold, but scarcely liable to mis- 
apprehension, even in v. 27 (26.) No one is in danger of im- 
agining that God can act perversely even to the most perverse. 
But the same course of proceeding which would be perverse in 
itself or towards a righteous person, when pursued towards a 
sinner becomes a mere act of vindicatory justice. In the first 
clause of v. 26 (25) the ambiguous word gracious has been cho- 
sen to represent the similar term T^Dn for the comprehen- 
sive use of which see above, on Ps. iv. 4 (3). xii. 2 (1). Perfect 
has the same sense as in v. 23, (22), namely, that of freedom from 
hypocrisy and malice. The verbs are all of the reflexive form 
and might be rendered, thou ivilt 7nake thyself gracious, thou 
%oilt act the gracious, or simply thou unit he gracious &c, but 
the common version approaches nearest to the force of the origi- 
nal expression. The first verb of v. 27 (26) occurs once elsewhere 
(Dan. xii. 10), the rest only here. The forms may have been 
coined for the occasion, to express the bold conceptions of the 
writer. The resemblance of the last clause of v. 27 (26) to Lev. 
xxvi. 23, 24, makes it highly probable that the whole form of 
this singular dictum was suggested by that passage, the rather 
as this Psalm abounds in allusions to the Pentateuch and imita- 
tions of it. 

28 (27.) For thou wilt save the afflicted people, and lofty 
eyes thou wilt hruig down. Another general description of 
God's dealings with mankind, repeated more than once in the 
New Testament. See Matth. xxiii. 12. Luke xiv. 11. xviii. 14. 


High looks or lofty eyes is a common Old Testament expression 
for pride and haughtiness. See below, on Ps. ci. 5. cxxxi. 1 and 
compare Prov. xxi. 4. xxx. 13. Isai. x. 12. xxxvii. 23. The affiict- 
edyeojple means the people of God when in affliction, or consid- 
ered as sufferers. Thoio is emphatic : ' however men may despise 
and maltreat thy afflicted people I know X\\^ltliou wilt save them.' 

29 (28.) For thou ivilt light my lamp ; Jehovah, my God, 
will illuminate my darkness. Having ascended from particu- 
lars to generals he now reverses the process. On his own ex- 
perience, as described in vs. 4—25 (3—24), he had founded a 
general declaration of God's mode of dealing with men, which 
statement he proceeds now to illustrate by recurring to his own 
experience. In this second part there is reason to believe that 
he has reference to the other cases of deliverance in his history, 
besides those from Saul's persecutions which had furnished the 
theme of his thanksgiving in the first part of the psalm. In 
accordance with this difference of subject, it has been observed 
that in this second part he appears more active, and not merely 
as an object but an instrument of God's delivering mercy. As 
to the form of expression in this part, it has been determined by 
the writer's assuming his position at the close of the Sauline 
persecution, and describing his subsequent deliverances as still 
prospective. This was the more convenient as he wished to 
express a confident assurance of God's goodness, not only to 
himself individually but to his posterity. A lamp or candle in 
the house is a common Hebrew figure for prosperity, and its 
extinction for distress. See Job xviii. .5. 6. xxi. 17. Prov. xxiv. 
20. The first clause may also be translated, thou ivilt make my 
light shine. The verb in the parallel clause is from another 
root, and there is consequently no such assonance as in the En- 
glish version {light, enlighten) The pronoun in the first clause is 
again emphatic. ' Whatever I may suffer at the hands of others, 
THOU at least wilt light my candle.' The emphasis is sustained 


in the last clause by a sudden change of person and introduction 
of the divine name. 

30 (29.) For in thee I shall run (through or over) a troop, 
and in my God I shall leap a wall. From his ideal post of 
observation he foresees the military triumphs which awaited 
him, and which were actually past at the time of composition. 
The for, as in the two preceding verses, connects the illus- 
tration with the general proposition in vs. 27 — 29 (26 — 28.) 
' This is certainly God's mode of dealing,ybr I know that he will 
deal thus with me.' In thee, and in tny God, i. e. in intimate 
union with him and possession of him, a much stronger sense 
than that of mere assistance {by thee), which however is inclu- 
ded. See below, on Ps. xliv. 6 (5.) — The ellipsis of the prepo- 
sition, with which the verbs are usually construed, belongs to 
the license of poetical style. Even in prose, however, we can 
say, to walk the streets, to leap a wall. To run a troop may 
either mean to run against or th7'ough it ; the phrase may there- 
fore be completed so as to have either an offensive or defensive 
sense. In like manner leaping a wall may either mean escaping 
from an enemy or storming his defences. Most interpreters 
prefer the stronger meaning of attack, which is certainly enti- 
tled to the preference, unless the writer be supposed to have 
selected his expressions with a view to the suggestion of both 
these ideas, which together comprehend all possible varieties of 
success in war. As if he had said : ' Weak though T be in my- 
self, I am sure that in conjunction with thee, neither armies nor 
fortifications shall be able to subdue or even to resist me.' With 
David's tone of triumphant confidence in this verse compare 
Paul's in 2 Cor. ii. 14. and Phil. iv. 13. 

31 (30.) The Almighty — perfect is his way — the xoord of 
Jehovah is tried — a shield (is) he to all those trusting in him. 
The first clause seems to be an amplification of my God in the 


preceding verse. In my God, the Mighty (God), whose tvay 
is 2Jejfect, i. e. his mode of dealing, as before described, is free 
from all taint ci injustice. This explanation suggests a furt':^ r 
description of Jehovah as a sure protector. His ivord lie -^ 
means especially his promise, perhaps with specific allusion !--; 
the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel. Tried, as metals are tried w y 
fire, and thus proved to be genuine. See above, on Ps. xii. 7 
(6.) A shield: see above, on Ps. iii. 4 (3.) Trusting in hin : 
see above, on Ps. ii. 12. 

32 (31.) For loho is God save Jehovah ? And who is a rock 
besides our God ? The for shows that this verse gives the 
ground of the strong assurances contained in that before it. ♦ I 
atTn-ni all this, because I recognise Jehovah as the only true 
God.' Rock has the same sense as in v. 3 (2.) The whole 
verse bears a strong resemblance to 2 Sam. vii. 22. 

33 (32.) T/ie Almighty girding me with strength, and {who) 
has given {or o-endered) my way perfect. The connexion of 
the verses is the same as that between vs. 31 (30) and 32 (31.) 
The our God of the preceding verse is here described as the Al- 
mighty girding me &c. For the true sense of the divine 
name here and in v. 32 (31), see above, on Ps. v. -5 (4.) vii. 12. 
(11.) X. 11. 12. xvi. 1. xvii. 6. The imparting of a quality or 
bestowing of a gift is in various languages described as clothing. 
Thus the 'E^ngMsh. woids endue and invest have almost lost their 
original meaning. The figure of girding is peculiarly signifi- 
cant because in the oriental dress the girdle is essential to all 
free and active motion. Compare Ps. Ixv. 13 (12), as translated 
in the margin of the English Bible, and Isai. xi. 5. — The last 
clause may either mean, ♦ who is faultless in the way by which 
he leads me,' i. e. whose dispensations towards me are free from 
all injustice ; or, ' who gives my conduct the perfection which 
belongs to it.* The first construction gives the words the same 


sense as in v. 31 (30), but the other is by far the simplest and 
most natural, and as such entitled to the preference. 

34 (33.) Making my feet like hinds, and on my heights he 
makes me stand. The first word properly means equalling, as- 
similating, the idea of resemblance being expressed in Hebrew 
both by the verb and by the particle of comparison. The female 
animal is supposed by some to be mentioned because it was 
regarded as more fleet, and accordingly we find it used in the 
Egyptian hieroglyphics as a symbol of swiftness. The name 
however may be used generally, as in English we apply either 
the masculine or feminine pronoun to some whole species. My 
heights, those which are to be mine by right of conquest and 
by Divine gift. The heights may be either the natural high- 
lands of the country or the artificial heights of its fortified 
places. It has been disputed whether the swiftness mentioned 
in the first clause has reference to attack or flight. Most pro- 
bably both were meant to be included, as in v. 30 (29) above. 
For both reasons swiftness of foot was prized in the heroic age, 
as appears from Homer's standing description of Achilles. See 
2 Sam. ii. 18. 1 Chron. xii. 8. 

35 (34.) Teaching tny hands to ivar, and my arms have 
bent a bow of brass. The construction is continued from the 
preceding verse, all the participles having reference to the name 
of God in v. 33 (32.) The last clause is a strong expression 
for extraordinary strength, which is mentioned merely as a 
heroic quality. The translation broken rests on what is now re- 
garded as a false etymology. Brass w^as used before iron in 
Egypt and other ancient countries as a material for arms. 

36 (35.) And hast given me a shield, thy salvation, and 
thy right hajid is to hold me up, and thy condescension is to 
make me great. In the first clause we may also read the shield 


of thy salvation, or thy shield of salvation, i. e. thy saving 
shield, without material variation of the sense. The futures 
have reference to the point from which he is surveying things 
past as still future. The noun in the last clause means humil- 
ity, as an attribute of human character (Prov, xv. 33), but when 
applied to God, benignant self-abasement, condescending kind- 
ness to inferiors. Compare Ps. viii. 5 (4), Isai. Ixvi. 1, 2. 

37 (36.) Thou wilt enlarge tny steps under me, and my 
ankles shall not siuerve. To enlarge the steps is to afford am- 
ple room for walking freely without hinderance. The opposite 
figure is that of confined steps. See Prov. iv. 12. Job xviii. 7. 
The meaning of the whole verse is : thou wilt guide me safely. 

38 (37.) / am toi^ursue 'iny enemies and overtake them, and 
not to turn hack until I destroy them. This is not a threat of 
vengeance, but a confident anticipation of perpetual triumphs, 
either in his own person or in that of his descendants. The 
form of expression in the first clause is borrowed from the Song 
of Moses, Ex. xv. 9. See above on Ps. vii. 6 (5), where the 
same two verbs are combined. The reference of all these 
future forms to past time would be not only gratuitous but 


39 (38.) I shall smite them and they cannot rise, they shall 
fall beneath my feet. This simply carries out the idea of suc- 
cessful pursuit in the preceding verse. 

40 (39.) And thou hast girded one ivith strength for the 
war (or battle), thou wilt bow down my assailants under me. 
He returns to God as the author of his triumphs and successes. 
The first clause blends the ideas expressed in the corresponding 
clauses of vs. 33, 36 (32, 35.) — My assailants, literally, my 
insurgents, those rising up against me. See v. 49 below, and 


compare Ps. xliv. 6 (5), lix. 2 (1), Job xxvii. 7. Here again 
the spirit of the Psahnist is not that of an ambitious conqueror, 
but of a willing instrument in God's hand, to be used for the 
promotion of his sovereign purpose. 

41 (40.) And my enemies — thou Jmst given to Qiiethe hack — 
and my haters — / ivill destroy them. Each clause begins with 
an absolute nominative which might be rendered, as to riiy ene- 
m^ies, as to my haters. The remainder of the first clause is 
highly idiomatic in its form and scarcely admits of an exact 
translation. The word translated hack properly means the back 
of the neck, but is frequently used in such connexions. The 
meaning of the whole phrase is, thou hast given me their back, 
i. e. made them to turn it towards me by putting them to flight. 
This is also a Mosaic form of speech. See Ex. xxiii. 27. and 
compare Josh vii. 8. 2 Chron. xxix. 6. Ps. xxi. 13 (12.) 

42 (41.) They shall call (for help) and there is no deliverer 
— upon Jehovah, and he hears them not. Because they have 
no covenant relation to him, as the Psalmist had. Their calling 
on Jehovah does not exclude all reference to heathen foes, as 
appears from Jon. i. 14. — Rear, in the pregnant sense of hear- 
ing favourably, granting, answering a prayer. See above, on 
Ps. iii. 5 (4). 

43 (42.) And I shall heat them stnall as dust hefore the 
wind, as dirt in the streets I will pour them out. The com- 
parisons in this verse are intended to express the Psalmist's su- 
periority to his enemies, his consequent contempt for them, and 
the facility with which he will destroy them. Similar images 
are not unfrequent in the Old Testament. See for example 
Isai. X. 6. Zeph. i. 17. Zech. x. 5. 

44 (43). Thou wilt save me from the strifes of the people ; 


thou wilt 'place me at the head {oxfo7- a cidef) of nations ; a 
jyeople I have not known shall serve me. He was not only to 
be freed from the internal strifes of his own people, but by that 
deliverance enabled to subdue other nations. The closins; words 
of the Psalm, and its obvious connexion with the promises in 2 
Sam. vii, show that this anticipation was not limited to David's 
personal triumphs, either at home or abroad, but meant to com- 
prehend the victories of his successors, and especially of him in 
whom the royal line was at once to end and be perpetuated. It 
may, therefore, be affirmed with truth that this prediction had 
its complete fulfilment only in Christ. 

45, 46 (44, 45.) At the hearing of the ear they loill obey me, 
the sons of outland ivill lie to me ; the sons of outland ivill 
decay, and tremble out of their enclosures. The meaning of 
the first words of this verse is clear from Job xlii. 5. where the 
hearing of the ear is put in opposition to the sight of the eye, 
report or hearsay to personal and ocular inspection. The verb 
translated ivill obey, whenever it occurs elsewhere, is a simple 
passive of the verb to hear, and accordingly some render it here, 
they who have only been heard of by the hearing of the ear, i. e. 
those whom I have only heard of but have never seen will feign 
obedience. But as the corresponding form of the verb to lie 
h'zn'z^) is used by Moses actively, in Deut. xxxiii. 29. to which 
place there is obvious allusion here, the first translation above 
given is entitled to the preference, and the sense is, that as soou 
as foreign nations hear of him, they will lie to him, i. e. yield a 
feio-ned obedience throuorh the influence of fear, in which sense 
another form of the same verb is used, not only in the passage of 
the Pentateuch just cited, butinPs. Ixvi. 3. Ixxxi, 16 (15). — The 
old word outland, which may still be traced in its derivative ad- 
jective outlandish, has been here employed to represent a He- 
brew word for which we have no equivalent in modern English, 
and which meB.n^foj-eign parts indefinitely or collectively. The 


marginal version in the English Bible (^sons of the stranger) is 
only an inexact approximation to the form of the original. The 
verb decay which properly denotes the withering of plants (see 
above, Ps. i, 3), is applied to the wasting of the human subject, and 
indeed of whole communities, in Ex. xviii. 18. To tremble from 
or out o/" is a pregnant phrase, involving the idea of a verb of 
motion, and meaning to come forth with fear. The same form 
of expression may be found in Micah vii. 17, and analogous ones 
in 1 Sam. xvi. 4. Hosea xi. 11. — Their enclosures, their re- 
treats or refuges, perhaps with special reference to military en- 
closures, such as fortresses and camps. 

47 (46.) Jehovah lives, and blessed he my rock, and high 
shall be the God of my salvation. The first phrase, (niiT^, ^ir\\ 
which is elsewhere always used as a formula of swearing (^as 
the Liord liveth, i. e. as certainly as God exists), is by some in- 
terpreters confounded with a kindred phrase (Tj^?2n ^T\^)i vive 
le roi, (lo?tg) live the king, and regarded as a kind of acclama- 
tion, similar to those which Avere uttered at the coronation of 
the Jewish kings (1 Sam. x. 24. 1 Kings i. 25, 39. 2 Kings xi. 
12.) But besides the difference of form in Hebrew, such a wish 
is inappropriate to any but a mortal. There may, however, be 
an intentional allusion to the custom in question, as well as to 
the practice of swearing by the life of Jehovah, both of which 
would naturally be suggested to a Hebrew reader. Jehovah is 
described as the living God, in contrast to dead idols, or imagi- 
nary deities, which as Paul says (1 Cor. viii. 4) are nothing in 
the world. Blessed be my rock, the foundation of my hope, my 
refuge and protector. See above, on v. 3 (2.) The word trans- 
lated blessed does not mean happy, but j^j/awer/, and may here 
have the peculiar sense of ivorthy to be praised, like bbniq in v. 
4 (3) above. It may then be rendered as an affirmation : my 
rock (is) worthy to be praised. Or it may be taken as a wish : 
Praised (be) my rock, to which there is the less objection as the 


preceding proposition is, in fact though not in form, a doxology, 
i. e, a declaration of what God is in himself, and of that to 
which he is in consequence entitled. The third phrase, he shall 
be high, may be understood to mean, not only he shall still be 
glorious, but he shall be magnified as such, exalted by the praises 
of his creatures. The God of my salvation, or, 7ny God of sal- 
vation, does not merely mean the God idIlo saves me, but my 
God ivho is a Saviour, of whom this is one essential character. 
Compare Luke i. 47. This epithet is common in the Psalms, 
and occurs once or twice in the Prophets. (Isai. xvii. 10. Mic- 
vii. 7. Hab. iii. 18.) 

48 (47.) The Mighty {God) ivho gives reve?iges to me and 
has subdued natioyis under me. The construction is the same 
as in vs. 31, 33 (30, 32) above. This verse contains a further 
description of the God of his salvation, and at the same time 
justifies the affirmations of the preceding verse. What the 
Psalmist here rejoices in is not vengeance wreaked upon his 
personal enemies, but punishment inflicted on the enemies of 
God through himself as a mere instrument. Not to rejoice in 
this would have proved him unworthy of his high vocation. 
With the last clause compare Ps. xlvii. 4 (3.) cxliv. 2. 

49 (48.) Saving me from my enemies ; yea, froin my as- 
sailants (or insurgents) thou ivilt raise one high ; from the 
man of violence thou ivilt deliver me. Here again the con- 
struction changes from the participle to the finite verb, but with 
a further change to the second person, which adds greatly to 
the life and energy of the expression. The yea may be taken 
as a simple copulative, and assaila7its as a mere equivalent to 
enemies. Some prefer however to assume a climax, and to un- 
derstand the verse as meaning that he had not only been deliv- 
ered from external foes but from the more dangerous assaults 
of domestic treason or rebellion. There would then seem to be 


an allusion to Absalom's conspiracy. Tliou wilt raise me, set 
me up on high, beyond the reach of all my enemies. For a 
similar expression, see below, Ps. lix. 2 (1), as translated in the 
margin of the Enoiish Bible. The man of violence has no 
doubt reference to Saul, but only as the type of a whole class, 
Compare Ps. cxl. 2, 5 (1, 4.) 

50 (49.) Therefore I ivill thank thee among the nations, oh 
Jehovah, and to thy name will sing. The first word has refer- 
ence not merely to the fact of his deliverance and promotion, 
but to the character in which he had experienced these bless- 
ings, and the extent of the divine purpose in bestowing tliem. 
* Therefore — because it is God who has done and is to do all 
this for me, and because it is in execution of a purpose compre- 
hending the whole race — T Avill not confine my praises and 
thanksgiving to my own people, but extend them to all nations.' 
The performance of this vow has been going on for ages and is 
still in progress wherever this and other psalms of David are 
no\v sung or read. The verse before us is legitimately used by 
Paul, together with Deut. xxxii. 43. Isai. xi. 1, 10, and Ps. 
cxvii. 1. to prove tliat, even uiider the restrictive institutions of 
the old economy, God was not the God of the Jews only but of 
the Gentiles also. (Pwom. iii. 29. xv. 9 — 12.) — The verb in the 
first clause strictly means I will confess or acknowledge, but is 
specially applied to the acknowledgment of gifts received or ben- 
efits experienced, and then corresponds almost exactly to our 
thank. The corresponding verb in the last clause means to 
praise by music. See above, on Ps. vii. 18 (17), ix. 3, 12 (2, 11.) 

51 (50.) Making go-eat the salvations of Ids King and doing 
kindness to his Anointed, to David and to his seed unto eter- 
nity. We have here another instance of the favourite construc- 
tion which connects a sentence with the foregoing context by 
means of a participle agreeing with the subject of a previous 


sentence. See above, vs. 31 (30), 32 (31), 33 (32), 34 (33), 49 
(48). Making great salvations, saving often and signally. 
The plural form conveys the idea of fulness and completeness. 
As the phrase His Anointed might have seemed to designate 
David exclusively, he shows its comprehensive import by ex- 
pressly adding David and his seed, from which it clearly fol- 
lows that the Messiah or Anointed One here mentioned is a 
a complex or ideal person, and that Jesus Christ, far from being 
excluded, is in fact the principal person comprehended, as the 
last and greatest of the royal line of David, to whom the prom- 
ises were especially given, in whom alone they are completely 
verified, and of whom alone the last words of this Psalm could 
be uttered, in their true and strongest sense, without a false- 
hood or without absurdity. In this conclusion, as in other por- 
tions of the Psalm, there is a clear though tacit reference to the 
promise in 2 Sam. vii. 12—16, 25, 26, where several of the 
very same expressions are employed. Compare also Ps. xxviii. 
8. Ixxxiv. 10 (9). and Ps. Ixjixui. passim. 

Another copy of this Psalm is found recorded near the close 
of David's history (2 Sam. ch. xxii.), which confirms the in- 
timation in the title, that it was not composed in reference to 
any particular occasion, bui in a general retrospection of the 
mercies of his whole life. The two lexts often differ, both in 
form and substance, which has led some to suppose, that one is 
an erroneous transcript of the other. But this conclusion is for- 
bidden by the uniform consistency of each considered in itself, 
as well as by the obvious indications of design in the particular 
variations, which may be best explained by supposing, that 
David himself, for reasons not recorded, prepared a twofold 
form of this sublime composition, which is the less improbable 
as there are other unambiguous traces of the same process in 


the Old Testament, and in the writings of David himself. See 
below, the exposition of Ps. liii, and compare that of Isaiah, eh. 
xxxvi — xxxix. If this be a correct hypothesis, the two forms 
of the eighteenth psalm may be treated as distinct and indepen- 
dent compositions, and it has therefore been thought most advi- 
sable, both for the purpose of saving room and of avoiding the 
confusion which a parallel interpretation might have caused, to 
confine the exposition in this volume to that form of the psalm, 
which was preserved in the Psalter for permanent use in public 
worship, and which exhibits strong internal proofs of being the 
original or first conception, although both are equally authentic 
and inspired. 


This psalm consists of three parts. The subject of the first 
is God's revelation of himself in his material works, vs. 2 — 7 
(1 — 6.) That of the second is the still more glorious revelation 
of himself in his law, vs. 8 — 11 (7 — 10.) The third shows the 
bearing of these truths upon the personal character and interest 
of the writer, and of all who are partakers of his faith, vs. 12 — 
15 (11—14.) 

The object of the psalm is not to contrast the moral and ma- 
terial revelations, but rather to identify their author and their 
subject. The doctrinal sum of the whole composition is, that 
the same God who reared the frame of nature is the giver of a 
law, and that this law is in all respects worthy of its author. 

1. To the Chief Mvsician, a Psalvi by DoAnd, The form 


of this inscription is the same as that of Ps. xiii. Its historical 
correctness is attested by its position in the Psalter, its resem- 
blance to Ps. viii, and its peculiar style and spirit. 

2. The heavens (are) telling the glory of God, and the work 
of his hands (is) the flrinament declaring. The participles 
are expressive of continued action. T he glory^qf jGod . is the 
sum of _his_ revealed perfections, (compare Ps. xxiv. 7 — 10. 
xxix. 3. Rom. i. 20.) The expanse oi firmament is used as_an 
equivalent to heajpjen, even in the history of the creation, Gen. i. 
8. To declare the work of his hands is to show what he can 
do and has actually done. The common version handyivorh 
means nothing more than hand-work ; to take liandy as an 
epithet of praise is a vulgar error. 

3 (2.) Day to day shall pour out speech^ and night to night 
shall utter knowledge. Both verbs are peculiar to the poetical di- 
alect and books of the Old Testament. Four out, in a copious 
ever-gushing stream. As the participles of v. 2 (1) express con- 
stant action, so the futures here imply continuance in all time to 
come, speech m eans the declaration of God^Si^^^' ^^^^ kiww- 
ledge the knowledge of the same great object. The idea of per- 
petual tesTtmohyTs conveyed by the figure of one day and night 
following another as witnesses in unbroken succession. 

4 (3.) There is 7W speech, and there are no words ; not at all 
is their voice heard. As the first clause might have seemed to 
contradict the first clause of v. 3 (2), the Psalmist adds no tvords, 
to show that he here uses speech in the strict sense of articulate 
language. — The first word of the last clause is properly a noun, 
meaning cessation or defect, non-entity, and here used as a 
more emphatic negative, expressed in the translation by the phrase 
not at all. — Their voice might either be referred exclusively to 
the heaven rind firmament of v. 2 (I.) or extended to the day 


and night of v, 3 (2.) But the first is the true construction, as 
appears from the next verse. The absence of articulate lan- 
guage, far from weakening the testimony, makes it stronger. 
Even without speech or words, the heavens testify of God to all 
men. This construction of the sentence is much simpler as 
well as more exact than the ancient one, retained in the com- 
mon version, " there is x^o speech nor language where their voice 
is not heard," or that preferred by others, " it is not a speech or 
language whose voice is not heard." The true sense is given 
in the margin of the English Bible. 

5 (4.) J;^ all the earth has gone out their line, and in the 
end of the ivorld {are) their ivords. For the S2in he has pitched 
a tent in them. The word rendered line always means a mea- 
suring line, and in Jer. xxxi. 39 is combined in that sense with 
the same verb as here, Tlie idea is, that their province or do- 
main is co-extensive with the earth, and that they speak with 
authority even in its remotest parts. — Words may also be con- 
strued with the verb of the first clause, but it will then be ne- 
cessary to translate the preposition to. The explanation of line 
as meaning the string of a musical instrument, and then the 
sound which it produces, although favoured by the ancient ver- 
sions, is entirely at variance with Hebrew usage. — The subject 
of the verb in the last clause is the name of God expressed in v. 
2 (1) above. — Pitched a tent, provided a dwelling, or without 
a figure, assigned a place, hi them must refer to the heavens 
mentioned in v. 2 (1), wiiich makes it probable that all the plu- 
ral pronouns in the intervening clauses have the same antece- 
dent. The sun is introduced in this sentence probably because 
his apparent course is a measure of the wide domain described 
in the first clause. It must be co-extensive with the earth, be- 
cause the sun which visits the whole earth has his habitation in 
the sky. This boundless extension of the heavens and their 
testimony is used by Paul (Rom. x. 18) to signify the general 


diffusion of the gospel, and the same thing might have taught the 
earlier Jews that their exclusive privileges were granted only 
for a time and as a means to a more glorious end. 

6 (5.) A7id he (is) as a bridegroom coming out of his cham- 
ber ; he rejoices as a 'inighty man to run a race. The second 
simile has reference to the sun's daily course, the first to his 
vigorous and cheerful re-appearance after the darkness of the 
night. By a fine transition, the general idea of a tent or dwel- 
ling is here exchanged for the specific one of a nuptial couch 
or chamber. Rejoices, literally, will rejoice, forever as he now 

7 (6.) From the end of the heavens (is) his outgoing, and 
his circuit even to the ends of them, and there is none (or no- 
thing) hidden from his heat. What is said in v. 5 (4) of the 
heavens is here said of the sun, to wit, that his domain is co- 
extensive with the earth or habitable world. The last clause 
is added to show that it is not an ineiTective presence, but one 
to be felt as well as seen. The sun's heat is mentioned, not in 
contrast with his light, but as its inseparable adjunct. — The 
plural ends seems to be added to the singular in order to exhaust 
the meaning, or at least to strengthen the expression. The 
word translated circuit includes the idea of return to a starting- 
point. The Hebrew preposition properly means up to (or down 
to) their very extremity. 

8 (7.) The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul ; the 
testimony of Jehovah is sure, making ivise the simple. The 
God, whose glory is thus shown forth by the material creation, 
is the author of a spiritual law, which the Psalmist now de- 
scribes in the next three verses, by six characteristic names, six 
qualifying epithets, and six moral effects produced by it. In 
the verse before us, besides the usual term law, it is called God's 


testimony^ i. e. the testimony which he bears for truth and 
against iniquity. It is described as perfect, i. e. free from all 
defect or blemish, and as sure, i. e. definite, decided, and infal- 
lible. Its two effects, mentioned in this verse, are, first, that of 
restoring the soul, i. e. the life and spirits exhausted by calami- 
ty. See below, on Ps. xxiii. 3, and compare Ruth iv. 15. Lam. 
i. 11.16. The effect c>i converting the soul would not have been 
attributed to the law in this connexion, where the writer is de- 
scribing the affections cherished towards the law by men alrea- 
dy converted, which removes all apparent inconsistency with 
Paul's representation of the law as working death, and at the 
same time the necessity of making the law mean the gospel, or 
in any other way departing from the obvious and usual import 
of the Hebrew word. The other effect ascribed to the law is 
that of making wise the simple, not the foolish, in the strong 
sense in which that term is applied to the ungodly — see above, 
on Ps. xiv. 1 — but ti;iose imperfectly enlightened and still 
needing spiritual guidance, a description applicable, more or 
less, to all believers. It is a singular fact that while this usage 
of the Hebrew word is peculiar to David, Solomon constantly 
applies it to the culpable simplicity of unconverted men. (See 
Ps. cxvi. 6. cxix. 130. Prov. i. 22. vii. 7. ix. 4. xiv. 15 &c.) — 
In like manner Paul describes the " sacred scriptures " as able 
to make wise unto salvation. 2 Tim. iii. 15. 

9 (8.) The statutes of Jehovah (are) right, rejoicing the 
heart ; the command'tnent of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the 
eyes. The words translated statute and commayidment differ 
very slightly from each other, the one expressing more distinct- 
ly the idea of a charge or commission, the other that of a pre- 
scription or direction, There is also no great difference between 
the epithets applied in this verse to the law of God, which is 
right, as being an exact expression of his rectitude, and pure, as 
being free from all taint of injustice or iniquity. The first effect 


described is that of rejoicing the heart, to wit, the heart loving 
righteousness and consequently desirous of knowing what is 
right by knowing what is acceptable to God, and what required 
by him. The other effect eyilightenhig the eyes, is understood 
by some of intellectual illumination with respect to spiritual 
things. But it is more agreeable to Hebrew usage to suppose 
an allusion to the dimness of the eyes produced by extreme 
weakness and approaching death, recovery from which is figu- 
ratively represented as an enlightening of the eyes. See above, 
on Ps. xiii. 4 (3), and compare Ps. xxxiv. 6 (5.) The figure, 
thus explained, bears a strong resemblance to restoring the soul 
in the preceding verse, the one referring rather to the senses and 
the other to the life itself. 

10 (9.) The fear of Jehovah is clean, standing forever ; the 
judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are righteaas altogether. 
As the fear of Jehovah, in its proper sense, would here be out of 
place, and as the law was designed to teach men how to fear 
the Lord (Deut. xvii. 19), the phrase may her-e be understood 
as a description of the law viewed in reference to this peculiar 
purpose, ihefear of the Lord being put for that which leads or 
teaches men to fear him, a sense which the expression is sup- 
posed to have in several other places. See Ps. xxxiv. 12 (11.) 
Prov. i. 29. ii. 5. xv. 33. — Standing forever, of perpetual obli- 
gation. Even Christ came not to destroy but to fulfil. See 
Matt. V. 17, 18. With the form of expression here compare Ps. 
xxxiii. 11. cxii. 3. — Judgments are properly judicial decisions, 
but are here put, as in Ps. xviii. 23 (22), for all God's requisi- 
tions. They are truth {itself) may be a strong expression 
meaning they are perfectly and absolutely true ; but as this 
would make the last clause little more than a tautology, the first 
phrase may be understood to mean that they are really that 
which they purport and claim to be, and therefore must be righ- 
teous altogether, i. e. all, without exception, righteous, which 


is tantamount, in fact though not in form, to wholly or complete- 
ly righteous. 

11 (10.) (Judgments) to he desired more than gold and much 
fine gold, and siveeter than honey and the dropping of the 
combs. The description of the law of God is wound up by 
comparing it to the costUest and sweetest substances in com- 
mon use. The sense of the passive participle is like that in Ps 
xviii. 4 (3.) Its plural form, and the article prefixed to it in 
Hebrew, show that it is to be construed with judgments, and 
that the sentence is continued from the foregoing verse, as in 
Ps. xviii. 31 (30), 33 (32), 34 (33), 35 (34), 48 (47), 51 (50)— 
The Hebrew answering to Ji7ie gold is a single word (td), not 
used in prose, and by some supposed to mean solid or massive 
gold, but according to a more probable etymology denoting 
purified or fine gold. The combination here used is found also 
in Ps. cxix. 127. See also Prov. viii. 19, and compare Ps. xxi. 
4 (3) below. To make the resemblance of the clauses perfect, 
the usual word for honey is followed by a beautiful periphrasis, 
denoting that kind which was most highly valued. The ideas 
expressed by both comparisons are those of value and delightful- 
ness. — As the preceding verses describe what the law is in itself 
and in its general effects, so this seems to express what it is to 
the Psalmist's apprehensions and affections, thus affording a tran- 
sition from the comprehensive doctrines of the foregoing context 
to the practical and personal appropriation of those doctrines, 
which now follows and concludes the psalm. 

12 (11.) Moreover thy servant is enlightened by them ; in 
keeping them there is 'much reward. The verb in the first 
clause is used with special reference to admonition and warning 
against danger. See Ecc. iv. 13. Ez. xxxiii. 4, 5, 6. Ecc. xii. 
12. The plural suffixes have reference to judgments in v. 10 
(9) above. — Reward is here used not to signify a reconipense 


earned in strict justice, but a gratuity bestowed. The spirit of 
the passage is the same as in 1 Cor. xv. 19. 1 Tim. iv. 8. The 
phrase thy servant brings the general doctrines of the foregoino- 
context into personal application to the writer. 

13 (12.) Errors who shall binder stand? Clear thou me 
from hidden ones ! The word translated errors is akin to one 
sometimes used in the Law to denote sins of inadvertence, error, 
or infirmity, as distinguished from deliberate, wilful, and high- 
handed sins, such as are deprecated in the next verse. See Lev. 
iv. 2. 27. Num. xv. 27. Against such sins no wisdom or vio-i- 
lance can wholly guard. — The word translated clear is also 
borrowed from the Law, and means not so much to cleanse by 
renovation of the heart as to acquit by a judicial sentence. See 
Ex. xxxiv. 7. Num. xiv. 18. Such an acquittal, in the case of 
sinners against God, involves the idea of a free forgiveness. 

14 (13.) Also from presumptuous [ones) withhold thy ser- 
vant; then shall I be perfect aiid be clear from much trans- 
gression. As he prays for the forgiveness of his inadvertent 
sins, so he prays for the prevention of deliberate ones. The He- 
brew word (D^lt) properly denotes proud men, but seems to be 
here applied to sins by a strong personification. The use of the 
verbal root and its derivatives in the Old Testament may be seen 
by comparing Ex. xxi. 14. Deut. xvii. 12. xviii. 22. 1 Sam. xvii. 
28. — To be perfect has the same sense as in Ps. xviii. 24 — 26 (23 
— 25.) That it does not there mean sinless perfection is confirmed 
by the language of the verse before us. — The great transgression, 
as if referring to some one particular offence, is not the true sense 
of the Hebrew phrase, which is indefinite and perfectly analo- 
gous to that rendered much (or great) reward in v. 12 (11) 

15 (14.) {Then) shall be for acceptance (or acceptable) the 


sayings of my mouth, and the thought of my heart before thee^ 
Jehovah, my rock and my redeemer. The simplest and most 
obvious construction of the Hebrew sentence makes it a direct 
continuation of the last clause of v. 14 (13), and like it an anti- 
cipation of the happy effects to be expected from an answer to 
the foregoing prayers. If his sins of ignorance could be forgiven 
and the deliberate sins, to w^hich his natural corruption prompts 
him, hindered by divine grace, he might hope not only to 
avoid much guilt but to be the object of God's favour. As 
this confident anticipation really involves a wish that it 
may be fu'filled, there is little real difference between the con- 
struction above given and the common version : let the ivords of 
my mouth and the meditation of 7ny heart be acceptable SfC. 
It is much more natural however to connect the words before 
thee with 'iny meditation which immediately precedes, than with 
the first words of the verse as in the English Bible. What I 
thi7ik in thy presence is then joined with the icords of my 
mouth to express all prayer, whether clothed in words or not. 
See above, on Ps. v. 2 (1.) — The prayer or expectation of ac- 
ceptance in this clause derives peculiar beauty from the obvious 
allusion to the frequent use of the same Hebrew phrase (''^i^l'b) 
in the law of Moses, to denote the acceptance of the sacrificial 
offerings, or rather the acceptance of the offerer on account of 
Uhem. See Ex. xxviu. 38. Lev. xix. 5, 7. xxii. 19, 20, 29. xxiii. 
11. Isai. Ivi. 7. Ix. 7. Rom. xii. 1. This allusion also serves to 
' suggest the idea, not conveyed by a translation, of atonement, ex- 
piation, as the ground of the acceptance which the Psalmist 
hopes or prays for. 

PSALM XX. 163 


A PRAYER for the use of the ancient church in time of war. 
Addressing her visible head, she wishes him divine assistance 
and success, vs. 2 — G (1 — 5), and expresses a strong confidence 
that God will answer her petition, vs. 7 — 9 (6 — 8), which she 
then repeats aud sums up in conclusion, v. 10 (9). 

There is no trace of this psalm having been composed with 
reference to any particular occasion, its contents being perfectly 
appropriate to every case in which the chosen people, under 
their theocratic head, engaged in war against the enemies of 
God and Israel. 

1. To the Chief Musician. Written for his use and en- 
trusted to him for execution. As in all other cases, this inscrip- 
tion shows the psalm to have been written, not for the expression 
of mere personal feelings, but to be a vehicle of pious sentiment 
to the collective body of God's people. — A Psalfn by David. 
The correctness of this statement is not only free from any posi- 
tive objection, but confirmed by the whole tone and style of the 
performance, as well as by its intimate connexion with the next 
psalm. See below, on Ps. xxi. 1. 

2 (1.) Jehovah hear thee hi the day of trouble ! The name 
of Jacob's God exalt thee! The name of God, the revelation of 
his nature in his acts. ' May those divine attributes, which 
have been so often manifested in the experience of the chosen 

104 PSALM X :. 

people, be exercised for thy protection. See above, on Ps. v. 
12 (11.) — The God of Jacob, of the patriarch so called, and of 
his seed. See Matt. xxii. 32. — Exalt tkee, raise thee beyond 
the reach of danger. See above, on Ps. ix. 10 (9.) xviii. 3, 49 
(2,48.) - 

3 (2.) [May Jehovah) send thee help from {his) sanctuary, 
and from Zion sustain thee. The mention of Zion and the 
sanctuary shows that Jehovah is appealed to as the king of his 
people, and as such not only able but bound by covenant to af- 
ford them aid. See below, on v. 10 (9.) Sustain thee, hold 
thee up, the same verb that is used in Ps. xviii. 36 (35.) Both 
verbs may also be translated as simple futures, will send, ivill 
sustai7i ; but see below. 

4 (3.) {May Jehovah) remember all thy gifts and accept thy 
offering. Selah. The word remember in the first clause seems 
to involve an allusion to the memorial (n'^lTN:) a name given in 
the sacrificial ritual to that part of the vegetable offering which 
was burnt upon the altar. See Lev. ii. 2. vi. 8 (15). — The word 
translated ^z/'^s, although properly generic, is specifically used to 
denote the vegetable offerino;s of the law. while the word tjans- 
lated offering is the technical name of the principal animal sacri- 
fice. They are put together to describe these two species of obla- 
tion. Compare Ps. xl. 7. (6.) Jer. xvii. 26. Dan. ix. 27. — The verb 
translated accept means elsewhere to make fat (Ps. xxiii. 5), or to 
remove the ashes of the altar. (Ex. xxvii. 3. Num. iv. 13.) Some 
give it here the sense of turnin": into ashes or consumino-, others 
that of pronouncing fat and therefore fit for sacrifice. In either 
case acceptance is implied. The optative form of the verb in the 
original seems to confirm the sense already put upon the fore- 
iroinsr futures. From this verse it has been inferred, with some 
probability, that the whole psalm was specially intended to be 
used at the sacrifice offered by the Israelites before a campaign 

PSALM XX. 165 

or a battle. (See 1 Sam. xiii. 9, 10.) To this some add the 
supposition, that the selah, in the verse before us, marlts the 
pause in the performance of the psahn, during which the sacri- 
fice was actually offered. See above, on Ps. iii. 3 (2). 

5 (4.) (May he) give thee according to thy heart, and all thy 
counsel (or design) fulfil. This is not a vague wish for success 
in general, but a prayer for success on the particular occasion 
when the psalm was to be used. — Thy heart, thy desire. Thy 
counsel, the plan which thou hast formed and undertaken to 
execute in God's name and for the protection or deliverance of 
his people, 

6 (5.) May we rejoice in thy deliverance, and in the name 
of our God display a banner ! May Jehovah fulfil all thy 
petitions ! The phrase thy deliverance may mean that wrought 
or that experienced by thee. In all probability both ideas are 
included. In the name of our God, and therefore not as a mere 
secular triumph. The second verb (SbHj) seems to be connected 
with a noun (b.^'^) used by Moses to denote the banners under 
which the four great divisions of the host marched through the 
wilderness (Num. i. 52. ii. 2, 3, 10, 18, 25. x. 14.) Hence the 
conjectural translation, ' may we set up (or display) a banner.' 
But as the participle of the same verb seems, in the only other 
place where it occurs (Song of Sol. v. 10), to signify distin- 
guished or exalted, others follow the Septuagint and Vulgate in 
translating, may we he lifted up or magnified. — The last clause 
is a comprehensive prayer, equivalent in meaning to v. 5 (4) 
above, and including not merely what had been expressly speci- 
fied, but all that the theocratic sovereign might desire or at- 
tempt in conformity with God's will, whether known to the 
whole body of his followers or not. This clause concludes the 
first division of the psalm by recurring to the theme with which 

166 PSALM XX. 

it opens, and with which again the whole psahn closes. See 
below, on v. 10 (9.) 

7 (G.) Novj I know that Jehovah has saved his Anointed — 
he ivill hear him from his holy heavens^with the saving 
strength of his right hand. What was asked in the foregoing 
context is here said to be already granted. Hence some imagine 
that a battle or other decisive event must be supposed to inter- 
vene. But this, besides being highly improbable and forced in 
so brief a composition, is forbidden by the immediate recurrence 
to the future form, he will hear. A far more natural solution 
is, that this verse expresses a sudden conviction or assurance 
that the preceding prayers are to be answered. As if he had 
said : * such are my requests, and I know that Jehovah has al- 
ready granted them, so that in his purpose and to the eye of 
faith, his Anointed is already safe and has already triumphed.' 
The change to the first p'erson singular does not indicate a dif- 
ferent speaker, but merely puts what follows into the mouth ot 
each individual believer or of the whole body viewed as an ideal 

The second member of the sentence may be best explained as a 
parenthesis, leaving the third to be construed directly with the 
first, as in the version above given. — In this verse we have two 
examples of a common Hebrew idiom, one of them a very strong 
one. The phrase translatedy>-om his holy heavens might seem 
to mean the heavens of his holiness ; but the true construction 
is his heavens of holiness, i. e. the heavens where the Holy One 
resides, and from which his assistance must proceed. See above, 
on Ps. ii. 6. xi. 4. The attribute of holiness is mentioned to 
exalt still further the divine and sacred nature of the Avarfare 
and the victory to which the psalm relates. Another example 
of the Hebrew idiom before referred to is the saving strength 
of his right hand, which literally rendered is the strengths of 
the salvation of his right hand. The plural strengths may 

PSALM XX. j^^ 

either be intensive or refer to various exertions of tiie power 
here described. The right hand has the same sense as in 
Ps. xvui. 36 (3d.) Here, as in Ps. xviii. 51 (50), His Mes^ 
siah or Anointed One includes the whole succession of genuine 
theocratic kings, not excepting Him whose representatives they 
were, and in whom the royal line was at the same time closed 
and made perpetual. 

8 (7.) These in chariots and these in horses, and we in the 
name of Jehovah our God, will glory. All the objects are con- 
nected by the same preposition with the same verb, namely, that 
at the end of the sentence. In order to retain the preposition, 
which must otherwise be varied and thereby obscure the struc- 
ture of the sentence, the verb glory, which is construed with 
the preposition in, has been substituted for the strict sense of 
the verb, we will cause to be remembered, i. e. mention or com- 
memorate. See Ex. xxiii. 13. Amos vi. 10. Isai. xlviii. 1. Ixiii. 7 
The insertion of the verb trust, in the English versions of the 
first clause, is entirely gratuitous. These and these is the He- 
brew idiom for some and others. Compare this to this, in Ex 
xiv. 20. Isai. vi. 3.— The verb, in the case before us, may have 
been selected in allusion to the cognate form in v. 4 (3) above. 
• As God has remembered thy offerings, so we will cause his 
name to be remembered V~Our God is again emphatic and 
significant, as showing that the whole psalm has reference to 
the covenant relation between God and his people represented 
by their theocratic sovereign. With the contrast in this verse 
compare 1 Sam. xvii. 45. Isai. xxxi. 3. Ps. xxxiii. 16, 17. 

9 (8.) They have bowed and fallen, and we have risen a?id 
stood upright. Here, as in v. 7 (6), the past tense expresses 
the certainty of the event, or rather the confidence with which 
it is expected. The emphatic they at the beginning means the 
enemies and oppressors of God's people. We have arisen seems 

168 PSALM XX. 

to imply a previous prostration and subjection. — The last verb 
occurs only here in this form, which is properly reflexive, and 
may be explained to mean, lue have straightened ourselves up. 

10 (9.) Jehovah save ! Let the king hear us in the day ice 
call, or still more closely, in the day of our calling. The 
Septuagint and Vulgate make the king a part of the first 
clause: 'Jehovah save the king,' [Domine salvunifac regem.) 
But this not only violates the masoretic accents, which, though 
not ultimately binding, are entitled to respect as a traditional 
authority, but separates the verb in the last clause from its sub- 
ject, so that both the ancient versions just referred to have been 
under the necessity of changing the third into the second person 
{Jiear us.) The first clause is besides more expressive and em- 
phatic without the king than with it. Nothing could be more 
pregnant or sonorous than the laconic prayer, Jehovah save ! 
The object is of course to be supplied from v. 7 (6), and from 
the tenor of the whole psalm. The other construction, it is true, 
enables us to make the King of this verse the same person with 
the Anointed of v. 7 (6.) But far from any disadvantage, there 
is great force and beauty, in referring the expected blessing to 
the true king of Israel, whom David and his followers only re- 
presented. See Deut. xxxiii. 5. Ps. xlviii. 3 (2.) Matt. v. 35. — - 
By taking the last verb as a future proper {the king will hear 
tis) the psalm may be made to close with a promise or rather 
with a confident anticipation of God's blessing. Most interpre- 
ters, however, prefer to make it optative, and thus to let the 
psalm conclude as it began with an expression of intense 



As in the eighteenth psalm David publicly thanks God for 
the promises contained in 2 Samuel vii, so here he puts a sim- 
ilar thanksgiving into the mouth of the church or chosen people. 
In vs. 2 — 7 (i — 6), the address is to Jehovah, and the king is 
spoken of in the third person. In v. 8 (7), this form of speech 
is used in reference to both. In vs. 9 — 13 (8 — 12), the address 
is to the king. In v. 14 (13) it returns to Jehovah. As to the 
substance or contents of these successive parts, the first praises 
God for what he has bestowed upon the king, vs. 2 — 7 (1 — 
6.) In the second, there is a transition to another theme, v. 8 
(7.) The third congratulates the king on what he is to do and 
to enioy through the divine mercy, vs. 9- — 13 (8 — 12.) The 
fourth returns to the point from which the whole set out, v. 14 
(13.) The opinion that this psalm relates to the fulfilment of 
the prayer in that before it, seems to be inconsistent with its 
structure and contents as just described. They are rather par- 
allel than consecutive, the principal difference being this, that 
while the twentieth psalm relates to the specific case of assist- 
ance and success in war, the twenty-first has reference to the 
whole circle of divine gifts bestowed upon the Lord's Anointed. 

1. To the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David. The cor- 
rectness of the first inscription is apparent from the structure of 
the psalm, throughout which the speaker is the ancient church. 
The correctness of the other may be argued from the general 

VOL. I. 8 


resemblance of the style to that of the Davidic psalms, from nu- 
merous coincidences of expression with the same, and from the 
tone of lively hope which seems to indicate the recent date of 
the divine communication, especially when compared with 
psalms which otherwise resemble it, such as the eighty-ninth. 
The particular resemblance between this psalm and the twenti- 
eth makes them mutually testify to one another's genuineness 
and authenticity. 

2 (1.) Jehovah, in thy strength shall the king rejoice, and 
in thy salvation hoiv shall he exult ! This verse commences 
the description of God's favour to the king with a general state- 
ment, afterwards amplified in vs. 3 — 7 (2 — 6.) Thy strength, 
as imparted to him, or as exercised in his deliverance, which 
last agrees best with the parallel expression, thy salvation, i. e. 
thy deliverance of him from the evils which he felt or feared. 
In thy strength and salvation, i. e. in the contemplation and 
experience of it. The future verbs show that the gift has not 
yet been consummated, without excluding the idea of it as be- 
gun already. 

3 (2.) The desire of his heart thou hast given imito hhn, and 
the quest of his lips hast not ivithholden. Selah. The oc- 
casion of the joy and exultation mentioned in the preceding 
verse is now more particularly set forth. It is easy to imagine, 
although not recorded, that the great promise in the seventh 
chapter of 2 Samuel was in answer to the fervent and long con- 
tinued prayers of David for a succession in his own family. — 
The word translated quest occurs only here, but its sense is de- 
termined by the parallelism and the Arabic analogy. The 
combination of the positive and negative expressions of the same 
idea i^given and not withholden) is a favourite Hebrew idiom.. 

4 (3.) For thou wilt come before him with blessings of 


goodness, thou ivilt set upon his head a croivn of gold. This, 
as Luther observes, is an answer to tlie question what he had 
desired. Tlie/br connects it with the statement in the forego- 
ing verse which is here explained and justified. As the pret- 
erites in V. 3 (2) show that his request was granted in the di- 
vine purpose, so the futures here show how it was to be fulfilled 
in fact. Come before, come to meet in a friendly manner. See 
above, on Ps. xvii. 13. xviii. 6 (5), and compareDeut. xxiii. o (4.) 
— Blessings of good, not blessings prompted by the divine good- 
ness, but conferring, or consisting in, good fortune, happiness. 
See above, on Ps. xvi. 2. — The reference in the last clause is 
not to David's literal coronation at the beginning of his reign, 
nor to the golden crown which he took from the Ammonitish 
king of Rabbah (2 Sam. xii. 30), but to his ideal coronation by 
the granting of these glorious favors to himself and his success- 
ors. The divine communication in the seventh of 2d Samuel 
seems to be here viewed, as the only real coronation of David 
as a theocratic sovereio-n. The last word in the sentence is the 
same that was translated ^jz^re gold when contrasted with the 
ordinary word for gold, Ps. xix. 11 (10.) 

5 (4.) Life he asked of thee, thoic hoM given (it) to him, 
length of days, perpetuity and eternity. By disregarding the 
masoretic interpunction, the construction may be simplified 
without a change of sense, ' Life he asked of thee, thou hast 
given him length of days,' &c. The last words of the verse 
are often used adverbially to \ne?in for ever a7id ever ; but as 
they are both nouns, it is best to put them here in apposition 
with the same part of speech which immediately precedes. 
This last clause shows that the life which David prayed for 
was not personal longevity, but the indefinite continuation of 
his race, an honour which was granted to him, even beyond his 
hopes and wishes, in the person of our Saviour. Compare 2 
Sam, vii. 13, 16. Ps. Ixxxix. 5 (4.) cxxxii. 12. 


6 (5.) Great shall be his majesty in thy salvation ; glory 
and honour thou wilt put upon him. His personal experience 
of God's saving grace, and his connexion with the great scheme 
of salvation for mankind, would raise him to a dignity far beyond 
that of any other monarch, and completely justifying even the 
most exalted terms used in Scripture, from the charge of adula- 
tion or extravagance. 

7 (6.) For thou ivilt make hi'm a blessing to eter?iity ; thou 
wilt gladden hitn with joy by thy countenance (or presence^ 
He shall not only be blessed himself, but a blessing to others, 
the idea and expression being both derived from the promise to 
Abraham in Gen. xii, 2, an allusion which serves also to con- 
nect the Davidic with the Abrahamic covenant, and thus to 
preserve unbroken the great chain of Messianic prophecies. 
Make him a blessing, literally, place him for (or constitute 
him) blessing. The plural form suggests variety and fullness, 
as in Ps. xviii. 51 (50). xx. 7 (6.) By thy countenance, or with 
thy face, i. e., by looking on him graciously, not merely in thy 
presence or before thee, as the place of the enjoyment, but by 
the sight of thee, as its cause or source. See above, on Ps. 
xvi. 11. 

8 (7.) For the king (is) trusting in Jehovah, and iii the 
grace of the Most High he shall not be moved. The consumma- 
tion of this glorious promise was indeed far distant, but to the 
eye of faith distinctly visible. In the grace seems to mean 
something more than through the grace {ox favour) of the Most 
High, as the ground of his assurance, or the source of his 
security. The words appear to qualify the verb itself, and to 
denote that he shall not be shaken from his present standing in 
God's favour. The use of the third person, in this verse, with 
reference both to God and the king, makes it a kind of connect- 


ing link between the direct address to God in the first part of 
the Psahn, and the direct address to the king in the second. 

9 (8.) Thy hand shall find out all thine enemies; thy right hand 
shall find (those) hating thee. Having shown what God would 
do for his Anointed, the Psahn now describes what the latter 
shall accomplish through Divine assistance. Corresponding 
to this variation in the subject, is that in the object of address, 
which has been already noticed. By a kind of climax in the 
form of expression, hand is followed by right hand, a still more 
emphatic sign of active strength. To fijid, in this connexion, 
includes the ideas of detecting and reaching. Compare 1 Sam. 
xxiii. 17. Isai. x. 10 ; in the latter of which places the verb is 
construed with a preposition (y, as it is in the first clause of the 
verse before us, whereas in the other clause it governs the 
noun directly. If any difference of meaning was intended, it is 
probably not greater than that between find and find out in 

10 (9.) Thou shalt make them like a fiery furnace at the time 
of thy presence; Jehovah in his wrath shall sumllow them up^ and 
fire shall devour them. The ascription of this destroying agency 
to God in the last clause serves to show that the king acts 
merely as his instrument. Thou shalt make, literally set or place^ 
i. e. put them in such or such a situation. A fiery fur'aace^ 
literally, a furnace (or oven) of fire. To make them like a fur- 
nace here means, not to make them the destroyers of others, 
but, by a natural abbreviation, to make them as if they were in 
a fiery furnace. At the time of thy presence^ literally thy face, 
which may be understood to mean, when thou lookest at them. 

11 (10.) Their fruit shalt thou make to perish from the earth., 
and their seed from {among) the sons of man (or Adam.) This 
extends the threatened destruction of the enemies to all their 


generations. The same figurative use oi fruit occurs in Hos. 
ix. 16. 

12 (11.) For they stretched out evil over thee; they devised a 
plot ; they shall not he able (to effect it.) The figure of the first 
clause is the same as in 1 Ch. xxi. 10. (Compare 2 Sam.xxiv. 
12.) The idea here is that they threatened to bring evil on 
thee. As the verb to be able is sometimes used absolutely, it 
translated, they shall not prevail. 

13 (12.) For thou shalt make them turn their back; with thy 
(bote) strings shalt make ready against their face. The common 
version of the first word (therefore) is not only contrary to usage, 
but disturbs the sense by obscuring the connexion with the fore- 
going verse, which is this : ' they shalt not prevail, because thou 
shalt make them turn their back.' This last phrase, in Hebrew, 
is so strongly idiomatic that it scarcely admits of an exact trans- 
lation. Tho20 shalt make (or place) them shoulder. See above, 
on Ps. xviii. 41 (40), where a similar idiom occurs. In the 
verse before us, the chronological succession is reversed ; it was 
by shooting at their face that he should make them turn their 
back. The true relation of the clauses is denoted, in the Eng- 
lish Bible, by supplying a particle of time: 'thou shalt make 
them turn their back (when) thou shalt make ready (thine 
arrows) upon thy strings against the face of them.' The ver- 
sion make ready is also a correct one, although some translate 
the phrase take aim, which is really expressed by another form 
of the same verb. The true sense of the one here used is clear 
from Ps. xi. 2, and the distinctive use of both from Ps. vii. 13, 
14 (12, 13.) 

14 (13.) Be. high., Jehovah., in thy strength; ice will sing and 
celebrate thy power. Here the Psalm returns to God as its great 
theme, and gives him all the glory. Be high, exalted, both in 

PSALM XXTl. ,ryr 

thyself and in the praises of thy people. See above, on Ps. 
xviii. 47 (46.) Thy strength and poiver, as displayed in the 
strength given to thine Anointed. Celebrate by music, as the 
Hebrew verb always means. There is a beautiful antithesis in 
this verse, as if he had said : thou hast only to deserve praise, 
we will give it. 


The subject of this Psalm is the deliverance of a ricchteous 
sufferer from his enemies, and the effect of this deliverance on 
others. It is so framed as to be applied without violence to 
any case belonging to the class described, yet so that it was 
fully verified only in Christ, the head and representative of the 
class in question. The immediate speaker in the Psalm is an 
ideal person, the righteous servant of Jehovah, but his words 
may, to a certain extent, be appropriated by any suffering 
believer, and by the whole suffering church, as they have been 
in all ages. 

The Psalm may be divided into three nearly equal parts. 
The first pleads the necessity of God's interposition, arising 
from his covenant relation to the sufferer, vs. 2 — 11 (1 — 10.) 
The second argues the same thing from the imminence of the 
danger, vs. 12 — 22 (11 — 21.) The third declares the glorious 
effects which must follow from an answer to the foregoing 
prayer, vs. 23—32 (22—31). Vs. 12 (11) and 22 (21) form 
connecting links between the first and second, second and third 


1. To the Chief Musician. On the hind of the morning. 
A Psalm by David. Designed for the permanent use of the 
church, and therefore not relating to mere individual or private 
interests. The second clause of the inscription is one of those 
enigmatical titles in which David seems to have delighted. 
See above, on Ps. v. 1. vii. 1. ix. 1. xvi. 1. The opinion that it 
refers to the melody or subject of some other poem, is less pro- 
bable than that it describes the theme of this. The hind may- 
then be a poetical figure for persecuted innocence, and the 
morning, or rather daivn, for deliverance after long distress. 
Compare 2 Sam. i. 19. Prov. vi. 5. Tsai. xiii. 14, with Isai. viii. 
20. xlvii. 11. Iviii. 8, 10. Hos. vi. 3. x. 15. The use of such em- 
blems here is less surprising, as this Psalm abounds in figures 
drawn from the animal kingdom. See below, vs. 13 (12), 14 
(13); 17 (IG), 21 (20), 22 (21). 

2 (1.) My God, my God, why hast tliou forsaken me, far 
from my deliverance, the icords of my roaring ? In this verse 
and the next we have the sufferer's complaint, the summary 
description of his danger and distress, the highest point of which 
is here described as the sense of desertion or abandonment on 
God's part. ' Why hast thou left. me so to suffer, that I cannot but 
consider myself finally deserted V The use of these words by 
our Saviour on the cross, with a slight variation from the Hebrew 
(Matt, xxvii. 46. Mark xv. 34), shows how eminently true the 
whole description is of him, but does not make him the exclusive 
subject. The Divine name here used is the one descriptive of 
God's power (i5<), and may therefore be considered as including 
the idea of my strength. ' Why hast thou, whom I regarded 
as my strength, my support, and my protector, thus forsaken 
me in this extremity ?' The last clause admits of several con- 
structions. ' Far from my deliverance (are) the words of my 
roaring,' i. e. they are far from having the eflfect of saving me. 
Or the question may be repeated : ' (Why art thou) far from my 


help and the words of my roaring V Or the same idea may be 
expressed by a simple affirmation : * (Thou art) far from my 
help,' (fcc. But the simplest construction is to put these words 
into apposition with the object of address in the first clause, and 
throw the whole into one sentence. ' Why hast thou forsaken 
me, (standing or remaining) far from my help, i. e. too far off to 
help and save me, or even to hear the words of my roaring ? 
This last combination shows that although the figure of roaring 
is borrowed from the habits of the lower animals, the subject to 
which it is applied must be a human one, and as such capable 
of articulate speech. The roaring of the psalmist was not the 
mere instinctiv^e utterance of physical distress, but the complaint 
of an intelligent and moral agent. Compare Isaiah xxxviii. 14. 

3 (2.) My God, I call by day a?id thou ivilt not answer, 
a7id by night aiid there is no silence to me. The divine nam^e 
here used is the common Hebrew word for Go6?, denoting an 
object of religious worship. I call, literally, I shall call, im- 
plying a sorrowful conviction that his cries will still be vain. 
Thou ivilt not hear or answer : the original expression is a 
verb specifically appropriated to the favourable reception of a 
prayer. See above, on Ps. iii. 5 (4.) Day and night, i. e. 
without intermission. See above, on Ps. i. 2. No silence im- 
plies no answer, and the parallelism is therefore an exact one. 

4 (3.) And thou {art) holy, inhabiting the praises of Israel. 
Here begins his statement of the grounds on which he might 
claim to be heard, and all which may be summed up in this, 
that Jehovah was the covenant God of Israel. The word 
translated holy, in its widest sense, includes all that distin- 
guishes God from creatures, not excepting what are usually 
termed his natural perfections. Hence the epithet is often 
found connected with descriptions of his power, eternity, &c. 
See Isai. vi. 3. xl, 25, 36, Ivii. 15, Hab. iii, 3, Ps, cxi, 9. The 


primary meaning of the verb appears to be that of separation, 
which may here be alluded to, in reference to Jehovah's pecu- 
liar relation to the chosen people. Or it may be taken in its 
wider and higher sense, leaving the other to be expressed in 
the last clause. ' Thou art the glorious and perfect God who 
inhabitest the praises of Israel,' i. e. dwellest among those praises, 
and art constantly surrounded by them. Some prefer, how- 
ever, to retain the primary meaning of the Hebrew verb, sitting 
{eiithroned upon) the loraises of Israel. 

5 (4.) In thee trusted our fathers ; they trusted and thou 
savedst them. Not only was Jehovah the covenant God of 
Israel, and as such bound to help his people, but he had actually 
helped them in time past. This is urged as a reason why he 
should not refuse to help the sufferer in this case. The plural 
form, our fathers, makes the prayer appropriate to the whole 
church, Avithout rendering it less so to the case of Christ, or 
to that of the individual believer. 

6 (5.) To thee they cried and were delivered ; in thee they 
trusted, and u-ere not ashamed. This last word is continually 
used in Scripture for the disappointment and frustration of the 
hopes. The argument of this verse lies in the tacit contrast 
between the case referred to and that of the sufferer himself. 
As if he had said : ' how is it then that I cry and am not de- 
livered, I trust and am confounded or ashamed ?' 

7 (6.) And I {am) a icortn and not a ')nan, a reproach of 
men and despised of the people. The pronoun expressed at the 
beginning is emphatic. J, as contrasted with my fathers. Our 
idiom would here require an adversative particle, hut /, the use 
of which is much less frequent in Hebrew. See above, on Ps. 
ii. 6. The insisT;nilicance and meanness of mankind in general 
are elsewhere denoted by the figure of a worm. (Job xxv. 6.) 


But even in comparison with these, the sufferer is a worm, i. e. 
an object of contemptuous pity, because apparently forsaken of 
God, and reduced to a desperate extremity. (Compare Isai. xli. 
14. and 1 Sam. xxiv. 15.) A. reproach of 77ia?iki?id, despised by 
them, and disgraceful to them. — The people, not a single per- 
son or a few, but the community at large. 

8 (7.) All seeing me mock at tne ; they pout ivith the lip ; 
they shake the head. This is an amplification of the last clause 
of the verse preceding. The verb in the second member of the 
sentence is of doubtful meaning. It may either mean to stretch 
the mouth, or to part the lips with a derisive grin. (See Ps. 
XXXV. 21. Job xvi. 10.) The shaking of the head may be 
either a vague gesture of contempt, or the usual expression of 
negation, by a lateral or horizontal motion, equivalent to saying 
' No, no I' i. e. there is no hope for him. Either of these ex- 
planations is more probable than that which applies the words 
to a vertical movement of the head or nodding, in token of as- 
sent, and acquiescence in the sufferings of the sufferer, as just 
and right. The peculiar gesture here described is expressly at- 
tributed by the evangelists to the spectators of our Saviour's cruci- 
fixion. (Matth. xxvii. 39. Mark xv. 29.) It is one of those minor 
coincidences, which, although they do not constitute the main 
subject of the prophecy, draw attention to it, and help us to 
identify it, 

9 (8.) Trust in Jehovah ! He will deliver him, he ivill save 
him, for he delights in him. The literal meaning of the first 
clause is : roll to (or on) Jehovah, which would be unintel- 
ligible but for the parallel expressions in Ps. xxxvii. 5, roll thy 
way upon Jehovah, and in Prov. xvi. 3, roll thy work upon 
Jehovah, where the idea is evidently that of a burden cast upon 
another by one who is unable to sustain it himself. This bur- 
den, in the first case, is liis ^cay, i. o. his course of life, his 


fortune, his destiny, and in the other case, his work i. e. his 
business, his affairs, his interest. In evident allusion to these 
places, the Apostle Peter says, casting all your care iijDoii Jdm, 
for he careth for you. (1 Pet. v. 7.) By these three parallels 
light is thrown on the elliptical expression now before us, roll, 
i. e. thy burden or thy care, upon Jehovah. — A further diffi- 
culty is occasioned by the form of the original, which, ac- 
cording to usage, must be either the infinitive construct or the 
second person of the imperative. But as these seem out of 
place in such a context, some arbitrarily explain it as an abso- 
lute infinitive, or a third person imperative, or change the form 
to that of a preterite. This last is the construction in the Sep- 
tuagint version, retained in the New Testament (Matth. xxvii. 
43,) and really included in the Hebrew, but by no means an ex- 
act representation of its form. Perhaps the best solution of the 
syntax is to make this clause a quotation or derisive repetition 
of the sufferer's own words, as if they had said: ' this is he 
who was so fond of repeating the precept. Trust in Jehovah ! 
Let him now try its virtue in his own case. He, in whom he 
has trusted and exhorted others to trust also, will no doubt de- 
liver him.' The next two verbs are ironical futures, not im- 
peratives, and should be so translated. — The last words of the 
verse (is f£n) are always applied elsewhere to God's com- 
'placency in man, and not to man's reciprocal delight in God. 
The Septuagint version, retained in the New Testament, if he 
will (have) him, or if he ivill {cleliver) hivi, although not in- 
correct, is much inferior in strength to the original. — By appro- 
priating these words, the spectators of our Lord's sufferings 
identified themselves with the wicked persecutors, by whom 
they are here supposed to be originally uttered. 

10 (9.) For thou didst draiv me from the womb, making 
tne trust upon the breasts of my mother. The argument from 
past time is here pushed still further. God had not only shown 


himself to be the God of the sufferer's forefathers, but of the 
sufferer himself in early life. The fo?- connects this verse with 
the last clause of the one preceding. What his enemies ironically 
said was seriously true. God had indeed delighted in him once, 
for it was he that brought him into life, and through the perils 
of infancy. Thou didst draw me, literally, thou (art or ivast) 
ony breaking forth, i. e. the cause of it, as God is said to be the 
light, joy, strength of the believer, i. e. the source or the dis- 
penser of these blessings. — Made me trust, does not refer to 
the literal exercise of confidence in God, which could not be 
asserted of a suckling, but means gave me cause to trust or feel 
secure, in other words, secured me, kept me safe. The orio-inal 
construction is, making me trust, but the Hebrew infinitive 
and participle used in these two clauses maybe here represented 
by the past tense of the English verb. — As applied to the whole 
church or chosen people, this verse may be considered as de- 
scriptive of God's dealings with them at the exodus from Egypt, 
which is elsewhere metaphorically represented as a birth. The 
direct and obvious reference, however, is to individual birth and 

11 (10.) Upon thee ivas I cast from the toomh ; from the 
bowels of my mother, my God {art) thou. Into thy arms I 
was at first received, as into those of an affectionate parent. 
See Ruth iv. 16, and compare the opposite use of the same 
figure in Ezek. xvi. 5. — In the last clause we are brought back 
to the point from which we set out, the sufferer having, in the 
mean time, as it were, established his right to say, my God, my 
God, ivhy hast thou forsaken me? 

12 (11.) ^e oiot far from me, for distress is near, for there 
is no helper. Having shown that he Avas justified in expecting 
that God would not forsake him in extremity, he now shows 
that the extremity exists. The first clause constitutes the link 

182 PSALM XXI I . 

of connexion between the first and second subdivisions of the 
psalm. ' Since then thou art my God, and as sucli must be 
near in my distress, oh be not far from me now, for my dis- 
tress is near, and there is no one else to help me,' — Near is not 
put in opposition to proximity or actual contact, but to distance. 
The particular form of expression was suggested by the prayer 
in the first clause. It was no time for God to be afar off, when 
trouble was so near, so close upon the sufferer. — Tiie second 
for may be subordinated to the first, and introduce a reason for 
declaring that distress was near. But it is much more natural 
to make the two correlative, and understand the second as sug- 
gesting an additional reason for the prayer, be not far from me. 

13 (12.) Many bulls have compassed me, strong bulls of 
Baslian have sui'rounded me. He now proceeds to amplify 
the last clause of the foregoing verse, by showing that trouble 
was indeed at hand. The strength and fierceness of his perse- 
cutors are expressed by comparing them to cattle fed in the 
rich and solitary pastures of Bashan, where the absence of men 
would of course increase their wildness. Corresponding to 
the noun in the first clause is an epithet frequently applied to 
it in Hebrew. 

14 (13.) They have opened upon me their tnouth, a lion 
tearing and roaring. The tropical nature of the language is 
evinced by the entire change of figure in this verse. The same 
persons who before were bulls of Bashan now appear as a 
ravening and roaring lion. There is no need of supplying a 
particle of comparison, the absence of which, in both these 
verses, by substituting metaphor for simile, adds greatly to the 
life of the description. 

1-3 (14.) Like water I am poured out, arid all my bones are 
parted ; my heart has becorne like wax, melted in the midst of 


irnj hoioels. Similar terms are used in Josh. vii. 5. Lam. ii. 19, 
\o describe dismay and fear; but in tlie case before us they 
seem rather descriptive of extreme wealcness. See Ps. Iviii. 
8 (7). 2 Sam. xiv. 14, and compare the symboUcal action in 
1 Sam. vii. 6. Tlie comparison with water is appUed to moral 
weakness also, in Gen. xUx. 4. The parting of the bones may 
either denote dislocation or extreme emaciation making the 
bones prominent. In either case the essential idea is still that 
of desperate exhaustion and debility. 

16 (15.) Dried like the potsherd (is) my strength, and my 
tongue fastened to tny jaws, and to the dust of death thou 
wilt reduce me. The description of debility is still continued. 
He is as destitute of vigour as a broken piece of earthenware is 
of sap or moisture. — Fastened, literally, made to cleave or stick, 
through dryness. — The dust of death, i. e. the grave, the place 
of burial, or more generally, the debased, humiliated state of 
the dead. — Thou ivilt place me in it, or reduce me to it. The 
translation of this future as a preterite is not only ungrammatical 
but hurtful to the sense, as the idea evidently is, that this is some- 
thing not experienced already, but the end to which his suffer- 
ino-s are tendins;. The direct address to God recoo-nises him as 
the sovereign disposer, and men only as his instruments. 

17. (16.) For dogs have surrounded me, a crowd of evil- 
doers have beset me, piercing my hands and my feet. He now 
resumes the description of his persecutors under figures bor- 
rowed from the animal kingdom. The comparison with dogs 
is much less forcible to us than to an oriental reader, because dogs 
in the east are less domesticated, more gregarious, wilder, and 
objects not of affection but abhorrence, as peculiarly unclean. In 
the next clause the figurative dress is thrown aside, and the dogs 
described as a7i assembly of malefactors. The first noun seems 
intended to suggest the idea of a whole community or organized 


body as engaged in the persecution. See above, on people in v. 
7 (6.) This makes the passage specially appropriate to the suffer- 
ings of our Saviour, at the hands both of the mob and of the gov- 
ernment. The Hebrew word is one of those applied in the Old 
Testament to the whole congregation of Israel. (See above, on 
Ps. i. 5, and compare Ex. xii. 3. xvi. 1, 2, 9. Num. xxvii. 17. 
Lev. iv. 15.) The last clause, as above translated, contains a 
striking reference to our Saviour's crucifixion, which some have 
striven to expunge, by denying that the ancients nailed the feet 
as well as the hands to the cross. But although there is a 
singular absence of explicit declaration on the subject, both in 
the classical and sacred writers, the old opinion that the feet 
were pierced may be considered as completely verified by mo- 
dern investigation and discussion. So far, therefore, as the 
question of usage is concerned, we can have no difficulty in 
referring this clause to our Saviour's crucifixion, and regarding 
it as one of those remarkable coincidences, some of which have 
been already noticed, all designed and actually tending to 
identify our Lord as the most prominent subject of the prophecy. 
It is very remarkable, however, that no citation or application 
of the clause occurs in any of the gospels. It is also worthy of 
remark that the clause, thus explained, although highly appro- 
priate to one part of our Saviour's passion, is, unlike the rest of 
the description, hardly applicable, even in a figurative sense, to 
the case of any other sufferer. Even supposing the essential 
idea to be merely that of wounds inflicted on the body, it seems 
strange that it should be expressed in the specific and unusual 
form of piercing the hands and the feet. On further inspection 
it appears that, in order to obtain this meaning, we must either 
change the text (':iij!t3 or ^^{*3 for "i^^^^x or assume a plural 

\ -• IT •• -:iT • -:iT/ 

form so rare that some grammarians deny its existence alto- 
gether ('I'liiS for Q'^nnS), and an equally rare form of the parti- 
ciple (tD'initS for Q'^'lS), and a meaning of the verb itself which 
no where else occurs, but must be borrowed from a coo-nate 


root /^:i3 for ri'nls) ; an accumulation of grammatical and lexi- 
cographical anomalies, which cannot be assumed without the 
strongest exegetical necessity, and this can exist only if the 
words admit of no other explanation more in accordance with 
analogy and usage. Now the very same form in Isai. xxxviii. 
13. is unquestionably used to mean like the lion, and a slight 
modification of the same, in Num. xxiv. 9. Ezek. xxii. 25, like 
a lion. This idea would be here the more appropriate be- 
cause the psalm abounds in such allusions, and because the 
lion is expressly mentioned both before and afterwards. See 
above, v. 14 (13), and below, v. 22 (21.) The sense would then 
be : ' they surround my hands and my feet, as they would a 
lion,' or, * as a lion would,' i. e. with the strength and fierceness 
of a lion. The hands and feet may be mentioned as the parts 
used in defence and flight. That the mention of these parts, 
after all, in connexion with the lion is not altogether natural, 
cannot fairly be denied, and this objection should have all the 
weight to which it is entitled. But whether it can outweigh 
the grammatical difficulties that attend the other construction, 
is a serious question, which ought not to be embarrassed by any 
supposed conflict with New Testament authority, since no 
citation of the clause occurs there. It may even be possible to 
reconcile the two interpretations by supplying a verb and giv- 
ing '^'1543 its usual meaning. ' Like the lion (they have wound- 
ed) my hands and my feet.' The point of comparison would 
then be the infliction of sharp wounds in those parts of the 
body, an idea common to the habits of the lion and to the usages 
of crucifixion. 

18(17.) I tell all my hones (ivhile) they look and stai'e upon 
me. The pronoun of the last clause is expressed in Hebrew, 
which removes the ambiguity of the construction, by showing 
that the subject of the following verbs is not the hones of the pre- 
ceding clause, but something more remote, namely, the sufferer's 


enemies and persecutors. The ambiguity of the EngUsh word 
tell corresponds to that of the Hebrew f'nB55*), which means 
both to number and to relate, to count and to recount. Some 
suppose, not improbably, that this verse presents the sufferer as 
stripped by his enemies, and looking Avith grief and wonder at 
his own emaciation, while they gaze at it with delight, as the 
Hebrew phrase implies. See below, on Ps. xxvii. 13. 

19 (18.) They {are about to) divide my garments for them- 
selves, a7id on Quy clothing they (are ready to) cast lots. This 
is the last stroke necessary to complete the picture. Having 
stripped him, nothing more is left but to appropriate his gar- 
ments, whether from cupidity or in derision. The futures inti- 
mate that things can go no further without actual loss of life, 
and that the case is therefore an extreme one. The providen- 
tial realization of this ideal scene in our Lord's history is ex- 
pressly mentioned by all the four evangelists, (Matth. xxvii. 35. 
Mark xv. 24. Luke xxiii. 34. John xix. 23, 24.) This makes 
their silence as to v. 17 (16) the more remarkable. 

20 (19.) And thou, Jehovah, be not far ; ony strength ! tomy 
assistance hasten. The pronoun in the first clause is emphatic. 
' Such is the conduct of my enemies ; but as for thee, oh Lord, 
be not far from me.' The word translated 5^re^^'^A is used in 
this place only, and apparently in reference to the name of God 
with which the psalm begins ("i^D!*) and to the word hind 
{t\^y$i\ in the title, both which are akin to it in etymology. 

21 (20.) Free from the sivorcl ony life (or snid), from the 
hand of the dog my lonely one (or only o?te.) The sword is a 
general expression for life-destroying agents. See 2 Sam. xi. 
24, 25, where it is applied to archery. — My life, my soul, i. e. 
myself considered as a living person. — The apparent solecism, 
hand of the dog, shows that both terms are figurative or as 


one has quaintly expressed it, that the dog meant is a dog with 
hands. See above, on v. 17 (16), where the phiral clogs is co- 
extensive in its meaning with the ideal or collective singular in 
this place. — My 07ily {life), the only one I have to lose, is a 
good sense in itself, both here and in Ps. xxxv. 17 ; but the 
analogy of Ps. xxv. 16 and Ixviii. 7 (6) recommends the sense of 
solitary, lonely, which is admissible in all the places. 

22 (21.) Save me from the mouth of the lion, and from the 
horns of the unicorns thou hast heard (or answered) me. The 
petition in the first clause is directly followed by an expression 
of confident assurance that his prayer will be answered, or 
rather that it is already heard, corresponding to the figurative 
expression in v. 3 (2), thou loilt not hear (or answer), where 
the same Hebrew verb is used. — From the horns denotes of 
course the place from which the prayer proceeded, not the an- 
swer. The figure is a strong one for the midst of danger. The 
name of any wild horned animal would be appropriate. The 
precise sense of the Hebrew word (fi^?3'n) is therefore com- 
paratively unimportant. The common version unicorns rests on 
the authority of the Septuagint ; but although the unicorn, long 
regarded as a fabulous animal, has now been proved to be a 
real one, we have no reason to believe that it was ever known 
in Palestine, or to dissent from the common judgment of the 
learned, that the Hebrew word denotes the wild bull or a species 
of the antelope, most probably the former. 

23 (22.) I ivill declare thy name to fuy brethren, in the 
midst of the assembly I toill praise thee. His certainty of au- 
dience and acceptance is further expressed by declaring his in- 
tention to give thanks for it. — To declare God's name, in Scrip- 
ture usage, is to celebrate the acts by which he has manifested 
his perfections. See above, on Ps. v. 12 (11.) — TJie assembly 
or congregation of Israel, to which the Hebrew word is con- 


stantly applied. (Lev. xvi. 17. Deut. xxxi. 30), whether pres- 
ent in person or by their representatives (2 Chr. xx. 13 — 15.) 
The same sense of the word occurs below, Ps. xxxv. 18. 
xl. 10 (9.) The idea here is that his praise shall not be merely 
private or domestic but public. 

24(23.) Fearers of Jehovah, praise him! All the seed of 
Jacob, glorify him I And he afraid of him, all the seed of 
Israel ! These words are uttered, as it were, in the midst of 
the ideal congregation mentioned in the verse preceding. That 
the call, though formally addressed to the whole race, was re- 
ally intended for the spiritual Israel, excluding wicked Israelites 
and including the righteous of whatever name or nation, is 
indicated by the words of the first clause, while the last shows 
that the praise required is not familiar, but in the highest de- 
gree reverential. 

25 {24.) For he has not despised and ?iot abhorred the suf- 
fering of the sufferer, and has not hid his face fromhim, and, 
in his crying to Jiim, heard. This is the ground on which 
the fearers of the Lord are called upon to praise him, namely, 
the faithful execution of his promise to the sufferer in this case, 
and the pledge thereby afforded of like faithfulness in every 

26 (25.) From thee {shall be) my praise in {the) great con- 
gregation ; my voivs I tvill pay before his fearers, those who 
fear him. From thee is something more than of thee. It does 
not merely indicate the theme or subject, but the source or 
cause of his thanksgiving, ' It is thou who givest me occasion 
thus to praise thee.' In the last clause there seems to be a 
reference to the sacrificial feasts connected with the fulfilment 
of vows made in distress or danger. (See Deut. xii. 18, xvi. 
11.) These were occasions of festivity, not only to the offerer 



and his nearest friends, but to a wide circle of invited guests, 
which makes the metaphor pecuUarly appropriate in this place. 
The essential idea is the same as in v, 23 (22.) — fearers, 
worshippers, the true Israel, as distinguished from the mere 
natural descendants of the patriarch. 

27 (26.) (Then) shall eat (thereof) the humble and be satis- 
fied ; (then) shall praise Jehovah those ivho seek hirti. May 
your heart live forever f The adverb then is here supplied in 
the translation, in order to retain the Hebrew order of the 
sentence. The word thereof is introduced to remove all am- 
biguity of syntax, and to connect the act of eating with the 
sacrificial feast of the foreooino" verse. — To seek God, in the 
dialect of Scripture, is to seek to know him, and also to seek 
his favour, not only by specific acts of prayer, but by the 
whole course of the life. See above, on Ps. xiv. 2. — The con- 
cluding wish, your heart live forever, comprehends hn assur- 
ance that it shall live. The heart is said to die, in cases of 
extreme grief and distress. See 1 Sam. xxv. 37, and compare 
Ps. cix. 22. The objects of address are those who seek and 
praise God. The sudden change of person is analogous to that 
in V. 2G (25), which begins/>-c>w thee, and ends with fearijig 
him. That this is not an inadvertent irregularity, appears 
from its recurrence in the next verse. — The humble and the 
seekers of Jehovah are parallel descriptions of the same class, 
namely, true believers, those who are elsewhere called the 

28 (27.) Remember and return to Jehovah shall all the ends 
of the earth, and ivorship before thee all the kindreds of the 
nations. As the joyful effects of this deliverance were not to 
be restricted to himself or his domestic circle, but extended to 
the great congregation of God's people, so too we now read 
that they shall not be confined to any one race, but made to em- 


brace all, TJie ends of the earth, here put for the remotest 
nations. See above, on Ps. ii. 8. These are named as the least 
likely to be comprehended in the promise, but of course with- 
out excluding those less distant. As if he had said, the ends 
of the earth and all that is between them. In the other clause, 
accordingly, we find as a parallel expression, not the furthest 
but all nations. They shall remember this deliverance, this 
exhibition of God's faithfulness and might, and shall turn unto 
Jehovah, be converted to his worship and his service. Some 
suppose an allusion to the great original apostacy, or to the 
temporary casting off of the Gentiles : they shall remember 
their original condition, and return unto the Lord, fro.n whom 
they have revolted. But this, though true and really implied, 
is not the strict sense of the words, which would then have no 
perceptible connexion with the general subject of the psalm, 
and the immediate occasion of the praise which it contains. — 
Worship, VitevallY prostrate themselves, the accustomed orien- 
tal indication both of civil and religious worship. — The form of 
expression in the last clause is evidently borrowed from the 
patriarchal promise. Compare Gen. xii. 3. xxviii. 14. 

29 (28.) For unto Jehovah is the kingdom, and {Jie is) gov- 
ernor among the 7iations. This will not be a gratuitous ex- 
tension to the Gentiles of what properly belongs to Israel alone, 
but a restoration of God's mercies, after ages of restriction, to 
their original and proper scope. For Jehovah is not the king 
of Israel only, but of all mankind. See Rom. iii. 29. — The 
kingdom, i. e. general ecumenical dominion. — Governor, proper- 
ly a participle, ruling, the use of which may be intended to 
suggest that as he has always been their governor dejure, so 
now he begins to govern them de facto, not with a providential 
sway, which is invariable as well as universal, but with a spiri- 
tual sway, which is hereafter to be coextensive with the earth 
itself. Compare the similar expressions, Obad, 21. Zech. 


xiv. 9, and the still closer parallels, Ps. xcvi. 10. xcvii. 1. 
xcix. 1. 

30 (29.) They have eaten and worshipped — all the fat {ones) 
of the earth— before him shall bend all going dow7i {to) the 
dust, and {he tvho) his oivn soul did not save alive. The 
distinction of ranks shall be as little regarded at this feast as 
that of nations. — Eateit and worshipped, partaken of the sacri- 
ficial feast in honour of this great salvation. Fat, a common 
oriental hgnre for the prosperous and especially the rich. These 
are particularly mentioned to exhibit a peculiar feature of the 
feast in question, which was not, like the sacrificial feasts of the 
Mosaic law, designed expressly for the poor, though these are 
not excluded, as appears from the parallel clause. — Going down 
to the dust, i. e. the dust of death, as in v. 16 (15) above. Com- 
pare the analogous expressions used in Ps. xxviii, 1. 4, 10. (3, 
9,) Ixxxviii. 5 (4.) cxv. 17. cxhii. 7. The idea is, that this en- 
joyment shall be common to the rich and those who are ready 
to perish, or as it is expressed in the last clause, he who cannot 
hzep his soul (or himself) alive, a strong expression for the ex- 
treme of destitution. He who before, or a little while ago, no 
longer kept himself alive but was just about to perish, is now 
seen kneeling at the sacrificial feast in honour of this great sal- 

31 (30.) Fosteritij shall serve him; it shall be related of the 
Lord to the (next) geyieration. The last restriction to be done 
away is that of time. The effects of this salvation shall no more 
be confined to the present generation than to the higher classes of 
society or the natural descendants of the patriarchs. — A seed, i e. 
posterity, the seed of those who witness or first hear of the event. 
— Shall serve him, i. e. worship and obey Jehovah, the same 
thing that is expressed by eating and bowing down in v. 30 (29) 
above. The means of this conversion shall be the perpetuated 


knowledire of what God has done. — Generation is used abso- 
lutely, as in Ps. Ixxi. 18, where it means not this generation 
but the nexl. The complete phrase ('','nnjt 'nil) occurs below, 
Ps. xlviii. 14 (13). Ixxviii. 4. The Lord, The original is not 
JeJiovah but Adhonai, the divine name properly denoting sove- 
reignty. See above, on Ps. ii. 4. xxi. 2. The exposition above 
given of the verse before us is equally agreeable to usage, and 
much better suited to the context, than the one which makes 
it mean that a seed shall be reckoned by the Lord (as belonging) 
to the ge7ieration, i. e. to the generation of his people. (See 
below, on Ps. xxiv. 6.) It is highly improbable that the passive 
verb (iBp'i) has a meaning wholly different from that of the 
corresponding active form (ii'^5p5^) in v. 23 (22) above. 

32 (31.) They shall come and shall declare his righteous- 
ness to a people born, that he hath done (it). The subjects of the 
first verbs are the seed and generation of the preceding verse. 
They shall come into existence, shall appear upon the scene. But 
even they shall not monopolize the knowledge thus imparted, but 
communicate it to a people now unborn, but then born, i. e. to 
their own successors. The construction of the participle as a 
future is unnecessary, although not unauthorized by usage. See 
above, on Ps. xviii. 4 (3.) Compare with this verse the beau- 
tiful figures of Ps. xix. 3 (2.) — His righteousness, including the 
faithful execution of his gracious promise. The last clause 
gives the substance of the declaration to be made, to wit, that he 
has done what forms the subject of the whole psalm. A similar 
ellipsis of the object, where the context readily supplies it, may 
be found above in vs. 27, 28, 30 (26, 27, 29.) To these words 
it is supposed by some that our Lord alluded, in his dying ex- 
clamation, It is finished I (John xix. 30.) The allusion, though 
not obvious, is interesting, as it brings the beginning and the 
end of this remarkable psalm into connexion wdth each other 
and with that affecting scene, to which there are so many clear 


and pointed references in the whole composition ; thus com- 
pleting, as it were, the proof, already strong enough, that Christ 
is the great subject of the psalm, as being the great type and 
representative of that whole class, to whom it ostensibly relates, 
but of whom some parts, and especially the last five verses, are 
true only in a modified and lower sense. 


An exquisite description of God's care over his people under 
the figure of a shepherd and his fiock, no doubt suggested by 
the writer's recollections of his own pastoral experience, al- 
though probably composed at a much later period of his life. 
The idea of the whole psalm is contained in v. 1, carried out 
and amplified in vs. 2 — 5, and again summed up, without con- 
tinuing the metaphor, in v. 6. The psalm is so constructed as 
at the same time to express the feelings of the Psalmist, and to 
serve as a vehicle for those of every individual believer and of 
the whole body of God's people for whose use it was intended. 

1. A Psalm of David. Jehovah (is) my shepherd, I shall 
not want. This is the general theme or idea of the whole 
psalm, that the believer's relation to Jehovah carries with it 
necessarily the full supply of all his wants. Spiritual gifts 
are neither excluded nor exclusively intended. No nice dis- 
tinction betAveen these and temporal advantages is here made 
for us, and none need be made by us. The comparison 
of God's care to that of a shepherd is first used by Jacob, 
(Gen. xlviii. 15. xlix. 24), then by Moses (Deut. xxxii. 6 — 12), 
compared with Ps. Ixxviii. 52,)both cf whom, like David, had 


themselves lived a pastoral life. From these the figure is 
frequently borrowed by the later writers of the Old Testa- 
ment. Seeltjai. xl. 11. Ezek. xxxiv. 12. Mic. vii. 14. Ps. Ixxx. 
2(1.) xcv. 7. This endearing relation of Jehovah to his people 
was exercised under the old dispensation by the agency of hu- 
man or angelic messengers, but under the new by Christ, of 
whom these were only types and representatives, (Zech. xiii. 
7), and to whom the figure is expressly applied by himself, 
(John X. 11) and his apostles (1 Pet. ii. 25. v. 4. Heb. xiii. 20.) 
From him again, on the principle of delegated representation, is 
derived the pastoral character of Christian ministers. (Eph, iv. 
11.) The future form, I shall not luant, includes the present, 
I do not leant, with an additional assurance that the provision 
will be still continued. The form of expression is derived from 
Deut. ii. 7. viii. 9, and recurs below, Ps. xxxiv. 11 (10.) 

2. In pastures of verdure he ivill make me lie down ; by 
waters of rest (or repose) he ivill lead nie. Here begins the 
amplification of the general proposition in the foregoing verse. 
The first specification is, that he shall not want healthful and 
delightful rest. This is expressed by figures borrowed from 
the exquisite enjoyment of a flock in verdant and well-Avatered 
pastures. The allusion, in the first clause, is not to the supply 
of food, which is mentioned afterwards in v. o, but to the refresh- 
ing rest and coolness of green meadows. The first noun pro- 
perly means divellings, but is applied specifically to the dwellings 
of flocks, i. e. their pasture-grounds. See below, Ps. Ixv. 13 
(12), and compare Amos i. 2, Jer. ix. 9 (10.) xxv. 37. The next 
word in Hebrew means the fresh tender grass, here referred to, 
not as food, but in allusion to its cooling efiect upon the eye 
and the skin. This explanation is confirmed by the fact, that 
the act expressed by the verb is not that of eating but of lying- 
down. The verb itself is one which specially denotes the 
lying down of animals (Gen. xxix 2, Num. xxii. 27. Isai. xi. 


6), but is sometimes transferred to the liuman subject (Isai. xiv. 
30, Job xi. 19) or to other objects (Gen. xHx. 25, Deut. 29, 19.) 
By icatcrs, not simply to them, but along them, which is one 
of the senses of the Hebrew preposition, and affords a much 
more pleasing image. By ivaters of rest we are not to under- 
stand still or quiet waters, a sense which the Hebrew word 
has nowhere else, and which would here suggest the idea of 
stagnation, or at least that of silence, which is far less agreeable 
than that of an audible flow. The idea really conveyed is 
that of waters, by or at which rest may be enjoyed. The repose 
is not that of the w^aters themselves, but of the flocks reclinino- 
near them. The last verb sometimes means to nourish, or more 
generally to provide for (Gen. xlvii. 17, 2 Chron. xxxii. 22), and 
the Septuagint version so explains it here. The idea would 
then be that the shepherd takes care of his flock, or tends it, by 
the waters of repose. But a more specific act is described, and 
therefore a more vivid image presented, by retaining the com- 
mon version, leadeth, which is fully sustained by the use of the 
same Hebrew verb in Ex. xv. 13, 2 Chron. xxviii. 15. The 
form, however, should be future, as in the preceding verse. 

3. My sold he ivill restore ; he ivill lead me in paths of 
right (or rectitude) for his name's sake. To restore the 
soul, here as in Ps. xix. 8 (7), is to vivify or quicken the 
exhausted spirit. Paths of right may either mean right paths, 
as opposed to those which are devious and dangerous, or paths 
of righteousness, not man's but God's, not ways of upright con- 
duct on the Psalmist's part, but ways of faithfulness on God's 
part. The righteousness of God, so often appealed to by the 
ancient saints, includes his covenanted mercy, the exercise of 
which, according to his promise, was ensured by his essential 
rectitude. For his name's sake, not merely ybr his own sake, 
nor for his oivn glory, but for the sake of what he has already 
done, the previous display of his perfections, which would be 


dishonoured by a failure to fulfill his promises. See above, on 
Ps. xxii. 23 (22.) 

4. Also when I walk into (or through) the valley of death- 
shade, I ivill not fear evil, for thoic {wilt be) with me ; thy rod 
and thy staf, they will cotnfort me. He is sure, not only of re- 
pose, restoration, and guidance, but of protection. The also 
shows that something nQ,v7 is to be added ; not only this which 
I have said, but more. The common version {yea, though I 
walk) is too indefinite and hypothetical. The situation is not 
spoken of as possible, but certain, though still future. — Death- 
shade is a strong poetical expression for the profoundest dark- 
ness. See below, Ps. xliv. 20 (19.) The common version, 
shadow of death, conveys more than the original, and fails to 
reproduce its compound form. The effect is heightened by the 
mention of a valley, as a deep place, often overhung with woods, 
and naturally darker than a plain or mountain. There may be 
some allusion to the dread of darkness on the part of sheep and 
other timid animals. — The rod and the staff are mentioned, not 
as weapons of defence, but as badges of the shepherd and as 
tokens of his presence. 

5. Thou wilt spread before tne a table in the presence of my 
adversaries ; thou hast anointed with oil my head ; my cup 
(is) overfowing. To the negative benefits before enumerated 
he now adds the positive advantage of abundant sustenance. 
Instead of retaining the image of a sheep and its pasture, the 
Psalmist substitutes that of a table furnished for a human o:uest. 
The connexion, however, is so close and the metaphors so near 
akin, that the general impression remains undisturbed. — In the 
presence of my enemies implies in spite of them; they are 
forced to witness my enjoyment without being able to disturb 
it. — Anointed, hteiaUy fattened, in allusion to the richness and 
abundance of the unction. This was a familiar part of an 



ancient festal entertainment, and is therefore frequently em- 
ployed in Scripture as a symbol of joy. See below, on Ps. xlv. 
8 (7.) — My cup, my beverage, which, with food, makes up the 
supply of necessary nutriment, but with the additional suggestion 
of exhilaration. See above, on Ps. xvi. 5. — Overflowing, liter- 
ally overfloiv, or abundant drink. The change of tense is sig- 
nificant and expressive. What he had just before confidently 
foreseen, he now describes as actually realized. 

6. Only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of 
m^y life, and I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah to length 
of days. The specifications of the four preceding verses are 
followed by another summary expression of the general idea 
propounded in the first verse, but with a change of form. 
The Hebrew particle at the beginning has its usual and proper 
sense of only or exclusively. The favour which he shall ex- 
perience is so great that he regards it as unmixed, or the excep- 
tions as unworthy of consideration. — The word translated good- 
ness may be understood to mean good fortune, good experienced, 
as a cognate form does in Ps. xvi. 2 ; but the other version 
agrees better with the parallel expression, m,ercy. The verb to 
follow or pursue seems to be chosen in allusion to the persecu- 
tion of his enemies, and as a strong expression for an unbroken 
series or succession of divine benefactions. Dwellins; in the 
house of Jehovah does not mean frequenting his sanctuary, but 
being a member of his household and an inmate of his family, 
enjoying his protection, holding communion with him, and sub- 
sisting on his bounty. See above, on Ps. xv. 1. 



This psalm consists of two distinct and, it may seem at first 
sight, unconnected parts. The first praises God as the nniversal 
sovereign by right of creation, vs. 1, 2, and describes the moral 
requisites to intimate communion with him, vs. 3 — 6. The 
second represents him, in a striking figurative form, as entering 
some place provided for his residence, vs. 7 — 10. The idea 
common to both parts is the supremacy of God, both in holiness 
and majesty. There is no historical occasion to ^vhich such a 
composition would seem more appropriate than the removal of 
the ark to Mount Zion by David, as described in 2 Sam. vi and 
1 Chron. xv. And as the first part of this psalm carries out the 
idea of dwelling in (rod's house, expressed at the close of Ps. 
xxiii, it is not an improbable conjecture, though by no means a 
necessary supposition, that the two psalms were designed to 
form a pair and to be sung upon the same occasion ; the first, 
it may be, as the ark left its former resting-place, the second as 
it drew near to its new one. The resemblance of vs. 3 — 6 to 
Ps. XV make it not improbable that that psalm also was com- 
posed for use on a similar if not the same occasion. The sup- 
position of alternate choirs in the case before us appears to be 
a useless and gratuitous refinement. The sanctuary of the old 
economy, both in its permanent and temporary forms, was in- 
tended to symbolize the doctrine of God's special presence and 
residence among his people ; and as this was realized in the 


advent of Christ, the Psalm before us has a permanent interest 
and use, and in a certain sense may be described as Messianic. 

1. To David, i. e. belonging to him as its author. See 
above, on Ps. iii. 1. iv. 1. v. 1. A Psabn. To Jehovah (be- 
longs) the earth and its fulness, the world and {those) divelling 
in it. Its fulness, that which fills it, its contents. The word 
translated world is a poetical equivalent to earth, denoting 
specially, according to its etymology, the productive portion of 
the earth, and thus corresponding indirectly to the Greek 
oUov/Liiyrj or inhabited earth. This assertion of Jehovah's sov- 
reign propriety is intended to show, that he was not the God 
of Israel only, but of the whole world, and thereby entitled to 
be served with reverence and purity, an idea more distinctly 
brought out afterwards. 

2. For He above the seas has settled it, and above the streamis 
has fixed it. The pronoun is emphatic ; He and no one else. 
See below, Ps. c. 3. He has made the earth what it is, and is 
therefore the sovereign, both of it and its inhabitants. The 
idea is not that of subterraneous waters bearing up the land, 
but simply that of the habitable earth, raised above the surface 
of the waters which surround it. The use of the Hebrew 
preposition (bs)) is the same as in Ps. i. 3. There is obvious 
allusion to the rescue of the dry land from the universal preva- 
lence of water, as described in the Mosaic cosmogony. Gen. i. 
9, 10. The sense of the two verses, taken in connexion, is that 
since Jehovah is the God who collected the waters and caused 
the dry land to appear, he is the rightful sovereign of the hab- 
itable earth and of those whom it sustains. 

3. Wlw shall go u'p into the mountain of Jehovah, and %'ho 
shall stand in his holy place? Since he is thus, by right of 
creation, the universal sovereii^n, which of his creatures shall 



enjoy the liappim >s and honour of apprarini^ in his presence ? 
T]\r Irillof the Lord, or )noitntain (tf Jehovah, is Mount Zion, 
heneeforth to be hallowed as his eartidy dwellin<ri>Iarf. 'I'he 
verb in the last clause does not simply mean to stand, but to 
.stfuid fast, to maintain one's oround. See above, on Ps. i. 5. 
li may therefore be implied, that some who i;ai)i a bodily ac- 
cess to the consecrated place sliall not be sufi'ered to remain 
there. It is indeed implied in the whole interrogation that mere 
bodily presence on Mo\mt Zion might be wholly nnconnected 
with spiritual access to tlu> holy place. 

4. The clean of hands and pure of heart, ivho has not 
lifted np his sotd to vanitij, and has not sworn to fraud (or 
fdsf'hood.) 'I'liis is the answer to the forejroing question, given 
by the Psalmist him>-t'ir. ThiTf is no more need of supposing 
two speakers than in ihe rlieii)rie;il mierrogations which are so 
abundant in Demosthenes ami other aninuited writers. All 
moral purity is here referred to the hands, the tongue, and the 
heart, as the organs of exiernal action, speech, and feeling. 
'Phe same dislrihulion may be niadi* in the eonmiandments of 
thc> decnlo'»"ue. The second clause is very obscure. 'I'lie form 
of expression is directly borrow(Hl from ili<; third commandment 
(I^x. XX. 7), wliere the connnon version {takci)i vain) is neiiher 
intelli"ible m itself n*M- an exact copy of the original. The 
precise construction ['^r^''^ KirD) is toimd in these two i)laces 
only; Imt a cognate one (^h Hrj) occurs repeatedly in the 
s(! of setting the heart or the desires on something. (vSee 
Deut. xxiv. 15. Prov. xix. 18, Ps. xxv. 1. Ixxxvi. 1. (txliii. 8.) 
Tlu* only two plausible interpretations of the former jjhrase are 
thai which makes sf.'jjb :» mere poetw-al variation of KlSJ'n bi^ 

IT- I 1 - V 

and that which gives v^^dib fc^bi, in both places, the sense of 
airn/inu: to vanity, i. e. bringing the nainepf God_or^ the soul 
of man into connexion with a falsehood, whether this be taken 
in its strict sense, or as meaning an unlawful or unsatisfying 


object of affection. It seems more natural, however, to explain 
the case before us, not by the single one in which the combina- 
tion b &tb3 occurs, but by the many in which the same verb is 
connected with the same noun although by a different prepo- 
sition. The meaning of the clause will then be, %vho has not 
set his heart on falsehood, or on any false and sinful object. 
That false swearing is particularly mentioned in the last clause 
cannot prove that it is exclusively intended here, as parallel 
clauses very seldom say precisely the same thing. — Sworn to 
falsehood, i. e. made a false oath, or sworn for deceit, i. e. with 
a fraudulent design. 

5. He shall carry away a blessing from Jehovah, and 
righteousjiess from the God of his salvation. The first verb 
(i^r*^) seems to have been chosen with some reference to its 
use in the foregoing verse, but not so as to require us to take it 
in precisely the same sense. A blessing from Jehovah, not 
merely from man, with allusion, as some think, to David's bless- 
ing the people, 2 Sam. vi. 18. — Righteousness may either 
mean a .practical justification, an attestation of his innocence 
afforded by his experience of God's favour ; or the gift of 
righteousness itself, the highest and most precious of all gifts, 
and one which always follows upon justification. — The God of 
his salvation, i. e. God his Saviour, or his God who is a Sa- 
viour. See above, on Ps. xviii. 47 (46.) 

6. This is the generation seeJcing him ; the seekers of thy 
face (are) Jacob, i. e. the true Jacob, the true Israel. This 
refers to the description in v. G. — SeeJcing him (in the singular) 
is the reading in the text; the marginal reading is those seeking 
him, which amounts to the same thing. To seek God and to 
seek his face, i. e. his countenance or presence, are common 
phrases for the earnest endeavour to secure his favour, Ps. 
xxvii. 8. cv. 4. Hos. v. 15. 2 Sam. xxi. 1. Our language does 



not furnish equivalents to the two Hebrew verbs employed to ex- 
press this idea in the verse before us. — Tiie connexion of the last 
word with the rest of the sentence is obscure. Some make it a vo- 
cative : ' who seek thy face, oh Jacob I' i. e. who seek the counte- 
nance and friendship of God's people. Or : ' who seek thy face oh 
(God of) Jacob I a very harsh ellipsis, which could only be justi- 
fied by exegetical necessity. The best sense is yielded by the 
construction first proposed, or by another, which differs from it 
only in dispensing wltli a verb and throwing all into one sen- 
tence. ' This is the generation seeking thee, those seeking thy 
face (oh Jehovah), (the true) Israel.' The sudden apostrophe 
to God himself makes the sentence more impressive without 
making it obscure. — The distinction here made between the 
nominal and real Israel was peculiarly necessary on occasions 
which were suited to flatter the national pride of the chosen 
people, such as that of Jehovah's solemn entrance into Zion, as 
the peculiar God of Israel. To correct this abuse of their ex- 
traordinary privileges, two great doctrines are here set forth ; 
first, that their God was the God of the whole earth ; and 
secondly, that he was holy and required holiness as a term of 
admission to his presence. The idea of a true and false Israel 
reappears in the New Testament, and is propounded with pe- 
culiar distinctness and emphasis by Paul in Rom. ix. 6, 7. 

7. Lift up, oh gates, your heads, and he lifted up, ye doors 
of perp)ctuity ! And in ivill come the king of glory ! The 
procession is now commonly supposed to have arrived at the 
entrance of the citadel or walled town of Zion, the acropolis of 
Jerusalem. The gates of this acropolis are those personified in 
this fine apostrophe. They are called perpetual or everlasting 
on account of their antiquity, and not in mere anticipation of 
their subsequent duration, as in 1 Kings viii. 13. They are 
called upon to raise their heads, that he who is about to enter 
may not debase himself by stooping to pass through them. The 



connexion of the clauses is correctly given, but in a form much 
more agreeable to the English than the Hebrew idiom, by 
translating the future as a subjunctive tense, that the king of 
glory may come in. The king of glory is a phrase analogous 
to hill of holiness, strength of salvation, &c., and means 
glorious khig. 

8. Who is this, the king of glory ? Jehovah, strong and 
mighty, Jehovah, mighty in battle (or a mighty ivarrior.) 
The supposition of alternate or responsive choirs is as unneces- 
sary here as in v. 4 above. It is the case, so common in all ani- 
mated speech and composition, of a speaker asking a question 
simply for the purpose of answering it himself. As if he had 
said : 'do you ask who this king of glory is? It is the Lord,' 
&c. The common version, ivho is this king of glory 1 does 
not fully convey the force of the original, the sense of which is, 
' who is this (of whom you speak as) the king of glory ?' The 
word translated mighty, although properly an adjective, is con- 
tinually used as a noun substantive, and is the nearest equiva- 
lent in Hebrew to the classical term hero. But the simple 
majesty of David's language would be marred in a translation 
by the use of this word, and still more by that of the combina- 
tion, martial or military hero, in the other clause. The idea, 
both in this and other places, is borrowed from the Song of 
Moses, Ex. XV. 3. 

9. Lift up, oh gates, your heads, ajid lift {them) up, ye 
doors of p)erpetuity, and in ivill come the king of glory. In 
order to conclude with an emphatic repetition of the epithets in 
V. 8, it was necessary that the question in that verse should be 
repeated likewise ; and in order to this the summons in v. 7 is 
repeated here, but, as in most like cases, with a variation, 
which, though slight, relieves the repetition from entire same 
uess. The variation here consists in the exchange of the passive 


form, he lifted ^j9, for the corresponding active, lift up, sc. 
ijour heads, the object being readily suggested by the other 

10. Who is this, the king of glori/? Jehovah (God) of 
Hosts, he is the king of glory. Selah. Between the question 
here and in v. 8 the only variation is one which cannot ^vell be 
imitated in translation. For the simple Hebrew phrase (m-i;*;) 
who [is) this? we have here the fuller form (nt js^^fl ^'n), in 
which the personal pronoun is interposed between the interro- 
gative and demonstrative, so as to suggest the tw^o forms, who 
is he ? and tvho is this ? though really constituting but a single 
question, as the personal pronoun (s^^n), in Hebrew usage, often 
serves as an index of the subsiantive verb when not expressed. 
— There is a more material variation in the answer, where 
instead of the two phrases, Jehovah strong and mighty, Jeho- 
vah 7nighty in battle, the Psalmist substitutes the single but 
still more expressive title, Jehovah Zebaoth or of Hosts. In 
Exodus xii. 41, Israel is called the hosts of Jehovah; but a 
much more frequent designation is tlie host or hosts of heaven, 
sometimes applied to the heavenly bodies, especially as objects 
of idolatrous worship (Deut. iv. 19. xvii. 3. 2 Kings xvii. 16. 
Isai. xxxiv. 4. Jer. xxxiii, 22. Zeph. i. 5. Dan. viii. 10), and 
sometimes to the angels (Jos, v. 14, 15. 1 Kings xxii, 19. 
2 Chr. xviii. 18. Ps. ciii. 21. cxlviii. 2.) In both these senses 
God may be described as the God of Hosts, i. e. as the sovereign 
both of the material heavens and of their inhabitants. From 
the use oi hosts in Gen. ii. 1, some would extend it to the earth 
as well as the heavens, and explain the compound title as de- 
noting luord of the Universe, as Mohammed in the Koran speaks 
of Allah as the Lord of Worlds. But this explanation, even 
supposing it to be correct as to the single place on which it 
rests, derives no countenance from usage elsewhere. Still less 
admissible is that which makes it simply mean the God of 


Battles or the God of War, a name and an idea much less 
scriptural than heathenish. The phrase Jehovah Zebaoth does 
not occur in the Pentateuch, Joshua or Judges, from which some 
have inferred that it was afterwards introduced in opposition to 
the worship of the heavenly bodies, and of the spirits which 
were supposed to govern and inhabit them. According to the 
usage of the Hebrew language, Jehovah, as a proper name, 
cannot be construed with a genitive directly, nor is it ever so 
connected with any other noun. The anomaly can only be 
removed by making Zebaoth itself a proper name, or by supply- 
ing the word God between it and Jehovah. The first solution 
may appear to be favoured by the Gu^athd of the Septuagint, 
retained in Rom. ix. 29 and James v. 4. But the other is 
proved to be the true one by such passages as Hos. xii. 6 (5.) 
Am. iv. 13, where we have the full form, Jehovah God of Hosts, 
Compare Ps. lix. 6 (5.) Ixxx. 5 (4.) Ixxxiv. 9 (8.)— This de- 
scription of Jehovah as the God of heaven no less than of earth, 
while it sensibly strengthens the expressions of v. 8, and thus 
removes the appearance of a mere tautological reiteration, at 
the same time brings us back in the conclusion to the point 
from which we set out in v. 1, to wit, the universal sovereignty 
of God. The whole psalm is then brought to a solemn and 
sonorous close by making the answer echo the terms of the 
interrogation. He is the king of glory! These points of differ- 
ence between vs. 8 and 10 impart a beautiful variety to the 
repeated sentence, without impairing in the least the rhetorical 
or musical effect of the repetition itself, which is followed only 
by the customary indication of a pause, both in the sense and 
the performance. See above, on Ps. iii. 3 (2). 

•::0('3 PSALM XXV 


The first of the alphabetical psalms, in which the verses begin 
with the differeiit Hebrew letters in their order, an arrangement 
peculiar to those psalms, in which a single theme or idea is 
repeated under various forms, and, as it were, in a series of 
aphorisms. Now and then, in order to complete the expression 
of the thought, the series of the letters is neglected, either by 
repeating or omitting one. In this psalm for example, two 
successive verses begin with 5^, and two with 1, while t and p 
are left out. The first verse, however, does not properly belong- 
to the alphabetical series, but constitutes one sentence with the 
short verse at the end, which is added after the completion of 
the alphabet. The theme which runs through this psalm is 
deliverance from enemies, occasionally blended with a prayer 
for the divine forgiveness. 

1 . By David. Unto thee, Jehovah, my soul will I lift up, 
or as some explain it, bring or carry. All agree, however, 
that the essential idea is that of confident desire. See above, 
on Ps. xxiv. 4. and compare Ps. Ixxxvi. 4. cxliii. 8 below, 
where the phrase occurs again. The sentiment expressed is that 
of settled confidence in God, to the exclusion of all other helpers. 

2. My God, in thee have I tr^isted, let me not be ashamed ; 
let vnt my enemies triumph over me, or more exactly, with 


respect to me. As the future verb of the preceding verse impUes 
a fixed determination to confide in God hereafter, so the pret- 
erite in this verse indicates that such trust has been exercised 
already. The present is included under both forms. — Ashamed^ 
disappointed, defeated in my plans and expectations. See above, 
on Ps. xxii. 6 (5.) — The last clause shows that suffering from 
enemies was in the psalmist's mind throughout. 

3. Liketvise all {those) waiting foi' thee shall not be ashamed; 
ashamed shall he the traitors ivithout cause. He does not ask 
for any special dispensation in his own behalf, but merely for a 
fair participation in God's customary mode of dealing with the 
whole class of which he is a member, here described as those 
waiting for God, i. e. hoping in him, awaiting the fulfilment of 
his promises. The modern English sense of Waiting on is too 
restricted, though the phrase once exactly corresponded to the 
Hebrew. — The position of the verbs, at the end and the begin- 
ning of successive clauses, gives a peculiar turn to the sentence, 
which is lost in some translations. — Without cause qualifies 
the word immediately preceding, and describes the enemy not 
only as perfidious but as acting so gratuitously and without pro- 
vocation. See above, on Ps. vii. 5 (4), and below, on Ps. xxxv. 
19. xxxviii. 20 (19.) Ixix. o (4.) 

4. Thy IV ays, Jehovah, make me know ; thy paths teach 
me. As the ways of God, throughout this psalm, are the same 
as in Deut. xxxii. 4, namely his dispensations towards his people, 
the way in which he orders their condition and disposes of their 
lot, the teaching prayed for must be that of experience. 'Let 
me know in my own case what it is to be guided and protected 
and provided for by God himself.' This meaning suits the 
context better than that of moral guidance, which however is 
implied, if not expressed. 


5. Make me ivalk %n thy truth and teach me, for thou {art) 
the God of my salvation ; for thee have I waited all the day. 
The obvious meaning of this verse, interpreted according to New 
Testament and modern usage, would be that of a prayer for divine 
instruction in religious truth or doctrine. But the usage of the 
Psalms, and the preceding context, are in favour of explaining 
truth to mean the veracity of God, or the faithful performance 
of his promises. See Ps. xxx. 10 (9.) Ixxi. 22. xci. 4. The teach- 
ing asked is then experimental teaching or the actual experience 
of God's faithfulness. — The God of my salvation, or my Saviour 
God. See above, on Ps. xviii. 47 (46). — I have ivaited. This 
is no new or untried exercise of faith, to be attempted for the 
first time, but one with which I have been long familiar. — All 
the day, continually, always. 

6. Reme7nber thy mercies, oh Jehovah, a?id thy favours, for 
from eteryiity are they. The prayer for future favours is here 
founded upon those experienced already. — Of old is an inade- 
quate translation of D^is??? and even in the stronger form, ever 
of old, less exact and expressive than the literal translation 
from eternity, to which there is the less objection here, as the 
words relate not merely to God's acts but to his attributes. 

7. The sins of my youth and my transgressions {oh) re- 
member not ; according to thy mercy remember thou me, for 
the sake of thy goodness, oh Jehovah ! Among the mercies 
which he craves the most important is the pardon of his sins, 
not only in itself considered, but as that without which all the 
others must be worthless. The sins of his youth are mentioned 
as the earliest in date, and probably as those committed with 
the least restraint, at an ao;e when reflection is subordinate to 
passion. Compare Job xiii. 26. 2 Tim. ii. 22. Besides the 
obvious reference to the youthful sins of individuals, there may 
be also an allusion to the national iniquities of Israel, committed 


in the period of their childhood as a people, namely, that of their 
sojourn in the wilderness. See below, on v. 22, and compare 
Deut. ix. 7. 

8. Good and upright (is) Jehovah ; therefore will he guide 
sinners in the way. Not only the goodness but the rectitude 
of the divine nature requires the exercise of covenanted mercy. 
The second epithet is borrowed from Deut. xxxii. 4. — The way 
meant in the last clause is the way of safety or salvation. What 
is meant may be either that God guides sinners into it by con- 
verting them, or that he guides those sinners in it who are still 
his people, as the same person claims to be both righteous and 
a sinner in Ps. xli. 5, 13. (4, 12.) Hence perhaps he uses the 
indefinite term sinners, not the distinctive phrase the sinners, 
or the more emphatic epithet the wicked. 

9. He tvill guide humble (sinners) in justice, and teach 
humble (sinners) his way. The common version of tJ^^ISS?, meek, 
is too restricted and descriptive of mere temper. The Hebrew 
word is the nearest equivalent to humble in its strong religious 
sense. The omission of the article may be explained as a poetic 
license, and the word translated the hu7nble, so as to include 
the whole class. But the intimate connexion between this 
verse and the one before it makes it more natural to take 
d'1135' as a description of the sinners mentioned in v. 8, who 
are then of course to be regarded as penitent believing sinners, 
i. e. as true converts. Injustice, i. e. in the exercise of justice, 
as before explained. The icay and the teaching are the same 
as in the foregoing context, namely, those of Providence. 

10. All the paths of Jehovah {are) mercy and truth to the 
keepers of his covenant and his testimonies. The paths of 
Jehovah are the paths in which he walks himself, in other 
words, the ways in which he deals with his creatures. — Truth, 


veracity, fidelity. See above, on v, 5. A similar combination 
occurs, John i. 14. Tiie last clause shows that the preceding 
promises are limited to those who are in covenant with God. — 
Keepers, observers, those obeying. — His covenant, the com- 
mands to which his promise is annexed. The same are called 
his Ustwionies against sin and in behalf of holiness. See above, 
on Ps. xix. 8 (7.) 

11. For the sake of thy name (wilt thou do this), and icilt 
pardon my iniquity because it is great. The form of the verb 
(?inbDl) is one that is commonly preceded by a future, which 
may here be readily supplied, so as to make the first clause 
refer to the preceding promises. — For thy name's sake, for the 
honour of thy nature and thy attributes as heretofore revealed 
in act. See above, on Ps. xxiii. 3. — The emphatic pronoun at 
the end (s^^.n";:!'^) niay possibly refer to the remoter antecedent, 
as in Ps. xxii. 18 (17). The sense will then be, 'and forgive 
my iniquity because that name is great.' (Compare Mai. i. 11.) 
There is nothing ungrammatical, however, in the usual con- 
struction, which also agrees better with the usage of the adjec- 
tive (:n'n), as denoting rather quantity than elevation, and with 
the parallel phrase, much tra7isgression (n"! 3>r"B) in Ps. xix. 
14 (13.) 

12. Who (is) the 77ian fearing Jehovah ? He will guide 
him in the way he shall choose. In the first clause the form 
of the original is highly idiomatic : who (is) this, the man, a 
fearer of Jehovah ? See above, on Ps. xxiv. 8. — The ellipsis 
of the relative in the last clause is common to both idioms. — 
He guides him and will guide him. There is not only an 
affirmation but a promise. The loay, as in the foregoing con- 
text, is the providential way in which God directs the course 
of a man's life. His choosing it implies not only sovereign au- 
thority, luit a gracious regard to the interests of his servant. 


13. His soul in good shall lodge, and his seed shall possess 
the land. The parallelism between soul and seed seems to 
show that by his soul we are to understand himself, for which 
the Hebrew has no appropriate expression. The promise then 
includes both himself and his posterity. To lodge, to be at 
home, to dwell at ease, and by implication to abide or continue 
undisturbed. — In good, not goodness, but good fortune or pros- 
perity. — The verb translated shall possess denotes specifically to 
inherit or possess as an inheritance, i. e. from generation to gen- 
eration, in perpetual succession. — The land, to wit, the land 
of Canaan ; and as this was the standing promise of the law, 
uttered even in the decalogue (Ex. xx. 12), it became a formula 
for all the blessings implicitly embraced in the promise of 
Canaan to the ancient Israel, and is so used even by our Lord 
himself, (Matth. v. 5.) 

14. The friendship of Jehovah is to {those) fearing him, 
and his covenant to "make them know. The word translated 
friendship) means originally a company of persons sitting to- 
gether, Ps. cxi. 1 ; then familiar conversation, Ps. Iv. 15 (14) ; 
then confidential intercourse, intimacy, friendship, Prov. iii. 32 ; 
then a confidence or secret, Prov. xi. 13. The last sense is 
commonly preferred in the English version, even when one of 
the others would be more appropriate, as in this case, where the 
sense of intimacy, friendship, seems required by the context. 
The last clause is ambiguous and may either mean, his cove- 
nant is designed to be known by them, or his covenant is 
designed to make them know, i. e. his way ; or in general, 
to give them knowledge. To make them knoiv his covenant 
is a forced construction and forbidden by the collocation of 
the Hebrew words. The meanino; of the whole verse seems 
to be, that Jehovah condescends to hold familiar intercourse 
with those who fear him, and enters into covenant relation with 


them for the purpose of making them know all that they need 
know for his service or their own advantage. 

15. My eyes {are) always towards Jehovah ; for he will 
bring out from the net my feet. The first clause expresses 
sjettled trust and constant expectation. The figure of a net is 
a favourite one for dangers arising from the craft and spite of 
enemies. See above, on Ps. ix. 16 (15,) x. 9. 

16. Turn thee unto ine and have mercy icpo7t me, for lonely 
and distressed {ani) I. The prayer to turn implies that his 
face was before averted, a common figure in the Psalms for the 
suspension or withholding of God's favour. See above, on Ps. 
iv. 7 (6.) — The word translated lonely is the same that occurs 
above, Ps. xxii. 21 (20.) 

17. The troubles of tny heart have they enlar ged ; from my 
distresses do thou briiig me out. The plural of the first clause 
is indefinite, equivalent to a passive construction in English, are 
enlarged. (Compare the common version of Luke xii. 20.) It 
does not refer even to his enemies specifically, but to all others, 
as distinguished from his lonely self, and from his sole deliverer. 

18. See my affiictioii and my trouble, and forgive all tny 
sins. So long as God leaves him to endure, he is conceived of 
as not seeing his condition. The prayer that he will see in- 
cludes the prayer that he will save. The renewed prayer for 
foro^iveness in the last clause seems ao;ain to recall to mind the 
intimate connexion between suffering and sin. 

19. See my enemies, fox: they are many, and (with) hatred 
of violence have hated me. The agency of wicked foes in 
causing liis distresses, which had been referred to in vs. 2, 15, 
17, is here again brought into view. The word translated 

PSALM XXV. c 213 

violence is very strong, including the ideas of injustice and 
cruelty. See above, on Ps. xi. 6 (5.) xviii. 49 (48.) — The past 
tense represents the enmity as something of long standing. 

20. {Oh) keep rny soul and deliver me ; let me not be asham^ed, 
for I have trusted in thee. To keep is here to keep in safety, 
to preserve. — Ashamed, confounded, disappointed. See above, 
on V. 2. The word translated trusted is not that employed in 
V. 2, but the one which occurs in Ps. ii. 12, and which origi- 
nally means to seek a refuge or a hiding-place. See above, on 
Ps. xi. 2 (1.) 

21. Integrity and rectitude shall preserve me, because I 
have waited for thee. The first word means completeness or 
perfection (integritas), i. e. freedom from essential defect. See 
above, on Ps. xviii. 21, 24 (20, 23.) Here however it may sig- 
nify the perfect rectitude of God, which will not suffer him to 
cast off or forsake those who wait for him, i. e. trustfully expect 
the fulfilment of his promises. 

22. Redeon, oh God, Israel out of all his troubles! As 
the psalm was designed, from the first, to be a vehicle of pious 
feeling and desire for the whole church, it is here wound up 
with a petition showing this extent of purpose. The Psalmist 
prays no longer for himself, but for all Israel. The peculiar 
name Jehovah, which had hitherto been used exclusively, is 
here exchanged for the generic name of God, perhaps in oppo- 
sition to the human adversaries of the Psalmist and his total 
destitution of all human help. This verse forms no part of the 
alphabetical series, but begins with the same letter as v. 16. 
Like the first verse it consists of a single clause, as if the two 
together were designed to constitute one sentence. 

.V ^ 



An appeal to God's justice and omniscience, vs. 1 — 3, en- 
forced by a disavowal of all sympathy and communion with 
the wicked, vs. 4 — 6, and a profession of devotion to God's 
service, vs. 7, 8, with an earnest prayer to be delivered from 
the death of those whose life he abhors, v. 9, 10, and an ex- 
pression of strong confidence that God will hear his prayer, vs. 
11, 12. There is a certain similarity of form between this 
psalm and the foregoing, which, together with their collocation 
in the Psalter, makes it not improbable that they were designed 
to constitute a pair or double psalm. 

1 . By David. Judge me, Jehovah, for I in 7ny integrity 
have walked, and in Jehovah I have trusted ; I shall not 
swei've (or slijy). The correctness of the title is confirmed by 
the resemblance of the psalm itself to several, the authorship of 
which is undisputed, more especially Ps. xv, xvii, xviii, xxiv. — 
Judge me, do me justice, vindicate or clear me. See above, on 
Ps. xvii. 1, 2. — In tny i?itegrity of purpose and of principle. 
To this is added its inseparable adjunct, trust in God. — Walked, 
lived, pursued a certain course of. conduct. See above, on Ps. 
i. 1. The last clause is by some explained as the expression of 
a wish, let me not be moved. But there is no reason for de- 
parting from the strict sense of the future, as expressing a con- 
fident anticipation. Swerve, as in Ps. xviii. 37 (36), xxxvij. 31. 


2. Try nie, Jehovah, and inove tne ; assay my reins and 
my heart. The first verb is supposed by etymologists to signify 
originally trial by touch, the second by smell, and the third by 
fire. In usage, however, the second is constantly applied to 
moral trial or temptation, while the other two are frequently 
applied to the testing of metals by the touchstone or the fur- 
nace. This is indeed the predominant usage of the third verb, 
which may therefore be represented by the technical metallurgic 
term, assay. See above, on Ps. xvii. 3, where two of the same 
verbs occur. — Reins and heart are joined, as seats of the affec- 
tions. See above^ on Ps. vii. 10 (9.) — The prayer of this verse 
is an appeal to God's omniscience for the psalmist's integrity of 
purpose, which agrees much better with the context than the 
explanation of nSl^lS as a participle and of the last clause as an 
affirmation, j^urified (or purged) are ^ny reins and my heart. 

3. For thy mercy (is) before rrm eyes, and I have ivalked in 
thy triith. This verse assigns a reason for his confident per- 
suasion that he shall not slide, to wit, because God's mercy is 
before his eyes, literally, in front of them, i. e. constantly in 
view, as an object of memory and ground of hope. He is also 
encouraged by his previous experience of God's truth or faith- 
fulness. See above, on Ps. xxv. 5. The verb translated 
walked is an intensive form of that used in v. 1 above and v. 11 
below. It means properly to walk about or to and fro, and 
expresses more distinctly than the primitive verb the idea of 
continuous habitual action. 'My constant experience of thy 
mercy and thy faithfulness assure me that I shall not fall away 


4. I have not sat with men of falsehood, and tvith hidden 
{rne7i) I icill not go. He is further encouraged to believe that 
he will be sustained because he has not hitherto espoused the 
cause of those who hate God. — Men of falsehood , liars or de- 



ceivers, which appears to suit the context better than the wider 
sense of vain men, i. e. destitute of all moral goodness, good for 
nothing, Avorthless. See above, on Ps. v. 7 (6) xxiv. 4. The 
same class of persons are described in the last clause as masked, 
disguised, or hypocritical. — Sat, not merely in their company, 
but in their councils, taking part in their unlawful machinations. 
The change of tense is any thing rather than unmeaning. * I 
have not sat with them in time past, and I will not go with 
them in time to come.' The form of expression is borrowed 
from Gen. xlix. 6. 

6. / will wash in innocence my hands, and will compass 
thy altar, oh Jehovah ! To the negative professions of the two 
preceding verses he now adds a positive declaration of his pur- 
pose. Not content with abstaining from all share in the coun- 
sels of the wicked, he is fully resolved to adhere to the service 
of the Lord. He will cleanS? himself from all that would unfit 
him for that service, and then cleave to the sanctuary where 
God dwells. The expression in the first clause seems to be 
copied from Gen. xx. 5, and the symbol or emblem from Deut. 
xxi. 6. (Compare Matt, xxvii. 24.) Whether compassing the 
altar be explained to mean going round it in procession, or 
embracing it, the idea expressed is still that of close adherence 
and devoted attachment. 

7. To make known ivith a voice of thanksgiving, and to 
recount all thy wondrous ivorks. The object of the acts de- 
scribed in the preceding verse was to promote God's glory. 
To make known, literally to cause to hear or to be heard. The 
clause admits of several constructions. 1. To publish thanks- 
givings with the voice. 2. To publish with a thankful voice, 
without expressing what. 3. To publish and recount all thy 
wondrous works with a voice of thankso-ivinsr. The last is on 
the whole entitled to the preference. — The last word in the 

PSALM XXVI. 217 is a passive participle meaning wonderfully made or 
done. The plural feminine is used indefinitely like the neuter 
in Greek and Latin, to mean things done ivonde? fully , which 
is also the idea of the common version, wondrous ivorks. 

8. Jehovah, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and 
the -place of the dwelling of thy glory. This verse expresses 
more directly and literally the idea of v. 6 above, and shov.'s 
that liis compassing the altar was intended to denote his love 
for the earthly residence of God, the altar being there put for 
the whole sanctuary, Avhich is here distinctly mentioned. The 
habitation of thy house might be understood to mean a resi- 
dence in it ; but the usage of the first noun and the parallelism 
show that it rather means the place where thy house dwells. 
perhaps in allusion to the migratory movements of the ark and 
its appendages before the time of David. So too in the last 
clause, Hebrew usage would admit of the translation, thy glo- 
rious dwelling place, as in Ps. xx. 7 (6) ; but the use of Tins 
in the Pentateuch to signify tiie visible presence of Jehovah 
(Ex. xxiv. 16. xl. 34, 35) seems decisive in favour of explaining 
it the place where thy glory dwells, i. e. where the glorious 
God is pleased to manifest his presence. 

9. Take not away my soul ivith sinners, and with men of 
blood my life. The primary meaning of the first verb is to 
gather, as a harvest or as fruit, a figure not unfrequently ap- 
plied in various languages to death, here described as the taking 
away of the life or soul. This verse and the next contain a 
prayer that he may die as he has lived ; that since he has had 
no community of interest or feeling with ungodly men in life, 
he may not be united with them in his death. — Men of blood, 
literally bloods, i. e. murderers, either in the strict sense or by 
metonymy for sinners of the worst class. See above, on Ps. 
V, 7 (6,) Another idiomatic plural in this sentence is the word 


lines at the end, which is used as an abstract, simply equiva- 
lent to life in English. 

10. In ivhose hands is crime, and their right hand is filled 
ivith a bribe. The first clause exhibits the peculiar construc- 
tion of the relative in Hebrew with the personal pronoun ex- 
pressed, of which it is the substitute in other languages. Who 
(or as to ivhom) — in their hands (is) crime. This last word, 
(n72f) is a very strong one, used i7i the Law to denote specifically 
acts of gross impurity, but signifying really any wicked act or 
purpose. The common version, mischief, is too weak. The 
last word in the verse denotes especially a judicial bribe (Ps. 
XV. 5), and may be intended to suggest that the whole descrip- 
tion has reference to unrighteous rulers, or to wicked men 
in public office. 

11. And I in my integrity will walk; redeem one and be 
merciful to me. The use of the conjunction and emphatic 
pronoun is the same as in Ps. ii. 6 above. Our idiom would re- 
quire an adversative conjunction, but I, in opposition to the 
sinners just described, but as for me, I will still Avalk as I have 
done in sincerity and simplicity of purpose. The obvious con- 
trast of the tenses here and in v. 1 may serve to show how sel- 
dom they are used promiscuously or confounded. — That the 
Psalmist's ^perfection or integrity was neither absolute nor in- 
herent, is clear from the petition of the last clause. He ex- 
pects still to be perfect, not because he is without sin, but 
because he hopes to be redeemed from its dominion through 
the mercy of Jehovah. 

12. My foot stayids in an even place ; in the assemblies ivill 
I bless Jehovah. As a state of dansrer and distress mio-ht be 
compared to. a precipitous and rugged path, so one of ease and 
safety is denoted by a sl)lr^oth or level path.— My foot (now) 


stands, or has (at last) stood, found a resting place, imply- 
ing previous wanderings and hardships. — Tlie assemblies 
primarily meant are no doubt the stated congregations at the 
sanctuary. The determination to praise God implies a strono- 
assurance that the occasion for so doing will be granted. See 
above, on Ps. v. 8 (7.) The whole verse indeed is an expression 
of confident belief that God will hear and answer the foregoing 
prayers, and thus, as in many other psalms, we are brought 
back at the conclusion to the starting poi«t. Compare the fast 
clause of v. 1. 


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


1. By David. Jehovah (is) my light and 7)iy salvation ; of 
whom shall I be afraid ? Jehovah (is) the strong-hold of iny 
life ; of ivhom shall I be in dread ? As darkness is a common 
figure for distress, and light for relief from it, the same idea is 
here twice expressed, first in a figurative form as light, and then 
more literally as salvation. These terms are applied to God, 
by a natural and common figure of speech, as the source or dis- 
penser of light and salvation. Compare Mich, vii. 8. The in- 
terrogations imply negation of the strongest kind. The form 
of expression is imitated in Rom. viii. 31 — 35. — The noun 

'ri5>?3 is sometimes used as an abstract, strength ; but its proper 
meaning, as its very form denotes, is local. The strong-hold or 
fortress of my life, that which makes my life as safe as walls 
and fortifications. The variation of the verbs in the two clauses 
is merely rhetorical, without any change in the idea. 

2. In the drawing near against 7ne of evil doers, to devour 
my flesh, (in the drawing near of) ony adversaries and my ene- 
mies to me, (it is) theij (that) have stumbled and fallen. Even 
in the most imminent dangers which have hitherto befallen me, 
the divine protection has enabled me to see those who sought 
to overwhelm me overwhelmed themselves. Evil-doers, not 
only against me, but in general. It was not because they were 
his enemies merely, but because they were the enemies of God, 
that he so easily subdued them. — To eat my flesh, a figure bor- 
rowed from the habits of wild beasts. Compare Job xix. 22. 
Ps. xiv. 4. xxxv. 1. — To me is to be construed not with ene- 
mies, but with the verb, as in Job xxxiii. 22. See below, on 
Ps. Iv. 19. The pronoun expressed in the last clause is em- 
phatic : * they themselves, not I, as they expected, fell.' 

3. If there encamjp against me an encampment, my heart 
shall not fear ; if there arise against me war, (even) ^V^ this 
(case) I (am) confident. With the sentiment of this verse 


compare Ps. iii. 7 (6.) The primary meaning of the noun in 
the first clause is retained in the translation for the sake of its 
assonance with the verb, which is lost in the common version, 
although marked in the original. By encampment, however, 
must be understood the men encamped, the host, the army. — 
In this, even in this extremity. Compare Lev. xxvi. 27. Job. 
i. 22. The common version, in this will I be confident, al- 
though ambiguous, appears to mean, * I will confide in this, 
i. e. in the fact that Jehovah is my light and my salvation.' 
This construction is grammatical and yields a good sense, but 
the other is more pointed and emphatic, and the absolute use of 
npia in the sense of safe, secure, is justified by Judg. xviii. 27. 
Jer. xii. 5. Prov. xi. 15. 

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

5. For he will hide me in his covert in the day of evil ; he 
will secrete me in the secrecy of his teyit ; on a rock he ivill set 
m,e high. This verse assigns his reason for wishing to be still 
a member of Jehovah's household, namely, because there be is 
sure of effectual protection. — The word translated covert means a 
booth or shelter made of leaves and branches, such as the Jews 


used at the feast of tabernacles (Lev. xxiii. 42.) It is here 
used as a figure for secure protection in the day of evil. i. e. of 
suffering or danger. — Secrete and secrecy are used in the trans- 
lation to represent the cognate verb and noun in Hebrew. — 
By Jiis tent, as appears from the preceding verse, we are to 
understand the tabernacle, not considered merely as a place of 
public worship, but as Jehovah's earthly residence, his mansion. 
In the last clause the idea of protection is conveyed by an en- 
tirely difierent figure, that of a person placed upon a high rock 
beyond the reach of danger. See above, on Ps. ix. 14 (13.) 
xviii. 49 (48.) 

6. And noio shall my head he high above my eneynies 
around ^ne, and I tcill sacrifice in his tabernacle sacrifices of 
joyful noise; I will sing and make music to Jehovah. 
And note may either be a formula of logical resumption, as in 
Ps. ii. 10. xxxix. 8 (7), or be taken in its strict sense, as de- 
noting that he not only hopes for future safety, but is ready in 
the mean time, even now, to thank him publicly for his protec- 
tion as already realized. The first clause merely amplifies the 
last of the preceding verse. The next adds the promise of a 
thank-offering at the tabernacle, which implies an assured hope 
of deliverance and prosperity. By a joyful noise some under- 
stand the blowing of trumpets which accompanied certain 
offerings (Num. x. 10. xxix. 1) ; but as this is never mentioned 
in connexion with private sacrifices, it seems more advisable to 
rest in the general sense of the expression. 

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



8. To tJiee hath said my heart — ^eek ye my face — thy face, 
Jehovah, ivill I seek. The general meaning of this verse ia 
obvious enough, although its syntax is exceedingly obscure. 
The best solution is to take "seek ye my face" as a citation of 
God's own words. ' My heart has said to thee — (whenever 
thou hast said) Seek ye my face, — thy face,' &c. Or, ' my 
heart has said to thee — (in answer to thy words) Seek ye my 
face — thy face,' &c. — My heart hath said, i. e. T have said 
with or from the heart. See above, on Ps. xi. 1. There may 
be an allusion to Deut. iv. 29, from which the expression seek 
God (2 Sam. xii. 16. 2 Chr. xx. 4) and seek his face (Ps. xxiv. 6. 
cv. 4) seems to be derived. The idea is that of seeking admis- 
sion to his presence for the purpose of asking a favour. See 
above, on Ps. xxiv. 6. 

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

10. For my father and my mother have left me, and Jeho- 
vah tvill take me in. Parents are here put for the nearest 
friends, whose loss or desertion is frequently complained of in 
the Psalms as one of the most painful signs of desolation. See 
Ps. xxxi. 12 (11.) xxxviii. 12 (11.) Ixix. 9 (8.) Ixxxviii. 9 (8), 
and compare Job xix. 13. The first clause may also be trans- 
lated, ivhe)i my father and my mother have left me, then the 


Lord loill take rue in. — The last expression is applied to the 
compassionate reception of strangers or wanderers into one's 
house. See Josh. xx. 4. Jndg. xix. 15, and compare Matt. 
XXV. 35, 43. The case described is an ideal one, and may be 
thus expressed in paraphrase. ' The kindness of the nearest 
earthly friends may cease by death or desertion (for the verb to 
leave may comprehend both) ; but the Lord's compassions can- 
not fail.' 

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

12. Give tne 7iot 2ip to the ivill of tny enemies ; for risen up 
against me are ivitnesses of falsehood, afid a breather forth 
of cruelty. The word translated will properly means soul, and 
is here used for the ruling wish or heart's desire, as in Ps. 
XXXV. 25. The second clause assigns the ground or reason 
of this prayer. As if he had said : I have reason to ask this, 
for there have risen up, &:c. — One breathing violence or cruelty, 
a strong but natural expression for a person, all whose thoughts 
and feelings are engrossed by a favourite purpose or employ- 
ment, so that he cannot live or breathe without it. Compare 
the description of Saul's persecuting zeal in Acts ix. 1 and the 
Latin phrases, spirare minas, anhelare scelus. 


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

14. Wait thou for Jehovah ; be firm, and may he strengthen 
thy heart ; and wait thou for Jehovah ! Instead of finishing 
the inauspicious sentence which he had begun, he interrupts 
himself with an earnest exhortation to await the fulfilment of 
God's promises, to hope in him. See above, on Ps. xxv. 3. — 
The optative and causative senses of the third verb (y)2!^'2) are 
both determined by its form, which equally forbids the versions 
let thy heart be strong and he ivill strengthen it. — The repe- 
tition, ivait for the Lord, and wait for the Lordy implies that 
this is all he has to enjoin upon himself or others, and is more 
impressive, in its native simplicity, than the correct but para- 
phrastic version of the last clause in the English Bible, wait, 
I say, upon the Lord. 

I / / 

226 PSALM XXVIir. 


As in the preceding psalm a righteous sufferer prays that he 
may not be confounded with the wicked whom his soul abhors, 
so here a like prayer is offered by the Anointed of Jehovah. 
He first prays in general for audience and acceptance, without 
which he must quickly perish, vs. 1, 2. He then asks to be 
distinguished from the wicked in the infliction of God's judg- 
ments, vs. 3 — 5. He then gives thanks for the anticipated 
answer to his prayer, vs. 6 — 8, and implores an extension of the 
blessing to all God's people at all times, v. 9. The collocation 
of the psalm is clearly not fortuitous, but founded on its close 
resemblance to the one before it. 

1. By David. Unto thee, Jehovah, will I call ; ony rock, 
he not silent from me, lest thou hold thy jjcace from tne, and 
I he made like to those going down {into) the int. My rock, 
the immovable foundation of my hope and object of my trust. 
See above, on Ps. xviii. 3, 32 (2, 31.) xix. lo (14.) That God 
is such, affords a sufficient reason for the importunate demands 
which follow. It is inconsistent with the relation he sustains 
to those who trust him, that he should be silent when they pray, 
i. e. refuse to answer. The ideas of distance and estrangement 
are really implied in being silent, and suggested by the pregnant 
construction silent from. The meaning of the last clause is 
correctly given, with a change of idiom, in the English version, 
lest, if thou be silent, Sec. The passive verb does not merely 


mean to be like, but to be made like, assimilated, confounded. 
The pit, the grave, both in its narrower and wider sense. 
(Compare Isai. xiv. 15, 19.) Those going down into the j^it 
is a common description of the dead. See Ps. xxx. 4 (3.) 
Ixxxviii. 5 (4), and compare Ps. xxii. 30 (29.) 

2. Hear the voice of my sitpplications, in my crying unto 
thee (for help) ; in -my lifting up my hands to thy holy 
orach. In my crying, in my lifting, i. e. at the time of my so 
doing, when I am in the very act. The lifting up of the hands 
is a natural symbol of the raising of the heart or the desires to 
God, and is therefore often mentioned in connexion with the 
act of prayer. Ex. ix. 29. xvii. 11, 12. 1 Kings viii. 22, 54. 
Lam. ii. 19. iii. 41. Ps. Ixiii. 5 (4.) — The word translated oracle 
is derived from the verb to speak, and seems to mean a place of 
speaking or conversation, like the English parlour from the 
French parler. Now we learn from Ex. xxv. 22. Num. vii. 89, 
that the place whence God talked with Moses was the inner 
apartment of the tabernacle; and from 1 Kings vi. 19, that the 
corresponding part of the temple bore the name here used. To 
this, as the depository of the ark and the earthly residence of 
God, the ancient saints looked as we look now to Christ, in 
whom the idea of the Mosaic sanctuary has been realized. See 
above, on Ps. v. 8 (7.) 

3. Draw me not aivay with ivicked {^nen), and with workers 
of iniquity, speaking peace ivith their neighbours, and evil {is) 
i?i their heart. This is the prayer for which he bespeaks au- 
dience and acceptance in the foregoing verse. Draw me not 
away, i. e. to punishment or out of life. Compare Ps. xxvi. 9, 
where the parallel expression is gather me not. In both cases 
he prays that he may not be confounded in his death with those 
whose life he abhors. The last clause exhibits a particular 
trait in the character of the wicked men and evil doers of the 


other clause. This trait is hypocritical dissimulation, the pre- 
tence of friendship as a mask to hatred. The simple construc- 
tion with the copulative and is equivalent to our expressions, 
hut though, ivhile, etc. 

4. Give to them according to their act, and according to the 
evil of their deeds, according to the work of their hands give 
thou to them ; return their treatment to them. Having prayed 
that he may not share the destruction of the wicked, he now 
prays that they may not escape it. But as this is merely ask- 
ing God to act as a just raid holy being must act, the charge of 
vindictive cruelty is not merely groundless but absurd. — The 
evil of their deeds is a phrase borrowed from Moses (Deut. 
xxviii. 20) and often repeated by Jeremiah (iv. 4. xxi. 12. xxiii. 
2, 22. xxvi. 3. xliv. 22.) The same prophet has combined two 
of the phrases here employed in Jer. xxv. 14 and Lam. iii. 64. 
The word translated treattnent is a participle meaning that which 
is done by one person to another, whether good or evil. See 
above, on Ps. vii. 5 (4.) 

5. Because they will not attend to the acts of Jehovah and 
to the doing of his hands, he will pull them down and will 
not build them up. Having appealed to the divine justice for 
a righteous recompense of these offenders, he now shows what 
they have deserved and must experience, by showing what 
they have done, or rather not done. The acts of Jehovah and 
the works of his hands are common expressions for his penal 
judgments. See Ps. Ixiv. 10 (9.) xcii. 5 (4.) Isai. v. 12. xxviii. 
21. xxix. 23. — Pull down and not build up, is an idiomatic 
combination of positive and negative terms to express the same 
idea. — Build, therefore, does not mean rebuild, but is simply 
the negative or opposite oi pull down. The form of expression 
is copied repeatedly by Jeremiah (xxxi. 28. xlii. 10. xlv. 4.) See 
also Job xii. 14. 


6. Blessed (be) Jehovah, because he hath heard the voice of 
my supplications. What he asked in v. 2 he has now ob- 
tained, or at least the assurance of a favourable answer, in the 
confident anticipation of which he begins already to bless God. 
The word translated supplications means, according to its 
etymology, prayers for grace or mercy. 

7. Jehovah tny strength and my shield ! In him has ^7iy 
heart trusted, and I have been helped, and my heait shall ex- 
ult, and by my song I will thank (or praise) him. The con- 
struction of the first clause as a proposition, by supplying the 
substantive verb, Jehovah (is) my strength and my shield, is 
unnecessary, and neither so simple nor so strong as that which 
makes it a grateful and admiring exclamation. — M.y heart is 
twice used in this sentence to express the deep and cordial na- 
ture of the exercises which he is describing. The same heart 
that trusted now rejoices. As he believed with all his heart, 
60 now he rejoices in like manner. — By my song, literally 
from or out of it, as the source and the occasion of his praise. 
Compare Ps. xxii. 26 (25.) 

8. Jehovah (is) strength to them, and a strong-hold of sal- 
vation (to) his Anointed (is) He. The Psalmist having spoken 
hitherto not only for himself but for the people, here insensibly 
substitutes the third person plural for the first person singular. 
In the last clause he reverts to himself, but with the use of an 
expression which discloses his relation to the people, of which 
he was not only a member but the delegated head, the Anointed 
of Jehovah. See above, on Ps. ii. 2. A strong-hold. See 
above, on Ps. xxvii. 1. — Salvations, full salvation. See above 
on Ps. xviii. 51 (50.) The personal pronoun at the end of the 
sentence is emphatic and intended to concentrate the attention 
upon one great object. 


9, Oh save thy people, and bless tlty heritage, and feed 
them, and carry (or exalt theni) even to eternity ! The whole 
psalm closes with a prayer that the relation now subsisting be- 
tween God and his people may continue forever. Thy heri- 
tage, thy peculiar people, whom thou dost preserve and treat 
as such from generation to generation. The idea and express- 
ion are Mosaic. See Deut. ix. 29, and compare Ps. xxxiii. 12. 
Ixviii. 10 (9.) xciv. 5. The image then merges into that of a 
shepherd and his flock, a favourite one with David and through- 
out the later Scriptures. See above, on Ps. xxiii. 1. — Feed 
them, not only in the strict sense, but in that of doing the whole 
duty of a shepherd. The next verb is by some translated 
carry them, in which sense the primitive is elsewhere used in 
speaking of a shepherd (Isai. xl. 11), and this very form ap- 
pears to have the same sense in Isaiah Ixiii. 9, while in 2 Sam. 
V. 12 it is applied to the exaltation of David himself as a theo- 
cratic sovereign. 


The essential idea in this psalm is the same as in the twenty- 
eighth, to wit, that God is the strength of his people, but 
clothed in a different costume, the divine power being proved or 
exemplified by its exertion in the elements, and then applied, 
in the close, to the believer's consolation. The Psalmist first 
invokes the heavenly host to celebrate their sovereign's honour, 
vs. 1, 2. He then describes Jehovah's voice as producing the 
most striking physical effects, vs. 3 — 9, and represents it as be- 

rSALxM XXIX. 231 

longing to the same God who presided at the deluge and who 
now protects and will continue to protect and bless his people, 
vs. 10, 11. The superficial notion that this psalm is merely a 
description of a thunderstorm, or of Jehovah as the God of 
thunder, may be corrected by observing that the last verse gives 
the key-note of the whole composition. 

1. A Psalm hy David. Give to Jehovah, ye sons of the 
tnighty, give to Jehovah ho7iour and strength. To give, in 
such connexions, is to recognise something as belonging to an- 
other, to ascribe it to him. The form of expression is derived 
from Deut. xxxii. 3, and is found not only elsewhere in the 
Psalms (xcvi. 7 8), but with a slight modification in the New 
Testament (Rev. iv. 11. v. 12. xix. 1. 1 Peter v. 11.) — The 
word translated mighty is the plural form of one of the names 

(b^\ which describe God as omnipotent. See above, on Ps. 
v. 5 (4.) vii. 12 (11.) X. 11, 12. xvi. 1. xvii. 6 (5.) xviii. 3, 31, 
33, 48 (2, 30, 32, 47,) xix. 2 (1.) xxii. 2 (1.) The plural form may 
here arise from assimilation, both parts of the compound phrase 
being put into the plural, son of God, so?is of Gods. Compare 
icords of deceits, Ps. xxxv. 20. But a much more probable so- 
lution is that fi^biS! is here used as ft"i(iii^ is elsewhere, by a kind 
of ellipsis for D"ibii5 25^, Dan. xi. 36, the God of Gods, or the Su- 
preme God. Compare Deut. x. 17. — The smis of God are the 
beings intermediate between God and man, sometimes called 
angels in reference to their office. The same application of 
the same phrase occurs in Ps. Ixxxix. 7 (6.) 

2. Give to Jehovah the honour- of his name; how to Je- 
hovah in beauty of holiness. The honour of his name is that be- 
lono-ino- to it, due to it. His name is his manifested nature. See 
above, on Ps. v. 12 (11.) The verb in the last clause strictly 
means, bow down or prostrate yourselves in worship. — The 
beauty of holiness is by many understood to mean holy or con- 


secrated garments, such as were put on in the place of ordinary 
dress, as a token of reverence, by the priests when they ap- 
proached into the presence of Jehovah. See 2 Chr. xx. 21. 
But neither here nor in Ps. xcvi. 9. ex. 3, is there any vahd 
objection to the obvious but spiritual sense of ornament pro- 
duced by or consisting in holiness, such decoration as became 
the peculiar people of Jehovah. Compare 1 Peter iii. 3 — 5. 

3. The voice of Jehovah on the ivaters ! The God of glory 
thundered. The voice of Jehovah (was) on 7nany ivaters. 
The invocation to the heavenly host in the two preceding verses 
is now justified by an appeal to one particular manifestation of 
God's majesty, to wit, that afforded by the tempestuous strife 
of elements. — The first clause may be construed as an exclama- 
tion, or the substantive verb may be supplied, either in the past 
or present tense. The preterite form of the original does not 
relate to any specific point of past time, but merely shows that 
the phenomena described have been heretofore witnessed, and 
though grand are nothing new. Our present tense gives the 
sense correctly, but with a departure from the idiomatic form 
of the original. — The God of Glory contains an allusion to vs. 
1,2. Compare Ps. xxiv. 7 — 10. — 0?^ (or above) the waters, i. e. 
the clouds charged with rain. See above, on Ps. xviii, 12 (11), 
and compare Jer. x. 13. 

4. The voice of Jehovah in power ! The voice of Jehovah in 
majesty ! The exclamations, as in v. 3, may be converted into 
propositions by supplying either the past or present tense of the 
verb to he. ' The voice of Jehovah is (or was) in power.' In 
power, in majesty, i. e. invested with these attributes, a stronger 
expression than the corresponding adjectives, strong and ma- 
jestic, would be, and certainly more natural and consonant to 
usaffe than the construction which makes in a mere sio-n of that 
in which somethino; else consists. It is indeed little short of 


nonsense to affirm that the voice of God consists in power, 
consists in majesty, whereas there is truth as well as beauty in 
describing it as clothed or invested with those qualities. 

5. The voice of Jehovah (is) breaking cedars, and Jehovah 
has broken the cedars of Jjchanon. In the powerful workino- 
of the elements the Psalmist hears the voice of God. That this 
expression always denotes thunder (Ex. ix. 28), is a perfectly 
gratuitous assumption. — Cedars are mentioned as the loftiest 
forest trees, and those of Lebanon as the loftiest of the species. 
Between the verbs of the two clauses there is a twofold varia- 
tion which appears to be significant. The first is the primitive 
verb which simply means to break; the other an intensive 
form, implying an extraordinary violence. See above, Ps. 
iii. 8 (7.) This distinction can be reproduced in English only 
by a change of verb {break and crush), or by some qualifying 
addition {break and break in pieces) But besides this varia- 
tion, the first word is an active participle {breaking) and the 
second a finite tense denoting past time {broke or has broken), 
which together may indicate progression {it is breaking and 
now he has brokeyi) or express the same idea, namely, that he 
habitually breaks, or has often broken, the cedars of Lebanon. 

6. And made them skip like a calf Lebajion and Sir ion 
like the ijoung of the unicorns {antelopes or toild bulls) The 
pronoun in the first clause may refer to cedars, or by anticipa- 
tion to Lebanon and Sirion. This last is the Sidonian name 
of Hermon (Deut. iii. 9), the principal summit in the range of 
Anti-libanus, here mentioned simply as a parallel to Lebanon, 
without any special local reference. By a similar rhetorical 
specification, the natural vivacity of young animals is specially 
ascrioed to a particular species, well known to the writer and 
his readers as remarkable for wildness and agility. See above, 
on Ps. xxii. 22 (21.) 


7. The voice of Jehovah (is) heiving flames (or with flames) 
of fire. The reference to lightning in this verse is universally 
admitted, some even seeing an allusion to the brief and sudden 
flash in the single clause of which the sentence is composed. 
Interpreters are not agreed, however, with respect to the spe- 
cific image here presented. Some understand the act described 
to be that of cleaving or dividing, in allusion to the forked 
appearance of a flash of lightning ; others that of hewing out, 
extracting, flames ; and others that of heiving with them, i. e. 
using them as weapons of warfare or instruments of vengeance. 
This last construction is a common one in Hebrew, and is 
favoured here by the analogy of Isai. li. 9. Hos. vi. 5, where 
the same verb is applied to God's penal judgments. — The voice 
of God must here mean his authority or order, as it could not 
be said without absurdity, that the thunder either hews the 
lio-htnins; or hews with it. 

8. The voice of Jehovah is about to shake the wilderness ; 
Jehovah ivill shake icilderness of Kadesh. This is equivalent 
to saying that he can do so, the Hebrew verb having no dis- 
tinct potential form. The verb translated shake is stronger, 
meaning properly to cause to ti'cmhle. Having spoken of God's 
power as exerted on the mountains, he now says the same 
thing of the desert; and as the mountains which he specified 
were on the northern frontier, so the wilderness which he 
selects is that which bounded Palestine upon the south, the 
northern portion of the great Arabian desert, with which the 
Israelites had many strong associations, founded partly in their 
personal experience, but still more in their national history. See 
Deut. i. 19. viii. 15. xxxii. 10. It is in this point of view, and 
not simply as a plain, which it is not in its whole extent, that 
the wilderness of Kadesh is here added to Mount Lebanon. 

9. The voice of Jehovah can make hinds bring forth, and 


strijj forests ; mid in his temple, all of it says, Glory ! The 
use of the futures is the same as in the foregoing verse. As if 
to show that the divine control extends to things both small 
and great, the Psalmist passes suddenly from lofty mountains 
and vast deserts to the weakest animals, in whom the terror of 
his presence hastens the throes of parturition. See Job xxxix. 
1 — 3, and compare 1 Sam. iv. 19. He then returns to more 
imposing natural phenomena, such as the stripping of the leaves 
and branches from whole forests by a mighty wind, which, no 
less than the thunder, is to be regarded as the voice of God. — 
The temple or palace mentioned in the last clause is not the 
temple at Jerusalem, nor any earthly structure, but heaven, or 
the whole frame of nature, considered as God's royal residence. 
See above, on Ps. v. 8 (7.) Throughout this palace, all of it, 
i. e. all its parts, its contents, or its inhabitants — with special 
reference perhaps to the angelic hosts invoked in v. 1, who are 
then described as doing what he there invites them to do — not 
merely speaks of his glory, as the English version has it, but 
says " glory y' as their constant and involuntary exclamation. 
As to the true sense of the verb -1^54, see above, on Ps. iv. 

- T ' 


10. Jehovah at the flood sat {enthroned), and Jehovah sits 
(as) Ki7ig to eternity. There are only two ways in which this 
verse can be understood. It must either be explained as introduc- 
ing a new trait in the description of a tempest, namely, that of 
a flood or inundation — or referred to the universal deluge, as 
the grandest instance of the natural changes which had been 
described. In favour of the latter explanation may be urged 
the intrinsic grandeur of the image which it calls up, its better 
agreement with the solemn declaration in the last clause, the 
peculiar fitness of a great historical example just in this place, 
and the invariable usage of ^iilZTsn to mean Noah's flood. The 
sense of the whole verse may be thus expressed in paraphrase. 


The God whose voice now produces these effects is the God 
who sat enthroned upon the deluge, and this same God is still 
reisnino- over nature and the elements, and will be able to con- 
trol them forever. 

1 1 . Jehovah stre^igth to his people will give ; Jehovah will 
bless his people (with) peace. This is the application of the 
whole psalm, clearly showing that the description of external 
changes was not given for its own sake, or for mere poetical 
effect, but as a source of consolation and a ground of hope to 
true believers, who are here assured, in a pregnant summary 
of all that goes before, that the God who is thus visible and 
audible in nature, who presided at the flood and is to reign 
forever, is pledged to exercise the power thus displayed for the 
protection and well-being of his people. 


After a title, giving the historical occasion of the psalm, 
V. 1, the writer praises God for a signal deliverance from de- 
struction, vs. 2 — 4 (1 — 3), and calls upon God's people to join 
in the praise of the divine compassion, vs. 5 — 6 (4 — 5.) He 
then reverts to the cause of his affliction, vs. 7 — 8 (6 — 7), and 
recounts the means which he employed for its removal, vs. 
9 — 11 ^8 — 10), and for the success of which he vows eternal 
thankfulness, vs. 12 (13), 11 (12.) The occasion and design of 
the psalm will be considered in the exposition of the title or in- 
scription, which constitutes the first verse of the Hebrew text. 


1. A Psalm. A Song of Dedication (for) the House. By 
David. The construction house of David, although not un- 
grammatical, is forced, as that idea would, according to usao-e, 
have been otherwise expressed in Hebrew. This constructfon 
has moreover given rise to the false notion, that the psalm has 
reference to the dedication of the king's own dwelling, whereas 
the house, as an absolute phrase, can only mean the house of 
God. The historical occasion of the psalm is furnished by the 
narrative in 2 Sam. xxiv and 1 Chron. xxi. David's presump- 
tion in numbering the people had been punished by a pestilence, 
which raged until the destroying angel had, in answer to the 
king's prayer, been required to sheathe his sword. The spot, 
where this indication of God's mercy had been given, was 
immediately purchased by David, and consecrated by the erec- 
tion of an altar, upon which he offered sacrifices, and received 
the divine approbation in the gift of fire from heaven (1 Chr. 
xxi. 26.) This place the king expressly calls the house of God 
(1 Chr. xxii. 1), either in the wide sense of the patriarchal 
Bethel (Gen. xxviii. 17, 22), or as the designated site of the 
temple, for which he immediately commenced his preparations 
(1 Chr. xxii. 2), and in reference to which this psalm might 
well be called a so7ig of dedication, although naturally more 
full of the pestilence, and the sin which caused it, than of the 
sanctuary yet to be erected. 

2 (1.) / ivill exalt thee, oh Jehovah, because thm hast 
raisd me up, and hast not let my enemies rejoice respecting 
me. In the first clause there is an antithesis of thought, thouo-h 
not of form. 'I will raise thee because thou hast raised me.' 
The second verb is a modified form of one meaning to draw 
water from a well (Ex. ii. 16, 19), and may therefore have been 
chosen for the purpose of suggesting the idea of a person drawn 
up from some depth in which he had been sunk, a figure not 
unfrequent elsewhere. See particularly Ps. xl. 3 (2) below. 


Hast not caused or 'permitted to rejoice by abandoning me to 
them. — "1^ does not properly mean over 7ne, but as to me. The 
specific idea of rejoicing over is suggested by the context. 

3 (2.) Jehovah, my God, I cried to thee {for help), and thou 
didst heal me. The address, my God, is never unmeaning or 
superfluous, but always intimates a covenant relation as the 
ground of confidence. Any severe suffering is represented in 
scripture under the figure of disease, and relief from it as healing. 
See above, on Ps. vi. 3 (2), and compare Ps. xli. 5 (4), cvii. 20. 
Jer. xiv. 19. xv. 18. xvii. 14. xxx. 17. The healing here meant 
is identical with the help in v. 4 (3) and the joy in v. 12 (11,) 
and proves nothing therefore as to literal sickness in the 
Psalmist's case. It is altogether natural, however, to suppose 
that David may himself have been affected by the prevalent 

4 (3.) Jehovah, thou hast brought up out of hell my sold ; 
thou hast tnade me alive from (among those) going doivn 
(into the) pit. The extremity of his danger is described in the 
strongest terms afforded by the language. The essential mean- 
ino- of both clauses is, that God had saved him from what 
seemed to be inevitable and irrecoverable ruin. — Hell, sheol, 
the state of the dead. See above, on Ps. vi. 6 (5.) — Going 
down into the pit, i. e. dying. See above, on Ps. xxii. 30 (29.) 
— Made me alive fro'in them, i. e. separated me from them by 
restoring or preserving my life, so that I no longer can be 
numbered with them. 

5 (4.) Make music to Jehovah, ye his gracious ones, and 
give thanks to the memory of his holiness. The exhortation 
in the first clause is to praise God by song with instrumental 
accompaniment. See above, on Ps. vii. 18 (7.) ix. 3, (2, 11.) — 


His gracious ones, the objects of his mercy, and themselves 
endowed with the same attribute. See above, on Ps. iv. 4 (3.) 
— Memory, in this connexion, does not mean the power or the 
act of remembering, but that which is remembered when we think 
of God, to wit, his glorious perfections, which are summed up 
in his holiness, as to the comprehensive sense of which, see 
above, on Ps. xxii. 4 (3.) See also Hos. xii. 6 (5), where the 
memory of God is particularly coupled with his mercy, and Ex. 
iii. 15. Isai. xxvi. 8. Ps. cxxxv. 13, where memory and name 
are used as parallel expressions. 

6 (5.) For a moment in his ivrath, life in his favour ; in 
the evening shall lodge iveeping, and at the morning shouting 
(or singing.) Some understand the contrast in the first clause 
to be one of duration ; there is only a moment in his wrath, 
but a life-time in his favour. Tt is simpler, however, and more 
agreeable to the usage of the word translated life, to read the 
clause without an antithesis ; his wrath endures but a moment, 
and then his favour restores life, in its wide sense, as includino- 
all that makes existence desirable. The same idea is expressed 
in the last clause by a beautiful figure. Sorrow is only a so- 
journer, a stranger lodging for the night, to be succeeded, at the 
break of day, by a very diflerent inmate. This, though pri- 
marily referring to the joys and sorrows of the present state, ad- 
mits of a striking application to the contrast between this life 
and the next. See above, on Ps. xvii. 15. 

7 (6.) And I said in my security, I shall not he moved for- 
ever. The pronoun is emphatic : it was I that said. — Security. 
The Hebrew word includes the ideas of prosperity, and of that 
self-confidence which it produces. Compare Deut. viii. 1 1 — 18. 
xxxii. 15. Hos. xiii. 6. 2 Chr. xxxii. 2^.— Moved, disturbed in 
my enjoyment, shaken from my present firm position. See 


above, on Ps. x. 6. xvi. 8, and compare Ps. xiii. 5 (4). xv. 5. 
xxi. 8 (7.) 

8 (9.) Jehovah^ in thy favour thou didst establish to my 
mountain strength ; thou didst hide thy face, I was con- 
founded. It was only through God's mercy that his power 
was established. — Thou didst confirm strength (literally make 
it stand) to my mountain^ a common figure for royal power, 
and especially for that of the theocracy, the central point of 
which was Mount Zion. See 2 Sam. v. 9, 12. Neh. iii. 15. 
Mich. iv. 8. Isai. ii. 3. The idea of personal prosperity in 
general, though not expressed directl)^ is suggested by the 
special case of David's official eminence. — Thou didst hide thy 
face, withdraw the tokens of thy presence and thy favour. See 
above, on Ps. xiii. 2 (1.) — I was confounded, agitated, terrified, 
perplexed. See above, on Ps, vi. 3, 4, 11 (2, 3, 10,) and com- 
pare Ps. ii. 5. The common version, troubled, is too weak. 

9 (8.) Unto thee Jehovah, ivill I call, and to Jehovah I will 
cry for mercy. This was the resolution formed at the time 
when God concealed his face and he was troubled. The inser- 
tion of the words then said I, at the beginning of the verse, 
would render the connexion clear, but is unnecessary. The 
translation of the futures as past tenses is a licence which could 
only be justified by extreme exegetical necessity, certainly not 
by the trivial circumstance, that the last clause speaks of Je- 
hovah in the third person, which is not more surprising in a 
prayer than the second person of the first clause would be in a 
narrative. The sudden change of person is of course the same 
in either case. 

10 (9.) What 'profit (is there) in my blood, in my descend- 
ing to corruption (or the grave) ? Will dust praise (or tha?ik) 
thee? Will it tell thy truth! This argument in favour of 


bis being beard and rescued is tbe same as that in Ps. vi. 6 (5), 
and reappears in Ps. ]xxxviii. 11 — 13 (10 — 12), and in Heze- 
kiab's psahn, Isai. xxxviii. 18, 19, both of which are obvious 
imitations of David. For the twofold etymology and sense of 
nnd^ either of which is here appropriate, see above, on Ps. 
xvi. 10. — Dust, the lifeless and disorganized remains of the 
body. — Tell thy truth, attest the truth of thy promises by re- 
citing their fulfilment, and so bear witness to the divine vera- 
city and faithfulness. The questions of course imply negation. 
* My destruction can be no advantage to the divine glory, but 
must rather involve a loss of praise.' 

11 (10.) Hear, Jehovah, and have mercy on me; Jehovah, 
he a Jielperfor (or to) me. This petition is an indirect conclusion 
from the reasoning of the preceding verse. The logical con- 
nexion may be made clear by a change of form. 'Since thy 
glory will not be promoted by my death, I am entitled to de- 
liverance, not for my sake but thy own.' This last idea is 
suggested by his appealing to the divine mercy, as the ground 
on which he asked God to become his helper. 

12(11.) Thou hast turned my lament iJito a dance for 
rue ; thou hast opened my sackcloth a?id hast girded me {ivith) 
joy. To his prayer he now adds the account of its fulfilment. 
The relief of his distress is described as an exchano-e of his 
lament or funeral song for a joyful dance. Compare Jer. xxxi. 
13. Lam. v. 15. In further allusion to the mourning customs 
of the east, he represents his mourning dress, made of the 
coarsest hair-cloth, as now opened, i. e. loosened, unfastened; 
for the purpose of removal, to be replaced not merely by a gay 
or festive dress, but jby joy itself, poetically represented as a 
garment. See above, on Ps. xviii. 33, 40 (32, 39), and com- 
pare Isai. Ixi. 3. 

VOL. I. 11 


13 (12.) hi order that glory 'may make 7)iusic to thee and 
not be dumb, Jehovah, ony God, I will praise thee (or give 
thanks to the^ forever. This verse describes not only the effect 
but the design of the deliverance asked for, and so furnishes a 
counterpart to the argument in v. 10 (9.) As the death of the 
psahnist would deprive God of praise, so his deliverance is 
intended to ensure it. — The use of glory in tne first clause is 
obscure. Some understand by it the tongue or voice, which is 
entirely arbitrary ; others the soul, the nobler part of man, as 
in Ps. xvi. 9. Ivii. 9. cviii. 2 (1.) But as the form in all 
these cases is my glory^ it seems better to take glojy here 
without the pronoun in the wide sense of every thing glorious, 
including the worshipper's highest powers and perhaps his 
regal dignity, as m Ps. vii. 6 (5.) As in God's temple every 
thing says "Glory I" (Ps. xxix. 9), so every thing glorious 
among his works is bound to praise him. — Not be duinb, a 
stronger phrase than not be silent. — With the last clause com- 
pare the words of Hezekiah, Isai. xxxviii. 20. 


The psalmist first prays in general for deliverance from his 
bufferings and his enemies, on the ground of his confidence in 
God and previous experience of his mercy, vs. 2 — 9 (1 — 8.) 
He then prays more particularly for deliverance from his present 
danger, with a description of the same, vs. 10 — 14 (9 — 13.) In 
the remainder of the psalm, the tone of supplication and com- 
plaint is gradually exchanged for that of thankful assurance, 


vs. 15 — 23 (14 — 22), and the whole is wound up with an api)Ii- 
cation of the lesson furnished by the psahnist's experience to 
the case of all God's people, vs. 24 — 25 (23 — 24.) 

1 . To the Chief Musicia7i. A Psalm by David. Here we 
meet again with the inscription, to the chief musician, which 
has not appeared before since the title of Ps. xxii. As in all 
other cases, it explicitly describes the psalm as intended for 
musical performance in the public worship of the ancient church. 
As this, however, was the case with all the psalms, the fact that 
it is mentioned only in some may be explained by supposing, 
that in them there was somethinj^ which miocht otherwise have 
caused them to be looked upon as mere expressions of personal 
feeling. — The correctness of the other clause — a Psalm of 
David — is fully attested by internal evidence. The idea that 
Jeremiah wrote it rests entirely on the imitation of the first 
clause of v. 14 (13) in Jer. xx. 10, which is in perfect keeping 
with the practice of that prophet. 

2 (1.) hi thee, Jehovah, have I trusted. Let me 7iot he 
shammed for ever. In thy righteousness deliver me (or help 
7ne to escape.) The first clause contains the ground of the 
petitions following, which ground is the same that is often urged 
elsewhere, namely, that a just God cannot destroy those who 
trust him. See above, Ps. vii. 2 (1.) xi. 1. — The prayer in the 
next clause may be either that his present shame may not 
endure forever, or that he may never be put to shame, which 
last idea could not well be otherwise expressed in Hebrew. 
Shamed, i. e. utterly confounded, disappointed, and frustrated 
in his hopes. See above, on Ps. vi. 11 (10.) xxii. 6 (5.) xxv. 
2, 20. He appeals to God's righteousness or justice in the 
strict sense, upon Avhich trust or faith creates a claim, even on 
the part of the unworthy, not by virtue of any intrinsic merit, 
but of God's gracious constitution. See above, on Ps. xvii. 1, 2. 


xviii. 21 — 25 (20 — 24.) xxv. 21. xxvi. 1. This verse and the 
two following reappear, without material variation, in Ps. 
Ixxi. 1—3. 

3 (2.) Tncli7ie unto me thine ear ; (in) haste deliver me ; 
be to me for a rock of strength for a house of defences to save 
7ne. The prayer for speedy deliverance implies extreme neces- 
sity and danger. For the meaning of the figures, rock of 
strength and house of defences or fortress, see above, on Ps. 
xviii. 3 (2,) and as to the plural form, on Ps. xviii. 51 (50.) 
XX. 7 (6.) — The petition of the first clause seems to imply that 
God had hitherto appeared to turn a deaf ear to his prayers. It 
may perhaps have been intended to suggest the additional idea, 
that his cry was feeble, so that it had hitherto escaped the ear 
of him to whom it was addressed, and who is now implored to 
bow down or incline his ear, that the distant sound may reach 

4 (3.) For 7ny rock a7id my fortress (art) thou, and for thy 
name' s sake thou ivilt lead me and conduct we (or provide for 
m^e) What he asks in the preceding verse he here asserts, to 
wit, that God is his protector, and must therefore of necessity 
protect him, not only for the sufierer's sake, but for the honour 
of his own name or manifested nature. See above, on Ps. 
xxiii. 3, for the meaning of this phrase, and on the second verse 
of the same psalm, for that of the last verb. — The futures in the 
second clause suggest the idea of necessity, and might perhaps 
be correctly rendered by the use of our auxiliary must. 

5 (4.) Thou wilt bring me out from the net ivhich they 
have hid for tne ; for thou (art) my strength (or my strong- 
hold^ ' By thee I confidently hope to be delivered from the 
craft and malice of my enemies, for my defence and safety are 
in thee alone.' With the first clause compare Ps. xxv. 15, and 


with the last Ps. xxvii. 1. The change of figure in the last 
clause shows the whole verse to be highly metaphorical. 

6 (5.) htto thy hand I ivill comviit iny spirit ; thou hast 
redeemed me, (oh) Jehovah, God of truth. The verb in the 
first clause means to entrust or deposit any thing of value. By 
my spirit we may either understand my life or myself, but 
not m\j soul as distinguished from 'iny body. — The preterite 
thou hast redeemed, expresses in the strongest manner his as- 
sured hope and the certainty of the event. — God of truth, 
veracity or faithfulness. See above, on Ps. xxv, 5, and com- 
pare Jer. X. 10. The words of the first clause of this verse 
were quoted or imitated by our Saviour on the cross (Luke 
xxiii. 46), which only proves that he considered himself one 
of those to whom the Psalm might be applied, but without ex- 
cluding others ; and accordingly John Huss, while on his way 
to the stake, repeatedly quoted this whole verse as the expres- 
sion of his own emotions. 

7 (6.) I have hated those regarding vanities of falsehood, 
and I (for my part) in Jehovah have confided. The present is 
included in the preterite of the first clause. ' I have hated 
them and hate them still.' ' I hate them and have done so 
heretofore.' See above, Ps. xvi. 4. xxvi. 5. — Regarding, re- 
ligiously observing, waiting upon, watching with respect and 
trust. Compare Hos. iv. 10. Zech. xi. 11. Jon. ii. 9 (8.) This 
last place contains also the word vanities here used, and even 
in the Law applied to idols, as no gods, and as " nothing in the 
world" (1 Cor. viii. 4.) See Deut. xxxii. 21, and compare Jer. 
ii. 5. X. 15. xiv. 22. xvi. 19. xviii. 15. The words here com- 
bined are highly contemptuous, denoting vanities of emptiness 
or nothings of nonentity, presented in contrast to Jehovah God 
of truth, in whom the Psalmist has confided. And I, as op- 
posed to them ; see above, on Ps. ii. 6. 


8 (7.) I loiil triumph and joij in thy mercy, thou loho hast 
seen 77iy ajfliction, hast Iznoicn the jpangs of tny soul. In the 
strength of his faith he sees deliverance already present. — Hast 
known in the pangs ofm,y soul, i. e. in the time of my distress 
hast been aware of it, which seems to be the meaning of this 
verb and preposition elsewhere (Gen. xix. 33, 35. Job. xxxv. 15.) 
Luther and others give a different construction, hast known my 
soul in distress, but the other is favoured by the occurrence of 
the phrase distress (or agonies^ of soul in Gen. xlii. 21 and Ps. 
XXV. 17. The sight and knowledge here applied to God imply a 
corresponding action. ' Thou hast seen and known my state, 
and dealt with me accordingly.' With the first clause com- 
pare Ps. ix. 3 (2.) 

9 (8.) And hast not shut me up m the hand of a foe, (but) 
hast made to stand i7i the ivide place my feet. To shut up in 
the hand of any one is to abandon to his power. The expres- 
sion is a figurative one, but occurs in prose, and even in the 
history of David. See 1 Sam. xxiii, 11. xxvi. 8. The figure 
of the last clause is a favourite with David. See above, on Ps. 
iv. 2 (1.) xviii. 20, 37 (19, 36.) 

10 (9.) Have 7nercy upon one, oh Jehovah, for distress is to 
me; sunken through grief is my eye, my soul and 7ny belly. 
Having thus professed his confidence of ultimate deliverance, 
he reverts to his actual condition and prays for the divine inter- 
position, on the ground of what he has already suffered. On 
the sinking or failing of the eye, as a sign of extreme grief and 
weakness, see above, on Ps. vi. 8 (7.) Having mentioned this 
as a specific symptom, he then uses the generic terms, sold and 
belly, i. e. body. — For the true sense of the word translated 
grief, see above, on Ps. x. 14. 

11 (10.) For toasted ivith grief (or indignatioii) is 7ny life 


and my years loith sighing ; my strength totters because of 
my iniquity, and my hones are decayed. Wasted, consumed 
before the time. — Life and years, grief and sighing, are cor- 
relative expressions. Life is made up of years ; grief is ex- 
pressed by sighs and groans. — To totter or stumble is a verb 
appUed elsewhere to the parts of the body — as the knees in 
Ps. cix. 24 — here metaphorically to the strength itself. — Be- 
cause of my iniquity or guilt is not inconsistent with the 
appeal to God's righteousness in v. 2 (1), but only proves that 
the Psalmist lays no claim to a sinless perfection. See above, 
on Ps. xviii. 24 (23.) — The bones are mentioned as the seat of 
strength, the solid frame-work of the body. — Decayed, grow^n 
old, worn out. See below, on Ps. xxxii. 3. 

12 (11.) By means of (or because of) all my adversaries I 
was a reproach, and to 7ny neighbours very {inucli), and a fear 
to my acquaintances ; seeing me in the street they fled frovii 
me (or those seeing me m the street fled from me.) The first 
word properly means /r<9??^ or out of It was from his enemies, 
both as the cause and the occasion, that his disgrace proceeded. 
A reproach, despised by others and considered a disgrace to 
them. See above, on Ps. xxii. 7 (6.) In the second clause 
there is an obvious progression. He was so esteemed not only 
by his fellow-men indefinitely, but by his neighbours, and that 
greatly (iklo), which seems equivalent to saying 'and to none 
more than my neighbours,' or, ' above all to my neighbours.' 
In the last clause the climax is completed. Not only were his 
neighbours ashamed of him ; his acquaintances were afraid of 
him. See below, Ps. xxxviii. 12 (11), Ixix. 9 (8), Ixxxviii. 19 
(18), and compare Job xix. 13, 14. 

13 (12.) I was forgotten as a dead man out of mind; I was 
like a broken vessel (or a vessel perishing}^ The next stage of 
his calamity was that of contemptuous oblivion, which usually 


follows the acute one of disgust and shame described in the 
foregoing verse. — From the heart, i. e. the memory ; the ex- 
pression seems to correspond exactly to the second member of 
the English proverb : out of sight, out of mind. — The com- 
parison with an earthen vessel, at best of little value, easily 
broken, and when broken worthless, only fit to be contemptu- 
ously thrown aside, is a favourite with Jeremiah, who appears 
to have derived it, with some other favourite ideas and expres- 
sions, from the psalm before us. See Jer. xix. 11. xxii. 28. 
XXV. 34. xlviii. 38, and compare Hos. viii. 8. 

14 (13.) For I heard, the slander of many — terror (was) all 
around — in their consulting together against me, to take my 
sold (or my life) they plotted. The for connects what follows 
not so much with what immediately precedes as with the 
general description of his urgent need in v. 10 (9), Have mercy 
upon m^e, for distress is to mc, of which he is about to 
give another proof or instance. The first clause is closely 
copied in Jer. xx. 10, and the phrase magor missabib (fear 
round about) is a favourite with that prophet. See Jer. vi. 25. 
XX. 3. xlvi. 5. xlix. 29, and compare Lam. ii. 22. — The term 
used for consulting is akin to that in Ps. ii. 2. — The connexion 
between the slander of the first clause and the plotting of the 
second seems to be, that the former was regarded as a necessary 
means to the successful execution of the latter. 

15 (14.) Aiid I on thee did trust, Jehovah ; I said, my 
God (art) thou ! ' Amidst these distresses, and in spite of them, 
I still confided in Jehovah, and expressed my confidence by 
solemnly avouching him to be my God, and therefore bound by 
covenant to save me, as I am no less bound by covenant to 
trust him.' It is worthy of remark how constantly the ancient 
saints make trust in God essential to all spiritual safety. — With 
the last clause of this verse compare Ps. xvi. 1. 


16 (15.) In thy hand (are) my times ; set me free from the 
hand of my foes and from my 'persecutors. By times we are 
to understand the current of events or the vicissitudes of life, as 
when we speak familiarly of good times, hard times, and the 
like. There may be also an allusion to the turning points or 
critical junctures of his history. The first clause presents the 
ground or reason of the second. ' Since the events of my life 
are at thy disposal, set me free,' &c. Freeing from the hand 

is the opposite of shutting up in it. See above, on v. 9 (8.) 

Foes and persecutors, not as distinct classes, but as different 
descriptions of the same. 

17 (16.) Let thy face shine on thy servant ; save me in thy 
mercy. The first clause contains an allusion to the sacerdotal 
benediction recorded in Num. vi. 25. See above, on Ps. iv. 
7 (6,) where we have a similar allusion to that passage. ' Grant 
me a sensible assurance of thy favour.' This he asks because 
he is his servant, a relation implying the necessity of God's in- 
terposition in his favour. While God is God, he cannot leave 
his faithful servants to perish. Even here, however, his appeal 
is to God's mercy, as the only source or means of safety. 

18 (17.) Jehovah, let me not he shamed, for I have called 
(upon thee.) Let the ivicked be shamed, be silenced, in hell. 
He distinguishes himself, as one who calls upon God, from the 
wicked who do not, and appeals to the righteousness of God 
as requiring that defeat, and disappointment, and frustration of 
the hopes, should fall, not upon the class to which he belongs 
and of which he is the representative, but upon that represented 
by his enemies, of whom it has been well said, that they are 
not reckoned sinners because they are his enemies, but enemies 
because they are sinners, or in other words, enemies to him 
because they are the enemies of God.— Silenced, in reference 



to their present loud and angry contests with the righteous. 
— In hell, or in the grave, i. e. in death. 

19 (18.) Struck dumb be the lips of lying, the (lips) speak- 
ing against a righteous {inaji), insolently in pride and scorn. 
This wish has special reference to the slanders mentioned in 
V. 14 (13.) — Insolenthj, literally insolent, that which is in- 
solent, or as an abstract, insolence, audacity. 

20 (19.) How great is thy goodness which thou hast hidden 
for those feari7i^ thee, (and) ivrought for (those) trusting in 
thee before the son of man (or Tnankind) ! Some suppose an 
antithesis between what God does secretly for those who trust 
him openly, or publicly profess their faith. Compare Matth. 
vi. 4. But usage and the masoretic accents are in favour of a 
different construction, which connects before the sons of man 
with wrought, and supposes the antithesis to be between the 
two successive stages of God's dispensations towards believers, 
first what he does in secret, and then what he does in public. 
* How great is thy goodness which thou hast first treasured up, 
and then wrought openly before the sons of men for those who 
trust thee.* 

21 (20.) Thou wilt secrete theyn i?i the secret of thy face (or 
presence) from the leagues of man ; thou wilt hide them in a 
covert from the strife of tongues. A particular manifestation 
of this goodness is now specified, to wit, the protection of its 
objects from the craft and malice of their fellow-men. The 
figures are the same as in the first clause of Ps. xxvii. 5, except 
that the presence of God is substituted for his dwelling, which 
indeed derives its power of protection solely from that presence. 
The leagues ox plots of man are those mentioned in v. 14 (13), 
and the strife of tongues the slander there referred to; not tlie 

rSALM XXXI. 251 

strife of tongues in mutual dispute among his enemies, but the 
united strife of all their tongues against himself, 

22 (21.) Blessed (be) Jehovah, for he hath 'made his mercy 
wonderfid to me in a city of defence {ox fortified city) What 
he had just asserted to be generally true of all believers, he 
now declares to have been verified in his own experience. — 
Has made his mercy ivonderfid, has exercised surprisinnr 
mercy, or in modern phrase, has been wonderfully gracious. 
— I7i a fenced city is by some understood to mean as such a 
city, a comparison which really occurs in other places. For 
another supposed instance of the same construction, see above, 
on Ps. xxix. 4. In this case, however, as in that, the strict 
sense of the particle may be retained, not only without injury 
but with advantage to the sense, which will then be, that Je- 
hovah had exercised extraordinary mercy towards the Psalmist 
by bringing him into a position where he was as safe from the 
evils which he felt or feared as he would have been from mere 
corporeal perils in a walled town or a fortress. 

23 (22.) And (yet it was) I (that) said in my terror, I am cut 
off from before thine eijes. Nevertheless, thou didst hear the voice 
of my prayers (for mercy) in my crying unto thee (for help.) 
The full force of the emphatic pronoun can be represented only 
by a paraphrase. The meaning is that this very person who 
experiences this wonderful protection was the same who, but a 
little while before, had given himself up for lost. — In my haste. 
The Hebrew word denotes the hurried flight of one escaping 
panic-struck from his pursuers. See the literal application of 
the verb, in historical prose, to the case of David himself, 1 Sam. 
xxiii. 26, and compare Ps. xlviii. 6 (5.) civ. 7. Our idiom ab- 
solutely requires an adversative particle at the beginning of the 
second clause, although the Hebrew word is properly a particle 
of affirmation, meaning certainly or surely. Notwithstanding 

252 PSALM XXXr. 

his despondency and unbelief, Jehovah heard and answered his 
prayers for mercy and his cries for help, both which ideas are 
suggested in the original. 

24 (23.) Love Jehovah, ye his gracious ones (or favoured 
ones) ; foith-keeping (is) Jehovah, and repaying in p>l^'>'^ty 
(the man) ivorking pride (or actiiig proudly^ In this and the 
remaining verse, he makes a further application of the truth, 
which he had just attested from his own experience, to the case 
of all God's saints or gracious ones, at once the subjects and the 
objects of benignant dispositions, those who are merciful be- 
cause they obtain mercy (Matt. v. 7.) See above, on Ps. iv. 
4 (3.) — The next w^ords admit of two interpretations : keeping 
(preserving) the faithful, and keeping faith, Yitei-aWy fidelities, 
the plural being often used in Hebrew as an abstract. The 
predominant usage of d'l^l^SJ^ is in favour of this last construc- 
tion. See above, on Ps. xii. 2 (1.) Keepi?tg faith of course 
means with those who are faithful to himself, so that we still 
have the antithesis between them and the man doing, exe7'ciS' 
ing pride, a form of speech much stronger than its English 
equivalent, acting proudly. — Abundantly, or literally, in plenty, 

25 (24.) Be strong, and let him confirm your heart, all ye 
that wait for Jehovah (or hope in him.) The idea and the 
form of expression are the same as in Ps. xxvii. 14, except that 
what the Psalmist there says to himself, or to his own soul, he 
here says to all that hope in God or wait for the fulfilment of 
his promises. See the same description of God's people in Ps. 
xxxiii. 18 below. — Be stro7ig in purpose and desire, and he 
will make you strong in fact. This promise is conveyed under 
the form of a wish, inaij he strengthen (or coiifir^n) your heart 
See above, on Ps. xxvii. 14. 



The Psalm opens with a general assertion of the blessedness 
arising from the pardon of sin, vs. 1, 2, which is then exempli- 
fied by a statement of the Psalmist's own experience, vs. 3 — 6, 
and extended to the case of others also, vs. 7 — 9, the whole 
ending, as it began, with an assertion of the misery of sinners 
and the happiness of the righteous, vs. 10, 11. 

1. By David. Maschil. Happy {he whose) transgression 
{is) taken aivay, covered (his) sin. The ascription of the 
psalm to David is not only free from all improbability, and 
recognised in the New Testament (Rom. iv. 6,) but confirmed 
by its resemblance to his other compositions, and by a seeming 
reference to a signal incident in David's life, described as 
unique in the history itself (1 Kings xv. 5), and the same which 
gave occasion to the fifty-first psalm. The feelings here de- 
scribed bear a striking analogy to those recorded in the nar- 
rative, 2 Sam. xii, as will be more distinctly pointed out below. 
But although there is reason to believe that this psalm was 
connected, in its origin, with a peculiar and most painful pas- 
sage of the writer's own experience, it was not intended to ex- 
press his personal emotions merely, nor even those of other 
saints in precisely the same situation, but to draw from this one 
case a general lesson, as to the misery of impenitent dissimula- 
tion, and the happiness arising from confession and forgiveness. 
And lest this wide scope of the psalm should be lost sight of, 


in the contemplation of the circumstances which produced it, 
it is described in the inscription as a niaschil, an instructive 
or didactic psalm, a designation which, in the case of many 
other psalms, would be superfluous, and which is actually 
found, for the most part, only where the didactic purpose of 
the composition is for some cause less obvious than usual. 
(Compare the introduction to Ps. xxxiv. below.) That the 
maschil w^as prefixed by David himself, is rendered still more 
probable by the allusion to it in the body of the psalm. See 
below, on v. 8. — Taken away, put out of sight, the same idea 
that is expressed in the other clause by covered. This verse is 
explained by Paul, in Rom. iv. 6, as relating to justification 
"without works" and "by faith." 

2. Happy man — Jehovah will not impute to him iniquity — 
and there is not i?t his spirit guile. The peculiar form of the 
construction may be thus resolved into our idiom : happy the 
man to whom the Lord &c. The phrase at the beginning, oh 
the happinesses of the tnan, is substantially the same as in Ps. 
i. 1. — Impute, reckon or charge to his account, and deal with 
him accordingly. The whole phrase occurs in 2 Sam. xix. 
20 (19.) The threefold designation, sin, transgression, and 
iniquity, seems to be borrowed from Ex. xxxiv. 7, where the 
doctrine of forgiveness is first fully and explicitly propounded. — 
Guile, deceit, including self-deception as to one's own character 
and dissimulation in the sight of God, the attempt to palliate or 
conceal sin instead of freely confessing it, which is an indis- 
pensable condition of forgiveness, according to the doctrine of 
both testaments, (Prov. xxviii. 13. 1 John i. 8 — 10.) 

3. For I kept silence [and) my hones decayed, in my roar- 
ing all the day. The sentence admits of several different 
constructions — 'because I kept silence my bones decayed' — 
* when I kept silence,' &c. But the simplest is that which gives 


the ^'3 its usual and proper meaning, and supposes it to intro- 
duce the psaUnist's proof of tiie preceding proposition drawn 
from his own experience. * I know this happiness, Jo?' I was 
once in a different condition and have been delivered.' — Kept 
silence, refrained from acknowledging my sins to God. The 
bones are here put for the framework of the body, in which the 
strength resides, and the decay of which implies extreme debili- 
tation. The verb translated decayed is especially applied to 
the weakening effect of time ; they grew old, or wore out. — In 
denotes both time and cause — * while I roared ' and ' because I 
roared.' The figure is borrowed from the habits of inferior 
animals, and means loud or passionate complaint. See above, 
on Ps. xxii. 2 (1.) 

4. For day and night thy hand weighs upon me ; changed 
IS my tnoist ure in (oY into) droughts of sum7ner. Selah. The 
for at the beginning shows the connexion of this verse with 
that before it, as assigning the cause of the decay there men- 
tioned. * My bones waxed old because thy hand,' &c. — The 
future in the first clause cannot, without arbitrary violence, be 
taken as a preterite. It seems to have been used for the pur- 
pose of describing his condition as it seemed to him at the time, 
when the hand of God not only weighed upon him but seemed 
likely still to do so. See above, on Ps. xviii. 17 (16.) The 
word translated moisture, i. e. vital juice, analogous to the sap 
of plants, is so explained from an Arabic analogy ; but some 
think this sense inappropriate in the only other case where the 
Hebrew word occurs (Num. xi. 8), and infer from Ps. cii. 5 (4), 
that it is an unusual expression for the heart. His inward 
agonies are represented as intense and parching heats. 

5. My sin I will make known to thee, and my guilt I did 
not conceal. I said, I will make confession of my transgres- 
sions to Jehovah. And: thou didst take away the guilt of my 



sin. Selah. Most interpreters explain the future veib of the 
first clause as a preterite, because all the other verbs are pre- 
terites ; but this only renders the future form of the first verb 
more remarkable and makes it harder to explain why a past 
tense was not used in this, as in all the other cases, if the writer 
intended to express past time. The only consistent method 
of solution is to understand the first clause as a reminiscence o^ 
the psalmist's resolution in the time of his distress, repeated m 
the second clause, and in both cases followed by a recital of the 
execution of his purpose. (I said.) my sin I will make known 
to thee and my guilt I (accordingly) did not conceal. I said, 
I will make confession to Jehovah, and thou didst take away 
the guilt of my sin. See above, on Ps. xxx. 9 (8.) 

6. jPo?* this shall every gracious one make supplication to 
thee at the {right) time {for) finding {thee) ; surely at the 
overfioiu of many ivaters, unto him they shall not reach. The 
first words are equally ambiguous in Hebrew and in English. 
At first sight, both may seem to mean, for this grace, this for- 
giveness, every godly man shall pray to thee. But although 
this construction yields a good sense, it is less consistent with 
the usage of the Hebrew verb and preposition than another which 
explains the phrase to mean for this, or on this account, 
to wit, because I have experienced the blessedness of penitent 
confession and the pardon which invariably follows it. For 
the true sense of n^iprt see above, on Ps. xxxi. 24 (23.) — Shall 
pray is not a mere prediction or anticipation, but a jussive 
future, such as is constantly employed in laws. The sense 
might therefore be conveyed by rendering it, let every pious 
person pray. — The time of finding is the time when God is to 
be found. See Isai. Iv. 6, and compare Deut. iv. 29. Jer. 
xxix. 12 — 14. In this case there may be a particular allusion 
to the interval between the sin and punishment, during which 
the penitent confessions and importunate petitions of the sinner, 


— i. e. the offending saint, to whom alone the Psalmist here 
refers — may avail to avert the judgments which must otherAvise 
inevitably follow. This effect is described in the last clause by 
the figure of a flood which is not suffered to extend to him. 
The word translated surely means in strictness miLy ; i. e. the 
effect of such a prayer will be only this, or, as we say, neither 
more nor less. 

7. Tliou {art) a hiding-place for me ; from distress thou 
wilt preserve me; ivith songs (or shouts) of deliverance thou 
wilt surround me. Selah. This is not, as some suppose, the 
prayer itself, which the believer is exhorted, in v. 6, to offer, 
but a confirmation of the truth of the assurance that the prayer 
will prove effectual, derived from the Psalmist's own experience, 
or rather from the feelings whi^ch it has produced. As if he 
had said : ' Every gracious soul may try this method v/ithout 
fear of disappointment, for I have tried it, and the effect is that, 
at this very moment, God is my refuge and protector, and I feel 
a strong assurance that he has the joy of his salvation in reserve 
for me.' The solemnity and truth of this profession are then 
indicated by a meditative pause, denoted in the usual manner. 

8. I will instruct thee and will guide thee in the way ivhich 
thou shalt go ; I ivill counsel thee, my eye (shall be) upon thee. 
Some regard these as the words of God to David : but besides 
the gratuitous assumption of two different speakers in the two 
successive verses, without any thing to indicate a change, the 
obvious allusion in the first word (?ib'^3ipiS!) to the laconic title 
of the psalm (b'lSb^) — as if the instruction there promised was 
about to be imparted — makes it altogether probable that David 
is here speaking in his own person and fulfilling the vow re- 
corded in another place, that when forgiven and restored to 
communion with God, he would teach transgressors his ways. 
See Ps. li. 15 (13.) He may therefore be considered as ad- 


dressing another like himself — to wit, a godly person ("Tipn) 
overtaken in transgression or exposed to strong temptation — 
and offering to point out to him the path of safety. The con- 
struction of the latter clause which some prefer — / ivill cou7isel 
for thee {with) fny eye — is much less natural and simple than 
the one above given, where the phrase, my eye is (or shall be) 
upon thee, adds to the idea of advice that of friendly watchful- 
ness and supervision. 

9. Be ye not as a horse (or) as a 'mule (in which) there is 
no imder standing — in bridle and hit (consists) its ornament^ 
to onuzzle it, (because of its) not approaching to thee. The 
counsel or advice, which was promised in the previous verse, is 
here imparted. The plural form does not imply a change in 
the object of instruction, but merely shows that the individual 
addressed in v. 8 was the representative of a whole class, namely, 
that described by the collective phrase, every gracious {person), 
in v. 6. — The mule is, among various nations, a proverbial type 
of stubborn persistency in evil, and we find analogous allusions 
to the horse in Jer. v. 8. viii. 6. The reason for usino; a com- 
parison with brutes is intimated in the second clause, to wit, 
that the debased irrationality of sin might be distinctly brought 
into view. The analogy is carried out with no small subtilty 
by representing that what seems to be the trappings or mere 
decoration of these brutes is really intended to coerce them, 
just as that in which men pride themselves may be, and if 
necessary will be used by God for their restraint and subjuga- 
tion. The common version of the last clause — lest tliey come 
near unto thee — would be suitable enough in speaking of a wild 
beast, but in reference to a mule or horse the words can only 
mean, because they will not follow or obey thee of their own 
accord, they must be constantly coerced, in the w^ay both of 
compulsion and restraint. 


10. Many pai7is (are) to the wicked ; and (as to) f/^e (man) 
trusting in JehovaJi, mercy shall enconi'pass him, or, he loill 
encompass him (with) 7nercy. In this and the remaining verse 
the Psahnist loses sight, not only of the horse and mule, to 
which he had compared the stubborn sinner, but of the par- 
ticular case which had occasioned the comparison, and closes 
with the statement of a general truth, founded in necessity and 
verified by all experience, that sin produces misery and trust in 
God salvation. It is implied though not expressed in the first 
clause, that the sufferings of the wicked, while he still continues 
such, are hopeless and incurable, while those to which the 
righteous is subjected, are salutary in effect and temporary in 
duration. See below, Ps. xxxiv. 20 (19). Here again as in 
Ps. xxxi. 15 (14) above, we may observe that the antithesis is 
not between the wicked and the absolutely righteous, but be- 
tween the wicked and the man trusting in Jehovah, and that 
the effect ascribed to this trust is not the recognition of the 
man's inherent righteousness, but his experience of God's 
mercy, which implies that he is guilty and unworthy in himself, 
and can only be delivered from the necessary consequences of 
his sin, by simply trusting in the mercy of the very Being whom 
he has offended. — Of the two constructions given in the version 
of the closing words, the last is recommended by the analogy 
of V. 7, where the same verb governs two accusatives. 

1 1 . Rejoice in Jehovah, and exult, ye righteous, and shout 
(or sing^ all ye upright i?t heart ! This is the practical use to 
be made of the preceding doctrine ; for if that be true, it follows 
that the righteous have abundant cause for exultation, not in 
themselves but in Jehovah, i. e. in their knowledge and posses- 
sion and enjoyment of him. — The righteous, as opposed to the 
wicked ; not the absolutely perfect, but those trusting in the 
mercy of Jehovah for deliverance both from punishment and 
sin. The verb of the second clause is properly a causative and 


means to make others shout or sing for joy. See Dent, xxxii. 43. 
Ps. Ixv. 9 (8.) Job xxix. 13. In one place however, Ps. Ixxxi. 
2 (1), it appears to be intransitive, and such may be the case 
here, where the other verbs mean simply to rejoice. 


A SONG of praise, intended to excite and to express the con- 
fidence of Israel in Jehovah, and closely connected with the 
didactic psalm before it, the closing sentiment of which is here 
carried out. This intimate relation of the two psalms may 
account for the absence of a title in the one before us, as in the 
case of the ninth and tenth. See above, p. 75. 

After a general invitation to praise God, vs. 1 — 3, the reasons 
are assigned, to wit, his truth, faithfulness, and mercy, vs. 4 — 6, 
his creative power, vs. 7 — 9, and his control of human agents, 
not only individuals but whole nations, making them subser- 
vient to his own designs, vs. 10, 11, from all which Is inferred 
the happy lot of his peculiar people, v. 12. The Psalmist then 
continues his praise of God, as omniscient, vs. 13, 14, and con- 
trasts the insufficiency of all created help, vs. 15, 16, with the 
security of those whom he protects, vs. 17, 18, and the whole 
concludes with an expression of strong confidence in Him, on 
the part of all his people, vs. 19 — 21. 

1. Exult, ye righteous, i?i Jehovah/ To the up7-ight suit- 
able (is) -praise. The Hebrew verb, according to the etymol- 
ogists, originally means to dance for joy, and is therefore a very 


strong expression for the liveliest exultation. In Jehovah, i, e. 
in the knowledge and possession of him, with particular refer- 
ence to the covenant relation between him and his peculiar 
people, who are here called the righteous and the upright^ by 
way of eminence, as in Num. xxiii. 10, not because they were 
all actually so, but because they ought to have been .so, as this 
was the idea or, so to speak, the theory of a chosen people, and 
those natural descendants of Israel who were not of this char- 
acter were not entitled to the privileges of the church, which, 
on the contrary, to the true Israel, were legitimate occasion of 
rejoicing and made praise peculiarly comely or suitable to 

2. Give thanks to Jehovah with a ha,rp ; with a lyre of ten 
(strings) make music to him. The first verb means to acknow- 
ledge, either sins or favours; in the first case, it answers to 
confess, Ps. xxxii. 5, in the other to thank, Ps. vii. 18 (17.) 
See also Ps. xxviii. 7. xxx. 10 (9.) The common version, 
praise, is too indefinite, though this idea is undoubtedly in- 
cluded. The mention of the instruments does not exclude vocal 
praise, but merely gives it an accompaniment and support, as if 
the voice were too weak by itself to utter the divine praise. 
The precise form of the instruments here named is now un- 
known and wholly unimportant. The ten strings of the second 
are mentioned, either to identify it by a familiar circumstance, 
or, as some suppose, because the number had a mystical signifi- 
cance. The same combination reappears below in Ps. cxliv. 9, 
while in Ps. xcii. 4 (3), the two words are separately used, as 
if denotinof different instruments. 


3. Sing unto him a new song ; play well with joyful noise! 
A new song implies the continual recurrence of fresh reasons 
and occasions for the praise of God, and also the spontaneous 
ebullition of devout and thankful feeUngs in the hearts of those 



by whom the praise is offered. This is the first instance of the 
expression, but it frequently reappears in later psalms — Ps. xl. 
4 (3), xcvi. 1, xcviii. 1 — and once or twice in the New Testa- 
ment, Rev. V. 9. xiv. 3. — Tlay icell, literally do well to play 
or in playing. This peculiar idiom occurs in the history of 
David, 1 Sam. xvi. 17. — Joyful noise, see above, on Ps. xxvii. 6, 
in which place, as in this, there is no certain or necessary 
reference to sacrifice, but only to an audible and lively expres- 
sion of reiio;ious feeling. 

4. For right is the ivord of Jehovah, and all his work is 
(done) in faithfulness. The ivord here meant is the word of 
promise, and the U'ork is its performance or fulfilment. The 
woi'd is right or upright, i. e. uttered in sincerity and with a 
full determination to redeem it. In faithfulness, executed 
faithfully. Compare Num. xxiii. 19. Ps. cv. 42. 

5. Loving righteousness and justice — (with) the 7nercy of 
Jehovah is the earth filled. He is loving, i. e. he habitually 
loves. The last clause represents God's mercy as a matter of 
notorious and universal observation, and the whole verse exhibits 
his justice and his mercy as in harmony with one another, and 
equally consolatory to his people. 

6. By the ivord of Jehovah were the heavens made^ and by 
the breath of his mouth all their host. Having set forth the 
righteousness, fidelity, and mercy of Jehovah, as displayed on 
earth, the Psalmist now demonstrates his ability to deliver and 
protect his people, by exhibiting his almighty power in the 
creation and sustentation of the universe. There is obvious 
allusion to the history of the creation in Genesis. This is espe- 
cially apparent in the closing words, all their host, which are 
borrowed from Gen. ii. 1. Breath is a poetical equivalent to 
word, and conveys still more strongly the idea of the ease with 


which a God could make a world. At the same time, it is not 
a mere fortuitous coincidence, that these two words are used in 
Scripture to designate the second and third persons of the God- 
head. Compare Gen. i. 2. Job xxvii. 3. xxxiii. 4. Ps. civ. 
29, 30. Isai. xi. 4. 

7. Gathering as a heap the ivaters of the sea, 'putting in 
store houses the depths. The participle represents it as an act 
still continued, and affording a perpetual evidence of God's 
almighty power, which is just as necessary now as on the first 
day of creation, to prevent the earth from being totally sub- 
merged. — As a heap. DeaUng with fluids as if they were 
solids, with an obvious allusion to Ex. xv. 8. See also Josh, 
iii. 13, 16. Ps. Ixxviii. 13. — Putting, liierally, giving, storing, 
depositing. — Depths, masses of water. The main point of the 
description is God's handling these vast liquid masses, as men 
handle solid substances of moderate dimensions, heaping the 
waves up and storing them away, as men might do with stones 
or wheat. 

8. Let them be afraid of Jehovah — all the earth; let them 
stand i7i aive of him — all the divellers in the toorld. The po- 
sition of the verbs at the beginning of the clauses adds greatly 
to the strength of the expression. The parallelism is exact, the 
terms being nearly synonymous. That the earth of the first 
clause means its rational inhabitants, is implied in the plural 
verb and expressed in the parallel clause. For the precise 
sense of the word translated ivorld, see above, on Ps. xxiv. 1. 
The remoter inference suggested is that this omnipotent crea- 
tor and preserver of the universe is able to protect his people 
and entitled to their confidence. 

9. For (it was) He (that) said (Be), and it was ; (it was) 
He (that) commanded, and it stood. The whole form of the 


sentence here is modelled upon that of the cosmogony in Gen- 
esis, where these two verbs repeatedly alternate. The common 
version, he spake and it teas done, is liable to three exceptions. 
The first is, that the emphatic pronoun of the Hebrew is not 
fairly represented ; the second, that the phrase it was done is 
much less strikinj? than it was; the third, that the Hebrew 
verb ('it:^) does not mean to speak but to say. See above^ 
on Ps. iv. 5 (4.) Wliat was said, every reader could supply 
from recollection of the narrative in Genesis. — Stood, appeared, 
came into existence. Compare Ps. cxix. 90, 91. 

10. Jehovah has annulled the counsel of nations; he has 
frustrated the plans of the peoples. What he has done he can do, 

although this is not explicitly affirmed. He who created and 
sustains the universe can frustrate, as he pleases, the designs of 
his own creatures, whether individuals or nations, from whom, 
therefore, his own people can have nothing to fear. 

11. The counsel of Jehovah to eternity shall stand ; the 
thoughts of his heart to geiieration and generation. This is 
the converse of the proposition. For the same reason that no 
purpose of his creatures can succeed against his will, no oppo- 
sition of the creature can aff'ect the execution of his own de- 
signs. — Counsel, plan, purpose. — Thoughts of his heart, con- 
ceptions or intentions of his mind. — To generation and genera- 
tion, a common idiomatic phrase meaning one generation after 
another, or indefinitely, all generations. 

12. Happy the nation whose God (is) Jehovah, the people 
he hath chosen for a heritage for him. This is the centre of 
the whole psalm, the conclusion from what goes before, and 
the text or theme of all that follows. Under the general pro- 
position is included a particular felicitation of Israel as the 
actual choice and heritage of God, i. e. chosen to be his, in a 


peculiar sense, by hereditary succession, through a course of 


13. From heaven looked Jehovah ; he sav) all the sons qf 
mail (or Adam.) He looked not at any one time merely, but 
at all times ; he has always looked upon them since he fir^^t 
created them. As his omnipotence is constantly exerted to 
sustain them in existence, so his omniscience is continually 
exercised in the same inspection as at first. 

14. From the place of his dwelling he gazed at all the 
dwellers on the earth. From his own residence without and 
above the earth, he has continued still to look intently upon its 
inhabitants. The verb is a poetical one, stronger than the 
ordinary look. See Song Sol. ii. 9, Isai. xiv. 16. 

15. The {God) formiiig all their hearts, the {God) attending 
to all their deeds. The article agrees with the subject of the 
verb understood, and this construction it is necessary to retain, 
in order to connect the sentence as closely with the one before 
it as in the original. Forming implies knowing, which is more 
distinctly expressed, in reference to their outward conduct, in 
the other clause. God is also described as the creator of the 
human soul in Zech. xii. 1. Compare Num. xvi. 22. xxvii. 16. 
His control of it is expressly affirmed in reference to kings, 
Prov. xxi. 1. 

16. Not at all is the king saved by greatness of force ; a 
mighty {inati) shall not he freed by greatness of strength. It 
shall not be, because it is not so, nor ever has been. The 
future therefore really includes a universal present. The nega- 
tion is of course to be limited by what precedes, the saving 
power of mere human strength being only denied as it stands 
opposed to God or affects to be independent of him. The 

VO.L I. 12 



Psalmist here begins a contrast between God's perfection and 
all created helps, considered as objects of confidence. The 
king is a generic term, describing a whole class, more strongly 
than our indefinite phrase, a king. 

17. A lie (is) the horse for salvation, and by the greatness 
of his strength he shall not deliver. This is a mere specifica- 
tion of the o-eneral statement in the sixteenth verse. The horse 
meant is the war-horse, and is singled out as one of the ele- 
ments of military strength in which the ancients were especially 
disposed to trust. See above, on Ps. xx. 8 (7), and compare 
Isai. xxxi. 1 — 3. A lie, a falsehood, i. e. something which de- 
ceives and disappoints the confidence reposed in it. The deli- 
verance and salvation here referred to are deliverance and sal- 
vation from the perils of w^ar. 

18. io, the eye of Jehovah (is) tmjuards his fearers, to those 
icaiting for his mercy. While the material strength of other 
men fails to secure them, those who fear the Lord and hope iu 
his mercy, are secure beneath his vigilant inspection. That 
this is intended for their good, is more distinctly stated in the 
next verse. 

19. To deliver from death their soul, atid to keep them alive 
in the famhie. The sentence is continued from the foregoing 
verse. His eye is towards them for the very purpose of inter- 
posing when he sees it to be necessary, for the rescue of their 
soul, their life, from death in general, to w^hich is added one 
specific form of danger, w^ell known to the ancient Hebrews. 
The famine is a similar expression to the king in v. 16, and to 
our common phrase the pestilence, when used in a generic sense, 
and not in reference to any particular disease or visitation. 

20. Our soul has hoped (or waited) for Jehovah ; our help 


and our shield (is) He. In the remainder of the Psalm, the peo- 
ple of God express their trust in him and pray that he will deal 
with them according to their faith. The preterite expresses a 
habit already formed and fixed, and tlierefore really including a 
description of the present. In the terms of this verse there 
appears to be a reference to the language of the Pentateuch in 
several places. See Gen. xv. 1. xlix. 18. Deut. xxxiii. 29. The 
figure of a shield occurs above, in Ps. iii. 4 (3.) xviii. 3, 31, 36 
(2, 30, 35.) The position of the pronoun is emphatic and 
significant. Our safety and protection are in Him and 
Him alone. 

21. Foj' in him shall our heart rejoice, for in his holy 
name have we trusted. The consecution of the tenses is not 
unmeanhig or fortuitous. The Psalmist's assurance of the 
future is derived from the possession of a faith already tried and 
proved to be truly in existence. It is because lie has trusted, 
that he linows he shall rejoice. The exchange of both these 
tenses for a present is at once enfeebling to the sense and un- 
grammatical. — His holy name, in the wide sense which the 
epithet so often has in this book, nearly corresponding to his 
glorious, his divine name. See above, on Ps. xxii. 4 (3.) To 
trust in this name is, to build one's hopes on the manifestation 
of God's attributes in previous acts ; to believe that what he 
has heretofore shown himself to be, he will be still in the expe- 
rience of his people. 

22. Be thy mercy, Jehovah, upon us, as we have ivaited for 
thee. The faith implied in this hope being the sole condition 
of God's mercy, its possession constitutes a claim upon that 
mercy, which is here urged as the sum of all the previous peti- 
tions. What is thus waited for cannot but be realized. A 
merciful and righteous God cannot, without denial of himself, 
withhold that which his people thus expect. Any appearance 


of a meritorious claim is excluded by the doctrine sufficiently 
implied here and abundantly taught elsewhere, that the condi- 
tion is as much the gift of God as that which is suspended on 
it. The claim in reality amounts to a petition that as God had 
given the desire he would fulfill it. — As, according as, not 
merely since, because, but in proportion to our faith, so deal 
with us. Compare Matt. ix. 29. 


After the title containing the historical occasion, v. 1, the 
Psalmist expresses his determination to praise God for his 
goodness as experienced already, vs. 2, 3, (1 , 2), and invites others 
to unite with him in so doing, v. 4 (3.) He then briefly states 
his own experience, v. 5 — 7 (4 — 6), and founds upon it the 
general doctrine of God's care for his own people, vs. 8 — 11 
(7 — 10.) Assuming then the tone of an instructor, he lays 
down rules for the securing of this great advantage, vs. 12 — 15 
(11 — 14), and contrasts, in the remainder of the psalm, the 
safety of the righteous, even when afflicted, with the certain 
ruin of the wicked, vs. 16—23 (15—22.) 

The Psalm is so evidently a didactic one, or ??iaschil, that an 
express designation of this character was not required. See 
above, on Ps. xxxii. 1. 

As to its form, this is the second instance of an alphabetical 
psalm, approaching very nearly to perfect regularity, the only 
letter omitted being 1. It is very remarkable that here, as 
in Ps. XXV, the last verse begins with pj, like v. 16, and seems 
to be added to the alphabetic series. 


1. By David, in (the time of) his changing (disguising) his 
reason before Abimelech, and he drove him aivay, and he went. 
Tlie incident referred to is recorded in 1 Sam. xxi. David, hav- 
ing fled from Saul into the land of the Philistines, was broufht 
into the presence of Achish king of Gath, from whom he had 
reason to expect retaliation for injuries formerly received, and 
therefore pretended to be mad, an expedient which, in spite of 
its dubious morality, it pleased God to allow to be successful. 
In grateful recollection of this undeserved deliverance, not 
without some compunction with respect to the means by which he 
had secured it, David seems, at a later period of his life, to have 
composed this psalm for popular instruction, to which it is pe- 
culiarly adapted by its clearness and simplicity, as well as by its 

alphabetic form, which is a valuable aid to the memory. In his 

changing does not necessarily designate the date of composition, 
but only that of the event which gave occasion to it. The 
common version, behaviour, is inconsistent with the usage of 
the Hebrew word, which means taste, judgment, understanding, 
reason. — Abimelech, king's father, hereditary sovereign, was 
the traditional title of the king. See Gen. xx. 2. xxvi. 1. His 
personal name was Achish, 1 Sam. xxi. 10, 11, 12, 14. 

2 (1.) I ivill bless Jehovah at every time : always his praise 
(shall be) in my mouth. The promise of unceasing praise 
suggests the idea of extraordinary benefits to call it forth. — In 
all time, in every variety of situation, even the most discour- 
aging, he is resolved to bear in mind what God has done for 
him in times past. 

3(2.) In Jehovah shall glory my soul ; the humble shall 
hear and rejoice. The first verb is strictly a reflective form, 
and means to praise one's self, i, e. to boast, or, as denoting a 
more permanent afl^ection of the mind, to glory, i. e. to exult 
in the possession and enjoyment of .^ome admired and beloved 


object. The act of glorying is ascribed to the soul, in order to 
describe it as done cordially, ex animo. — The Immble, as opposed 
to the proud and the presumptuous, is a general description o^ 
God's people, who are naturally interested in the good experi- 
enced by the Psalmist, both for his sake and their own. See 
above, on Ps. xxii. 27 (26.) xxv. 9. 

4 (3.) Mag7iify (praise) to Jehovah icithine, ajidlet us exalt 
his name together. In Ps. Ixix. 31 (30), the verb to 7nagnify 
is construed directly with its object, but in this case with a 
dative, to Jehovah, which may either be regarded as a poetical 
equivalent to the accusative, or connected with the noun 
praise understood, or with name, supplied from the other clause. 

5 (4.) J sought Jehovah, and he answered me, and from all 
my fears delivered me. He here begins to assign a reason 
why he and others should praise God. He had delivered him 
from all his fears by removing the occasions of them. The 
same plural form occurs, Isai. Ixvi. 4. 

6 (5.) They looked unto him and brightened, and let not 
their faces blush. The plural they refers to the whole class of 
which the Psalmist was the representative. — Brightened, or as 
we say in English, brightened up, is a natural expression of re- 
lief and renewed cheerfulness. In the last clause the optative 
form is substituted for that of simple affirmation, so as to increase 
the emphasis. The wish, let not their faces blush, implies that 
there is danger of their doing so, and need of divine grace to 
prevent it. 

7 (6.) This sufferer called, and Jehovah heard, and from 
all his distresses saved him. From the general expressions of 
the preceding verse he now recurs to his own case in particular. 
This sufferer, or afflicted one, meaning himself, as we .^-ay in 


modern phrase, the speaker or the writer, as a periphrasis for 
the personal pronoun. 

8 (7.) Encamping (is) the angel of Jehovah round about his 
fearers — a7id (now) he has rescued them. The angel, not only 
in the collective sense of angels, but in its specific sense, as de- 
noting the Angel of the Lord by way of eminence, the angel of 
the covenant and of the divine presence (Isai. Ixiii. 9), in whom 
the manifestation of the Godhead took place under the Old 
Testament. As this angel was the captain of the Lord's host 
(Jos. V. 14. 1 Kings xxii. 19), his presence implies that of many 
others, and the word encamp is therefore perfectly appropriate. 
The conversive future represents the act denoted by the last 
verb as consequent upon the other. This grammatical relation 
can only be imperfectly expressed in a translation, though 
the general idea is sufficiently clear. 

9 (8.) Taste ye and see, that Jehovah is good ; happy the 
man ivho ivill trust in him. The only proof is furnished by 
experience. The exhortation seems to imply that the provision 
is already made and only waiting for the guests. Compare 
Luke xiv. 17, and see above, on Ps. ii. 12. 

10. (9) Fear Jehovah, ye his saints, for there is 7io iva7it to 
his fearers. The fear of God is here put, as in several other 
places, for the whole of piety or genuine religion, which must 
ever rest upon the basis of profound awe and veneration. See 
Ps. ii. 11. Prov. i. 7. ix. 10. His saints, those set apart and 
consecrated to his service, and as such bound to be holy in the 
strict sense. See above, on Ps. xvi. 3. The last clause repre- 
sents this as no less the interest than the duty of God's people. 
They are called upon to fear him, not only because fear is due 
to him, but because it is the surest method of securing their 
own safety and supplying; their own wants. 


11 (10.) Young lions have lacked and hungered, and the 
seekers of Jehovah shall not ivant all (or any) good. The first 
verb properly means ^ro^d/■?^ jKtor or become impoverished, and is 
therefore strictly applicable only to a human subject, a sufRcient 
proof that such a subject is really referred to here under the 
figure of a lion, which is frequently used elsewhere to denote 
men of strength and violence. See Job iv. 10, 11, and compare 
Ps. Ivii. 5 (4.) Nah. ii. 12— 14(11— 13). Ez. xix. 2, 3. xxxviii. 13. 
The sentiment then is, that while the most powerful and least 
scrupulous of men may be reduced to want, the people of God 
shall be abundantly and constantly provided for. The contrast 
is analogous to that presented in Isai. xl. 30, 3]. 

12 (11.) Come, sons, hearken to me ; the fear of Jehovah I 
ivill teach you. As one experienced in the Avays of God, he 
now addresses those less enlightened, and invites them to avail 
themselves of his instructions. Sons or children is a natural 
and common designation of the pupil as related to the teacher. 
Compare Prov. i. 8, 10, ]5. To teach men the fear of the Lord 
is to teach them how and why they should fear him. And ac- 
cordingly we find in the ensuing verses a practical argument in 
favour of true piety derived from its beneficent effects on those 
who cherish it and practice it. 

13 (12.) Who (is) the man, the (one) desiring life, loving 
days (in which) to see good? The interrogation is equivalent 
to saying, whosoever desires life, i. e. desires to live, not in the 
sense of mere existence but of genuine enjoyment, which is dis- 
tinctly expressed in the last clause by the words loving days, 
i. e. desiring many days or long life, not for its own sake, but 
as a time of happiness. Whoever does desire this — and the 
wish must of course be universal — let him observe the follow- 
ing precepts. To see good is to know it by experience, to 
possess it and enjoy it. See above, on Ps. iv. 7 (6.) 


14 (13.) Keep thy t07igue froin evil and thy lips from speak- 
ing guile. The man who was inquired for in v. 13 (12) is 
here directly addressed. Whoever thou art, if thou desire thus 
to live, Iceep, watch, guard, thy tongue from speaking evil, a 
comprehensive phrase, for which the last clause substitutes one 
more specific, namely, speaking guile, uttering deceit, or lying. 
The stress here laid upon this sin is so remarkable, when viewed 
in connexion with the means by which David escaped from 
Achish, as suggested in the title, that it can only be explained 
by supposing that he looked on the success of his deception as 
a most unmerited forbearance upon God's part, which, far from 
recommending the same course in other cases, made it incum- 
bent on the Psalmist to dissuade others from it. 

15 (14.) Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and 
pursue it. Not only in relation to this one sin, but to all, if thou 
desire to enjoy life, depart from evil, break off the practice and 
abjure the love of it ; and since this is neither practicable nor 
sufficient as a mere negation, effect it by a positive performance 
of its opposite, do good. Compare the exhortation in Isai. 
i. 16, 17, Cease to do evil, learn to do good.. The last clause 
may be explained as a return from generals to particulars, hos- 
tility and hatred being singled out as falsehood and deceit were 
in the preceding verse. Compare Rom. xii. 18. 2 Cor. xiii. 11. 
Or peace may be understood as comprehending peace with God 
and the enjoyment of his favour. — In either of these senses, or 
in both, if thou desire to enjoy life, seek peace, not in an indolent 
and listless manner, but pursue it, chase it, hunt for it, and 
eagerly endeavour to attain it. The command implies that the 
object is both worthy of pursuit and liable to be lost. 

16 (15.) The eyes of Jehovah (are) towards the righteous, 
and his ears towards their cry. The inducement to comply 
with the foregoing precepts is that God will protect his servants 


from those dangers against which neither violence nor craft can 
secure them. They have no need either to speak guile or break 
the peace, in order to be safe from injur}'. Another watches 
over them, whose vigilance cannot be eluded or exhausted. 
The eyes of the Lord are to the righteous, i.e. open to them, 
or turned towards them, so that he continually sees their true 
condition, and Jiis ears are directed to their cry, or open to 
receive it. This, without a figure, means, that he is constantly 
apprized of their necessities and ready to receive their prayers, 
in which assurance that of safety and abundance is fully com- 

17 (16.) The face of Jehovah (is) vjith evil-doers, to destroy 
from the earth their memory. The same unsleeping vigilance 
is exercised towards others also, but for a very different purpose. 
The face of the Lord is icith evil-doers, i. e. visible or present 
to them, no less than to good men. The preposition before 
evil-doers is not the same that occurs twice in the verse pre- 
ceding, and which properly denotes direction, but another 
meaning in or icith. The unfavourable sense, against, which 
it may seem to have both here and elsewhere (e. g. Jer. xxi. 10, 
xliv. 11) is suggested by the context. In all these cases some 
interpreters suppose the sense to be that the eyes or face of God 
penetrate, as it were, and rest in the object. — The design with 
wliich Jehovah watches evil-doers is not to interpose for their 
deliverance or relief, but to destroy from the earth, tlieir very 
memory, a strong expression for entire extirpation. Compare 
Ex. xvii. 14. Deut. xxv. 19. Isaiah xxvi. 14, and see above, on 
Ps. ix. 6, 7 (5, 6.) 

18 (19.) They cried ayid Jehovah heard, and from all their 
distresses delivered them. This may at first sight seem to have 
respect to the evil-doers of the preceding verse, who are then 
represented as obtaining relief from deserved judgments by 


humble prayer to God. But as the wicked are, in this whole 
passage, mentioned only incidentally, and as a kind of foil or 
contrast to the righteous, it seems better, on the whole, to make 
the first verb here indefinite, Qnen cry for help, but with special 
reference to the righteous of v. IG (15.) God watches over the 
righteous to protect them — as he does over the wicked to de- 
stroy them — and whenever they cry to him for help, he saves 
them. This parenthetical construction of v. 17 (16) is the more 
admissible because it contains no finite verb, whereas v. 18 (17) 
contains three. 

19 (18.) Near (is) Jehovah to the broken in hearty and the 
crushed in spirit he ivill save. These figurative terms are 
always used in a good sense and applied to humble penitents. 
See Ps. li. 19 (17). Isai. Ivii. 15. Ixi. 1. Ixvi. 2. They are de- 
scriptive of the contrition wrought by divine grace in the hearts 
of sinners. To such the Lord is always near, i. e. ready to 
deliver and protect. See above, on Ps. xxii. 12 (11.) 

20 (19) Many evils (befall) the righteous, and from them all 
will Jehovah deliver him. The preceding promise might have 
seemed to imply exemption from all suffering ; but this can only 
be enjoyed in comiexion with exemption from all sin. While 
sin continues to exist, sorrow must coexist with it, even in the 
case of true believers or the righteous, who are never described 
in this book as absolutely sinless. See above, Ps. xix. 13 (12.) 
XXV. 7. While the sufferings of the righteous show them to be 
sinners, their deliverance illustrates the divine compassion. The 
relation of the clauses would in our idiom require a hut instead 
of the simple copulative, which the Hebrew writers commonly 
employ in such connexions. 

21 (20.) Keeping all his bones — not one of them is broken. 
The sentence may be completed by supplying the substantive 
verb: Qie is) keeping, i.e. habitually keeps ; but it is simpler 


and better to regard this and the verse before it as one sentence, 
and the participle as agreeing regularly with Jehovah. — Keep- 
ing, in the pregnant sense of watching and preserving. — His 
bo7ies, his frame, his body. tSee above, Ps. xxxii. 3, and below, 
Ps. XXXV. 10. — The literal translation of the last clause, one of 
them is 7tot broken, would be equivocal in English. The ori- 
ginal expression occurs also in Isai. xxxiv. 16. The doctrine 
or promise of this verse is analogous to that in Matt. x. 30. 

22 (21.) Evil shall slay the luicJced, a?id the haters of the 
righteous shall he guilty. While the sufferings of which the 
righteous man is a partaker are but temporary, those of the 
wicked shall be ultimately fatal. See above, on Ps. xxxii. 10. 
Evil must have the same sense in both cases, namely, that of 
physical evil, suffering or misfortune. The result here described 
is not fortuitous, but brought about by moral causes. They 
must be destroyed because they are found guilty ^ i. e. of rebel- 
lion against God, one conclusive proof of which is afforded by 
their hatred of his people. They shall he guilty, i. e. recog- 
nised and known as such and treated accordingly. ' The suf- 
ferings of the wicked man, unlike those of the righteous, tend 
to death, because the hatred of the former to the latter proves 
himself to be worthy of destruction.' 

23 (22.) Jehovah redeems the soul of his servants, arid guilty 
shall none he (of) those trusting in him. The precise form of 
the first clause in Hebrew is : Jehovah redeeming the soul of 
his servants, which seems to mean that he is doins; so now, 
and that he habitually does so. The soul or vital principle is 
named because the case was one of life and death. None of 
those trusting in him shall be recognised and treated as guilty, 
the opposite of that which had been just asserted of the wicked. 
The condition and ground of this immunity is faith or trust in 
God, without which, according to the doctrine of both testa- 
ments, there can be no escape from guilt or punishment. 



We have here another of those psalms, in which two great 
parties, the righteous and the wicked, are exhibited in contrast 
and in an attitude of mutual hostility. The psalm may be 
divided into three parts, parallel to one another, in all of 
which the elements combined are complaint, prayer, and the 
promise of thanksgiving for anticipated deliverance. The first 
division is occupied with an invocation of divine judgments 
on God's enemies, ending with an expression of triumph in 
God's favour, vs. 1 — 9. The second contains a more particular 
description of these enemies, as oppressors, false accusers, un- 
thankful renderers of evil for good, and malignant scoffers, with 
a prayer for the divine interposition, and a pledge of public 
thanksgiving, vs. 10 — 18. The third renews briefly the de- 
scription of the enemy, but is chiefly filled with prayer to be 
delivered from them, and closes, like the others, with a promise 
of perpetual thanksgiving, vs. 19 — 28. 

1. By David. Oj^j^ose, Jehovah, my opposers ; devour my 
devourers. The correctness of the title is confirmed by the ap- 
pearance of allusion to 1 Sam. xxiv. 16 (15,) the incident recorded 
in which place may have been present to the Psalmist's mind, 
although we have no reason to believe that he wrote it with 
exclusive reference to that time or to himself, but for the use 
of pious sufferers in general. — Strive with 'iny strivers, or co7i- 
tend with my contejiders. The original verb is one specifically 
used to denote judicial contest, litigation, in which sense a cog- 

278 rSALM XXXV. 

uate noun is used below, v. 23, and the English Bible thus 
translates the verse before us : 'plead [my cause) ivith them that 
strive against me ; fight against them that fight against me. 
It is only in the passive form, however, that tnb means to fight; 
its primary sense is to devour. The application of this meta- 
phor to warfare is not uncommon. See below, Ps. Ivi. 2, 3 
(1, 2), and compare Num. xiv. 9. xxiv. 8. Deut. vii. 16. 

2. Lay hold of shield a7id huckler, and stand up in my de- 
fence (or for my help) The manifestation of God's saving and 
protecting power is described in Scripture under various figures 
corresponding to the form of the particular suffering or danger. 
Against injustice he appears as an advocate or judge (see v. 23 
below) ; against violence as a warrior (see Deut. xxxii. 41, 42.) 
In this character the Psalmist here entreats him to appear, and 
for that end to seize, grasp, or lay hold of his weapons of de- 
fence. The shield and buckler seem to have been different in 
size (1 Kings x. 16, 17), though not in use. — Arise, address 
thyself to action. See above, on Ps. iii. 8 (7.) — In my help is 
by some explained to mean as my help i. e. 'iny helper ; but the 
Hebrew idiom seems to be identical with our phrase in my de- 

3. And draw out the spear, and stop (the way) against my 
pursuers ; say to my soul. Thy salvation {am) I. The first 
verb properly means empty, pour out, and then draw out. 
Some suppose the expression to be strictly applicable only to the 
sword, but to be here applied by a kind of poetic licence to the 
spear. Others suppose it to be strictly used, but in relation to 
the drawing of it out of its repository or concealment. Some 
explain ^ip as a foreign word, identical with the Scythian 
aUyaqig or battle-axe. But no such word occurs in Hebrew 
elsewhere, and the meaning of the verb 130 is entirely ap- 
propriate, to close or stop the way against another. Against, 

rSAL^I XXXV. 279 

or literally to oiicet, in a hostile or military sense which the 
word has in Dent. i. 44, Josh. viii. 14, and elsewhere. — To my 
soul ; see above, on Ps, xi. 1. — Thy salvation, see below, Ps. 
xxxviii. 23 (22.) 

4 . Shamed and confounded be the seekers of my soul ; turned 
back and made to blush the devisers of my hurt. Entirely 
disappointed in their hopes and efforts. The optative meaning 
of the futures is determined by the unambiguous form ^Ti^ in 
V. 6 below. The seekers of m,y soul or life, i. e. such as seek 
it to destroy it. Compare Matt. ii. 13, 20. Turned back, dis- 
gracefully repulsed and defeated. See above, on Ps. ix. 18 (17.) 
Made to blush : the form of the verb in Hebrew is not caus- 
ative, but simply means to blush or be confused. The caus- 
ative form is here employed in order to give uniformity to the 
English sentence. — My hurt, literally, my evil, i. e. evil for- 
tune, calamity, or injury. — Devisers, literally, thinkers, i. e. 
such as meditate or purpose my destruction. 

5. Let them be as chaff' before a wiyid, and the angel of Je- 
hovah smiting. Under the influence of inspiration, the Psalm- 
ist sees the natural and righteous consequences of their wicked- 
ness, and viewing the case merely in itself, apart from personal 
feeling, speaks of this effect as desirable. The wish expressed 
is, to all intents and purposes, equivalent to a prediction or the 
affirmation of a general truth. The Psalmist desires the de- 
struction of these sinners precisely as God wills it ; nor is it 
any harder to reconcile such wishes with the highest deo-ree 
of human goodness than it is to reconcile the certain fact that 
God allows some men to perish with his infinite benevolence. 
The figure of chaff before the wind suggests the idea of intrinsic 
worthlessness with that of easy and complete destruction. 
Compare Ps. i. 4. The participle at the close means striking 
(the?n) down, so that they cannot rise. Compare Ps. xxxvi. 


13 (12.) The ayigel of Jehovah^ his appohited instrument of 
vengeance. See above, on Ps. xxxiv. 8 (7.) 

6. Liet their way he dark and slippery and the angel of 
Jehovah chasing them. The optative form of the verb at the 
beginning determines the sense of those which go before, and 
which otherwise might be ambiguous. — Dark and slippery, 
literally, darkness and smooth^iesses, an emphatic substitution 
of the abstract for the concrete. The fearful imao-e thus sue:- 
gested of men driven, like chaff before the wind, along a dark 
and slippery path, is rendered more terrific by the additional 
idea of. their being hotly pursued by the destroying angel. The 
construction of the last clause, both in this verse and the one 
before it, is : (let) the angel of Jehovah (be) pursuing them. 

7. For icithout cause they hid for me their pit fall ; without 
cause they digged for my soul. This verse assigns the rea- 
son of the imprecations or denunciations which precede. — 
Without cause, wantonly, gratuitously, unprovoked, and there- 
fore prompted by mere malice. See below, v. 19. — The pit of 
their net is an idiomatic phrase like the hill of Tny holhiess. 
See above, on Ps. ii. 6. The true sense of the phrase appears 
to be their net-pit, i. e. their pit covered with a net, a figure 
borrowed from the ancient modes of hunting. See above, on 
Ps. vii. 16 (15.) ix. 16 (15.) In the last clause we may either 
supply a relative, as in the common version, which they digged, 
or take the verb in the absolute sense of making a pit or ditch. 

8. Let ruin come (upon) him (when) he does not knoiv ; and 
his net ivhich he hid — let it take him — with ruhi (to his ruin)' 
let him fall into it. The first noun properly denotes a crash, 
as of a falling house, and then a ruin, both in the narrower and 
wider sense. When he does not know, unawares, unexpectedly, 
as in Isai. xlvii. 11. Job ix. 5. The last clause mav also be 


translated, into ruin let him fall into it, i. e. as the common 
version has it, into that very ruin. But it is simpler to let 
i-;p:;3 qualify the verb; let him fall with ruin, i. e. ruinously, 
to his own destruction. 

9. And my soul shall exult in Jehovah, shall joy in his 
salvation. Our idiom would require so or then at the beginnino- 

of the sentence, to make the connexion of the verses clear. In 

Jehovah, not merely on account of him, but in union with him 
and possession of him, as the parallel phrase, in his salvation, 
means in the experience and enjoyment of it. This is a kind 
of promise that the favour asked shall not be unrequited by 
thanksgiving, and the same idea is still further carried out in 
the next verse. 

10. All my hones shall say, Jehovah, who is like thee, de- 
livering the sufferer from (one) stronger than himself and 
the sufferer and the needy from his spoiler ? The bones, the 
frame, the person, are here put for the whole man. See above, 
on Ps. xxxii. 3. The interrogative form implies negation. 
' There is no such saviour besides God.' The apparent tau- 
tology may be relieved in English by translating even the 
sufferer, &c. But such repetitions are entirely congenial to the 
Hebrew idiom. With the second clause compare Jer. xxxi. 1 1, 
and with the third Ps. x. 2. 

11. There rise up ivit7iesses of violence; (as to) that which 
I have not knoivn they ask me. The future verbs describe the 
acts as still in progress, and as likely to be long continued. 
They are rising or about to rise, asking or about to ask. The 
word translated violence is one of very frequent occurrence in 
the Psalms and includes the ideas of injustice and cruelty. See 
above, on Ps. vii. 17 (16.) xi. 5. xviii. 49 (48.) xxv. 19. xxvii. 3 2. 
' They endeavour to draw from me the acknowledgment of 


crimes which I have not committed, and of which I have no 

12. They repay me evil for good — bereavement to my soul. 
* If given up to them, I have nothing to expect but a continued 
recompense of evil for good, extending even to the loss of what 
is most essential to my being and well-being.' The word 
translated bereavement commonly means loss of children, but is 
here used metaphorically for the most extreme and lamentable 

13. A7id I — in their sickness my clothing (was) sackcloth; 
I humbled ivith fastiiig my soul — and my prayer into my 
bosom shall return. The general idea is that he displayed the 
deepest sympathy with their distresses. This idea is expressed 
by figures borrowed from the oriental mourning usages. Sack- 
cloth, fasting, and prayer are here particularly mentioned. To 
humhle the soul (or one s self,) or as some explain it to 7nortify 
the appetite, is the phrase by which fasting is described in the 
Law of Moses (Lev. xvi. 31, xxiii, 27, 32. Num. xxix. 7), and 
which is here combined with the later word tt^l. — The last 
clause is obscure and is by some understood to signify the con- 
stancy of supplication, coming back and going out again with- 
out cessation. Others explain it as a mere description of the 
attitude of prayer with the head bowled upon the bosom, as if 
he had said, I was continually pouring prayer into my bosom. 
But neither of these explanations is so probable as the tradi- 
tional one of the Jews, according to w^hicli he desires that the 
prayer which he offered for them might redound to his own 
advantage. Or the clause may be still more simply construed 
as a prediction : ' my prayer shall not be lost, it shall return in 
blessings to the heart which prompted it.' 

14. As (if it had been) a friend, a brother to me, I went on 


(or wejit about) ; as a mourner for a another, squalid I boived 
down. He not only mourned in their calamity, but with the 
deepest grief, as for a friend, a brother, or a parent, which terms 
are so arranged as to produce a beautiful and striking climax. — 
The verb in the first clause corresponds very nearly to the 
familiar English phrase ivent on, in the sense of lived or habitu- 
ally acted. See above, on Ps. i. 1. — The Hebrew word "nnp 
means squalid, dirty, in allusion to the ancient oriental practice 
of neglecting the appearance, and even covering the dress and 
person with dust and ashes, as a token of extreme grief. The 
bowing down is also to be taken as a part of the same usao-e. 

15. And (yet) in my limping they rejoiced, and ivere gath- 
ered together; there tvere gathered together against me 
cripples, and I did not know (it) ; they did tear and u'ere 
not silent. With his behaviour to them in their affliction he 
contrasts theirs to him. As disease in general is a common 
figure for distress, so lameness in particular is so used here and 
in Ps. xxxviii. 18 (17.) Jer. xx. 10. They assembled not to 
comfort but to mock him and revile him. — The obscure word 
fi^iS has been variously explained to mean smiters with the 
tongue (Jer. xviii. 18), i. e. slanderers — whipped (Job xxx. 8), 
i. e. degraded criminals— and smitten (Isai. liii. 4), i. e. afflicted. 
But Luther's explanation, which connects the word with the 
cognate form G'^b^'i np3 (2 Sam. iv. 4. ix. 3) smitten in the 
feet, lame, crippled, not only yields a good sense, but agrees 
best with the figure of the first clause. * When I limped crip- 
ples mocked at me ' — i. e. those who were themselves con- 
temptible treated me with contempt. I did not knoiv it. It 
Avas done behind my back, and while I was entirely unsuspi- 
cious. See above, on v. 8. This is a more natural construc- 
tion than ivhom I did not know, which is moreover inconsistent 
with what goes before — They rent or tore me by their slanders. 


16. With worthless mockers for bread — gnashing against 
me their teeth. This they did in the company of impious, 
reprobate, or worthless scoffers, who calumniate others for the 
sake of gaining favour with their wicked patrons. Hence they 
are called bread or cake-scoffers, those who earn their food by 
spiteful mockery of others. The form of the whole verse is 
extremely idiomatic and scarcely admits of an exact translation. 
The literal meaning of the first clause is with the vmrthless of 
mockers of bread, and in the second the verb gnash is an infini- 
tive, which can only be rendered in intelligible English by a 
participle or a finite verb, they gnashed, or gnashing. This is 
always expressive of malignant rage and shows that what is 
here described is not mere raillery but spiteful defamation. 

17. Lord, how lo7ig unit thou look on? Restoi'e my soul 
from their ruins (or ruinous plots), from the young lions Tny 
lonely 07ie. The first Hebrew word is not Jehovah but Adhonai, 
properly expressive of dominion or sovereignty. See above, on 
Ps. xvi. 2 — How longl The Hebrew phrase usually means 
how much, but is here specially applied to time ; how much 
time ? hoiv long ? Wilt thou see what treatment I receive, 
and merely see it, as an indifferent spectator ? — Rest07'e m^y soul 
has not the same sense as in Ps. xix. 8 (7). xxiii. 3, but the 
strict one of hi'ingijig back from the dangerous extreme to 
which he had been brought by the ruins or ruinous devices — 
i. e. designed to ruin others — of his enemies. Lions are men- 
tioned as the strongest and fiercest of wild beasts, and young 
lions as the most active of their species. See above, on Ps. 
xxxiv. 11 (10.) — My lonely, solitary, sold. See above, on Ps. 
xxii. 21 (20.) 

18. I icill tkaiik thee in the great assembly, in (the midst 
of the) mighty j^eople I tcill praise thee. On the supposition 
that his prayer will be heard and answered, he engages to give 



public thanks, m the great congregation or assembly of God's 
people. See above, on Ps. xxii. 23, 26 (22, 25). — Strong peo- 
ple, strong in numbers, a poetical equivalent to great congrega- 
tion. — Tlie verb in the last clause means to praise in general ; 
that in the first to praise for benefits received, to acknowledge 
favours, in other words to thank. See above, on Ps. xxxiii. 2. 

19. Let them not rejoice respecting me, my enemies of false- 
hood, (and let not) my haters ivithout cause ivink the eye. 
Respecting me, at my expense, or, in this and similar connex- 
ions, over me, although this idea is not so much expressed in 
the text as suggested by the context. See above, Ps. xxv. 2, 
and below, v. 24. Ps. xxxviij. 17 (16.) Let them not rejoice, 
let them have no occasion so to do. — My enemies of falsehood, 
my false enemies, who gratify their spite by calumny and slan- 
der. — My haters ivithout cause, those who hate me gratuitously, 
out of sheer spite, without any reasonable ground or even 
colourable pretext. This is a favourite description of the ene- 
mies of the righteous — see above, on Ps. vii. 5 (4,) xxv. 3 — and 
was pre-eminentlyJ*He of the enemies of Christ, to whom it is 
applied in the T^ew Testament (John xv. 25.) The negation 
of the first clause is to be repeated in the other, as in Ps. ix. 
19 (18.) Winking is here referred to as a gesture of mutual 
congratulation among accomplices in guilt. Compare Prov. 
vi. 13. X. 10. 

20. For not peace will they speak, and against the quiet 
of the land words of deceits will they devise. The for assions 
a reason why they ought not to be suffered to rejoice in the 
success of their designs. The reason is, because their designs 
are evil, tending not to peace — in the strict sense, as opposed to 
strife, or in the wide sense, as opposed to trouble and calamity — 
but to the disturbance of those who are peacefully inclined, the 
quiet (or tranquil) of the land, i. e. the land of promise, con- 


sidered as the home of God's chosen people, who, as its rightful 
proprietors, are characteristically peaceful and averse from all 
strife and disorder. Compare Matt. v. 5. To disturb these, the 
wicked devise icords of deceits, in which phrase icords is not 
an idiomatic pleonasm,— compare xli. 9 (8.) Ixv. 4 (3), — but a sub- 
stantive expression, meaning false (or lying) icords, and mo're 
specifically slanders — see below, Ps. xxxvi. 4 (3) — the utterers 
of which are called lying enemies in v. 19. The futures of 
this verse include the present: they do so now and will do so 
still. Some connect not j^eace as an emphatic compound, mean- 
ing just the opposite of peace. Compare Isai. x. 15. 

21. And have ivide7ied against me their mouth ; they have 
said, Aha, aha, mir eye has see?i. ' They have mocked at my 
distress with contemptuous grimaces, and rejoiced in the fulfil- 
ment of their spiteful wishes.' With the first clause compare 
Ps. xxii. 8 (7) above. The Hebrew interjection in the last 
clause (nj^n) seems to be a natural expression of joyful surprise. 
Their success was almost too great to be real, yet attested by 
their senses. The verse ends with a kind of aposiopesis : ' our 
own eyes have seen' — what we could not have believed on 
the report of another, to wit, the gratification of our warmest 
wishes. See below, v. 25. 

22. Thou hast seen, Jehovah, be not silent ; Lord be not far 
from me. ' But they are not the only witnesses of my distress ; 
for thou. Lord, likewise seest and hast long seen it. Seeing it, 
therefore, be no longer silent ; refrain no longer from interpos- 
ing in my favour; speak in my behalf; be near me in this time 
of peril.' The connexion of the verses is like that in Ps. x. 
13, 14, and the prayer in the last clause not imlike that with 
which the same psalm opens. With the other petition be not 
silc?U, compare that at the beginning of Ps. xxviii, and with 
the first words, thou hast seen, those of v. 17 above. 


23. Arouse (thee) and awake for iny right {ot judgment) my 
God and my Liordfor my cause. ' Put an end to this inaction 
and apparent indifference, and manifest thy presence, as my 
sovereign and my covenant keeping God, for the vindication of my 
innocence against false accusers and mirighteous judges.' The 
same petition, clothed in nearly the same words, occurs above 
in Ps. vii. 7, 9 (6, 8). See also Ps. ix. 5 (4.) xvii. 

24. Judge me according to thy righteousness, Jehovah, 7ny 
God, and let them not rejoice respecting ine. ' Do me justice, 
clear me from aspersion, grant an attestation of my innocence, 
in the exercise and exhibition of thine own essential rectitude, 
and in accordance with that covenant relation which exists be- 
tween us ; and thus, in the most effectual manner, take away 
from my malignant enemies all pretext and occasion for exult- 
ing in my overthrow, or otherwise triumphing at my expense.' 
With the last clause compare Ps. xxx. 2 (1) above, where he 
thanks God for the very favour which he here asks. The verb 
in this clause may be referred to men in general, or with still 
greater probability to the enemies described in the precedino" 

25. Let them not say in their heart. Aha, our soul (or our 
heart's desire) ! Let them not say. We have swallowed him 
up! In their heart, not secretly, but cordially, not as opposed 
to saying so to others, but to mere profession. — Our heart's de- 
sire! an abbreviated exclamation prompted by strong feelino-. 
' This is precisely what we have so long and so intensely wished 
for I' See above, on Ps. xxvii. 12. Let them not say, let them 
not have occasion so to say ; let not the events which befall me 
justify them in so saying. — Sivallowed him up, utterly de- 
stroyed him. See above, on Ps. xxi. 10 (9), and compare Lam. 
ii. 16, where the form of expression is no doubt copied from the 
verse before us< 


26. Let them be ashamed and blush together — the rejoicers 
in my evil ; let them put ou shame and contempt the (men) 
magnifying against rue (their words, or their deeds, or them- 
selves) I The relative construction, who rejoice in viy hurt^ 
who m.agnify against me, gives the sense, but in an English 
rather than a Hebrew form. — Ashamed, disappointed and de- 
feated. See above, on v. 4. — Blush, be confused or confound- 
ed. — "My evil, i. e. evil fortune, injury, including the "idea of in- 
justice, as the antithetical term in v. 27, is righteousjiess or 
justification. — Put on, as a dress, and wear it, or be covered 
with it. See below, on Ps. cix. 18 (17), and compare Job. viii. 
22. — Contempt, disgrace, ignominy. — Making greats &c. their 
mouth or words, i. e. speaking proudly, Ob. 12. Ezek. xxxv. 13 ; 
or still more probably and agreeably to usage, actijig proudly, 
as in Ps. Iv. 13 (12), and elsewhere. The complete expression 
may be that used in Joel ii. 20. 

27. Let them shout (or sing) and rejoice — the desirers of 
fny righteousness — and let them always say. Great is (or be) 
Jehovah, the (God) willing (or desiring) the peace of his ser- 
vant ! The sentence may be brought into closer conformity to 
our idiom by adopting a relative construction. ' Let them re- 
joice who desire my righteousness,' i. e. my justification, who 
desire to see me practically justified by God's providential deal- 
ings with me. — Let them always say, i. e. always have occa- 
sion so to do, which is virtually wishing that the peace or pros- 
perity of Jehovah's servant may be perpetual. The verbal 
adjective in both these clauses means desiring, with a strong- 
implication of complacency or satisfaction in the object, and 
therefore really includes the two ideas of desire and delight. — 
The righteousness or justification of the first clause is an ob- 
vious antithesis to the evil, hurt, or injury of v. 26, and no le^rs 
obviously identical, or at least coincident, with the peace or 
welfare of the last clause here 


28. And 7ny tongue shall utter thy righteousness — oil the 
day (long) thy praise. The atid connects the verse with what 
precedes, as the effect with its occasion or its cause. TJiis con- 
nexion may be made clear in our idiom by the use of a more 
definite particle, such as theii or so. — The verb used in this verse 
is applied elsewhere botli to articulate and inarticulate aniinal 
sounds. The nearest equivalent in English is to utter. For a 
secondary or derived sense of the same verb, see above, on Ps. 
i. 2. — All the day long or every day, common expressions for 
continually, always. — The righteousness of the first clause is 
the object of the praise in the second. The righteousness of 
God here mentioned has reference to the Psalmist's righteous- 
ness in V. 27. By vindicating this, the divine justice or fidelity 
acquires, as it were, a new claim to the praises of the justified 
sinner, which he here declares himself resolved to pay. 


Th[S remarkable psalm consists of three distinguishable parts 
besides the title, v. 1. The first contains a strong description 
of human depravity, vs. 2 — 5 (1 — 4.) The second contrasts 
with this the divine excellence, vs. 6 — 10 (-5 — 9.) In the third, 
the Psalmist prays to be delivered from the first and made a 
partaker of the second, with a strong assurance that his desire 
will be fulfilled, vs. 11—13 (10—12.) ^ 

The first part differs from the rest, in form as well as sub- 
stance, being much more obscure and difficult. 

1. To the Chief Musician. By a Servant of Jehovah. By 

VOL. I. 13 


David. This peculiar collocation of the words, which occurs 
only here and in the title of the eighteenth psalm, seems to 
imply something more than would have been conveyed by the 
description, David a servant of Jehovah. The difference 
intended may be this, that servant of Jehovah is not added to 
the name as a descriptive epithet, but is itself the salient point 
of the inscription, the name being added merely to identify the 
person. This would seem to show that, for some reason found- 
ed in the psalm itself, it is important that it be regarded as 
the work of a servant of Jehovah, one inspired by him, perhaps 
in opposition to the inspiration of depravity referred to in the 
next verse. 

2(1.) Thus saith depravity to the wicked {one) in the midst 
of my heart, there is no fear of God before his eyes. This is 
one of the most difficult and doubtful verses in the whole book 
of Psalms. The first word in Hebrew (ti*;) is a passive parti- 
ciple used as a noun, like the Latin dictum, and employed as a 
standing formula in prophecy to indicate the person speaking. 
The usual combination is (nin'^ tj5<:) a dictum of Jehovah, 
commonly translated in our Bible, saith (or thus saith) the 
Lord. Instead of the divine name, that of David is substituted 
in 2 Sam. xxiii. 1 (^^^ tyts), and the ma?i there and also in Prov. 
XXX. 1 (^^an tj^;), both which appear to be copied from the words 
of Balaam in Num. xxiv. 15. The constant use of this formula 
to introduce prophetic dicta seems to require an analogous 
interpretation of it here, as meaning something more than the 
mere act of speaking, and suggesting the idea of an authorita- 
tive dictum or oracular response, proceeding not from God nor 
from his prophets, but from sin (3>z:5) which here supplies their 
place. A dictum of depravity, or, copying the paraphrastic 
but familiar version of nirii ti5t3 in the Eno-lish Bible, thus saith 
transgression or corrupiio^i. — The meaning of the next phrase 
(5dnb) is deierniuied by tne analogy of I\s. ex. 1, where tlie 



same preposition, after nir;'^ Di^D, can only indicate the ol)ject 
of address, tJie sayiiig of Jehovah (or thus saith Jehovah) to 
my Lord. So here, the true construction is not, tJie transgres- 
sion of the ivicked, which indeed is nngrammatical, but thus 
saith transgression to the ivicked. The only possible modifica- 
tion of this syntax, at all justified by usage, is to make ym'lb 
denote the subject not the object of the dictum — thus saith 
depravity (as) to the ivicked — this is the testimony which it 
bears against him. This explanation, although not supported 
by Ps. ex. 1, is consistent with the frequent use of 3 to denote 
the subject, and affords a good sense, namely, that depravity 
itself bore witness against the wicked, in the Psalmist's mind, 
that there w^as no fear of God before his eyes. If, on the other 
hand, >'uf'nb indicates the object of address, the first clause may 
be the words of the wicked man himself, and the last clause 
the comment of the Psalmist on them. * Thus saith depravity 
to (me) the wicked man, in the midst of my heart. ^ There is 
no fear of God before his eyes. That is to say, the wicked man 
makes sin his god, and its suggestions his prophetic oracles, and 
thereby shows that there is no fear of God before his eyes. By 
a different interpunction, this sense may be put upon the sen- 
tence. TJius saitli depravity to the wicked man : ' 1)1 the 
midst of my heart there is no fear of God before his eyes,' or 
even in his presence. But as this interpretation would make 
sin speak of its own heart in addressing the sinner, and as the 
reference of his eyes to God is somewhat forced, the choice 
seems to lie between the other two constructions before stated, 
one of which yields the same sense that appears to be intended 
in the common version, the transgression of the wicked saith 
within my heart that there is no fear of God before his eyes, 
and that of the Prayer Book, my heart sheweth me the wicked- 
ness of the ungodly that there is &c. Amidst these various 
and doubtful explanations one thing is certain, that the wickcil 


man is here described as one who fears not God, just as the 
fear of God is elsewhere put for godliness or piety. 

3 (2.) For he has flattered himself in his own eyes, as to 
(God's) finding his iniquity (and) hating (it.) The obscurity 
of the original may be shown by a bald translation. For he, 
has made smooth to him in his eyes, to find his iniquity to 
hate. To make smooth, here and in Prov. xxix. 5, is an ellip- 
tical expression for making smooth the words or the actions, 
i. e. speaking or acting in a flattering manner. See above, on 
Ps. V. 10 (9.) As there is no reflexive pronoun in Hebrew, the 
personal pronouns are occasionally so used, him for hitnself, his 
for his oivn, &c. In this case, however, it is possible to give 
them their strict meaning by referring them to God. He (the 
wicked man) has made (his words or actions) smooth to him 
(i. e. to God), in his eyes (the eyes of God.) In other words, 
he has endeavoured to deceive him by a specious appearance. 
But this construction is less natural, because it makes the phrase 
in his eyes still more redundant; because it represents the sin- 
ner as a hypocrite, rather than a bold, self-confident transgressoi* ; 
and because it makes the last clause more obscure and difficult. 
To find iniquity, i. e. to detect and punish it, is an expression 
borrowed from Gen. xliv. 16. The unfavourable meaning of 
the phrase is determined by the addition of the words to hate. 
The reference of this clause to the sinner's own feelino-s is at 
variance with usage. With the whole verse compare Deut. 
xxix. 18 (19), and see above, on Ps. x. 6. 

4 (3.) The words of his mouth {are) falsehood a7id fraud , 
he has ceased to act wisely, to act well. The use of the ab- 
stract for the GonQieie, falsehood and deceit iox false and deceit- 
ful, adds to the strength of the expression. What he says is 
not iTierely false, but falsity itself. For the precise meaning of 
the Hebrew words, see above, on Ps. v. 6, 7 (5, 6.) The verbs 


of the last clause are in the causative form, which always has 
an active meauing". To be ivise is therefore an inadequate 
translation, and to do good an ambiguous one, as this English 
phrase is specially applied to acts of beneficence or practical 
utility. The true sense of the last verb is to do ivell or right, 
in opposition to doing wrong. See below, on Ps. xxxvii. 3. 
Instead of ceasing from his sins, the sinner has abandoned even 
the appearance of well-doing. The form of expression is like 
that in Isai. i. 16. 

5 (i.) Falsehood he tvill tneditate upon his bed ; he tvill 
take his stand icpon a %vay not good ; evil he ivill not abjure. 
The first word V\\y^), both in this and the preceding verse, does 
not mean mere false speaking, but a false character, one not 
according to the truth, of which the divine will is the standard. 
It is therefore nearly equivalent to wickedness. The futures 
express present habit and a settled purpose of continuance. 
While he continues what he is, he will continue thus to act. 
On his bed, by night, the natural season of reflection. Or the 
idea may be that instead of sleeping he spends the hours of rest 
in meditating evil, or contriving mischief. — The verb to set 
hhnself, or take his stand, is the same that occurred before in 
Ps. ii. 2, and implies both a settled purpose and the commence- 
ment of its execution. — A ivaij not good is an example of the 
figure called nieiosis, in which more is meant than is expressed, 
although suggested by the context. The idea really conveyed 
to every reader is that of an extremely bad way or the worst 
way possible. — The last verb means to reject or renounce with 
contempt and abhorrence. See above, on Ps. xv. 4. 

6 (5.) Oh Jehovah, in the heavens (is) thy mercy, and thy 
faithfulness unto the clouds. From the odious image of the 
sinner just presented he now turns away to contemplate the 
divine perfections. The parallelism of the clauses seems to 


show that ^;^ the heavens means in heaven as well as on earth, 
i. e. reaching from the one to the other, which idea is then 
literally expressed, as far as, even to, or up to, tJie clouds, 
which last is simply an equivalent to Jieavens. — Mercy and 
faithfulness are also parallels, the latter meaning God's fidelity 
or truth in the fulfilment of his promises, even to the undeserv- 
ing. See below, on Ps. xxxvii. 3. 

7 (6.) Thy righteousness {is) like the hills of the Almighty ; 
thy judgments {are) a great deep ; 7)ian and beast thou wilt 
save, {oh) Jehovah.' Righteousness here means rectitude in its 
widest sense, including the veracity and faithfulness mentioned in 
the foregoing verse. Judgments is an idiomatic synonyme, the 
plural being either used to give it an abstract meaning, as in 
CS'i''_n) life, or to denote particular acts of righteousness. This 
attribute is here described as infinite, by a comparison with 
natural emblems of immensity. The first mentioned are the 
mountains of God, or of the mighty {God), the divine name 
here used being that which properly denotes omnipotence. See 
above, on Ps. v. 5 (4.) By explaining this word as an abstract, 
we obtain the sense, mountains of strength, i, e. strong moun- 
tains ; but the constant usage of the term as a divine name 
seems decisive in favour of the sense, hills produced by the 
almighty power of God and therefore proving it. — The great 
deep, the ocean, as in Gen. vii. 11. (Compare Gen. i. 2.) The 
idea conveyed is not so much that of depth and mystery as that 
of vastness and immensity. The comprehensiveness of God's 
protecting care is further indicated by the combination man and 
beast (or brute.) To save includes the acts of helping, protect- 
ing and providing. 

8 (7.) Hoiv preciotis {is) thy mercy {oh) God, and the sons 
of man in the shadow of thy icings may trust (or take refuge^ 
The richness of God's mercy is apparent from the very fact 


that it affords protection to mankind, meaning of course only 
those to whom it has been promised. The figure of over- 
spreading wings is carried out more fully in Deut. xxxii. 11 and 
Matt, xxiii. 37. — For the meaning of the verb used in this 
verse, see above, on Ps. ii. 12. 

9 (8.) They shall he drenched ivith the abundance of thy 
house; (ivith) the stream of thy pleasures thou wilt ivater 
thein (or give them dri7ik.) They, i. e. such of the children of 
men as are permitted to take refuge under God's protection. — 
Shall drink abundantly, or to satiety, be soaked or drenched. 
The derivative noun occurs above, in Ps. xxiii. 5. — Abundance, 
literally fat or fatness, put for the richest food. Thy house, 
thy household, with or without allusion to the tabernacle, not 
as a place of worship merely, but as the earthly residence of 
God. See above, on Ps. xxiii. 6. xxvii. 4. In the second clause 
there is a beautiful allusion to the river which watered the srar- 
den of Eden (Gen, ii. 10.) This allusion, although lost in a 
translation, is marked in the original by the use of the word 
eden in the plural number to mean pleasures or delights. The 
verb to water or make drink is also the one used in Gen. ii. 10, 
which shows that it is not a mere fortuitous coincidence. 

10 (9.) For luith thee is a fountain of life; in thy light 
shall ive see light. They shall derive all this from thee, be- 
cause in thee alone is the exhaustless source of all these bless- 
ings. — With thee, in thy presence, in union and communion 
with thee. — The well-spring, fountain-head, or source of life, 
a summary expression for all enjoyments and advantages. The 
same idea is then clothed in another figurative dress. In thy 
light tee shall see light. It is only by the light of God's coun- 
tenance that man can see any good. It is only in God's favour 
that he can be happy. The only bliss attainable or desirable is 


that which is bestowed by God and resides in him. See above, 
on Ps. iv. 7 (6.) 

11 (10.) Continue thy mercy to those hiowing thee, and thy 
righteousness to the iipright in heart. To his glowing de- 
scription of the blessedness resident in God and flowing from 
his favour, he now adds a prayer that it may be extended to the 
class, of which he claims to be a member. The first verb liter- 
ally means to draw out or protract, and is the same that is used 
in different applications in Ps. x. 9. xxviii. 3 above. — Those 
Icnou'ing thee and as a necessary consequence loving thee, since 
genuine knowledge of the true God is inseparable from right 
affections towards him. — Thy righteousness, thy true and faith- 
ful dealings with those trusting in thy mercy, here and often 
elsewhere represented as the upright or straight forward in 
heart as well as in behaviour. 

12 (11-) Suffer not to come i^ipon') me foot of pride, and let 
not hand of tvicked ones ex2iel me. What he had just asked 
for the upright in general, he now asks for himself in particular, 
^plainly implying that the view which he had taken of human 
depravity in vs. 2 — 5 (1 — 4) was suggested by his own suffer- 
ings, or fear of suffering, at the hand of wicked enemies. — The 
verb in the first clause does not merely mean to coine against, 
invade or threaten, but to come tipon, implying actual and vio- 
lent assault. See above, Ps. xxxv. 8. The mention of the 
foot suggests the ideas of spurning, trampling, and crushing ; 
that of the hand the more general idea of exerted strength or 
violence. The last verb is a causative and strictly means to 
put to flight, cause to wander, or send into exile. Compare its 
use in 2 Kings xxi. 8. The general idea of the verse is, do not 
give me up to the ^Dower of my enemies. 

13 (12.) There are the doers of iniquity fallen ; they are 
struck dcnvn and cannot rise (or sta7id) The prayer is follow- 


ed by a sudden assurance of its being answered, in the strength 
of which the Psalmist speaks of his desire as already accom- 
plished. See above, on Ps. xx. 7 (6.) — There has very much 
the same sense as in common parlance, when uttered as a sud- 
den exclamation. There! they have fallen {alreadij). Strictly 
explained, it means on the very spot and in the very midst of 
their anticipated triumph. See above, on Ps. xiv. 5, where the 
same use of the particle occurs, and compare Ps. cxxxii. 17 
and Judg. v. 11, in all which places it is better to retain the 
local sense of there than to exchange it for the supposititious 
one of then, which never occurs elsewhere. — Iniquity, vanity or 
falsehood, in the sense explained above, on v. 5 (4.) — Struck or 
smitten doivn, a stronger phrase than cast down. See above, 
Ps. xxxv. 5. — The last words may either mean, they cannot 
stand their ground, save themselves from falling, or they cannot 
rise again when fallen. See above, Ps. i. 5. xviii. 39 (38), and 
compare Pro v. xxiv. 16. 


This is an alphabetical psalm and, like others of the same 

kind (see above, on Ps. xxv), consists of variations on the theme 

propounded in the two first verses, namely, the idea, that the 

sinner is a self-destroyer, and therefore not an object of envy or 

revenge to the righteous, who may safely leave the punishment 

of his enemies, and the vindication of his own cause, in the 

hands of God. The whole psalm seems to have reference to 

David's own experience in the case of Saul, Nabal, Absalom, 

Ahithophel, and others. See especially 1 Sam. xxv. 39. The 

psalm, from its aphoristic form, bears a very strong resemblance 


to the book of Proverbs, and may have been the model on which 
it was constructed. The alphabetical arrangement, as in other 
cases of the same kind, is not perfect. Most of the letters have 
two verses each, but one has three, three have only one, and 
the letter 5 is omitted. 

1 . Fret not thyself at evil-doers ; be not envi&iis ai workers 
of iniquity. The first Hebrew verb is a reflexive form and 
strictly means to heat one's self with anger. It occurs only 
here and in Pro v. xxiv. 19, where there is obvious allusion to 
this verse, as there is also in v. 1 of the same chapter, and in 
ch. iii. 31. xxiii. 17 of the same book. — Be not envious at, do 
not envy, the original verb being almost always construed with 
a preposition. Flvil-doers in the Hebrew is a participle, and 
literally means those making evil, i. e. making their own con- 
duct so. Workers, or more simply, doers of iniquity. The 
last noun, according to its etymology, denotes perversion, depra- 
vation, or depravity. 

2. For like the grass (in) haste shall they be mown, and 
like the green herb shall they fade (or wither) This verse 
assigns the reason of the exhortation in the one before it. Why 
should we vex ourselves or indulge an envious feeling towards 
that which is so soon to perish, and is therefore rather an object 
of compassion ? These two verses contain the theme, of which 
the rest is a protracted variation. — In haste, soon, quickly. 
The preposition is expressed before the same noun in Ecc, iv. 12, 
but suppressed as here, in many other places, e. g. Num. xvii. 11. 
(xvi. 46.) Deut. xi. 17. — TJie green herb, literally, greenness of 
herbage, the second noun denoting the young tender grass, or the 
first growth of other plants. See above, on Ps. xxiii. 2. The 
verb at the end of the sentence is the same with that in Ps. i. 3. 

3. Trust in Jehovah and do good ; inhabit the land and 


feed (on) truth. The leading verb of each clause suggests the 
idea of security, the first sometimes meaning to be safe (Prov. 
xi. 15), and the second to repose (Deut. xxxiii. 20. Ps. Iv. 7.) 
Trust securely, dioetl at ease or in safety. To do good is not 
merely to perform acts of kindness and promote the happiness 
of others, but in a wider sense, to do what is morally good or 
right. See above, on Ps. xxxvi. 4 (3.) The land is the land 
of promise, a secure abode in which is often used as a compre- 
hensive expression for all the covenanted blessings of the chosen 
people. See Prov. ii. 21. x. 30. The verb/ee<i, in Hebrew as 
in English, is used both transitively and intransitively, to denote 
the act of the shepherd and his flock respectively. Here it 
means to feed upon any thing with delight, as in Hos. xii. 2 (1.) 
Isai. xliv. 20. The truth thus fed upon is God's truth and 
faithfulness in the performance of his promise. See above, on 
Ps. xxxvi. 6 (5.) This last clause has the force, though not the 
form, of a promise, and is so paraphrased in many versions. A 
less excusable departure from the form of the original is the ex- 
planation of ro^^ii as an adverb {verily), thus depriving the verb 
of its object and the clause of its chief emphasis, which lies in 
representing the veracity of God, or the certain fulfilment of his 
promise, as the very food by which the believer is sustained 
and his hope nourished. 

4. And delight thyself in Jehovah, and he will give thee 
the requests of thy heart. Here too the command implies a 
promise, which is afterwards expressed. Delight thyself, seek 
and find thy happiness, in Jehovah, literally, %i2wn him, the form 
of expression suggesting the idea of dependence and reliance, 
as well as that of union and communion. Requests, not mere 
desireSf but askings, prayers. Compare Ps. xx. 6 (5.) xxi. 3. (2.) 

5. Roll upon Jehovah thy way, and trust upon him, a7id 
he will do (it.) This last expression shows that the way is 

300 PSALM XXXVll. 

something to be done, and accordingly we find in Prov. xvi. 3 
the explanatory variation, roll to (or ori) the Lord thy ^vorJcs, 
i. e. what thou hast to do but canst not do it, metaphorically 
represented as a burden too heavy for the person bearing it, 
and therefore rolled upon the shoulders of another. See above, 
on Ps. xxii. 9 (6), and below, on Ps. Iv. 23 (22), and compare 
1 Peter v. 7. — Trust upon him, a phrase more suggestive of 
dependence than trust in him. See above, on v. 4. — Re %vill 
do what thou canst not do, or whatever must be done. See 
above, on Ps. xxii. 32 (31.) 

6. And (will) bring out thy right like the light, and thy 
cause like the noon. He will espouse thy cause and make it 
triumph in the sight of all men. The figure of light suggests 
the double idea of relief from suffering and clear revelation after 
long concealment. Compare Job xi. 17. Isai, Iviii. 8. Mic. 
vii. 9. — The Hebrew word for nooJi is of the dual form, and 
properly denotes two-fold or double light, i. e. the brightest, the 
most intense. 

7. Be silent to Jehovah, await in silence what he is about to 
do, without impatient clamour or presumptuous interference. 
Compare Ex. xiv. 13. 2 Chr. xx. 17. And wait for him, allow 
him time to act, instead of attempting to act for him. Fret not 
thyself, as in v. 1 , heat not thyself with anger, at {one) pros- 
pering his way, making his way prosperous, i. e. succeeding in 
his course of life. See above, on Ps. i. 1, 3. At a man doing, 
i. e. practising or executing, plans or plots, as the Hebrew word 
has constantly a bad sense. Let no success or prosperity of 
sinners tempt thee to anticipate God's righteous judgments. 

8. Cease from anger and forsake ivrath ; fret not thyself 
09ily to do evil. Do not indulge a passion which can only make 
thee a partaker in the guilt of those who are its objects. 

PSALM XXXVll. 301 

9. For evil-doers shall be cut off. This is a twofold reason 
for obeying the injunction of the preceding verse ; first, because 
the certain destruction of the wicked made such anger unneces- 
sary as well as uncharitable; secondly, because the same de- 
struction would befall the servant of the Lord, if he indulged 
an anger tending only to evil. And {those) waiting for Jeho- 
vah, patiently expecting the fulfilment of his promises and 
threatenings. As for them, they, with emphasis on the pronoun, 
shall inherit the land, the land of promise, the common formula 
for covenanted blessings. See above, on v. 3, and on Ps. xxv. 13. 

10. And yet a little, i. e. ere long, soon — bear and forbear a 
little longer — and the wicked is not, or there is no wicked, 
there is no such person as the wicked man who seemed so 
prosperous — and thou shalt gaze, or look attentively, upo7t his 
place, the place which he now occupies, and it is not, his very 
place has disappeared — or referring the pronoun to the person, 
he is 7iot, he is no more. Why then be discomposed, and even 
tempted into sin, by the sight of what is so soon to vanish ? 

11. And the humble, or as we should say in our idiom, but 
the humble, on the other hand, on their part, as contrasted both 
with the presumptuous sinner and the impatient querulous be- 
liever. The humble, here put for the whole class of submissive 
waiters upon God. For the true meaning of the Hebrew word, 
see above, on Ps. ix, 13 (12.) — Shall inherit the lajid, possess 
it by a filial right, be heirs to all the blessings of the covenant. 
See above, on vs. 3, 9. — And delight the^nselves, enjoy them- 
selves, be happy, as in v. 4 above. — In abundance, or increase, 
the infinitive of a verb which means to be increased or multi- 
plied, and which occurs above, in Ps. iii. 2 (1.) — Of peace, in 
the wide sense of prosperity, well-being, as opposed to want and 
suffering, and not merely of repose or quiet, as opposed to strife 
and perturbation. 


12. Plotting, liabitaally meditating evil, {is the) imcked 
('/nan), as to (or against) the righteous, and gnashing at him 
(or upon him) ivitJt his teeth, gnashing his teetli at him, as a 
natural token of bestial malignity. This is a kind of concession, 
that the wicked man deserves no forbearance on the part of the 
righteous, who is not, however, therefore at Uberty to anticipate 
God's judgments, for the reason given in the next verse. 

13. The Lord, the sovereign of the universe, as well as the 
protector of his people, laughs, or will laugh, at him, with 
derisive pity. See abov^e, on Ps. ii. 4 — For, because, he sees, 
he has already seen as something fixed and certain, that his 
day, his own appointed day of vengeance, or more probably 
the sinner's day of punishment, will come, is coming. However 
long it may be put off, God knows that it will come at last, a 
fearful intimation of the certainty of future retribution. Com- 
pare Eccl. viii. 11. 2 Pet. iii. 4. Heb. x. 37. 

14. The sword, put for all offensive weapons, and indeed for 
all destructive agents. See above, on Ps. xxii. 21 (20.) — They 
have opened, \. e. loosened or uncovered, drawn. — The ivicked, 
the whole class of evil-doers, whose destruction he had just 
foretold. — And have trodden, i. e. bent by treading on it. See 
above, on Ps. vii. 13 (12.) — Their bow, often coupled with the 
sword, both in prose, as being literally the other most familiar 
implement of ancient warfare, and in poetry, as a paiallel figure 
for destructive hostility. — To make fall, cast down, overthrow, 
the suferer, the afHicted. See above, on Ps. ix. 13 (12.) — And 
the poor, the destitute or needy one, a more specific term often 
added to the generic one which here precedes it. In all such 
cases, it is implied that the sufferers are the suffering righteous, 
the afflicted people of Jehovah. — To slay, or slaughter. The 
original expression is a very strong one, being properly applied 
to the slaughtering of cattle. See Ex. xxi. 37 (xxii. 1). 1 Sam. 


XXV. 11. So in English a sanguinary battle is described as a 
great slaughter. — The straight, straight-forward, upright, or 
sincere, {in) ivay, a common figure for the course of life or the 
habitual conduct. See above, on Ps. i. 1. The mention of this 
moral quality confirms the explanation just given of the suffer- 
ing and needy, not as such considered, but as sufferers in the 
cause of truth and righteousness, as suffering for God and from 
the malice of his enemies. 

15. Their sword, the sword of these malignant foes, shall go 
into their heart, their own heart. They shall be destroyed by 
the very means which they prepared for the destruction of their 
betters. This idea of a providential lex talionis is one repeat- 
edly expressed under various figurative forms. See above, Ps. 
vii. 16, 17 (15, 16.) ix. 16, 17 (15, 16), and below, Ps. Ivii. 7 (6), 
and compare tlie imitation in Prov. xxvi. 27, and the historical 
example afforded by the case of Haman, Esth. vii. 10. — And 
their bows, the parallel expression, as in v. 14, for their imple- 
ments of warfare and destruction, shall be broken, rendered 
useless. The substitution of the plural for the singular, and of 
a single verb for the expected repetition of the first clause, adds 
greatly to the force and beauty of the passage. 

16. Good is a little to the righteous, which in our idiom 
means, better is a little that the righteous has. This clause 
exemplifies two remarkable deficiencies of the Hebrew lano-uao-e 
the want of a distinct form for the comparative degree, which 
can only be suggested by construction or the context, and the 
want of the verb have, which is common to the whole Semitic 
family of languages. — Than the noise, tumult, turmoil, which 
attends the acquisition and the care of great possessions. That 
the Hebrew word ("i^lon) denotes this incident of wealth rather 
than wealth itself, may be inferred, not only from its etymology 
and its use in 1 Sam. iv. 14, xiv. 19. 1 Kings xviii. 41, &c., but 


from the analogy of Ps. xxxix, 7 (6) and Prov. xv. 16. — Of 
many wicked, whose noisy and vexatious wealth is here con- 
trasted with the quiet enjoyment of one righteous man, not only 
with respect to present ease of mind, but also to their future 
destiny, as stated in the next verse. 

1 7 . For the arms of the wicked shall he broken. The ambi- 
guity of our word arms has nothing corresponding to it in the 
Hebrew, where the only possible sense is that of arms as mem- 
bers of the body. Not only their weapons, but their arms, not 
only their implements of death, but the strength with which 
they wielded them, is broken, weakened, rendered useless. — 
And, or, as our idiom requires an adversative in such connex- 
ions, but sustaining the righteous, their habitual supporter, {is) 
Jehovah, the divine name being placed emphatically at the 
close, a feature copied in the ancient versions, but obliterated in 
most modern ones. 

18. Knowing, habitually, always knowing, {is) Jehovah, i. e. 
Jehovah knows. — The days, ihe life, including both duration 
and events. Compare Ps. xxxi. 16 (15.) — Of perfect (men), 
those free from essential defect or obliquity of character. See 
above, on Ps. xviii. 24 (23.) The epithet is evidently used as 
au equivalent to the righteous in v. 17. God knows their days, 
how long they are to live, and what is to befall them, with an 
implication that he knows they will be numerous and good 
days. See above, on Ps. i. 6. The same idea is then stated 
more distinctly in the last clause. And their heritage, their 
portion, their condition, as God's heirs, to eternity shall be, or 
shall continue. While this expression would perhaps suggest 
to a contemporary reader nothing more than an undisturbed 
jjossession, on the part of the righteous, as contrasted with the 
short-lived prosperity of sinners, it necessarily conveys to our 


minds the idea of a literally everlasting, indefeasible inheritance. 
See 1 Pet. i. 4. 

19. They shall 7iot he ashamed, disappointed, or deceived in 
their expectations. See above, on Ps. vi. 11 (10.) xxii. 6 (5.) — 
In an evil time, or, in a time of evil, i. e. of calamity or dan- 
ger. See above, on Ps. ix. 10 (9.) x. 1. At such a time, their 
expectation of deliverance and safety shall not be frustrated. — 
And i7i days of famine, a specification of the general descrip- 
tion, evil time, or time of evil, not unlike that of the general 
term, snffering or afflicted, by the specific one, poor or needy, 
in V. 14 above. — TJiey shall be satisfied, or filled, but only in 
a good sense, without any implication of satiety or surfeit. 
Compare Matth. v. 6. Luke vi. 21. The promise of this clause 
is not only specific but positive, whereas that of the first is both 
generic and negative. Compare Ps. xxxiii. 19. 

20. This verse shows how the truth of the foregoing pro- 
mises can be consistent with the actual prosperity of wicked 
men. Do not doubt the truth of these assurances because the 
wicked now seem happy, or because they now prevent your 
being so, by their oppressions and hostilities. For all this is 
soon to cease. The loicked shall perish, are to perish, and the 
enemies of Jehovah, another description of the same class, show- 
ing that these judgments awaited them, not merely as the foes 
of the Psalmist, or of righteous men in general, but of God 
himself. See above, on Ps. v. 5 (4.) — Like the precious (part) 
of lambs, i. e. the sacrificial fat, which was burnt upon the 
altar, tliey have consumed ; in smoke, or into smoke, they have 
consumed (or vanished) The preterite form of the verb repre- 
sents the predicted consummation as already past in the percep- 
tions of the writer. Some understand by t:'i"i3 ^p_'^ the delight 
of lambs, i. e. their pasture, and suppose an allusion to the 
short-lived verdure of the fields, a common figure for the brevity 


of human life, which occurs near the beginning of this very 
psahn (v. 2.) Others obtain the same sense by explaining ^^^'3 
itself to mean pastures, as it seems to do in Isai. xxx. 23, and 
perhaps in Ps. Ixv. 14 (13.) It is best, however, to retain the 
usual and certain sense of lambs, whether the reference be to 
their j^^^^ture or their fat, which last is recommended by the 
mention of smoke in the same connexion. This may indeed be 
an independent figure, but it is much more natural to connect 
it Avith the lambs, and understand it to denote the smoke 
ascending from the altar upon which they were consumed in 
sacrifice. In either case, however, and on any exegetical hypo- 
thesis whatever, the essential meaning of the figures is the 
same, to wit, that the prosperity of sinners is but short-lived, 
and that they themselves will vanish speedily and wholly, and 
are therefore in the mean time not a proper object of envious 
dissatisfaction or a legitimate occasion of skeptical misgiving to 
the righteous. 

21. Borroiving, a habitual borrower, (is) the wicked, and he 
will not pay, i. e. he cannot, because he is reduced to poverty, 
whereas the righteous, under the divine blessing on his outward 
condition, is continually showing mercy, doing acts of kindness, 
and particularly giving, supplying the necessities of others. 
This description of the difference between the two conditions is 
derived from the promise in the Law to the true Israel. " For 
the Lord thy God hath blessed thee as he said to thee, and thou 
shalt lend to many nations and thou shalt not borrow, and thou 
shalt rule over many nations, and over thee they shall not rule." 
Deut. XV. 6, xxviii. 12, 44. Compare Prov. xxii. 7. This 
proverbial use of borrowing and lending as a sign of poverty 
and wealth, shows that the verse before us does not relate to 
willingness but to ability to lend or give. It is not the moral 
but the material difference of the two men, or the classes which 
they represent, that is here brought directly into view, although 


the one is really dependent on the other, as appears from the 
next verse. 

22. Fo7' his blessed ones, those blessed by him, i. e. by God, 
shall uiherit the land, in the same sense as before, and so be 
able not only to lend but to give away, and, on the other hand, 
or but, his cursed ones, those cursed by him, shall not only be 
unable to do either and dependent on the charity of others, but 
shall be cut off, destroyed, exterminated, with allusion no doubt 
to the use of the same Hebrew verb in reference to excision 
from the communion and the privileges of the chosen people. 
See Gen. xvii. 14. Ex. xii. 15. Lev. vii. 20, 21. Num. xv. 30, 
&c., but especially Lev. xvii. 14. xx. 17, where the verb is ab- 
solutely used in this sense as in the case before us. Thus un- 
derstood, the verse assigns the blessing and the curse of God as 
a reason for the difference of condition mentioned in the verse 
preceding, whereas no such reason could be given for the 
difference of moral character, and the for in that case v/ould be 
either out of place or unmeaning. 

23. Fro7n Jehovah, by him, or by a power proceeding from 
him, the steps of a onan, his course of life, all that befals him, 
have been settled, fixed, or ordered, a7id in his ivay, a parallel 
expression to his steps, tvill he delight, i. e. he will delight to 
execute the plan thus formed. Although this is in form a gen- 
eral proposition, it is obviously meant to be applied specifically 
to the righteous as the objects of God's favour, and to account 
for their superior prosperity, if not at present, yet hereafter. 

24. For he will fall ; in this life fluctuations and reverses 
are to be expected, and it forms no part of the divine plan to 
prevent them. (But) he shall not be thrown down, prostrated 
wholly or forever. The contrast of a mere fall and a permanent 
prostration is intended to express that between occasional mis- 


fortunes aiid ntter riiin. This clause may also be translated, 
icheyi (or if) he falls he shall not he thrown down ; but the 
construction is less simple, and the sense given to the particle 
more doubtful and imusual. And although the essential mean- 
ing of the sentence is the same in eitiier case, it is "weakened by 
losing the concession, that even the righteous must expect to 
suner, but not to perish like the wicked. For Jdiovah (is) 
holding up his 1w.nd, or holding him up by his hand. See 
below, on Ps. Ixxiii. 23. The participle, as usual, denotes con- 
tinued action. God not only sustains him in particular emer- 
gencies, but is his habitual upholder. See above, on vs. 12, 16, 21. 

2-5. A hoy, a child, or more indefinitely, young have Iheen; 
I hare also heen old, am now become old : and yet, throughout 
this long life, / have not seen a righteous {rna?i) forsaken {of 
God), i. e. finally and utterly, ayid his seed, his children or his 
more remote descendants, hedging bread, subsisting on the 
charity of others. This is not to be absolutely understood, but 
as a general proposition, and with due regard to the peculiar 
state of things under the law of Moses, which made ample pro- 
vision for the temporal comfort of every individual who ac- 
knowledged its authority and obeyed its precepts, so that entire 
destitution might more jtistly be regarded as a token of divine 
displeasure than it can be among us. 

26- On the contrary, he has enough, not only for himself, but 
for his poorer neighbours. All the day (long), i. e. continually, 
as a habitual employment, (he is) showing mercy, doing acts of 
kindness, and lending, as an act of charity, not as a commer- 
cial operation, which was unknown among the ancient Hebrews. 
See above, on Ps. xv. 5. — And his seed {is) for a hlessing, i. e 
happy themselves and a source of happiness to others. The 
form of expression seems to be borrowed from the promise to 
Abraham in G^en. xii. 2. 


27. Depart fr€m evil, aind do gaod^arnddweeil far erermorr. 
This is ihe practical application of the foiegoii^ kseoi^. Ecil 
and good are conelatiFe and coextensiTe terms. As cti/ in- 
cludes all that is mocally wrong, good includes all that is oioiaily 
right, and to do good is to do well or act liglitlr. Sec above, 
on V. 3. — Diceli, L e. dwell secnrely, as in t. 3, where as here 
the exhortation or command inroif-es a promise. Fomcr, 
literally, to eternity or perpetuity. As to the idea whkrh these 
expressicMis would conTey to Jewish and to Christian read»s 
see above, cm v. IS. 

2S. For Jehovah {is) loving, he halntiBlIy Vx^gs, judgwumt^ 
L e. justice accially exercised, the dcMng of justice. Tbe ff^ 
assigns a reas<Hi for the strong assiiraiM» at the doee of tfae 
preceding Ters<5. Xo cme need fear to lay b(Hd <rf the i«]fni% 
in its widest sense : for it is jkk an arbitrary one, bat a ^louta- 
neons expression of God's narcral essentiai love of moral recti- 
tude. And, as a necessary ccxiseqnence of thk, he will not 
forsake his gradoHS ones, the objects <rf his grace or feronr. 
For the true sense of the Hebrew wt»d, see above, on P^ iv. 
4 (3.) xii. 2 (1.) xvilL 26 (25.) xxx, 5 (4) xxxi. 24 (23.) Those 
whom he once favours he will nou forsake. For ever, to eter- 
niry, they are kept, kept safe, preserved. The past teree of the 
verb is peculiarly appropriate lo describe their presarvatioa as 
already secored. So certain is it, that he seems to IosAl back 
upon the fatare as already past, and »ys^ Aey Aok been kept 
forever. BLere again, although a Jewi^ reader mi^ht have 
be«i inclined to put a lower sei^e npoi forever, as denociiiff 
nothing more than p^manency in contrast with the floetiBtioiK 
of secular prceperity, it is neither right nor pos^hle for us to 
give it any but its strcoigest and its most extei^ve application. 
See above, on v. 1 S, and compare 1 Peter L o. — ^Equally certain 
is the fate of the ungodly. And the seed (f wicked men {is) 
cat {^, has already been cut oif, in the divine piescieiKe aad 


put-pose, from all participation in the blessings of the righteous. 
See above, on v. 22. 

29. The righteous shall iiiherit the land, possess the land 
of promise by a filial right, and dwell, securely and in peace, 
forever, to eternity, ujpon it. See the same expressions used 
and explained above, on vs. 3, 9, 18, 22. 

30. The mouth of the righteous will utter wisdom. Lest 
the foregoing promises should be appropriated by the wicked, 
he lays down a test of character by which the righteous man 
may be distinguished. He is one whose mouth utters wisdom, 
in the hio;h relio-ious sense. For the meaninf^ of the verb, see 
above, on Ps. xxxv. 28. — And his tongue will speak judgment, 
i. e. justice, rectitude, here used as an equivalent to wisdom, 
both denoting true religion, in its intellectual and moral aspects, 
with particular reference to its effects upon the speech or con- 
versation of its subjects. 

31. The Laiv of his God is in his heart, not merely on his 
lips, and may therefore be expected to keep him in the right 
way. His steps shall not swerve from the straight path, or 
waver in it. See above, on Ps, xviii. 37 (36.) 

. 32. Watching, ever watching, (is) the ivickedfor the right- 
eous, for means and opportimities of injury, and seeking to kill 
him. The enemies of God, as all the wicked are, must needs 
be the enemies of his people also. 

33. Jehovah ivill not leave him in his haiid, will not aban- 
don the righteous to the power of the wicked, and ivill not 
make him guilty, a forensic term of the Mosaic Law, meaning 
to regard or treat as guilty, to condemn (Ex. xxii. 8, 9, Deut. 
XXV. 1), in his being judged, when he is tried. The image 


here presented may be that of a judicial process between the 
righteous and the wicked at the bar of God, who will not and 
cannot condemn the innocent. 

34. Wait thou for Jehovah, for the manifestation of his 
presence and his will, as in v. 7 above. And keep his way, 
adhere to the path which he has marked out for thee. And he 
will raise thee, lift thee up, exalt thee, from thy present low 
condition, to inherit the land, to enjoy the benefits and blessings 
of his covenant. See above, on vs. 3, 9, 11, 30. hi the excision 
of the wicked, when the wicked are cut off from all connexion 
with God's people and participation in their privileges, thou 
shah see (it.) Or as the verb to see, when construed with this 
preposition (n) often means to see with pleasure, this clause may 
be translated, at the excision of the ivicked thou shalt gaze, as 
a pleased and wondering spectator. 

35. I saiv a wicked [man). The issue just predicted is now 
made the subject of a picture, as if present to the senses. The 
Hebrew word which follows (f ^'^3>) means terrible, especially 
from one's extraordinary strength or power, with an implica- 
tion sometimes of its violent exertion. I satv (such) a wicked 
man, a terrible one, and spreading himself like a ?iative 
(tree) i. e. one which has never been transplanted, green and 
flourishing. The word translated native is always elsewhere 
used of human subjects, but is here applied, by a bold personifi- 
cation, to a vigorous tree, rooted in its native soil, and seemingly 

36. A7id he passed {away), and lo! an expression always 
implying something unexpected, he was not, he was no more, 
there was no longer such a person. See above, on v. 10. And 
I sought him. I looked round as if to see what w^as become 
of hirn, and he was not found, or as we mijrht say, to be found. 


This verse may be referred to the tree, it passed away, I looked 
for it, and it could not be found. But as the tree is only intro- 
duced in the preceding verse as a comparison, it is better to 
regard the wicked man as the subject of both sentences. 

37. Mark the perfect (man), observe him closely, and behold 
the upright, or straight-forward. He appeals to general expe- 
rience and calls upon his hearers or readers to judge for them- 
selves. For an end, a future state, and by implication a happy 
one, {is) to the man of peace, who instead of undertaking to 
avenge himself, patiently waits for the divine interposition. 
The common version [for the e7id of that man is peace) is for- 
bidden not only by the accents, but by the impossibility of 
making d'^J^'b mean of that man, without a violation of all 
usage and analogy. 

38. And the rebels against God, those who revolt from his 
authority, and cast off their allegiance to their rightful sove- 
reign, a common scriptural description of the wicked, «re de- 
stroyed together, or at once. See the use of the same adverb 
in Ps. iv. 9 (8.) This certain issue is referred to, as already 
past or present. See above, on v. 28. The end, futurity, or 
hope, of the wicked is cut off. The futurity meant is one of 
happiness, as in v. 37, the true sense of which is thus deter- 
mined. The contrast presented is, that one has an end or a 
futurity, the other none. 

39. And the salvation of the righteous, far from being 
wrought out by themselves, {is) from Jehovah, comes from him 
as its author and its source. See above, on Ps. iii. 9 (8.) (He 
js) their strength, or strong-hold, fortress, place of refuge and 
defence, as in Ps. xxvii. 1. xxviii. 8. xxxi. 3, 5 (2, 4). In tiriic 
of trouble, or distress. Sec above, on Ps. ix. 10 (9.) x. 1. 


40. And Jehovah has helped them. It is not in name or in 
profession merely that he is their strong-hold and protector. 
Jehovah has helped them and delivered them. And what he 
has done he will still do. He will deliver tliem from the 
wicked. The mention of this specific evil brings us back to the 
point from which we started, the temptation to repine at the 
prosperity of sinners and resent their evil treatment. But the 
true wisdom of the righteous is to wait, to wait for God. He 
will deliver them from tlie ivicked^ and will save thein from all 
evil, as this verb when absolutely used imports, not because of 
any merit upon their part, but becaicse they have trusted, i^keia. 
refuge, sought for shelter, in him, not only under his protec- 
tion, but in intimate union and communion with him. See 
above, on Ps. ii. 12. v. 12 (11.) vii. 2 (1.) xxv. 20. xxxi. 2 (1.) 


A SUFFERER, in sore distress of mind and body, aggravated 
by the neglect of friends and the spite of wicked enemies, ac- 
knowledges all to be the fruit of his own sins, and prays that 
the effect may cease by the removal of the cause. 

The Psalm contains three distinct complaints, or descriptions 
of his suffering, separated by two appeals to God, with a prayer 
at the beginning and the end of the whole Psalm. After the 
title, V. 1, comes the first prayer, v. 2 (1) ; then the first com- 
plaint, vs. 3 — 9 (2 — 8) ; then an appeal to the divine omnis- 
cience, V, 10 (9); then the second complaint, vs. 11 — 15 
(10 — 14) ; then an expression of hope and confidence in God, 

VOL. I. 14 


V. 16 (15) ; then the third complaint, vs. 17 — 21 (16 — 20) ; and 
then the closing prayer, vs. 22, 23 (21, 22 ) 

1. A Psalm. By David. To remind, or bring to remem- 
brance, i. e. to remind God of the sufferer, whom he seems to 
have forgotten, with allusion no doubt to the frequent use of 
the same verb in reference to penitent self-recollection on the 
part of sinners. See 1 Kings xvii. 18. Ez. xxi. 29 (24.) xxix. 
16. Num. V. 15. 

2 (1.) Jehovah, do not, in thy ivrath, rehuke me, and in thy 
heat (or hot displeasure) chasten me. The force of the nega- 
tive extends to both clauses. Rehuke, not in word merely, but 
in deed, corresponding to chasten, chastise, punish, in the other 
clause. He does not pray, as some suppose, for moderate pun- 
ishment, or for loving as opposed to angry chastisement, but ior 
deliverance from any punishment whatever, which is always 
indicative of God's displeasure. See above, on Ps. vi. 2 (1.) 

3 (2.) For tlmie arrows are sunk into me, and thy hand 
has sunk upon me. This verse assigns the reason of the prayer 
in that before it. Arrows, sharp inflictions, as in Deut. xxxii. 
23. Job vi. 4. The verbs of the two clauses are active and 
passive forms from the same root. Su7ik i7ito, penetrated, and 
by implication, stuck fast, although this specific idea is not 
expressed. Sunk upon, heavily descended, or as the English 
Version has it, presseth me sore Compare Ps. xxxii. 4. xxxix. 
U (10.) 

4 (3.) There is no sound place in my flesh because of thine 
anger ; there is no peace in my bones because of my sin. Here 
begins a more particular description of the sufferings indicated 
by the general terms of the preceding verse. The first thing 
mentioned is liis bodily suffering, as a token of God's wratli and 


an effect of his own sin, by which that wrath had been pro- 
voked. Flesh and bones are put for the whole bodily frame. 
The word translated so7ind place is a local noun, as indicated 
by its form, and not an abstract {soundness) It occurs only in 
this passage and in Isaiah's imitation of it. (Is. i. 6.) There, 
as here, the body is represented as one bruise, in which there 
is no sound place, i. e. no spot free from pain or soreness. — 
Because of, literally from the face of, from the presence of, from 
before, the phrase being primarily used to denote fear or flight 
before an enemy. Peace may be taken in the wide sense of 
well-being, good condition, health, (see above, on Ps. xxxvii. 11) ; 
but it more probably denotes peace in the strict sense, i. e. rest 
or freedom from the disquietude produced by pain. 

5 (4.) For my iniquities are gone over my head ; as a heavy 
burden, they are too heavy for me. This is an amplification of 
the last words of the verse preceding. ' I say my sin, because 
the sense of my iniquities has now become intolerable.' Go7ie 
over, \\iex2i\\Y, 2>cissed, i. e. surpassed, exceeded, or transcended. 
Too heavy for me, or heavier than J, i. e. heavier than I can 
bear. The reference is not merely to the effects of sin, but to 
the sense of sin itself, the consciousness of guilt, which he now 
associates with all his sufferings. As the preterite of the first 
clause represents the overwhelming sense of guilt as something 
experienced already, so the future of the second speaks of its 
excessive weight as something likely to continue. 

6 (5.) My strij)es have putrefied and are corrupted because 
of my foolishness. The first noun does not denote wounds in 
general, but the swelling produced by stripes. Compare Isai. 
i. G. The two verbs both denote suppuration, the first in refer- 
ence to the offensive smell, the second to the running or dis- 
charge of matter. This may be literally understood, as denoting 
a particular form of bodily distress ; but it seems more natural 


to explain it as a figurative representation of extreme suffering, 
not unminsled with disorace All this he refers to his own 
foolishness or folly, in the strong sense of criminal blindness 
and irrationality. See above, on Ps. xiv. 1. 

7 (6.) I have ivrithed, I have bowed doimi greatly ; all the 
day mourning I have gone. The first word is a passive, mean- 
ing strictly to be twisted or distorted, elsewhere metaphorically 
applied to moral obliquity or perverseness (Prov. xii. 8. 1 Sam. 
XX. 30), but here used in its proper sense to signify the distor- 
tion of the body by extreme pain, as in Isai. xxi. 3. The bow- 
ing or bending down may be from the same cause, or as a cus- 
tomary sign of grief. Indeed the two ideas of sorrow and 
bodily pain run into each other throughout this passage. The 
word translated mourning properly means black, or more spe- 
cifically, black with dirt, begrimed, or squalid, in allusion to 
the ancient oriental custom of sitting in the dust and putting 
ashes on the head, as signs of mourning. See above, on Ps. 
XXXV. 14. Greatly. The Hebrew phrase means until very 
much, or unto extremity, "i^l^ is originally a noun meaning 
strength, but except in the formula, loitli all thy strength, is 
generally used as an adverb answering to very, greatly, or ex- 
ceedingly, in English. I have gone. The Hebrew verb is 
an intensive form, nearly equivalent to gojie about in English. 
Eor a still stronger intensive from the same root, see above, on 
Ps. xxvi. 3. XXXV. 14, in the last of which places we have also 
the words here translated bowed down and mourning. 

8 (7.) For my loins are filled with -parching, and there is 
no sound place in my flesh. The loins, instead of being cover- 
ed with fat (Job xv. 27), are filled with dryness, literally, {some- 
thing') parched or dried up with extreme heat. To a Hebrev/ 
reader this word would necessarily suggest the additional idea 
of despised, contemptible, which the same form often conveys 



elsewhere (e. g. 1 Sam. xviii. 23. Prov. xii. 9. Isai. iii. 5.) In- 
deed it may be doubted whether this is not the only sense 
intended here, as that oi parched is always expressed elsewhere 
by a different participial form (Lev. ii. 14. Jos. v. 11.) On 
either supposition, the meaning given in the English Version 
{a loathsome disease) is implied, if not expressed. The repeti- 
tion in the last clause from v. 4 (3) above brings him back to 
the point from which he started. 

9 (8.) / am benumbed and bruised exceedingly ; I have 
roared from the murmur of my heart. Benumbed^ especially 
from cold, chilled, frozen, torpid. Bruised or broken. The 
same verb is used to express contrition or brokenness of heart 
in Ps. li. 19 (17) below; but here it has its proper sense and is 
descriptive of a bodily condition. See above, on Ps. x. 10. — 
Exceedingly, the same phrase as in v. 7 (6) above. In the last 
clause two words are employed, both denoting animal sounds, 
and nearly corresponding to our roar and groivl. In Isai. v. 29, 
both verbs are applied to the lion, and both translated roar in 
the English Bible, For the use of such figures, see above, on 
Ps. xxii. 2 (1.) The idea here is that his audible complaints 
are not expressions of mere bodily distress, but of mental and 
spiritual anguish. The roaring of his voice is but an echo of 
the murmur in his heart. 

10 (9.) Lord^ before thee (is) all my desire, and my sighing 
(or groa7iing) from thee is not hid. This is at once an assev- 
eration that his account of his own sufferinsrs was not exao-- 
gerated or fictitious, and a reason why it need not be continued. 
* Thou knowest, oh Lord, what I ask and what I need, the 
depth of my necessities and the intensity of my desires.' 

11 (10.) My heart pants (or palpitates)', my strength has 
left {or failed) me; and the light of my eyes — eveji they are 


not ivith me. Here begins his second complaint or passionate 
description of his sufferings, in which those arising from the 
conduct of others are made prominent. In this introductory- 
verse, however, he describes the effect upon his own feeUngs, 
before proceeding to declare the cause. The palpitation of the 
heart, denoting violent agitation, is combined with loss of 
strength and that dimness of the eyes, so often mentioned as a 
sign of extreme weakness. See above, on Ps. xiii. 4 (3), and 
compare Ps. vi. 8 (7), xxxi. 10 (9), xl. 13 (12.) The last clause 
admits of two grammatical constructions. 1. ' My strength has 
failed me, and (so has) the light of my eyes ; even they are not 
with me.' 2. '(As to) the light of my eyes, even they are not 
with me.' The first agrees best with our idiom, and the last 
with the masoretic interpunction, which separates the light of 
Qiiy eyes from the preceding verb and noun by a pause accent. — 
Biven they, literally, they too. — ' Not only is my strength gone, 
but my eye-sight likewise, but my very eyes,' — Not %cith me, 
not in my possession, not at my command, gone from me. For 
a similar expression, see above, on Ps. xii. 5 (4.) — The preterite s 
in the first clause represent the palpitation and debility as some- 
thiiig of long standing, or at least as fully experienced already. 

12 (11.) My lovers and m^y friends away frotn my stroke 
ivill stand, and my neighbours afar off have stood. He now 
gives expression to the anguish caused by human unkindness, 
and first, by that of such as he believed to be his friends. 
These are represented as standiyig aloof, literally, /row before^ 
i. e. out of sight, as in Gen. xxi. 16 and Is. i, 16, not over 
against, as implying opposition or hostility. "What he here 
complains of is indifference and neglect, as appears from the 
parallel expression, far off, literally from afar, according to a 
common Hebrew idiom which expresses the position of an 
object in terms strictly denoting motion or direction. See 
for example Gen. ii. 8, where eastivard is in Hebrew from the 


east, and the familiar phrase y?'07;^ the right or left hand^ where 
we say at or on it. This usage renders it unnecessary, although 
not inadmissible, in the case before us, to supply a word, ' they 
stand (looking) from afar.' The word translated 7ieighbours 
means those near one, either in local habitation or affinity, and 
may therefore be considered as including the idea expressed in 
the English Version, kinsmen. Unless the variation of the 
tenses in this sentence is entirely unmeaning, which is highly 
improbable, both in itself and from analogy, the last clause may 
be understood to state as an actual reality, what is only appre- 
hended in the first as probable or certain but still future. As 
if he had said, < My friends will no doubt stand aloof from this 
affliction; nay, they are already afar off.' — Stroke is \iexe ^Mt 
for a providential or divine infliction in general, not for sickness 
exclusively, much less for a particular disease, such as the 
leprosy, which Jerome actually introduces into his translation. 
See below, on Ps. xxxix. 11 (10), and compare Job xix. 21. 
Isai. liii. 4. Some suppose that there is an allusion to this 
verse in the statement made by one of the evangelists, that the 
women who had followed Christ from Galilee, and all his ac- 
quaintances, stood afar off, gazing at his crucifixion. See Luke 
xxiii. 49, and compare Mark xv. 40, 41. 

13 (12.) And those seeking my soul (or life) have laid wait 
(or laid snares) for me, and those seeking my hurt have spoken 
mischiefs, and deceits all the day ivill they utter (or devise.) 
While his friends and neighbours stand aloof, his enemies are 
busy in attempting to destroy him. Seeking my life, as in Ps. 
XXXV. 4 and Ex. iv. 19. This phrase is particularly frequent 
in the history of David's persecutions. See 1 Sam. xx. 1. 
xxii. 23. xxiii. 15. 2 Sam. iv. 8. xvi. 11. The idea of seeking 
is expressed by two entirely different verbs in Hebrew. With 
the first clause compare Ps. xxxvii. 32. — Mischiefs, or still 
more strongly, crimes. See above, on Ps. v. 10 (9.) The re- 


ference may be either to malicious consultation, or to slander, 
or to both. The last verb may be taken in either of its senses 
(see above, on Ps. i. 2. ii. 1. xxxvii. 30), both which are appro- 
priate in this connexion. All the day (long), continually. See 
above, on Ps. xxxvii. 26. 

14 (13.) And I, as a deaf (man), ivill not hear, and as a 
dumb {7nan) will not opeii his mouth. This is at the same 
time an asfo-ravation of his sufferins^s and a declaration of his 
patience under them. He is obhged to hear their calumnies 
and blasphemies as though he heard them not, being neither 
able to silence them nor willing to dispute them. The same 
two Hebrew words for deaf and dumb are used together in' 
Ex. iv. 11. Not only the idea, but the form of expression in 
this sentence, is copied by Isaiah in his prophetical description 
of Christ's sufferings (Isai. liii. 7), and seems to have been pres- 
ent to our Saviour's own mind when he " held his peace " before 
the High Priest (Matt. xxvi. 62, 63), and "gave no answer" to 
the Roman Governor (John xix. 9.) 

15 (14.) And I iDas as a man ivho does not hea?', and there 
are not in his mouth replies (or aygume7its.) The same thing 
is repeated, to make still more prominent the patience and for- 
bearance of the sufferer. Does 7iot hear, literally, (is) not hear- 
ing. In our idiom the last clause would have been, in ivhose 
mouth there are no replies. The meaning rejrroofs is a secon- 
dary one, derived from that of p)roofs or arguments. See Job 
xiii. 6. xxiii. 4. — The idea in both verses is, that he endured the 
evil speaking of his enemies, as one who had nothing to say 
for himself or in reply to their reproaches. This, while it mor- 
tified his pride, and thereby added to his pain, was at the same 
time an evidence of faith and patience, and thus prepares the 
way for the profession in the next verse. 


16(15.) Because for thee I ivaited ; thou ivilt answer, Lord, 
my God! His silence and forbearance, though a part of his 
sore trial, did not spring from weakness, but from faith in God, 
and submission to his precept. (See above, Ps. xxxvii. 7.) «I 
retorted not their calumnies and taunts, because I waited for 
thee to vindicate my cause, and so thou wilt, thou wilt certainly 
answer.' The last verb does not mean shalt answer for me, as 
the Prayer Book version has it, but as in other cases, hear or 
ansiver my petition for relief and vindication, whether silent or 
expressed. See above, on Ps. v. 2 (1), and compare Ps. iii. 
5 (4.) iv. 2 (1.) xiii. 4 (3.) xvii. 6. xviii. 42 (41.) xx. 10 (9.) 
xxii. 3 (2.) xxvii. 7. xxxiv. 5 (4:.)— Lord, not Jehovah, but 
Adhonai, the divine name which properly means Lord or 
Sovereig?i. See above, Ps. ii. 4. xxii, 31 (30.) xxxv. 17, 22, 23. 
xxxvii. 13. — My God, and as such bound by covenant to hear 

17 (16.) For I said, Lest they rejoice respecting me; in the 
slipjnng of my foot, they have (already) magnified (themselves) 
against me. His tranquillity did not arise from insensibility to 
danger, but from confidence in God. He was not without fear 
that his enemies might triumph over him, as they were already 
disposed to do, when he merely stumbled but did not actually 

18 (17.) Because I for limping (am) ready, and my grief 
is before me cdivays. This verse assigns a reason for the tri- 
umph of his enemies, to wit, that he was really in danger. 
Ready to halt or limp, i. e. constantly liable to some interrup- 
tion of his even prosperous course. See above, on Ps. xxxv. 15. 
The form of expression does not exclude the idea of his actually 
halting, but rather suggests it. As if he had said, 'The slight- 
est occasion makes me halt or limp.' Grief or sorrow seems 


to be put here for that which causes it. I am always in full 
view of my worst distress. 

19 (18.) For my iniquity I ivill declare, I ivill be anxious 
071 account of my sin. In our idiom this is tantamount to say- 
ing, I must confess that I am guilty ; I have reason to be anx- 
ious on account of my sin. 

20 (19.) And my deadly enemies are strong, and midtiplied 
are those hating me falsely (or without a cause.) Instead of 
deadly some find the opposite idea, lively, here expressed. M.y 
enemies {are) living (or alive), they are strong. Or, my living 
e7iemies are strong. But ti^'^'n is the common Hebrew word 
for life, and as 'npa "^5^3"*^ means m,y enemies of falsehood, 
t^^n ^S^J!^ may mean my enemies of life, those who hate my 
life and would deprive me of it. Compare irJS3ln '^D'^!* in Ps. 
xvii. 9 above. — Hating me falsely. Compare Ps. xxxv. 19. 
Ixix. 5 (4.) 

21 (20.) And {those) repaying evil fw good — they will op- 
pose me for pursuing good. The first clause seems to belong 
to the preceding sentence, and to complete the description of 
his enemies, ' those hating me without cause and repaying evil 
for good.' Compare Ps. xxxv. 12 — 16. Oppose vie, be my 
enemies. The Hebrew verb is the root of the name Satan, 
the Enemy or Adversary of God and Man. From its etymolo- 
gy, the verb would seem to denote specifically treacherous hos- 
tility. — The preposition in the last clause properly means under, 
then instead of, and more rarely in return for, which is the 
sense here. In return for tny pursuing good, i. e. earnestly 
and eagerly endeavouring to be good and to do right. This 
was of itself sufficient to provoke their enmity. 

22 (21.) Leave me not, {oh) Jehovah' {Oh) my God, be 


not far from me ! Having twice described his urgent need, 
he now resumes the tone of complaint with which the psalm 
began. The petition in this verse is one of frequent occurrence 
in the Psalms. See above, Ps. x. 1. xiii. 2 (1.) xxii. 2 (1.) xxxv. 
22. The most striking parallel, however, is Ps. xxii. 20 (19.) 

23 (22.) Hasten to Jielp me, {oh) Lord, my salvation ! The 
literal meaning of the first clause is hasten to {ox for) my help. 
The same words form the last clause of Ps. xxii. 20 (19). My 
salvation, my deliverer, my saviour. This form of address 
bears a strong resemblance to the prayer in Ps. xxxv. 3 : Say 
unto my soul, I am thy salvation. 


This pslam consists of two parts, in the first of which the 
Psalmist describes his feelings and his conduct at a former 
period, in relation to God's providential dealings, vs. 2 — 7 (1 — 
6), while in the second he expresses what he now feels and 
believes in reference to the same subject, closing with an earn- 
est appeal to the divine compassion, vs. 8 — 14 (7 — 13). 

If this view of the structure of the psalm is just, the first part 
ought not to be quoted as an expression of pious feeling, but as 
an acknowledgment of sin and error. Some interpreters have 
gone so far as to afHrm this of the whole psalm; but there 
seems to be an obvious change of tone and spirit in v. 8 (7.) 
There is no impropriety or danger in admitting that the psalms 
contain expressions of unhallowed feeling, if the admission be 


restricted to those cases where the fact is indicated in the psalm 
itself, and not left to the discretion or caprice of the interpreter. 

1. F or the Chief Musician. For Jechithun (or Jedithim.) 
A psalm. By David. The masoretic punctuation requires 
the first name to be read Jeduthun, while the text itself pre- 
sents the form Jedithun. The same diversity appears in Ps. 
Ixxvii. 1. 1 Chron. xvi. 38. Neh. xi. 17. The first form stands 
alone in 1 Chr. xvi. 41, 42. xxv. 1, 3. 2 Cliron. v. 12. In all 
these places, it is the name of one of David's chief musicians or 
levitical singers, whose descendants held the same employment, 
as appears from Neh, xi. 17- The personal name is here added 
to the official title, perhaps for the purpose of doing honour to 
the individual, by connecting his name with this inspired com- 
position, as in modern dedications and inscriptions. 

2 (1.) I said, I ivill keep my way, from sinning ivitk my 
tongue ; I will keep for my tnouth a muzzle, while the vncked 
(is) before me. Here begins the account of his former experi- 
ence, but without any intimation of the time which had 
elapsed before he wrote. The two states of mind here described 
may have followed one another in immediate succession. I said 
to myself, implying a resolution, although this is not the meaning 
of the verb itself, as some allege. The idea cf a fixed determi- 
nation is moreover suggested by the form of the next verb, 
which is that of the paragogic future. I will keep, guard, 
preserve. Take heed to, although not incorrect, is an inade- 
quate expression of the meaning. My ivays, my course of 
conduct, my habitual behaviour. See above, on Ps. 1 : 1. 
From sinning, so as not to sin, that I may not sin, a form in 
which this idea is frequently expressed in Hebrew. The word 
translated muzzle occurs only here, but its verbal root is used 
in Deut. xxv. 4, thou shalt 7iot muzzle the ox ivhen he tread- 
etk out the corn, and in Ezek. xxxix. 11, where it evidently 


means to stop, either the nose or the way. The noun therefore 
must mean a stopper or a muzzle rather than a curb or bridle, 
by which some explain it. While the ivicked is before me, or 
more literally, in the wicked's {being) still before me. If this 
referred merely to his personal presence, the verse would con- 
tain a resolution to avoid unguarded speeches in his company or 
hearino-. But this is not the sin to which the Psalmist after- 
wards pleads guilty, and the true sense of the clause appears to 
be, while the prosperity of wicked men is still before my eyes, 
instead of vanishing at once as I expected. See above, Ps. 
xxxvii. 10. 36. — Far my mouth, i. e. in reserve for it, or to my 
m,outh, i. e. in actual contact with it. 

3 (2.) I was silenced {with) dumbness ; I held my peace 
from good, and my sorrow was stirred. The first clause is 
highly idiomatic, but the sense is clear, to wit, that he enjoined 
the strictest silence on himself, in reference to the providen- 
tial mysteries which excited his envious discontent. The 
silence meant is abstinence from murmurs and repining against 
God. The second clause is obscure. From good is understood 
by some to mean fro7n every thing because that idea is else- 
where expressed by the idiomatic combination, good or evil. 
See Gen. xxxi. 24, 29. 2 Sam. xiii. 22. But the antithesis in 
all such cases is essential, and the omission of one term destroys 
the meaning. Others give from a negative or privative sense, 
away from good, without good, i. e. without any good effect. 
But the simplest construction is the one given in the English 
Bible, even from good, or more fully in the Prayer Book ver- 
sion, yea even from good words. The meaning then is that in 
his anxiety to avoid the language of complaint against God, he 
was silent altogether, and suppressed even what he might have 
said without sin, or was in duty bound to say. The natural 
effect was that his inward grief, instead of being soothed, was 
roused, excited, and exasperated. 


4 (3.) Hot IV as my heart ivithin one ; ivJiile I muse the fire 
is kindling ; (then) sjmke I ivith my tongue. His compul- 
sory silence only rendered more intense the feelings which it 
was intended to conceal. The less he said, the more he thought 
and felt, until at last it burst forth with more violence than if 
expressed at first. My heart gloived, or was hot, with angry 
discontent and envious repining. Withi7i Tne, literally in my 
inner 'part, or inside, an emphatic phrase referring to the 
studied absence of all outward indications. Without, all seemed 
calm and cool ; within, his heart was in a glow on fire. While 
I muse, literally, inmy meditation. See above, on Ps. v. 2. (1.) 
The future verb in this clause marks a transition. The 

fire will huroi, or is about to burn, is kindling. The gradation 
is completed by the laconic phrase, / spake. ' I did what I had 
fully resolved not to do.' The reference to v. 2 is made more 
obvious by the additional words, with my tongue, which would 
else be unmeaning and superfluous. * That very tongue, with 
which I had determined not to sin, I nevertheless spake with, 
in an unadvised and unbecoming manner.' 

5 (4.) Make me to know, (oh) Jehovah, my end, and the meas- 
ure of my days, what it is ; let me know when I shall cease. 
According to the view already taken of the first part of the 
psalm, this is not a prayer to be made duly sensible of the brev- 
ity of life, which would have been superfluous, but an impatient 
wish to know how soon its sufferings are to cease. The same 
sentiment is amplified in Job. vi. 8 — 12. vii. 7. xiv. 13. xvi. 21, 
22. The last clause may also be translated, let me know how 
ceasing, i. e. frail or shortlived, I (am) But the general drift 
of the passage favours the construction, let one know (at) ivhat 
(point), or (at) what (time), I (aon) ceasing, or about to cease. 
The indefinite pronoun (n^o) has then the same sense <is in the 
com^oxxYidi ^\\x^se(r\Kr'\'$) until ivhat (point), until when, how 
long ? 


The verbal adjective (blTi) as in other cases, is only a less usual 
participial form. 

6 (5.) Lo, (by) spans, or {as) hand-breadths, hast thou given 
my days, and my life (is) as nothing before thee. Only all 
vanity is every man constituted. Selah. The idea of the 
first clause is, that God had dealt out life to him in the scantiest 
measure. Hence the verb given must be taken in its proper 
sense, and not in that of 'placed or made, which it sometimes 
has. See above, on Ps. viii. 2 (1.) xxxiii. 7. The lo or be 
hold, at the beginning, is expressive of surprise, not unmixed 
with indignation. As if he had said, ' See how short a space 
thou hast allotted me.' — The word rendered life is not the 
common one, but that employed in Ps. xvii. 14, and here used 
in its primary sense of duration or continued existence. — As 
nothing, or more strictly, non-existence, nonentity. See above, 
on Ps. xiv. 1. 'My duration is so short that I seem scarcely 
to exist at all.' Before thee, not merely in thy estimation, but 
by thine authority or sovereign constitution. ' I only appear in 
thy presence long enough to disappear.' Only all vanity, con- 
sisting or composed of nothing else. The word translated 
vanity means primarily breath, but is transferred, by a natural 
figure, to any thing impalpable and evanescent. The whole 
phrase means a mere breath. Every man, or taking the He- 
brew noun as a collective, all mankind. The participle at the 
end means fixed, established, constituted, ordained, and describes 
the brevity of life as something not fortuitous but comprehended 
in the divine purpose. The melancholy nature of the fact 
alleged, and perhaps the reasonableness of the complaint founded 
on it, are indicated by a meditative pause. 

7 (6.) Only in an image does a man ivalk; only {for) a 
breath do they make a noise; he hoards up and he knows not 
who ivill gather them. So short and tra;nsient is man's life, 


that what he does, and what befalls him, seems to be not so 
much a reality, as a show, a picture, a phantasma, an ideal 
scene, in which he walks about, as one of the imaginary actors. 
For a breath, i. e. the time spent in a single respiration, an 
instant, a moment. Or as a breath, i. e. something intangible 
and momentary. Or as vanity, vainly, in vain, without use or 
effect. This last agrees best with the previous use of b^n, and 
its frequent usage elsewhere, in the sense of xanity. What is 
said in the first clause of the individual is said in the second of 
the species, as indicated by the plural verb. The noise referred 
to is the bustling clamorous activity with which men seek for 
pleasure and especially for wealth. Hence the derivative noun, 
which properly means noise, has frequently the secondary sense 
of ivealth. See above, on Ps. xxxvii. 16. Disquieted is too 
weak, as denoting passive uneasiness rather than tumultuous 
exertion. In the last clause the plural is again exchanged for 
the singular, a clear proof that they both relate to the same 
subject. The first verb in this clause is applied elsewhere to 
the heaping up of earth (Hab. i. 10), the storing away of corn 
(Gen. xli. 35), and the hoarding of treasures (Job xxvii. 16), 
which is its sense here. Who will gather them, i. e. the 
hoarded treasures, not accumulate them, which is done already, 
but take them to himself, enjoy, or use them. The future verbs 
describe this as a process which may be expected io continue, 
and perhaps to last forever. 

8 (7.) And now what have I waited fori Lord, my hope 
is in thee. The conclusion, to which the previous complaints 
seemed to tend, was that he would wait no longer, but abandon 
the hope of divine favour in despair. But this result did not 
ensue, and he asks, as if in wonder at his own inconsistency, 
how it is that he has waited after all, or still waits, for the good 
which seemed, a little while ago, so desperate. The answer is 
given in the other clause. His hope was, from the first, in 


God, and although sorely tried, was not extinct. At this point 
it revives and recovers its ascendancy, and from this point he 
takes a new and more believing view of those very inequalities 
and riddles, which before so severely exercised his faith. This 
may therefore be regarded as the turning point of the whole 
psalm, the transition from a worse to a better state of feeling. 
And now may be strictly understood, in opposition to past time 
and to a previous state of mind. At the same time, it serves 
as a term of logical resumption and connexion, as in Ps. ii. 10. 
Now, i. e. since this is the case. In thee, literally, to (or as to) 
thee, the Hebrew particle denoting relation in the widest sense ; 
the particular relation is suggested by the context. See above, 
on Ps. XXX. 2 (1.) The divine name, Adhonai, Lord, seems to 
belono- more naturally to the second clause, although the maso- 
retic interpunction joins it with the first. Ajid now, what ivait 
I for, oh Lord ? The emphatic pronoun at the end of the 
sentence cannot well be imitated in translation. [As for) my 
hope, in thee (is) it. 

9 (8.) From all my transgressions free me; the reproach 
of the fool do not maize me. The first clause contains an im- 
plicit acknowledgment that his error was a sinful one. Trans- 
gressions, treasons, or apostacies, committed against God. The 
Hebrew word is much stronger than its English equivalent. 
In asking to be freed from his transgressions, he asks to be de- 
livered from their consequences, one of which is then particu- 
larly mentioned. A reproach, an object of derision and con- 
tempt. See above, on Ps. xxii. 7 (6.) The fool, by way of 
eminence, the impious unbeliever. See above, on Ps. xiv. 1. 
Do not make me, literally, place (or put) me, i. e. set me up, 
exhibit, or expose me, as a mark for their invective or their 

10 (9.) I am silenced, I tvill not open my mouth, because 


thou hast done (it.) This is far from being a reiteration of the 
statement in v. 3 (2) above. The common version of the sec- 
ond verb (/ opened not) is altogether arbitrary, and even the 
first, although a preterite, does not mean I tvas dti7nb, i. e. at 
some former time, but I have been silenced, or am dtvmb, at 
present. There is obvious allusion to the similar expressions 
of V. 3 (2), but rather in the way of contrast than of repetition. 
As before he was kept silent by an obstinate suppression of the 
rebellious feelings which he really experienced, so now he is 
kept silent by a filial submission to his father's chastisements. 
/ luill not open 'iuy mouthy to murmur or give utterance to 
undutiful complaints. Thou hast done the very thing at which 
I was tempted to repine. See above, on Ps. xxii. 32 (31.) 
The pronoun is emphatic : {it is) thou (who) hast done (it), 
and no other. See above, on Ps. xxx. 7 (6.) xxxiii. 9. 

11 (10.) Remove from upon me thy stroke; from the strife 
of thy ha7id I have wasted away (or consumed.) The silence 
vowed in the preceding verse had reference merely to repining 
and undutiful complaint, not to prayer, which he immediately 
subjoins. Remove, or retaining the form of the original, cause 
to remove, make -to depart, take away, withdraw, not merely 
from me, hut from upon me, implying previous pressure. Thy 
stroke, thy chastisement, thy punishment. See above, on Ps. 
xxxviii. 12 (11.) The same thing is intended by the strife of 
thy hand, the judgments of God being sometimes represented 
as a controversy or contention between him and the afflicted 
person. See Isai. Ixvi, IG. Ezek. xxxviii. 22. The last verb 
is not a passive but a neuter, as in Ps. xxxvii. 20. Here again 
the pronoun is emphatic. J, even I, and not merely men in 
general, know this by experience. 

12 (11.) With rebukes for iniquity thou dost chasten man, 
and waste like the moth what he desires. Only vanity is every 


man (or all mankind^ Selali. He here presents his new and 
more correct view of God's providential strokes, which he has 
now learned to regard as the punishment of sin. The emphasis 
of the sentence rests upon the first clause. It is not with cruel 
and vindictive strokes, it is not with random and unmeaning 
blows, but with penal visitations, ivith rebukes (or chastise- 
ments) for sin, that thou dost chasten man. The past tense of 
the verb implies that what he suffers is but one link in a long 
chain of consistent uniform experiences. He is looking not at 
what has happened once or for the first time, but at somethiug 
which has always been so. It is God's accustomed mode of 
dealing with his sinful creatures. The deduction of meanings 
in nn^Sln is first argument, then conviction, then condemnation, 
then punishment. See above, on Ps. xxxviii. 15 (14.) — Waste^ 
literally, cause to melt away. The same verb is used above, 
Ps. vi. 7 (6), and below, Ps. clvii. 18. — Like the moth, not as 
the moth decays, but as the moth consumes. See Job iv. 19. 
xiii. 28. "What he desires, literally, his desired or desirable, 
whatever he delights in. Beauty is too specific and confined a 
sense. The last clause, with the selah at the close, announces 
that the Psalmist has come back to the point from which he 
started, but, as we have seen, with an extraordinary change of 
views and feelings. 

13 (12.) Hear my 'prayer, (oh) Jehovah, and to my cry (for 
help) give ear ; to my iveeping he not sileyit, for a st7-a7iger 
(am) I ivith thee, a sojourner like all my fathers. The word 
translated iveeioiiig properly means tear, but is always used 
collectively for tears. Be not sileyit, as an expression of indif- 
ference or hostility, not to be moved even by the sight of tears. 
A stranger and by implication homeless and friendless, wholly 
dependent on thy hospitable bounty. To a Hebrew, familiar 
with the Law of Moses, which continually joins the stranger 
with the widow and the orphan, as legitimate objects of com- 


passionate regard, this description must have been peculiarly 
affecting. With thee, under thy roof, at thy fireside, or in 
scripture phrase, within thy gates, (Ex. xx. 10), i. e. at thy 
mercy, and dependent on thee. The parallel term (nTTitn) 
means one who has no land of his own, but is settled upon that 
of another, as a tenant, a vassal, or a beneficiary. The same 
description is applied by Abraham to himself (Gen, xxiii. 4), by 
Moses to all Israel, considered as the feudal subjects and de- 
pendents of Jehovah (Lev. xxv. 23), and by David to himself 
and his contemporaries (1 Chron. xxix. 15), on a diff"erent occa- 
sion from the one before us, and in a different connexion, thus 
affording a striking incidental confirmation of the truth of the 
inscription, which makes him the author of the psalm. See 
above, on v. I. In both cases, the expression like our fathers 
shows the relation wiiich the words describe to be not merely 
personal but national. Another interesting parallel is 1 Kings 
xix. 4, where Elijah, in a state of feeling not unlike the one 
recorded in the first part of this psalm, " requested for himself 
that he might die, and said. It is enough ; now, oh Lord, take 
away my life, for I am not better than my fathers." 

14 (13.) Look aivay from "me and let tne cheer up, before I 
go (hence) a7id am no more. Both Hebrew words are causatives, 
and seem to govern face understood. * Cause thy face, thy 
angry countenance, to look away from me, and let me cheer up 
or exhilarate my own face.' The last clause in Hebrew is ex- 
ceedingly laconic ; the literal translation is, before I go and am 
not. It has been justly represented as remarkable, that all the 
words and phrases of this verse occur in different places of the 
book of Job. How long wilt thou not look away from me? 
(Job vii. 19.) Look away from him and let him cease (Job. 
xiv. 6.) Are not my days few ? Cease then and let me alone, 
that I may cheer up a little, before I go (hence) and return no 
more (Job x. 20, 21.) Thine eyes are upon me, and I am not 

PSALM XL. 333 

thou shalt seek me in the morning and I am not, or I 

shall not be (Job vii. 8, 21.) These repeated coincidences, not 
in common but comparatively rare expressions, together with 
the analogies already mentioned in the explanation of v. 6 (5) 
above, seem to show, not only that the writer of that book was 
acquainted with the psalm before us, but that the germ or 
seminal idea of the book itself is really included in this psalm. 
We have seen already that the thirty-seventh psalm sustains a 
similar relation to the Book of Proverbs. See above, p. 298. 
Thus the Psalter, and especially the Psalms of David, furnished 
themes and models to the inspired writers of a later date, while 
at the same time they abound themselves with allusions to the 
Pentateuch and imitations of it. This was the more natural, 
and even unavoidable, because the Books of Moses and the 
Psalms were especially familiar to all pious Jews from their 
incessant use in public worship. That the Book of Job is not, 
in this case, the original, is clear from the number and disper- 
sion of the passages, in which this one Psalm is alluded to or 


The Psalmist celebrates delivering grace, already experienced 
by himself and others, vs. 2 — 6 (1 — 5.) He declares his reso- 
lution to attest his gratitude, by deed as well as word, vs. 7 — 14 
(6 — 13.) He prays that God will grant him new occasion of 
thanksgiving, by delivering him from present troubles, vs 15 — 18 
(11 — 17.) This psalm, like the sixteenth, twenty-second, and 
some others, seems to be so constructed that it may be applied 

334 PSALM XL. 

generically to the whole class of pious sufferers, but specifically 
to its head and representative, the Messiah. 

The reappearance of the last part of this psalm in the seven- 
tieth will be considered in the exposition of the latter. 

1. For the Chief Musician. By David. A Psabn. This 
title, with a slight transposition, is the same with that of Ps. 
xiii. xix. XX. xxi. xxxi. It shows that the psalm was not, as 
mio-ht have been supposed from its contents, a mere expression 
of personal feeling, but designed for permanent and public use. 

2 (1.) I waited, ivaited for Jehovah, and he bowed (or in- 
clined) unto me, and heard my cry. The Psalm opens with 
the narrative of what the writer, or ideal speaker, had himself 
experienced. The emphatic repetition of the verb implies pa- 
tient perseverance, and is perhaps exclusive of all other 
means. *I simply waited; I did nothing but wait.' Bowed 
himself, or the heavens, as in Ps. xviii. 10 (9), or his ear, as in 
Ps. xvii. 6. xxxi. 3 (2), most probably the last. The image 
then presented is that of one leaning forward to catch a faint or 
distant sound. My cry for help. See above, on Ps. v. 3 (2.) 
xviii. 7 (6.) xxxix. 13 (12.) 

3 (2.) And brought me up from a pit of noise, and from the 
miry clay, and made my feet stand on a rock ; he fixed my 
steps. The first verb in Hebrew is a causative, he caused me 
to ascend. The noise referred to seems to be that of water in 
a deep place. Miry clay, literally clay of mire, in which there 
can be no firm foot-hold, as there is upon the rock, with which 
it is contrasted. Fixed, established, rendered firm. 

4 (3.) And put in my mouth a new song, praise to our God ; 
many shall sec and shall fear, arul shall trust in Jehovah. 
In this, as in v. 3 (2), the construction is continued from the 




foregoing sentence. Tut, literally gave, gave (to me) in my 
mouth. See above, on Ps. iv. 8 (7.) A neio song, implying a 
new subject or occasion. See above, on Ps. xxxiii. 3. By the 
new S07ig, we are not to understand this psalm exclusively, but 
fresh praise, of which this psalm is an instance or particular 
expression. Our God, the God of Israel, a further proof that 
this is not an expression of mere personal feeling, but a perma- 
nent formula of pubhc praise. The effect of it, anticipated in 
the last clause, is the same as in Ps. xxii. 26 — 32. (25 — 31.) 
The original exhibits a paronomasia, which is lost in the trans- 
lation, arising from the close resemblance of the verbs see 
and fear (qj^^i and ^Ji'^i'i). The fear meant is that religious 
awe or reverence, which always accompanies true faith or 
trust in God. 

5 (4.) Happy the man who has made Jehovah his trust, 
and has not looked to proud (men) and (those) swerving to 
falsehood. From his own experience he draws a general con- 
clusion, as to the safety and prosperity of those who trust in 
God. The first phrase is properly an exclamation, oh the hap- 
pinesses of the man, as in Ps. i. 1. ii. 12. xxxii. 1, 2. xxxiii. 12. 
The next words in Hebrew have properly a local sense. Who 
has set Jehovah {as) his place of secicrity, the form of the noun 
being one which has commonly a local meaning. See above, 
on Ps. xxvii. 1. The verb translated looked means strictly 
turned round towards an object for the purpose of looking at 
it. It may here imply confidence or trust, as cognate verbs do 
in Isaiah xvii. 7, 8. Or it may convey the additional idea of 
taking sides, espousing the cause, joining the party, of those 
swervhig, turning aside, apostatizing, from the way of truth and 
duty, or from God himself. See above, on Ps. xiv. 3. xviii. 
22 (21.) 

6 (5.) Many {things) hast thou done, Jehovah, my God ; 

336 PSALM XL. 

thy wonders and thy thoughts to us it is not (possible) to state 
unto thee ; I ivould declare and speak {xXiem; but) they are 
too 7nany to be numbered. This is not the only instance of the 
kind, but one of a great multitude. Many thiiigs, i. e. many 
such things. My God, as well as our God, i. e. in personal 
covenant with me, as well as in national covenant with Israel. 
See above, on v. 3 (2.) The combination of the two divine 
names suggests that Jehovah was not the God of Israel only, 
but the Supreme God. The -word translated ivonders is pro- 
perly a passive participle, meaning (things) made wonderful or 
wonderfully do?ie, and therefore constantly used absolutely as 
a noun in the sense of wondrous deeds or ivo7iderful works. 
See above, Ps. ix. 2 (1.) xxvi. 7. Thoughts, purposes, and in 
this connexion, purposes of mercy. To its, towards us, respect- 
ing us, and for our benefit. The next words may also mean, 
there is no resemblance (or comparisoji) to thee, i. e. none to be 
compared with thee. See below, Ps. Ixxxix. 7 (6), and com- 
pare Isai. xl. 18. Job xxviii. 17, 19. This use of the Hebrew 
word is founded on its primary sense of arranging, putting in 
order, with particular reference to the arrangement of the offer- 
ings and other sacred objects under the Mosaic law. Then it 
was used to signify the act of putting things together, side by 
side, and so comparing them. See above, on Ps. v. 4 (3), where 
it is figuratively applied to the presentation of a prayer, and 
compare its similar use in Isai. xliv. 7. Job xxxvii. 19. xxxii. 14, 
in the last of which places we have the phrase to order or pre- 
sent words. As this is a more frequent sense than that of re- 
sembling or comparing, and in this case agrees better with the 
words immediately before and after, it is safer to retain it. I 
would declare, literally, I ivill declare, the form of the verb 
being that of the paragogic future, which expresses in the first 
person strong resolution. This is more expressive than the 
hypothetical proposition, ' I would declare them, if I did not 
know it to be impossible.' The idea conveyed by the original 

PSALM XL. 33y 

expression is that of an actual attempt and failure. As if he 
iiad said : ' Yes, I will declare and tell thy wondrous works ; 
but no, they are too many to be numbered or recounted.' For 
the meaning of the last verb, see above, on Ps. ii. 7, ix. 2, 15 
(I, 14.) xix. 2 (1.) xxii. 18, 23 (17, 22.) xxvi. 7. 

7 (6.) Sacrifice mid offering thou hast not desired ; my ears 
thou hast pierced. Burnt offering and sin offering thou hast 
not asked. Here begins his account of the way in which his 
gratitude should be expressed. This is first negatively stated — 
not by mere oblations or other ceremonial rites. To express 
this idea he combines four technical expressions of the Law. 
The first two are the usual descriptions of animal and vegetable 
offerings. The first means any thing slaughtered for a sacri- 
ficial purpose. The second means originally any gift, but is 
appropriated, in the Law, to those secondary off'erings of corn, 
oil, vvine, and incense, which accompanied the animal oblations. \ 
In the English Version of the Pentateuch it is rendered 7neat- \ 
offering, a version which no longer conveys the correct mean- ) 

mg to the common reader, since these were precisely the offer- 
ings from which ??ieat, in the modern sense oi flesh, was entirely 
excluded. In this case, however, the Hebrew word is joined ? 

with that before it to describe the two great kinds of off'erino-, 
animal and vegetable. The parallel terms in the last clause 
are those denoting the general expiatory sacrifice statedly offer- 
ed, and the special sacrifice in reference to particular offences. 
The last words of the first clause are exceedingly obscure. The 
Hebrew verb elsewhere means to dig, and is so used in Ps. 
vii. 16 (15) above. It may be naturally used however to denote 
the act of piercing, perforating. Some suppose it to mean 
opening the ear or causing one to hear, and understand the 
whole phrase as meaning, * thou hast told me so, or hast revealed 
it to me.' This is favoured by the use of cognate phrases to 
express the same idea, such as opening, uncovering, awakening, 
VOL. I. 15 

338 PSALM XL. 

the ear, Sec. See Isai. 1. 4, o. 1 Sam. ix. 15. xx. 2, 12. xxii. 8. It is 
more probable liowever that the strong expression here used was 
intended to suggest the additional idea of obeying or rendering 
obedient, which is often expressed even by the simple verb to 
hear. The peculiar figurative form in which the thought is 
clothed may be accounted for, by supposing an allusion to the 
ceremony of boring a slave's ear with an awl, as a symbol of 
perpetual obedience. See Ex. xxi. 6. The whole verse may 
then be paraphrased as follows : ' thou hast not required cere- 
monial services, but obedience, and hast pierced my ear, as a 
sign that I will hear thee and obey thee forever.' The Septua- 
gint version of this clause (a body hast thou pi-ej^ared one) is 
retained in the New Testament as an unimportant variation, 
i. e. in reference to the writer's purpose in making the quota- 
tion, and perhaps as suggesting that the incarnation of the Son 
was a prerequisite to his obedience. The contrast intended is 
between ceremonial rites in tliemseK^es considered, and the 
obedience, of which they only formed a part, and from which 
they could not be severed without rendering them worthless. 
There is obvious allusion to 1 Sam. xv. 22, not only here but 
in the parallel passages, Ps. li. 18, 19 (16, 17.) Hos. vi. 6. Isai. 
i. 12. Jer. vii. 22—24. 

8 (7.) Then I said^ Lo, I come, in the volume of the book 
it is ivritteji of me. The first word refers not so much to time as 
to other circumstances. Then, in these circumstances, this being 
the case. Seeing and knowing that mere ceremonial services 
are worthless, I come, I bring myself, all that I have and am, 
as a rational or spiritual service. (Rom. xii. 1.) The vol- 
ume of the book, or the roll of scripture. The second noun is 
the one used in Hebrew to denote the written revelation of 
God's will, and the first to describe the form of an ancient 
oriental book, not unlike that of a modern map, and still retained 
in the manuscripts used in the synagogue worship The refer- 

PSALM XL. 339 

ence is here to the Law of Moses. TV?-Uien of me is by some 
referred to prophecy, by others to the requisitions of the Law. 
The literal meaning of the Hebrew words is written upon me, 
i. e. prescribed to me, the upon sufrgesting the idea of an in- 
cumbent obligation, ' Enjoined upon me by a written precept.' 
This is clearly the meaning of the same phrase in 2 Kino-s xxii. 
13. Thus understood, the clause before us may be paraphrased 
as follows. ' Since the ceremonies of the Law are worthless, 
when divorced from habitual obedience, instead of ofFerino" mere 
sacrifice I offer myself, to do whatever is prescribed to, me in 
the written revelation of thy will.' This is the spirit of every 
true believer, and is therefore perfectly appropriate to the whole 
class, to whom this psalm relates, and for whom it was intended. 
It is peculiarly significant, however, when applied to Christ ; 
first, because he alone possessed this spirit in perfection ; sec- 
ondly, because he sustained a peculiar relation to the rites, and 
more especially the sacrifices, of the Law. David, or any other 
individual believer under the old economy, was bound to bring 
himself as an oblation, in completion or in lieu of his external 
gifts; but such self-devotion was peculiarly important upon 
Christ's part, as the real sacrifice, of which those rites were 
only figures. The failure of any individual to render this essen- 
tial offering ensured his own destruction. But if Christ had 
failed to do the same, all his followers must have perished. It 
is not, therefore, an accommodation of the passage to a subject 
altogether diff'erent, but an exposition of it in its highest appli- 
cation, that is given in Heb. x. 5 — 10. The limitation of the 
words to Christ, as an exclusive Messianic prophecy, has the 
twofold inconvenience of forbidding its use by the large class 
of godly sufferers, for whom it seems so admirably suited, and 
of requiring us to understand even the confession of sins as 
uttered in his person. See below, on v. 13 (12.) 

9 (8.) To do thy will, my God, I have delighted (or desired), 

340 PSALM XL. 

a7id thy law {is) i?i the midst of my boicels. The self-devotion, 
just professed, is now described as a cordial and spontaneous 
act, because the law requiring it is not regarded as a mere ex- 
ternal rule, but as existinsr in the heart and coincidinsc with the 
will. This, which is true, in measure, of all genuine obedience, 
is pre-eminently true of that obedience unto death, by which 
Christ magnified the law and honoured it, proved his own zeal 
for God and deference to his will, and wrought out that salva- 
tion, which alone can render similar obedience upon man's part 
possibl-e. With the last clause compare Ps. xxxvii. 31. Deut. 
XX, 14. Prov. iii. 3. vii. 3. Isai. li. 7. This verse, together 
with the one before it, on which it is a kind of comment, holds 
up to view the sincere obedience of the true believer, including 
the observance of commanded rites, in contrast with the formal 
hypocritical observance of the rites alone, and at the same time 
the perfect obedience and self-sacrifice of Christ in contrast with 
the types by which they were prefigured. 

10 (9.) / have proclaimed righteousness in a great assembly. 
Lo, my lips I tuill not restrain ; Jehovah, thoii knoicest (or 
hast knoivn.) The first verb is the nearest Hebrew equivalent 
to the Greek evayyeXitQf.ini, to announce good news, to proclaim 
glad tidings. The righteousness meant is that of God. The 
great congregation or assembly is his church or people. Re- 
strain, i. e. from still proclaiming it. The past tense in the 
first clause shows this to be, not a mere engagement or a pro- 
mise, but a statement of what has been already done. The 
future following completes the statement, by providing also for 
the time to come. The return to the preterite in the last clause 
appeals to God's omniscience for the truth of what was first 
alleged, as well as of the promise just recorded. ' Thou 
already been a witness of my zeal in the annunciation of thy 
righteousness, and art a witness, at this moment, of the sincerity 
with which I vow that it shall be continued.' 


11 (10.) Thy righteousness I have not hid in the midst of 
my heart ; thy faithfulness and thy salvation I have uttered ; 
I have not concealed thy mercy and thy truth from the great 
congregation (or assembly.) The same idea is again expressed, 
but with a pointed allusion to the last clause of v. 9 (8), as if to 
guard against a misconstruction of its language. In opposition 
to a mere external formal service, he had there said that the 
Law of God was in his heart. But now he hastens, as it were, 
to add, that it was not confined there. He was not contented 
with his own impressions of God's righteousness, derived both 
from his word and from his providence. He considered himself 
bound to make it known to the whole body of God's people, 
for the twofold purpose of comforting and edifying them, and 
of promoting the divine glory. The expression of the same 
thing both in negative and positive form is a natural metHod of 
enforcing what is said, which is common to all languages, al- 
though particularly frequent in the Hebrew. 

12 (11.) TJiou, Jehovah, wilt not ivithhold thy compassions 
from me ; thy mercy and thy truth ivill always preserve me. 
This is not a prayer, as it seems to be in the common version, 
but an expression of strong confidence, like that in Ps. xxiii. 6. 
As if he had said, ' I am sure that thou wilt not withhold,' &c. 
Here again there is an obvious allusion to a previous expres- 
sion. As he had said in v. 10 (9), my lips I icill not restrain, 
so now he says, and thou, oh Lord, (on thy part) ivilt 7iot re- 
strain thy mercies from me. The phrase supplied, on thy part, 
is really included in the pronoun thoit, which, being unnecessary 
to the sense, must be emphatic. See above, on Ps. ii. 6, 
Thy compassio7is^ tender mercies, warm affections. See above, 
on Ps. xxv. 6, and compare Ps. xviii. 2 (1.) Truth means the 
veracity of God's engagements, as in the preceding verse, where 
it is joined with faithfulness, fidelity. Preserve me from dis- 

342 PSALM XL. 

tresses, dangers, enemies. See above, Ps. xii. 6 (7.) xxxi. 24 (23.) 
xxxii. 7. 

13 (12.) For npo7i me have gathered evils till there is no 
number ; my sins have overtaken me, and I am not able to 
see ; they are more than the hairs of my head and my heart 
has failed me. The original expression in the first clause, to 
surround ripo7i, is a strong one to denote an accumulation of 
evils from all quarters. This is intended to account for the ne- 
cessity of protection and deliverance, implied in the last clause 
of the verse preceding. It introduces the prayer for relief from 
present troubles, founded on previous experience of God's mercy, 
and forming the conclusion of the psalm. Sins, not punish- 
ments, although the experience here described is that of their 
effects. Overtaken, reached after long delay and hope of escape. 
See Deut. xxviii. 15. The common version, cannot look up, gives 
a meaning which the Hebrew phrase never has elsewhere. It 
always denotes dimness or failure of sight, arising from distress, 
weakness, or old age. See 1 Sam. iii. 2. iv. 15. 1 Kings xiv. 4, 
and compare Ps. vi. 8 (7.) xiii. 4 (3.) xxxi. 10 (9.) xxxviii. 11 
(10.) More than the hairs of my head. See below, Ps. Ixix. 
5 (4.) M.y heart has failed me, literally, left me. See above, 
on Ps. xxxviii. 11 (10), where the same thing is said of his 
strength. This picture of complicated sufferings produced by 
his own sins is inapplicable to the Saviour, who neither in pro- 
phecy nor history ever calls the sins for which he suffered tny 

14 (13.) Be pleased, (oh) JehovoJi, to deliver me ; (oh) Je- 
hovah, to my help make haste! The first clause contains an 
implied acknowledgment of dependence on God's mercy. In 
the second, the form of expression is the same as in Ps. xxii. 
20 (19.) 

PSALM XL. 343 

15 (14.) Ashamed a7id confounded together shall he {those) 
seeking my soul to destroy it ; turned back and disgraced shall 
be (those) desiring (or delighting in) my hurt. Strictly speak- 
ing, this is not so much the expression of a wish as of a confi- 
dent expectation. See above, on v. 12 (11.) But its intimate 
connexion with the foregoing prayer seems to give it the force 
of an optative. The wish implied is precisely the same as in 
Ps. XXXV. 4, 26. 

16 (15.) They shall be desolate mi account of their shame — 
those saying to me, AJia, aha! The common version, for a 
reward of their shame, seems to make their shame the crime 
for which they were to be punished. The Hebrew word (^ijpy ) 
sometimes means wages or reward, as the consequence of labour. 
See Ps. xix. 12 (11.) Prov. xxii. 4. But the general meaning 
of the phrase, in consequence, is admissible and quite sufficient 
here. For the meaning of the last clause, see above, on Ps. 
XXXV. 21, 25. 

17 (16.) They shall rejoice and he glad in thee — all (those) 

seeking thee. They shall say alivays, Great he Jehovah — 
(those) loving thy salvation. The structure of the clauses is 
alike, each beginnino; with the action and endins: with a de- 
scription of the agent. The joy and praise are represented as 
the fruit of the deliverance here prayed for. In thee, in com- 
munion with thee, in the enjoyment of thy favour. Seeking 
thee, seeking that communion and that favour. Great is Jeho- 
vah, or the Lord he magnified, i. e. recognised as great and 
glorious. Loving thy salvation, not merely desiring it for 
themselves, but rejoicing in it as bestowed on others. See 
above, Ps. xxxv. 27, and compare xxii. 24 (23.) Ixix. 33 (32.) 

18 (17.) And I (cim) afflicted and poor, and the Lord will 
think of one (or for mr). My lirlp and my deliverer (art) thou. 


Oh my God, do not delay. The connexion is the same as in 
Ps. ii. 6 above. ' And (yet) I am a sufferer and poor ; and (yet) 
the Lord will think,' &:c. The Hebrew phrase (^b -rn*^) may 
either mean, ivill think respecting (or concerning) me, i. e. re- 
member me, attend to me — or vrill think for me, i. e. plan, pro- 
vide, for me. My help art thou, and therefore canst not fail to 
help me ; my deliverer, and therefore must deliver me. See 
above, on Ps. iii. 4 (3.) The same thing is implied in the ad- 
dress, 7ny God. See above, on vs. 4, 6 (3, 5.) Do not tarry, 
linger, or delay to grant this prayer. 


1. To the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David. This 
psalm, though intended like all the rest for permanent and 
public use, exhibits very strong marks of the personal expe- 
rience of the author. He first states a general rule of the 
divine dispensations, namely, that the merciful shall obtain 
mercy, vs. 2 — 4 (1 — 3.) He then claims the benefit of this law 
in his own case, which is described as one of great suffering 
from sickness and the spite of wicked enemies, vs. 5 — 10 (4 — 9.) 
He concludes with an earnest prayer to God for succour, and 
expresses a strong confidence that he shall receive it, vs. 11 — 14 

The juxtaposition of this psalm with that before it is not for- 
tuitous, but founded on their common resemblance to the 
thirty-fifth, and on their mutual resemblance as generic descrip- 
tions of the sufferings of the righteous, with specific reference 


to those of the Messiah, as the head and representative of the 
whole class. In this, as in the fortieth psalm, the exclusive 
reference to Christ is forbidden, by its obvious adaptation to 
a whole class, and by the exphcit confession of sin in v, 6 (5.) 

2(1.) Happij (the man) acting wisely towards the poor 
{inan) ; in the day of evil Jehovah will deliver him. The 
form of expression at the beginning is the same as in Ps, i. 1. 
xl. 5 (4.) As the first verb sometimes has the sense of attend- 
ing or attentively considering, some understand it to mean 
here considering (or attending to) the poor. But its proper 
import of acting prudently (or wisely) is entirely appropriate, 
and therefore entitled to the preference. See above, on Ps. ii. 
10. xiv. 2. What is meant by acting wisely towards the po&r, 
may be gathered from the parallel passage, Ps. xxxv. 13, 14. 
The principle assumed is that expressed by our Saviour in 
Matt. v. 7. See above, on Ps. xxxvii. 28. The poor, in the 
wide sense of the English word, corresponding very nearly to 
that of the Hebrew 5"^^ which means poor in flesh (Gen. xli. 
19), and poor in strength (2 Sam. iii. 1), as well as poor in 
point of property and social standing (Ex. xxiii. 3.) It here 
includes all forms of want and suffering, and might be trans- 
lated wretched. This is not a mere reflection on the unkind- 
ness of his own acquaintances, but an indirect assertion of his 
own benevolence. ' Happy the man acting wisely towards the 
poor — as I have done. In the day of evil, of his own misfor- 
tune, when his own turn comes to suffer, the Lord will deliver 
him — as I desire and expect to be delivered.^ 

3 (2.) Jehovah will keep him and save him alive ; he shall 

he 27rospered in the land ; and do not thou give him up to the 

will of his enemies. What he has done for others the Lord 

will do for him. Save him alive : the same verb occurs above, 


340 PSALM XLl 

in Ps. xxii. 30 (29.) Prospered : the Hebrew verb (n'l'i^"') 
originally means led straight, or in a straight path. See 
above, on Ps. xxiii. 3. But here it has the same sense as in 
Prov. iii. 18. The marginal reading in the Hebrew Bible (-irs^l) 
only differs from the text by introducing the conjunction ajid. 
In the land, i. e, the land of promise. See above, on Ps xxv. 
1 3. XXX vii. 3, 9, 1 1 , 22, 29, 34. These are general propositions, 
but are evidently meant to be applied specifically to himself. 
His solicitude respecting the event is betrayed by his sudden 
transition from prediction to petition. Give hitn up to the 
will, literally, into the soul, here put for the desire or appetite. 
See above, on Ps. xxvii. 12, and compare Ps. xvii. 9. 

4 (3.) Jehovah ivill support him on the couch of languor ; 
all his bed hast thou turned in his sickness. The images are 
borrowed from the usages of real life. The first is that of 
holding a sufferer up, sustaining him, in pain and weakness ; 
the other that of changing, making, or adjusting his bed. The 
parallelism favours this interpretation of the second clause 
much more than that which makes it mean ' thou hast con- 
verted all his sickness into health.' The words translated 
couch and languor are unusual equivalents to bed and sickness 
in the other clause. 

5 (4.) / have said, Jehovah, have tnercy upon 7ne ; heal mij 
soul, for I have sinned against thee. The pronoun at the be- 
ginning is emphatic. He is here applying to himself the doc- 
trine which he had before laid down in general terms. ' Know- 
ing this to be the rule of the divine administration, I myself 
have claimed the benefit of it ; I myself have said, &c.' There 
is no need of diluting the past tense into a present. The use 
of the preterite implies that it is not an act yet to be per- 
formed, but one that has been done already. The .same 
emphasis, though not required by the form of the oria;ina!, may 

PSALM XL[. 347 

be supposed to rest upon the me and the my. The prayer for 
the healing of his soul may be considered as including that for 
the removal of his bodily disease, which seems to be referred to 
in this psalm as a mere consequence of inward agony. And 
this is itself referred to sin as its occasion in the last clause 
of the verse. The intimate connexion between sin and suffer- 
ing is continually recognised by David. See above, Ps. xxxi. 
11 (10.) xxxii. 5. xxxviii. 4, 5, 19 (3, 4, 18.) xl. 13 (12). Against 
thee, literally, to thee, as to thee. The idea of direct opposition 
is suggested by the context. See above, on Ps. xxx. 2 (1.) 
xxxv. 19, 24. xxxviii. 17 (16.) 

6 (5.) My enemies will say evil to (or as to) me: when 
shall he die and his na7ne perish ? The word translated evil 
is constantly applied to moral evil, and here means spite or 
malice. The ambiguous phrase to me seems to include the 
two ideas of speaking of him and in his hearing, or as we say 
in familiar English, talking at him. See above, on Ps. iii. 
3 (2.) xi. 1. The question in the second clause implies im- 
patience. With the last phrase compare Ps. ix. 7 (6.) 

7 (6.) And if he come to see me, falsehood lie ivill speak ; 
(in) his heart he is gathering mischief; he will go out, to the 
street (or out of doors) he will speak (or tell it.) The subject 
of the sentence is his enemy viewed as an ideal person. Com- 
pare the alternation of the singular and plural forms in vs. 6 
(5) and 12 (1 1.) If he come, literally, has come, at any former 
time ; or still better, if he has come now, if he is now here, the 
scene being then described as actually present to the writer's 
senses, which adds greatly to its graphic vividness and beauty. 
To see, not merely to see me, in the usual sense of visiting, 
which is rather an English than a Hebrew idiom, but to see for 
himself to observe, to play the spy, to watch the progress of the 
malady, and judge how soon a fatal termination may be looked 

348 PSALM XLi. 

for. Falsehood, vanity, in the strong scriptural sense of 
emptiness, hypocrisy, false professions (in this case) of sympathy 
and friendly interest. He will speak: I am sure that he will 
do so ; I know him too well to doubt it for a moment. The 
idea thus suggested by the future is entirely lost by exchanging 
it for the present, which it really includes, but something in 
addition. The construction, his heart gathereth, is at variance 
with the Masoretic accents, and does not yield so good a sense 
as that which makes his heart an adverbial phrase, a Hebrew 
idiom of perpetual occurrence. In our idiom it will then mean 
in (or as to) his heart, as opposed to the outward appearance 
of benevolence and friendship. The second future (y^p^^) may 
be either construed like the first, he (certainly) ivill gather, (I 
know that) he will gather ; or understood to signify an action 
which has been begun but is not finished, he is gathering. To 
gather mischief is, in this connexion, to collect materials for 
calumnious reports. He will go out, he will speak, or as w^e 
should say in English, ivhe?i he goes out he ivill speak. The 
Hebrew verb itself (s^^Z'^) means to go out. The additional 
phrase means strictly to the street, or to the outside of the 
house. It might be grammatically construed with the verb 
before it, he will go out to the street. But the accents connect 
it with the verb that follows, to the street he ivill tell {it), or to 
the outside, i. e. to those without, who are perhaps to be con- 
ceived of, as impatiently awaiting his report. 

8 (7.) Together against me they ivill whisper — all {those) 
hating me ; against "tne they will meditate — injury to me. 
The collocation in the first clause is like that in Ps. xl. 15 — 17 
(14 — 16), the action being first described, and then the actors. 
The future has the same force as in the first clause of vs. 6, 7 
(5, 6.) They will certainly persist in doing as they now do. 
The substitution of the present in translation conveys only 
half of this idea. The last word in Hebrew {^\) is omitted in 


most versions, though expressed in the margin of the English 
Bible. It defines the evil meditated, not as evil in the abstract 
or in general, but as evil to the sufferer, i. e. injury, which is 
the usual meaning of the Hebrew word (ns^'n), a modified form 
of (yn)tlie one used in v. 6 (5) to denote moral evil. The last 
words are a kind of after thought — Against 'me they will me- 
ditate or plot, is a complete proposition in itself, which is then 
made more explicit by mentioning the object of their plots, 
namely, evil (or injury) to me. This form of the sentence 
may have been adopted to render the resemblance in the struc- 
ture of the clauses more complete. 

9 (8.) A ivord of Belial is poured into him^ and he who lies 
(there) shall arise no more. These are the words of his 
malignant visiters, either uttered in his presence, or to their 
companions after leaving him. The literal translation of the 
first clause is given, to show its obscurity, and enable the 
reader to understand the different explanations of it which 
have been proposed. Some give word its not unfrequent 
idiomatic sense of thing, affair (1 Sam. x. 2. 2 Sam. xi. 18, 
19. Ps. cv. 27), and Belial that of ruin or destruction, which 
they suppose it to have in Nah. i. 11, and Ps. xviii. 5 (4) above. 
But there, as elsewhere, it is better to retain its primary mean- 
ing, good for nothing, worthless, or as an abstract, worthless- 
ness, a strong though negative expression for depravity. The 
whole phrase will then mean a ivicked matter, a depraved 
affair. By this again some understand the disease with which 
he was afflicted, and which is then described as the result of 
his own wickedness ; others the plan or plot devised by the 
speakers for the ruin of the sufferer. But this would hardly 
be described by themselves as a depraved affair. None of 
these explanations seems so natural or so exact, as that which 
gives to both words their customary meaning and understands 
by a word of Belial a disgraceful charge or infamous reproach , 


which is then represented as the cause of his distress and his 
approaching death. The next phrase may either mean poured 
into his mind or soul, as a moral poison, producing agony and 
death; or: 2^our€d zqjon h'lm, so as to submerge or overwhelm 
him. In Job xli. 15, 16 (23, 24), the same participle (p^2:'^) 
seems to be thrice used in the sense of poured out, melted, 
soldered, firmly fastened So here the English Bible renders it 
cleaveth fast unto him, and the same meaning is assumed by 
some who understand by the preceding words a wicked plot or 
a destructive visitation, which is then described as cleaving 
fast to him so that he cannot shake it off or otherwise escape 
from it. The common version of the next words, 7iow that he 
lieth, is extremely forced. The only natural construction of the 
relative is that which refers it to the sufferer himself. He who 
has lain doicn shall not add to rise, the common Hebrew 
method of expressing a continued or repeated action. See 
above, on Ps. x. 18. The expression becomes still more graphic 
if we understand it to mean he who is lying (here before you), 
or he who lies there, i. e. in yonder house or chamber. 

10 (9.) Even the man of my i^eace — whmn I confided in — 
eating iny bread — has lifted against me the heel. The first 
word properly means also. Not only foes, but also friends ; 
not only strangers, but likewise they of my own household. 
The tnan of my peace, or my man of peace, is a strong idiom- 
atic expression for the man with whom I was at peace. As to 
the construction, see above, on Ps. ii. 6. Eati7ig my bread, 
not merely as a guest, but as a dependent. Such must have 
been the current usage of the phrase in David's time. See 
2 Sam. ix. 11, 13. xix. 29 (28), and compare 1 Kings xviii. 19. 
Lifted, literally magnified or made great. See above, on Ps. 
xxxv. 26. xxxviii. 17 (16.) The act described seems to be one 
of contemptuous violence, but probably with an implicit allu- 
sion to supplanting as an act of treachery. Our Lord applies 

PSALM XLl. 35[ 

til is verse expressly to himself and Judas (John xiii. 18), which 
shows that He was really included in the class to' which the 
psalm relates. It is remarkable, however, that he only quotes 
the second of the three descriptive phrases, eating tny bread, 
enjoying my society and subsisting on my bounty, while he 
omits the other two, because these would have represented 
Judas as his friend, and one in whom he trusted. But he knew 
from the beginning who it was that should betray him (John 
vi. 64.) This accurate distinction seems to confirm the assump- 
tion that the psalm has a generic meaning, and is only applica- 
ble to our Saviour as the most illustrious representative of the 
class which it describes. The allusion to Judas would be still 
more striking if, as some suppose, the phrase man of iny peace 
had reference to the customary use of the word peace in saluta- 
tion. He who was wont to wish me peace or to say. Peace be 
with thee. Compare Matth. xxvi. 49. But this, although 
ingenious, is by no means an obvious or natural interpretation. 

11 (10.) And thou, Jehovah, have mercy upon me^ and cause 
me to arise, and I ivill repay them. The connexion between 
this verse and the one before it can be fully expressed in Eng- 
lish only by a but at the beginning of the sentence. The pro- 
noun is emphatic, thou, on thy part, as distinguished from these 
spiteful enemies. He here resumes the prayer begun in v. 5 (4) 
and interrupted by the description of the malice of his enemies. 
Make me to rise, help me up from this bed of weakness and 
suffering, with obvious allusion to their having said that he 
would never rise again, v. 9 (8.) * Oh Lord, do what they pro- 
nounce impossible.' The last words of this verse seem at first 
sio-ht inconsistent with the Christian doctrine of forgiveness, as 
laid down in Matth. v. 39, 40. Kom. xii. 19. (Compare 1 Pet. 
ii. 23.) But as this is also an Old Testament doctrine (see 
(Prov. XX. 22), as David himself recognised the principle, 
Ps. vii. 5 (4), and acted on if, as appears from 2 Sam. xix. 

352 PSALM XLl. 

24 (23), the disagreement can be only an apparent one. It 
may be partially removed by observing, that the speaker here 
is neither Christ nor David in his proper person, but an ideal 
character, representing the whole class of righteous sufferers, 
so that what is here said really amounts to little more than a 
prediction that the malignant persecutors of this class shall be 
requited. In the next place, let it be observed that it is not 
said how he will repay them, whether by punishment or by 
heaping coals of fire upon their heads, according to Solomon's 
and Paul's directions. (Prov. xxv. 21, 22. Rom. xii. 20, 21.) 
Lastly, the rule laid down by Christ himself admits of righteous 
retribution, not only on the part of magistrates and rulers, but 
of private persons, where the means employed are lawful in 
themselves, and where their use is prompted, not by selfish 
pride or a revengeful malice, but by a desire to prevent a greater 
evil, to assert God's honour, and even to benefit the offender 

12 (11.) By this have I known that thou hast delighted in 
me, because my enemy is not to triianph over me. This implies 
a previous divine assurance, that his enemy should not so tri- 
umph. For a similar intimation, see above, Ps. xx. 7 (6.) The 
certainty thus afforded is expressed by the past tenses of the 
two first verbs. ' Since thou hast assured me that my enemy 
is not to triumph over me, I know already that thou hast even 
heretofore regarded me with favour.' The original expression 
is a very strong one and denotes not only preference but warm 
and tender affection. See Gen. xxxiv. 19, where it first occurs. 
The last verb means properly to shout or make a noise as a sign 
of exultation, more especially in war. See 1 Sam. xvii. 20. 

13 (12.) And as for me — i7i m.y integrity thou hast held me^ 
and hast made me stand before thy face forever. The first 
phrase literally means and I, as if agreeing with some verb 


suppressed, or as if the construction had been suddenly changed 
from I have been held to thou hast held me. The integrity 
here claimed is not absolute or sinless perfection, as appears 
from the confession in v. 5 (4), but freedom from essential or 
fatal defect. See above, on Ps. xviii. 21 — 25 (20 — 24.) hi my 
integrity, not simply on account of it, which is rather implied 
than expressed, but in the possession and exercise of it. Thou 
hast held may either mean held fast or held up, but the first 
seems to be the essential meaning of the verb, and really involves 
or at least suggests the other, ' Thou hast so held me fast as to 
hold me up. By retaining thy hold upon me thou hast sus- 
tained me.' Setting before the face seems here to mean making 
one the object of attention, keeping constantly in view. The 
reciprocal act of man tow^ards God is spoken of in Ps. xvi. 8. 
As man sets God before him as an object of trust, so God sets 
man before him as an object of protection. That this is not to 
be a transient but a permanent relation, is implied in the future 
form of the verb, and expressed in the adverbial phrase/oret^er. 

14 (13.) Blessed {be) Jehovah, the God of Israel, from ever- 
lasting and to everlasting. Amen and Amen. In such con- 
nexions, blessed is nearly synonymous with praised ox glorified. 
In the sense of happy, the Hebrew Avord can only be applied 
to creatures. From the perpetuity (already past) a^id eve7i to 
the perpetuity (to come), is a paradoxical but strong expression 
for unlimited duration. Amen is a Hebrew verbal adjective 
meaning firm, sure, certain, true. It is used as an expression 
of assent, just as we use right, good, and true itself, for the 
same purpose. It was uttered by the people as an audible re- 
sponse, not only in the time of Moses (Num. v. 22. Deut. xxvii. 
15 — 26) and of David (1 Chron. xvi. 36), but after the return 
from exile (Neh. v. 13. viii. 6), and under the New Testament 
(1 Cor. xiv. 16.) Its repetition here and elsewhere simply 
makes it more emphatic and expressive of a stronger and more 

354 PSALM XLll. 

cordial acquiescence. The doxology before us marks the close 
of the first of the five books into which the Psalter is divided. 
See below, on Ps. Ixxii. 19. Ixxxix. 53 (52.) cvi. 48. 


1. To the Chief Musician. Maschil. To the Sons of Ko- 
rah. The obvious reference to personal experience and feel- 
ings in this Psalm made it the more necessary to designate it as 
a maschil or didactic Psalm, intended for permanent and public 
use. See above, on Ps. xxxii. 1. Thd experience described is 
evidently that of David, and most probably at the time of his 
exclusion from the sanctuary in consequence of Absalom's re- 
bellion. See 2 Sam. xv. 25. The only doubt is, whether the 
psalm was composed by him or by the Sons of Korah. These 
were a Levitical family of singers, 1 Chron. vi. 1, 7, 16 (16, 22i 
31.) ix. 19. xxvi. 1, who still continued that employment in the 
reign of Jehoshaphat, as appears from 2 Chron. xx. 19. This 
being their office, it would seem more natural to, regard them as 
the performers rather than the authors of the psalm. It seems 
improbable, moreover, that the composition should be ascribed 
to a whole class or family. On the other hand, the Sons of 
Korah are here separated from the Chief Musician, and occupy 
precisely that place where we usually find the author's name. It 
is also remarkable that we never find the Sons of Korah named 
with David or any other individual author exceot Ileman, who 
was probably one of themselves. See below, on Ps. Ixxxviii. 1. 
If he, or any othrT of llio So)(S of Korah, be leoarded as the 

PSALM XLIl. 355 

author of the Psahii before us, lie must be supposed to have 
composed it in the person of David, i. e, to express David's 
feelings at a particular juncture of his history. It is, of course, 
a much more obvious supposition, that David himself wrote it 
for this purpose. Nor can the intrinsic probability of this sup- 
position be destroyed, although it may undoubtedly be weaken- 
ed, by the difficulty of accounting for the fact, that David's 
name is never mentioned in the titles of any of the eleven 
Psalms inscribed to the So?is of Korah. The psalm before us 
is divided by its structure into two parts, marked by the burden 
or refrain in vs. 6, 12 (5, 11.) In the first, he laments his ex- 
clusion from God's presence, vs. 2, 3 (1, 2,) aggravated by the 
taunts of his enemies, and the recollection of his former privi. 
leges, V. 4 (3), but confidently anticipates their restoration, and 
calls upon his soul to hope and trust in God, vs. 5, 6 (-4, 5.) In 
the second, he goes over the same ground, though not in the 
same words, vs. 7, 11 (6, 10), and closes with the same expres- 
sion of confidence as before, v. 12 (11.) 

2 (1.) As a hart panteth after streams of water, so pant- 
eth my soul for thee, (oh) God. The first noun is masculine but 
the verb feminine, so that we may either read hart or hind. 
The verb occurs only here and in Joel i. 20, which is evi- / 
dently copied from the verse before us. The allusion may be \ 
either to the exhaustion caused by flight, or to the natural ef- 
fects of drought. See below, on Ps. Ixiii. 2 (1.) The essential 
idea is that of intense desire and an overwhelming sense of 
want. Strea77is of ivater, water-brooks. See above, on Ps. 
xviii. 16 (15.) 

3 (2.) Thirsted has my soul for God, for the living God. 
When shall I come and appear before God 1 The past tense 
of the first verb shows that he is not expres.*>ing a desire just 
conceived for rhe first time, but one with which he is already 

356 PSALM XLIl. 

familiar. Of the two divine names here used, one (Elohim) de- 
scribes God as an object of religious worship, the other (El) as 
a Being of infinite power. He is Living and Mighty, as distin- 
guished from imaginary deities, and from impotent and lifeless, 
idols. WJieii shall I cornel implies a local, bodily approach, 
and this agrees with the following phrase, appear before God^ 
which is the technical expression in the Law for stated appear- 
ance at the sanctuary, except that the divine name Jehovah is 
exchanged for Elohim, which occurs ten times in this psalm, 
and Jehovah only once. 

4 (3.) My tears have been tny bread day and night, in {their) 
saying to me all the day. Where (is) thy God ? The word 
translated tears is the collective term used in Ps. xxxix. 13(12.) 
The Hebrew verb is in the singular. ' My weeping has been 
my bread,' i. e. my food. * Instead of eating I have wept.* 
See below, Ps. cii. 5 (4), and compare 1 Sam. i. 7. Job iii. 24. 
Day and flight, all the day, are strong but common phrases 
for continually, constantly. See above, on Ps. i. 2. In saying, 
i. e, in the time of saying, while it is said. Or a pronoun may 
be supplied, in [their) saying, while they say, i. e. his enemies. 
Where is thy God ? Tlie very question is an indirect asser- 
tion that God had forsaken him. See above, Ps. iii. 3 (2.) xxii. 
9 (8), and below, Ps. Ixxi. 11, cxv. 2, and compare Joel ii. 17. 
The words of Shimei may have been present to the mind of 
David. See 2 Sam. xvi. 7, 8. 

5 (4) These [thi?igs) I will remember and will pour out 
upon me my soul, when I pass in the crowd, {when) I march 
{ivith) them up to the house oj God, with the voice of joy and 
praise, ivith festive noise (or tumult^ This is the only con- 
struction of the sentence which gives the future forms their 
proper force instead of converting them into past tenses, which 
is wholly arbitrary, and therefore ungrammatical. If the last 


clause contained a reminiscence of his former privileges, there 
was nothing whatever to prevent the use of the preterite forms. 
These things, not his former enjoyments, but his present suffer- 
ings. I will remember, I am determined so to do, this idea 
being suggested by the very form of the Hebrew verb. If 
the verse related only to the past, this strong expression 
would be out of place. The act of reflection or self-introver- 
sion is expressed by the strong figure of pouring out his soul 
upon himself, which at the same time suggests the idea of lively 
emotion ; not necessarily of grief, as in Job xxx. 16, but of 
mingled joy and sadness in the recollection of past sufferings and 
deliverances, just as we might speak of a man's heart being 
melted, either with sorrow or gratitude, or both. When I pass 
or still more literally, /w I shall pass, which in that case ex- 
presses the confident expectation of a favourable issue. Pass, 
i. e. pass along in solemn procession. The crowd, or throng, 
the Hebrew word suggesting, by its etymological affinities, the 
idea of a thicket, and then of a confused mass. The verb 
translated march occurs only here and in Isai. xxxviii. 15, where 
it seems to be borrowed from the place before us. Its construc- 
tion is like that of the English march, which, though commonly 
intransitive, in some cases governs the noun directly. If we 
render it here, / shall march them, it conveys the additional 
idea of conducting as well as joining the procession. Tip to, a 
stronger expression than to, implying actual arrival at the place 
in question. The use of music in the processions to the temple 
may be inferred from 2 Sam. vi. 5. The word translated noise 
or tumult may also mean the multitude by whom it is pro- 
duced. See above, on Ps. xxxvii. 16. xxxix. 7 (6.) But the 
other is the primary meaning and agrees best with the parallel 
expressions. The last word in Hebrew means originally 
dancing (1 Sam. xxx. 16), but with special reference to its 
ceremonial use, as an expression of religious joy (2 Sam. vi. 14.) 


6 (5.) Wh'i/ art thou cast down, {oh) tny soul, and ivhy art 
thou disquieted icithin me ? Wait thou for God, for I shall 
yet tJia^ili him {for) the salvations of his face {ox presence.) 
The Psalmist's faith addresses his unbeheving fear, as if it 
were another person. The question involves a reproof, as if 
he had said, thou hast no reason to be thus dejected. Why, 
literally what, i. e. for what cause, or on what account. Art 
thou, literally, ivilt thou be? Why wilt thou persevere in 
this extreme and gratuitous dejection ? The form of the 
Hebrew verb is reflexive, why ivilt thou deject thyself, 
implying, still more strongly than before, that the dejection 
was a voluntary one, and therefore culpable. Disquieted, the 
same verb that is used in Ps. xxxix. 7 (6,) and the root of the 
noun meaning 7ioise or multitude in v. 5 (4) above. Here as 
elsewhere, it denotes, not mere uneasiness, but violent agitation, 
and is sometimes applied to the commotion of the sea. See 
below, on Ps. xlvi. 4 (.3), and compare Jer. v. 22. Within me, 
literally, iipoyi tne, as in the foregoing verse. Wait for God, 
i. e. for the fulfilment of his promises, implying confidence and 
hope. The verb translated thank means strictly to acknoiv- 
ledge, and is applied both to the confession of sin and to the 
thankful acknowledoment of benefits received. See above, on 
Ps. XXX. 5 (4.) xxxii. 5. Salvations, frequent or complete de- 
liverance. See above, on Ps. xviii. 51 (50.) His face, his pro- 
pitious countenance or aspect, with allusion to the benediction 
in Num. vi. 25, 26. See above on Ps. iv. 7 (6.) xvi. 11. xvii. 
15. xxxi, 17 (16.) The determination to thank God for his 
goodness implies a confident expectation that it will be exercised. 
See above, on Ps. v. 8 (7.) 

7 (6.) My God, upon me is my soul cast down. Therefore 
I ivill remember thee from the land of Jorda7i and the Her- 
nions, from the hill Mizar. In spite of his expostu- 
lations, his dejection still continues, and can only be removed or 


mitigated by a more direct recollection of what God is, and has 
done for him, and of the mutual relation still subsisting be- 
tween them. Upon vie, as in the two preceding verses. Here 
perhaps the phrase may be intended to suggest, that reliance on 
himself only deepened his dejection, and compelled him to 
repose his trust on some other and more sure foundation. Is 
cast down, will be so, unless and until thou lift it up. From 
the land implies that he was there excluded from God's presence 
by exclusion from his sanctuary. The indefinite expression, land 
of Jordaii, i. e. the tract through which it flows, as we say the 
valley of the Mississippi, is referred specifically to the eastern 
side by the mention of the Hernions, i. e. as some suppose, 
Mount Hermon and the other mountains upon that side of the 
river, just as Baalim means Baal and other idols worshipped 
with him (1 Kings xviii. 18), or more probably Mount Hermon, 
considered not as a single eminence but a chain or range, like 
the Alps, the Alleghanies, &c. In either case it is put for the 
whole region east of Jordan, which did not properly belong to 
Canaan or the Holy Land. (See Josh. xxii. 11.) In this wide 
sense the expression might be used by David, even in reference 
to his abode at Mahanaim, north of the Jabbok, on the borders 
of Gad and Manasseh. (2 Sam. xvii. 24, 27. 1 Kings ii. 8.) 
Mizar, little or littleness. Whether this be taken as a proper 
name, of which there is no trace elsewhere, or as a descriptive 
epithet, it seems to be contemptuous. 

8 (7.) Deep unto deep (is) calling at the voice of thy water- 
spouts ; all thy billoics a7id thy ivaves over tne have passed. 
The first word in Hebrew seems to denote strictly a great body 
of water, and in that sense is applied to the ocean — see above, 
on Ps. xxxvi. 7 (6) — and also to its waves. It may here mean 
either a wave or a flood. The participle {calling') represents 
the scene as actually passing. The idea may be simply, 
that they respond to oii& another's noise, or more emphatically, 

360 rSALM XLII. 

that each wave invites or summons another to succeed it. For 
a somewhat similar expression, see above, Ps. xix. 3 (2.) 
Yoice, i. e. sound or noise. The Hebrew word is less restricted 
in its application than the English, so that it is not necessary 
even to assume a personification. The next word, in the only 
other place where it occurs (2 Sam. v. 8), has the literal mean- 
ing of a water-spout or gutter. It may here denote the con- 
tinued streams of rain poured upon the earth. The sense of 
water-falls or cataracts, although supported by the ancient ver- 
sions, has no foundation in etymology or usage. The idea that 
David here alludes to the water-falls of Lebanon by which he 
was surrounded, rests on a false interpretation of v. 7 (6), 
which, as we have seen, contains a general description of the 
country east of Jordan, called in later times Perea. Billows 
and waves yliteiaWy breakers and rollers, i. e. masses of water 
rolling towards the shore and broken on it. Throughout this 
verse there is an obvious allusion to the universal deluge, as 
there is in Ps. xxix. 11 (10.) xxxii. 6, and often elsewhere. 

9 (8.) By day ivill Jehovah command his mercy, a7id by 
night his so?ig with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Not- 
withstanding his distresses he is still convinced that God has 
not forsaken him. By day and night some understand pros- 
perity and adversity ; but they are probably put together to 
denote all time, the opposition between song and prayer being 
merely rhythmical, i. e. occasioned by the parallelism. Com- 
pare Ps. xcii. 3 (2.) Co7nmand his mercy, i. e. exercise it au- 
thoritatively, or as a sovereign. His song, a song of praise to 
him, implying the experience of his goodness, even in a season 
of distress. Compare Job xxxv, 10. These words may be 
governed by the verb of the first clause, he will coynmand his 
song {to be) with me, he will give me occasion to sing his 
praise, or construed with the substantive verb understood, 
his song [shall be) with me. The God of my life may be ex- 


plained to mean my God of life, i. e. my living God. Com- 
pare the hill of mij holiness — my hill of holiness — my holy 
hill, Ps. ii. 6. It is more natural, however, to understand by 
the God of my life the God to whom my life belongs, upon 
whom it depends, and who is bound to protect it. ' A praver 
to him who is by creation the author, and by covenant the pre- 
server, of my life,' 

10 (9.) I ivill say to God, my rock, why hast thou for gotten 
me ? Why go I mourning in the oppression of the enemy ? 
This expostulation may be regarded as a part or a sample of 
the prayer which God enabled him to offer, even in the midst 
of his afflictions. The divine name here used is l\'^\ the one 
significant of strength. My rock, my refuge, my protector, 
and the foundation of my hope. See above, on Ps. xviii. 3 
(2.) Why go I? more exactly, why shall or must I go? 
Mourning, literally, squalid, dirty. See above, on Ps. xxxv. 
14. xxxviii. 7 (6.) In the oppressio?i, may either mean dur- 
ing its continuance, or in consequence of it, or rather both ideas 
are included. 

11 (10.) With murder in my hones, my enemies have 
taunted, me, hi their saying to me all the day, where is thy 
God? The strong expression in the first clause is intended to 
denote excrutiating pain. My enemies, oppressors, or persecu- 
tors, as the Hebrew word denotes. Taunted me^ a strono-er 
expression than reproached or reviled me, implying scorn as 
well as anger and hatred. Iii their saying, i. e. by their sayino* 
and while they say, as in the foregoing verse. All the day, 
continually. See above, on v. 9 (8.) Where is thy God? 
See above, on v. 4 (3.) 

12 (11.) Why art thou cast down, (oh) my soul, and ivhy 
art thou disquieted within me ? Hope thou in God, for 1 


shall yet thank hwi {as) the help of ony countenance and my 
God. As usual in such cases, there is a slight variation in the 
burden or refrain from that in v. 6 (5.) See above, on Ps. 
xxiv. 7 — 10. Instead of the solvations of his face we have 
here the salvations of my face. The attempt to assimilate the 
two expressions, by an emendation of the text, is not only des- 
titute of all authority and evidence, but forbidden by the gene- 
ral practice of the sacred writers in repeating the expressions 
either of themselves or others. The salvations of my face is a 
bold and unusual expression which appears to mean such de- 
liverances or such abundant help as clears up and illuminates 
the countenance before clouded and dejected. And my God is 
not an unmeaning or gratuitous addition, but has reference to 
the taunting question in the preceding verse, ivhere is thy God? 
As if he had said, ' Behold him, he is here. My God is He 
who dissipates my clouds and animates my hopes, and raises 
me superior to the sneers as well as to the fury of my enemies.* 
While this variation relieves the repetition from entire same- 
ness, the repetition itself brings the second strophe and the 
whole psalm to a striking and symmetrical conclusion. 


A SUFFERER prays to be delivered from unjust and treach- 
erous enemies, vs. 1 — 3, expresses a confident assurance that 
his request will be granted, v. 4, and upbraids himself for his 
despondency and unbelief, v. 5. 

As the last verse is identical with that of the preceding 
psalm, and the last clause of v. 2 nearly so with that of Ps. xlii. 

PSALM XLIIl. 3(j3 

10 (9), some have inferred that this is really the third stanza or 
strophe of that psalm, separated from it by mistake. But the 
difficulty of accounting for such a mistake, a difficulty aggra- | 
vated by the resemblance of the compositions, together with a / 
very perceptible difference in the general tone of the two 
psalms, makes it far more probable that it is a supplementary 
psalm, composed by the same person, or in imitation of him, on 
a different occasion. The union of the two in more than thirty 
Hebrew manuscripts, only shows that their transcribers drew 
the same hasty conclusion that has since been drawn by many 
interpreters, and is much more easily explained than the divi- 
sion of the psalms in all the other copies, on the contrary hypo- 
thesis. Their juxtaposition in the Psalter is owing not merely 
to their mutual resemblance, but to the fact that one was 
actually written as an appendix or continuation of the other. 
The same hypothesis sufficiently accounts for the absence of a 
title or inscription in the psalm before us. 

1. Judge me (oh) God, i. e. do me justice, vindicate my 
innocence, exercise thy righteousness in my behalf. See 
above, on Ps.x. 18. xxvi. 1. And plead my cause, literally, 
strive my strife, but with particular allusion to litigious or 
forensic contest. See above, on Ps. xxxv. 1. Against an un- 
godly nation, literally, from one ; the idea of deliverance, as 
the necessary consequence of God's being his advocate, is here 
implied, and afterward expressed. The word nations (Q'^ia^ being 
constantly applied to the gentiles or heathen, the use of the 
singular in reference to Israel always conveys an idea of re- 
proach. Compare Isai. i. 4. Ungodly, more exactly, not mer- 
ciful, the Hebrew word denoting both the object and the sub- 
ject of benignant pity. See above, on Ps. xxxvii. 28. Fra)7i 
a man of fraud. See above, on Ps. v. 7 (6.) And iniquity, 
or more precisely, perverseness, moral obliquity. Thou wilt 

364 PSALM XLIll. 

deliver me. This is strictly an expression of strong confidence, 
but really includes the prayer, deliver thou me. 

2. For thou art the God of my strength. The last word 
means properly my place of strength, my stronghold, or my 
fortress. See above, on Ps. xxvii. 1. For tvhat {cause) hast 
thou cast me off, renounced, rejected me ? The original ex- 
pression is a very strong one, and implies disgust or loathing. 
Compare Rev. iii. 16. {Why) do I go, or more exactly, sltall 
I, must I go, i. e. go about, in different directions. The verb 
is an intensive form of that used in Ps. xlii. 10 (9), and occurs 
above, in Ps. xxxv. 14, in the same connexion as here. Mourn- 
ing, with special reference to the neglect of neatness, both in 
dress and person, as a customary sign of grief. See above, on 
Ps. xxxv. 14. xxxviii. 7 (6.) xlii. 10 (9.) In (i. e. during and 
because of) the oppression (persecution) of the enemy. All 
this is indirectly represented as inconsistent with the covenant 
relation he sustains to God. 

3. Send, i. e. send forth or out from thy presence. See 
above, on Ps. xiv. 7. xx. 3 (2.) Thy light, the light of thy 
countenance, thy favourable aspect, as in Ps. iv. 7 (6), or more 
generally, light., as the opposite of darkness, and a figure for 
relief from that of which darkness is the emblem, to wit, dan- 
ger and distress. And thy truth, thy veracity, thy faithful- 
ness, the certain fulfilment of thy promises. See above, on Ps. 
XXV. 5. xxvi. 3. XXX. 10 (9.) To send it out is to exercise this 
attribute, to manifest it in act, by performing his engagements. 
They, with emphasis on the pronoun, which is otherwise 
superfluous in Hebrew, they and no other, nothing else. See 
above, on Ps. xxiii. 4. Shall guide (conduct or lead) me, or 
giving the future an optative meaning, which is certainly im- 
plied in this connexion, let them lead me. They shall cause tne 
to come (or let them bring me) to thy hill of Jiolines.j (jJiy holy 


hill) and to thy divellings, or thy tabernacles, as the Hebrew 
word is specially applied to the Mosaic sanctuary (Ex. xxv. 9. 
Num. i. 50.) This petition seems to imply a previous exclu- 
sion from it, and thereby shows that the historical occasion of 
the psalm, if not the same, was similar to that of the forty- 
second. The form of expression seems to be borrowed from 
Ex. XV. 13. The mention of the tabernacle and the holy hill, 
i. e. Mount Zion, shows that the psalm is neither earlier nor 
later than the times of David and Solomon, before whom there 
was no holy hill, and after whom there was no tabernacle. 
This strengthens the presumption that David was himself the 
author of both psalms. 

4. And I shall come, as an expression of strong confidence 
that God will save him from his present troubles, or I ivill 
come, as the expression of a purpose, amounting to a vow or 
solemn promise. Both these ideas, though requiring a slight 
variation of expression in our idiom, would be necessarily sug- 
gested to a Hebrew reader by the original verb, the paragogic 
form of which, however, shows that the second is the primary 
idea. See above, on Ps. xlii. 5 (4.) To the altar of God 
(JElohini), as the place of sacrifice, here put for the whole 
sanctuary. To God {El) the gladness of my joy, my joyous 
gladness, the author and the object of my highest exultation. 
And I will thank thee, praise thee for thy benefits, icith a 
harp C^iss) the instrument on which David's history describes 
him as excelling. See above, on Ps. xxxiii. 2, and compare 
1 Sam. xvi. 16, 23. What he here vows is not mere private 
praise, but participation in the public praises of the sanctuary. 
God, my God. Not merely God in general, but my God in 
particular. Either expression by itself would have been insuf- 
ficient to express the whole idea, God being too vague, 7ny 
God too restricted, whereas the combination of the two implies 


that his God was not a personal, domestic, or national divinity, 
but the supreme God. 

5. TVh?/ art thou cast down, literally, why ivilt thou deject 
thyself, implying self-rebuke for an unreasonable and untimely 
sadness. {Oh) my said, which is really equivalent to myself. 
And why art thou disquieted, why wilt thou be agitated by 
these anxious doubts and groundless fears ? See above, on Ps. 
xlii. 6 (5.) Within me, literally, upon me, as if his unbeliev- 
ing fears weighed upon him as a heavy burden. Hope thou in 
God, or more exactly, wait thou for him, for his appearance, 
for his help, for the fulfilment of his promise. This, he is con- 
fident, will come at last. For I shall yet praise him, thank 
him, or acknowledge his kindness, (-^s) the health of my 
countenance, or more exactly, the salvations of my face, the 
salvations which are yet to cheer my clouded aspect and lift 
up my dejected countenance. The exact coincidence of this 
verse with the last of the preceding psalm, so far from proving 
it to be a part of it, rather proves the contrary, for reasons 
which have been already stated in the exposition of Ps. xlii. 
12 (11.) 


1. To the Chief Musician. To the Sons of Korah. Mas- 
chil. The same question here arises as in Ps. xlii, as to the 
sense in which the psalm is ascribed to the sons of Korah. 
For the reasons there assigned, it is, on the whole, most pro- 
bable that David is the author, however difficult it may be to 
account for the omission of his name in the inscription, and the 


appearance of the sons of Korah in tiie place which it usually 
occupies. See above, on Ps. xlii. 1. The addition of Maschil, 
i. e. a didactic psalm, is meant to show that though occasioned 
by a particular event, perhaps the same as in Ps. Ix, it was 
composed and left on record for the permanent use and edifi- 
cation of God's people. See above, on Ps. xxxii. 1. The train 
of thought is marked with unusual distinctness. God was, in 
ancient times, the protector and deliverer of Israel, vs. 2 — 5 
(1 — 4.) He is still their national and covenanted God, vs. 
6 — 10 (5 — 9.) But he seems to have given them up to their 
enemies, vs. 11 — 18 (10 — 17.) Yet Israel still cleaves to him 
and suffers for his sake, vs. 19—23 (18 — 22.) He is therefore 
importuned to reappear for their deliverance, vs. 24 — 27 
(23 — 26.) The state of things described and the sentiments 
expressed in this psalm, do not afford the slightest reason for 
referring it to any later period than that of David, when the 
same occasions of complaint and importunity were in existence, 
although not to so great an extent as afterwards. 

2 (1.) Oh God, with our ears have ive heard, our fathers 
have recounted to us, the luork thou didst work in their days, 
in the days of old. What they had heard with their ears is 
tacitly contrasted with the very different things which they had 
seen with their eyes. See below, Ps. xlviii. 9 (8), and compare 
Judg. vi. 13. 2 Chron. xx. 7. Hab. iii. 2. Our fathers have told 
us, as enjoined or predicted in Ex. x. 2. The verb means pro- 
perly to count, and then to recount or relate, with particular re- 
ference to the detailed enumeration of particulars. See above, 
on Ps. ii. 7. The last clause may be construed as a separate 
proposition. A work thou didst ivork, etc. But this leaves 
the active verbs of the first clause without a grammatical ob- 
ject. The emphatic combination of the verb and its derivative 
noun is greatly weakened in the English Bible, ichat icorkthou 
didst, and still more in the Prayer Book version, irJiat thou 


hast done. The particular work meant, as appears from what 
follows, is the conquest of Canaan and the settlement of Israel 
in it. 

3 (2.) Thou {ivith) thy hand didst nations dispossess and 
plant them, didst crush peoples and extend them. This, 
though a literal translation, is obscure in English, because the 
pronoun them in both clauses refers to Israel. In the second 
clause it might indeed have reference to the Canaanites, and 
the verb be taken in the sense of sending out, expelling, as in 
Gen. iii. 23. 1 Kings ix. 7. Isai. 1. 1. But as it is also used to 
signify the sending out of shoots or branches by a tree or vine, 
Ps. Ixxx. 12 (11.) Jer. xvii. 8. Ezek. xvii. 6, 7. xxxi. 5, the 

parallelism seems decisive in favour of that meaning here. 
The verb translated dispossess means properly to cause to in- 
herit, but is sometimes applied to the substitution of one heir 
or possessor for another. See Ex. xxxiv. 24. Num. xxxii. 21. 
xxxiii. 52. Deut. iv. 38. The verb translated crush may simply 
mean to injure ; but the stronger sense is here entitled to the 

4 (3.) For not with their sivord did they possess the land, 
and their (own) arm did 7iot save them ; for (it was) thy right 
hand, and thy arm, and the light of thy countenance ; for 
thou didst favour them. The for at the beginning introduces 
the proof or amplification of the general statement in the pre- 
ceding verse, that it was God who planted and settled them. 
^ave them, literally to or for them, i. e. did not bring deliver- 
ance to them, or work out deliverance for them. The trans- 
lation of the second *i3 by hut gives the sense but not the form 
of the original, as the use of the particle, in its strict sense, 
just before and after, forbids our taking the intermediate one in 
any other. With the first clause compare Josh. xxiv. 12; with 
the last clause Ps. iv. 7 (6.) 


5 (4.) Thou art He, my King, [oh) God ! Comtnand deliver- 
ances for Jacob. The form of expression in the first clause is 
highly idiomatic and somewhat obscure. It may either mean, 
' thou who hast done all this art still my king,' or ' thou art he 
who is my king,' which last may be thus resolved into the 
English idiom, ' it is thou who art my king.' Compare 2 Sam. 
vii. 28. 1 Chron. xxi. 17. The church here claims the same 
relation to Jehovah that was sustained by the former gene- 
rations of his people. The last clause may also be translated, 
order the salvations of Jacob, i. e. cause them to take place 
and regulate them by thy providence. The personal name of 
the patriarch is poetically substituted for his official title as the 
father of the chosen people. Sep above, on Ps. xxiv. 6. 

6 (5.) In thee our adversaries will we push ; in thy name 
will we tra7)iple our assailants. The hopes of Israel still rely 
upon that power which expelled the Canaanites. The word 
translated adversaries properly means those who press, oppress, 
or persecute. See above, on Ps. iii. 2 (1), and compare Ps. xiii. 
5 (4). xxvii. 2, 12. Our assailants, literally, our risers up, 
those rising up against us. See above, on Ps. xviii. 40 (39), 
and compare Deut. xxxiii. 11. The verb in the first clause 
means specifically to push with the horns, to toss, or gore. See 
Ex. xxi. 28 — 32, and compare Deut. xxxiii. 17. 1 Kings xxii. 11. 
l7i thy name, not merely by thy authority, or as thy representa- 
tives, but in thyself, in union and communion with thee. See 
above, on Ps. v. 12 (11.) xviii. 30 (29.) The meaning of the 
future verbs in this connexion is, that they will triumph, if at 
all, in this way. They must prevail thus or be vanquished. 

7 (6.) For not in Tny bow will I trust, and my sword ivill 
(or ca7i) not save me. ' What was true of my fathers is equally 
true of me. As they did not prevail by their own strength, 
neither can I hope to prevail by mine.' 


^ (^.) In God have we praised all the day, and thy name 
unto eternity will we acknowledge. Selah. The construction 
in the first clause, although foreign from our idiom, is more ex- 
pressive than the simple phrase, ive have praised God. It 
names God first, as the object in which the occasion and the 
theme of praise had been sought and found, ' It is in God that 
we find the subject of our praises.' The common version 
{boasted) confounds the verb here used with another derivative 
of the same root. Thy name, thy manifested nature. See above, 
on Ps. V. 12 (11.) To eternity or perpetuity, forever. All the 
day {long), i. e. always. See above, on Ps. xxv. 5. xlii. 11 (10.) 
Acknowledge, i. e. gratefully, give thanks. See above, on Ps. vi. 

(8.) For thou hast saved us from our adversaries, ajid 
our haters (or those hating us) hast shamed. The preterites 
in this verse are explanatory of the futures in the one before it. 
' We will not rely upon ourselves hereafter, because it is thou 
who hast helped us heretofore.' This logical relation of the 
verses is destroyed by confounding the preterites and futures 
with each other, or explaining both as presents. Shamed, i. e. 
defeated, disappointed. See above, on Ps. vi. 11 (10.) xiv. 6. 

10 (9.) Nay, thou hast rejected and disgraced us, and thou 
wilt not go forth ivith our hosts. The particle at the begin- 
ning (C]h) implies something more than a negation of the favours 
just described. ' But now thou dost not so deal with us ; nay 
more, thou hast rejected us.' This Hebrew verb implies disgust 
and abhorrence. See above, on Ps. xliii. 2. The other verb 
means to put to shame, to cover with disgrace, as in Ps. xxxv. 4. 
xl. 15 (14.) The past tense of the first verbs implies that the 
rejection was already manifest ; the future following implies an 
apprehension that it would continue. Go out ivith our hosts, 
as a guide, a commander, and an ally. Compare 2 Sam. v. 24. 



11 (10.) Thou wilt make us turn hack frotn the adversary^ 
and (already) those hating us have plundered, for them, i. e. 
for themselves. Two of the most unwelcome incidents of war- 
fare are here specified, flight and spoliation. Spoiled for them- 
selves, not merely for their own advantage, but at their own 
will and discretion. Compare 1 Sam. xiv. 48. xxiii. 1. 

12 (11.) Thou wilt give us as sheep [for) food, and a'tnong 
the natio7is hast scattered us. The consecution of the tenses is 
the same as in the preceding verse. Sheep for food, or flocks 
of food, i. e. intended and accustomed to be eaten. Give may 
either mean place, render, constitute, or give up, abandon. 
The last clause has by some been understood to refer to the 
Babylonish exile, and regarded as a proof of later date. But in 
every war with the surrounding countries, there were partial 
deportations and dispersions. See Joel iv. 2. Am. i. 6, 9, and 
compare 1 Kings viii. 46. 

13 (12.) Thou wilt sell thy people without gain, and hast 
not increased by their price. They seemed to be gratuitously i 
given up, i. e. without necessity or profit. Without gain, 
literally wealth or riches, as a product or equivalent. The ' 
same noun may be repeated in the next clause, thou hast not 
increased {thy wealth), just as the verb gain is absolutely used in 
English. Their price, literally their prices, perhaps with reference 

to the individual captives, or to repeated sales of the kind here 
mentioned. Another possible but far less natural construction 
treats the preposition as a mere connective and reads, thou hast 
not enhanced their price, i. e. set a high price upon them, im- 
plying that he had, on the contrary, sold them for too little, or 
rather given them away for nothing. Compare Jer. xv. 13. 

14 (13.) Thou wilt make us a reproach to our neighbours, 
a scoff and a jest to those around u^. If this state of things 



continues, such will be the necessary issue. Make us, Uterally 
place us, set us up, expose us. See above, on Ps. xxxix, 9 (8), 
and with the whole verse compare Ps. Ixxix. 4. Ixxxix. 42 (41.) 

15 (14.) Thou wilt inake us a byivord among the nations, 
a shaking of the head among the peoples. A byword, literally 
a likeness or comparison, a case that may be cited as a memo- 
rable instance or example. The expression is borrowed from 
Deut. xxviii. 37. A shaking of the head, i. e. an object at 
which men will shake their heads, as an expression of contempt- 
uous pity. See above, on Ps. xxii. 8 (7.) 

16 (15.) All the day fny disgrace is before Tne, and shame 
my face has covered. It is before me so that I cannot fail to 
see it or lose sight of it. See above, Ps. xxxviii. 18 (17.) 
Shame is here represented as a covering, as in Jer. iii. 25, but 
perhaps with special reference to the suffusion of the face with 
blushes, as in Ps. Ixix. 8 (7.) 

17 (16.) Froon the voice of slanderer and reviler, from the 
face of enemy a7id avenger. The preposition indicates the 
source or the occasion of the shame described in the preceding 
verse. Face may here mean either presence or the expression 
of the countenance. The last word is properly a participle and 
means taking vengeance or avenging one's self. Here, as in 
Ps. viii. 3 (2), it denotes a spiteful and revengeful enemy. 

18 (17.) All this has come %ipon us, and ive have not for- 
gotten thee, and have not been false to thy covenant. With the 
first clause compare Judg. vi. 13. Come upon us: the con- 
struction is the same as in Ps. xxxv. 8. We have not been 
false, or acted falsely. The same verb with the same prepo- 
sition, in Lev. xix. 11, has the sense of lying, or acting fraudu- 
lently, towards another. See also Ps. Ixxxix. 34 (33.) What 


is here professed is not entire exemption from all acts of infi- 
delity, but freedom from the deadly sin of total oblivion and 
apostasy. In spite of his unfaithfulness, Israel still claimed to 
be and was the chosen people of Jehovah. 

19 (18.) Our heart has 7iot turyied hack and our steps de- 
clined from thy path. The force of the negative extends to 
both clauses, as in Ps. ix. 19 (18.) Heart and steps are put 
for inward affection and its fruit, external action. Turned hack 
and turned aside are natural and common figures for moral 
delinquency. Thy path^ the way of thy commandments. 

20 (19.) That thou hast crushed us in a place of dragons, 
and hast covered over us with deathshade. The construction 
is continued from the preceding sentence. The connexion may 
be thus made plain in our idiom. * We have been guilty of no 
such infidelity or total apostasy, that thou shouldest deal with 
us in this way.' Crushed, bruised, or broken in pieces. See 
above, on Ps. x. 10, and below on Ps. li. 10 (8.) Dragons 
may here be understood as meaning wild beasts or lonely 
animals in general. Whether the Hebrew word specifically 
signifies wild-cats, wolves, or jackals, is a question of little exe- 
getical importance. The essential meaning of the whole phrase 
is a place inhabited by lonely creatures, i. e. a wilderness or 
desert. Compare Isai. xiii. 22. xxxiv. 13. xliii. 20. Jer. ix. 10(11.) 
X. 22. xlix. 33. Ps. Ixiii. 11 (10.) Covered over, i. e. covered 
up, completely covered, a stronger expression than the simple 
verb. Deathshade, or the shadow of death, a strong poetical 
expression for the profoundest darkness. See above, on Ps. 
xxiii. 4. 

21 (20.) If ive have forgotten the name of our God, and 
spread our hands to a strange God. Some regard this as the 
common elliptical formula of swearing. *(God do so to us and 

374 ^^-'^ LM XLIV. 

more also) if we have forgotten,' which is equivalent to saying, 
* we have not forgotten.' Another method of supplying the 
ellipsis is exemplified in Jos. xxii. 22. But since the verse, 
conditionally understood, yields a good sense in connexion with 
the next verse, this, as being the more obvious construction, is 
entitled to the preference. The act of holding up or stretching 
out the hands is often mentioned as a natural gesture of entreaty. 
See Ex. ix. 29, 33. 1 Kings viii. 38. Isai. i. 15. The word God 
in the version represents two different divine names in Hebrew, 
Elohivi and El. See above, on Ps. xliii. 4. A strange God, 
or a God {who is) a stranger, i. e. to Jehovah and his people. 
The Hebrew word is applied by Moses both to men (Ex. xxx. 33) 
and idols (Deut. xxxii. 16.) 

22 (21.) Shall not God search this out? F or he kjioweth 
the secrets of the heart. This is the apodosis of the sentence 
begun in the preceding verse. ' If we have done thus, must 
not God know it ?' The primary meaning of the verb trans- 
lated search out is to dig, to bring to light w^hat is hidden under 
ground. Thence, by a natural transition, it denotes the inves- 
tigation and disclosure of all secrets. The interrogation is an 
indirect but strong affirmation of the fact in question. The^br, 
at the beoinnino; of the last clause, does not indicate the reason 
of the question, but of the affirmative answer which is tacitly 
implied. He (is) k?iowi?ig, a form of expression which denotes 
contirmed and habitual knowledge. See above, on Ps. i. 6, and 
with the sentiment compare that of Ps. vii. 10 (9.) 

23 (22.) Because for thee have ive been killed all the day, 
we hdve been reckoned as sheep for slaughter. The causal 
particle at the beginning does not refer to what immediately 
precedes but to the remoter context, and adduces a proof 
of the assertion, that the church had not forgotten or forsaken 
God. This proof is afforded by the fact, that their very sufferings 


were on his account. For thee, for thy sake, literally, on thee, 
on {account of) thee, on thy account. The preterite form, we 
have been killed, includes the present, we are killed, but with 
the additional idea, that the sufferings in question were not new 
or altogether recent, but had long been experienced. Recko7ied, 
counted, estimated, i. e. by our enemies, who set no higher 
value on our lives than on those of sheep for the slaughter, 
literally, a flock of slaughter, i. e. one destined or accustomed 
to be slaughtered. This expression corresponds exactly to 
sheep for food, ox flock of food, in v. 12 (11) above. The whole 
verse is a strong poetical description of severe persecution or 
distress arising from the spite of enemies, and as such is applied 
by Paul to the sufferings of the church of Christ, in which the 
ancient Israel continues to exist. See Rom. viii. 36. 

24 (23.) Arouse thee! Why wilt thou sleep, oh Lord? 
Awake, do not cast off forever. This bold apostrophe implies 
stronsf faith as well as warm affection. Such an address would 
not be made to an inanimate object or an imaginary being. 
The idea is the same as in Ps. iii. 8 (7), to wit, that the with- 
holding of God's help or of his sensible presence may be figura- 
tively described as a state of inaction or of sleep, from which 
he awakes and arises when he once more manifests his presence 
and affords his aid. Compare Ps. cxxi. 4. Matt. viii. 25. The 
verse is therefore really nothing more than an importunate peti- 
tion for divine assistance. Cast off, reject with loathing and 
contempt, the same strong expression that occurs in v. 10 (9) 
above. Forever, literally, to perpetuity. The Hebrew phrase 
is not the same, however, that occurs in v. 9 (8) above. 

25 (24.) Why ivilt thou hide thy face, wilt thou forget our 
"iuffering and our persecution (or oppressio?i) ? The same 
thing which had just been represented by the figure of sleep is 
here described as a refusal to see and to remember. Both figures 


are employed in Ps. xiii. 2 (1) above, in reference to precisely 
the same subject. These anthropomorphisms, which would 
be unlawful in an uninspired writer, are perfectly intelligible 
and exceedingly expressive. The word translated suffering (or 
afflictioti) is generic and includes all forms of physical evil, one 
of which is then specified, to wit, the suffering caused by pow- 
erful and spiteful enemies. The same word denotes oppression 
ox persecution at the hand of wicked men, in Ps. xlii. 10 (9.) 
xliii. 2. Why wilt thou forget is evidently more than ivhy 
dost thou forget^ for it conveys the additional idea, • why wilt 
thou persist in doing as thou hast done heretofore and art doing 
now ?' 

26 (25.) For hoivecl (or sunk) to the dust is our soul, fixed to 
the earth is our belly. Both Hebrew verbs are active and 
literally mean, our soul has bowed down, our belly has adhered. 
Belly may either have the sense of body, as opposed to soul, 
as in Ps. xxxi. 10 (9) above, or be taken in its proper sense, in 
which case the whole clause is descriptive of the deepest de- 
gradation, a grovelling on the earth without the capacity or 
wish to rise, a state like that of the lowest reptiles, or the one 
denounced upon the serpent in Gen. iii. 14. Whatever the 
image here presented may be, it is evidently meant to represent a 
state of deep depression and debasement. 

27 (26.) Rise, a help for us, and redeem us for the sake of 
thy mercy ! This is the conclusion of his arguments and the 
sum of his petitions. Arise, from this state of apparent inac- 
tion, and exert thy power. Not merely for our help, as in Ps. 
xxxviii. 23 (22,) but asour help, thou who art thyself our help, its 
source, its author, a much stronger expression than our heljjer, 
though essentially synonymous. See above, Ps. xl. 18 (17), 
and below, Ps. Ixiii. 8 (7.) Because of thy mercy, as a ground 


or reason ; according to thy 7nercy, as a rule or measure ; for 
the sake of thy mercy, i. e. for its honour, as a motive and an 
end to be accomplished. 

PSALM XLY. 'r*^^ 

^^^ C. 


The intimate relation of the Messiah to the chosen people, 
and eventually to the other nations, is described in this psalm 
as the union of a mighty king with foreign princesses, among 
whom one is represented as the queen. This kind of allegory 
is a common one in scripture, but appears to have derived its 
peculiar form in this case from the court and household of Solo- 
mon. After a title, v. 1, the Psalmist announces his design to 
sing the praises of the King, v. 2 (1), whom he then describes 
as full of beauty, grace, and the divine blessing, v. 3 (2), as a 
conquering hero in the cause of truth and righteousness, vs. 
4 — 6 (3 — 5), as a divine, perpetual, and righteous sovereign, 
V. 7 (6), and as such invested with peculiar honours and enjoy- 
ments, V. 8 (7), clothed in royal, festal, and nuptial garments, 
V. 9 (8), surrounded by kings' daughters with a queen at his 
right hand, v. 10 (9.) The Psalmist then addresses her directly 
in the language of congratulation and admonition, vs. 11 — 13 
(10 — 12), and describes her apparel and her marriage proces- 
sion, vs. 14 — 16 (13 — 15.) In conclusion, the king is again 
addressed, with the assurance of a namerous posterity, v. 17 (16), 
and endless fame, v. 18 (17.) The attempt to explain this as a 
mere epithalamium, in honour of Solomon, or Ahab, or some 


later king, Jewish or Persian, has always been defeated by the 
difficulty of determining the subject, and the impossibility of 
accounting for the reception of such a poem into a collection of 
devotional songs, intended for the permanent use of the ancient 
church. The absence of any analogous example is admitted 
upon all hands. The allegorical or Messianic sense is given by 
the oldest interpreters, both Jewish and Christian. The alle- 
gorical idea of this psalm is carried out in the Song of Solomon, 
to which it bears the same relation as Ps. xxxvii. to the Book 
of Proverbs ^and Ps. xxxix. to the Book of Job. 

2(1.) To the Chief Musician. Upon lilies. To the Sons 
of Korah. Maschil. A song of loved (ones.) The unusual 
accumulation of descriptive titles in this verse suggests at once 
that the psalm is one of deep and solemn import, and thus raises 
a presumption against its being a mere epithalamium, or a sec- 
ular poem of any kind. This presumption is confirmed by the 
inscription to the Chief Musiciaii, implying that the psalm was 
designed for permanent and public use. See above, on Ps. iv. 1. 
This description, it is true, might be applied to all the psalms 
without exception ; but it was particularly needed in the case 
of those which seem, at first sight, to be mere expressions of 
individual feeling, and still more in the case of those which, to 
a superficial reader, seem to be entirely secular in theme and 
spirit. The same thing is true, in substance, of the next term, 
Tiiaschil, instruction. The psalm before us is among the last 
which would have been selected by a modern critic as didactic 
in its character. But since it is so, this very fact affords a 
cogent reason for so designating it. This designation, at the 
same time, corroborates the previous presumption, that the 
psalm is allegorical, because an amatory nuptial song could not, 
in any sense, be called a onaschll. The same thing is rendered 
still more certain by the ascription to the Sous of Korah, 
whether as authors or performers, since in either character their 



function was a sacred one; they were not profane bards or 
minstrels, but Levitical precentors in the temple worship. See 
above, on Ps. xlii. 1. As this employment was continued in 
the family for many generations, there is no difficulty in as- 
suming that the Sons of Korah here meant were contemporaries 
of Solomon, to whose regal and domestic habits the psalm con- 
tains so many obvious allusions. The other two expressions 
in the title are more dubious. Upon lilies is supposed by some 
to mean on instruments of that shape. See above, on Ps. viii. 1. 
Others suppose it to denote a mode of execution, or an air, or 
another composition upon which this was modelled. Others 
more plausibly maintain that this and all analogous inscriptions 
have respect to the subject or contents, and that lilies are a 
natural emblem of female beauty, the plural form implying a 
plurality of persons, such as we meet with in the psalm itself. 
See below, vs. 10, 11, 16 (9, 10, 15.) A song of loves would 
seem to mean either a love-song, or a lovely song. But the usage 
of the Hebrew word requires it to be taken in the concrete sense 
of loved or beloved, the plural feminine form serving to identify 
the persons thus described with the lilies of the other clause. 
These two phrases taken together represent the subject of the 
psalm to be lovely and beloved women, while the other three 
terms of the description, which have been explained already, 
show that the love and marriage here referred to are not natural 
but spiritual, to wit, the union of Messiah with his people, or 
of Christ with his church, an idea running through both testa- 
ments. Compare Isai. liv. 5. Ixii. 4, 5. Jer. iii, 1. Ezek. xvi 
and xxiii. Matt. ix. 15. xxii. 2. xxv. 1. John iii. 29. Rom. vii. 
4. 2 Cor. xi. 2. Eph. v. 25—32. Pvev. xix. 7. xxi. 2. xxii. 17. 
The allegory is more fully carried out in the first three chapters 
of Ilosea, but in these and all the other passages referred to, 
the essential idea is borrowed from the Law, in which the na- 
tional unfaithfulness to Jehovah is constantly described as a spirit- 
ual adultery, implying a conjugal relation between him and his 


people. See Ex.xxxiv. 15, 16. Lev. xvii. 7. xx. 5, 6. Num. xiv. 
33. On the whole, then, this psalm appears to be a description 
of Messiah in his conjugal relation both to Israel and other na- 
tions, composed either by or for the sons of Ivorah in the reign 
of Solomon, from which the imagery seems to be borrowed, and 
designed for the permanent instruction of the church by being 
used as a vehicle of pious feeling in her public worship. 

2(1.) My heart has overflowed — a good ivord (atri) I say- 
ing — my ivorhs for the king — my tongue the pen of a rapid 
writer. The whole verse is a strong metaphorical description 
of the way in which his thoughts were engrossed, and his 
words suggested, by one great theme. The first word properly 
denotes ebullition, the agitation and effervescence of a boiling 
liquid, or the similar phenomena presented by the bubbling up 
of water in a fountain. It is here used to express the spontane- 
ous gush of feeling, thought, and w^ord, in the inspired writer. 
This first clause may also be connected with the next, as indi- 
cated by the accents. My heart is overfioioing [with) a good 
word (or goodly speech), i. e. the subject upon which he is 
about to speak. The next words may then be rendered, I atn 
sayi7ig, (or I say), my icorks to the ki?ig, i. e. they belong to 
him, or as an exclamation, ' let them be his !' My ivorks, all 
that I do, including the praise here offered. The king meant 
is the ideal and expected king of Israel, the Messiah. The last 
clause may also be an exclamation. (Se) my tongue the pen 
of a rapid ivriter! i.e. let it skillfully and promptly give ex- 
pression to my thoughts and feelings. It is probably in allu- 
sion to this passage that Ezra is described as a ready scribe or 
rapid writer (Ezra vii. 6.) Although particular expressions in 
this verse may be obscure, its general import is entirely unam- 
biguous, as an animated declaration of the writer's purpose, and 
a preface to his praise of the Messiah. 


3 (2.) Bemitifitl, beautiful, art thou above the sons of man; 
grace is poured iiito thy lips; therefore God hath blessed thee 
to eternity. The first word in Hebrew is a reduplicated form, 
expressing the idea with intensity and emphasis. He is not 
praised as the fairest or most beautiful of men, but as fair or 
beautiful beyond all human standard or comparison. This 
general ascription of all loveliness is followed by the specifica- 
tion of a single charm, that of delightful captivating speech. 
Grace, in Hebrew as in English, denotes both a cause and an ef- 
fect; in this case, grace or beauty of expression, produced by the 
divine grace or favour, and reciprocally tending to increase it. 
On any hypothesis, except the Messianic one, this verse is unintel- 
ligible. If the first clause were intended to describe a mere 
corporeal beauty, how could this be followed up by commend- 
ing the grace of the lips, or either be recognized as the ground 
of an eternal blessing ? It is only by supposing that the person 
here meant is the chief among ten thousand and altoo-ether 
lovely, that the beauty predicated of him includes every moral 
and spiritual attraction, and that the grace of his lips has refer- 
ence to his prophetic character and office, that the sentence can 
be made to seem coherent, and the promise at its close appro- 
priate. The type, in this allegorical description, may have been 
furnished by him, of whom the queen of Sheba said (I Kings 
X. 8), " Happy thy men, happy these thy servants who stand 
before thee always, who hear thy wisdom." But the glorious 
antitype was He, to whom " all bare witness, and wondered at 
the WORDS OF GRACE proceeding out of his mouth." (Luke 
iv. 22.) 

4 (3.) Gird thy sivord on thy thigh, Mighty (One), thy 
honour and thy majesty. Arm thyself for. battle and for con- 
quest. Compare 1 Sam. xxv. 13. As the act of girding is ap- 
plied both to weapons and to clothing, the mention of the one 
here suggests the other. ' Arm thyself with strength and 

382 PSALM XL V. 

clothe thyself with majesty.' The two words at the end of the 
sentence are constantly employed to denote the divine majesty 
(Ps. xcvi. 6. civ, 1. cxi. 3), as distinguished from that of mor- 
tals (Jobxl. 10), or as bestowed upon them by a special divine fa- 
vour (Ps. xxi. 6.) The first of the two is separately used to 
signify specifically royal dignity (1 Chron. xxix. 25. Dan. xi. 21.) 
The use of these expressions, together with the epithet of 
Mighty or Hero, which is one of the characteristic titles of 
Messiah in prophecy (Isai. ix. 6), confirms the previous conclu- 
sion that he is here the object of address. As to the sword, see 
Rev. i. 16. ii. 12. xx. 15, 21 ; and with the whole verse compare 
Ps. ex. 5 — 7. 

5 (4.) A7id {in) thy majesty, pass 07i, ride forth, for the 
sake of truth and hutnble right ; and thy right hand shall 
guide thee (to) terrible deeds. The first words may also be 
explained, without supplying in, as an emphatic repetition of 
what goes before. A?id thy majesty [I say.) The first verb 
may be rendered prosper, as in Isai. liii. 10 ; but it seems best to 
retain its primary sense, which is to pass by or over, to advance, 
or as we say familiarly, to go ahead. By riding we may un- 
derstand the act of riding in a chariot of war, which was cus- 
tomary with the ancient kings. See the same verb so used in 
2 Kings ix. 16, and compare 1 Kings xxii. 34, 35. For the 
sake, literally on the loord, which may possibly denote that on 
which the conqueror rides, to wit, the word of truth. But 
this figure would not be very intelligible, and in almost every 
other case where the Hebrew phrase occurs, it is evident that 
word is used precisely as the English words account and sake 
are in the familiar combinations, on account of, for the sake of 
See above, onPs. xviii. 1. Thus understood, it here points out the 
object of Messiah's conquests, to wit, the vindication oi truth, i. e. 
veracity, as opposed to fraud, and humble right, as opposed to 
proud iniquity. In this last phrase both the Hebrew words are 


nouns, bui rather in apposition than regimen, so tliat the literal 
translation would be kimiility -righteousness, right asserted in hu- 
mility against a wrong maintained by pride and selfishness. Thy 
right hand, as the seat of martial strength, and the organ of 
aggressive action. Shall guide, or point the way, the proper 
meaning of the Hebrew verb, which, like other verbs expressing 
or implying motion, may be followed directly by a noun, where 
our idiom would require an intervening preposition. Terrible 
(thi7igs), fearful {deeds), literally dreaded ; but the Hebrew 
passive participle frequently includes the idea of a future pas- 
sive participle in Latin. The insensible transition from the 
imperative to the future shows that the former was really pro- 
phetic, and that the prayer of this and the preceding verse is 
only a disguised prediction of Messiah's triumphs, as one going 
forth conquering and to conquer. 

6 (5.) Thine arrows are sharp — 7iations under thee shall 
fall — in the heart of the king's enemies. The word translated 
sharp is properly a participle meaning sharpened, like acutus 
from acuo, and may here have the same sense as in Isai. v. 28, 
whose arrows are sharp>ened and all his boivs bent, i. e. all his 
weapons of war ready for immediate use. Natioris, not merely 
individuals, nor even armies, but whole nations, a description 
peculiarly, though not exclusively, appropriate to a superhuman 
conqueror. In order to remove the apparent incoherence 
of the second and third members of the sentence, some give 
heart the local sense of midst. ' Nations shall fall under thee 
in the midst of the king's enemies.' But this explanation of 
heart is not justified by usage, and the khig's enemies are evi- 
dently the nations them.selves. Others make the second clause 
a vocative — thou under ivhom the nations fall — or a mere 
parenthesis, with a verb supplied after it — thy sharp arroivs 
{nations fall under thee) shall penetrate into the heart of the 
king's enemies. But these are forced if not ungrammatical 



constructions, and by far the simplest solution is to repeat the 
first clause before the third — thine arroivs are sharp — nations 
fall under thee — {thine arrows are sharp) in the heart of 
the kings enemies. This is the more natural as the falling of 
the nations is supposed to be produced by the arrows. ' Tliine 
arrows are sharpened, and ready for the conquest of the na- 
tions; yes, thine arrows are already sharp in the heart of the 
kino-'s enemies.' This last expression does not refer to a differ- 
ent person from the one addressed, but is merely a more em- 
phatic way of saying, ' thine enemies, oh king I' 

7 (6.) Thy throne, {oh) God, (is) for ever and ever ; a scep- 
tre of rectitude {is) the sceptre of thy kingdom. To avoid the 
obvious ascription of divinity contained in the first clause, two 
very forced constructions have been proposed. 1. Thy throne 
(is the throne of) God forever and ever. 2. Thy God-throne 
(or divine throne) is forever. But even admitting, what is 
very doubtful, that a few examples of this syntax occur else- 
where, the sense thus obtained is unsatisfactory and obscure, 
and this is still more true of that afforded by the only obvious 
or natural construction besides the one first given, namely, thy 
throne is God forever and ever. The explanation of God as a 
vocative is not only the most obvious, and sustained by the 
analogy of Ps. xliii. 1. xliv. 5 (4.) xlviii. 10, 11 (9, 10), etc., but 
is found in all the ancient versions and adopted in the New 
Testament (Heb. i. 8,) and was admitted even by the anti- 
messianic interpreters, until they were obliged to abandon the 
position that EloJdni might be taken in a lower sense. Forever 
and ever, literally, eternity and perpetuity. See above, on Ps. 
V. 12 (11.) ix. 6 (5.) The same perpetuity is asserted of Jeho- 
vah's reign in Ps. x. 16. It is also promised to the royal line 
of David, ending and eternized in Messiah. See the original 
promise in 2 Sam. vii. 13, 16, and its varied repetition in Ps. 
xxh 5 (4.) xviii. 51 (50.) Ixxii. 5. Ixxxix. 5, 37, 38 (4, 36, 37,) 


ex. 4. cxxxii. 12 (11.) Isai. ix. 6 (7.) A scej^tre, properly a staff 
or rod, particularly as a badge of office and especially of 
royal dignity. See above, on Ps. xxiii. 4. Rectitude, in a 
moral or figurative sense, derived from the physical and proper 
one oi straightness, whether linear or superficial. See below, Ps. 
Ixvii. 5 (4), and compare Isai. xi. 4. Kingdom^ or as an ab- 
stract, royalty, in which sense it may qualify the noun before 
it, so that the whole phrase will express the idea royal sceptre, 

8 (7.) TJiou hast loved righteousness a7id hooted wickedness ; 
therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee (i.vith) oil of joy 
above thy fellows. The moral excellency of the person here 
addressed is represented as the meritorious ground of the divine 
favours by which he was distinguished. In an epithalamium, 
or an amatory poem, this would be ridiculous. The past 
tenses represent the moral qualities ascribed to him as already 
manifested and familiar. The substitution of the present 
greatly weakens the expression. Here, as in the verse pre- 
ceding, God may be a vocative. Thy God, oh God, hath 
anointed thee.^ etc. Compare Ps. xliii. 4. li. 16 (14.) But the 
more obvious construction above given is favoured by the col- 
location of the words and the analogy of Ps. 1. 7. Oil of joy (or 
gladness^ is a figure borrowed from the ancient oriental usage 
of anointing the head on fe-stive occasions. See above, on Ps. 
xxiii. 5. The expression is copied in Isai. Ixi. 3. Above thy 
fellows, more than thy companions, i. e. other men, or more 
specifically, other kings. Compare what is said of Solomon, 
1 Kings iii. 12, 13. 2 Chr. i. 12. 

9 (8.) Myrrh and aloes (and) cassia (are) all thy garments, 
from palaces of ivory, from (thence) have they gladdened thee. 
The figure of unction in the close of the preceding verse sug- 
gests the idea of perfumes and aromatic substances, several of 
which are specified, as samples of the whole class, which makes 


it comparatively unimportant, though by no means difficult, to 
identify the species. His dress is described as so impregnated 
with these odours, that it may be poetically said to be com- 
posed of them. By another natural association, these perfumed 
garments, which were not usually worn, suggest the idea of 
some rare festivity, and especially of that which is most joyous 
in all countries. It is from marriage-feasts in splendid palaces 
that these sweet odours and these joyful feelings have been 
brought away. Why more than one such celebration is re- 
ferred to, will appear below. Palaces of ivory, i. e. adorned 
with it, like that of Ahab in 1 King xxii. 39, and that of Mene- 
laus in the Odyssey. That this kind of luxury was not un- 
known in real life, may also be inferred from Amos iii. 15. vi. 4. 
Song of Sol. vii. 5 (4). The next word ( ":?2 ) is by some explained 
as a contraction of (ID'^3>2 ) a word meaning strings, and then 
stringed instruments (Ps. cl. 4.) From 'palaces of ivory string- 
ed i7istru77ients have gladdened thee. But as this breaks the 
connexion between verses 8 and 10 (7 and 9), others make 'n^^q 
the poetical form of the preposition "^ as it is in Ps. xliv. 11, 
19 (10, 18.) Ixviii. 32 (31.) See also Judg. v. 14 and Isai.xlvi. 
3. The repetition of the particle without the noun is similar to 
that in Isai. lix. 18, accordiJig to their deeds, according to 
{them) will he repay. So here, from palaces of ivory, from 
{them or thence) have they gladdened thee. The plural verb* 
may be construed indefinitely, as tantamount to saying, thou 
hast been gladdened, or referred to a more definite subject, 
namely, tliat presented in the next verse. 

10 (9.) Daughters of ki7igs {are) a7no7ig thy precious (ones)] 
statio7ied is the queen at thy right hand, in gold of Ophir. 
The idea of a marriage-feast, suggested in the foregoing verse, 
is here carried out by a description of the bride or brides. 
These are represented as being of the highest rank and splendid 
in appearance. Precious, dear, not in the sense of beloved 


which the Hebrew word never has, but in that of costly, valu- 
able, which it always has. Stationed, not simply stands, but 
'placed there, as the post of honour. Compare 1 Kings ii. 19. 
The word translated queen means properly a spouse or consort, 
but is specially applied to the wives of kings, particularly those 
of Babylonia (Dan. v. 2) and Persia (Neh. ii. 6.) It is here used 
as a poetical expression which is also the case with the word 
translated gold, and derived from a verb meaning to conceal ; 
it may therefore denote ore, as hidden in the mine, or hoarded 
treasure. Here and in Isai. xiii. 12 it is combined with Ophir, 
one of the places to which Solomon's ships traded with the 
Phenicians(l Kings ix. 28. x. 11. 2 Chr. viii. 18. ix. 10.) Its 
situation is disputed and of no exegetical importance in the 
case before us. Whether it was in India, Arabia, or Africa, it 
is here mentioned only as an Eldorado, with the very name of 
which the idea of gold was associated in the mind of every 
Israelite, as it is in ours with the name of California. In gold 
means of course in garments decked with gold, or in golden 
jewels. The image here presented of a queen surrounded by 
inferior princesses was probably borrowed from the court of 
Solomon (1 Kings xi. 1), but employed to represent the chosen 
people as the bride of the Messiah, and as such pre-eminent 
among the nations. This kind of personification is not uncom- 
mon. See for example Isai. xlvii. 1. liv. 1. Jer. xlvi. 11. 

11 (10.) Hear, daughter, and see, and bend thine ear, and 
forget thy people and the house of thy father. The Psalmist, 
in view of the ideal scene which he has brought before us, 
utters a kind of nuptial exhortation to the queen or chief bride 
of Messiah. Hear what I have to say ; see, with the mind's 
eye, what I set before thee, look at it, consider it. I?icline 
thine ear, lean forward as a sign of attention, so that nothing 
shall escape thee. See above, on Ps. xvii. 6. xxxi. 3 (2.) This 
preliminary summons to attend implies that something of 


serious moment is to follow. The word daughter may be 
simply used, as son is elsewhere, to suggest the relation of a 
junior to a senior or of a pupil to a teacher. See above, on 
Ps. xxxiv. 12 (11), and compare Prov. i. 8. ii. 1. iii. 1. iv. l,etc. 
Or the Psalmist may be understood as speaking in the person 
of the bride's father, when about to part with her ; but this is 
less natural, since the father is referred to, in the last clause, as 
a third person. Some suppose a specific reference to the 
daughter of Zion as the real object of address, while others un- 
derstand by daughter a king's daughter, a royal princess, or 
suppose her to be here addressed as one who was no longer to 
be treated as a daughter, but as a wife and mother. As if he 
had said, ' hitherto thou hast been a daughter, but now thou 
must forget thy father's house.' All these ideas may have 
been present to the writer's mind, as they are all spontaneously 
suggested to the reader's. Forget thy people, etc. is a strong 
but natural and perfectly intelligible mode of saying, form new 
relations, or accommodate thyself to them when formed. There 
is obvious allusion to the law of marriage in Gen. ii. 24, and to 
the calling of Abraham in Gen. xii. 1. What the patriarch 
was there required to do is here enjoined upon his children in 
the person of their ideal representative. The ancient church or 
chosen people is required to come out from the world and be 
exclusively devoted to Jehovah. The exhortation becomes still 
more pointed and significant when taken in connexion with the 
fact, that Solomon's wives, who seem to have supplied the fig- 
ures for this striking allegorical tableau, instead of acting on the 
principle here laid down, by adopting the religion of their hus- 
band, " turned away his heart after other gods." (1 Kings xi. 4.) 

12 (11.) And let the king desire thy beauty ; for he is thy 
Lord, and (therefore) bow thyself to him. The common version 
{so shall the king desire, etc) is inconsistent with the form of 
the Hebrew verb, which is one used to express a command or 


wish. The verse must be read in close connexion with the one 
before it. ' Forget thy father's house and be entirely devoted 
to thy husband, so that his affection may be fixed upon thee, 
without anything to hinder or impair it, such as a lingering de- 
sire for thy previous condition.' This is enjoined as a duty 
springing from the very nature of the conjugal relation, in 
which the husband is the head by divine right. Compare Gen. 
iii. 16. xviii. 12. 1 Pet. iii. 5, 6. In recognition of this obliga- 
tion, she is called upon to bow down or prostrate herself (1 Sam. 
XXV. 41. 1 Kings i. 16, 31), a gesture both of civil and religious 
homage, and therefore pecuharly appropriate here, where the 
ideal king and husband represents the real object of reli- 
gious worship. 

13 (12.) And the daughter of Tyre with a gift thij face 
shall soften — the rich of the ^people. In the Hebrew idiom the 
daughter of Tyre, or the daughter (i. e. the virgin) Tyre, de- 
notes the city, or the population of the city, personified as a 
woman. See above, on Ps. ix. 15 (14.) It has been proposed 
indeed to take this as a vocative {a7id oh daughter of Tyre, the 
rich of the people shall etc.) addressed to Jezebel, in honour of 
whose marriage with Ahab (1 Kings xvi. 31) the psalm is then 
supposed to have been written. But besides the harsh con- 
struction of the first words, and the constant usage of the 
phrase and others like it in the sense explained above, it is in- 
conceivable that a poem in celebration of the marriage between 
a wicked king of Israel and a heathen princess could have 
been composed by the Sons of Korah for permanent religious 
use in the kingdom of Judah. And yet this is the only hypo- 
thesis, except the Messianic one, on which the reference to 
Tyre can be explained. In the time of Solomon, the Tyrians 
were the most commercial nation in the world, and the one 
with which the Israelites had most commercial intercourse. It 
was natural theref<)re to use Tyre as a type for the wealth and 



commerce of the world, and the same mode of representation is 
employed by later writers. (See especially Isai. xxiii. 18.) 
Thus understood, the promise that the daughter of Tyre should 
seek, by means of gifts, to conciliate the favour of the queen, 
is a prediction that the richest of the nations should seek union 
and communion with the chosen people. See below, Ps. xlvii. 
10 (9.) Ixxii. 10. Ixxxvii. 4, in the last of which places Tyre is 
particularly mentioned. See also Isai. Ix. 6. Hagg. ii. 7, 8. 
Zech. ix. ] 0. That the daughter of Tyre is here an ideal person, 
comprehending many individuals, is clear from the plural verb 
with which it is construed, and from the epexegetical clause, 
the rich (i. e. the richest) of the people, whether this be under- 
stood to mean the richest of that people, or the richest of the 
nations. In either case, it is in apposition with daughter of 
Tyre, and in some way explanatory of it. * The daughter of 
Tyre, that richest of the nations, (or the daughter of Tyre, even 
the richest of that nation), shall entreat thy favour.' This last 
idea is conveyed by a highly idiomatic phrase, meaning as some 
suppose to stroke or soothe the face, and then by a natural 
transition, to conciliate, to flatter. Others obtain nearly the 
same sense by making it mean to w^eaken, soften, or subdue the 
face, i. e. the opposition which the face expresses. 

1-4 (13.) All glorious {is) the king's daughter within; of 
gold embroidery (is) her vesture. The second word in Hebrew 
may be either an adjective as in Ezek. xxiii. 41, or a substantive 
as in Judg. xviii. 21. All (i. e. altogether) splendid, or all 
splendor, i. e. containing nothing else, as the king's garments 
are said, in v. 9 (8) above, to be all j^erfujue, and mankind in 
Ps. xxxix. 6 (o), to be onbj all vanity. The local adverb in 
the first clause means ivithin doors, in the house (Lev. x. 18. 
1 Kings vi. 18. 2 Kings vii. 11), and describes the bride as still 
awaiting her removal from her father's to her husband's house. 
Gold embroidery, or net irork of gold. The common version 


(icrougJit gold) conveys the false idea of a dress entirely me- 
tallic, whereas the Hebrew phrase denotes some kind of artifi- 
cial texture or tissue, in which gold is interwoven. 

15 (14.) With (or on) variegated cloths shall sh,e be con- 
ducted to the king; virgins behind her, her companions^ 
brought unto thee. The lively picture of an oriental wedding 
is now completed by a view of the procession to the bride- 
groom's house. The customary train of female friends is not 
forgotten, but with this peculiar feature added, that the brides- 
maids are themselves described as brides, being brought, (or 
tnade to come) to the king, precisely as the queen was. This 
departure from the usages of real life, which would have been 
revolting in a mere epithalamium, is peculiarly appropriate to 
the design of the allegory, as it enables the writer to include in 
his description a striking figurative representation of the event- 
ual accession of the Gentiles to the spiritual privileges and pre- 
rogatives which for ages were confined to Israel. The ancient 
church or peculiar people is the chief bride or queen of the 
Messiah, chosen from among the nations; but these very na- 
tions are the virghis, her compa7iions, not her servants or at- 
tendants merely, who are brought to the king afterwards as she 
was brought before, to be united with him in an honourable 
marriage, not as the inferiors but the equals of his first and 
chosen consort. The noun at the beginnins; of the verse has 
been variously explained as meaning needleicork, embroidery, 
and variegated stuffs; but the essential idea is sufficiently 
clear, to wit, that of rich and highly ornamented fabrics. As 
the dress of the bride has been twice described already, in vs. 
10, 14 (9, 13), some suppose that these words have allusion to 
the practice of spreading rich and costly cloths or carpets on 
the ground where royal personages walk. (Compare Matt, 
xxi. 8.) Others refer the clause to the embroidered coverings 
of the nuptial conch. The preposition here used is the one 


denoting relation in the most indefinite manner, and mav be 
translated hi, wpon, or to, according to these different hypotheses 
respectively. See above, on Ps. xxx. 2(1.) xxxv. 19, 24. xxxviii. 
17 (16.) Conducted, or escorted in procession, as the Hebrew- 
word denotes, being applied both to nuptial and funeral pomps. 
Compare Job x. 19. xxi. 32. The king is first mentioned in the 
third person, and then in the second, by which insensible transi- 
tion the way is prepared for the direct address with which the 
psalm concludes, although the third person is resumed for a 
moment in the next verse. 

16(15.) They shall he conducted, with rejoicings and mirth ; 
they shall come into the palace of the king. The first clause 
exhibits the procession, as it were, in motion, while the second 
brings it to its destination. As if he had said, ' I see the joyous 
train advancing, to the sound of merry music, towards the pa- 
lace; and now they reach it, and are entered in.' This brings 
the description of the marriage to a close, and leaves nothing to 
be added but the joyful anticipations expressed in the con- 
cluding verses. 

17 (16.) Instead of thy fathers shall he thy sons ; thou sh alt 
set them for 2^^'i^ices in all the earth. In the translation, this 
might seem to be a renewed address to the bride, consoling her, in 
her separation from her father's family, by the hope of having one 
herself. The antithesis, however, is not between parents and 
children in general, but helween fathers and smis in particular. 
Nor does the ambiguity of the translation exist in the original, 
at least in the masoretic text, where the pointing of the suffixed 
pronouns shows them to be masculine, so that the object of ad- 
dress must be the king himself, as it is in vs. 3 — 11 (2 — 10.) 
We have here another allusion to the marriage customs of the 
ancient orientals, among whom it was usual to wish the newly 
married pair a numerous and distinguished oflfspring. See Gen. 


xxiv. 60. Tluth iv. 11, 12. This wish is here replaced by a 
positive prediction, that the king's descendants shall be more 
illustrious than his progenitors. Such a comparison would 
have but little force, however, unless he w^ere himself descend- 
ed from a long line of royal ancestors, a sufficient proof that the 
king here glorified was neither Solomon nor Ahab. At the 
same time there is obvious allusion to the state of thinjrs under 
the reign of Solomon, who divided his kingdom into twelve 
viceroyalties (1 Kings iv. 7), and that of David, who made 
his own sons viceroys (2 Sam. viii. ] 8), a policy which seems 
to have been still pursued by Rehoboam (2 Chr. xi. 23.) 
What they did on a small scale, the Messiah is to do upon a 
large one. As they made their sons princes in Israel, so he 
shall make his to be rulers over the whole earth. Some indeed 
translate the last words all the land; but this is inconsistent 
with the conquests promised in vs. 5 — 7 (4 — 6), with the men- 
tion of Tyre in v. 14 (13), and with that of nations in v. 18 (17.) 
The sons of Messiah are his spiritual seed (Isai. liii. 10), to set 
whom for princes is to constitute or make them such, to give 
them places suited to their royal rank. The universal reign 
here predicted is also promised in Ps. ii. 8 above and Ps. Ixxii. 11 
below. Compare Zech. ix. 10. 

18(17.) I ivill make thy name to be remembered in all gen- 
erations ; therefore shall 7iations acknoivledge thee for ever 
and ever. The Psalmist speaks as one in the long series of 
inspired heralds, and in behalf of all. The form of the first verb 
implies fixed determination and involves a pledge. Thy name, 
as the expression of thy nature. See above, on Ps. v. 12 (11.) 
xliv. 20 (21.) In all generations, literally, in every generation 
and generation. For ever ajid ever, literally, to eternity and 
perpetuity. See above, on Ps. xliv. 9, 24 (8, 23.) Therefore, 
not merely because I celebrate his name, but because his name 
itself is glorious. Acknowledge thee to be what thou art, in- 


volving therefore the ideas of praise in general and thanksgiving 
in particular. See above, on Ps. vi. 6 (5.) xliv. 9 (8.) 


The Church is safe under divine protection. This theme is 
amplified in three strophes, the close of which is indicated by 
the selahs in vs. 4 (3), 8 (7), 12 (11.) If the psalm owed its 
origin to any particular historical occasion, of which there seem 
to be some traces in the last part, there is none to which it 
would be more appropriate than the miraculous destruction of 
the Assyrian host in the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings xix. 35. 
Isai. xxxvii. 36), as this was a signal instance of divine inter- 
position for the deliverance of the chosen people, and peculiarly 
adapted to exalt the God of Israel among the nations. 

1. To the Chief Musicimi. To the So7is of Korah. Upon 
Alamoth. A song. The Sons of Korah may here be men- 
tioned either as the authors or performers of the psalm. (See 
above, on Ps. xlii. 1. xlv. 1.) In either case, we are perhaps to 
understand the Sons of Korah in the reign of Hezekiah. Some 
have ascribed the psalm to Isaiah ; but of this there is no evi- 
dence. Alamoth means i'irgi?is or young women, and is here 
used as a technical expression of the Hebrew music, to denote 
soprano or treble voices. See above, on Ps. iv. 1. vi. 1. 

2 (1.) God (is) for ns a refuge and strength ; a help in dis- 
tresses he has proved — exceedingly. The first clause states the 
general theme or proposition of the psalm ; the last asserts it to 

PSALM XLVl. 395 

have been established by experience. A refuge, a hiding-place, 
a place where men seek shelter and security from impending 
danger. The original expression is a local noun derived from 
a verb, the primary sense of which is to take refuge. (See 
above, on Ps. ii. 12. xvi. 1.) A different word is so translated in 
vs. 8, 12 (7, 11) below. In this connexion, strength may mean 
a stronghold oi fortified place, which figure is expressly used in 
Ps. xviu. 3 (2.) xxvii. 1, and elsewhere. Or it may simply 
mean the source or author of strength, as in Ps. xxviii. 8 and 
elsewhere. In distresses : the plural form may involve a 
reference to various occasions, or to complex and aggravated 
troubles in some one case. He has proved, literally been found, 
i. e. by us, in our experience. The common version {a present 
help) is scarcely justified by the occasional use of the original 
expression in the sense of being present or forthcoming. The 
last word, ve7'y or exceedingly, appears to have been added to 
qualify the whole clause or proposition, as one eminently and 
emphatically true. 

3 (2.) Therefore we will 7iot fear in the clianging of the 
ea^rth, and in the moving of mountains in the heart of seas. 
The simple idea expressed by these strong figures is, in the 
midst of the most violent changes and commotions. By the 
changing or exchanging of the earth (see above, on Ps. xv. 4), 
we may understand either its change of place, violent removal, 
or more probably a change of face and aspect or condition, as the 
effect of mighty revolutions. In its changing, i. e. when it 
changes and because it changes. See above, on Ps. xlii. 4 (3.) 
The mountains, as appears from v. 7 (6) below, are emblems of 
great kingdoms and powerful states. See above, on Ps. xxx. 8 (7), 
and compare Isai. xxxvii. 24. P^ev. viii. 8. The sea may be 
mentioned only as the place to which the mountains are trans- 
planted (Luke xvii. 6), or in which they are shaken ; but it may 
also be a specific emblem of the world, continually moved and 


agitated by the strife of human passions. See Isai. Ivii. 20, 
and compare Isai. xxvii. 1. Dan. vii. 2, 3. This description is 
pecuUarly appropriate to the commotions necessarily produced 
by the extensive conquests of the great empires of the ancient 
world, perhaps with special reference in this case to Assyria. 

4 (3.) Let its ivaters roar and foam, let 'mountains tremble 
in its swelling. Selah. The singular pronoun refers to the 
sea, which is only poetically plural in the preceding verse. 
The verb translated roar occurs above in Ps. xxxix. 7 (6.) The 
one translatedybaw means strictly to ferment or effervesce. As 
the word rendered sivelling is also used elsewhere in the figu- 
rative sense of ^:);*zV/e, it is peculiarly appropriate to the commo- 
tions of the world, occasioned by the pride of man. The verbs 
in this verse may also be explained as proper futures. Its wa- 
ters shall (indeed) roar and foatn, the hills shall tremble at its 
swelling ; but the people of God shall still be safe, as promised 
in the next verse. The selah, as usual, indicates a pause in the 
performance, and at the same time marks the close of the first 
stanza or strophe. 

5 (4.) {There is) a river — its streams shall gladden the city 
of God, the holy [place) of the dwellings of the Highest. In 
contrast with the turbulent and threatening sea, he now pre- 
sents a peaceful and abundant river. This emblem of God's 
favour, which is frequent in the scriptures, seems to have been 
borrowed by the later writers from the river of Eden, Gen. ii. 
10. See above, on Ps. xxxvi. 9 (8), and compare Ezek. xlvii. 1. 
Joel iv. (iii.) 18. Zech. xiv. 8. Rev. xxii. 1 . The city of God, i. e. 
Jerusalem, his earthly residence, and the centre of the theocracy. 
See below, Ps. xlviii. 2, 3 (1, 2.) The holy (place) may either 
mean the same thing, or be a more specific designation of the 
temple. See below, Ps. Ixv. 5 (4), and compare Ex. xxix. 31. 
Lev. vi. 9, 19 (16, 26.) The place rendered holy by the pre 


sence of God's earthly residence. The Highest or Most High, 
the divine name which denotes God's infinite superiority to 
other beings. See above, Ps. vii. 18 (17.) ix. 3 (2.) xxi. 8 (7.) 
The mention of streavis in the plural indicates variety and full- 
ness of divine favour. 

6 (5.) God (is) in the midst of he?', she shall not be moved ; 
God ivill help her at the turning of the morning. This last 
idiomatic phrase seems to mean, at the point when the day 
turns to come back, after reaching its greatest distance. See 
Exod. xiv. 27. Judg. xix. 26, and compare Deut. xxiii. 12 (11.) 
The idea is that of a critical transition from grief to joy. See 
Ps. XXX. 6 (5.) xlix. 15 (14.) xc. 14. ex. 8. The terms of 
this verse become still more significant and striking, if we sup- 
pose a specific reference to the night in which Sennacherib's 
host was smitten, and the sight which was disclosed at break of 
day. See Isai. xxxvii. 36, and compare Isai. xvii. 14. 

7 (6.) Nations roared, kingdoms quaked ; he has uttered 
his voice, the earth ivill melt. There is here an allusion to the 
roaring, foaming sea of v. 4 (3.) Uttered, literally gave (a 
sound) with his voice, just as we may speak of giving a groan 
or a shriek. Compare Ps. Ixviii. 34 (33.) Jer. xii. 8. This 
voice is not represented as assuaging the commotion, but in- 
creasing it, by making the very earth dissolve. As in many other 
instances, the psalmist takes his stand between the inception 
and the consummation of the event which he describes. Hence 
the transition from the past tense to the future. See above, on 
Ps. xviii. 7 (6.) With the last clause compare Ps. Ixxv. 4 (3.) 
Am. ix. 6. God is represented as the ultimate author of these 
mighty changes. See Haggai ii. 21, 22. 

8 (7.) Jehovah of Hosts (is) ivith us ; a refuge for us (is) 
the God of Jacob. Selah. Notwithstanding these commotions 


and dangers, the divine protection makes us perfectly secure 
Jehovah of Hosts, the God of the Universe, and especially of 
heaven. See above, on Ps. xxiv. 10, and below, on Ps. xlviii. 
9 (8.) With us. Compare the name Imonanuel, Isai. viii. 8. 
A refuge, literally, a high place, a place beyond the reach of 
enemies and dangers. See above, on Ps. ix. 10 (9.) xviii. 3 (2.) 
God of Jacob. See above, on Ps. xxiv. 6. 

9 (8.) Come, see the doings of Jehovah, who hath 'put desola- 
tions in the earth. The first word properly means go, but is 
constantly used in summoning and inviting others. See above, 
Ps. xxxiv. 12 (11.) The doings, what he has been doing. 
The common version, what desolations he hath made, is not so 
natural as that above given, which takes the relative in its 
proper sense, and refers it to the nearest antecedent. Put (or 
placed) desolations, i. e. produced, occasioned, caused them 
to exist. I7i the earth, because the ruling power of the 
world was smitten ; or in the land, i. e. the Holy Land, as the 
immediate scene of God's retributive judgments, which all men 
are invited now to witness. The use of the name Jehovah in- 
timates that the God who thus controls the world is identical 
with the God of Israel. 

10 (9.) Silencing wars to the end of the earth ; the bow he 
will break, and cut the spear, and the chariots will burn in 
the fire. The participle, followed by the future, shows that the 
process is not finished, but still going on. Silenciiig, making 
to cease. To the end. The original expression is a stronger 
one and means up to the end, or to the very end. The bow, 
spear, and chariots, are named as necessary instruments of war- 
fare. See above, on Ps. vii. 13 (12), and with the whole verse 
compare Isai. ii. 4. Mic. iv. 3. Jos. xi. 9. Ez. xxxix. 9. 

11 (10.) Leave off, and know that I [am) God ; I will be 

PSALjM XLVir. 399 

exalted in the nations, I ivill be exalted in the earth. These 
words are addressed to the discomfited foes of Jehovah and his 
people, ' Cease from your vain attacks upon my people ; learn 
from what you have already seen and felt that their protector 
is divine, and that he is resolved to be acknowledged as su- 
preme, not only by his chosen people, but by all the nations 
and throughout the earth.' This general recognition of Jeho- 
vah as the true and the supreme God, would of course be pro- 
moted by such a signal overthrow as that experienced by Sen- 
nacherib. Compare Isai. xxxvii. 20. 

12 (11.) Jehovah of Hosts (is) with us; a refuge for us (is) 
the God of Jacob. Selah. This repetition of the burden or 
refrain in v. 8 (7), brings us back not only to the close of the 
second stanza, but to the beginning of the first, where the same 
idea is expre'ssed in other words. 


1. To the Chief Musician. To the Sons of Korah. A 
Psabn. A song of triumph, in celebration of a signal victory 
gained by the chosen people over certain confederated nations. 
In the first stanza, vs. 2 — 5 (1 — 4), Jehovah is celebrated as 
the conqueror of the nations; in the second, vs. 6 — 10 (5 — 9), 
as their rightful sovereign; in both, as the tutelary God of 
Israel. Another difference of form between the two parts seems 
to be, that in the first, the exhortation to praise God is addf^s- 
ed directly to the Gentiles; in the second, to Israel or the an- 


cient church. The psalm has every appearance of having been 
composed in reference to some particular event ; but as this is 
not indicated in the psalm itself, it can only be conjectured. 
Of the various suppositions which have been suggested the 
most probable is, that it was written to commemorate the vic- 
tory of Jehoshaphat over the Ammonites and Edomites, record- 
ed in the twentieth chapter of Second Chronicles. Besides the 
general appropriateness of the composition to the juncture there 
described, it is, to say the least, a very singular coincidence, 
that the history records the presence, upon that occasion, not 
only of Levites in general, but of the Korhites (sons of Korah) 
in particular (2 Chr. xx. 19.) We read too that singers went 
before the army (v. 21), and that on the fourth day they assem- 
bled in a valley which they called Berachah (blessing), because 
there they blessed the Lord (v. 26.) There is also something 
in the simple, animated, flowing style of the psalm before us, 
which agrees very well with the supposition of its being an 
inspired impromptu, a psalm composed upon the spur of the 
occasion, either by some anonymous prophet who accompanied 
the army, or by the Sons of Korah themselves. See above, on 
Ps. xlii. 1. This conjecture, as to the historical occasion of the 
psalm before us, is corroborated by the apparent relation of the 
next psalm to the same event. See below, on Ps. xlviii. 1. 

2 (1.) All nations, clap the hand ! shout imto God with a 
voice of triumph! The clapping of the hands is a natural ges- 
ture both of triumph and applause. See Nah. iii. 19, and com- 
pare Ps. xcviii. 8. Isai. Iv. 12. The last word in the verse does 
not denote a feeling, but the audible expression of joy and ex- 
ultation, by song or shout. See above, on Ps. v. 12 (11.) The 
nations addressed are not the particular nations which had just 
been conquered, but the whole gentile world, the nations col- 
lectively, who are summoned to rejoice in the proof just afforded, 
that Jehovah is their rightful sovereign. See above, on Ps. 


xviii. 50 (49), and below, on Ps. Ixvi. 4 (3.) cxvii. 1, and com- 
pare the original expression upon which this is modelled, Deut. 
xxxii. 43. 

3 (2.) For Jehovah, Most High, is terrible, a great king 
over all the earth. He is not, as the heathen were disposed to 
imagine, a mere local deity, the God of the Hebrews only, but 
the God of the whole earth, the Universal Sovereign, and an 
object of fear to its inhabitants. See the same epithet applied 
to him in Ps. Ixviii. 36 (35.) 

4 (3.) He ivill subdue nations under us, and peoples under 
our feet. This is a proof both of his covenant relation to his 
people, and of his sovereign power over other nations. What 
he has done is but an earnest of what he will do.* Compare Ps. 
xviii. 39 (38.) 48 (47.) This, though not a matter of rejoicing 
to the nations immediately concerned, may well be represented 
as a matter of rejoicing to the Avorld at large, because it involves 
a promise that the Gentiles shall one day be included among 
the subjects of this divine protector and partakers of his favour. 

5 (4.) He luill choose for us our heritage, the pride of Jacob 
%vhom he loved. Selah. By defeating the enemies who sought 
to expell Israel from the land of promise (2 Chr. xx. 11), God 
might be poetically said to settle them again therein, and, as at 
first, to choose their inheritance for them. The j)^ide of Jacob, 
that of which he is proud, in which he glories, whether this be 
understood specifically of the Holy Land, or generically of all 
the privileges and distinctions which belonged to them as the 
peculiar people of Jehovah. Pride, exaltation, or distinction, 
as in Nah. ii. 3 (2.) Am. vi. 8. In Am. viii. 7, God himself is so 
described. Jacob, as in Ps. xxiv. 6. xlvi. 8 (7,) 12 (11.) Whom 
he loved. See Mai. i. 2, and compare Ps. Ixxviii. 68. 

vol.. I. 26 

402 PSALxM XLVIl. 

6 (5.) God has gone vp with shouting, Jehovah with sou7id 
of trumpet. He is here described as returning to heaven after 
the conquest of his enemies and the rescue of his people, as in 
Ps. vii. 8 (7) he does the same, after sitting in judgment on the 
nations, and asserting the right of his own people. See Ps. 
Ixviii. 19 (18), and compare Gen. xvii. 22. Judg. xiii. 20. The 
shouting and sound of the trumpet represent the ascension as a 
public and triumphant one. The ideal scene is typical of the 
actual ascension of our Saviour. See below, on Ps. Ixviii. 
19 (18.) 

7 (6.) Sing praises (to) God, sing praises! Sing praises 
to our Ki7ig, si7ig praises? The Hebrew corresponding to 
sing praises is a single word (^1?3t) which means to praise 
musically, both with voice and instrument. See above, on Ps. 
ix. 3 (2.) God, who is first mentioned as the object of the 
praise, is then described as our King, the actual King of Israel 
and the rightful King of all the earth. 

8 (7.) For King of all the earth {is) God. Perform a mas- 
chil, i. e. sing and play a didactic psalm. See above, on Ps. 
xxxii. 1. xlii. 1. xliv. 1. xlv. 1. The maschil here meant is 
the psalm itself. The designation may have been omitted in 
the title for the very reason that it is contained in the body of 
the composition. The doctrine taught is that of Jehovah's 
universal sovereignty, and oi the ultimate subjection of all na- 
tions to his peaceful sway. This idea is reaTized in the" reign 
of tEe~Messiah, so that the psalm is, in a wide sense, Messianic. 
The peculiar import of this last clause is lost in the common 
version {sing ye praises ivith understanding), which is also 
that of the Septuagint {i^iQ^me aweioig), the Vulgate {^psallite 
sapienter), and Jerome {canite erudite?) 

9 (8.) God liath reigned over ihe nations, God hath sat down 


on his throne of holi7iess. He has begun to reign, has be- 
come a kina", and as such has ascended the throne of universal 
empire. This and the next verse may be specially regarded as 
constituting the onaschil mentioned in v. 8 (7.) The throrie of 
his holiness, his holy throne, i, e. his divine throne, his throne 
unlike and above all others. See above, on Ps. xxii. 4 (3), and 
below, on Ps, ciii. 19, and compare Isai. vi. 1. Ixvi. 1. 

10 (9.) Princes of nations are assembled — the people of the 
God of Abraham ; for unto God belong the shields of the earth; 
he is greatly exalted. The first word properly means willing, 
and especially spontaneous givers ; then by a natural deduction, 
liberal, generous, noble, and as a substantive, nobles, princes. 
They are here named as the representatives of the nations, 
gathered in the presence of God, to do him homage and ac- 
knowledge his supremacy. The next phrase may mean either 
as, with, or to the people of God, most probably the first. 
The God of Abraham, their founder and progenitor, with whom 
the covenant was made, not only for himself but for his children. 
See the same phrase, Gen. xxxi. 42. Ex. iii. 6. Matt. xxii. 32. 
The shields of the earth, its protectors, here put for protection 
in the abstract, or for the princes mentioned in the foregoing 
clause. Compare Hos. iv. 18. It is not till all the principalities 
and powers of earth acknowledge their subjection to Jehovah, 
that he can be duly and sufficiently exalted. See above, on 
Ps. xxii. 29 (28.) 



1. A Psalm. A Song. To the So?is of Korah. The ge- 
neric term psalm {rjiizmor) is rendered more specific by the 
addition of song (shir), which commonly denotes a song of 
praise. See above, on Ps. xlii. 9 (8.) It is further described as 
{belo7iging) to the Sons of Korah, either as authors or per^ 
formers. See above, on Ps. xlii. 1. The psalm before us cele- 
brates Jehovah, and Jerusalem as liis residence, vs. 2 — 4 (1 — 3), 
with particular reference to a recent deliverance from certain 
confederate kings, vs. 5 — 9 (4 — 8), which is recognised as a 
subject of perpetual praise vs. 10 — 15 (9 — 14.) The most 
probable conjecture, as to the historical occasion of the psalm, 
is that it has reference to the same event that is commemorated 
in the one before it. This is the more probable as we learn 
from 2 Chron. xx. 19, 27, that Jehoshaphat and his followers 
first praised God for their deliverance on or near the field of 
battle, and then again in the temple after their return to Jeru- 
salem, The psalm before us was probably written for the latter 

2 (1.) Great (is) Jehovah, and to he praised exceedingly, in 
the city of our God, his holy mountain. This verse propounds, 
as the theme of the whole psalm, the glory of Jehovah as re- 
vealed to his own people. To he praised : see above, on Ps. 
xviii. 4 (3.) The paronomasia, great and greatly to he praised, 
is not in tlie original, where the words translated great and 


greatly in the English Bible, are entirely different both in form 
and etymology. The city of our God : see above, on Ps. xlvi. 
o (4.) Tiie parallel expression, the mountain of his holiness, 
his mountain of holiness, his holy mountain, is intended to 
convey the same idea, Jerusalem in general and Zion in par- 
ticular being here referred to as the seat of the theocracy, the 
place where God resided in the midst of his peculiar people, as 
their king and their tutelary deity, and where the duty of 
praising him was therefore peculiarly incumbent. 

3 (2.) Beautiful for elevation, the joy of the whole earth, 
Mount Zion, {on) the sides of the north, the city of the great 
king. The common version, situation, although not erroneous, 
is too vague. The reference is to the lofty site of Jerusalem as 
seen from the surrounding country. It is called the joy of the 
whole earth, as a source of spiritual blessings to all nations. '/ 
The sides of the north may mean the northern division of the i 
city, and be joined with Zion, which was in the southern part, { 
in order to express the whole. Or as the word here rendered / 
sides always denotes the extreme edge or frontier, it may here ^ 
be used to describe the appearance of the Holy City, as it rose 
upon the view of the army returning from the south. Either 

of these is a more natural interpretation than the modern one, 
which supposes an allusion to the heathen notion of a mountain 
in the extreme north, where the gods resided, to which belief 
there is supposed to be a reference in Isai. xiii. 14. 

4 (3.) God in her palaces is knoivn for a refuge. In this, 
his chosen seat, he has revealed himself already, as the protector 
of his people. See below, on Ps. Ixxvi. 2 (1.) 

5 (4.) For lo, the hijtgs met — they passed aivay together. 
They had no sooner come together than they disappeared to- 
gather. Lo or behold, as usual, indicates something unexpected. 



The definite expression, the kings, seems to refer to something 
recent and well-known. The kings originally meant were 
those of Moab and Edom. The word translated met means to 
come together by appointment or agreement, and here implies 
a combination against Judea. Compare Ps. Ixxxiii. 4 — 6 (3 — 5.) 
Passed away, fled or disappeared. 

6 (5.) [As) they saiv, so they wondered, were struck with 
terror, ivere put to flight. This verse explains what was meant 
by their passing in the one before it. The as, corresponding 
to so, which is expressed in v. 9 (8), seems to be here omitted, 
as in Isai. iv. 9. As soo7i as they saw the Holy City, or the 
tokens of divine protection. The last two verbs are passives. 
For the meaning of the first, see above, on Ps. ii. 5, and for 
that of the second, on Ps. xxxi. 23 (22.) The whole verse is 
descriptive of a panic leading to a disorderly retreat or flight. 

7 (6.) Trembling seized them there, pain as of a travailing 
{woman.) There, i. e. on the very spot of their anticipated 
triumph. See above, on Ps. xiv. 5. Or on the spot from which 
they first obtained a sight of Jerusalem. This may have been 
Tekoa (2 Chron. xx. 20), the lofty site of which commands an 
extensive prospect. See Robinson's Palestine, ii. 182. The 
comparison in the last clause is a common one in scripture, to 
denote intense but transient pain. Compare Isai. xiii. 8. xxi. 3. 
xlii. 14. • 

8 (7.) With an east wind thou toilt break ships of Tarshish. 
It is an interesting coincidence that such a disaster did befall 
the navy of Jehoshaphat himself. See 1 Kings xxii. 49 (48.) 
2 Chr. XX. 3G, 37. Some suppose this to be specifically meant in 
the case before us, while others understand it as a figurative de- 
scription of God's sovereign control over all inferior agents. 
The east wind seems to be mentioned as the one most to be 


dreaded in the neighbouring seas. The trade to Tarshish and 
Ophir was ahiiost the only maritime commerce known to the 
contemporary Hebrews. See 2 Ciiron. ix. 21, and compare Isai. 
ii. 16. xxiii. 1, 14. ix. 9. 

9 (8.) As tie have heard, so have we seen, in the city of Jeho- 
vah of Hosts, in the city of our God. God will confirm it to 
eternity. Selah. What they had heard of as occurring else- 
w^here or in ancient times, they liad now witnessed for them- 
selves. See above, on Ps. xliv. 2 (1), and compare Job xlii. 5. 
Jehovah of Hosts : see above, on Ps. xxiv. 10. God will con- 
firm it, or establish her, i. e. Jerusalem, the city of our God. 
He will secure it against all such assaults as it has just escaped. 
As Jerusalem is here regarded not as a mere town, but as the 
seat of the theocracy, the earthly residence of God, the promise 
is still valid, in its strongest sense, with respect to the church, 
of which the ancient Zion was the constituted type and local 

10 (9.) We have compared, oh God, thy mercy in the midst 
of thy temple. The verb in this verse sometimes means to 
^neditate, but scarcely ever, if at all, without some reference to 
its primary sense of likening or comparing. It may here denote 
the act of comparing what they saw with what they had pre- 
viously heard, as in the foregoing verse. In the midst of (i. e. 
within) thy temple, literally thy palace, a term applied both to 
the tabernacle and the temple, as the royal residence of Jeho- 
vah. See above, on Ps. v. 8 (7.) .xi. 4. xviii. 7 (6.) xxvii. 4. 
xxix. 9. This expression agrees well with the supposition, that 
this psalm was intended to be sung at the temple after the 
return of the army. See 2 Chr. xx. 27. 

11 (10.) As thy natne, oh God, so is thy praise, to the ends 
of the earth ; [of) righteousness full is thy right hand. The 


most obvious meaniiio- of the first clause would seem to be that 
wherever God is known he is praised. Some liowever under- 
stand by name the previous manifestations of God's nature, and 
hy praise the glory due to his most recent interposition in be- 
half of his people. The sense will then be still the same as in 
V. 9 (8), namely, that what the contemporary Israelites had 
heard of God's wonderful works in time past they had now seen 
and felt in their own experience. To the ends of the earth, 
literally, on or over them, which may be a poetical hyperbole 
describing the fame of these events as already gone beyond the 
boundaries of earth. See below, on v. 15 (14.) Righteousness, 
that of God, as manifested in the destruction of his enemies and 
the rescue of his people. See above, on Ps. xxxv. 28. This is 
said to fill his right hand, i. e. to be abundantly displayed in the 
exercise of his almighty power. See above, on Ps. xvi. 11. 

12 (11.) Rejoice shall Mount Zion, exult shall the daugh- 
ters of Judah, because of thy judgments. According to a very 
ancient usage, which is found even in the prose of technical 
geography (Josh. xv. 45, 47), the daughters of Judah may 
be the minor towns dependent on Jerusalem. The more obvious 
sense is that of female inhabitants, who, as the weaker sex, had 
particular occasion to rejoice in the deliverance of the country 
from its barbarous invaders. The verbs may be understood as 
expressive of a wish or prayer {let Mount Zion rejoice, etc.) 
But the proper future sense agrees better with what immediately 
precedes, as the declaration of the glory, which has already re- 
dounded to the name of God from this exhibition of his power 
and faithfulness, is then followed up by a declaration, that the 
same effect shall be continued. For the sake (or on account) 
of thy judgments, these experimental proofs of thy righteous- 
ness, afforded by its actual exercise. 


13 (12.) Surround Zion and encircle her ; count her towers. 
The verbs in tlie first clause mean to ivalk (or ^o) around. 
Tiiey are twice used together in the history of the taking of 
Jericho (Josh. vi. 3, 11.) The second occurs above in Ps. xvii. 
9. xxii. 17 (1<3.) The object of the walk here proposed is to 
survey the perfect state of her defences, as untouched by the 
recent dangers. Compare Isai. xxxiii. 20. Count her towers, 
to see if any of them have been demolished. 

14 (13.) Set your heart to her rampart, examine Iter palaces, 
that you tnay recount (it) to a generation following. The 
meaning of the first phrase is, o.pply your mind, give attention, 
observe closely. The word translated rampart seems to denote 
the exterior circumvallation, here contrasted with the palaces 
which it surrounded. Recount it, i. e. the result of your in- 
spection, or the sound state of the defences, both as a reminis- 
cence of this particular deliverance, and as a type or emblem of 
the safety which the church enjoys under divine protection, and 
therefore entitled to perpetual remembrance. The last word in 
Hebrew is not a participle but an adjective, strictly meaning 
later or latter, subsequent or future. 

15 (14.) For this God (is) our God for ever and ever ; he 
will guide tis unto death. The for assigns a reason for repre- 
senting this event as one to be remembered, namely, because it 
is an instance of the favour of Jehovah, who is our perpetual 
defender. The whole may be thrown into a single sentence, 
without supplying is in the first clause. For this God, our 
God, forever and ever, he will guide, &c. Or still more in ac- 
cordance with the usual construction of the pronoun (nt) this 
is our God for ever and ever, i. e. he who has done this is and 
is to be our God. According to the other and more usual con- 
struction, this God means the God who has performed these 
wonders. For ever and ever, literally, eternity and perpetuity. 



See above, on Ps. ix. 6 (5.) x. 16. xxi. 5 (4.) xlv. 7 (6.) Unto 
death, or as some explain it, at death, i. e. he will save us from 
it; others, over death, beyond it. But the most obvious expla- 
nation, and the one most agreeable to usage, is that which 
makes the phrase mean even to the end of life, or as long as we 
live. The idea of a future state, though not expressed, is not 
excluded. See above, on Ps. xvii. 15. 


1. To the Chief Musician. To the So7is of Kordh. A 
Psalm. This psalm, like the thirty-seventh, is intended to 
console the righteous under the trials arising from the prosperity 
and enmity of wicked men, by showing these to be but tempo- 
rary, and by the prospect of a speedy change in the relative 
position of the parties. It consists of a short introductory 
stanza, inviting general attention to the subject, vs. 2 — 5 (1 — 4), 
followed by two longer stanzas, the close of which is marked 
by the recurrence of a burden or refrain in vs. 13 (12) and 
21 (20.) In the first of these two divisions, the prominent idea 
is the fallacy of all merely secular advantages and hopes, vs. 
6 — 13 (5 — 12.) In the other, these advantages and hopes are 
directly contrasted with those of the believer, vs. 14 — 21 
(13 — 20.) There is nothing in the psalm to determine its date 
or historical occasion. The inscription to the Sons of Korah is 
consistent with any date from the time of David to that of Ezra. 
See above, on Ps. xlii. 1, xliv. 1. xlv. 1. xlvi. 1. xlvii, 1. xlviii. 1. 
In favour of an eailicr date however may be urged the obscurity 
and difficulty of the style. 


2(1.) Hear this, all the nations ; give ear, all inhabitants 
of the world ! This general invocation implies that the doctrine 
to be taught is one of universal interest. The form of expres- 
sion is similar to that in Micah i. 2 and 1 Kings xxii. 28, and 
may be borrowed, in all these cases, from the still stronger one 
in Deut. xxxii. 1. See below, Ps. 1. 1, and compare Isai. i. 2. 
The word translated ivorld means primarily duration or con- 
tinued existence ; then more specifically, human life, the present 
state of things ; and by a natural transition, the ivorld, as the 
place where it is spent. See above, on Ps. xvii. 14. xxxix. 
6 (5), and below, on Ps. Ixxxix. 48 (47.) 

3 (2.) Both loiv and high together rich and poor. This is 
the conclusion of the sentence begun in the preceding verse. 
The first clause is highly idiomatic in its form, and cannot be 
literally rendered into intelligible English. Likewise sons of 
man, likewise sons of man. The word man here corresponds 
to two distinct Hebrew words which, when placed in opposi- 
tion, denote men of high and low degree. See above, on Ps. 
iv. 3 (2), and below, on Ps. Ixii. 10 (9), and compare Prov. viii. 
4. The same antithesis is presented in a difierent form, Ps. 
xxii. 30 (29.) The rich are here summoned to receive reproof 
and warning, the poor consolation and encouragement. 

4 (3.) My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the meditation 
of my heart {is) understanding . This is no self-praise, as he 
is only to communicate what he has received. Shall speak, 
is speaking or about to speak. Wisdo?n and understanding 
are both plural in the Hebrew, that form denoting fullness or 
variety. See above, on Ps. xviii. 51 (50.) The plural of the first 
word is also applied to the personification of the highest wisdom, 
in Prov. ix. 1. The speech mentioned in the first clause is the 
outward expression of the thought or meditation in the second. 
See the same combination above, Ps. v. 2 (1.) xix. 15 (14.) 


5 (4.) I will incline to a parable my ear, and open tvith a 
harp my riddle. I will hear what God says and impart it to 
others. To incline (or bend) the ear is to lean forward as a 
sign or gesture of attention. See above, on Ps. xvii. 6. xxxi. 
3 (2.) xl. 2 (1.) Parable, literally likeness or comparison ; then 
any figurative, tropical expression. See above, on Ps. xliv. 
15 (14.) The parallel word here means an enigma, something 
hard to understand. To open it is not to begin it, but either to 
utter it or to explain it, probably the latter. What he hears 
from God he will open or expound to man. With the harp 
indicates the form in which his exposition is to be presented, 
namely, that of a lyrical composition, intended to be sung with 
an instrumental accompaniment. See above, on Ps. xxxiii, 2. 
xliii. 4. 

6 (5.) Why should I fear in days of evil, (when) the ini- 
quity of 'iny oppressors (or supplanters) shall surround me? 
The theme of the whole psalm is the negative proposition in- 
volved in this interrogation, namely, that the righteous has no 
cause to fear, even when surrounded by powerful and spiteful 
enemies. Days of evil, i. e. of misfortune or distress. The 
word translated oppressors commonly means heels ; but as this 
yields no good sense here, it may be taken as a verbal noun, 
meaning either treaders, tramplers, oppressors, or supplanters, 

j traitors, in a sense akin to which the verbal root is used, Gen. 

Lxxvii. 36. Hos. xii. 4 (3.) In either case, it is clearly a descrip- 
tion of his enemies, as practising violence or fraud against him. 

7 (6.) Those relying on their strength, and in the abund- 
ance of their wealth they glory. A further description of the 
oppressors and supplanters. The Hebrew word translated 
strength is applied, in different cases, to bodily, pecuniary, 
military, and moral strength. The parallelism here would 
seem to indicate a reference to the power which naturally 


springs from great possessions. The word translated ahund- 
ayice may also mean increase. For the use of the verbal root, 
see above, on Ps, iii. 2 (1.) Glory, boast, or praise themselves, 
which last is the exact sense of the reflexive verb here used. 

8 (7.) A hroilier can not (or he shall 7iot) even redeem; a 
man can not give to God his ransom. In the first clause, ( 
brother may be either the subject or the object of the verb ; the V\ 
rich man cannot redeem his brother, or, his brother cannot re- 
deem him. The former ao^rees better with the obvious design 
to show the worthlessness of mere -wealth, which does not en- 
able a man to redeem a brother, i. e. save another's life. The 
even in this version is intended to express the emphatic repeti- 
tion of the verb in Hebrew. It cannot do that which is most 
essential, and without wiiich other advantages are worthless. 
Unless the last clause be regarded as a mere reiteration of the 
same idea in other words, it must be understood to mean that 
as the rich man cannot redeem his brother from the inevitable 
stroke of death, much less can he redeem himself, or pay to God 
his own ransom. This construction of the last words is the less 
unnatural because there is properly no reflexive pronoun in the 
Hebrew language. See above, on Ps. xxxvi. 3 (2.) 

9 (8.) And costly is the ransom of their soul, and he (or it) 
ceases forever. This obscure verse admits of several construc- 
tions. Their soul refers most probably to the rich man and 
his brother. The soul or life of both requires so much to ran- 
som it, that neither can redeem the other. The verb in the last 
clause may mean ceases to live, perishes, and agree with either 
or with each of the subjects previously mentioned. The ransom 
of their life is so costly, that neither can be saved. Or the verb 
may agree v/ith ransom, as in the English Bible ; it is too 
costly to be paid, and therefore ceases, or remains unpaid, for- 
ever. The same sense substantially niay be obtained by making 


cea&e mean cease (or fail) to pay, and construing it with one of 
the preceding nouns. Tlie ransom is so costly that he fails to 
pay it, or ceases to attempt it, forever. Upon any of these 
various suppositions, the essential idea is that the ransom of 
their life is too expensive to be paid. 

10 (9.) That he should still live forever and not see corrup- 
tion. The form of the first verb in Hebrew shows that this is 
a dependent sentence, to be immediately connected, as some 
think, with the ninth verse : ' he cannot even redeem a brother, 

/ a man cannot pay to God a ransom, so as to live forever and 
I not see corruption.' The tenth verse is then a parenthetical 
■d amplification of the ninth. Others connect the ninth and tenth 
■ directly, by taking cease to mean that he cannot bring to pass. 
The redemption of their soul is too costly; he can never so 
.-contrive it, that he shall live forever and not see corruption. 

11 (10.) For he shall see {it); tvise [men) must die; like- 
wise the fool a7id brute must perish, and leave to others their 
substance. The usual construction of the first words — when he 
sees (or for lie sees) that ivise onen die — is neither so simple in 
itself, nor so well suited to the context, as that which gives the 
verb the same sense, and the same object, as in the preceding 
verse. Wealth cannot ransom its possessor, so that he shall 
live forever and not see corruption, for he shall see it, as all 
others do. Even the wisest men must die, much more the fool 
and brutish person. These are the terms so frequently used in 
the Boolx of Proverbs to describe the sinner as irrational. See 
above, cu Ps. xiv. 1, and compare Prov. i. 32. x. 1. xii. 1. 
XXX. 2. Ecc. ii. 16. In the use of the verbs die and perish, 
there may be an intentional allusion to the different destiny of 
the wise and foolish. Likeicise, or more literally, together, at 
the same time. See above, Ps. iv. 9 (8), and compare Isai. 


i. 28. Substance, strength, pecuniary strength, the same word 
that is used in v. 7 (6) above. 

12 (11.) Their inward thought (is that) their houses (shall 
continue) _/br ever, their divellmgs to generation and genera- 
tion : they call their lands by their oicn names. This is sub- 
stantially the common version, which is here retained because 
it yields a good sense, and is as probable as any other explana- 
tion of this very obscure verse. The first word in Hebrew 
strictly means the hiside of anything, and especially of man, 
i. e. his mind or heart, particularly as distinguished from his 
words or outward conduct. See above, on Ps. v. 10 (9), and 
below, on Ps. Ixiv. 7 (6.) The plural form at the end of the 
sentence occurs nowhere else, but corresponds to our word 
grounds, when applied to cultivated lands. As the singular, 
however, though it commonly means ground, seems occasion- 
ally to denote a land or country, some understand the clause 
to mean that they (i. e. men indefinitely) proclaim (or celebrate) 
their names over lands, i. e. throuo-hout various countries. 
Another possible though not a probable construction makes the 
last two words mean upon earth, the form of the Hebrew noun 
being assimilated to that of the particle before it. Amidst these 
various constructions the essential meaning; still remains un- 
changed, to wit, that the rich fools of the foregoing context 
imagine their prosperity to be perpetual. 

13 (12.) And man in honour shall not lodge ; he is ojiade 
like to the brutes ; they are destroyed. The a7id at the begin- 
ning is equivalent to a7id yet, or to the simple adversative but. 
It introduces the contrast of man's real frailty with his imagi- 
nary permanence. As if he had said, ' such are the dreams of 
the rich fool, and (yet) man really, etc' The word translated 
honour properly means value, price, but is applied precisely 
like the corresponding Greek word (rt//r;.) It here includes ail 


that makes the condition of the rich fool seem desirable, either 
to his own conceit, or to the envious admiration of his neigh- 
bours. In this position he is not to lodge, i. e. remain jierma- 
nently, or with closer adherence to the strict sense of the verb, 
continue even for a night, implying that he is to perish before 
mornii]g. This passage seems to have been present to our 
Lord's naind, when he uttered the parable of the Rich Fool. 
Compare especially with the verse before us, Luke xii. 20. 
Made like, assimilated, not in his origin, but in his end. The 
point of comparison seems to be their blindness and irrational 
destitution of all foresight. The word translated brutes may 
be still more closely rendered beasts, being properly descriptive 
of the larger quadrupeds. It might even seem in this case to 
denote specifically caAtle or domesticated animals, as those 
which men are especially accustomed to see suddenly deprived 
of life. But this limitation of the term is peculiar to prose 
style, whereas in poetry, wiien used distinctively, it rather sig- 
nifies wild beasts. It is better, therefore, to give it here its 
wider sense of beasts in general, and to explain even these as 
mere representatives or samples of the whole class, brutes or 
irrational animals, like whom the rich fool is cut off suddenly 
and unawares. They are destroyed, or as the word seems to 
signify originally, silenced, brought to silence, i. e. stilled or 
hushed in death. By assuming an enallage or sudden change 
of number, we may construe this verb with the human subject. 
He (the rich fool) is treated like the brutes ; {like these) they 
(the rich fools) ao-e destroyed. A less emphatic but more obvi- 
ous construction is that which refers it to the brutes themselves. 
He is made like to the beasts (which) are destroyed (before 
they are aware.) 

14(13.) This (is) their course ; (such is) their folly ; and 
(yet) after them (men) ivill delight in ivhat they say. Selah. 
Their way or course means not only their behaviour, but their 


fate or destiny. See above, on Ps. i. 6. Such is their folly : 
literally, /(?/(??/ (is) to them, they have folly, they are fools. The 
noun means originally hojpe or expectation ; then an overween- 
ing confidence, a fond or foolish hope ; then folly, but not 
without a special reference to this specific form of it. The 
term is peculiarly appropriate to those who had just been de- 
scribed as confidently looking for a permanent enjoyment of 
their present pleasures, when about to be deprived of them 
forever. After them may refer to those who follow them in 
time, their successors or descendants. But as a similar expres- 
sion elsewhere denotes those who follow in the sense of imitat- 
ing or adhering to a leader (Ex. xxiii. 2. 2 Samuel ii. 10), it is 
best to retain this meaning in the case before us. They who 
follow them, their imitators, their adherents, ivill delight in 
their mouth, approve of what they say, adopt their principles, 
and act upon their maxims. The general meaning of the verse, 
as thus explained, is that notwithstanding the gross folly of 
such sinners, as proved by the end to which it brings them, 
they will still find some to walk in their footsteps and to share 
their ruin. Against this propagated and perpetuated folly there 
is a tacit but emphatic protest in the meditative pause which 
follows, and in the SeloJi which denotes it. 

15 (14.) Like a flock to the grave they drive ; death is their 
shepherd ; and the righteous shall rule over them, in the morn- 
ing ; and their form the grave (is) to cojisurae ; froyn (their) 
hovie to him {they go or they belo7ig.) This is one of the most 
obscure and difficult verses in the book, although its general 
meaning is obvious enough. Like sheep, or like a flock, i. e. 
blindly, in confusion, and without choice or foresight of their 
own. See above, on v. 13 (12.) Hell, in the wide old En- 
glish sense of the grave or the state of the dead. See above, on 
Ps. vi. 6 (5.) ix. 18 (17.) xvi. 10. xviii. 6 (5.) xxx. 4 (3.) xxxi. 
18 (17.) They drive : the Hebrew verb, like the English one, 


is active in form, but really involves a passive meaning, they 
are driven, literally put or placed. See above, on Ps. xii. 6 (5.) 
The figure of a flock is carried out by representing Death as 
the shepherd, by whom they are led or driven. The literal 
meaning of the words is, Death shall feed them, but the He- 
brew verb means to feed as a shepherd ; or rather to perform 
the whole office of a shepherd. To this word and its synonyme 
I in Greek (7ro(//«/>'c<)) w^e have no exact equivalent in English. 
The bald translation, death shall feed them, seems to imply 
that the prominent idea is that of nourishment, whereas it is that 
of guidance or direction. The common version, death shall 
feed on them, although not ungrammatical, is entirely at vari- 
ance with the figure of a flock and a shepherd, which immedi- 
ately precedes. The verb translated rule seems originally to 
denote the act of treading on or trampling, in which sense it is 
supposed to be used by Joel iv. 13 (iii. 13.) If this sense be 
adopted here, the idea may be either that of treading on a 
grave, or on the neck of a conquered enemy. As the Hebrew 
verb, however, in every other case, means to rule over, and 
especially when followed by the same preposition as in this 
place, it is better to adhere to the established usage, which 
affords a perfectly good sense, namely, that the righteous shall 
soon triumph over their once prosperous oppressors. At break 
of da.y, or in the morning, i. e. very soon, to-morrow, with 
allusion, no doubt, to the form of expression in v. 13 (12) 
above, and to the general use of night and morning, as figures 
for distress and relief from it. See above, on Ps. xxx. 6 (5.) 
Their form, shape, figure, perhaps with an implication of 
beauty, which is expressed in the English version. Consume, 
literally make old, wear out, waste away. See above on Ps. 
xxxii. 3. Is to co7isume, will do so, or is about to do so. The 
last clause is even more obscure than what precedes. The last 
word in Hebrew means to him (or it), which most interpreters 
exchano-e, by an enalla^e of number, into them. It may how- 


ever be referred directly to the nearest antecedent, liell^ the 
grave, or to death, personified in the first clause. Frotn (their) 
dwelling, i. e. driven from it, (they descend or they belong) to 
him. However harsh the ellipsis here assumed may seem, it 
is really less so than to omit the preposition with some writers, 
or the pronoun with others, or with one to understand from 
dioelling to mean a dwelling which is not a dwelling, or, as 
we might say, an uiidwelling. Apart from these minute 
verbal difficulties, the general idea of the verse is plain, to wit, 
that they who are now an object of envy or congratulation are 
soon to be deprived by death of all their coveted and boasted 

16 (15.) Only God will redeem 'my soul from the hand of 
Hell, for he ivill take me. Selah. The Hebrew particle at 
the beginning of the sentence always denotes a limitation or 
exception. See above, on Ps. xxxvii. 8. xxxix. 12 (11.) It 
may here mean either that his own case is excepted from the 
destruction which he has been describing, and which might 
seem to be described as universal ; or that God alone can afford 
that safety which the rich fool hopes to derive from his secular 
advantages, Redee7n, in allusion to vs. 8, 9 (7, 8) above. The 
hand is a common emblem of power, but it may here belong- 
to a personification of Sheol, the grave, or hell, like that of 
death in v. 15 (14.) For he icill take me, i. e., as some sup- 
pose, will take me to himself, accept me. But as the verb is 
nowhere absolutely used in this sense, it is better to explain it 
as a parallel expression to redeem. * He will redeem me from 
the hand of Sheol, for he will take me (out of it.)' Either 
of these constructions is more natural than that which makes 
Sheol the subject of the last verb, * He will redeem me from 
the hand of Sheol, when it seizes (or would seize) me.' The 
hostile sense thus put upon the verb may be justified by the 
analogy of Tsai. xxviii. 19; but the cbanjre of subject and the 


less usual meaning of the particle p3\ are not to be assumed 
without necessity. 

17 (16.) Be not thou afraid because a man grows rich, he- 
cause the glory of his house increases. Here begins the ap- 
plication or practical conclusion of the foregoing meditations. It 
is marked by a change of form, the Psalmist now no longer 
speaking of himself, but to himself or to another, as the person 
most directly interested in his subject. See a similar transition 
in Ps. xxxii. 8, and compare the parental or authoritative tone 
of the address with that in Ps. xxxiv. 12 (11.) Fear oiot, be 
not apprehensive or solicitous, not merely for thyself, but for 
the cause of truth and goodness. See above, on Ps. xxxvii. 1. 
The conjunction in the first clause may also be translated ivhen 
or though. But the proper causal meaning of the particle 
should always be preferred when admissible, and especially in 
cases like the present, where it yields not only a good sense but 
the best sense, since the increasing wealth and honour of the 
wicked is certainly assigned as the cause or occasion of the 
anxious apprehensions here forbidden. The use of the English 
present tense in the translation of this verse is merely idiomatic, 
since in such connexions it is really a future. The verb of the 
first clause is a causative, and strictly means to enrich or make 
rich. The transition to the neuter or intransitive sense is pre- 
cisely similar to that of the English verb increase, which 
strictly means to make greater, but in this very sentence has 
the intransitive sense of growing (or hecomhig) greater. There 
is no other clear example of the first Hebrew verb beino* so 
used. Dan. xi. 2, and Prov. x. 4, are at least ambiguous. 
A man cannot of itself denote a bad man, but that idea 
is suggested by the context, and especially by the use of the 
word ma7i in vs. 8 (7), 13 (12.) Glory or honour here includes 
all the sensible effects of riches, as a source of admiration and 
applause. House, in the wide sense, common to both Ian- 


guages, including both the dwelling and the family, the house 
and household. See Gen. vii. 1. xviii. 19. xxxv. 2. 1. 4. 

18 (17.) For not in his death ivill he take the ivliole ; not 
doicn luill go after him his glory. The form of the original 
is here retained as far as possible, in order to exhibit its highly 
idiomatic character. The position of the negative in both 
clauses makes it far more emphatic than in our English collo- 
cation. At his death, in his dying, when he dies. The ivhole : 
this word is usually rendered all, but is invariably a substan- 
tive in Hebrew, and is here determined to be such by the defi- 
nite article prefixed. Not the tchole, however, or not all, is 
by no means so significant a phrase in English as in Hebrew, 
where the absence of indefinite pronouns makes this the only way 
of saying not any thing, i. e. nothing. While the words therefore 
certainly mean that he shall not take all, they likewise mean 
that he shall not take any, of his secular possessions v/ith him ; 
and this stronger sense is here required by the context. His 
glory, as in the preceding verse, his wealth and the honours or 
distinctions springing from it. Descend after him, not in the 
moral or legal sense of a hereditary descent to his heirs, but in 
the local sense of a descent into the grave or the unseen world. 
The whole verse assigns a reason for not envying the wealthy 
sinner, namely, because he will be soon obliged to leave his 
wealth behind him. 

19 (IS.) JPor his soul in his life he tuill bless, and (others) 
will praise thee because thou doest good to thyself. There is 
no need of giving ^-"3 the sense of but, though, or any other 
than its proper causal sense oi for, because. See above, on v. 
17 (16.) This verse assigns the reason of the fact alleged in 
the one before it. The wealthy sinner is to carry nothing with 
him when he dies, because he is to have his ' good things' in 
the present life. This is God's appointment in accordance 



with his own free choice. In Ids life (or lifetime), as long as 
he lives, he is to bless his soul (or himself), i. e. to reckon 
himself happy, and to be so esteemed by others. In the last 
clause, the third person is abruptly exchanged for the second, 
and the wealthy sinner, of whom the Psalmist had been speak- 
ing to himself or his disciple, is directly addressed, as if per- 
sonally present. This application of the figure called apos- 
trophe is made with great skill and rhetorical effect. The 
plural verb is indefinite, as in v. 14 (13) above. They, i. e. 
men in general, or others, as distinguished from himself. The 
verb itself means strictly to acknoicledge or confess ; then 
more specifically, to acknowledge benefits received, to thank ; 
and then to praise in general. See above, on Ps. vi. 6 (5.) 
The primary meaning may be here still kept in view, by un- 
/ derstanding him to mean, they will Q-ecognise thee (or take 
\ knoivledge of thee) that thou doest good (or as one doi7ig good) 
1 to thyself There is no need of substituting either a present 
i or a past tense for the futures, which are perfectly appropriate 
in speaking of a course of conduct yet to be acted out, the 
wealthy sinner being represented as still living, both in this 
I verse and the one before it. There is pungent sarcasm in the 
\j close of this verse : they will praise thee because thou doest 
;' good — to thyself Or, because thou doest weW—for thyself 
The addition of this last phrase serves to characterize vividly, 
not only the rich sinner but his flatterers. There can be little 
doubt that our Saviour tacitly alluded to the first clause of this 
verse, when he made Abraham say to Dives, " Son, remember 
that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and like- 
wise Lazarus evil things ; but now he is comforted, and thou 
art tormented." (Luke xvi. 25.) This is indeed a most in- 
structive commentary on the passage now before us, as exhibit- 
i ing the future revolution in the relative position of the parties, 
as a reason for not envying the wealthy sinner now. It is 
equally certain, that the Rich Fool's address to his own soul, in 


Luke xii. 19, was sufrgested by the same clause of the psalm 
before us, in his lifetime he U'ill bless his soul. Indeed the 
whole conception of the Rich Man in the one case, and the 
Rich Fool in the other, may be said to be borrowed from this 
psalm, and may therefore derive instructive and interesting 
illustration from it. 

20 (19.) It shall go (or thoic shalt go) to the generation of 
his fathers ; for ever they shall not see light. The first verb ' 
may be either a third person feminine, agreeing with soul, or a 
second person masculine, addressed directly to the wealthy 
sinner. In the latter case, we must suppose an immediate > 
change to the third person, in order to account for the expres- 
sion his fathers. In either case, the idea is that he shall go, 
though this would not be a correct translation of the Hebrew 
words. The whole clause has reference to the frequent de- 
scription of death in the Old Testament, as a man's sleeping 
with his fathers, or being gathered to his fathers. Generation 
may be taken as a collective term, denoting the successive 
generations of his fathers, either natural or spiritual, i. e. either 
his literal progenitors, or his predecessors in the same way of 
thinking and the same course of life. There is no absurdity 
indeed in supposing the two senses to be here coincident. To 
perpetuity they shall not see, in our idiom, they shall 7iever 
see. The light, i. e. the light of life, or the light of the liv- 
ing, an expression used by David, Ps. Ivi. 14 (13.) The mean- 
ing of the whole verse is, that the wealthy sinner is to die as 
his fathers died before him, and continue dead like them, with- 
out returning to revisit, much less to repossess, the riches and 
honours which he once imagined were to last for ever. This 
completes the proof that these advantages are not legitimate or 
even rational occasions of envious dissatisfaction to the right- 

424 PSALM T.. 

21 (20.) Man (that is) in liononr end itnderstandeth not is 
likened to the beasts (that) are destroyed. The first verb in 
this verse and the first verb in v. 13 (12) differ only in a single 
letter ("^'^H'^ and "^^'^^ in consequence of which they are con- 
founded by the ancient Greek and Syriac translators, and some 
modern critics have proposed to amend one of the places by 
assimilation to the other. But the prevalent practice of the 
Hebrew writers, where the same burden or refrain recurs, is 
not to repeat it slavishly, but with some slight variation in the 
form, which not unfrequently suggests a new idea, or modifies 
the one before expressed. See above, on Ps. xxiv. 10. xlii. 
12 (11.) So here, at the close of the first strophe, the rich 
fool is compared to the brutes that perish, with respect to the 
uncertainty of his enjoyments ; and again at the close of the 
second, with respect to his irrationality, the points of com- 
parison being distinct but inseparable. No wonder that the 
sinner is cut off" unawares like the brutes, when in fact he is 
equally irrational. By tampering with the text of either pas- 
sage, therefore, we take from the psalm one of its moral les- 
sons, as well as one of its rhetorical beauties. 


Under the figure of a great judicial process, God himself is 
introduced, exposing and condemning the hypocrisy of formal- 
ists, and expounding the true nature of his law. After a strik- 
ing introduction, vs. 1 — 6, he reproves the perversion, and 
exhibits the true meaning, of the first table of the law, vs. 

PSALM L. 425 

7 — 15, and then of the second, vs. 16 — 21, and closes with a 
solemn warning and a gracious promise, vs. 22 — 23. 

1. A Psalm. By Asaph. The Almighty, God, Jehovah, 
speaks, and calls the earth, from the risi7ig of the sun unto 
the going down thereof. Asaph was one of David's chief 
musicians (1 Chron. xv. 17, 19), and also an inspired psalmist 
(I Chron. XXV. 2. 2 Chron. xxix. 30.) In both these capacities 
the psalm might be ascribed to him, nor is it possible either to 
prove or disprove that it was composed by him. Mighty or 
Almighty is not an adjective agreeing with the next word 
{the Mighty God), but a substantive in apposition with it. 
Three divine names are put together in a kind of climax. El, 
Elohim, Jehovah. The first represents God as almighty, the 
second as the only proper object of worship and (by its plural 
form) as perfect, the third as self-existent and eternal, and at 
the same time as the peculiar God of Israel. The same 
combination occurs in Josh. xxii. 22. It is here intended to 
enliance the grandeur of the scene by setting forth the titles 
of the judge or sovereign. Sj)eaks, or more exactly spoke, has 
spoken, by which however we may understand an act just past. 
The same remark applies to the word calls, which is here used in 
the sense of summoning or citing. From sunrise to sunset, or 
from east to west, is a natural description of the earth in its 
whole extent, including its remotest bounds but not excluding 
that which lies between them. See above, on Ps. ii. 8. 

2. Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. 
He comes forth, in a splendid and imposing manner, from his 
royal residence, the seat of the theocracy, which is described 
as perfectly beautiful, not only in a moral and spiritual sense, 
but in reference also to its lofty situation, celebrated in Ps. 
xlviii. 3 (2) above. The Hebrew verb is borrowed from the 

^26 PSALM L. 

sublime theophany in Deut. xxxiii. 2. See also Ps. Ixxx. 2 (1.) 
xciv. 1. 

3. Our God shall come — a7id let him not he silent— fire 
before him shall devour, and around him it shall he tempes- 
tuous exceedingly. The future in the first clause may be 
rendered he is coming, as if the sound of his voice and the 
liojht of his glory had preceded his actual appearance. The 
imagery is borrowed from the giving of the law at Sinai. Ex. 
xix. 16. XX. 18. Consuming fire is a common emblem of God's 
vindicatory justice (Deut. xxxii. 22. 2 Thess. i. 8), and of God 
himself considered as a righteous God (Deut. iv. 24. ix. 3. Heb. 
xii. 29.) 

4. He ivill call to the heavens above and to the earth, to 
judge his people. The future, as before, describes an act just 
about to be performed. It might even be translated, he is call- 
ing. The compound preposition, y>-o??i over, is used adverbially 
in the sense of above. See for example, Gen. i. 7. The strict 
sense, fro'm above, would here be inappropriate, since God is 

\ represented not as speaking from heaven, much less from above 
it, but as appearing upon earth, and visibly coming out of Zion. 
In our idiom these words would naturally mean that he summons 
heaven and earth to sit in judgment on his people. But 

: according to Hebrew usage, the last clause may refer to the 
remoter antecedent, the subject of the principal verb, and be 

, translated, so that he may judge his 2'>^ople. The heavens 

j and earth, put for the whole creation, are summoned not as 
judges but as witnesses, as appears from v. 6 below. See 
Deut. iv. 26. xxx. 19. xxxi. 28, and compare Isai. i. 2; 

5. Gather for me my saints, ratifying my covenant over 
sacrifice. The judge here addresses, as it were, the ministerial 
officers of justice. Compare Matt. xxiv. 31. For me, as my 

PSALM L. 427 

messengers, acting in my behalf, or to me, i. e. to the place 
where I am, here, around me. My sai7its, the objects of my 
mercy, those whom I have called and specially distinguished. 
See above, on Ps. iv. 4 (3.) The term is here descriptive of a 
relation, not of an intrinsic quality. Ratifying, literally cut- 
ting, striking, perhaps in allusion to the practice of slaying 
and dividing victims as a religious rite accompanying solemn 
compacts. See Gen. xv. 10, 18. The same usage may be 
referred to in the following words, over sacrifice, i. e. standing 
over it, or 07i sacrifice, i. e. founding the engagement on a 
previous appeal to God. There is probably allusion to the 
great covenant transaction recorded in Ex. xxiv. 4 — 8. This 
reference to sacrifice shows clearly that what follows was not 
intended to discredit or repudiate that essential symbol of the 
typical or ceremonial system. 

6. And (now) the heavens have declared his righteousness, 
for God (is) judge himself. Selah. The heavens are wit- 
nesses of God's judicial rectitude, for he himself (and not a 
delegated man or angel) is the judge (on this occasion.) Or 
the last words may be rendered, he is judging, i. e. acting as 
a judge. The parties and the ^vitnesses having been summoned, 
the judicial process now begins. The pause, denoted by the 
Selah, is one indicative of awe, excited by the dread solemnity 
of these proceedings. 

7. Hear, my people, and let me speak, and let rne testify 
against thee. God, thy God, am I. The introductory de- 
scription being ended, the divine judgment now begins. Let 
me speak, or I ivill speak, the peculiar form of the Hebrew 
verb sometimes expressing strong desire and sometimes fixed 
determination. See above, on Ps. ii. 3. God is himself the 
witness against Israel, by whom the charge is to be proved, 
the heavens and the earth beinc; only witnesses of the judicial 

428 PSALM L. 

scene or spectacle. I am not only God, but thy God, bound to 
thee by covenant, and reciprocally claiming thy allegiance. 
This may be added as a reason why he has a right to testify 
against them ; or it may be the beginning of the testimony 
itself. ' Let me testify against thee as thy God,' or, ' I will 
testify against thee, that 1 am thy God,' although I am not so 
regarded or so treated. 

8. Not for thy sacrifices will I reprove thee, and thy burnt- 
offerings before '?ne alivays. The insertion of the words to 
have been, in the common version, seems to make the clause 
mean, that although they had neglected this external rite, it 
was of no importance, whereas the simple meaning of the 
Hebrew sentence is, that they were not chargeable with this 
neglect, implying that the observance was obligatory, which is 
in perfect keeping with the tenor of the psalm. ' I do not 
charge thee with withholding the material offerings to which 
I am entitled, for in truth they are ever before me.' To the 
generic term sacrifices, animal oblations, he adds the more 
specific one, burnt-offering, the usual English version of a 
Hebrew term, denoting the principal and ordinary expiatory 
offering of the Mosaic ritual. See above, on Ps. xx. 4 (3.) 
xl. 7 (6.) 

9. I ivill not take from thy house a bullock, {nor') from thy 
folds he-goats. Here begins the correction of the false and 
foolish notion, extensively prevalent among the heathen, and 
not unknown among the ancient Jews, especially in times of 
great corruption, that the sacrifices were designed to satisfy 
some physical necessity on God's part, whether in the way of 
food or otherwise. In opposition to this impious absurdity, it 
is argued, that, even if God needed such supplies, he 
would not be dependent on the worshipper, who is here ad- 
dressed directly as an individual, with great advantage to the 

PSALM L. 429 

liveliness and force of the whole passage, ' If I needed bulls 
and goats, as you imagine, T would not be under the necessity 
of seeking them at your hands.' 

10. For to me (belongs) every beast of the forest, the cattle 
i?i hills of a thousand. This last idiomatic phrase may 
either mean a thousand hills, or hills where the cattle rove by 
thousands, with probable allusion to the hilly grounds of 
Bashan beyond Jordan. See above, on Ps. xxii. 13 (12.) Ac- 
cording to etymology, the noun in the first clause means an 
animal, and that in the second beasts or brutes in oeneral. 
See above, on Ps. xlix. 13 (12.) But when placed in antithesis, 
the first denotes a wild beast, and the second domesticated 
animals or cattle. Both words were necessary to express God's 
sovereign propriety in the whole animal creation. Thus un- 
derstood, the verse assigns a reason for the negative assertion 
in the one before it. Even if God could stand in need of 
animal oblations, for his own sake, or for their sake, he would not 
be under the necessity of coming to man for them, since the 
whole animal creation is his property and perfectly at his dis- 

11. / know every bird of the hills, and the population of 
the field (is) with me, i. e. in my presence, under my inspection, 
and withm my reach. The past tense of the verb suggests 
not merely that it is so now, but that it has been so from the 
beginning. This is no newly-acquired knowledge or author- 
ity, but such as are involved in the very relation between 
creature and oreator. Populatio7t, literally, movement, mo- 
tion, i. e. animal motion, and by a natural metonymy that which 
lives and moves. 

12. If I were hungry, I would not say (so) to thee ; for to 
me (belongs) the world and its fullness^ that which fills it, it \ 

430 PSALM L. 

contents and its inhabitants. See above, on Ps. xxiv. 1. The 
first clause may be rendered, with a clos r adherence to the 
form of the original, if I am hungry, I ivill 7iot say (so) to 
tJice. All tills is said upon the supposition, that God may, 
\ in some sense, need supplies of this kind, although even then 
he would be wholly independent of man's bounty or fidelity in 
furnishing them. But the supposition is of course a false one, 
and is so represented in the next verse. 

13. Will I eat the flesh of bulls and drink the blood of 
goats? The future of the Hebrew verb is very expressive, 
suggesting the ideas of possibility, necessity, and desire. Do 
I desire the flesh and blood of beasts for my refreshment ? Do 
I need them for my sustenance ? Or is it even possible for me 
to use them, in the way that you imagine ? The negative 
answer, which is obviously expected to these questions, pre- 
supposes the great doctrine that Jehovah is a spirit, and as 
such exempt from all corporeal necessities. This then is 
another refutation of the gross and impious error that he 
needed their oblations. If they were necessary in themselves, 
he could obtain them elsewhere ; and that they are not neces- 
sary, follows, as an inevitable consequence, from the spirituality 
of the divine nature. This is not the language of dry and 
formal ratiocination, which, on such a subject and in such a 
connexion, w^ould be not only misplaced but revolting. It is 
rather the language of impassioned and indignant expostu- 
lation, holding up the absurdities, to w^hich the error of the 
formal worshipper inevitably tended, as a refutation of the 
error itself. 

14. Sacrifice to God thanksgiving, and (so) 'pay unto the 
Most High thy vows. The first word means something more 
than offer, and contains a distinct allusion to the animal sacri- 
fices mentioned in v. 8 above. This is not an exhortation to 

PSALM, L. 431 

offer thanks or praise instead of material sacrifices, which 
would be inconsistent with the express requisition of the latter, 
but to offer them as expressions of thanksgiving-, or in other 
w^ords, to offer these as they were intended to be offered, not as 
a meritorious operation, nor as gross attempts to feed the deity, 
but as symbolical expressions of devout affection, repentance, 
faith, and love, all which we may suppose to be represented, 
or at least suggested, by the single act of praise or thanks- 
giving, here explicitly enjoined. The imperative in the last 
clause may, according to a very common H'ebrew idiom, be 
resolved into a future, and the whole verse paraphrased as fol- 
lows: 'If you offer your material sacrifices, not merely as 
such, but as the prescribed expression of inward spiritual ex- 
ercises, you will thereby really discharge vour obligations to the 
Being whom you worship.' 

15. And call upon me hi a day of distress ; I ivill free 
thee, and thou shalt honour me. The imperative in the first 
clause is dependent upon that in the preceding verse. The 
connexion may be rendered clearer by substituting then for 
and. Offer such sacrifice?, and you will really discharge your 
obligations ; then, when you call upon me, I will hear you. 
Thou shalt honour me, thou shalt have occasion to renew thy 
praises and thanksgivings for new benefits received. With 
this encouraging assurance closes the divine exposition of the 
sacrificial system. 

16. And to the tvicked God saith, What hast thou (to do) 
to declare my statutes, and take my covenant into thy mouth 7 
Thus far the doctrine of the psalm has had respect to the 
formal worshipper, whose rites are mere external services, ex- 
pressive of no inward faith or love. But now it is applied to 
him w^ho actually violates the law which he professes to 

432 PSALM L. 

acknowledge. Tlie luicked, the man of vicious life, who is 
afterwards described with more particularity. He is not neces- 
sarily distinct in real life from the formalist of the foreooino- 
context. The description is not of two individuals, but of two 
classes, to which one and the same person may belong, or two 
characters, which one and the same person may exhibit. Sait/i, 
said, or hath said, on the same ideal occasion. What (is) to 
thee, the only Hebrew mode of saying, ichat hast thou, i. e. 
what right or reason hast thou ? To declare, either by pro- 
fession of one's own faith, or by authoritative teaching of 
others. There may perhaps be some allusion to the primary 
meaning of the Hebrew verb, which is to count or number. 
See above, on Ps. xl. 6 (5.) To count off or reckon up God's 
statutes is a very natural expression for censorious or osten- 
tatious iteration, especially in this connexion, where an obvious 
reference to the ten commandments follows. Mi/ covenant, 
my law considered as conditional, or as involving reciprocal 
engagements upon my part. See above, on v. 5. To take 
i?tto the mouth, or more literally, to take up on the mouth, is a 
strong idiomatic phrase for uttering, pronouncing. See above, 
on Ps. xvi. 4. 

17. And thou hast hated instruction, and hast cast my 
words behind thee. The very person who enforces the law, in 
all its rigour, upon others, refuses to submit to it himself, and 
treats its precepts not only with neglect but with contempt. 
This passage seems to have been present to the mind of Paul, 
in that remarkable series of interrogations, " Thou therefore 
which teachest another teachest thou not thyself," etc. Rom. 
ii. 21—23. 

18. If thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst with him, and 
ivith adulterers (has been) thy j)ortion. The first clause con- 
veys far more than the simple idea of coir/cnt. The expres- 

PSALM L. 433 

sion if thou sawest implies great eagerness and an instinctive 
drawing towards the thief as a congenial spirit. The second 
verb in Hebrew denotes a cordial and complacent acquiescence. 
Thy j^ortion or participation, common interest, communion. 
These particular sins are mentioned with reference to their 
prohibition in the seventh and eighth commandments (Ex. xx. 
14, 15.) 

19. Thy mouth thou hast given up to evil, and thy tongue 
will iveave (or frame) deceit. The ninth commandment is now 
added to the other two, as being habitually violated by the per- 
son here addressed. Given tip to, literally, sent out ivith (or into) 
evil. The first clause is descriptive of mere evil speaking, the 
second of more artificial and ingenious lying. Both verbs in- 
clude present time, but the first with the additional idea of an 
early habit, formed and settled in time past, the other with that 
of an inveterate habit, not likely to be broken or reformed 

20. Thou ivilt sit {and) against thy brother speak ; at the 
son of thy mother thou tciit aim a blow. To the general 
charge of falsehood is now added the specific one of slander, 
not against strangers, but his neares: friends. The idea sug- 
gested by the future is that such behaviour may be confidently 
looked for on the part of such a character. Thou wilt sit, in 
the company of others, or more specifically of the wicked, or 
of other wicked slanderers, as one of them. See above, on v. 
18. As brother might be understood as meaning merely any 
other man, it is determined by the unambiguous phrase, thy 
mother's so?i. This is mentioned merely as an extreme case, 
not as excluding other relation^; and friends, but rather compre- 
hending them. Aim a bloiv, literally, give a thrust, so as to 
cast him down. The blow meant is a stroke of the tongue. 
Compare Jer. xviii. IS. 

vol.. I. ['J. 

434 rSALM L. 

21. These things hast thou clone, and I have held my j)eace ; 
thou hast imagined I ivas just like thyself. I will reprove 
thee, and array (thy sins) before thine eyes. God is described 
as silent when he does not interpose with his reproofs or 
manifest his displeasure. See above, on Ps. xxviii, 1 . Ima- 
gined : the Hebrew verb originally means to liken or compare, 
and another of the same form to be silent, so that it is pecu- 
liarly appropriate in this place, where the mention of God's 
silence immediately precedes, and the imagining referred to 
was a false assimilation of the Most Hia^h to the sinner him- 
self. Just like, or exactly like, the intensive adverb corres- 
ponding to the emphatic repetition of the verb in Hebrew. In 
our idiom, an adversative particle is almost indispensable be- 
tween the clauses ; but the more abrupt transition is congenial 
with the spirit and usage of the Hebrew language. Array, 
arrange, set in order, so that none shall be omitted or over- 
looked. See above, on Ps. v. 4 (3.) Before thine eyes, liter- 
ally, to thine eyes, or to thy face, again implying that the sight 
of them is not to be avoided. This declaration of severe 
fidelity forms an appropriate conclusion to the second lesson of 
the psalm, or that in which the mask is stripped off from the 
vicious hypocrite, who professes to serve God while he lives in 
the grossest violation of his precepts, as in the first part (vs. 7 
— 15) it was torn from the formal hypocrite, who satisfies him- 
self with a mere outward and mechanical performance of rites 
designed to be significant of spiritual and devout affections. 

22. Oh consider this, for getters of God, lest I rend and 
there he no deliverer. To both the argumentative invectives 
which precede there is added in conclusion a solemn exhor- 
tation, including both a warning or admonitory threatening and 
a promise. This verse contains the warning. The Hebrew 
particle of entreaty (j^i) is not so well expressed by the now 
of the English Bible as bv the oh of the Prayer Book version. 

PSALM L. 435 

The image presented in the last clause is that of a ravenous 
beast, and more especially a lion. See above, on Ps. xxii. 
14 (13.) No deliverer, or more literally, none delivering. 
The description of those addressed, as forgetting {ox for getters 
of) God, suggests that both forms of hypocrisy exhibited in 
this psalm owe their origin to ignorance, mistaken notions, or 
oblivion, of God's attributes and purposes and former acts. 

23. (The man) sacrificing praise shall honour me, and pre- 
pare a ivay (that) I may shoiv him the salvation of God, 
that of which he is the author. See above, on Ps, iv. 9 (8.) This 
phrase is used instead of my salvation, for the sake of a more 
sonorous close. The common version of the first clause makes 
it an identical proposition : tvhoso offereth praise glorifieth me. 
At the same time it greatly weakens the expression by the use 
of the ambiguous term offer. The words are all borrowed 
from vs. 14, 15, to which there is therefore a direct allusion, 
and by which the clause must be interpreted. It is really a 
promise that he whose offerings are genuine expressions of 
thanksgiving shall have cause or occasion to praise God for 
his mercies. The rest of the sentence is more doubtful. Ac- 
cording to the construction above given, which seems to be 
required by the accents, the meaning is, that he who offers the 
right kind of sacrifice, as before explained, prepares the way, 
literally sets or lays a way, by Avhich he shall himself attain 
to the experience of salvation. But as this confines the pro- 
mise to the observance of the first great lesson taught in the 
psalm, we may give it a wider application, and the sentence a 
more regular form, by rendering the last clause thus, a7id (the 
man) ordering (his) way, I will shoiv the salvation of God. 
The man ordering his way, i. e. placing it, defining it, marking 
it out, is then contrasted with such as turn aside unto their 
crooked ways (Ps. cxxv. 5.) The precise form of the con- 
struction is, {as to the 7na7i) ordering {his) %vay, I will show 

436 PSALM L. 

Iiim the salvation of God. This clause then has reference to 
the second lesson of the psalm (vs. 16 — 21), as the other to the 
first (vs. 7 — 15.) The preposition before salvatimi in Hebrew, 
often gives the verb to see the pregnant sense of gazing at or 
viewing with delight. See above, on Ps. xxii. 18 (17.) xxxvii. 



The Psalms translated and explained 

Princeton Theological Semmary-Speer Library 

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