Psalms by Leupold

Psalm 1:1


IT IS NOW SOME TIME since a thorough-going conservative commentary on the Psalms has appeared. Much scholarly work in this field has been done but the results of such study need to be sifted and carefully revised. This is in part what the present exposition attempts to do.

Besides, it is necessary that a commentary be provided that the intelligent layman can use as well as the busy pastor, for the Psalter still is the Prayer Book of the people of God. We hope that by moving the grammatical and critical Notes to the end of the treatment of each psalm we may have helped both the lay users of the book and the pastors.

Brevity of treatment has been one of our major concerns. To prepare a book several times as large as the present volume would in the last analysis have been much easier.

The Psalms have been widely used in worship and in public and private devotions. New hymnals published by several denominations encourage such continued use. The Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church (1958) includes more than one hundred psalms. We hope that the increased use of the Psalter may result in the more diligent study of this sacred book. This exposition hopes to satisfy this need.

On the anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession, June 24, 1959

H. C. Leupold



THE BOOK is frequently designated merely by the title "Psalms." KJ calls it the "Book of Psalms." Luther and most German Bibles designate it by the name Psalter, which is thoroughly familiar also in English usage. Both names are traceable to the Greek word psalmoi, which strictly speaking designates poems that are sung to the accompaniment of music played on strings. This term is, in turn, expressed by the Hebrew word mizmor, a word which occurs 57 times as a designation in the title of certain psalms. Strangely, the Hebrew Bible uses the title sepher tehillim, Book of Praise-Psalms. At first glance this Hebrew title might seem to be more to the point as an accurate description; but on closer reflection it will appear that the element of praise, though prominent in the Psalter, is not so prominent as to warrant thus describing the majority of the poems commonly called "psalms." It is true that especially toward the close of the book the element of praise swells forth more emphatically. But for all that, praise is only one of many elements that stand forth in the book. Praise is an incidental feature in psalms.


THOUGH it is plainly printed in many English Bibles, the division of the Psalter into five books is scarcely observed by the average Bible reader. These five divisions are as follows: 1-41; 42-72; 73-89; 90- 106; 107-150. Many attempts have been made to explain how this fivefold division came into use and why, but the only factor involved that seems to be of any moment is that some sort of agreement with the fivefold division of the Pentateuch was intended. Yet no commentator seems to be able to say wherein this correspondence consists. Explanations are usually about as fanciful as is that of Gregory of Nyssa, who, according to Delitzsch, maintained that "the Psalter in its five books leads up as it were by five stages to moral perfection." Rather more to the point is the observation that the five books are very closely associated with the gradual growth and development of the whole book, as we shall soon show.

Here may be the most appropriate place to indicate how the more prominent versions differ in the numbering of the psalms. The Septuagint, followed by the Latin, differs from the Hebrew (and for that matter, the English) style of numbering as follows:

Hebrew Greek

1-8                   1-8

9-10                    9

11-113             10-112

114-115               113

116:1-9               114

116:10-19             115

117-146           116-145

147:1-11              146

147:12-20             147

148-150           148-150

This difference must be borne in mind when one is reading books by Roman Catholic authors or when consulting the Vulgate or the Septuagint.


How THE BOOK came to assume its present form and arrangement, that is to say, how it grew by various stages into the fivefold book we now have has been a matter of much and learned conjecture. No definite information is obtainable. Conjectures and deductions are admissible up to a certain point, but they do not help us to arrive at certainty. We shall attempt to present only so much of what is usually offered under this head as seems to be pretty well established.

The usual point of departure is the remark appended after the conclusion of Ps 72, that is, Ps 72:20: "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." This remark apparently indicates some editorial activity and voices the conviction of him who appended it to the psalm that whatever "prayers" (another word for "psalms") "of David" were available had been included in the collection of the psalms up to this point. There is the added possibility that, since in the group of Ps 1-Ps 72, psalms by David, according to the headings, far outnumbered all others, the collection was designated by the name of the majority. It is also apparently quite reasonable to assume that he that appended this notice to the psalm knew of no further prayers of David, in fact, believed he had collected all that were to be found. In that assumption he was mistaken, for in the remaining books of the Psalter about 17 more appear that are ascribed to David.

The second step in trying to trace the gradual composition of the book through successive stages is the noticeable fact that these first two books are in a certain contrast with one another inasmuch as the second book (Ps 42-Ps 72) uses the divine name Elohim much more frequently that any other name, especially the proper divine name Yahweh, the ratio being 164 to 30, whereas in the first book the ratio was the reverse, Yahweh being used 272 times and Elohim 15. Commentators have long been at a loss to explain this difference, especially since it can be shown that in the second book the name Yahweh was frequently changed to Elohim, even where the former was originally in the text. It may be claimed with the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible that the name Elohim was substituted "for the purpose of meeting a felt need in the worship" inasmuch as this name lends itself more to the "adoring contemplation of God in the fulness of that conception." Be that as it may, the use of the divine names as well as other factors indicate that at the time this subscription (Ps 72:20) was made two distinct books were already in existence, and presumably of the same scope and compass that they now have.

Book III could have then been added. But from this point onward material informing us as to its origin is practically nonexistent. Since Book III contains eleven psalms by Asaph, four by Korah, one by David (Ps 86), and one by Ethan, a simple assumption (but one for which we could offer no positive proof would be that some persons, competent and authorized to do so, made a collection of psalms by several prominent authors who had written psalms that seemed worthy to be added to the psalmbook that already contained 72 psalms. When and by whom this could have been done we have no way of ascertaining. Writers on the subject are not at all agreed as to the origin of Book III.

Evidence of various efforts at collection is indicated by the duplications that appear within the Psalter: Ps 14 equals Ps 53; 40:13ff. equals Ps 70; 57:7-11 and Ps 60:5 make up Ps 108. What bearing these repetitions have on the question of the origin of the book is answered differently by each writer.

It may be remarked that Book II and Book III may have been united into one before they were added to Book I. On questions of this sort there is room for much speculation.

As we come to Book IV we should remark that any one of the five Books may have had later additions or withdrawals made before it was incorporated into the whole Psalter. What is at least beginning to become evident is that different collections were quite obviously made by different persons in successive periods spread over quite a space of time. In Book IV we find two psalms that are ascribed to David, one to Moses, ten that have no title, and four that have headings but no ascription of authorship. By reaching back as far as Moses the collector seems to indicate that he was intent on preserving whatever still existed anywhere within this field as he knew it.

Since Book V gives evidence of a similar trend (there are fourteen by David, one by Solomon, and the rest are nameless) there is, of course, the possibility that Books IV and V may have been combined before they were added to the complete book. In any case, by a gradual process of some sort of accretion Book was added to Book until the whole was complete.

The fact that some kind of final editorial activity must have taken place is indicated in part already by the incident that the round number of 150 psalms was chosen to make up the entire Psalter. For some unexplainable reason the Septuagint has a supernumerary psalm which it lists as such and thus has a total of 151. It may also be noted that some principles of arrangement can be detected as one looks through the successive psalms. Oftentimes psalms by the same author are grouped together as nearly as possible. Thus we note the psalms of David in several such groups here and there. Besides, similar situations or contrasting situations often lead to putting two psalms side by side. Quite frequently similar words and phrases that occur in two psalms seem to have led to placing them side by side whatever their character may have otherwise been. This similar use of words and phrases strikes us as having been one of the most common factors in determining the placing of two psalms side by side.

Beyond this, little that is reliable can be said about the origin of the book as a whole.


IT CAN BE SHOWN that the Jews made ample use of the Psalter in the early centuries of our era. From the Mishnaic period (ca.200) dates certain evidence that already then certain psalms were assigned to certain days of the week (Ps 24; 48; 82; 94; 81; 93; 92). Even modern Jewish prayer books have a generous measure of material from the psalms.

It is of special interest to Christians that the New Testament quotes more liberally from the Psalter than from any other Old Testament book. Kirkpatrick claims there are 93 such quotations; Delitzsch, 70. The difference in number is obviously due to the fact that it is difficult to determine whether certain statements or phrases merit the designation of a quotation. Jesus, our Lord, was apparently quite familiar with the Psalter, for on the cross he quoted from Ps 22 (Mt 27:46 and parallels), and in controversy with the Pharisees He quoted from Ps 110 (Mt 22:43f. and parallels). Cf. also Lu 24:44. In the writings of the apostles statements such as Col 3:16 should be noted. Psalm singing apparently constituted a greater part of the singing of the early church.

As we advance through the centuries, the singing of psalms continues, and the Psalter is a very popular book that is much in use. The best writers among the church fathers wrote commentaries on this book. Outstanding are those of Chrysostom and Augustine. When the canonical hours came into use in monasteries, portions of the book were assigned to the various hours, and in many instances the entire Psalter was chanted regularly in the course of each week, as is still said to be the custom among Benedictine orders. There was even a time when as a prerequisite for admission to the priesthood it was mandatory that the candidate be able to recite the entire book.

The Reformers encouraged the use of the Psalter, and Luther was particularly known for the love that he bore to the book and the faithful use that he made of it on all occasions as well as for the high praise that he bestowed upon it. In the church of the Reformation psalm-paraphrases constituted many of its hymns, quite aside from those Reformed churches where the singing of only psalms or psalm-paraphrases was permitted in public worship. Perhaps we are safe in saying that no Biblical book has seen more use throughout Christendom than has the Psalter.


As ONE pages through the psalms, it becomes quite obvious that many psalms bear headings which in a considerable number of instances indicate authorship. These headings were once regarded as substantially correct. After a measure of critical treatment had been given them, they were more and more disregarded. Today they are usually regarded as being practically worthless. Schmidt (p. V) perhaps expresses the view that is most commonly held in our day: "In our day the view . . . is quite generally accepted that the notations in the headings concerning the author, which by the way are more numerous in the Septuagint, are not to be regarded as a matter of reliable historical record but as conjectures made by the collectors of the psalms- venerable indeed as early attempts in the field of literary studies but of no moment for the understanding of the psalms." Commentators are ready, for that matter, to substitute in a rather positive tone another possibility on the score of authorship. Mowinckel advances the claim: "The conclusion is inescapable (made previously already by Gunkel at least for the oldest psalms): the psalms originated in the circle of the Temple attendants (Tetnpel personal)."

Far more sober and very much to the point are remarks such as those offered by the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible: "In many cases . .. sufficient reason does not exist for denying the authenticity of the title; or the outcome of the inquiry, stated positively, may be that the contents of the psalm are suitable to the occasion attested by the title." We believe the restraint of a writer like Noetscher deserves commendation when he says: "The headings are apparently old and are therefore not to be set aside without sufficient ground. But they do not belong to the text."

The fact that they do not belong to the text every student of Hebrew has long known. However, they were in their day inserted by men in Israel who belonged to her trustworthy leaders. This could have been done by men like Ezra who ventured by this insertion to preserve a valuable and well-authenticated tradition, which they felt should not be lost and could be of use to readers of the psalms in centuries to come. Concerning these titles, it is hardly fair when the sweeping demand is made that, unless the contents of the psalm prove authorship as claimed by the heading, the heading must be regarded as unreliable. By such canons of literary criticism no claim of authorship under comparable circumstances could ever stand. We rather venture the claim that the correctness of the title dare be questioned only then when an actual contradiction to known facts of David's life appears between the title and the contents of the psalm. This demands that allowance be made for the fact that our knowledge of the events of David's life is quite limited, and that much supplementary information may be culled from the psalms.

The following Biblical evidence has further bearing upon the question of authorship. We begin by answering the question: Is there good evidence in the Scriptures for the assumption that David may have been a writer of sacred poetry? The Biblical evidence on this matter is very helpful. We know that David had poetic ability, for certain poems of a more secular nature are clearly ascribed to him: He wrote a touching lament concerning Saul and Jonathan (2Sa 1:19-27). He also lamented the tragic end of Abner in the brief poem which is recorded either in part or in whole in 2Sa 3:33f. The historical books, whose validity on this score is not open to doubt, indicate that David was active in the field of sacred poetry, see particularly 2Sa 23:1-7, which incidentally indicates that David enjoyed some reputation as a writer of psalms at the time he wrote the words there recorded, for he describes himself as "the sweet psalmist of Israel," almost in the manner of one accepting a tribute which men had quite commonly begun to bestow upon him, and which he deemed had bearing on the importance of the particular utterance that he was about to commit to writing.

The chapter immediately adjoining the one just referred to, 2Sa 22, is, as is immediately apparent to even the casual reader, Ps 18 with minor changes. The historical book of Samuel attributes the psalm to David. That this involves a tradition which is validated by other writers appears from the fact that the casual reference of Am 6:5 clearly points in the same direction. And so at least a number of writers have again dared to advance the claim that at least some of the psalms whose headings claim that the psalm stems from David must be ascribed to him. One of the strongest claims along this line stems from Koenig, who cheerfully attributes the following psalms to this good king of Israel: Ps 3; 4; 6; 7; 8; 11; 15; 18; 23; 29; 30; 32. We feel he might well have gone farther and accepted the whole number that have the words "of David" in the superscription.

Two other factors could be said to have bearing upon the case. One is a matter, pointed out by Delitzsch, that David, being closely associated with Samuel as he was in his early years, may have also had contacts with the bands of the prophets who were assembled in the schools of the prophets at that time, and where studies of such subjects as sacred poetry may have flourished. Though this lies entirely in the field of conjecture, there is another factor that must not be made light of, and that is the claim that "the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward," 1Sa 16:13. The day referred to is that of David's anointing. We regard the unction of the Spirit as a major prerequisite for the writing of inspired poetry. In addition it may be pointed out that David, as is well known, had many admirable qualities. He was a personable youth, discreet in his conduct at court, of a friendly disposition, endowed with notable virtues such as the forgiving spirit that he manifested over against Saul, and certainly deserving of the friendship of a true man like Jonathan. The psalms reflect these virtues.

As we are ready to accept the claim of the title for all the instances where it appears to the effect that certain psalms stem from David, so we in like manner feel that the validity of the claim of other such titles stands. We are ready to accept the claim that Moses wrote Ps 90; that Ps 72 and Ps 127 stem from Solomon, that others come from the sons of Korah, and Asaph composed certain others. Nothing in these psalms actually conflicts with the claim of the title.

Here we may briefly insert a reference to an issue that will appear frequently in the following pages. It is the question whether there are not obvious Aramaism in some of these psalms; and are not Aramaisms an indication of a late date, possibly the Persian era? Without going into the matter in any detail, let us merely point to an insight that is growing upon not a few writers at the present time and is well expressed by McCullough at the conclusion of his investigation into the matter in the introductory material of the Interpreter's Bible: "To cite 'Aramaisms' as evidence of the late date of a psalm is therefore a highly questionable procedure." Or as Weiser puts it (p. 13): "Even late forms and expressions here and there prove at the most that the final form arrived at Endgestalt is late."


Certain historical incidents and events could easily have given rise to the composition of psalms. We mention a few of those which could have stirred individuals or the whole nation to break forth into praise or petition. The rebellion of Absalom roused many a mind and heart, especially David's. Though it was intensely personal in character as far as David was concerned, the Bathsheba incident could have led the king to compose a psalm of warning and instruction. When the Assyrians under Sennacherib were forced to beat a retreat, the national consciousness may well have been stirred to the point where it sought public expression in psalms. The Exile and the return from the Exile furnish equally valid occasions for outbursts of sacred poetry.-We arrive at the conclusion that, when a heading claims that the psalm in question is associated with some such event, that possibility dare not be lightly thrust aside but may be accepted as long as there is no conflict between the claim and the contents of the psalm. By way of illustration we may refer to the following psalms as involving such situations: Ps 3; 46; 47; 48; 51 etc.


COMMENTATORS will invariably determine this date according to the date that they accept with regard to the completion of the entire canon, because there is no distinct evidence of date as to completion in the entire book of Psalms. Since we hold that the Old Testament canon was complete by the year 400 B.C. or shortly thereafter we find nothing in the psalter that would lead us to conclude that it was brought to a conclusion later than this date. We have referred to Aramaisms.

Related to this issue is, of course, the question concerning Maccabean psalms (date: near the middle of the second century B.C.). Whereas Calvin already in his day voiced the assumption that Ps 44; 74; 79 should be assigned to this period, nothing is to be found within even these psalms that compels us to accept this suggestion. For a time the trend ran strong in the direction of regarding almost all psalms as being composed in the Maccabean period. Now this approach has largely been given up.


ASIDE FROM the matter already mentioned as appearing in the titles of the psalms, there are certain technical terms and expressions that are now commonly regarded as being of a musical nature. We refer first of all to those terms which occur more or less commonly, such as "chief musician," "a psalm," "a song," "a maskil." It is quite commonly conceded that the first of these may be correctly translated "choirmaster" (RSV) or even "choir director" or "chief musician" (KJ). But even after this is posited, the question still remains, Why should these psalms have been assigned to him? For the present we offer only one suggestion, which to us seems the most reasonable of all, that the author of the psalm, usually David, put the psalm into the hands of the choirmaster with the intent and purpose that he might rehearse it with the Levitical choirs and so introduce it to Israel for public worship. Compare in this connection 1Ch 15:16ff.

"Selah," which comes from a root "to lift up," may indicate one of two things: either an increase in volume of the music or of the singing, or else the setting in of a musical interlude. It may, therefore, be indirectly regarded as marking a pause for reflection. But it is quite apparently a musical notation of some sort.

Terms like "psalms" and "song" may have in their day marked a very clear-cut distinction. If so, we have no idea as to what the actual difference was, nor have we any way of finding out.

Terms like "maskil" and "miktam" are equally puzzling. The former may mean a "didactic poem," the latter could mean a "treasure." The contents of the psalms involved agree to some extent with the possibility here stated; but we must freely confess we cannot be too sure if we have fully captured the significance of these technical terms.

There are also certain other difficult terms in the headings. We list a few: "Muth-labben" (Ps 9), "The Sheminith" (Ps 12), "The Hind of the Dawn" (Ps 22). These terms have been much discussed. Some commentators have thought that they indicate in a subtle way the contents of the psalm. Muth-labben means "the death of the son"; Sheminith could mean the "eighth"; "the hind of the dawn," being interpreted as Luther does: The hind that is hunted early, could in some way refer to Christ, of whose passion the psalm treats. But all this is again somewhat fanciful. We incline toward the opinion prevailing in our day that these terms are the opening words of tunes or songs, according to which the psalm in question is to be rendered.


IT CAN SCARCELY be expected that at this point we could give every trend that is in evidence in our day. But it is clear that certain trends stand out sufficiently and claim so much attention that they simply dare not be ignored.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of psalm interpretation in our day is the recognition that there are certain types of psalms, and that these types are clearly recognizable. Very solid work has been done in this field, and tangible results have been achieved, especially since Gunkel-Begrich published the famous work, Einleitung in die Psalmen (1933).

However, one should not assume that total ignorance of the possibility of classification of psalms prevailed in earlier days. In his Sum-marien Luther listed five classes of psalms as being outstanding. There were in his opinion first of all those psalms that were prophecies about the Christ; then there were doctrinal psalms; then psalms of comfort; then also prayer psalms; and lastly psalms of thanksgiving. Almost every writer that commented on the psalms after him had his own particular pattern of classification. In our day form criticism brought this issue more prominently to the fore until Gunkel made his exhaustive studies in this field. Though he speaks with too much finality and practically submits his classification as the last word on the subject, it cannot be denied that what he has written has tended to clarify the problem immensely. As Gunkel sees it, there are seven classes to be observed. They are 1) hymns, 2) enthronement of Yahweh psalms, 3) national laments, 4) royal psalms, 5) laments of the individual, 6) psalms of individual thanksgiving, 7) lesser categories. In this last class are to be found six subheads: a) words of blessing and cursing, b) pilgrimage songs, c) hymns of victory, d) hymns of thanksgiving, e) the legend, f) the law. No one writer could, even if he were deeply in sympathy with Gunkel, arrive at quite the same classification. The last word can never be spoken on subjects like this. But since Gunkel has written, commentators have been classifying psalms pretty much after the pattern he developed. Nor can it be doubted that many an issue has been clarified as a result.

Some disadvantages of giving too much emphasis to this approach are already beginning to appear. Some writers seem to assume that the ancient Israelites made similar psalm studies and operated consciously with this type of form criticism. Others seem to have a feeling that, as soon as they have properly classified a psalrn, that is to say, put it into its proper pigeonhole, the last word about the nature of the psalm has been spoken. It is frequently being overlooked that the pattern or type involved is not so much a matter of traditional form as it is a purely natural procedure that is bound to be followed whether the types involved are clearly in the mind of the writer or not. There is a kind of natural logic about some of these procedures. When a man is in trouble and gives poetic vent to his emotions in a literary production or, for that matter, in a free outburst of prayer, it may well happen that without any reflection or without being conscious of any pattern he describes his situation in detail to the Lord. After this a lament might quite naturally follow, laying bare his inmost feelings and bitter pain. Such a lament might be repeated or dwelt on at greater length, depending on the extremity of the situation in which the man is involved. Then quite naturally could follow petitions for relief from the great distress. This prayer might be long or short as the feelings of the moment dictate. There could then follow more lament, if the prayer had failed to raise the petitioner above the level of his distress. Or there might follow a note of restored confidence and even a word of thanksgiving for the comfort and help received from the Lord.

No one would deny that the sequence of parts in such a psalm could be arranged in almost any order. One and the same man might be praying in one fashion this year and in quite another fashion three years hence. In other words, the rigidity of pattern has been stressed too much. We still insist that to attempt careful classification of psalms according to the types involved is necessary and very helpful, even if the terms currently in use are not always rigidly followed.

A second trend that is very much in evidence but has far less to commend it than the trend just described is the effort to determine that there must have been Enthronement of Yahweh psalms associated with a New Year's Festival. The prominent name in this area is Mowinckel, whose voluminous Psalmenstudien appeared in 1921. To try to present the issues involved briefly, it should be noted that comparative studies in the field, particularly of Babylonian literature, had convinced Mowinckel that the festival of the annual enthronement of Marduk, chief divinity of the Babylonians, played so important a part in Babylonian life that it was unthinkable that the lesser nation, Israel, should not have been deeply influenced by it and should not have had a similar festival. The total silence of the sacred writings of Israel on this subject did not deter this writer from assuming that he could prove his point. By manifold and involved deductions Mowinckel finally builds up conclusions that supply all the needed background. The New Year's Festival becomes virtually the most prominent of all of Israel's festivals. Numerous psalms are claimed to be associated with this celebration, in fact, this view assumed tremendous proportions. On every possible and impossible occasion the enthronement of Yahweh, so called, was read into the picture. Without attempting an extensive refutation, we draw attention to the fact, which is quite basic and has been so well expressed by McCullough: "The idea that the Hebrew God could in any real sense be enthroned annually was poor theology, and could hardly have been seriously held by the nation's religious leaders." Perhaps never has so elaborate a superstructure been built on so minimal an amount of evidence.

Another trend of interpretation which claims less attention in our day than it previously did is the trend to make the "I" of the psalms refer to the congregation of Israel-the "collective I" as it has been called. This trend grew out of an overemphasis on community thinking, which, to tell the truth, has often been too little regarded. It will have to be admitted that there are times when the pronoun I (my or mine) does seem to refer to the entire nation. That nations feels itself to be a unit. It is in such cases the nation that prays, not the individual. But when such a possibility assumes major proportions and dominates interpretation so that the pronoun "I" is thought of as always referring to Israel, a possibility has been exaggerated far beyond what the facts of the case warrant.

Then there is the trend which goes on the assumption that the whole of the Psalter was designed for cultic use, or, to word it differently, that the psalms are liturgical literature. After it had been recognized that there were more liturgical elements in the Sacred Scriptures than men had previously supposed, this approach was pressed to the point where the liturgical was being discovered everywhere. Mowinckel went to this extreme. Others have followed him. But a sober reaction is beginning to set in. Gunkel has contributed to a more normal approach, though the claim that the whole of the Psalter is liturgical is still being advanced. Without going into much detail, it will be readily seen that psalms like Ps 1 and Ps 23 would never occur to average readers as having any possibilities along this line. Or for that matter, to overlook the sensible possibility that psalms could easily have originated in all manner of situations in life is to overlook the obvious. In other words, there is ground for viewing with suspicion the approach that, as soon as a psalm is being approached, seeks to find some liturgical situation into which it might fit. Such an approach deserves, in our humble opinion, to be classified among the obsessions. Proofs to the contrary that have been attempted are open to too many objections.

Allied with this approach is the attempt to make the psalms reflect highly dramatic procedures which to some extent serve to cover up the weakness of this approach but are too stilted and unnatural to be accepted with conviction. When the assembled congregation is represented as breaking forth into thunderous acclaim, when incense and levitical choirs and solemn processions are gratuitously injected into the scene to make the interpretation effective, when divine theophanies and high-strung emotionalism are frequently assumed as common occurrences-this strikes us as forced and unnatural.

In addition it has become a commonplace procedure to make extensive textual alterations in the Masoretic text, often with numerous or at least major alterations of the text, correcting into the text the very element that is required for a certain approach of interpretation. When this is done, such a procedure becomes reprehensible. Added to this there is the partitioning out of the psalms to various individuals and groups for responsive rendering to make interpretations more striking. No one would deny that such responsive arrangements may indeed have been very common, but seldom can commentators agree as to the precise limits of the reponsive element, and too often they here, too, resort to textual alterations in order to make their approach plausible.

To try to sum up our approach under this head, we are of the conviction that better justice is done to the book when it is said that "the Psalter is the Hymnal and the Book of Devotions (Gesang-und Erbauungsbuch) of the Jewish congregation." How much was at first designed to be liturgy and later frequently became material for private devotions, and how much was at first the outgrowth of private devotions and was later adapted to liturgical use, no man will ever know. Both trends must be reckoned with and will have been much in evidence. The other familiar designation could appropriately be used, "the hymnal of the second Temple," if it be understood that it was intended for public and private use. To close with a quotation from Noetscher (p. 4) : "The cultus in any case is not the sole source of these hymns, perhaps not even the oldest. The Sitz im Leben, the situation out of which a psalm grew, frequently cannot be determined at all, or with any degree of certainty."


IT HAS BEEN long recognized that parallelism is the distinctive mark of Hebrew poetry. Two statements are yoked together, rarely even three. These statements may stand in various relations to one another. Of the many classifications of these relations that have been attempted with a good measure of justification three still appear to be basic. The parallelism may be a) synonymous, which involves that the second statement says much the same as the first. Or it may be b) synthetic, which involves that the second statement adds to the first and goes beyond it. Third it may be c) antithetic, which involves that a contrast to the initial statement is offered by the second. This classification is, of course, an oversimplification but is quite useful as far as it goes in that it helps the reader to detect quite readily whether a portion of Scripture is poetic or not. All the Psalms are poetry and should be printed as such as the ARV and the RSV have consistently done.

More difficult is the matter of meter, for it is clear that in this field Hebrew poetry is quite different from the patterns familiar to us. The Hebrew mind was not concerned about long and short syllables as was Greek and Roman poetry; it had no interest in accented syllables. It was concerned about accented words in a given line (lines are also called "stichs") . By way of example: according to Schmidt, the following is the pattern of Ps. 23: vv. 1, 2, and 3:4 3, 3 2, 3 2; v. 4: 2 2 2, 2 2 2; v. 5:3 2, 3 2; v. 6:3 2, 3 2. There is also a 4 4 pattern and a 4 3 pattern. It becomes immediately apparent from the example offered that any one set pattern of accented words does not seem to prevail throughout any psalm, so that Hebrew meter from our point of view amounts to little more than a kind of rhythmic speech pattern in a higher strain of diction. Some interpreters have called this the dialectus poetica. Any verse may depart from the pattern of the preceding verse. The stichs may be longer or shorter. To demand that, because a certain pattern has been followed at a given point, therefore a particular length of stich is demanded at a given point means drawing conclusions that cannot be warranted. In other words, the critical approach that claims that the meter at a given point demands a certain number of accented words and then to attempt to correct the text to obtain the required number of words, must be viewed with a very critical mind. Yet in our day numerous corrections are made on this score and obviously with insufficient warrant. For that matter, rhyme does occur in Hebrew occasionally, but it would appear that it is a matter of accident or coincidence (see Ps 146) .

However, something of a more positive nature may be detected in the general area of poetic style. There are certain words and constructions that have been listed especially by Koenig (Die Psalmen, pp. 6-9) which are distinctive of Hebrew poetic usage and may be indicated here in brief for the Hebrew scholar. Aside from the fact that the article is not used in poetry with the same consistency as in prose, there are the following terms: zeh serves as a relative pronoun; the verbal suffix mo is used for simple m; ath appears as the feminine absolute ending; old case endings are retained; older and more resonant nominal suffixes appear (ki for k; yehu for yo; mo for hem, etc.); frequent use of bal as the negative; the use of lengthened prepositions (minni for min; kemo for ke; 'eley for 'el; 'alay for 'al); the conjunction 'aph for gam; omission of the article to make a noun a proper noun; waw consecutive separated from its verb by several other words; occasional different spelling of words tending toward the Aramaic form. This is a sizable array of poetic peculiarities that have for the most part been noted all too little by commentators. But they do confirm the claim that there are certain earmarks of Hebrew poetry as to the form used, as is the case in many languages. THE STATE OF THE HEBREW TEXT THIS BRINGS US to a related subject on which we have to some extent already indicated our position. It may safely be maintained that the Hebrew text of the Psalter has come down to us in a rather good state of preservation. There is always room, of course, for sound textual criticism, for there are instances where the text is obscure. That does not mean that some error or defect of transcription is involved. It often implies only that our knowledge of Biblical Hebrew has its limitations. To resort to quick emendations as soon as a difficulty or an obscurity is encountered is not warranted. In some instances the problem will be a hapax legomenon (a word occurring only once in the Hebrew Bible) . If we are uncertain as to the meaning of such a word, that does not immediately make that word suspect. Or there may be a translation of the Septuagint, or the Targum, or the Vulgate that does not seem to agree with the Hebrew text. That in itself may indicate nothing more than that these early translators had their difficulties with the word in question, for their knowledge of Hebrew had its limitations. It is unwise at once to start emending according to the versions. Almost the whole world of scholarship in the field of the Hebrew needs the admonition to stay patiently with the Hebrew text when difficulties are met with and to seek to determine what the text really says and if, what it says, may not agree well with what went before and what follows. Such possibilities are explored too little, and scholars proceed to make conjectures and emendations which display more ingenuity than wisdom. By such means much can be read into texts, material that would have astonished even the original writers.


COMPARATIVE MATERIAL would be such as that offered by Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 365-393. Quite a bit of material is now available to indicate to us what other nations had in days of old that was comparable to what the Scriptures present in the psalms, and in many cases this material is also older.

However, as one reads at length these non-Israelitish hymns and prayers one is struck, not so much by their similarity to the Biblical material, but by the striking differences that are in evidence. One Babylonian prayer addressed to Marduk repeats 16 times the plea, "Be appeased." When Amon, the Egyptian deity, is addressed as the sole God, only a select number of the stanzas of the prayer are given, among them the 300th and the 600th. What "vain repetitions" these must have been! In a prayer addressed to the goddess Ishtar there is a wearisome enumeration of attributes even to the number of 25. The views that are reflected concerning these gods outside of Israel are often cheap and trivial, to say the least. Flattery is often obviously resorted to in the attempt to enlist the good will of a god. The view of religion that underlies these prayers is on the whole often very externalistic.

In view of these differences it strikes us as being more than farfetched to try to establish the relationship of these extra-Israelitish prayers to the Book of Psalms as being one of dependence of the latter upon the former. It is not very likely that literature of this sort outside of Israel had any influence on Israel whatever. It may even be questioned whether the psalm writers of Israel were acquainted with these foreign productions.

This much is true, that traditionally they may both be traced back to some common source, which could have been the prayers of the early patriarchs, even Noah, for all we know. What modifications in this tradition were made on both sides and to what extent the one tradition influenced the other can now scarcely be determined. Somewhere in this field lie the few uses of old, perhaps mythological material (cf. Ps 89:10) that appear in the Psalms. But the attempt to discover frequent allusions in the psalms to this type of material is quite superficial, and a better explanation of what is actually said can be devised.

Quite another matter is the observation that some psalms have in their vocabulary a striking percentage of words or roots that are Ugaritic, as can be learned by comparing them with Ras Shamra material. Some comparisons have been made in a rather extensive way by Helen Jefferson (JBL, 1954, III, p. 152ff.) where the almost exact percentage of correspondence of roots is determined, a correspondence which runs surprisingly high. One need not be alarmed by such discoveries if one bears in mind that two slightly different types of the Canaanite (or Hebrew) language are involved. Least of all, is the dependence of the Hebrew production in such a case established. Perhaps, to sum up the issue involved, it may be sufficient to give a pertinent statement by Noetscher (p. 2): "Very few traces point to poetic productions in Canaan prior to the time of Israel." With so very little material available, it will be difficult to establish dependence of the one on the other.



This is a problem that has long engaged the attention of Bible students, a problem the solution of which seems still to be far off. Especially in the first half of the book certain evildoers appear who are the opponents of the writer. They are called by various names, the "wicked" being apparently the most common designation. They are also called "evil" or "evil men." They are also described as the "enemies" of the writer. In this opposition group one individual usually seems to stand out as the leader. The psalms attributed to David have this feature rather commonly. What astonishes the thoughtful reader is the fact that the historical books of the Bible do not give us the same picture of the days of David. At times, indeed, certain groups were in opposition to David. But in the cases referred to the writer speaks as though this had been one of the most common experiences of his life. It is difficult even to determine whether these persons are to be thought of as being within the nation Israel, or whether they are foreigners and outsiders.

The most original attempt to solve the problem is that offered by Mowinckel, who took the noun 'awon, meaning "transgression or guilt" and appearing in expressions like "doing transgression" (the noun derived from it being "evildoers") and imputed a rather sinister meaning to it, namely, that it referred to sorcery, which he claims was very commonly practiced. So the "wicked" became "sorcerers." Very few have ventured to follow this unduly bold interpretation, and the problem before us remains as difficult as ever. We shall simply have to arrive at the conclusion that in his day David had many more open and private enemies than we had hitherto supposed. They caused him much grief, and he on his part laid the matter before the Lord in prayer, for it was more than he could cope with. Over against the evildoers are placed the saints, who are also mentioned quite commonly in the psalms, though not always by this title. They appear particularly also as the "righteous." With them the psalmist is closely associated; he loves their company; they are of great comfort to him in his affliction. They, too, constituted a group though sometimes only an individual among them is referred to. We know too little about either group.


c) Perhaps even more difficult is the matter of the imprecatory psalms, a term used to designate those psalms in which the writer prays that God may afflict the evildoer and punish him according to his deserts. Some interpreters put this issue into the category of curses and magic and go on the assumption that the imprecations involved are nothing else than curses that are pronounced against enemies. But this solution is as much beside the point here as in the question of determining who the "evildoers" are. The issue will be dealt with separately in practically every psalm where it occurs. Therefore we here confine ourselves to a summary treatment.

Sometimes there are brief statements of this sort. Again there are lengthier portions in certain psalms. The following psalms have the longest portions: Ps 35; 69; 109. Of course, the whole question of retribution is involved. In this area it dare not be overlooked that there are some clear-cut words on the subject dating back to the days of Moses. In De 32:35 Moses presents the Lord as saying: "Vengeance is Mine." In words dating back to the time of Solomon a similar sentiment finds expression when a man is exhorted to show kindness to his enemies: "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you," Pr 25:21f. So in this field the express doctrine of the Old Testament is exactly the same as that of the New (cf., Ro 12:19-20). Besides, the man David, to whom many of these sharp utterances are attributed, in the course of his lifetime showed an exemplary spirit of tolerance and forgiveness, especially over against Saul, the very man who persistently wronged him and sought his life. See 1Sa 24 and 1Sa 26 in particular. Also note the charitable tone of the elegy written upon the death of Saul (2Sa 1:17-27).

It must also be noted that the writer of the psalms that embody the imprecations appears in all the other utterances of the psalm involved as a man who was eminent for true piety and fear of the Lord. That alone should induce us to use all possible charity in judging such a case. Then it should be borne in mind that in each case it is apparent that more than personal enmity on the part of the opponent is involved: the man in question is seen to be an avowed enemy of God's people and God's cause. Besides, we are all ready to admit that, when difficult problems assail us, prayer is an effective counteragent to employ. By this very prayer the psalmist takes the matter out of his own hands and consigns it to God.

Not every instance involved will bear all the distinguishing features that we shall enumerate, but it should be noted in addition that in some instances the psalm writer is concerned about the ultimate conversion of the evildoers (Ps 2:10-12). Other objectives that control the writer's thinking are indicated. He should not be judged apart from what he himself claims is his purpose. He may have in mind the vindication of God's cause (see Ps 79:10). He may be concerned about not having the wicked despise God (see Ps 10:12f.). He may be concerned about having the righteous take courage at what they see (see Ps 35:26f.). He may have a concern that the wicked be taught to fear God (see Ps 64:7-9). If these objectives be sincerely voiced they should be taken at their face value. (Much of this material was taken from Hengstenberg).

Noetscher Not without bearing on the case is an observation that GunkelEinleitung, p. 226): "It is rather striking that the wishes [Wuensche] against the enemy outnumber the prayers against him about two to one."

Therefore we arrive at the conclusion that the sharp pronouncements against the writers of imprecatory passages that are encountered are quite out of place ("spirit of vengeance," "incandescent hate," and many others). It is rather surprising that the New Testament has striking points of similarity in the conduct of exemplary individuals, whose course of conduct has always been regarded as being model. What Paul says about Alexander the coppersmith in 2Ti 4:14 comes under this head (an alternate reading makes this optative rather than future). Paul before Annas (Ac 23:2) speaks rather sharply in the vein of the psalmists. What Peter speaks against Simon Magus (Ac 8:20) is no benediction.

Certainly, imprecations should be resorted to with the utmost of discretion in our days. Sampey's remarks (ISBE, 2494) have much of wisdom in them: 'We ought to use the imprecatory psalms in the light of our Lord's teaching. We cannot pronounce curses on our personal enemies. This heavy artillery may be turned upon the saloon, the brothel, and the gambling hell, though we must not forget to pray fortthe conversion of the persons who are engaged in these lines of business."


It is true that altogether too much was read into the psalms under this head in times past. When St. Augustine in his Expositions on the Psalms regarded practically all psalms as Messianic he was, indeed, carrying a New Testament approach beyond the limits that the facts warrant. The same tendency is found even down through the age of the Reformation. But the reaction that has set in in our day has veered over to the other extreme. Several quotations may make clear what we have in mind. As Gunkel sums up the situation (Einleitung, p. 330) he surely goes beyond what we can accept when he claims: "At the same time it becomes apparent that the eschatology of the psalms offers no Messianic features of a sort such as bygone generations have erroneously sought to find." If he had meant this only in the sense that the psalms which are clearly eschatological often or commonly describe the Messianic age without making specific mention of the Messiah Himself, we could have accepted the statement. But a further statement of his (p. 361) eliminates this possibility: "Furthermore, the hope for a Messiah is unknown. The psalms know nothing of a human deliverer-king [Heilskoenig]. Their ultimate expectation knows only of acts of Yahweh, only of a future kingdom of the God of Israel." McCullough (Interpreter's Bible, p. 13) has summed up the more commonly accepted opinion of our day when he says: "The older view that the psalmists refer to an anointed personage [the Messiah] who would have a share in bringing in Israel's future blessedness, has had to be abandoned, for it is now generally recognised that the anointed one of the psalms (Ps 2:2; 18:50; 20:6; etc.) is a reigning Hebrew king. This salvation of Israel may be connected with the destruction of the wicked . . ." Though we are ready to grant that the reference to the Lord's "anointed" is, indeed, to the reigning king of Israel, that matter is not disposed of by this mere claim. For the New Testament sees something Messianic, e.g., in Ps 8; 16; 22; 31:5; 69:21; 110. This factor cannot be lightly disposed of by assuming that the New Testament writers merely used suitable expressions that they happened to find in the psalms as fitting expressions of the truth they were attempting to put into words. They themselves attribute the prophetic element to the writers of the old covenant.

What, then, becomes of some of these psalms in the light of such modern interpretation? Ps 45 becomes a wedding hymn; Ps 72 is a psalm composed on the occasion of the accession of a king. But the language is then seen to be all too colorful. Kings are spoken of in terms that are all too extravagant. Yes, and this is condoned as being patterned after the prevailing court style of court poets of that time as Babylonian and Egyptian models indicate. However, such an interpretation poses far more problems than it solves, especially in the area of the inspiration of the Scriptures.

We cannot accept this approach, especially since such definite indications of the great hope placed into the Davidic line by the Lord were well known in Israel and would, no doubt, have found definite reference made to them in the psalms. Ps 110 (cf., Ps 132) would have to be put into this category. Furthermore, the thought of a Suffering Servant could easily have arisen and found expression in the days of David, when he, God's faithful servant, was made to suffer so much, in spite of his innocence, under Saul. Ps 22 gives expression to this aspect of Messianic truth. For the features of this psalm far transcend the actual experiences of David.

It is true that some psalms are prophetic only by way of type (Ps 8 and Ps 118). It is true that some words are used in the New Testament by way of accommodation (Ps 31:5). But the strictly prophetic element we believe finds expression in Ps 22; 45; 72; 110.

All of this still leaves us with the net result that the Messianic element is by far not as common in the Psalter as we might have supposed. It is also true that the royal psalms (like 93-99) do have a feature of the eschatological in them and do describe the ultimate kingdom of Yahweh. Surely they posed a problem for their day. For how could an Old Testament reader recognize at this early date that what Yahweh did would be done by Him who was co-equal with Him-the Lord's Christ? But the same feature appears very frequently in the words of many of the prophets who refer to the Messianic age without specifically bringing the Messiah into the picture. We venture to say that to some extent the Messianic age so obviously involved the Messiah that this fact often went without saying in the prophetic pronouncements.

And lastly, is it not obvious that so deep and involved a subject would before the breaking of the day of the Messiah be fraught with innumerable problems?


UNDER THIS HEAD we should like to discuss certain doctrines of the psalms that have in one way or another become a problem, either already from the earliest times or else because of more recent theological developments.


There is, first of all, the question, Do the psalms concede the existence of other gods? This problem is raised by the form of statement used in the psalms, e. g., Ps 77:13, "What god is great like our God?" or 86:8: "There is none like Thee among the gods, O Lord." On the face of it the statements could be interpreted either way. They could mean: There is none like the Lord among those commonly designated as gods; or they could actually give expression to the view that the other gods had existence but were far inferior to the Lord in power and in influence. In the popular belief of Israel the latter view would quite likely sometimes have been held. But our concern is with the revealed religion as it was held by true prophets and the body of the faithful in Israel. That the view prevailed that "gods" meant the entities that the heathen thought had real existence whereas in reality they did not exist appears most clearly from a passage like Ps 96:4b, Ps 96:5. Where the familiar form of statement appears first: "He [the Lord] is to be feared above all gods," the next line states with utmost clearness what the actual facts of the case are: "For all the gods of the peoples are idols," a term being used that involves the root "worthless."


Do the psalmists accept and approve of it? Or are they enemies of sacrificial worship? An array of passages can be rallied in support of either side of the question. The fact that sacrifices may on occasion be very proper and pleasing to God appears from statements like Ps 4:5; 20:3; 50:8; 51:19. Again there are words that seem to support the contrary opinion such as, Ps 40:6; 50:13; 51:16f; 69:30f. This is obviously one of those cases where there are two sides to a matter. What makes the difference is the spirit and attitude of the man that brings sacrifice. If the proper attitude of the heart is in evidence-true humility and reverence for God, true devotion, utter sincerity-and where the sacrifice then expresses what the heart truly feels, there sacrifices may be brought by a man, and they will be entirely acceptable to the Lord. They are visible tokens of deeper things. But where the sacrifice is given in a perfunctory spirit, where it is offered in an attempt to pacify God by exter-nalistic acts that are devoid of the spirit of true penitence and devotion, there sacrifice may become an abomination to the Lord and be classified as "the sacrifice of fools," Ec 5:1. The prophets and the psalm writers do not condemn sacrifices outright. They do not attribute true validity to all sacrifices that are offered. They know that in this field right and wrong attitudes have been in evidence since the days of Cain and Abel. Perhaps no statement went more nearly to the root of the matter than the declaration of David: "The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise," Ps 51:17.


Over against current opinions abroad in our day attention should at least be drawn to a distinctive position that the Israelite took over against Yahweh as far as the forces operative in nature are concerned. Whereas men of our day take a somewhat mechanistic view of nature and regard it as the play of forces that are at work of themselves according to what we are pleased to call the laws of nature, producing and regulating everything of and by themselves and often leaving God entirely out of the picture, the writers of Sacred Scripture with one accord regard the Lord as \ all things great and small that transpire in the broad realm of what we call nature. Perhaps nowhere does this thought find clearer expression than in Ps 65:9f. where even the watering of the earth, the settling of the ridges and their softening with rain are attributed to direct action of God. In this respect the view that the psalms hold of nature is all of one piece. The marvel of God's work is that it covers even areas such as these and is vast and comprehensive beyond our boldest thoughts. The psalms abound in this approach to the realm of nature.


In this broad field with its many ramifications we should like to stress one aspect of the case only, and that is the fact, commonly found in the Psalter, that what happens in history is attributed to the doing of Yahweh, particularly the constructive achievements that are of historical importance. It is well known from the historical books that Israel dispossessed the Canaanites and took their land. There is an obvious • point of truth in that statement. But the deeper approach says that the i Lord with His "own hand" did drive out the nations and plant His people; it was not "their own sword" that proved effective; it was His] right hand and arm that did it (Ps 44:1-3). There is a greater force at [ work in history than mighty armies and armaments. The same approach is to be seen in Ps 111:6 on the same issue, for it was the Lord who was at that time "giving them the heritage of the heathen." As one of the deeper truths of history a fact like this should not be overlooked. It belongs to the things that are prominent in the Psalter. Many more passages could be cited.


Is there a sound and wholesome universalistic outlook in the psalms or are the people of God so preoccupied with themselves that their thoughts never turn in the direction of what God may mean for the nations or what His plans and purposes for them are? Quite obviously the truth that Israel stands in a covenant relation with God receives due attention and is properly appreciated. We need cite no proof for this fact. But for the true Israelite this singular preferment and unique blessing that Israel enjoys do not make for selfishness and indifference toward the lot and destiny of the other nations on the face of the earth.1 Of the abundance of material that might be cited under this head we would draw attention to a few typical utterances. In Ps 66 the nation is exhorted to sing the praises of the God who delivered His people from the bondage of Egypt, doing mighty works in the process (Ps 66:5-7). But the opening word of the psalm already bids the whole earth? take part in this glorification of the God. Again in Ps 66:8 the "peoples" are admonished to give praise for what God has done in behalf of His people. There is implied the thought that what God did do for the good of Israel will somehow work out for the good of the other nations on the face of the earth. Therefore by way of anticipation they are to begin to praise even before it becomes apparent how they, too, will profit by what was done. A similar note is struck in Ps 67, except that the approach is the reverse: God is asked to bless Israel in order that His "way may be known upon earth, [His] saving power among all nations." Ps 100 may also be noted in this connection.


Nowhere does a fully developed doctrine of sin appear in the psalms as must be obvious to all who read them. But there are indications of a deep sense of sin as appearing at certain times and under certain circumstances. What is at issue under this head is best indicated by reference to the so-called "penitential psalms." These usually include the following: Ps 6; 32; 51; 106; 130; 143. In not every instance in these psalms is there an express confession of sin. A deep sense of being under the wrath of God, however, appears to be common to all. There is also the conviction that only God, who has been sinned against, can deliver man from the serious situation into which he has plunged himself. Each of these psalms has something distinctive about it as the exposition shall attempt to show. Unique about the group of psalms as a whole is the manner in which sin is seen to bring a man under the wrath of God. That wrath is to the psalmist a terrible reality. Attention is drawn to this matter chiefly because from time to time the reality of sin and its damning results are treated all too lightly-a mistake that Biblical revelation, also in the psalter, is not guilty of.


On this subject there is quite a bit of confused thinking at the present time. It all seems to be the indirect outgrowth of the fact that interpreters have begun to understand a bit more clearly the aim of the book of Job. The book of Job is among other things also a protest against a narrow doctrine of retribution as it sometimes appears in its applied form. The view protested against is to contend that the good that is done by a man invariably leads to obvious rewards and tokens of divine good pleasure; on the other hand, the sin that is done brings down upon the head of the sinner divine retribution. The particularly vicious result is the conclusion that may in everyday living be drawn from this view. A man may conclude that, because one prospers, he must have done what is right; again, because of what he suffers he must be adjudged as having done wickedly, no matter how righteous his life may appear, fhis last conclusion can be particularly wrong. Now comes the erroneous conclusion drawn from all that precedes; even the principle tormerly held by many that God rewards them that do His will and punishes all who fail to do it must be regarded as wrong if not even vicious.

There is abundant evidence that, for all that, God does still to a very large degree deal thus with His children: as a general rule He rewards the good that is done and punishes the evil. Our mistake is to make this general observation absolute. But we are not the ones to determine how! God in individual instances applies the principle as such.

Therefore two truths must be held fast: a) the general validity the rule as such; b) the application of the principle to specific instances which is, however, God's prerogative alone and will be exercised " Him at times in ways that we are not able fully to understand. Ps 16::9-11 is a beautiful statement of the application of this principle as frequently see it applied in the course of the lives of godly men. Ps 17 indicates that a man may rightly anticipate that this rule will be folj lowed by God, especially Ps 17:15. Ps 39:6f. shows that a man may rightly hope that God will deal graciously with him who has put trust in Him. The thought of rewards that have been earned and served is, however, not to be found in a passage like this. Ps 49 considers one angle of the case and develops it at length. It shows that seeming prosperity of the wicked is not to be thought of as final, for the decision lies in God's hand, and it is well known according to what rule he works. Ps 73 deals quite thoroughly with an aspect of the ca that particularly disturbed the psalmist at one time in his life-the prosperity of the wicked" (Ps 73:3). Ps 73:23-28 are a glowing description of the ultimate rewards that a righteous man may confidently anticipate. Ps 112 is a statement of the case that is wholly on the positive side the ledger. It is true that a self-righteous man may look to the rewa rather than to the Lord, and so the whole principle involved may degraded. But an important truth is expressed by this psalm also, which even Jesus Himself underscored in various ways in the course of His teaching (see Mt 19:29).


WHAT THE PSALMS have to offer on this score may prove both difficult and disappointing to the average reader as he begins to reflect the matter. The difficulty is that from one point of view the passages involved seem to indicate that there is no hope for the time after death; there is no future life. That will naturally prove disappointing because we usually approach the Psalter with the expectation that it is rich with comfort for every situation, including the comfort of life after death. Incidentally, the material involved is quite meager. But passages like Ps 6:5 will disturb men-"In death there is no remembrance of Thee, in Sheol who can give Thee praise?" That seems to annul the hope of 1ife after death. Of the same sort are passages like Ps 88:10; 30:9; 115:17.

Several thoughts should be noted in coming to grips with this issue. First of all, it must be admitted that the revelation concerning the hereafter did not burn half as brightly in the Old Testament as it does in the New. Therefore it could well happen that, when doubt and distress dragged a man's hope down, he gave utterance to thoughts which do not always express the normal hope of Israel. If, then, that hope is not as clear as is ours, statements will be made that are unsatisfactory. Apparently in the passage quoted above the writer was thinking only in terms of that dead body that was laid into the grave before his eyes. When we are such we can no longer remember God. Such a dead person cannot sing God's praises from the grave. This is not so much a denial of the hope of everlasting life as a failure to see things that cannot be seen any too well even by the most enlightened faith of that day. In other words, grief sometimes momentarily deprived men of the little light that they had on this subject. But the utterance of sad bereavement is not always the utterance of normal faith.

But fortunately there are in the psalms better words than these. Sometimes men grappled with their doubt and grief and held fast to the hand of the Lord and came through their difficulty with a pronouncement of faith which, for that age, is downright amazing. One of these instances is recorded in Ps 16:9-11. Keeping close to the Lord and realizing that God will not forsake him if he does not forsake God, the writer carries the logic of faith through to a brilliant conclusion, every part of which is valid. He anticipates that God cannot abandon his body (Ps 16:9). He further concludes that it is contrary to the nature of God simply to give His child over to Sheol (Ps 16:11). There is a "path of life" which must be the very antithesis of the path of death; there is an abiding in the presence of God which involves "fullness of joy" and "pleasures for evermore."

This is the Old Testament faith in the hereafter at its best. Similar are the triumphant conclusions of Ps 73:23-26. Whether all of Israel in the Old Testament always lived on this high level of hope is quite another question. But, for that matter, does the New Testament Christian always hold the faith in its fullest implications?


WHO CAN sufficiently extol the merits and the value of the Psalter? Many eloquent words have been written on the subject. Let us try to summarize some of the good things that have been said.

Luther, in a manner typical of him, asserted that these hymns enable us to look directly into the heart of God's saints. Every man who has sought to expound the psalms agrees with this testimony.

One may well waver between the use of two descriptive terms: in! the psalms we certainly have a hymnal, but we just as certainly have a prayer book. Which deserved the preference at the time of composition and which in the course of later usage of the book has not yet been fully determined. But it is certain that we have here a large collection of formulated prayers, almost every one of which is calculated to be used as such (with the obvious exception of psalms like Ps 1). This might give pause to those who advocate the exclusive use of free prayers as alone being acceptable in the sight of God.

There does not seem to be any situation in life for which the Psalter does not provide light and guidance. Thus we are struck by the fact,: oft noted in other connections, that there is really nothing that is new to life under the sun. We have yet to hear of men who have turned for guidance to the Psalter and have not found it. This may be partly due to the fact that the tone of this book is always stimulating. Or it may be because the insights and the comforts of the psalms are always s" much to the point. They are not the fruit of abstract meditation. The did not grow out of the study of the scholar. They were born out " real-life situations. They are often wet with the tears and the blood of the writer.

Then they have a peculiarly enduring quality. Frequent use does not wear them thin. The more familiar they become, the more they ar loved. That is, of course, the mark of all true literature, but doubly the mark of the psalms.

This again may be due to the fact that the psalms continually carry the reader into the immediate presence of God. They do not refer to Him in the abstract. God is not a God of the distance to the psalmist. All the psalms were prayed on the steps of the throne of mercy. The light that emanates from that presence somehow gives light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Besides, the psalms have the happy faculty of stimulating our own private prayers and of fructifying them to an unusual degree.

Oftentimes the psalms become the superlative utterance of our deepest needs. This may sometimes work in such a fashion that psalms that have long lain dormant suddenly break into life and become mea ingful for us. At such times they strike us almost as if they had be providentially created for our own individual use by the wise providence of God.



Augustine, Expositions on the Book of Psalms, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff, The Christian Literature Company, New York, 1888.

Butterwieser, Moses, The Psalms, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1938.

Briggs, Charles Augustus and Emilie Grace, The Book of Psalms, The International Critical Commentary, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1909.

Calvin, John, In Librum Psalmorum Commentarlus (Latin), Gustav Eichler, Berlin, 1836.

Creager (Harold L.) and Alleman (Herbert C.) The Psalms, Old Testament Commentary, The Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia, 1948.

Delitzsch, Franz, A Commentary on the Book of Psalms (3 vols.), translated from the 1883 edition by David Eaton and James Du-guid, Funk and Wagnalls, New York, (no date).

Hengstenberg, E. W., Kommentar ueber die Psalmen (4 vols.) 2. edition, Ludwig Oehmigke, Berlin, 1849.

Kessler, Hans, Die Psalmen, Strack und Zoeckler Kommentar, C. H. Beck, Munich, 1899.

Kirkpatrick, A. F., The Book of Psalms, Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, University Press, Cambridge, 1906.

Kittel, Rudolf, Die Psalmen, Sellins Kommentar zum Alten Testament, Deichert, Leipzig, 1914.

Koenig, Eduard, Die Psalmen, Bertelsman, Guetersloh, 1927.

Leslie, Elmer A., The Psalms, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York, 1949.

Leslie, Elmer A., Psalms I-LXXII, Shelton, W. A., Psalms LXXII-CL, The Abingdon Bible Commentary, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, New York, 1929.

Luther, Martin, Auslegungen ueber die Psalmen, Walch, reprinted by Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Vol. IV, 1895.

Maclaren, Alexander, The Psalms, in the Expositors' Bible, Hodder and Stoughton, New York, (no date). An admirable commentary; keeping an open mind on critical issues, but not too readily swayed by new and novel opinions. It penetrates deeply into the spirit of the Psalms.

McCullough, W. Stewart, The Book of Psalms, Interpreter's Bible, Vol. IV, Abingdon Press, New York, 1955.

Moll, Carl Bernhard, Der Psalter, Velhagen and Klassing, Lange's homiletisches Bibelwerk, Bielefeld and Leipzig, 1869. "

Oesterley, E.O.E., The Psalms, S.P.C.K., London, 1953.

Schmidt, Hans, Die Psalmen, Eissfeldt's Handbuch zum Alten Test ment, Mohr, Tuebingen, 1934.

Noetscher, Friedrich, Die Psalmen, Echter Bibel, Echter, Wuerzburg, 1953

Vilmar, A.F.C., Der Psalter, Collegium Biblicum, Bertelsman, Guetersloh, 1882.

Weiser, Artur, Die Psalmen, Goettinger Bibelwerk, Vandenhoeck at Rupprecht, Goettingen, 1950.

2. OTHER HELPS Gunkel, Herman, Einleitung in die Psalmen (completed by Begrich) Goettingen, 1933.

Mowinckel, Sigmund, Psalmenstudien, Kristiania, 1921. Walker, Rollin H., The Modern Message of the Psalms, New York, 1938.


ARV-American Standard Version, 1901.

BDB-Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, by Fr Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, Boston and New York, 1907

Buhl-Hebraeisches Woerterbuch, Gesenius, Edited by Frants Buhl, Leipzig, 1905.

GK-Gesenius Kautzsch, Hebr. Grammatik, 27th Edition, Leipzig, 1902

JBL-Journal of Biblical Literature.

K (or KB)-Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, 1951, by Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner.

KJ-King James Version.

KS-Lehrgebaeude der hebraeischen Sprache, II Syntax, Eduard, Koenig, 1897.

KW-Hebraeisches und aramaeisches Woerterbuch zum Alten Testament, Eduard Koenig, Leipzig, 1922.

RSV-Revised Standard Version, 1952.

ZATW-Zeitschrift fuer Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft.


The verses of the Psalms are always numbered according to the numbering of the English and the American Versions.


Ps 1


THE Book of Psalms opens with two psalms without headings. Judging from their general character, it would appear that they were prefixed to the book with the specific purpose of emphasizing certain fundamentals that are of importance in approaching this book. It is plain to those who read the Old Testament Scriptures that law and prophecy are fundamental to the spiritual life of Israel. One is the basis, the other is the essential superstructure. One lays the foundation, the other builds on what is thus laid.

The first two psalms touch respectively on these two points, emphasizing what the essential attitude on both issues ought to be. Ps 1 can rightly be said to exemplify the proper attitude toward the law of the Lord. Ps 2, as it were, gives the essence of prophecy and indicates what place it plays in the life of the true Israel. He who has grasped these two issues aright is well on the way that leads to a right reading of the Psalter.

It is true that the authorship of the second psalm can be determined by a New Testament reference-Ac 4:25. This passage scarcely refers to the Book of Psalms by an inaccurate metonomy which substitutes David for the book of which he wrote the major part, inasmuch as David is specifically referred to as "our father." But to base any further conclusions on this fact in trying to determine the authorship of the first psalm is quite unwarranted. Just as problematical is the claim that this psalm must be dated somewhere in the Greek period. This claim is based on the unprovable contention that the whole collection of psalms was first completed in the Greek era, and that this first psalm was prefixed after the rest of the collection had been finished. Besides, as Taylor reminds us: "It is not necessary to suppose that the psalm was written to supply an introduction to the Psalter."

With at least as much propriety it may be contended that the psalm could have been written in the days of Solomon. Had that wise king made a collection of psalms composed by his godly father he might well have written a preface such as the first psalm, embodying in it the godly instruction received from his father. The figures employed would be like those employed by Solomon in Proverbs; the didactic character of the psalm is like the tone of Proverbs; and Solomon certainly had the literary qualifications for such a work. But all such claims rest on too little evidence. With a far greater show of reason it may be contended that our psalm must have been written before Jer 17:8 or Eze 47:12. For these two verses employ the figure of the tree planted by the side of streams of water in a manner! so closely akin to that of this psalm that the conclusion is almost) inevitable that one is quoting the other. Usually, however, the quota-^ tion becomes more detailed by further usage, rather than being abbreviated in the process. So we might with some show of reason contend for the priority of the psalm. But even this conclusion is not binding An interesting Egyptian parallel is found in Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, p. 422.

We need not be afraid of this psalm as though it opened the venerable Book of Psalms with a distorted statement of the nature of true happiness, as not a few interperters contend (Briggs, Kittel, Butter wieser et al.). Since the initial statement has to do with a strong aversion to sin in all its forms and counsels that the individual consciously shun the companionship of all ungodly persons, that counsel may, indeed, be carried out in a spirit of self-righteousness and lovelessness; but certainly Ps 1 never taught anyone such an attitude.

Again the charge has been raised that the study of the law, as her advocated, savors of a narrow-minded bookishness, which esteer the life of the student of the law as the only true life and despises other occupations as inferior and the common people, who know not the law, as accursed (cf., Joh 7:49). Such a charge, however, first distorts what is a sober and sound counsel and then brands the distortion as unwholesome. The Jews did, indeed, at a later time take such unreasonable attitudes and advocate such extreme positions. But is not the position of this harmless and beautiful psalm.

So much is obviously true: this psalm does not attempt to everything that can be said on the subject of the truly happy life, does not give an exhaustive treatment of the case. Its presentation ma rather be regarded as suggestive; and, if the author only be given benefit of the doubt, no one would venture to treat this little gem of j psalm critically. Oesterley covers the case when he remarks that sue omissions are "in what is in the nature of a preface, a matter of common sense."

Again the truth pointed out by the psalm is not to be pressed with such extreme emphasis as though some invariable criterion of godliness had been presented to enable men to classify all human beings conveniently as to whether they stood right in the sight of God or not, and this criterion-mere outward prosperity or success. For in the first place, it is a misinterpretation of the psalm to assume that it taught such a purely external view of religion and godliness. Prosperity certainly involves more than visible success. But on the other hand, as Hengstenberg aptly points out, when a man, in spite of his faithful adherence to the Word of the Lord, discovers that prosperity still seems to be far from him, let the observation that he makes call him to repentance. For there are none who are so wholly devoted to the Word and the will of the Lord as to be able to claim that a full measure of prosperity is due to them as their reward. Our best endeavors in this respect are marked by manifest imperfections; and so we ourselves, by our very shortcomings, prevent the full measure of divine favor from becoming ours. Weiser says very aptly: "It means a strong, optimistic faith when one believes that a godly man cannot fail to meet with success in all that he undertakes . . . but it is a dangerous thing when a calculating doctrine of retribution grows out of this approach."

Though we rightly regard the Psalter as a prayer book we need not be alarmed by the observation that this psalm is not specifically a prayer. Though it lacks the formal characteristic of direct address to God it may yet be regarded as a prayer in the broader sense in that it presents reflections made, as it were, in the very presence of God. Most readers of this psalm would not notice that it is not strictly a prayer, unless this fact were specially drawn to their attention. It must, therefore, be freely conceded that, from one point of view, this is a didactic poem in the finest spirit of the Book of Proverbs.

The theme of the psalm may be stated as above, The Truly Happy Man.

The attitude of the author is one of true enthusiasm for his subject. He feels keenly about the qualities that he here describes and about the fortunate position and the goodly prospects of a godly man.

Ps 1:1. O how happy is the person who has not shaped his conduct after the principles of the ungodly,
Nor taken his stand in the way of sinners,
Nor taken his seat in the assembly of scoffers!

Ps 1:2. But it is in the law of the Lord that he takes his delight;
And on His law he keeps pondering day and night.

Ps 1:3. And he will be like a tree planted by the side of streams of water,
That yields its fruit in its season;
Its leaves also do not wither;
And whatsoever he undertakes, succeeds.

Ps 1:4. Such is not the case with the ungodly,
But they are like the chaff which the wind scatters.

Ps 1:5. On this account the ungodly shall not be able to maintain themselves when the judgment comes,
Nor sinners, in the congregation of the righteous.

Ps 1:6. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous;
But the way of the ungodly is headed toward destruction.

(Note: For the benefit of the student using only the English text number the verses according to the English version.)

The very happy state of the man whose life has the right roots is about to be described. The Hebrew expresses the superlative by plural of intensity: "happiness of the man." This gives the statement the force of an exclamation, which would be very nearly approximat by our: "O how very happy is the man!" For the plural ('ashrey) literally means the full measure of the happy circumstances. Very obviously the word "man" that follows lays no emphasis whatever the gender of the word as some mistakenly claim. To remove all possibility of misunderstanding, we have ventured to render the word "person."

It need not strike us as strange that this happiness is first pictured in terms of negatives-what such a man will not do. For, as has been rightly observed, wrong conduct in most manifold forms surrounds us on every hand, and we are continually under necessity of taking position over against it. In other words, sins abound and must be shunned. For the same reason the Ten Commandments are primarily negatives. This, however, in no sense lessens their value.

Three types of sinners, three forms of expression of sin, and three places of such expression are now specified. It is true, these clauses are presented in an ascending climax. But no particular importance is to be attached to this climax. It does briefly indicate that, when a man once begins to live in the company of men who are separated from God, both will find themselves becoming involved ever more deeply. But far heavier emphasis is laid on the fact that in his aversion to sin a godly man shuns every form of it at all tunes and in all places. Obviously, strong attachment to the law begets a correspondingly strong aversion toward evil. He who cannot sturdily hate the bad will not have much love for the good.

The word that we have translated "shaped his conduct" is really the Hebrew word for "walked." But since 'atsath follows, literally "counsel" as KJ has it, but actually meaning the "plan" or the "principles" according to which men live, we had to translate the Hebrew verb accordingly. The wicked go under the name of resha'im, a word coming from a root which means those who are "loose" and so "abnormal" or "wicked." This is a telling description of wickedness: getting loose from God and falling into evil.

"The way of sinners" obviously means their manner of living. The "sinners" themselves are chatta'im, men who have "missed the mark" which they should have reached, which mark is outlined in the law of their God. When a man "takes his stand" in such a "way" he is committed to the nefarious way of life that marks all who are walking in it.

The third class of manifest sinners alluded to are "the scoffers," the men who have rejected whatever the Word of God had to offer and who now seek to fortify themselves in their own thinking by openly deriding what they rejected-a~self-defense mechanism. Besides, since they seek the moral support of those who are of one mind with them they associate with what may be classified as "the assembly of the scoffers." Birds of a feather flock together. Mockery and ridicule of that which is holy have often drawn men together in this unholy cause. Indeed, the original calls it "the seat" (moshabh) of these mockers, but obviously this term signifies their assembly rather than a chair. Of the three classes referred to, this last has plainly advanced farthest away from God. Also, in the case of this last class the necessity of parting company with this group requires no further demonstration.


Ps 1:1. O how happy is the person who has not shaped his conduct after the principles of the ungodly,
Nor taken his stand in the way of sinners,
Nor taken his seat in the assembly of scoffers!

The noun 'etsah, from the root ya'ats, does primarily mean "counsel," then the "assembly" where such counsel is formulated; then it comes to mean in a more general way the "tendency" displayed by any given counsel, and so ultimately can come to mean "principles" as we have rendered it.

By a rather unusual device this verse conveys the thought that the virtues depicted in Ps 1:1 and Ps 1:2 are to be thought of as embodying the whole course of a man's life. In the first verse three perfects are used: halakh, 'amadh, and yashabh. Being perfects, they convey the idea that a fixed mental attitude on the issues here involved is under consideration. Then, continuing the same description, we encounter the imperfect yehgeh ("he keeps pondering"). That brings the description up to the present and may be said to involve all of the future of a man's life as well.

Psalm 1:2

Ps 1:2. But it is in the law of the Lord that he takes his delight;
And on His law he keeps pondering day and night.

The positive statement of the case now presents the worth-while content of the life and character of the man who is being described. The strong adversative (ki-im) sets this aspect of the case into bolder relief. The inversion of terms in the Hebrew word order places the thought of the law into the emphatic position. We have sought to retain this emphasis in our translation by the arrangement: "But it is in the law of the Lord that he takes delight." Torah ("law") must, however, be carefully analyzed as to its meaning. Our familiar understanding of this word misleads us. We think first of the Ten Commandments. But the word obviously refers to at least the whole Pentateuch, in which both words of law as well as words of gospel content abound. So "law" is closely synonymous with the "Word of God." For this usage see: Jos 1:7; 2Ki 17:13; 21:8; Ps 78:5; etc.

In this law the man that is being described "takes his delight." It is to him not a troublesome and unwelcome fetter; it is not a set of hard restraints. It is a joy for him to learn and to do the demands of the law. For with emphasis the second half of the verse repeats that it is upon this same law that "he keeps pondering day and night." Obviously not an unwholesome absorption with the law is under consideration but a healthy interest in it and a knowledge of its real content, which continually influence and affect the man so devoted to this holy treasure. The verb "ponder" (yehgeh} does, indeed, mean "moan, hum, utter, speak, muse," but all meanings involve the same process. For the man is pictured as reading over texts of this law to himself. This half-aloud reading and rereading are really the process of musing or meditating as it may be practiced in the Orient. But to make such meditation unhealthy absorption lays unintended meaning into the words. Or have it signify pure meditation that has no practical results is equallly unnatural and an obvious distortion of the intended meaning.

Thm far the true root of the godly man's life has been viewed. Now in Ps 1:3 and Ps 1:4 the fruits of such a life are vividly shown.

Psalm 1:3

Ps 1:3. And he will be like a tree planted by the side of streams of water,
That yields its fruit in its season;
Its leaves also do not wither;
And whatsoever he undertakes, succeeds.

We have departed from the familiar "and he shall be" of this verse and rendered "and he will be." For nothing in the original indicates that a promise is intended as to future success. The verb embodies a mere statement: Such a man, so rooted in the law, will be fruitful. The common Scriptural figure of a flourishing tree is employed (cf., Job 8:16-17; Ps 52:8; 92:12-13; Isa 44:4; etc.). There is something monumental about thriving trees that have stood long regularly borne their fruit. To the Oriental the idea of being planted near abundant supplies of water is more impressive because of almost universal desiccation of these lands. The chief point of comparison involved is that such a tree is healthy ("its leaves do no wither") and yields fruit. Such a man's life yields something worhwhile, of use to himself and others. But essential for the good work produced was the basic relation to the Word of God.

The figure used is abandoned in the last clause of the verse it is said: "and whatsoever he undertakes succeeds." This is meant absolutely only in so far as the devotion to the Word is absolute. But generally speaking, it will be obvious in such a life that God is crowning the man's endeavors with success. Tokens of divine favor abound, man is blessed and is a blessing. This tree stands, therefore, as a momument to God's faithfulness. Weiser deserves to be quoted here: this point the poet is simply standing before the fundamental principle of divine theology: 'A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit.' "


Ps 1:3. The opening construction (wehayah) has been faulted as being wrong, or a late construction, or a mere mechanical quotation from Jer 17:8. But it appears that KS has demonstrated that we have here the conversive "and" in the explicative sense, i.e., "and so," (K.S. 369g). Ps 1:3 merely unfolds what is involved in the supreme happiness that is claimed for the righteous man in Ps 1:1.

Shathul need not be taken in the exclusive sense of "transplanted." All planting of trees involves a transplanting. Therefore "planted" is not inaccurate. Of a similar nature is the translation of pelegh, which some interpreters claim dare be understood only in the sense of artificial watercourses because the root palagh means "to cut." But natural watercourses also cut their way and so meet the requirements of the root involved. And surely, a tree that stands by a natural stream or group of streams meets the requirements of the picture as fully as does the one that stands by the side of irrigation ditches or canals. Therefore "streams of water" is an adequate translation.

Yatsliach, being Hifil, is pressed by some commentators as though only the meaning "he makes to succeed" were here permissible. But that translation emphasizes what the statement in question did not want to put into the foreground at all-success resulting from human initiative. By using the simple meaning "succeeds," in which the distinctive Hifil feature is lost, the emphasis on the divine causality is made to appear the stronger. A similar use of the word is found in passages like Ge 39:2; Jg 18:5; 1Ki 22:12.

Psalm 1:4

Ps 1:4. Such is not the case with the ungodly,
But they are like the chaff which the wind scatters.

By way of contrast the description might have continued will reference to a scrawny, crippled, blasted tree that is in every way reverse of the one just pictured. Instead, a stronger contrast is obtained by selecting the most useless of the elements to be found in the vegetable world and generally known as such in times of old-chaff. For the same figure see Ps 35:5; Job 21:18; Isa 29:5; 41:2; Ho 13:2; Mt 3:12.

Of the various names employed above for the wicked man, the first is chosen-"the ungodly"-the man who is loose and flaccid and, therefore, wicked. It may seem that the verdict is a bit too harsh when throughout the psalm separation from God and wickedness are viewed as synonymous. But experience has shown the correctness of the observation. If patent wickedness does not result from such a separation sooner, it usually comes later. Of these ungodly ones the verse says very tersely, in literal translation: "not so the ungodly." This very brevity seems to indicate a kind of reticence about saying too much regarding persons whose fate is bound to be most unfortunate. This brevity was not appreciated by the Greek translation which repeats the "not so." This repetition is followed by the Vulgate. Our rendering merely attempts to make idiomatic English: "Such is not the case with the ungodly."

The scattering of the chaff involves a more picturesque figure than the average reader supposes. In the Holy Land the threshing floors are on elevated ground, and the mixture of straw, stubble, chaff, and grain is taken off the heap left by threshing and tossed into the steady breeze of the moonlit night. The breeze does the winnowing, and the regular practice of the husbandman thereafter was either to burn the chaff with fire, if it was a sizable heap, or to let the wind dispose of it without further concern on his part. What a drastic picture of futility when life yields nothing more substantial than useless remains scattered so completely as not even to be found when sought! That this is ultimately the fate of the life divorced from God is not always apparent in every case in outward and tangible results or the lack of them. But to the eye of faith there is no other outcome possible or discernible. The brevity of the statements of the verse would seem to indicate that the author is not minded to dwell at any length on the unpleasant subject. But there is certainly not a trace of "spiteful spirit" here (Weiser).

In each of the two preceding sections of the psalm the two types of life were contrasted. The same procedure is followed in the third section which shows how a life that has the proper roots eventually ends.

Psalm 1:5

Ps 1:5. On this account the ungodly shall not be able to maintain themselves when the judgment comes,
Nor sinners, in the congregation of the righteous.

The opening words "on this account" are significant. A basic principle has just been presented, a principle that is operative continually and works itself out in history on every hand. Because this principle prevails, "on this account" the end of the ungodly man must be what it is.

The familiar phrase of the KJ, "shall not stand in the judgment," is most plainly a Hebraism. Its meaning is made clear by our translation: Such a one "shall not be able to maintain himself" or stand his ground when the judgment comes. Keeping the same figure, he shall be obliged to sit down or to retire in shame or confusion as one convicted of guilt.

But what "judgment" have we here? Though it may be true that throughout life those who have turned from God must experience many a setback and defeat in which they are not able to maintain themselves, even as in a broader sense the proverb has it: Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht ("The history of the world is the judgment of the world"), nevertheless, this word seems to refer primarily to one outstanding judgment which is the climax of them all, and whose verdicts are ultimate, the final judgment. By referring chiefly to the last great judgment the psalm merely cites the most outstanding example of how the ungodly will be dealt with. This judgment is the most drastic demonstration of their overthrow.

Parallel with this runs the statement that the sinners shall not be able to maintain themselves "in the congregation of the righteous." This brings another angle of the case into the picture. The "sinners" are, therefore, not to be thought of only as such who grind the ordinary standards of decency under their heel and live in flagrant shame and vice, but, it would almost seem, they are more frequently to be sought among men who try to maintain their place in "the congregation of the righteous." They are the group known as hypocrites. So strange are the manifold aspects of wickedness. But when the true congregation of the righteous is at the last established in the final judgment-of this also Eze 34:10-24 and Joe 2:32 speak-then the purge of the judgment will have removed these pretenders, and not a wicked one will be left in the assembly. Mt 13:36-43,47-50 describe this from the New Testament point of view.


5. The basic meaning of tsaddiq is to be entirely "normal." Nothing, of course, is quite so normal for a man as to walk in the precepts of the Lord.

Psalm 1:6

Ps 1:6. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous;
But the way of the ungodly is headed toward destruction.

Something was implied in Ps 1:5 but was not stated because it was so very obvious. It was the fact that the Great Judge who removes the evil elements from His congregation was none other than the Lord. The sixth verse elucidates this implication by showing why it was that the Lord did this. Thus the initial "for" is to be explained.

The "knowing" that is here spoken of obviously involves more than "knowing of or about." It must be more than an act of the intellect. It does involve interest in, and care for, the person known. Some interpreters, therefore, render the word, als einen Bekannten anerkennen, i.e., to recognize one as an acquaintance (K.W.) or, "take notice of, regard" (BDB). "Cares for" would be good colloquial English. This would then yield the thought: God regards with favor the course of such a one's life. And such favor on God's part is no empty thing. God Himself goes with such a one through life-so we might paraphrase the Hebrew idiom.

The other side of the matter is that "the way of the ungodly is headed toward destruction." We might think of the course of wicked as a path that becomes increasingly less clearly defined and finally loses itself in a swamp and morass. The psalm certainly ends on a sober note.

By standing first in the book and by depicting the character of a certain type of man at that point, this psalm certainly serves another purpose. Since throughout the Psalter it is the man of prayer who speaks, we are reminded at the very outset that such a man has very definite moral qualifications: he is pre-eminently a righteous man after the pattern of the one here described. It is as though the psalm said: Prayer involves definite moral obligations, and these obligations are what we are now about to outline.

Ps 1


Several textual changes are suggested rather generally. But when they are offered on the basis of improving the Hebrew meter, we are strongly of the opinion that mistaken notions as to what constitutes Hebrew meter are abroad, especially in all those cases where more or less extensive changes of the Hebrew text have to be made so that the psalms may conform to the metrical principles of the critic. On this score we reject the removal of the second torah in Ps 1:2 as well as the repetition of lo-khen in Ps 1:4. The other emendations suggested are trivial.

The suggestions to examine the psalm critically in the light of the higher truth of the New Testament, as they are offered at some length by Kittel, result chiefly from attributing a certain bias to the author of the psalm and then claiming that this bias is unwholesome. We insist that in each case the unwholesome meaning imputed to the writer does not actually lie in the statements as offered by the psalm.

Wholly inadequate are the reasons upon which the entire third verse is bracketed as a later interpolation. It neither breaks the Hebrew construction, as we have indicated above, nor interrupts the flow of thought; nor can it be demonstrated to have been taken over from Jeremiah at a late date. The reverse might rather be the case.

The sharpest criticisms come from Buttenwieser. He charges the editors who set this psalm as a preface to the Psalter with having shown "poor judgment." For in his opinion religion consists for the author "in minute observance of the law-moral and ceremonial alike." This position he rightly designates as a "barren view." But he seems unaware of the fact that the "law" may be taken in a much more constructive sense, and that delight in the law in that sense is anything but barren. Then to contrast the author's idea of religion with that of Jeremiah, as though Jeremiah had a much deeper insight into the true inwardness of religion, would certainly be a mistaken criticism, if, as we maintain above, Jeremiah (Jer 17:8) may well have been quoting from this psalm, giving his stamp of approval by his quotation, and adding the note of faith in his quotation as a note definitely implied in the word.

This has always been a psalm that was known and dearly beloved by the church of God. God's children have understood its fine truth and have guided themselves by its holy instruction. It fully merits its place as a fine portal through which we enter into the Psalter.

Psalm 2:1

Ps 2


WITH THE FULL confidence of faith this psalm sets forth the basic truth concerning the Messiah and His kingdom. Standing almost at the beginning of the Psalter, this psalm gives due prominence to the Messianic truth, which looms large in the psalms. So the truth about the man who is acceptable in the sight of the Lord (Ps 1) as well as the truth concerning the Savior (Ps 2) get well-deserved emphasis at the very beginning of the entire book.

Men have waxed enthusiastic with the enthusiasm of faith in their admiration of the excellent truth set forth by this psalm as well as the way in which this truth is formulated. Only a few of those who are more critically minded venture to speak belittling words.

The theme of the psalm deals with victory so plainly that we have been moved to select the above caption: The Ultimate Victory of the Lord's Anointed. This thought is presented in four strophes of three verses each, each strophe being a very distinct unit in itself. Not often is the outline of the thought of a psalm presented in so clear-cut a fashion.

The first strophe describes the bitter opposition of the enemies of the Lord's anointed. The second describes the calm assurance of the Lord Himself in the face of this opposition. The third presents the glorious divine ordinance appointed for the Lord's anointed. The last consists of an exhortation to the rebels to submit discreetly to Him who is their Lord.

In the highly dramatic presentation of the subject matter that this psalm offers the person speaking changes rather rapidly and without being formally introduced. At first the author-king himself speaks sketches the situation. In the third verse the rallying cry of the rebel is offered without being formally introduced as such. The poet go on to show how the Almightly reacts to the rebellion staged agains Him by man. His actual utterance closes the strophe even as the de laration of the rebels closed the first. This utterance of His, however; also is not formally introduced.

In the first line of the third strophe the author-king speaks only king and in the first person, revealing a decree by virtue of which holds his present prominent position. The actual words that the Lor spoke to him begin to be offered at the conclusion of the second line. The divine decree is then given as a quotation down to the end of strophe. In the last strophe the author falls back into his role of poet and teacher, instructing the rebels how to escape from the fate ir pending over them. The very last line is still spoken by the same teacher but appears in the form of a general observation that applies to the who are rebellious as well as to all men.

One fundamental question must be definitely settled before the interpreter can proceed with any measure of assurance. This is the question whether the psalm is directly Messianic, or typically Messianic or a mixture of both, beginning with some theocratic king and gradually expanding in thought until it has transcended the narrow bounds of the earthly type. From this approach it will appear clearly that cannot go along with those who insist that "the Messianic interpretation cannot be sustained" (Taylor).

By a psalm that is "directly Messianic" we have in mind one that from beginning to end an out-and-out prophecy about the Christ. He would then be the one against whom the rebels bestir themselves Ps 2:2. And about Him Ps 2:6 would speak. He Himself would be speaker in Ps 2:7, and to Him the decree following would be addres and to Him finally the submission counselled in the closing portion should be offered.

By a psalm that is "typically Messianic" we have in mind one refers to an actual situation which obtained in the days of some theocratic king of Judah, whose identity is to be established, if possible. He is the one who experiences the antagonism of the nations; he is one about whom the Lord has proclaimed a decree; he publishes this decree, which guarantees him great success; finally submission is offered to the Lord by submitting to this king who is God's appointee to his high office. He that submits to him thereby submits to the Lord. Throughout the psalm this earthly king would then serve as a type of Christ, not accidentally but by virtue of divine appointment. He would have experienced something on a lower level which is closely analogous to what the Messiah encounters on the higher level. He is not an accidental type but a divinely ordained type. He in his own person portrays the truth concerning the Messiah and knows that he does, and the writer presents him with this very thought in mind. This does not exclude the possibility that the author himself is this king.

We definitely hold that this second type of Messianic presentation is found in this psalm. The third we discard as an unsound mixture of the two just described. The human experience of the king prepared him for the higher truth which his own experience reflects. Humanly speaking, it would seem as if the initial experience that he had with rebellious nations brought to his attention the deeper truth as to the attitude of the nations the world over against the Lord and His Christ. What his reflections suggested, the Holy Spirit directed and clarified and raised to a higher potentiality so as to make it revealed truth of the highest sort concerning the Messiah. But this revelation had a natural background and foundation in human experience and so came to the author of the psalm at a time when he was prepared to receive this result and apprehend it as something which fitted into his thought-life, and for which he had been prepared sufficiently to appreciate what was involved.

We deem this matter of sufficient moment to pause to evaluate the arguments advanced in favor of the directly Messianic interpretation. Not that we deem such a type of prophecy impossible. We shall encounter a notable example of it in Ps 22 and elsewhere. But in this instance it behoves us to note that the arguments advanced in its support are inadequate.

Hengstenberg, who espouses the idea of a directly Messianic psalm most strongly, in this instance advances first of all in support of this theory the argument that a superhuman dignity is ascribed to the person referred to in Ps 2:12. We readily grant that part of the statement, but we claim that He to whom the superhuman dignity is ascribed is not the Messiah Himself but the Lord who stands behind and upholds His anointed one.

It is next claimed in support of this view that Ps 2:1-3 as well as Ps 2:8,10 indicate that the ruler under consideration has dominion over the whole world, which has been given him or is to be given him for a possession. But just that point on which the argument hinges is the Point that happens to be noticeably absent. Those that revolt against the king in question in Ps 2:1-3 are indeed peoples, nations, kings, and rulers; but not all of them, nor are they said to come from and represent the whole world. The same situation obtains in Ps 2:8,10. It is just not said that the whole earth shall be given to this king upon his demand; nor are all the kings of the earth bidden to submit to him. World-wide dominion may ultimately result from all this, but that is not said.

Next the claim is raised that rebellion against the anointed one treated like rebellion against the Lord Himself. We grant that fre but refuse to draw the conclusion that is claimed. For the situation still the same when the anointed one is appointed to his office by good Lord and has the full support of the Almighty. To refuse to submit to him definitely involve refusal to submit to the God who gave him his rank and standing.

Then lastly the claim is raised that the same arguments that support the directly Messianic character of Ps 45; 72; and Ps 110 substantiate the Messianic character of the psalm before us; they all stand or "fall together. We are far from sure that such is the case. The other psalms referred to will remain Messianic whether one particular type of Messianic character or another happens to be the type involved in each instance.

Let it also be understood that the psalm that is Messianic by type is in no sense Messianic in an inferior sense. The providence of God is most manifestly displayed in this class of prophecies also. For in them the Spirit of prophecy so worded the things that the God of history had in His wisdom controlled that the lower level of experience of man expressed the higher level which would become reality in Chirst. The whole Old Testament thus became a shadow of the things to come.

All of which brings us to the issue of the authorship of this psalm. The psalm itself gives no direct indication as to who wrote it. The time before the division of the kingdom seems to meet the needs of the case far better than does any situation that arose after the vision. The high sense of Messianic truth that prevails throughout the psalm leads us definitely to the point where we have before us an age in which the appreciation of the truth concerning the Christ to come was lively and correct. Again, a later age meets the needs of the case less appropriately. The age of the Maccabees is least suited for such a production as this is.

The problem is removed out of the realm of the conjectural by the statement found in Ac 4:25, where a passage from this psalm is quoted. The author of Acts, speaking by divine inspiration, tells us that David was the author. Even so good a commentator as Kirkpatrick misses the point at issue when he claims in this connection: "The language of Ac 4:25 does not decide the question, for 'David' in the New Testament may mean no more than 'the Psalter' (Heb 4:7) or 'a psalmist.'" What he claims regarding the passage Heb 4:7 we believe is correct. But the situation is quite different in Ac 4:25 which reads thus: "who by the Holy Spirit by the mouth of our father David didst say." Granting that a common metonomy would allow for the use of the word "David" for "the Psalter," we cannot allow that the case is parallel when the "mouth of our father David" is referred and he is further designated as "Thy servant." Such a statement is an unquestionable allusion to a person. We may not know how the author of Acts came into possession of this knowledge. But we believe that he has rendered a verdict on the problem of the authorship of this psalm.

Several other facts agree with this presupposition: first, David's well-known ability as an author of psalms; then his intimate connection with Messianic truth; also his experience with the hostility of the kingdoms of this world; then, too, his high sense of his theocratic position (cf., 1Ch 29:23, which indicates that for David the throne of Israel was "the throne of Jehovah" as much as it was for Solomon- cf. also 1Ch 28:5); and lastly the strong faith of which David was a notable exponent more so than many another, the same faith which is so sturdily reflected in this psalm.

a) "The First Strophe" (w. 1-3)

Ps 2:1. Why did the nations stir up riots
And the peoples devise futility?

Ps 2:2. Why did the kings of the earth take a stand together
And the dignitaries counsel together
Against the Lord and against His anointed?

Ps 2:3. "Let us rend their bonds asunder
,And let us cast from us their cords."

Ps 2:1
The first two verses are a unit. It refers to some particular event in which the hostility of the nations displayed itself. At least, so our translation would indicate. (We shall justify this translation later in the Notes below.) What occasion was this? Almost any one of the later wars of David might serve as a starting point for an experience of this sort. We believe that the events recorded in 2Sa 8 or 2Sa 10 would seem to agree best with the situation before us. It is even possible, for that matter, that several such occasions are before the writer's eyes simultaneously.

As far as the king's personal experience was concerned, he may have learned from this incident that the world and the hostile forces in the world hate the people of God with a hatred that is stronger than that which usually grows out of national antipathies or purely racial or nationalistic feelings. Knowing that this strong opposition was directed gainst him just because he was a sturdy exponent of the cause of Jehovah, he does not regard himself as a notable martyr but rather reflects on the vanity of the hostility involved. For the interrogate "why?" expresses both wonder and the thought of the futility of it all.

First, the turbulent disorders of the children of this world are scribed. "Nations" (goyim, a word usually bearing a hostile connotation) are involved in this; so are "peoples," that is to say, persons of various nationalities. They may differ from one another and have little in common otherwise, but in matters of religion they have the common bond of hatred against the Lord. The activities they have engaged in are variously described. On the one hand, they "stir up riots," "rage," or "assemble tumultously." The verb ragash designates any noisy or riotous assembly that practically seethes in its antagonist On the other hand, they are said to "devise futility." They meditate on it in the same manner in which a godly man is said to meditate upon the law of the Lord; the same verb is used in both instances. But the fact that the plan under consideration will come to naught is indicated in advance by the word riq, which means "emptiness" or "futility.



The sequence of tenses in Ps 2:1-2 has called forth all manner of explanations, most of which do not satisfy. We believe no approach to this problem is better than that of Koenig, who makes uese two verses dependent upon the initial "why" and indicates that the imperfects should be regarded as dependent upon the waw conversive, from which they happen to be by an intervening word.  So both yehgu and yithyatstsebhu are converted into perfects by the waw before le'ummim. Consequently all verbs are reduced to the tense of rageshu and are to be treated as perfects, and, therefore, all actions referred to have already taken place, and in regard to all of them the author asks with wonder: Why have men and rulers done these things? Nosedhu returns to the tense of ragheshu, not converted. This matter of the rather common separation of the verb from the waw conversive is discussed at length in K.S. 368 h-v.

Psalm 2:2

Ps 2:2. Why did the kings of the earth take a stand together
And the dignitaries counsel together
Against the Lord and against His anointed?

The efforts of the ruling spirits among these rebels are described, "kings" and "dignitaries." The expression "kings of the earth" is not an uncommon one (cf., Ps 76:12; 89:27; 138:4; 148:11). It includes all rulers of kingdoms apart from the kingdom of God. As Luther rightly remarks in this connection, they are usually the ones who are so self-sufficient that they are not minded to let anybody instruct them. Besides, they are the ones who are usually the guiding spirits of any concerted efforts to oppose the good Lord. These are said to "stand together" or to "take their stand" consciously as opponents of the cause of Yahweh. Before they took this stand they had "counseled together."

Adding all this together, all sorts of groups and all sorts of individuals are indicated as having engaged in all manner of hostile activity against the Lord. By listing these persons and these activities the author indicates how manifold and strong are the currents of opposition that he had observed. A very beehive of unholy industry is pictured. All this is directed "against the Lord and against His anointed." First of all, it is aimed at the one whose very name spells gracious and faithful love, Yahweh. Never were grief and opposition more causeless. Never were men more in the wrong than when they opposed him who was their salvation.

And in the same breath the writer says that this activity was directed against the "anointed" one of the Lord. Saul was the first among the rulers of Israel to be thus designated (cf., 1Sa 24:6; 2Sa 1:14). How David became the next one to receive this title appears from 1Sa 16:13 (cf. also 2Sa 19:22; 2Ch 6:42; Ps 18:50; 20:6 etc.). Since we found good reasons for designating David as the uthor of this psalm, the "anointed one" that is here referred to would most aptly be David himself. The nations round about Israel cannot have been ignorant of the unusual dignity that was claimed by Israel for its king, and that this position involved a direct relationship to Yahweh, the true God. By opposing God's representative they were opposing Him. David felt and understood this situation full well.


Regarding the word mashiach, from which "Messiah" is derived, it is important to note that, though it refers to priests (Le 4:35, etc.) and the patriarchs (Ps 105:15) and to the kings of Israel (1Sa 2:10, etc.) and also to Cyrus (Isa 45:1), it also refers to the Messiah of God Himself in Da 9:25-26. So the New Testament use of the term in Joh 1:42 and Joh 4:25 is based on Old Testament usage and not only on the Book of Enoch (48:10).

Psalm 2:3

Ps 2:3. "Let us rend their bonds asunder, And let us cast from us their cords."

Without formally introducing the sentiments of these God haters, the author gives an insight into the inmost reflections of these men when he records the thinking that prompted their opposition: "Let us rend their bonds asunder, and let us cast from us their cords." As far as the historical occasion of it all is concerned, it was when the nations conquered by David had staged a rebellion in order to shake off the unwelcome yoke of Israel from their necks. Such an effort might seem entirely just and right. For what nation is there that would not gladly attain its freedom? However, if David's wars are examined, it will become apparent, as Hengstenberg rightly claims, that these wars were not waged in the spirit of aggression or as the outgrowth of an unwholesome imperialism. All of David's wars were defensive. He took no pleasure in subjugation. Conquest had become a stern necessity in order that the serious threats raised by the enemies of Israel might be met. David had most certainly not made Israel's yoke upon the neck of the subdued enemies any heavier than was necessary. Yet his opponents speak as though he had sought to enslave them. In fact, any relations to Israel and Israel's God are pictured as things that are hard and grievous to be borne, as though the service of Israel's God had been bondage and slavery.

To sum it all up, this strophe presents a scene of riotous preparations against Yahweh and Israel's king, preparations made in the spirit of the strongest hostility. All this reflects how the nations and their mighty leaders have for the most part felt throughout the course of history. Christ's yoke was not esteemed easy and light by them. All this explains why we cannot agree with those who suppose that the unrest that accompanies the rise of a new long was the occasion thought of in this psalm (Oesterley, Weiser).


The halves of the verse close with nouns having pronominal suffixes that present an assonance, a kind of rhyme: moserothemo and 'abhothemo. It will help little to have the first of these nouns refer to means whereby the yoke is bound to the beast and the second to the rope by which it is attached to the wagon, even though the basic idea of the one is "bonds" and of the other "ropes." Enslavement is the general idea connoted by these terms.

Psalm 2:4

b) "The Second Strophe" (Ps 2:4-6)

Ps 2:4. He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord of all derides them.

Ps 2:5. Then will He speak with them in His anger;
In His hot indignation He will terrify them.

Ps 2:6. "Yet, as for Me, I have inducted My king
Upon Zion, My holy hill."

Ps 2:4
Various remarks have been made by writers on the contrast tween the tumultuous scene of the first strophe and the heavenly calm of the second. Some see these bold rebels as ready to confound heaven and earth, yet all their efforts are little more than the idle jumping grasshoppers. Others picture the rebellious ones as so bold that they might be expected any minute to leave the earth behind them as they leap boldly out into space in defiance of the laws of gravity. Others speak of a child defying an army. Correct as all these reflections and comparisons are, they are not as effective as is the original presentation of the psalm.

In a bold figure the Lord is represented as being amused at the foolish endeavors of His enemies: He "laughs," He "derides" them. He has not been moved even to rise from His throne. A title is here given Him, "the Sitter in the heavens," yoshebh bashshamayim. The expression naturally involves the thought of the calm and serene dignity that characterizes Him who is so infinitely removed from the frailty and littleness of man. Cf. also Ps 113:4-6; Isa 40:12ff; 66: Iff.

The boldness of the figure employed in ascribing laughter and derision to the Almighty is a safeguard in itself. It calls for an immediate recollection of the fact that this is the One whose sympathies with thd frailties of mankind pass our boldest belief. We recall at once that He is also known as the One who "beheld the city and wept over it." But to tell the truth, opposition against God, all thoughts that in effect culminate in the defiant: "We will not have this man to rule over us," are most absurd and ridiculous.

Psalm 2:5

Ps 2:5. Then will He speak with them in His anger;
In His hot indignation He will terrify them.

Ps 2:6. "Yet, as for Me, I have inducted My king
Upon Zion, My holy hill."

He will not always be so tolerant. Wicked opposition calls for action. When His hour has come, He will let His anger blaze forth. H is first represented as speaking forth in tones of righteous indignation His rebukes are well interpreted by Calvin to mean "the demonstration of divine wrath," that is to say, the acts whereby He brings His opposition low and hurls it to the ground. The other side of the matter is that, when He finally waxes indignant, "He will terrify them." Till then they will have been deceiving themselves as to what they amount to and as to who He is. When He but speaks severly with them, unspeakable terror will take hold on them. Just when that will take place is but vaguely indicated by a general "then." This, of course, means, when His hour has come. The very vagueness of the term carries something ominous in it: you can never tell when His anger will flash forth.

Just as the first strophe brought the thoughts and purposes of the rebels boldly to the fore by concluding with a statement that reveale how they felt, so this second strophe closes with a summary stateme bearing on the case in hand and coming from the lips of the Almight^ Neither of these two statements is formally introduced.

The emphatic "I" is set into bolder relief by the adversative conjunction, waw adversative. The statement is really an ellipsis. Its introductory thought is unexpressed. This would have been something like: "You may rebel and make plans to overthrow my anointed one; but all I have to say is." In fact, all He does say is surprisingly simple: His king, that is the present writer or the ruling monarch of Zion, holds office by divine appointment. Already that settles the case: God appointed him. Inasmuch as Zion was already in David's day recognized as the site selected for the central sanctuary, Zion is here described as God's "holy hill" (for the literal "hill of My holiness" means just that). The meaning of nasakh as "appoint" or "induct" is established by the corresponding Assyrian nasaku.

One may well inquire at this point, whence did the writer get the information about God's supreme assurance and the certainty of victory derived from the divine appointment of the monarch on Zion? Was this vouchsafed to the writer as a revelation? Was he a prophet? Apparently that was not the case in the psalms. The holy poets of Israel or her psalmists merely restated in manifold ways the truth granted to the prophets by direct divine revelation. Only in a secondary sense were the psalmists prophets. The truth expressed here and in still fuller measure in the third strophe is a poetical restatement of the contents of the divine oracle that came to Nathan the prophet in 2Sa 7, especially in vv. 5-17. V. 16 of Nathan's prophecy might be said to be under consideration in v. 6 of this psalm.

A good practical comment by Luther that applies to this whole strophe may well be offered here. He says: "What a great measure of faith is necessary in order truly to believe this word: For who could have imagined that God laughed as Christ was suffering and the Jews were exulting? So, too, when we are oppressed, how often do we still believe that those who oppose us are being derided by God, especially since it seems as if we were being oppressed and trodden under foot both by God and men?"

The Messianic application of this strophe is not difficult to make. As the "Lord of all" ('adhonay) was not alarmed by what David's enemies did in their day but met the challenge to His authority by the fmn assertion that the king assailed held office by His appointment, so ma higher sense will He vindicate His Messiah, threaten His opponents with dire disaster, and support Him, who in the truest sense holds office oy direct appointment from God on high.


The arrangement of the clauses is chiastic: "He will speak in His anger; in His indignation He will terrify."

Psalm 2:7

c) "The Third Strophe" (Ps 2:7-9)

Ps 2:7. Let me declare an appointment: the Lord has said unto me:
You are my son, I have this day begotten you.

Ps 2:8. Ask of Me, and I will give you nations for your inheritance
And for your possession, the ends of the earth.

Ps 2:9. You shall break them with a rod of iron;
As a potter's vessel you shall shatter them.'"

Ps 2:7 is a poetic restatement of 2Sa 7:14,8-9 reflect 2Sa 7:10-11,15-16. The whole of 2Sa 7 is practically the "appointment" spoken of. For this "appointment" is a choq,an "ordinance," a matter divinely ordained. The noun is derived from the root chaqaq, which means "to engrave." Nathan's word has about it something of the nature of such an unalterable decree. How very appropriate, too, is the statement by David himself: "Yahweh hath said unto me"! Regarding any other incumbent of Israel's royal throne this statement was only relatively true. But on David's part it is also an assertion to the effect that he had not rashly thrust himself into a position of responsibility: God had set him on high, and he was well aware of the rare nature of the honor that had been bestowed upon him.

The first part of this divine decree, as David restates it, is given in a parallelism. The first half of the statement runs thus: "You are My son." We can well understand how this statement prompted some commentators to find here the chief support for a directly Messianic interpretation. However, they overlooked the fact that this was also the statement in 2Sa 7:14 in direct reference to David, and that it must, therefore, be interpreted in the light of this basic statement. It may be of help to accept for the moment the rendering, "You are My child." We see at once that, since the Hebrew readily permits this meaning the statement can very properly apply to any man. Hengstenberg has a very helpful comment here. He says: "Whenever in the Old Testament God is designated as Father, or where sons of God are spoken of there ... in every case reference is being made by means of an abbreviated comparison to the intimate love which He has for men, a love like unto that of a father for a son." He cites numerous examples, all of which quite plainly substantiate his point: Ps 103:13; Ex 4:23; De 14:1-2; 32:6; Isa 63:16; Ho 11:1; Mal 1:6. It is well to member that in the Old Testament the statements involved stay within these limits. So David asserts nothing more than that he knew himself to be the object of God's paternal love. This personal relation was basic

The parallel statement reinforces this thought and indicates when this relationship of intimate love began: "I have this day begotten you," A.V. loses the required emphasis of the statement when it renders; "This day have I begotten thee." The initial "I" is, as usual, emphatic. This is as much as to say: It is not you who inaugurated this very special relationship; I did it; take comfort from that fact. Of course, the verb "begotten" is here used in an indirect or figurative sense even as we find the word used thus in Jer 2:27. It means, therefore, This day have you entered into this relationship with Me.

But all this still leaves the question, In what sense is the word "this day" used here? Since the king quotes this statement as it was spoken to him when the unique promise came to him from the lips of Nathan the prophet, that greatest day in the life of David is the day that was referred to. On that day God was pleased to advance David to the exalted position of being the object of God's love in the most direct sense of the word. This the statement recalls and nothing more.

In the very nature of the case there just cannot be a reference to the eternal generation of the Son by the Father even though the words as such, apart from their connection, could easily convey such a meaning. But such an interpretation of these words would be dogmatic construction in an unwholesome sense.

But what about Ac 13:33, where it is specifically said that this word was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead? The explanation should not be difficult. If the psalm is a type of Christ as we strongly maintain, then even as there was a day in David's life when he was admitted to a close relation to God and classified as God's child, so there would, of course, be a corresponding day in the life of Christ when His unique relation to the Father was declared in a most significant way. If anyone asks, "When in the life of Christ was such a declaration most plainly made?" we cannot but answer, "By His resurrection." This is Paul's inspired interpretation in the passage in Acts just mentioned as well as in another form in Ro 1:4.

The Targum gives a rather good interpretation of the verse as a whole when, with a measure of paraphrase, it offers the following: "I will relate the decree of Yahweh: He said: 'Beloved as a son of his father art thou of men, righteous art thou, even as if I had on this day created thee.'" However, this rendering has made one combination of words that is not so commendable. It does as do many modern writers on the subject; it connects "decree" and "Yahweh" by putting the first into the genetive relation: I will declare the decree of Yahweh. Nothing of value is gained by this alteration.


No special emphasis attaches to the 'el used after "let me declare." Though the preposition means "in reference to," the sense would have been no different if a direct object had been used instead. Ps 69:27 is similar.

The verb form yelidhtikha is the perfect of action completed at the time of the speaker. The first "i" is explained by G.K. 69s as being caused by a striving after a more euphonious form.

Psalm 2:8

Ps 2:8. Ask of Me, and I will give you nations for your inheritance
And for your possession, the ends of the earth.

When the grace of the Lord singled out David above all others and gave him, first of all, a unique position in regard to his God, it also made provision for the eventualities that would arise in David's relation to the nations round about him. For the favor bestowed upon David would naturally arouse the enmity of all kings and nations on every side of Israel. As far as David was concerned, this new relation involved also dominion over all whom he should desire to overcome. All this might for the moment sound as if David had imperialistic aspirations and had been promised that they would be realized. But if we consider, as was remarked above, that all of David's wars, according the Biblical record, were defensive wars, and that he never aspired ; achieve greatness by the conquest of others, all that is here meant (Ps 2:8-9) is that, of conquest becomes imperative, let him ask for dominie over his foes, and he shall prevail over them by the grace of God.

To insert the example of the Babylonian Empire into the picture and have David or whoever the author may be dream of making his realm as great as this mighty Babylonian Empire was, distorts the issues and sanctions ideas of unwholesome greatness. Or merely to assur that world dominion was here being thought of, again fails to do justice to the issues involved. All that had reference to this case in the basic passage was that Israel was assured security and peace (2Sa 7:10-11). Some interpreters leap at this conclusion of world dominion because they believe the supreme rule of Christ requires this. We concede that the words of the psalm are poured into a big mold so as to reach beyond what was actually realized in the reign of David. But basically we have here a measure of hyperbole even as this same figure appears elsewhere in the Scriptures with proper restraint. As examples of hyperbole in the psalms see Ps 30:2 and Ps 18:5.

The nature of the statement indicates how highly favored by God the speaker actually is; if he for one reason or another desires nations, as a free, unearned gift ("inheritance"), let him ask, and God will freely give them. Should he go so far as to make a request of region or kingdoms that lie at the "ends of the earth," these, too, shall be unrestricted possession.

Psalm 2:9

Ps 2:9. You shall break them with a rod of iron;
As a potter's vessel you shall shatter them.'"

The ease with which this beloved son shall shatter all opposition is the only thought that is more fully illustrated in order that it might be made clear that God's giving of these nations was not a questionably boon. This aspect of the case happens to be under consideratio throughout the psalm. For this psalm deals with the problem of the rebellious nations who arise against the Lord's anointed.

It is first stated that he shall be much stronger than any opposition that may arise when it is said: "You shall break them with a rod of iron." Since shebhet means primarily "rod" or "staff," and that for smiting or beating, we may well ignore the second meaning, "sceptre." To demonstrate the effectiveness of his punitive efforts, he is pictured with an iron rod that utterly smashes all opposition. This thought then presented with added color by representing the foes as being fragile as potters' vessels would be. Such complete defeat of all opposed him was guaranteed to this man who was dearly beloved God from the very outset.

Commentators make unnecessary difficulties for themselves when they expect every side of the matter to be touched upon, or when they think at once or exclusively in terms of the Messianic import of it all. Essential in the light of the situation depicted in the first three verses was some statement as to whether God's anointed could prevail over all his foes. As long as this side of the matter is under consideration, there is no immediate call for a statement of the more kindly and gracious aspects of his reign. Neither need the kindly conquests of the souls of men by the Messiah be brought into this picture. Other holy writers were on proper occasions given opportunity to treat of this subject. Whatever balance of treatment may be required will be taken care of by the last strophe. Here the things demanded by the crucial situation pictured in the first strophe are still being effectively disposed of.

This approach helps us get our bearings in regard to those interpretations that would derive from w. 8 and 9 thoughts about the propagation of the gospel or of some other beneficent work of the Lord. So Luther comments on "break them": "For he slays our will in order to establish His own will in us. He puts to death the flesh and its lusts in order to make alive in us the Spirit and the things that he desires." Or Calvin remarks: "The meaning is that the Father denies the Son nothing that bears upon the extension of His kingdom even unto the uttermost parts of the earth." This comment is made on, "Ask of Me." These are certainly wholesome Scripture truths, but they do not happen to be expressed here. The psalm offers no occasion to deal with this aspect of the Messiah's work. Nothing is gained by forced interpretations.

If one then asks, What aspect of the work of the Christ is portrayed in this type? the answer is, His punitive work; the manner in which He deals with refractory foes; that which John the Baptist put into the words: "The chaff He will burn with fire unquenchable."


The initial verb tero`em was read with different vowels (tieem) by the Septuagint and also by Jerome. The motive for reading thus apparently sought to introduce something of the gentler nature of the Messiah, to whom these words were directly referred, and so the translation "thou wilt feed them" resulted. The parallelism of the members of the verse points, however, to the correctness of the original Maso-retic text.

Psalm 2:10

d) "The Fourth Strophe" (Ps 2:10-12)

Ps 2:10. And now, O you kings, act discreetly;

Suffer yourselves to be instructed, you judges of the earth.

Ps 2:11. Serve the Lord with fear

     And exult with trembling.

Ps 2:12. Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way;

     For soon will his wrath be kindled.

     Blessed are all they who take refuge in Him.

The royal author now expresses his own sentiments. If there was any danger of misunderstanding statements such as, "He who sits in the heavens laughs," or, "You shall break them with a rod of iron," we must understand these remarks in the light of this closing exhortation, author has no desire to see men suffer. He does not gloat over the destruction of his foes. He was merely expressing in strong terms the certainty of the victory of the cause of the Lord. His personal sentiments on this score are disclosed in this last strophe. He, would have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.

Ps 2:10

He addresses his exhortation to the kings and judges because, in the last analysis, the rabble would hardly be as hostile as they are for the leadership that directs them into this dangerous course, kings are advised to "act discreetly." For there is no higher folly to oppose God and no better discretion than to submit to Him. The author futher pleads with the "judges" to "suffer themselves to be instructed." He implies that men in high position find this difficult to do.  "Judges" are practically synonymous with "rulers" in the Old Testament language as is indicated by the two basic meanings given for the word "judge, govern" (BDB).


The niphal hiwwaseru is to be classified as a niphal tolerativum; found also in Isa 55:6 and Pr 13:10.

Psalm 2:11

Ps 2:11. Serve the Lord with fear

     And exult with trembling.


That particular instruction which the author desires to part is now offered, first briefly and pointedly in this verse, the greater length in the last verse. <I>Kirkpatrick</I> rightly says: "The context indicates that political submission to Jehovah in the person of His representative is primarily intended." As instances of such political submission he cites Ps 18:43 and Ps 72:11. Then he adds: "But wider meaning must not be excluded. 'Serve' and 'fear' are words constantly used with a religious meaning . . . Cf., Ps 97:1; 100:2; Ho 3:5."


There are always two sides to any man's relationship to the Almighty, especially when we consider the fact that we all were by nature rebels against the Most High. Heb 12:28 speaks of the same matter. The one side is humble service, the other is exultation with becoming reverence. Neither rules out the other. The exulting is, perhaps best understood as a reference to the shouts of jublilation with which a monarch is to be greeted: Koenigsjubel says Hengstenberg in reference to Nu 23:21.


All this does not yet say that the person under consideration as the Lord's anointed and Yahweh are identical because here Yahweh alone is to be submitted to. The thought, as above indicated, is that Yahweh is served by submission to His chosen representative on the throne of Israel.

Psalm 2:12

Ps 2:12. Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way;

For soon will his wrath be kindled.

 Blessed are all they who take refuge in Him.

The statement which we have rendered, "Kiss the son," has been the subject of much controversy. Some interpreters utterly reject the possibility of such a translation and usually admit after they have done so that the substitutes they offer are not very plausible or meaningful. Some few adhere to the traditional translation with certain misgivings. A small group still holds to the traditional rendering of the versions that are familiar to most of us as entirely certain and correct. We find ourselves in this class.

The Hebrew reads nashshequ-bhar. We shall discuss the critical aspect of the case below. As to its meaning the "son" here referred to must be the same one who is so called in Ps 2:7. Because the close fellowship between Yahweh and the man of His choice was indicated by this term in the most eminent way, this term here becomes a sort of title. Those that rebel against his authority and seek to overthrow him are counselled to offer as token of submission the kiss of fealty. According to some interpreters this was in days of old bestowed upon the hem of the ruler's garment, according to others upon his hand, or upon one's own hand or the hem of one's own garment. Unless this is done, he, powerfully supported by Yahweh, may let his anger flash forth against these opponents of his, and they shall be overthrown- "perish from the way" says the Hebrew, which may be construed as meaning: "blasted from their course." Though ordinarily the Bible reader's thoughts upon hearing about the kindling of such a powerful anger might be moved to think of the Lord Himself, it must be remembered that here the person in question is backed by the strength of the Almighty. As a closing word in the warning we hear: "For soon will his wrath be kindled." The opposition is warned: the patience of the offended ruler can bear little more. His being a just wrath in a just cause, it is not to be trifled with.

Lest this last verse seem to have made too much of the rare dignity that this servant of God enjoys, it recalls to our mind that in the last analysis whatever attitude they take to God's appointed representatives, the all-important thing is that they make Yahweh Himself the object of their trust and confidence. This is a kind of missionary invitation that these Gentiles come and share in the privileges of Israel. The words are: "Blessed are all they who take refuge in Him." Yahweh is not mentioned by name since He was referred to in the preceding verse. The verse serves as a kind of conclusion to the psalm.


The bone of contention in this verse is the noun bar, which is the Aramaic noun for "son." That this did create a difficulty-this Aramaism at this early date-is apparent in the major versions. The Septuagint rendered: "Accept correction." Jerome: adorate pure ("worship sincerely"). But several substantial arguments may be presented for maintaining the translation we have given above. In the first place, the same word is used in Pr 31:2, to which passage a late date is assigned partly because of the use of this word-the argument in a circle. In the second place, a Phoenician inscription of the ninth century uses the same word; and Phoenician is not Aramaic but practically Hebrew (cf., Koenig's Commentary on this fact) . Then it must be admitted to be a rarer word such as the poetic writers are wont to use; a select term for a select thought. Since the exhortation is addressed to groups which are largely Aramaic (note: Damascus and all the region toward the Euphrates) a word that is well known to them is used. Lastly, the choice of the word may have been motivated in part by the effort to avoid the dissonance of ben pen.

The expression kim'at is best rendered "soon" (cf. also A.R.V. and practically all the versions) . A .V. has "when His wrath is kindled but a little." But the point at issue is not how much of the wrath of God it takes to consume the wicked, but how precarious their position is. Therefore "soon" deserves the preference.

The Catholic Biblical Quarterly (1943, No. 1, pp. 63-67) presents an article by Albert Kleber, in which he points to the fact that vessels have been discovered on which execration texts were copied out denouncing or threatening mishap to some person or groups, and then the vessel would be shattered by a heavy rod. There is the possibility that v. 9 could contain a reference to some such familiar custom though, as Kleber also maintains, no magic would be implied in the form of statement that the psalm makes. The title of the essay is: "Ps 2:9 in the Light of an Ancient Oriental Custom."

Ps 2


In every verse of this psalm some change is proposed either on the basis of the manner in which the Greek translators rendered it, or on the basis of pure conjecture as to how the critical writer thinks the text must have read, a mode of procedure which can never lay claim to scientific validity where so good a text as the traditional Hebrew text is the basis.

None of the proposed changes are of particular moment or particularly substantiated. Here are a few typical ones. A Selah, is to be added to Ps 2:3. In Ps 2:4 Yahweh is substituted for 'adhonay. In Ps 2:7 the words "my son art thou" are to be deleted. In Ps 2:12 the text is so amended as to yield the meaning "kiss his feet."

Then there are many attempts that make this psalm apply to some later king of Israel as though the idea of Davidic authorship were too preposterous even to entertain seriously as a conjecture.

Buttenwieser is most pronounced in his critical attitude. He argues that there is a spiritual kinship between this psahn and Ezekiel and arrives at the conclusion that, since the tone of the prophecies is reflected, the psalm is equally "narrow-souled and void of vision" and obviously postexilic as Ezekiel himself is. We feel such verdicts require no refutation.

Psalm 3:1



AFTER CERTAIN fundamental issues such as the importance of the law of the Lord in the life of a man of God (Ps 1) or the ultimate victory of the Messiah (Ps 2) have been set into the foreground, it is very proper that a prayer book offer a morning hymn (Ps 3) and an evening hymn (Ps 4). We shall presently indicate that there are ample reasons for thinking that this is a morning hymn.

This psalm is commonly called "a lament of an individual." The thought of the psalm runs as follows: In Ps 3:1 and Ps 3:2 the psalmist briefly voices his cry of distress; in Ps 3:3 and Ps 3:4 he sets over against this his sure ground for hope; to this he adds in Ps 3:5 and Ps 3:6 a statement of the courage that animated him when he took his stand on this sure ground of hope; then in Ps 3:7 and Ps 3:8 he concludes his prayer with a petition for complete deliverance.

In the title we meet for the first time the term "a psalm" (Heb. mizmor). It seems best to accept as the root meaning of the word zamar the idea of plucking strings rather than to sing; and it is better to understand mizmor in the sense of a poem that is to be rendered with musical accompaniment (K.W.) than as "melody" (BOB). The latter term would result in a misleading meaning; for the psalm is not a "melody" but a poem sung to a melody or accompanied by some melody. The word as such appears in fifty-seven psalm titles.

The heading carried by the psalm in the Hebrew text and, for that matter also in the Septuagint, is: "a psalm of David when he fled before Absalom his son." Though this is rather generally brushed aside by commentators in our day as worthless and negligible, upon closer investigation it may be seen that this heading agrees in a substantial number of items with the subject matter of the psalm. Note that the opponents of the author are numerous (Ps 3:1-2,6); note the same situation in 2Sa 15:13. Again, the attitude of some of David's opponents was that he had forfeited all right to hope for divine aid; cf., 2Sa 16:8. Ps 3:2 says the same thing. That David directs his prayer to the holy hill (Ps 3:4) agrees well with the situation as outlined in 2Sa 15:25, where David had taken steps to have the ark, which marked the presence of God on the holy hill, returned to Jerusalm rather than to have it taken along with him on his flight. Lastly, the thought that the issues of this whole experience rested with God (cf., Ps 3:8) is the very thought expressed in 2Sa 15:25. Besides, the author is a man of some eminence. Nothing of moment can be adduced to remove any of these points of correspondence between the history of David and the contents of the psalm. The headings to the psalms rest upon a sound tradition. Yet we can subscribe to Weiser's comment that Davidic authorship can neither be fully proved nor disproved on the basis of the psalm itself.

If one should try to be more specific and to determine at what point during this rebellion David may have composed this psalm, the probability is that it was about the second night after the rebellion was staged. For 2Sa 17:22 leads to the conclusion that the first night was spent inducing the whole group that had attached itself to David to effect a fording of the Jordan. The next night would then have been best suited for the situation involved in this psahn. For the opposition is very strong and the danger still very acute; the issues have in no sense been settled. A major battle is about to be fought.

Interpreters who are ready to concede this as well as those who reject the authorship of David find it difficult to understand that there is no more specific allusion to the situation here involved, least of all any direct references to Absalom, the instigator of it all. Here thoughts such as Hengstenberg develops at length are in place. For it must be remembered that a feature commonly found in the psalms is that they strip off those elements which would be highly individualistic and would apply only to the author in his peculiar predicament but retain such items as could be of moment to any man who might find himself in a similar situation. This mode of writing may well be attributed, on the one hand, to the didactic purposes which authors like David may consciously have carried through; and on the other hand, it may be thought of as having been carefully directed by the Spirit of inspiration, who taught men what could be of moment for the church of God of all tunes, and so gave them much needed guidance.

A Bible student who probes more deeply into the problems here involved may well recall that the position in which David finds himself may have called for at least some reference to his own guilt and sin. For it is unquestionable that, according to 2Sa 12:10, the whole train of evil consequences that befell his house had been set in motion by his own sin in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah, the Hittite. If, then, David's own sin is the primary cause of all these calamities, how can this king take so cheerful an attitude and ignore the whole matter? Apparently the answer is that other psalms had adequately portrayed what David did in the question of getting into the clear with his God. For in historical sequence psalms such as 51 and 32 must have preceded the one before us. Only on the assumption that the king had sought the face of his God in true repentance and received the full assurance of forgiveness can he again be confident of the grace of his God. These are such obvious presuppositions, because every Christian knows that the full assurance of faith that finds such exemplary expression in this psalm is impossible except in the case of those whose sins have been pardoned by the grace of God. Oesterley remarks "that for the expression of sublime trust in God this psalm is not surpassed in the Psalter."

Ps 3:1. O Lord, how many have my foes become!
There are many that rise up against me.

Ps 3:2. There are many that say of me,
There is no help for him in God. Selah.

1. As we shall presently show (Ps 3:5), this psalm was written to describe the situation of the author on the morning of a given day, just after he had risen. The whole unhappy grief rushes with fresh impact upon his soul the moment he rises. What could have been a dismal complaint becomes a trusting prayer the moment all is laid before the Lord. Perhaps the chief element of David's distress was the fact that of a sudden his foes had multiplied so enormously. Three times we have in Hebrew the root "many." First of all, these persons are described as "foes," which means in the original men who cause him distress by crowding him into a narrow place. Then they are referred to as men that "rise up against" him. For it was obviously a rebellion that had been staged; and, no matter who a man is, he always feels keenly when opposition is encountered. This is all the more the case when such opposition is causeless.


1. The participles 'qamim and 'omerim (Ps 3:3) are, of course, dura-tive (men are continuing to rise up on every hand, and they keep reaffirming) and are the equivalent of relative clauses (cf., Driver, Par. 135).

Psalm 3:2

Ps 3:2. There are many that say of me,
There is no help for him in God. Selah.

Since the first two instances of the use of the term "many" referred to enemies, it seems imperative to let the third "many" refer to enemies also. These men speak words that are calculated to wound him in his inmost being, that is, in his very "soul." For so the Hebrew expresses it, though our English idiom would prefer, "They say of me."

What they say is enough to wound any man, especially one of finer spiritual sensibilities: "Nothing of help for him in God" (so more literally). The assumption is that all men are agreed that David has himself done things whereby he forfeited the right to expect help of God, and so God will not consider his petitions. David attempts no defense in self-justification. He has gotten into the clear with his God and so is not unduly disturbed by what men may say of him. By the way, the participle "saying" here suggests: They keep on making this assertion. "God" is used rather than "Yahweh" because help in the most general sense is thought of.

The "Selah" occurring here for the first time in the psalms may be rendered "forte" after the example of Koenig's Commentary. Practically all modern writers on the subject are agreed that this "is indeed first of all a musical notation" (Hengstenberg). But most of them concede also that it is inserted at those points where a pause is desirable for the singer or the reader of the psalm in order that the statement last made or the thought as a whole just developed may be reflected upon before the next turn of the thought appears. As musical term, it may have one of several meanings, none of which can be determined with absolute certainty. Our view of the term suggest that it marks the place where the orchestra or the musical accompaniment should set in more loudly. So it might be said to mark a musical interlude or even also the point where a chorus makes a repetition.



The noun yeshu'athah here has an old case ending (thah) which has lost all significance but still gives a sort of venerable dignity to the word when it is used, being an archaism. Selah can well be derived from the root salal, 'to raise'; Imv. sal, deflected to sel when ah is added.

Psalm 3:3

Ps 3:3. But Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me,
The source of my glory and He that lifts up my head.

The note of confidence now comes to the fore in the psalm. Not any of his own resources but what God is and does give the singer strength. Bold enough would be any statement to the effect that the Lord held a shield round about this servant of His. Much bolder is the concept of God Himself as this shield, especially when this shield is "about" him, affording all-sided protection.

More difficult is the interpretation of the expression, which in the original reads: "my glory." This could mean: He in whom I glory. But the statement immediately following speaks of that which God has done for the psalmist. Therefore the word had better be taken to mean, as we have translated above: "the source of my glory"-a metonomy. Whatever glory David had achieved and even, humanly speaking, his fame and reputation were not slight. These the good king attributes solely to his God. Obviously parallel is the expression, "He that lifts up my head." Looking back at the expression just used, this suggests that what is meant is, God is the source of any dignity that belongs to the king. But the expression has a broader meaning. The head drops when a man is discouraged and disappointed. When God lifts up the head He delivers a man from all those things that depress. So often has He done this for David that a kind of title grows out of this expression: the Lifter-up of my head the participle in the original.



The we in we'attah is adversative, and the pronoun is emphatic. Merim is Hifil participle from rum.

Psalm 3:4

Ps 3:4. Loudly did I cry unto the Lord;

And He answered me with help from His holy hill. Selah

Continuing his record of the experiences that give him reason for hope, David speaks of another matter that had regularly taken place: He had cried again and again in the past, with a measure of urgency or loudly, and the faithful covenant-Lord had always been wont to hear him. (See note below on the tense involved.) This help had come "from His holy hill." This is the constant viewpoint of the Old Testament saints of the kingdom days or thereafter: since Yahweh was pleased to establish His dwelling place among His people in a central sanctuary, they on their part would speak to Him as being where He had said He would be, and He on His part would answer them from this same place. In all this there were no unworthy conceptions of God and His omnipresence involved. Cf. also Ps 2:6; 15:1; 43:3; 99:9. In order to indicate more clearly that the "answering" here spoken of is not something merely conversational but an effective answer, we have translated the verb "answered with help."-The Selah invites a pause for reflection.


If it seems strange that we translate 'eqra', an imperfect, "I did cry," it should be noted that the verb following, being a converted imperfect, marks the whole statement as lying in the past. Consequently 'eqra' expresses continued or oft-repeated action in past time (K.S. 157).

Bar qodhsho, though literally translated 'hill of His holiness,' must, like all kindred expressions, mean nothing other than "His holy hill."

Psalm 3:5

Ps 3:5. As for me, I laid me down and slept;

I awoke again, for the Lord sustained me.

The psalmist is telling how he feared under the present circumstances when he again put his trust in the Lord. Though many, e.g., Smith, are still inclined to render Ps 3:5 as describing something habitual in the present, this interpretation does violence to the tense of the Hebrew verbs, which, being perfect, must first be construed as naturally referring to the past unless other considerations compel one to depart from this construction. It seems that some commentators feel they have such weighty considerations when they point to the fact that to say: I laid down, slept, and awoke again, is altogether too prosy and commonplace to be the meaning intended. But rightly construed, the thought involved is anything but ordinary. In fact, this is the high point in faith reached by the psalm. The emphatic "I" at the beginning of the verse begins to give our thoughts the right direction, for it means: In the grave extremity in which I found myself (see Ps 3:1 and Ps 3:2) I was, nevertheless, enabled by my God to rest safely and securely in Hun, so much so that I had an untroubled slumber in the midst of these grave perils. So this is a historical perfect, whose distinct sense could have been caught by a translation such as: "As for me (last night) I laid down and slept; (this morning) I awoke again" This experience is, however, in no sense set down as a personal achievement of this individual, for he plainly ascribes it to his God: "for Yahweh sustained me," that is, the God of covenant grace, whose mercies are new unto His own every morning.

Psalm 3:6

Ps 3:6. I am not afraid of ten thousands of people

Which have set themselves against me round about.

This verse is to be read almost in one breath with the preceding; it represents David's feelings the moment he awoke and recalled the huge multitude of his foes as Ps 3:1f said he did. If the conclusion of Ps 3:5 had not read as it did, Ps 3:6 would be idle boasting, cheap heroics. But as it is, having been furnished with courage by his Lord, the author now faces the dangers of the day, knowing full well that there are "ten thousands of people, who have set themselves round about." The numeral is really more vague than our translation indicates, for it may equally well be rendered "myriads." It is the boldness of true faith that speaks here. This is an utterance like unto a goodly number of others that date from David and are spoken in moments when his faith was nothing less than truly heroic. The tense has obviously changed from Ps 3:5, although the two verses are to be regarded as having been spoken in the morning after David rose. In brief he says: I slept calmly through the night; now I am not afraid of the terrors that this new day brings.

Some interpreters note that the strophe ends without the "Selah" that marked the conclusion of the two preceding verses. This omission can scarcely have been an oversight. Delitzsch has best explained the case: (the Selah) "is wanting because the clause 'I am not afraid' is not spoken in a tone of triumph but is only a humble, quiet expression of believing confidence." A Selah here would have savored of proud boastfulness.


The verb shatu, though almost universally translated as a reflexive, 'they have set themselves,' had, perhaps, better be regarded, with Hengstenberg, as a plural verb with an indefinite subject, making it equivalent to the passive, and translated 'whom men have set against me round about.' Though Isa 22:7 is cited as a parallel, it would appear that this passage can be construed after the same manner.

Psalm 3:7

Ps 3:7. Arise, O Lord; help me, O my God.

For Thou hast always smitten all my enemies upon the cheek,

Always broken the teeth of the wicked.

This bold summons "arise" is common enough in the psalms (Ps 7:6; 9:19; 10:12; 17:13; 74:22) and is obviously derived from the old prayer that Moses was wont to use (see Nu 10:35) when the ark of the covenant was taken up to lead the children on Israel on their march to the Land of Promise and against their many foes. Since the present rebellion is against the established theocracy and thus is tainted by the spirit of heathenism, the same summons is quite in place. David, knowing full well that his cause is that of the theocracy under the present circumstances, implores God's intervention on his own behalf: "help me, O my God." The Lord is appealed to in both capacities, as Yahweh and as God, for the king has natural as well as covenant claims upon the Most High.

As a motive for the appeal to God to help him is the psalmist's reminder that He has always in the past up to this very present (so the perfect is here used, cf., K.S. 125) been wont to shatter the power of the adversary. Only that person could venture to speak thus who was entirely sure of the fact that he and his cause are the Lord's, and that, on the other hand, the cause of the enemy is beyond question that of the forces that are openly hostile to Yahweh. Because the enemies were of that category they are likened to ravenous wild beasts. Their overthrow is like a breaking of their teeth by a blow of the Almighty. Smiting on the cheek has always and everywhere been regarded as the height of insulting treatment; cf., 1Ki 22:24; Job 16:10; La 3:30; Mic 5:1. This touch of the figure treats the enemies as men whom the Lord openly disavows with every show of indignity. Since David's earlier experiences (cf., 1Sa 17:34) had suggested the likeness of the wicked to ravenous beasts, carrying this figure through to its natural conclusion, the breaking of their teeth would display how such persons will be rendered utterly harmless by a stroke of the Almighty. This word involves a prophecy as to how the present uprising will terminate.


Qumah is an imperative hortative, the hortative ending ah often being added to the imperative.

The attempts to correct the standard Hebrew text are, as usual, based upon critical opinions, upon the versions, and upon conjecture. The fact that the Septuagint renders Ps 3:2: "hope for him in his God" scarcely seems significant enough to regard this reading as the original. It might be one more of the instances where the Septuagint translated inaccurately. The same is true in regard to Ps 3:3, where, instead of "the lifter up," the Septuagint has antilhuprwr, that is to say, He who receives me.

Buttenwieser states that such exultant trust as this psalm manifests was "the fruit of the preaching of the prophets." Since he assigns a late date to the prophets he concludes that this psalm must be of a late date. All the evidence regarding the correspondence of the contents of the psalm with a situation in David's life is brushed aside as nonexistent. This may be called shutting one's eyes to facts that one does not care to consider.

Psalm 3:8

Ps 3: 8. Help belongs to the Lord;

Upon Thy people be Thy blessing. Selah.


At the conclusion of a psalm there very frequently is found a substantial statement which supplies a weighty conclusion. Here we have the clause, "Help is Yahweh's." The word order puts Yahweh first, as much as to say: With Yahweh alone are deposited all resources of help, and how they shall be bestowed rests exclusively with Him. But equally significant is the second half of the verse, which is a prayer of this godly monarch in behalf of his people, who are being sadly confused and harmed by the rebellion the king's son has instigated. Selfish concerns do not blot out the true and faithful king's sense of responsibility although he later erred somewhat in this respect (cf. especially 2Sa 19). Only God's blessing can cancel the disastrous harm that may result to Israel from the threatening disorders.

Psalm 4:1



THE HEADING of the psalm suggests nothing about the situation that gave occasion for it. So, too, the contents of the psalm reveal little along this line. Yet there are enough significant points of contact between this psalm and the one that precedes to give warrant for the supposition that the condition in which David found himself is the same in both psalms. Note: "Many there are that say" (Ps 3:2; 4:6); the division of the psalm by Selahs; "my glory" (Ps 3:3; 4:2); "I cry, and He answers" (Ps 3:4; 4:1); "I laid me down and slept" (Ps 3:5; 4:8). Nothing in Ps 4 indicates the high position of its author except the superscription itself. In Ps 4:3 there are clear indications of the author's rank and station. To refer the psalm to the days when David fled before Absalom certainly fits the words of the psalm in a number of striking ways: the author is obviously in distress; his honor is assailed; he seeks to set his erring son and those that err with him aright; a paternal type of admonition is used such as David might well have used over against the rebel son; and lastly, the author manifests a courageous faith such as is often noted in the life of David.

Particular attention should be given at the very outset to the calm expostulation that the writer uses over against those that are hostile to him. This feature of the psalm is rather unusual. Throughout this part of the psalm the tone is one of wise and considerate restraint. If enemies could be reasoned with, this kind of reasoning ought to win them.

The following line of thought runs through the psalm. First an urgent plea for help is uttered. Then follows the remonstrance addressed to the foes (Ps 4:2-5). This portion begins with a warning to desist from iniquity against the psalmist, for Yahweh is wont to set apart godly men as the objects of His particular care (Ps 4:2f.). Then these evildoers are exhorted to reflect upon their state and to offer proper sacrifices (Ps 4:4f.). The last part of the psalm is an expression of security in Yahweh, addressed first of all to those who have grown hopeless because of the present confusion (Ps 4:6f.) and then voicing the psalmist's own confidence in the very present help of his God.

Ps 4:1. When I call, answer me, O my righteous God.

Whenever I was in distress, Thou didst always set me free. Be gracious unto me and hear my prayer.

Men speak thus when they are in great anxiety and trouble, and when it seems as though God were not lending an ear and were not going to answer prayer. Petitions seem to bound back from heaven. As a fulcrum to gain leverage for his prayer the psalmist voices his conviction that his God is his "righteous God." The adjective implies that He is a faithful God who can be depended upon. All the experience of the author's past confirms this thought. The author's confession of this conviction is an argument that he brings to bear upon God: God's own well-known attitude toward His saints.

The next line expresses the same thought at greater length: "Whenever I was in distress, Thou hast always set me free." The last verb is also translated "set me at large" (A.R.V.~), the idea being that he had been pressed into a tight place; that now the confining influence has been removed, and he has ample room: he is "set free." Again the note of petition is struck in a double plea: "Be gracious unto me and hear my prayer." This is not an asking that is based on conscious merit or desert but wholly on the free grace of the Giver. So clear in their thinking were God's saints of the Old Covenant that it was not by works of righteousness which they had done that they could expect a hearing from God. This first verse is still permeated by the note of anxiety.


Though many translators prefer the rendering, "God of my righteousness," and though this seems a stronger translation than the one we offer, "my righteous God," nevertheless, the latter is the usual meaning to be given a phrase such as this even as "Thy holy hill" in the original usually reads "the hill of Thy holiness." This means: since He has done the right thing for the author, therefore He has always proved Himself dependable or faithful. This is our interpretation above.

The heading of this psalm reads thus: "To the Director, upon stringed instruments; a psalm of David." The word "to the Director" is lamenatse (a) ch. Though recent efforts have sought to cast doubt upon this meaning and to substitute for it the idea that psalms of this sort are to be thought of as "the means of propitiating God by sacred song and instrumental music" (Oesterley, A Fresh Approach to the Psalms, p. 78), such an interpretation contains a thought that is not in harmony with the truth of Scriptures. The Old Testament nowhere else presents propitiation as being wrought by song and music. Besides, the meaning noted above is quite in keeping with the etymology of the word. Natsach means "be pre-eminent, enduring" (BDB); in the Piel the meaning "act as overseer, superintendent, director" is accepted by BDB and KW. The A.V. intended to convey about the same idea by its rendering "to the Chief Musician." Luther, who indeed wavered in regard to the meaning of this word, finally offered a different interpretation by his vorzusingen, by which he may have meant "to sing publicly" or "to lead in the singing" (cf. the German Vorsaenger). This latter meaning would have been very close to our accepted English translation, "Chief Musician" or "Director." The uncertainty of the versions in regard to the meaning of the term merely indicates that it has its difficulties, which we are free to admit.

Hirchdbtha is one of those perfects which may be called the equivalent of a gnomic aorist, that is, a perfect form that expresses what is found to be habitual practice. Therefore such forms are best translated with an "always" or the like, thus: "Thou hast always set me free."

Chonneni, "be gracious," or, as it is sometimes rendered, "have mercy," suggests "the free bestowal of favor rather than the exercise of forgiving clemency" (Kirkpatrick). Consequently the word does not imply the forgiveness of sins.

Psalm 4:2

Ps 4:2. You brave men, why should my glory be turned into dishonor? Why do ye love sham? Why do ye seek out lies? Selah.

This address to the foes of the psalmist begins with an expression that can be literally translated, "O ye sons of men." But the Hebrew word for "men" here used implies brave men as it does in 1Sa 4:9; 26:15; cf. also Ps 49:3. Here the expression appears to be used a bit ironically: they may be brave enough, but their bravery is showing itself in bearing down hard on an unfortunate foe; their deeds, to say the least, are not very brave deeds. The author's charge against them in particular is first of all that they are turning his glory into shame. Only a man who is conscious of his innocence could dare to raise an issue of this sort. Slanderous devices are being resorted to in order to make an honest man appear dishonorable. 2Sa 15:2ff. gives an example of the methods that had been employed.

The trouble lies deeper; it is a character defect that leads to this sin of defamation. These men "love sham," and, therefore, they can so freely advance hollow and empty charges against an innocent man. The second question drives this barb of truth into the conscience of the opposition. The third remonstrance calls to their attention the fact that they industriously "seek out" and fabricate the very "lies" that they utter against the man whom they oppose. Their whole venture is thus described as being built on falsehood. Positive as all this is, the author, nevertheless, states his case against the opposition with considerate kindness. He appears to be trying to win men from the error of their way. The Selah or "forte" that follows here does not appear so much to mark a division of strophes, as is so frequently the case, but a pause in the development of the thought that would allow his warning to sink home.


The expression 'adh meh, though usually rendered, "how long?" is more naturally translated in all instances where it occurs as: "to what end?" or "why?"

Psalm 4:3

Ps 4:3. Know, furthermore, that God has always set apart for Himself a godly man. The Lord will also now hear me when I call unto Him.

The "furthermore," which we have used as a translation of the simple Hebrew wow, goes on the assumption that there is in Ps 4:2 a veiled exhortation. The exhortation continues with express words in our verse. It amounts to this, that those who are thus manifestly wronging a man are thus sinning against the Lord, who obviously has always set apart as in a class by himself and as deserving special care and attention any and every man who honestly deserves to be called "godly." As in the sight of God, who loves the truth and hates the lie, the author obviously classes himself among men whom God puts into this class. To say "know, therefore," means: I am calling to your attention a solemn truth. He then draws another conclusion from the position that he occupies. "Yahweh will hear me now." The "now" is not found in the original. But it serves to show the connection of thought that is implied in the original, as much as to say: If I, therefore, now present my cause before my God, He will hear me, which is a favor that you cannot in good conscience expect from the Most High.


Luther took quite a different view of this verse in his familiar rendering: Erkennet doch, doss der Herr seine Heiligen wunderbar juehrt (Know, I pray, that the Lord leads His saints in a marvelous manner). He arrives at this translation by taking the verb to come from the root pala' rather than from the root palah. Though the two classes of verbs involved often exchange forms, there is no particular indication that such is the case here. This part of the verse means that God has always set godly men apart for Himself as the objects of His particular care. That is a thought to hold over against an ungodly opposition so that their enmity might feel restrained from doing harm to such saints. Luther's thought, good as it is in itself, and a possible translation, would be more suitable as a word of comfort addressed to the godly man himself.

Chasidh, "a godly man" is a term that has been much discussed as to whether it means "one who shows mercy" or "one who receives mercy" {Chasidh being of the same root as chesedh, "mercy"). Apparently the former meaning deserves the preference; and so the term means "the pious or godly one."

Psalm 4:4

Ps 4:4. Tremble and sin not;

Speak with your hearts upon your bed and be still. Selah.

The first verb means "to tremble" or "to fear." "Stand in awe" is also a good rendering in that it implies that a wholesome fear of God should take possession of these men: let them learn to stand in awe of Him. Such true reverence will naturally compel those who have it to depart from any sin that they may be contemplating. This conveys the thought: All the wicked devices that you harbor should be abandoned, for God is against you in all of them. It must be admitted that the warning is put very calmly and without a trace of the heat of passion.

What about the more familiar rendering: "Be ye angry and sin not," especially since this has the apparent support of the New Testament (Eph 4:26)? This is the translation of the verse given in the Greek version. Must we, then, translate the word in a sense which it could well have "tremble with rage"? Not necessarily. For the thought that Paul desired to express about being righteously indignant against wrong without being carnally angry he happened to find in the familiar Greek version and used this handy form of words. His use of it, however, does not in itself answer the question whether this is a correct rendering of the verb raghaz. In fact, why should evildoers, whose entire course of conduct is reprehensible, be admonished to display righteous indignation? But they may very aptly be reminded that it behooves them to stand in fear of God and to avoid all wrongdoing.

That is the first part of the admonition, which then continues to advise them to practice a bit of introspection and "speak" with their own "hearts upon their bed and be still." Addressing some wholesome warnings like this to their own hearts in the quiet of the night hour as they lie upon their bed, and the stillness of the night invites reflection, might well make them "be still." The turmoil of their un-wholesomely agitated thoughts might cease, and they might begin to feel the wrong of their whole procedure. The Selah appropriately marks the place for a pause and reflection as do the words themselves.

Psalm 4:5

Ps 4:5. Bring true sacrifices and trust in Yahweh.

Their outward conduct also should be made right. For the whole venture that Absalom had inaugurated had been launched under the auspices of a solemn sacrifice. The holiest rite had been debased by making of it a cloak of maliciousness. One's blood boils at the thought of the treachery that had been involved. Such iniquity could not go on. That basic piece of hypocrisy had to be disavowed. David's plea to make such a disavowal is found in the words "bring true sacrifices," in the sense: substitute for your unholy act a sacrifice brought in a spirit without guile and for the purpose of expressing your own contrition for your wrongdoing. Only when men are motivated by such a spirit dare they "trust in Yahweh" and feel assured that His favor rests upon their enterprise. Again the admonition was conveyed graciously but withal in such a manner as to strike at the root of the wrong that was to be righted.

Psalm 4:6

Ps 4:6 Many are they who keep saying: Who will help us to find some good?

(But I say) Lift up upon us the light of Thy countenance, O Lord.

In the course of his prayer the psalmist has now recovered his godly assurance; he speaks in a note of true confidence which rests in the Lord. His words are addressed, first of all, to the disheartened among his followers who keep reiterating their pessimistic conviction that things are never going to turn out right. For when they say: "Who will help us to find some good?" they intend to say, No one can ever bring this present sorry mess into any semblance of order. They voice their despair of God's ability to stem the tide of the evil that is abroad. Unfortunately, those who are thus minded are "many," and equally tragic is the fact that they "keep saying" this (durative participle 'omerim). Over against these halfhearted supporters of his cause the psalmist must take a definite stand.

He does this in the prayer that he utters in their hearing. For the words that follow their complaint are to be taken in an adversative sense. For this reason we inserted the explanatory, "But I say." Dramatically the psalm omits everything that might have introduced his prayer as set over against the despairing utterance of his timid friends.

His prayer is an allusion to Nu 6:26. He asks to be blessed with the blessing that God has commanded to be pronounced upon His people. He can be sure that He is praying according to the will of God. "Lift up upon us the light of Thy countenance" means: Let us bask in the sunshine of Thy favor; let Thy kindliness be directed toward us. No more is needed, for as long as one can be sure of the favor of the Almighty, all things else can be borne until the time when it pleases Him to set men free from their distress. Put still more briefly: If God be for me, who or what can be against me? This trait of the character of God is embodied in the divine name used-"Yahweh."


The verb nesah, spelled with samekh, is here apparently used for the form written with sin and so is the regular verb for "lift up."

Psalm 4:7

Ps 4:7. Thou hast always been wont to put joy into my heart,
More than these people have when their grain and wine abound.

The joy that grows out of this assurance of God's favor leads the author to reflect upon the many other kindred instances where the Lord has let him experience this same joy: "Thou hast always been wont to put joy into my heart," again the perfect tense that expresses the customary experience of the past (nathatta). This joy he contrasts with the joy that his enemies have when they experience the highest joy of which they are capable-the joy because of an abundance of food and drink.

The mode of statement of the case is so very elliptical, as Perowne pointed out, that the Hebrew omits three things: the adjective "more"; the noun "gladness"; the relative adverb "when." Inserting all these, which are definitely implied, We get the thought: "More than these people have when their grain and wine abound." We used the subject "these people" because the pronomial suffix ("their grain," etc.) actually referred to the psalmist's enemies; and English usage hardly warrants the use of pronouns with antecedents that are so entirely vague. A historical background of this statement of the case may be the fact that David and his men stood in need of provisions (2Sa 16:1ff) whereas the enemy appeared to have seized all the stores they needed. The reference to grain at this point hardly allows for the supposition that there had been a failure of harvest, which had disappointed many but not the psalmist.

Psalm 4:8

Ps 4:8. And so in peace I will both lie down and sleep,

For Thou, Yahweh, alone art He who will make me to abide in safety.

Here, as so often, the Hebrew does not employ the transition of words, which are implied in the connection. We have inserted them: "and so." Because of the assurance that David has again gained from his God's merciful care he makes bold to say that he shall go to sleep calmly and unafraid. His reason, as expressed, is that Yahweh alone is the one who can grant a man such a sense of security. So the psalm comes to a close on a high level of faith. The mood has undergone a decided change from the cry of distress which was uttered in the first verse. This verse, like Ps 3:5, is nothing short of heroic in its childlike confidence in the Lord.


The word yachdaw, when used with an "and," has the meaning "both ... and" (see K.S. 375 h for a goodly number of examples).

Ps 4

Textual changes are proposed in Ps 4:1, largely as a result of attempts to remove the sequence of a request followed by a historical statement, i.e., imperative followed by perfect. But since the text as it stands makes perfectly good sense, such changes are unnecessary. In fact, the proposed changes make a lively cry for help a tame historical report.

In Ps 4:2 the lead of the Septuagint is followed by some interpreters who alter "glory" and what follows into "hardhearted" by a slight consonantal change. But the text as it stands in the Hebrew makes fully as good sense as does the meaning that the Greek translators extracted from it.

In Ps 4:3 an alteration of the text is suggested which results in the meaning: God has made His kindness marvelous toward me. Though that would fit smoothly into the context, it cannot be denied that as the text stands the sequence of thought involved is also very good.

As Kittel's footnotes indicate, all these textual emendations are sug-gested as possibilities or probabilities, and in no case do they offer any decided advantage of interpretation.

Psalm 5:1



We have no indication whatsover as to any particular occasion which may have caused the composition of this psalm. Its tone is intentionally general, as it would seem, in order to make it serviceable for all manner of occasions. The heading merely indicates that the psalm is to be put into the hands of "the Director" (on this term see the heading of Ps 4), and is a psalm of David (nothing in the text is in conflict with this claim of authorship) and lastly is to be rendered "according (to the tune of) 'the inheritances.'" Though this last term is most commonly understood to refer to some tune that was familiar in the music of David's day, another interpretation offered in this connection dare not be brushed aside lightly. This interpretation points to the other possible translation of the word hannechiloth, namely, "the lots." With this meaning in mind, we might regard the term as an indication in a meaningful sort of way of the substance of the psalm, which does, indeed, contrast the distinctive lot of the godly with that of the ungodly. It must, however, be admitted that there is too little material available on these headings of the psalms to allow us to arrive at results of interpretation that are entirely incontrovertible.

The general tone of this psalm is much like that of the two that preceded it. It may be classified as the lament of an individual. The meter is largely the qinah measure, 3+ 2.

In line with the general tone of the psalm, which we have just indicated, is the complete absence of any statement of the personal trouble that the author may have experienced at the time he was writing. Since the personal note is absent from this poem, and, in fact, in the last two verses the reference to godly men in general disregards the thought of an individual case, we are quite in harmony with those interpreters who suggest that this is a psalm that was designed rather for congregational than for personal use. In other words, thus the church might well pray at all times though the use of the psalm by the individual need not be excluded.

As to the general classification of this psalm, we soon note that it belongs to those psalms that voice a deep sense of the need of moral integrity in the sight of God. A tone of moral earnestness prevails throughout.

If this leads among other things to a prayer against the ungodly that they may be put out of the way, the critical spirit should not pass judgment upon this part of the prayer, as is so commonly done, as though such a prayer must needs always be spoken in a tone of vindictiveness, or as though some unholy emotions must motivate the man who prays thus. Commentators ought rather to catch the spirit of Old Testament writers generally on this subject, namely, the spirit which feels God's will in this matter very keenly and prays that God may act in conformity with His holy will. Indeed, there can be no doubt about it that it is the good and perfect will of God utterly to overthrow the stubbornly impenitent; and it was just this latter class of men against whom prayers of this sort are directed.

The outline of this psalm is as follows: it first expresses a plea to be heard (Ps 5:1-2); it then gives expression to the general principle that is involved, the clear principle that the wicked may not abide in the presence of God, but God's true children may come into His presence (Ps 5:3-7); then follows the prayer based on this principle, which prayer petitions: Guide me but condemn the manifestly wicked-a result because of which all godly men will rejoice (Ps 5:8-12).

Prayers of this kind may have more value than our age is inclined to admit. They are surely born out of a deep sense of the sinfulness of sin and out of the conviction that the only one who can stem the tide of sin is the Almighty. Viewed thus, these psalms that are prayers against wickedness and the wicked may, indeed, be prayed with great profit, at least by the true children of God. These are psalms that express what the Lord Jesus Himself taught us to pray: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," which includes that "God break and hinder every evil counsel and will."

a) A plea to be heard (Ps 5:1-2)

Ps 5:1. Hear my words, O Lord; Consider my sighing.

Ps 5:2. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King and my God, For unto Thee do I present my prayer.

This initial plea is marked by a certain urgency, which is in the spirit of the reminder that "the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much." We have "hear," "consider," and "hearken." The prayer is first described in general as "words" (a poetic word reserved for special prayers like these) and "sighing," to describe how it issues from the deep feeling of the heart; and also as "the voice of my cry," to remind that help is eagerly sought. The word shaw'i means basically "cry for help." If, as seems to be the case, it is Israel's king offering up this prayer, there is a fine confession in the fact that he calls the Lord his "king," for he acknowledges that Yahweh is the true King of kings. But higher is the title which follows: "my God." So men speak who stand in a personal relation to God. For all such, i.e., for the church, is this prayer designed. The only plea added as to why this prayer should be heard is the simple statement: "For unto Thee do I present my prayer." The mere fact that God's children have the confidence which moves them to present their prayer to their God is thought of as a plea that carries weight with God. If men trust Him enough to cry unto Him, that will please the Almighty so much as to make Him inclined to hear their petition.

Psalm 5:3

b) The wicked may not abide in the presence of God, but God's true children may abide (Ps 5:3-7)

Ps 5:3. O Lord, as soon as morning comes, do Thou hear my voice;

As soon as morning comes, I shall set (my prayer) in order for Thee and keep watch.

The author intimates that he is going to offer up his prayer promptly in the morning. This ties in with the preceding statement that he purposed to "present his prayer." It is true that the original says no more than "in the morning" (boqer), beginning the two successive clauses with this adverbial accusative. But in this connection this means what we have tried to capture by the use of the explanatory clause, "as soon as the morning comes." We do not believe that the expression here used indicates, as so many assume at this point, that this is a morning prayer as such. In this prayer the author merely asserts that day by day he purposes to lose no time in offering his petitions to the Lord, his God; as soon as the dawn breaks, his own first task shall be to offer up his prayers. Cf. Ps 59:17; 88:14; 92:3; 55:18. The word used to express this thought ("set in order") is borrowed from the terminology of sacrifice, having as its object such things as the wood of offerings or the offerings themselves. The psalmist expresses the thought that what he is presenting is also a sacrifice though it is the "offering of the lips." Cf. also Job 32:14: "words" as the object of the verb. We have felt free, therefore, to add the object that is implied: "my prayer." At the same time the author intends to "keep watch," that is to say, look up unto the Lord, His God, until the help desired by him comes. In manifold ways God gives tokens to His own that He has heard their cry if they would but keep watch or look out for them. A kindred thought is found in Mic 7:7.


We feel it is quite a bit better to render the imperfect tishma' as an optative than as a future, "Thou shalt hear," therefore, "Do Thou hear." The psalmist is not informing God as to what he purposes to do; he is praying.

Psalm 5:4

Ps 5:4. For Thou art not a God that is pleased with wickedness, not Thou; Neither may an evil man sojourn with Thee.

Now begins the statement of the principle involved. It is stated negatively at first: God is opposed to all those that do evil. No wicked man may dare to hope to keep company with Him, for He takes no pleasure in wickedness. This is a mild litotes, that God takes no pleasure in wickedness, but it becomes stronger at the end of the verse, where the "Thou" stands out-an arrangement which results in a thought that is somewhat like the one we have reproduced by the "not Thou." Should any one, therefore, nevertheless presume to seek the company of the Almighty he would be promptly thrust out.


The imperfect yegurekha is likewise rather a potential imperfect than a future. For even as Ps 5:7 expresses a privilege that right-minded men exercise, this verse expresses the thought that evil men may not do so. Compare here Ps 15:1; 61:5; 120:5a.

Psalm 5:5

Ps 5:5 Boasters may not take their place in Thy sight; Thou hatest all workers of iniquity.

The manifold terms that are used to describe wicked men simply add up to this, that no form of evil may dwell with the Lord. He abhors wickedness in all its ramifications. The verbs used grow increasingly stronger in expressing God's aversion as this is innate in His very nature: from "sojourn" to "take their place in Thy sight" to "hate" to "destroy" in an ascending climax. After He has destroyed them He will turn away from them as from a thing that is to be utterly abhorred.

Psalm 5:6

Ps 5:6 Thou wilt destroy all them that speak lies;

The Lord will abhor the man of blood and deceit.

The culmination of the evil persons is reached in those who are men "of blood and deceit." A "man of blood" is not necessarily a bloodthirsty man but rather one who is spotted with the blood of those whom he has slain.

It must be noted that all the thoughts that are expressed in reference to the wicked are not as yet prayers spoken against them but primarily expression of confidence that the Lord will deal with all such after a given pattern, and that one and the same lot awaits them all. This fact has led us to draw attention repeatedly to the principle that is here being set forth.

Psalm 5:7

Ps 5:7. But as for me, I may come into Thy house because of the greatness of Thy mercy; I may worship toward Thy holy temple in awe of Thee.

The psalmist (note the emphatic "as for me") contrasts himself with those whom he has just described as being immersed in evil and addicted to it. Because he is conscious of being opposed to evil in every form and of being in the company of those who have a good conscience in the sight of the Lord he knows that God is minded differently toward him. Yet he does not base this different attitude of God toward him on any merit of his own. He distinctly sets forth his exclusive reason for hope in the words "because of the greatness of Thy mercy." In the presence of God men of God have always taken their stand on His mercy. There is no other adequate reason for hope. In that respect this man is utterly different from those whom he has just described. Much more is involved in the expression "I may come into Thy house" than merely making bold to step into the Temple building at Jerusalem. For that would be a matter that is purely external in character. The higher privilege is under consideration, that of venturing into the personal presence of God in true fellowship, be it in thought or in prayer. Since this privilege is under consideration, it is better to translate as we have, "I may come," rather than, "I shall come" (A.R.V.); likewise, "I may worship."

This understanding of the verse disposes of a difficulty that some interpreters have in that they feel that the buildings referred to had not yet been erected in the days of David, and, therefore, that the words "Thy house" and "Thy holy temple" conflict with the claim made by the heading that this is a psalm of David. But since the heavenly abode is primarily under consideration, this objection is invalid. Even if the holy edifice in Jerusalem had been referred to, the words here used would not have been inappropriate, though we well know that the Ark of the Covenant was still housed in a tent (2Sa 7:2). For men would involuntarily think of the high and holy habitation of the Lord and use terms descriptive of its greater dignity. Even Kessler says: "Only he who will not allow for any freedom of expression in poetry would draw conclusions against Davidic authorship from the fact that words such as bdyith (house) and heykhal (palace) are here used, and emphasize that in David's day the sanctuary was still an 'ohel (tent)."

Besides, it can be amply demonstrated that the expression "house of the Lord" is used with reference to the ancient Tabernacle; see Ex 23:19; De 23:18; Jos 6:24; 1Sa 1:24; 3:15. It is also used with reference to the tent which David pitched for the ark on Mount Zion (2Sa 12:20). There is good reason for saying, "toward Thy holy temple," inasmuch as all worship would very naturally be directed in thought toward the place where God had promised to manifest His presence, so that even a physical turning toward this place came to be customary in the course of time (Da 6:10). The expression usually rendered "in Thy fear" means, of course, "in awe of Thee," the suffix in the original being the equivalent of an objective genetive.

Psalm 5:8

c) A prayer for guidance, and condemnation of the wicked (Ps 5:8-12)

Ps 5:8. O Lord, lead me in Thy righteousness because of them that lie in wait for me; Make level the way that Thou leadest me.

The arrangement of the thoughts is chiastic. In the first section of the psalm the wicked were described first, then the righteous man was referred to. Here the prayer of the righteous man comes first. In fact, he appeals to Yahweh, the faithful covenant God, because he knows that he stands in a covenant relationship with Him. To be led "in Thy righteousness" means according to that faithfulness which has always prompted Him to do that which is right and just toward those who have proved faithful to Him. Were God to fail such a man, this failure would give occasion "to them that lie in wait" for him to resort to mockery of him and blasphemy of God.

A man may well express concern about having so unfortunate a thing happen to him. The expression "make level" may be rendered "make straight," depending on one's viewpoint. The Hebrew says: Make straight before my face Thy way. This must mean what we have indicated above. God's own have this confidence in Him, that they are always being led along a path of God's choosing and not without plan and purpose. But so fully is God in control of every situation that He not only is the one that determines the road that is to be taken but is capable also of making that road-life's pathway-level or straight if it would seem that the going is about to be somewhat difficult.

Psalm 5:9

Ps 5:9. For there is nothing dependable in the mouth of every such a one; Their heart is full of treachery; Their throat is an open grave; Their tongues (indeed) utter smooth words.

When an entire psalm is directed against certain evil men, these men must of necessity be very evil, otherwise such an issue could not be made of what they are and do. The psalmist owes us the description that Ps 5:9 gives. We have no reason to doubt the correctness of what he says, for there is no touch of personal enmity manifested anywhere in the psalm. This description then being true, we are practically compelled with Delitzsch to contend that there is something Satanic about their sin, and that therefore it is unpardonable. This factor must be evaluated carefully; and to it must be added the further fact that the inspired writer was not giving merely his own personal verdict in the case but was writing unimpeachable truth. Surely, over against such perversity man must take a positive stand.

These are the elements of the description offered: Not a statement issuing from the mouth of these evildoers is "dependable," and they are strangely all alike in this respect; besides, "their heart is full of treachery." How, then, could their mouth utter good things! Expressed in a figure: "their throat is an open grave." As the vilest stench of death issues forth from open graves, so every utterance of theirs is tainted to the highest degree and utterly repulsive. They may usually cover up this fact by making their words smooth and seemingly harmless. But their words are in contrast with the actual sentiment of their hearts. This the Hebrew renders: "They make their tongues smooth."


A whole class is being spoken of. Yet when the singular suffix appears in pihu, "his mouth," the effect of that singular possessive is distributive. Therefore we translated freely, "in the mouth of every such a one." See K.S. 348 u-y.

Psalm 5:10

Ps 5:10. Declare them guilty, O God;

Let them fall by their own counsels;

Because of the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out;

For they have rebelled against Thee.

An aggressive prayer follows the description in the preceding words. Since these statements of the Old Testament have not been understood rightly by our age, which is unduly tolerant of evil and has largely forgotten God's righteousness and gratuitously goes on the assumption that these Old Testament men never did a thing to set these evildoers right and never prayed for them, it will be in place to offer the following very sober suggestion of Maclaren's: "The vindication of such prayers for the destruction of evil-doers is that they are not the expression of personal enmity ('they have rebelled against Thee') and that they correspond to one side of the divine character and acts, which was prominent in the Old Testament epoch of revelation, and is not superseded by the New." Since the Old Testament bears such ample testimony to the fact that godly men like David encountered a rare measure of diabolical and unrelenting hostility to Yahweh and to the representatives of His church in those days, and since we see a similar spirit rearing its ugly head in the time of Christ and not resting until it had brought Him to the cross, we had better not natter ourselves in our day that wickedness is the pale and innocuous thing that men often claim it is.

All of which makes it perfectly obvious that we are not to confuse personal opposition and enmity with stubborn and unrelenting enmity against the Lord and against His Anointed and are to be very careful to what use we put these psalms. The church, however, can and should use them in the spirit of the petition: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

"Declare them guilty" is another way of saying, Let them be dealt with as they have so richly merited. No one, except the hardened criminal, would venture to pray thus unless he were sure as to what the divine verdict would ultimately be. The Spirit who inspired this prayer enlightened him that prayed it to see its necessity. Falling "by their own counsels" involves the common Scriptural thought of having divine justice act in such a manner as to let the very evil that had been devised for others fall back upon the originators of it (cf., Ps 7:15; 9:15; 35:8). The only reason they are to be "thrust out" is that they have been guilty of a "multitude of transgressions"; their sins make a very sizable heap. The chief of all their misdeeds, however, is that they "have rebelled against the Most High." That may well be considered as the Old Testament equivalent of the sin against the Holy Ghost and so substantiates our interpretation as to the spiritual state of the persons described. This whole prayer does not savor a spirit of unkindness but the desire to see necessary divine justice done.


The Hebrew for "let them fall by their own counsels" is "from their own counsels." But the "from" (min) is either the min separative or the min causal. We believe the latter is the more natural.

Psalm 5:11

Ps 5:11. But let all those that take refuge in Thee be glad;

Forever may they rejoice, and then Thou wilt protect them; Let those exult in Thee that love Thy name.

Here a class of men is under consideration who are as radically different from those just spoken of as they can be. They are given the title "those that take refuge in Thee," and those "that love Thy name," and also "the righteous." These descriptive names indicate how true and close their communion with God is. Prayer is made for them that "they may be glad," that they "may rejoice and exult." This joy will scarcely be joy because of the overthrow of the ungodly but rather joy over their own deliverance from all that the ungodly may have designed for their hurt. At the same time we cannot rule out the thought of the true joy and happiness which are always the lot of those who have peace with God. For that reason, too, the prayer is to the effect that such may have this joy "forever," for it is the mark of God's people. But as they thus go on living in the joy which God has put into their hearts, God will add new cause for joy to their lot-"then Thou wilt protect them." So they will go from joy to joy. Those that "love His name" are the ones who delight in that revelation of His character which He has at all times and in all places given of Himself.


We also believe that the imperfect yismechu fits better into the sequence of thought when it is regarded as a precative rather than as an assertion or prediction. In Ps 5:10 the psalmist prayed in reference to the ungodly; here he prays in reference to the godly. In wethasekh we believe the imperfect, without waw conversive, is used to indicate the next step in what is to be expected even as we have translated: "and then Thou wilt protect them." See K.S. 364 1.

Psalm 5:12

Ps 5:12. For Thou wilt bless all righteous ones, O Lord;

Thou wilt surround them with favor as with a shield.

At the close the psalm broadens out into what might be called a statement of principle, which is here offered as a reason why the righteous may hope that He will hear this prayer. God is a God who always "will bless all righteous ones" or, to use a figure, He will "surround them with favor as with a shield." On this note of confident assurance, which only the righteous have, the psalm closes.


Since tsaddiq is used without an article it stresses the quality as such and may, therefore, be translated "all righteous ones."

There is no confusion of the text in Ps 5:11-12, calling for a realignment of clauses (Oesterley). The text makes very good sense as it stands.

When Leslie claims that this "is the prayer of one who has been falsely accused" who then "pays a visit to the Temple in the hope of being decisively vindicated" and further adds, "He has arranged an omen sacrifice," even using this word in his translation of Ps 5:3, we cannot go along with his approach-it is too much of a pressing of a particular presupposition which is not in the text.

Ps 5

Ps 5:3 closes with the words, "and will keep watch." It has been surmised that this must refer to some kind of activity which has to do with divination or prognostication of the future and would then here mean as much as "to watch the entrails for omens." This approach would press the level of the Sacred Scriptures down to the acknowledged level of heathen culture. The Scriptures are very clear as to what is heathen practice and what is not, and, as Koenig has well shown, the vocabulary of divination is a vocabulary all its own and does not include this term. Therefore the meaning must be retaining of waiting or watching for a token of God's answer to prayer.

Ps 5:10, it is claimed, gives evidence of an occasional naive self-righteousness of some of old Old Testament saints, who suppose themselves to be above reproach and feel free to ask God to condemn their opponents. But, as the above exposition has shown, the opposition involved is not ordinary opposition, nor is there a smug complacency about the men who venture to come into God's presence merely on the basis "of the greatness of His mercy," Ps 5:7.

In this verse "Elohim" appears as the divine name in a Yahwistic psalm because, according to the meaning of these names, Elohim is the God of judgment.

Psalm 6:1


THIS TITLE is not quite to the point, but the point involved cannot be stated so very briefly. This is really the prayer of a man beset by enemies whose opposition has made him feel God's anger to such an extent that his health was badly impaired.

The psalm may be divided into the following sections, which again can scarcely be designated as strophes, for as Maclaren rightly says: It "has four curves or windings, which can scarcely be called strophes without making too artificial a framework for such a simple and spontaneous gush of feeling." We can divide as follows:

a) A plea that God may desist from His rebuke, which plea is motivated by the author's extreme weakness and fear (Ps 6:1-3a).

b) A further plea for deliverance, motivated by the thought that, only if the author survives, can he praise God (Ps 6:3b;Ps 6:4-5).

c) The extremity of the author's grief and its devastating effect (Ps 6:6-7).

d) Sudden assurance of having been heard makes the psalmist bid all enemies depart and makes him predict their utter defeat (Ps 6:8-10).

A rather unusual feature of this psalm is that it is truly a psalm of penitence, which, however, strangely does not happen to mention sin.

Enemies are in the picture, men who antagonize the psalmist, and they are evildoers whereas he has a clear conscience over against them. The connection with the idea that this is a psalm of penitence seems to be this: The enmity of the ungodly on this occasion awakens in this man David a sense of his being under the wrath of God. This conviction then weighs so terribly upon his mind that he fails in health and becomes physically much distressed. The physical ailment seems definitely to be the outcome of his spiritual pain.

The rather startling feature about the psalm is the extent of the pain that this godly man feels at being under God's anger. The confession that he makes is mostly one of weakness and utter helplessness unless God pardons his inquity. If a deeper sense of guilt is not expressed in this psalm, there is at least a great measure of grief in evidence over having lost God's favor.

a) A plea that God may desist from His rebuke, which plea is motivated by the author's extreme weakness and fear (Ps 6:1-3a)

Ps 6:1. O Lord, do not rebuke me in Thine anger; Do not correct me in Thy wrath.

Translated very literally, the verse would read: "Not in Thine anger rebuke me, etc." That would seem to imply, as not a few interpreters construe it, that the author welcomes correction as long as it is not administered in God's anger. The thought would then be like that voiced in Jer 10:24f. The author seeks correction in love. Though there is such a thing, the sequence of the thought in the next verses does not suggest love-rebuke vs. anger-rebuke but rather a complete removal of the correction because the correction is an evidence of God's anger. In other words, the negative is not to be taken as modifying the adverbial phrases "in Thine anger" and "in Thy wrath" in the second half of the verse. The negative modifies the whole thought, or more particularly the verbs "rebuke" and "correct."

The correction that God makes of His children is always motivated by His love. But in so far as they are still carnal and controlled by the old Adam, God's anger is manifested against this element of their being, and the correction gets to be a correction in anger. In his distress the author of the psalm feels no indication of his being in a state of grace. He has, in fact, fallen from it and seeks to enter it again. As long as this sense of loss is upon him, just so long must the rebuke of God be felt as anger. So in this instance the plea made involves the plea for a reinstatement into God's grace and so is the equivalent of a free and full confession of sin and utter unworthiness even though these thoughts are not expressed in the customary form.

The second member of the verse marks an advance upon the first. "Rebuke" involves merely an indication that wrong has been done, and that it should not have been done. "Correct" involves positive efforts to set the person in question right. So also "wrath" is more than "anger," being in reality what the A.V. has labelled "hot displeasure." The word means "heat" or the "heat of anger."

Both halves of the verse taken together are in reality a plea for forgiveness and a practical admission that the wrong done is of so serious a nature that it must be disposed of, which disposal can be effected only through forgiveness.

Psalm 6:2

Ps 6:2. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak;

Heal me, O Lord, for my bones are terrified.

Ps 6:3a. In particular, my soul is terrified exceedingly.

A noteworthy feature of this confession is that it wisely offers no plea of merit on the part of the writer. He does not seem to be aware of the fact that he had anything of merit that God should consider in granting forgiveness. In fact, all thoughts of merit are strictly ruled out in the plea "have mercy upon me." This, added to the request to let "lovingkindness" prevail (Ps 6:4), causes the author to cast himself wholly upon the goodness of his God and shows this Old Testament saint to be a one that understands well the true gospel of pure grace without merit or worthiness on his part.

His plea is reinforced by three considerations that set forth his misery: "I am weak," "my bones are terrified," "my soul is exceedingly terrified." It speaks well for David that he regards his God as one who is moved by even the weakness of His children. More so is He touched when their pain at being under His displeasure mounts to the point where the very bones are terrified. See a parallel expression in Pr 16:24. Cf. the feelings of the body in Ps 19:8; 35:10; 84:2. How keen must pain over sin be as it was felt by these Old Testament saints when it must be described as a terror felt in the very bones! Paralyzing fear might be a good commentary on what was felt. All who take sin lightly may well weigh what true children of God have felt when God's Spirit wrought repentance in their heart. The peak of suffering is expressed by, "My soul is terrified exceedingly." This was not a morbid state of mind but a true realization of what a dreadful thing sin is. One can well understand why this psalm struck a responsive note in Luther's heart, and why he claimed that it dealt with the "high spiritual temptation," i.e., those temptations in which men wrestle with their God over their soul's salvation and are much concerned whether their God will be merciful to them or not.

The petition "heal me" does not necessarily refer to physical healing but may well include every restorative work that God does upon body and soul.


It seems somewhat difficult to determine whether 'umlal is a participle Pual, written without the customary mas a prefix, or whether it should be classified as a Pual Perfect from 'amal; we believe the former deserves the preference.

Psalm 6:3

b) A further plea for deliverance, motivated by the thought that, only if the author survives, can he praise God (Ps 6:3b;Ps 6:4-5)

Ps 6:3b. But as for Thee, O Lord, how long . . . ?

Ps 6:3b. Distress is resting so heavily upon him that the author continues his cry for help. From himself he shifts the thought emphatically to God when he says, "but as for Thee," in Hebrew merely the emphatic personal pronoun with the adversative. More impressive than an utterance is the unfinished statement, an aposiopesis: "How long ---?" The thought must obviously be something like: How long wilt Thou remain inactive? or, How long must I suffer thus? Other instances of aposiopesis: Ps 90:13; 35:25 (margin); Ps 75:6.


All such expressions as the initial "in particular" are not literally found in the Hebrew, which in this case has only a waw ("and"). However, Koenig seems to be quite correct in classifying the waw in question as a waw augmentativum-a new classification not previously recognized by grammarians.

Psalm 6:4

Ps 6:4. Return, O Lord, deliver my soul; Save me for Thy lovingkindness' sake.

When the thought continues, "return," the speaker implies that God has gone from him, turned his back upon him, and shunned him (cf., Ps 10:1; Zec 1:3). The fact that his very existence is at stake is indicated by the plea: "Deliver my soul," i. e., My life. The parallel plea is motivated, as it was in Ps 6:2, by an appeal to God's "loving-kindness." Again there is no thought of personal worth that deserves recognition. Such appeals reach into the very depth of God's heart and being. Beyond that there are no depths of appeal that can be reached. But the more extensive motivation for all this is given in a new form in Ps 6:5.

Psalm 6:5

Ps 6:5. For in the state of death men do not remember Thee; In the realm of the dead, who will give Thee thanks?

The average Bible reader is greatly puzzled by statements like the one found here. It would seem as though the writer of them did not believe in the life after death. Or, on the other hand, the statement might make the impression that the author's praise is highly esteemed in the sight of God. Strangely, there is a measure of truth in each of these views. Both require further elucidation, and these considerations alone do not make the issues entirely clear.

On the one hand it is true that the Old Testament saints did not have that clear revelation of the life after death that the New Testament saints have been granted. They were, however, not left utterly in the dark on the subject. They had some knowledge of a good hereafter ever since Enoch's departure which is recorded in such a significant way in the first book of the Bible (Ge 5:24). Sometimes the Old Testament Scriptures indicate no more of this existence than that departed spirits enjoyed a great measure of rest in the realm of the hereafter. We cannot always tell, when the weaker utterances under this heading are considered, whether the words spoken, especially in the psalms, are words that were spoken when doubt and despair lay heavily upon men. These passages especially Ps 88:10; 115:17; Isa 38:18 must be used with care when deducing what the normal doctrine in Israel was on this subject. Frankly expressed misgivings are not good bases for proving doctrine (sedes doctrinae). It is this latter thought that we would dwell on with special emphasis in considering our verse. It cannot be denied that the soul of the author was deeply afflicted when he wrote this verse. A truth that was but partially revealed seems to have faded momentarily from his view. Even then he does not deny existence in the hereafter. It seems to be such a dim, shadowy existence (cf., Ps 88:12; Job 3:13ff.) that he feels he would not be able there to remember God's goodness and praise Him for it.

In all this there is certainly an element of truth. It cannot be denied that, after the soul has departed and the body has not yet been raised in the general resurrection from the dead, man's salvation is not yet full and perfect. Somehow men of old may have dimly felt some of this truth.

We shall particularly bear in mind that this statement was made in a very trying situation which had caused some of the truth known to recede from consciousness for the moment. From another point of view this statement may be regarded as expressing a very good and substantial thought, such as was characteristic of many of the Old Testament saints. They loved to praise God here on this earth. When death overtook them, they felt that this particular privilege would come to an end. This man pleads that he might not be denied it. None of the godly men of the Old Covenant had advanced to the point of longing to depart and be with the Lord. Their hope was not so strong nor their revelation so clear. To judge them from the standpoint of New Testament revelation does them a grave injustice and ignores the increasing clearness that is to be noted as God's unchanging truth became more and more distinct from age to age.

Lest, however, we leave a wrong impression in regard to the light that had been revealed on this subject in the days of the Old Testament, those clearer passages should also be considered which constitute a valid part of the Old Testament revelation. We refer to Ps 16:8-11; Isa 26:19; Da 12:2-3. Nor will it do to assign a late date to all these passages because of the dogmatic belief that this doctrine emerged late in the revelation of the Old Covenant. There is ample evidence for considering Ps 16 Davidic, even as there is for attributing Isa 26 to none other than Isaiah. When speaking, therefore, of the normal faith of the Israelite of days of old, these important statements dare not be ignored.

We shall also not let ourselves think too lightly of the idea that the praises of God's saints are acceptable unto Him. Heb 13:15 clearly expresses this thought on the New Testament level.


For what we have rendered "state of death" the Hebrew has only the plain maweth, usually rendered "death." Here, however, the parallel element is she'ol, "the realm of the dead." This parallelism makes our translation desirable.

Psalm 6:6

c) The extremity of the author's grief and its devastating effect (Ps 6:6-7)

Ps 6:6. I have toiled over my groaning; I made my bed, so to say, to swim all night long; I have practically dissolved my couch with my tears.

Ps 6:7. My eye is dimmed because of grief; It has grown old and weak because of all my foes.

Whereas the preceding plea was centered in Yahweh and based on His mercy, this plea centers in man and his attitude. This is in effect an expression of the thought that the author is deeply pained because of his sins. Surely, it is not a light and trivial repentance which languishes so deeply under the feeling of divine displeasure. Neither is this merely a feeling of wretchedness, which morbidly and selfishly regards only the fact that a feeling of wretchedness is upon one. These tears are wept in the sight of God, they are a part of the earnest prayer unto God. They are then in effect an earnest confession of sin and misery. Not without reason the author believes that God hears men when they cry thus.

First of all, the author asserts that his groaning is something over which he has actually "toiled." The other translation "am weary" merely expresses the effect that is produced by such toiling. Obviously employing a hyperbole, he says that his tears have been so numerous that they have all but made his bed to swim all the night long. Few men have taken their sins so seriously. The third statement added to the parallel members of the verse-and such tristichs are not at all uncommon-has a hyperbole that is equally strong when it says: "I have practically dissolved my couch with my tears." We have sought to indicate, after the manner prevalent in our day, that the statements made pass the bounds of literal exactness by adding Ps 6:6b "so to say" and Ps 6:6c "practically." It will be observed that our translation adds such touches rather frequently, for what we express in words was supplied in thought by the reader of the original.

Psalm 6:7

Ps 6:7. My eye is dimmed because of grief; It has grown old and weak because of all my foes.

Since the eye in particular would show the marks of such excessive grief, the author indicates that this has actually come to be the case. The lasting "grief" that is upon him has made his eye lose its luster. In fact, the grief that his foes have caused him has made the eye "become old and weak." We have used a double expression for the single verb in the original because both ideas are implied. Any such plea of grief and wretchedness may well be thought of as rousing the pity of the Almighty, who is not pleased to see His faithful ones who cry unto Him abandoned to their misery.


The rendering offered by some interpreters of bekholtsoreray, "in the midst of all mine enemies," has less to warrant it than the familiar "because of all mine enemies." There seems to be no reasonable motivation for telling where the eye has failed, but there is reason for revealing why. The lead of the Septuagint is in this instance not satisfactory.

Psalm 6:8

d) Sudden assurance of having been heard makes the psalmist bid all enemies depart and makes him predict their utter defeat (Ps 6:8-10)

Ps 6:8. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity; For the Lord hath heard the sound of my weeping.

Ps 6:9. The Lord hath heard my entreaty; The Lord hath accepted my prayer.

Ps 6:10. All my enemies shall feel shame and terror; Suddenly shall they turn back and feel shame.

Ps 6:8. A sudden change of mood appears in the psalm at this point. Parallel instances are found in Ps 22:22ff.; Ps 16:8f.; Ps 28:6f.; Ps 31:21ff.; Ps 69:32ff. We can readily understand how one who has gone into the divine presence with his particular trouble and has freely unburdened his heart before the throne of the Almighty may be mightily comforted by having gotten the matter off his chest and by having deposited his burden with God. Such moods are not, however, to be forecast or anticipated. They break upon good men of God, without their being able to account for them. Here, of a sudden the grief, the vexation, the uncertainty, and the feeling of the divine displeasure disappear as a flock of scavenger birds. Instead comes the dove of God's peace.

When all those that disturb the psalmist are bidden to "depart," the thought is practically, he has felt all his enemies to be clustered round about him, whether they were as a lot near to him physically or not. In his thinking they were always present and intent upon his harm. He suddenly becomes so sure of having been heard by God that he feels that the machinations of the enemies have come to nought. And since they must sooner or later depart, he dismisses them now in the certainty that they must go whether they will or not. Admirable courage of faith lies in this "depart." The psalmist is very clearly not slandering his foes but is describing them objectively as what they are when he designates them "workers of iniquity." This title, appearing also in the A.V., signifies that all such opponents are men who habitually practice iniquity, hollow, empty worthlessness. For the fundamental characteristic of "iniquity" ('awen) is that it is basically worthless as far as lasting, constructive results are concerned. To practice such things is certainly indicative of a useless and misspent existence.

The reason advanced for this bold dismissal is stated in the following three clauses, the substance of which is, "Yahweh hath heard." Only the heart that has experienced the assurance that conies from the certainty of being heard can understand why this man is so bold. Nothing may have been done by the Lord as a visible and tangible deed, yet the heart is certain. With becoming modesty the author ascribes to himself nothing more than this, that he had laid before the Lord "the sound" of his "weeping." It was not because he had prayed so excellently, but because the Lord had been so compassionate.


The familiar qol does mean "voice," but its secondary meaning "sound" is a bit more suitable here.

The perfect shama' illustrates the difficulty involved in the translation of the Hebrew tenses. We render it, as is common enough for perfects, "hath heard." Koenig seems to regard it as a prophetic perfect and so renders, "will hear." Neither his rendering nor Luther's present tense hoert expresses quite so well the full assurance found in the perfect, and there is surely a full measure of confidence at the close of the psalm. The translation should be in harmony with this fact.

Psalm 6:9

Ps 6:9. The Lord hath heard my entreaty; The Lord hath accepted my prayer.

Again he calls his prayer "entreaty" or "plea for mercy" as some commentators render the word. In the last instance he calls it only "prayer." In these three parallel clauses the emphasis lies on the certainty of acceptance, and the statements as such constitute one of the finest instances of anaphora found in the psalms.

Psalm 6:10

Ps 6:10. All my enemies shall feel shame and terror; Suddenly shall they turn back and feel shame.

But just as certain as he is that his prayers have been accepted, just so assured is he of the complete overthrow of his enemies. His own acceptance is an absolutely accomplished fact (perfect tense in the Hebrew); their discomfort is yet to come (imperfects in the Hebrew) . The lot of all of them will be the same, he is sure. The familiar translation of the Hebrew verb bush, "be ashamed," is scarcely forceful enough in our day. It seems to convey the mild idea of embarrassment whereas the fate implied is "to be utterly disgraced," zu Schanden werden, as Luther regularly renders it. Our translation "feel shame" must be taken in the strongest sense of the word as its parallel expression, "feel terror," also indicates. The second line of the verse plainly conveys the thought that their fate will have about it something of the catastrophic: "suddenly shall they turn back and feel shame." Utter defeat and overthrow are involved in this adversity of theirs. Luther seeks to express something more than even the Hebrew imperfects allow when he renders: muessen zurueckkehren und zu Schanden werden, "must turn back," etc. This would involve the thought that the psalmist had said that in all such cases a drastic overthrow is inevitable. The psalmist rather reflects only on what he is sure will befall them in this instance in answer to his prayer to God.

Ps 6


Criticism sometimes leads interpreters to extreme claims. This becomes apparent when what is really a statement of doubt felt in the extremity of trial about not being able to praise God in the state after death is pressed as though it contained the doctrine that the dead are beyond the reach of God according to the express teaching of the Old Testament. Such a thought has obviously been inserted into the passage, not extracted from it.

Kittel does not judge soberly the issues involved in this psalm when at the conclusion he ventures the surmise that a priestly oracle or blessing may originally have been attached to this psalm after what seems to have been a Babylonian precedent (so scheint es in Babylon gewesen zu sein). Why must Israel have imitated all Babylonian precedents? Or why make doubtful precedents normative in interpretation? The psalm comes to a well-rounded conclusion.

Psalm 7:1


IT HAS BEEN aptly said that Ps 6 "wailed like some soft flute" but that, on the other hand, Ps 7 "pealed like the trumpet of judgment" (Maclaren). There is a certain vehemence of feeling in this psalm, which may, perhaps, account for the title that appears in the original where this psalm is called a "Shiggaion." According to its root this word might mean "a wild, passionate song with rapid changes of rhythm" (BDB). But one may well have misgivings regarding this etymology, for the passionate element is scarcely as pronounced as this explanation claims. In view of this difficulty we may have to content ourselves with the somewhat colorless translation "ode." The Assyrian root shegu could suggest that this is a "complaint."

The heading found in the original would then read: An ode of David, which he sang unto Yahweh concerning the words of Cush, the Benjamite. The second difficulty encountered is that we cannot posiitively identify this "Cush." To regard this as another name for Doeg, Edomite (1Sa 22:9) is precarious, if not impossible. The situation presented in this psalm is so much like that described in this chapter of I Samuel or more particularly that found in 1Sa 24 (see particularly Ps 7:9) that we are much inclined to think in terms of this period of David's life. Delitzsch has rightly said: "We need only to read 1Sa 24-26 in order to see how rich in unmistakable allusions to this period of David's life our psalm is."

Others, including Luther, have seen in the title "Cush" a reference to the dark hue of the character of this bitter enemy of the author, as though David sought to mark him as a man of black character or as "a black-hearted man" (Kirkpatrick*). This, though possible, seems less likely. This seems to be a man concerning whom the historical record of the Scriptures conveys no further information. From the Greek version down attempts have been made to read kushi in the heading, identifying this man according to 2Sa 18:21ff.

It may disturb some readers to notice that the writer ventures to call upon Him who is the Judge of the universe to act in his own particular interest as though such weighty matters as his personal difficulty would be considered by Him who has matters of so much greater moment to consider. But this writer is apparently a man who sees in himself an exponent of the cause of the righteous generally. Hengstenberg says very properly: "David's conflict with Saul was not a struggle between individuals but between parties-one single phase of the wickedness and the righteousness which are in evidence throughout all periods of the history of the church." Without a doubt, the author was keenly aware of his position and of its importance for all in the church who would in the course of time find themselves in situations analogous to his own. We also trust that our interpretation will demonstrate that the statement is not true that we have here "a vivid picture of the hatred engendered by religious strife, a hatred which is mutual" {Oesterley).

a) A Plea for Help (Ps 7:1-2)

1. O Lord, my God, in Thee have I taken refuge; Save me from all my pursuers and deliver me.

2. Lest they tear my life like a lion,

Who drags away his prey with none to deliver.

The author is in grave danger. He is not engaged in calm meditation upon theoretical difficulties. In this plea for help he first of all casts himself upon the mercy of his God and hides himself in Him: "in Thee have I taken refuge." Such a course of action constitutes a strong plea: the Lord cannot forsake those who make Him their refuge.

Psalm 7:2

Ps 7:2. Lest they tear my life like a lion, Who drags away his prey with none to deliver.

A whole host of bitter enemies is in pursuit and hot on his trail. This is one indication of the fact that the struggle involved is not between man and man as it might appear on the surface. David's chief opponent is backed by many who are of the same mind with him. At the moment it is apparent that, if David were to fall into the hands of the pursuers, they would tear his very "life" (nephesh often has this meaning in Hebrew) like a "lion, who drags away his prey with none to deliver." The pursuer is bent on full and final destruction. So this plea is the outcry of a soul in grave extremity.


The Hebrew has the verb, rendered above "they tear," as a singular, yitroph. But "pursuers" had just been mentioned. When the Hebrew then continues with the singular of the verb it actually has in mind the indefinite subject: "lest one tear," etc. We felt that the English idiom preferred the plural in such a case, and that the change of number seems too harsh for legitimate English.

Psalm 7:3

b) A Protestation of Innocence, asking that God may punish the writer if he is guilty (Ps 7:3-5)

3. O Lord, my God, if I have indeed done this; If there be any injustice upon my hands;

This is surely the protestation of a man who is definitely aware of his innocence, at least in so far as the charges advanced against him are concerned. At first he calls the thing or things charged merely "this." He at once, however, defines what this is, namely, the unjust treatment that he is said to have dealt out to his opponent. Ps 7:4 particularly defines the charge made: doing evil to a man who had been utterly without guile over against David. Such an act would have made stains upon David's hands, the stains of iniquity. The same figure is found in 1Sa 24:12; 26:18; Isa 1:15; 59:3,6. The use of it here suggests that, as we have rendered above, the iniquity is to be thought of as a stain "upon the hands," not as something that he carries about with him hidden "in his hands" (A.R.V.).

Psalm 7:4

Ps 7:4. If I have dealt out evil unto him that was at peace with me- But I delivered him that was my enemy without cause-

There is always something particularly dastardly about committing injustice against a man who lives at peace with one. This appears to have been the charge raised against David. One almost gets the impression that he is referring to a slander which had just been freshly devised and had just come to his ears. The "this" seems to have some such emphasis. With strong indignation the writer interrupts himself. Not only had he not done the evil charged, he had even done the very opposite: he had delivered his enemy, who had no cause for the enmity that he harbored against David. This half of the verse could also have been translated: "Yea, I have delivered him," etc. (A.R.V.).


The Hebrew has a double object following the verb "dealt out," namely, both the direct and the indirect as two direct objects.

Psalm 7:5

Ps 7:5. Then let the enemy pursue my soul, And let him overtake me and trample my life to the earth And lay my soul in the dust. Selah.

David brings his sentence to a conclusion with a strong malediction upon himself: May his enemy continue his persecution; may he succeed in catching his prey; may he, like some cruel brute, trample his very life to the earth-trample him to death as it were; and may he thus inflict upon him a most ignominious death-"lay my soul in the dust." This last expression "in the dust" does not mean "the dust of death" merely because this expression happens to be found in Ps 22:16. The figure "in the dust" is complete in itself and signifies the most shameful sort of defeat.

Only the man who is sure of his innocence in the sight of God would venture to call for such a doom upon himself in case he had been guilty of the thing wherewith he is charged. David, therefore, represents the cause of the righteous who are unjustly persecuted, as the church always is.


The first word of this verse has a Hebrew pointing which inserts the vowels of both the Kal and the Piel-take your choice. Nothing in the verse distinctly indicates that the apodosis begins here, yet it is very obvious that such is the case; K.S. 415c.

Psalm 7:6

c) A Plea That God may curb the Enemies and Vindicate the Writer (Ps 7:6-7)

6. Do arise, O Lord, in Thy anger;
Lift up Thyself because of the outbursts of fury of my foes and awake for me;
Thou Thyself hast commanded to exercise judgment.

7. A multitude of peoples may indeed surround Thee; But triumphing over them do Thou return on high.

The author feels rather keenly that the situation is one that calls for the exercise of divine judgment. With strong forms of the imperative like our English, "Do arise," he calls upon God to take the present case in hand and dispose of it. The fact that the misdeeds of his ungodly opponents are such as to cause God to be justly angered is entirely clear to him. This divine anger is to manifest itself over against the "outbursts of fury" of the foes. Even that bold imperative found elsewhere in the psalms which bids God "awake" is here resorted to as though God were at the moment asleep. Yet surely no irreverence is intended, it is only the Lord's seeming inaction that is reflected upon. The final plea advanced is that God himself "has commanded to exercise judgment." No particular command seems to be under consideration. The author is rather thinking of the fact that whatever justice or judgment is exercised, God's sovereign will and manifold injunctions in Israel's law indicate that He is the Author of all true judgment upon earth since Ge 9:6. All general precepts as well as all individual laws have their source in Him. How very proper it is, therefore, that He Himself act as He has commanded men to act!


Though we preferred to translate: "Thou Thyself hast commanded to exercise judgment," we cannot deny the possibility that this statement could be construed as a relative clause, the relative being omitted, thus: "to the judgment which Thou hast commanded." Our first rendering retains the abruptness of the original. Yet cf., K.S. 172b.

Psalm 7:7

Ps 7:7. A multitude of peoples may indeed surround Thee; But triumphing over them do Thou return on high.

This verse indicates what a situation He may meet were He to come down to judgment, for the opponents that the psalmist has encountered are indeed many. A veritable "multitude of peoples" may appear, as it were, arrayed against the Almighty, for to the writer his present enemies are but a few of the many who harbor hostile sentiments against God and His people. The rendering that we have given makes the imperfect of the Hebrew a potential imperfect, one of the manifold shades of meaning involved in the imperfect. Besides, we have substituted for the more formal rendering "congregation" a "multitude."

The second half of the verse is difficult. It may be best to interpret it as follows: God is called upon to return after the obvious victory which He will gain to His throne of majesty and judgment on high and to uphold again as before and as in this specific manifestation of His firm and strong rule that impartial and just administration of the government of the world that has always been characteristic of Him. Literally all that is said is, as A.R.V. has rendered it: "And over them return Thou on high." But the expression "over them" is rather pregnant with meaning, implying, as we have rendered, "triumphing over them." Or stated differently, the thought is: Give just one brief demonstration of Thy just government and then resume Thy regal throne.


It will be noted in our interpretation above that we do not regard the nations, as some commentators do, merely as onlookers or witnesses of the judgment that God exercises. Nor, on the other hand, is the full judgment upon the nations here brought into the picture. As our rendering of the second member of the verse showed ("triumphing over them") the author thinks in terms of that measure of opposition that the nations are manifesting in his particular case, and he anticipates that God will overcome this opposition effectively.

Psalm 7:8

d) A Plea for the Just Verdict of the Righteous Judge (Ps 7:8-10)

8. The Lord will judge the nations;
Do me justice, O Lord, according to my righteouness; And according to my integrity may my verdict be.

9. May the iniquity of the wicked be no more;
But do Thou establish the righteous and so prove Thyself a righteous God, Thou who triest hearts and minds.

10. My safety lieth in God,Who saveth the upright of heart.

In pleading that justice may be done to him the writer puts two items into a strange juxtaposition: the judgment of the nations and his own vindication. It might seem presumptuous for him to speak thus, yet two thoughts should be borne in mind. On the one hand, faith knows that He who governs the nations, holding them in the hollow of His hand, has a concern for the welfare of the individual saint. On the other hand, David and all who are in a similar position are not individuals in the abstract, they represent a whole category, and what they ask for themselves they desire for all others who are in a like position, and desire it with equal earnestness. It is to be regretted that some commentators call this juxtaposition of the nations and the individual something that borders on the "comic."

We have translated the verb involved in the second member of the verse "do me justice," for though it could be rendered in the Hebrew idiom "judge me"-as many versions read-the peculiar genius of the Hebrew language involves the idea of securing an individual's rights for him. We too readily associate punitive judgment with the verb "judge." The phrases indicating the norm of judgment to be followed in no sense argue for an unwholesome self-righteousness. When the writer refers to his "righteousness" and his "integrity" he has in mind the particular situation in which he finds himself, charged with some wrong of which he is innocent. He knows that his life will bear scrutiny in regard to the charge raised against him and calls for a divine verdict.


Our translation, "Yahweh will judge the nations," does not fully catch the force of the imperfect, which rather expresses a continuous attitude as explained in G.K. 107f.

Psalm 7:9

Ps 7:9. May the iniquity of the wicked be no more;
But do Thou establish the righteous and so prove Thyself a righteous God,
Thou who triest hearts and minds.

The fact that the psalmist's thoughts are not confined to the narrow circle of his personal interests appears in the broader aspects of the case that he at once takes in hand when he asks that in the process of his own vindication "the iniquity of the wicked" may also be put away, all this iniquity that cruelly persecutes and wrongs God's children. Equally much he desires that all truly righteous men be established by this same Just Judge, who is well able to judge righteously because He discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart, or, as is said here, He is a trier of "hearts and minds." We have made bold to rearrange the sequence of words slightly in order to express the contrast between the treatment of the wicked and the righteous more strongly and have then let the appositional participle ("the trier") follow. We take it that the words which stand last in the Hebrew sentence for emphasis are best given that needed emphasis if we render them: "and so prove Thyself a righteous God," rather than to offer a merely literal ellipsis which the original has, "a righteous God."

To tell the truth, these big issues which have just been enumerated are here and always at stake when God's children are unjustly oppressed by the wicked. This is not a case of an exaggerated sense of one's own importance.


The "righteous" in the clause, "but do Thou establish the righteous," is, indeed, a singular, but being without an article, it conveys the idea: "every righteous man," and so may be used for the plural (K.S. 256d). The verb preceding this word (tekhoneri), being connected with the preceding sentence only by an "and," may rightly be construed: "and (thus) do Thou establish." See K.S. 360f.

When, as here, "hearts and reins" (kidneys) are mentioned together, the heart is regarded chiefly as the seat of man's thinking (cf., Ge 6:5; 8:21, etc.) or even of the will (cf., Jer 3:17; Ps 51:10); the kidneys are the seat of the deepest feelings (e.g., Jer 17:10; 20:12). This is not effectively rendered in any translation, and our rendering "hearts and minds" has chiefly this merit, that it at least speaks English.

Psalm 7:10

Ps 7:10. My safety lieth in God,Who saveth the upright of heart.

Summing up briefly, the author declares that the issues lie wholly with the Lord or: "My safety lieth in God." This is a rather free rendering of the Hebrew idiom: "My shield is with God." Since a shield can become a synonymn of safety, we are free to translate as we have done. In the second member the Hebrew again differs slightly from our rendering in that it uses what may be regarded as a title of God, calling Him the "Saver of the upright of heart." All this is a sturdy utterance of faith.


In the expression "upright of heart" the word "heart" is an accusative of specification.

Psalm 7:11

e) A Prediction concerning the Overthrow of the Evildoers by the Almighty (Ps 7:11-13)

11. God is a just Judge,
A mighty God, who displays indignation every day.

12. He will surely whet His sword again, Bend His bow and aim it.

13. He will prepare for Himself deadly weapons; He will make His arrows fiery.

Ps 7:11. The tone of the psalm grows more confident from this point onward; it no longer pleads or petitions, it confidently predicts.

The things predicted are intimately tied up with the very nature and character of God Himself. He is both a "just Judge" and "a mighty God" who on His part never discontinues His activity against evil and evildoers, for He "displays indignation every day." We prefer this translation to "hath indignation" (A.R.V.) because it conveys the thought that God's indignation is not an idle feeling, like a kind of impotent rage. His being indignant expresses itself in acts, acts such as those described in the following verses.

Psalm 7:12

Ps 7:12. He will surely whet His sword again, Bend His bow and aim it.

This translation (discussed in detail below) is more in harmony with the picture of the activity of the God who is indignant against evil. As He has often done, so He will now once "again whet His sword" to be ready for its use at any moment. He is, in fact, to be regarded as having already bent the bow and as having taken aim. So directly imminent is the punishment of the evildoer. We often fail to realize how perilous the position of the impenitent really is.


In the translation we offer, "He will surely whet His sword again," we have, first of all, regarded the compound particle 'im lo' as an "emphatic affirmative" (BOB), and we have taken yashubh as denoting repetition (see G.K. 120dg).

Psalm 7:13

Ps 7:13. He will prepare for Himself deadly weapons; He will make His arrows fiery.

That feature of the description is left with the arrow that is ready at any moment to take its flight. The account continues with a moment's reflection on the weapons, which are of the "deadly" sort, and the arrows in particular are "fiery" in the sense of being wrapped with readily combustible materials, which make them more destructive.

As the account continues in this vein it makes an issue of the fact that he for whom evil is designed by the hands of the Almighty is fully deserving of it-a note which is rather heavily rung throughout the psalm. We have not before us a psalm in which a private grudge controls the writer's feelings.

Psalm 7:14

f) The Unhappy End of the Man Who Plots Evil (Ps 7:14-16)

14. See, a man conceives perversity; He is pregnant with mischief; He brings forth a lie.

15. A pit hath he dug and excavated; And he fell into the trap that he was making.

16. The mischief that he plotted shall recoil on his own head; Upon his own crown shall his violence descend.

Ps 7:14. Not a particular deed so much as a man's general course of conduct is first described. In its conception it is "perversity." While it is being nursed along it is "mischief." When fully matured it is all a "lie" or falsehood. See Jas. l:14f. Observe that the current translations of this verse mar the fine sequence that it expresses by having the individual "travail" already in the first member. Though the verb involved usually means something like "to writhe" it may also represent the cause as such, by metonomy, as KW shows.

Psalm 7:15

Ps 7:15. A pit hath he dug and excavated; And he fell into the trap that he was making.

Ps 7:16. The mischief that he plotted shall recoil on his own head; Upon his own crown shall his violence descend.

The description of the kind of activity that such a one delights to engage in continues by presenting him as engaged in the activity of digging and excavating a pit-two verbs to mark the man as engaged heart and soul in this unholy business-and this with the purpose in mind of showing that the pit is here as so often (see Eze 19:4; Ps 57:6; Ec 10:8) dug with the intent of trapping-in this case trapping some enemy. With a sudden turn the description pictures this wicked fellow as suddenly falling into his own pit. He experiences the harm that he designed for another, and this happens while he is still in the process of preparing the evil for his enemy. Ps 7:16 expresses this as a kind of general principle, which experience has proven to be only too true. History and experience abound in illustrations of this truth.

Psalm 7:17

g) A Resolve to Praise God for His Deliverance (Ps 7:17)

17. I will praise the Lord for His righteousness
And sing praises unto the name of the Lord, the Most High.

Ps 7:17. Confidence finally grows so strong in the faith with which God fills the psalmist's heart that he resolves to begin to offer his praises to the Lord now in the full assurance that He will manifest His righteousness in due season and in such a manner that the righteous cannot but praise and be jubilant that the well-known character ("name") of Yahweh has again been so significantly manifested. This verse might have been combined with the preceding section (f) Leupold: Ps 7:14 as the most confident part of its confident conclusion. We have placed it under a separate heading (g) to mark the unusually high point of assurance at which it arrives.

Psalm 8:1


FROM ONE POINT of view this psalm in one of the "nature psalms" (cf., Ps 19; 29; 65; 104). What it does say in reference to nature is consistent with the usual Scriptural approach, namely, nature reflects God's glory, is His handiwork, and is entirely under His control.

Primarily, however, this is a hymn of praise. It aims to set forth one particular aspect of the glory of God, chiefly in so far as this glory is revealed by the very creation and position of man, the chief of the creatures of God. In a striking way the psalm indicates how high an estimate revealed truth puts upon man. The true dignity of man is taught nowhere as effectively as in the Scriptures.

Yet we do not have two subjects running parallel with one another in this psalm as the A.R.V. states: "Jehovah's Glory and Man's Dignity," a theme which would be glaringly deficient in unity. But rather, as our title above indicates, the second of these items serves to make clear the first: Jehovah's glory is being set forth primarily by a consideration of the dignity with which He has invested man.

As soon as this issue becomes clear, we are confronted by the other major problem associated with this psalm-In how far and in what sense is it Messianic? It is the New Testament which gives us our full authorization for classifying this psalm as Messianic by the consistent use which it makes of it, particularly of Ps 8:5 and secondarily of Ps 8:2 (Heb 2:6-8; Mt 21:16).

This New Testament use of the psalm does not at once state in what sense the psalm is Messianic, and it must be the serious concern of everyone who expounds this psalm not to identify his own conception as to how the New Testament employs the psalm with the actual use itself. In other words, to conclude that, because the psalm is Messianic, therefore it must apply directly and exclusively to Christ alone-this conclusion, we say, must be designated as a hasty solution of the question, In what sense are certain psalms to be classified as Messianic?

To tell the truth of the matter, had it not been for the clear testimony of the New Testament, commentators might readily have contented themselves with interpreting the whole psalm in such a manner that the Messianic thought would have had no part in it. But upon deeper reflection, following the clear indication of the New Testament writers, we are compelled to make an approach which allows for the following fact, that the "first Adam" (1Co 15:45) prefigures much of that which becomes vital in the life of the "last Adam." The true character and essence of the original Adam are manifested most effectively in the life of Jesus Christ. Therefore, if the true dignity of the first Adam is strongly set forth, the whole description obviously finds its fullest realization in Jesus Christ.

In other words, the idea of the types of the Old Testament enters into the picture, however, only in a general and basic sort of way: Adam prefigures what Christ is; or again: the psalm is Messianic by type. It has, first of all, a clear-cut subject as is conveyed by our title, "God's Glory as Revealed in Man's Dignity." The God of history so shaped the details of history that the man originally created is a clear foreshadowing of all the excellencies and marvels of the life of Jesus Christ, our Lord. What was said of the one may well be claimed for the other. It may well be that the author of the psalm did not himself realize clearly this particular aspect of what he wrote. He was being led to express certain higher elements of truth, of which he himself was not at the time aware. But what the Spirit of God had thus laid into the words employed He later disclosed to others so that they were able to convey the Spirit's intended use of these words to their fellow men. All this comes under the head of divine providence.

In summary then: man as created reflects God's glory. But the Son of man, in whom the original pattern is more fully realized, reflects this same glory far more perfectly. The New Testament use of these words is not, therefore, mere homiletical adaptation of them but a disclosure of an appropriate meaning, which was intended at the time of the original writing. The typical nature of the words employed was a result of the clear design of the Spirit of inspiration.

To the Choir Director

After the tune of the treaders of the -winepress A psalm of David

This heading is the first verse of the text according to the Hebrew notation. On "choir director" see Ps 4:1. "After the tune of the treaders of the winepress" is a translation of the words 'al gittith.

The fact that this is a "psalm of David" in this case adds nothing to the interpretation, nor does it clear up any difficult issues. It merely shows by its close correspondence with the creation account of Ge 1 that David was thoroughly familiar with this account. There is no particular period in David's life into which this psalm would fit more closely than it does into any other.

Ps 8:1. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth; Whose praises have always been sung above the heavens!

Ps 8:2. Out of the mouth of babes, and even infants, hast Thou established a stronghold because of Thine enemies, To still every enemy and revengeful person.

The thought of these verses is that the Lord's name is superabundant in majesty, requiring no stronger defense than the praise of children.

Since "the name of God" is any and every revelation of Himself that He has given, the particular point at issue is that, wherever God has in any wise revealed Himself at any time, there is one respect in regard to which this revelation is always entirely consistent, and that is that God is always found to be "majestic." For this revelation is the same "in ah1 the earth." Impressed by this fact, the author casts his reflection in the form of a strong exclamation. But that observation need not surprise anyone, for it is also thus "above the heavens," where the stars and the angels voice the praises of God, each in their own way; cf., Ps 19: Job 38:7; also Isa 6:3; Ps 103:20f. This obvious majesty of the name of the Lord is, therefore, in evidence everywhere upon earth as well as in the heavens.

Psalm 8:2

Ps 8:2. Out of the mouth of babes, and even infants, hast Thou established a stronghold because of Thine enemies, To still every enemy and revengeful person.

 So secure is the honor of the name of the Lord that in the full consciousness of His great glory He has let the defense of His honor be committed to babes. There are other forces that can and do take up the defense of His name, but as far as the Lord is concerned, He can be content with what the mouth of babes can utter. In fact, the statement made does not even specify the praise that infants lips may try. Any and every utterance of theirs is apparently conceived of as constituting a part of the great defense that God has thus provided. The mere fact that infants can speak and can praise is all the "stronghold" that God's honor requires. When the Greek translators, as they are also quoted in the New Testament, Mt 21:16, rendered this word "praise" they were translating freely and staying well within the meaning of the passage. Whatever an "enemy and revengeful person" may say by way of a bitter attack upon the honor of God's name, in the eyes of all dispassionate observers such opponents are refuted by what children may in their own way say or do. Here, too, applies the word of the Savior about our becoming as little children. Or as Noetscher states it: "Dropping the hyperbole, unbiased and uncor^-rupted minds recognize God without difficulty from His creation."

Ps 8:3 and Ps 8:4 constitute the next section of the psalm. Their thought is this: When the heavens, the chief visible revelation of God's glory, are viewed, one might well wonder why He took note of man. The transition from the "our" of Ps 8:1 to the "I" of Ps 8:3 merely indicates that the writer at first thought of himself together with others of like mind.


 We have rendered the word 'oz "stronghold." It means, first of all, "strength." The next step in the development of the meaning of the word was to have it connote a stronghold. We may well stop at that point, for a development frequently noted has occurred: the meaning has advanced from the abstract to the concrete. KW goes one step farther in suggesting the meaning maechtiger Chor ("a mighty chorus"), but that goes on the assumption that what the children do is primarily to praise, and so Koenig suggests strong praise.

When we rendered 'oyebh "every enemy" we did so because the absence of the article suggests the idea of whatever may be called "enemy." The same applies to mithnaqqem, "every revengeful persons." For this reason the suggestion of Stoeckhardt is unacceptable, namely, that this is a reference to the archenemy of mankind, the devil. The rest of the approach that this author then builds on this interpretation must .also be rejected.

Psalm 8:3

Ps 8:3. Whenever I look at Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which Thou hast prepared;

Ps 8:4. What is mortal man that Thou didst consider him? And the son of man that Thou didst care for him?

To many interpreters this verse seems to offer conclusive evidence of the fact that this is a night hymn, for the moon and the stars and the heavens are mentioned. However, it will be observed that these heavenly bodies appear only in the second half of the verse. Furthermore, the word rendered "when" in A.V. could more fittingly be rendered "whenever." The conclusion, therefore, drawn by the psalmist in Ps 8:4 is in reality suggested each time the heavens are viewed. Now, as Hengstenberg in particular has pointed out, the most obvious glory of the heavens is the sun. This fact is so evident that the writer does not even specifically mention it. In any case, it might well be asked whether the conclusion drawn is more readily suggested by the starry heavens at night than by the heavens, whether viewed by day or night. It will then be seen that the emphasis upon the possibility of a night hymn is misplaced.

Any and everything that is so majestically displayed by the heavens suggests one and the same conclusion: How is it possible that He who made the vast heavens and all that appears on the face of them, whether it be by day or night, should ever have busied Himself with the little being called "mortal man," so as either to "consider" him or even in any way to "care for him"? Of the many terms that the Hebrew might have used a word is chosen that suggests the weakness and frailty of the being called "man." As the tense of the verb in the original suggests and as the verses following explain in detail, a particular historical event is under consideration, man's creation. Not something that God does now as most of the versions suggest; cf., A.V., "That Thou art mindful of him . . . and visitest him." Our suggested rendering does not warrant the conclusion that God now no longer cares. In fact, a conclusion to the effect that God still cares could very fittingly be drawn from the evidence submitted. But that does not happen to be the matter that the author talks about here.

The next section extends from Ps 8:5-8 and developes the thought: God invested man with a dignity that is second only to His own and made him ruler over the world which He had just created.

Psalm 8:5

Ps 8:5. And Thou didst make him lack but little of God,
With glory and honor Thou didst crown him.

The creation of man and his investment with honors and responsibilities are being reviewed. Details are cited verbatim from Ge 1. First a comprehensive statement which asserts man's rare dignity with almost breath-taking emphasis: "Thou didst make him lack but little of God." The statement is so bold that the early translators, beginning with the Septuagint and continuing up to the A.V., have substituted the word "angels" for "God" ('elohim). Though this translation, commonly found in older versions is remotely justifiable, the context would definitely have to indicate that such beings are meant, and then it would at best be but a dubious statement. (For a fuller discussion of the issues involved see the Notes appended.)

In any case, the writer views the account of the creation of man as asserting that man was placed so high on the scale of created beings (for he is himself the very image of God) that man "lacks but little of God"-as BDB renders the phrase. The reference is obviously to the primordial man, the first Adam before the fall, in the fullness of his powers and attributes, the very reflection of the majesty of the Almighty, who had patterned man after Himself. If someone might object that angels stood much higher in the scale than man, it must be remembered that they were from the outset "ministering spirits" (Heb 1:14) whereas man, as the words following (Ps 8:6-8) in our psalm indicate, was assigned a position of rule and authority over all things in the world. Nowhere is man's dignity asserted more clearly and boldly than in this passage. But we again remind the reader that the reference is to man before the fall.

The second half of Ps 8:5 is very aptly worded when it asserts that God did "crown" this chief among His creatures. His high position was the equivalent of having a regal crown set upon his head or, still more exactly, the "glory and honor" that were his crowned him.


The reason for regarding the two verbs thizkerennu and thiphqedennu as equivalents of an English past tense "didst consider" and "didst care for," is chiefly the context as it follows this verse. For the events of creation are pointed to: they are the particular instances when God "considered and cared for" man. Or, as it might just as aptly be stated, Ge 1 relates what the author has in mind. Cf., KS 366f.

In regard to the expression "the work of Thy fingers" we feel that those interpreters are correct who maintain that no special emphasis attaches to the word "fingers" as though a special type of handiwork of a finer sort were to be indicated by this word. Are the "works of His hands" which are referred to in v. 6 to be regarded as being less finely wrought than the heavens were because the word "fingers" is not there used?

We are strongly of the opinion that 'elohim should here be translated in its plain and regular meaning "God," a meaning which it has almost without exception. For all the instances cited even by BDB for the meaning "angels" are more than dubious. The word may refer to superhuman beings as it does in 1Sa 28:13. It does also refer to judges in passages such as Ps 82:1,6 and, perhaps, in passages like Ex 22:7f., but in the latter instances the plain meaning "God" can readily be maintained. Aside from that, there is the meaning "gods" in reference to heathen divinities. Consequently there is little to commend the rendering "angels" from any point of view,

On what basis does Luther's rendering of the Hebrew rest when he offers the translation: Du wirst ihn lassen eine kleine Zeit van Gott ver-lassen sein? It is a fact the me 'at, "littleness," could refer to time, and that Luther interpreted the psalm as being primarily Messianic, not by way of type but directly Messianic. Then the resultant translation seemed to agree well with the suffering of Christ in His passio magna.

Though the Greek version renders "angels" at this point, the New Testament does not find the rendering out of keeping with the general tenor of the passage and so does not brand it as erroneous-the usual attitude of the New Testament on the question of the exact rendering of the familiar versions of those days.

Psalm 8:6

Ps 8:6. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands;
Everything hast Thou put under his feet.

 The separate items that are now enumerated as being under the dominion of man give a comprehensive picture of the extent of his dominion. Ps 8:6a says by way of a summary that, generally speaking, "the works of Thy hands" come under man's control. How much that involves neither this statement nor Ge 1 specifies, but it certainly cannot indicate a mere nominal control, for the parallel statement of Ps 8:6, on the one hand, extends man's authority to "everything" and, on the other, claims that these things may be said to have been "put under his feet." Angels may have greater power than does man, but in his own realm man was sole authority quite apart from them. It may be due to the fact that we know comparatively little about the power and sphere of the activity of angels that from the geocentric viewpoint of this account the angels are not considered. One can readily understand how the above-mentioned translation of Ps 8:5 came into the thinking of the earliest translators.

Psalm 8:7

Ps 8:7. Sheep and oxen-all of them,
And also the beasts of the field;

Ps 8:8. The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatsoever traverses the paths of any seas.

As the writer thinks back on these things, the very words of the account of creation as the first chapter of the Bible offers them seem to suggest themselves naturally to him. So he mentions that man's dominion included the domesticated animals as well as the beasts that roam about wild, the birds as well as the fish. For that matter, he reminds the reader that even the manifold and mighty creatures that inhabit the seas are also included as man's subjects, mighty and manifold though they be and wherever they may roam. The statement just made would be an obvious and legitimate inference drawn from Ge 1:28 and is a good illustration of the very proper way in which the later writers of the Scriptures interpreted the Scriptures they had.


As in Ps 8:2, the participle 'obher, standing without an article, is best rendered "whatsoever passes"-as the A.V. has translated it. The same principle applies to the last word of the verse yammin, which, without an article, is best taken as meaning "any seas."

Psalm 8:9

Ps 8:9. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Thy name in all the earth!

Since the psalmist has now fully demonstrated the original thesis which he set out to prove, he reiterates this thesis by way of a summary and conclusion. It also is now perfectly obvious that the author's object was not to dwell primarily on the dignity of man but on this dignity in so far as it was one of the most striking demonstrations that can ever be offered of the greatness of our God. The God who can create such a being as man is must indeed be superlatively great.

Psalm 9:1


THERE is MUCH debate on the question as to whether this is a psalm of praise or a psalm of petition. Both elements of prayer are so blended into one another that it seems unwise to say it is either the one or the other. It is both; and as our heading indicates, the element of praise constitutes the basis for a plea for deliverance.

From the time of the Greek translation onward there have been versions that regard this psalm and the tenth to be of one piece. That they have a kinship cannot be denied. That they have obvious differences is equally clear. The issue is complicated by the fact that both psalms are acrostic to some extent-successive verses in groups of two beginning with successive letters of the alphabet. In this respect Ps 9 is fairly regular, Ps 10 less so. Certain letters of the alphabet are not considered. Though we shall give the needed details below we feel that it is sufficient to point out for the present that "the two psalms present an unsolved literary problem" (Kirkpatrick). Furthermore, each deserves to be considered an independent psalm.

In determining the time of the composition of the psalm we indicate that there is no valid reason for questioning the correctness of the heading of the psalm, which claims that this is a psalm of David. However, we are not in a position to determine exactly into what time of David's life it falls. The time must be fixed as being rather well along in the life of this king because a notable overthrow of the enemies of the nation lies at the basis of the psalm; and it is well known that David had to undergo many years of hard fighting before he decisively overcame his many external foes. Besides, as Ps 9:11 reminds us, this psalm must have been composed after the ark of the covenant had been brought up to Jerusalem, for Yahweh is being regarded as the one "who dwelleth in Zion."

Looking a bit more closely at the question, Who are the enemies of whose overthrow the psalm speaks? we must in the nature of the case think first of all of David's particular enemies, the nations round about him on every side who assailed him again and again until they were decisively defeated. But when verses like 5 and 15 are considered, we infer correctly that also the early Canaanite nations that were overcome by Israel enter into the thinking of the author, though secondarily. Ps 9:12b and Ps 9:18b, where the "poor" and the "meek" are considered as having experienced deliverance, suggest the idea that internal foes are being thought of as well, ungodly Israelites who have been guilty of injustice and oppression.

If one considers the foes who have been overthrown one is driven to the conclusion that the speaker is not so much the king alone as the nation as such. Yet this theory of the collective "I" of the psalm is not to be pressed to the point where the personal sentiments of the godly king are to be ruled out. He does, indeed, speak in the name of the nation, but his own experience blends so completely with that of the nation that he describes both in one.

Oesterley very properly reminds us that "in its present form" this psalm was hardly "used in the temple worship."

As to the outline of the thought of the psalm, we believe the following to be fairly exact:

Praise, the basis of an earnest plea for deliverance

a) Praise for a mighty deliverance (Ps 9:1-12).

b) A plea for the continuation of this deliverance (Ps 9:13-20).

The details of the development of the thoughts are as follows: Ps 9:1-2. I will praise what God has done.

Ps 9:3-4. He has turned back the enemy and thereby upheld my cause, Ps 9:5-6. His overthrow of the enemy has been complete, Ps 9:7-8. But Yahweh rules supreme as Judge, Ps 9:9-10. This will lead His own to take refuge in Him. Ps 9:11-12. For this God is to be praised; He has remembered His own. Ps 9:13-14. Consider my still remaining distress that I may praise Thee, Ps 9:15-16. The nations are caught in their own devices, Ps 9:17-18. The wicked shall perish, but the needy shall not be forgotten, Ps 9:19-20. Judge the nations that they may know their fraility.

On the term "to the choir director" see Ps 4:1.

More difficult is the phrase "after the manner of 'Die for the son.'" All efforts to have these words give some kind of summary preview of the contents of psalm are farfetched. To shift the consonants so as to have "for the son" read "Nabal," is precarious. The safest course to follow is to regard this as a musical direction, either to sing the psalm according to the melody of a song or hymn by that name, or to render it after the manner of this hymn. There might be some kind of reference to 2Sa 18:33 or to a piece of poetry that David or another might have composed on the occasion of Absalom's death. All this, however, is purely conjectural.

In its praise of the Lord this psalm is ardent and warm; in its petition it is fervent. It breaks forth into a kind of torrent of praise in its opening words.

a) Praise for a mighty deliverance (Ps 9:1-12)

1. I will praise the Lord with all my heart; I will tell all Thy marvelous works;

2. I will be glad and exult in Thee; I will sing praise to Thy name, O Most High;

Throughout the psalm the verses appear in groups of two. These first two express the resolve to praise God for the marvelous deliverance Israel has experienced. Mere lip service is not adequate to render due praise to God; therefore, "with all my heart," cf., De 6:5. Quite naturally the words spoken about Yahweh, by an easy transition merge into direct address to Yahweh in Ps 9:1b. The "marvelous works" under consideration are the deliverances that Israel experienced in its past, particularly since the time David became the king of God's chosen people. So manifold are the emotions struggling for utterance that in addition to the resolve to praise and tell there is the deep emotion of the heart, "be glad" and "exult," and the added resolve to "sing praise," which implies the use of musical accompaniment of some sort.


A very ingenious textual alteration suggested by the conservative Hengstenberg in regard to the heading of the psalm would change the word labben to Nabal by a mere rearrangement of the consonants. Though this might yield a point of contact in the life of David, the device is so purely conjectural as to be utterly unreliable.

Psalm 9:3

Ps 9:3. Because my enemies turn back, Stumble, and perish at Thy presence.

Ps 9:4. For Thou hast maintained my cause and my case; Thou hast seated Thyself upon Thy throne, a righteous Judge.

A semicolon was placed after the conclusion of the second verse, to indicate that Ps 9:3 brings the conclusion of the sentence in that it specifically states the special cause for the glad praise that the first two verses are anxious to give. The fate of the "enemies" is described in three successive stages of their overthrow: first they "turned back," then they "stumbled," and lastly they "perished." And all this happened at the sight of the presence of the Lord, who as a mighty Judge flashed the glory of His majesty upon them as He did upon the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Ex 14:24). In a dramatic way the psalmist visualizes the discomfiture of the enemies as if God had appeared to them as an assembled host, had made His glory blind them, and they on their part had not only dropped back but had actually perished. By all this the psalmist's (or Israel's) cause, which was virtually up for trial, was "maintained," as if God Himself had spoken a favorable verdict for His people. For this reason the added figure of a judge taking his place for judgment upon the bench or "throne" is also used.


The expression beshubh means literally "in the turning back." Since this follows a verb of rejoicing, and these verbs regularly introduce the object of their rejoicing by be, this be may here rightly be classified as a be causal.

Psalm 9:5

Ps 9:5. Thou hast rebuked the nations, destroyed the wicked ones; Their names hast Thou blotted out forever and ever.

Ps 9:6. The enemy are come to an end-ruins forever; And cities hast Thou uprooted, the very remembrance of them is perished.

 This is still a portion of that for which God is praised: His overthrow of the enemy has been complete. The fact that hostile nations are the foe that is referred to is obvious. The fact that wickedness characterized their hostility is equally obvious. The omission of the conjunctions lends a certain intensity to the successive remarks in Ps 9:5. All that the Almighty did may be regarded as an effective rebuke from His holy lips, a rebuke so strong that the enemy withered away at the force of it. In fact, they passed off the scene, never to reappear: "their name hast Thou blotted out forever and ever." This was actually the case in regard to the Canaanite nations that were overthrown by Israel: they never revived; they had passed off the stage of history. Vividly picturesque is the description that likens them to perpetual ruins ("ruins forever"), to "cities uprooted," that passersby are no longer able to identify. Surely, the Almighty is here viewed as having done a thorough and effective piece of judgment. One cannot help but think in this connection of the Amalekites as a typical fulfillment of this statement, for of them it was said that their remembrance would be blotted out forever (cf.,Ex 17:14; De 25:19).


Ps 9:5 The first two clauses of Ps 9:6 are a close parallel as to structure, being built exactly alike. The suffix on shemam refers back farther than the rasha'.


Ps 9:6. The sentence structure of this verse is unusual but easily understood. The singular, ha'oyebh ("the enemy") is used with the plural verb tammu ("they are come to an end"). This construction has the effect of individualizing: each one has come, etc. See K.S. 346m. The second clause is elliptical: "ruins forever," which literal translation we have retained. It means, of course, "being completely ruined." "Cities" may refer by metonomy to the inhabitants of the cities (K.S. 249c). It is well-nigh impossible to reproduce the distinctive force of the pronoun hemmah, which really emphasizes the suffix on zikhram. We could reproduce this emphasis by italicizing thus: "Their very remembrance is perished," a contrast being implied with Yahweh of the next verse.

Psalm 9:7

Ps 9:7. But the Lord will sit enthroned forever; His throne is prepared for judgment.

Ps 9:8. And He it is that will judge the world in righteousness; He will govern the people with equity.

The result of the judgment previously described is that Yahweh is now presented as ruling supreme as the heavenly Judge that He is. There is quite a contrast between the two scenes in Ps 9:5-6 and Ps 9:7-8. On the one hand, every indication of judgment and overthrow and ruins; on the other, a King enthroned in serenity to rule with equity forever and to handle effectively any similar situation that may arise. Whereas the Hebrew seems to say only that Yahweh will "sit," the meaning "sit enthroned" is well established by Ps 29:10 and Ex 18:14, where the same verb is obviously used in this higher sense. Puny nations in their wicked opposition may come and go; Yahweh is perpetually enthroned, ready for any judgment that the needs of His people may require. But this judgment will always square with the highest standards of "righteousness" and "equity." With emphasis it is said that He Himself will administer judgment after this pattern. Surely, such an insight is well suited to kindle praise on a godly man's lips.


Ps 9:7. The -wow adversative before hu' serves to make this contrast more pronounced.


Ps 9:8. Tebhel, "world," meaning the inhabited world, is used without an article, which makes it the practical equivalent of a proper noun GK:.S.293b).

Psalm 9:9

Ps 9:9. Thus the Lord will be a secure height for the oppressed; A secure height for times of trouble.

Ps 9:10. And they that know Thy name will trust in Thee; For Thou hast not forsaken those that seek Thee, O Lord.

After the picture of the sovereign Judge enthroned forever there follows the effect that this truth will have on His own: they will be moved to take refuge in Him. In fact, by the very overthrow of the enemy He will make Himself a refuge. Though the "thus" that we used by way of introduction of this verse does not appear in the Hebrew, this seems to be the connection in thought. It will be "oppressed" persons in particular who shall bethink themselves of what Yahweh has done, especially when they are in "times of trouble." Or those who already "know His name" will be moved to anchor their trust in Him more securely than ever before. For they will have new proof of the fact that God is not one to "forsake those that seek Him." Thus we have a description of the increase in confidence that grows out of the larger national experiences.


The connection between Ps 9:8 and Ps 9:9 is closer than the A.R.V. rendering would suggest when it reads: "Jehovah also will be a high tower." The "and" (we and not wa) here practically conveys the idea of an "and thus." His judgment, mentioned in Ps 9:8, is the thing that makes Him a refuge. "Times of trouble" though literally "times in trouble" may be classified among instances of the construct state (K.S. 336w).

Psalm 9:11

Ps 9:11. Sing praises unto the Lord who dwelleth in Zion; Tell among the peoples His mighty works.

Ps 9:12. For as an avenger of blood He hath remembered them; He hath not forgotten the cry of the poor.

The section closes as it began-with a summons to praise on the part of the poet. In this summons He does not so much incite himself as he does his people to sing the praises that are due unto Yahweh. Thus the section Ps 9:1-12 is enclosed in praise. It is already obvious that the Lord has chosen the city of David as His earthly dwelling place for Old Testament times. Therefore He is described as the one who has bestowed this rare honor upon the city of Jerusalem, this honor of coming into the very midst of His chosen people: He is the one who "dwelleth in Zion." Ps 9:12 gives two telling descriptions of the manner in which He may have been said to have done His work. The first is "as an avenger of blood." This figure must be purified of all earthly and carnal dross that we might be inclined to attach to it. "Avengers of blood" were oftentimes actuated by nothing less than a most bloody zeal for vengeance and followed up all clues to capture their enemy with an assiduity that was relentless. But with an unrelenting faithfulness Yahweh avenged His own and procured true justice for them.

The second description is touching in its simplicity: "He hath not forgotten the cry of the poor." No matter how high and great the Almighty is, the cry of the poor is highly regarded by Him and never forgotten just because such criers are poor. For He is no respecter of persons. When Ps 9:11 said that all these things were to be "told among the peoples," that does not imply that the psalmist expected any far-reaching results from such a proclamation. The true people of God were never jealous of their spiritual treasures. They proclaimed them in the days when men outside their own nation of Israel gave scant heed, and they did such work of sowing their seed in the hope of a better day that might bring a more generous response.


Ps 9:12. The familiar A.V., "maketh inquisition for blood," could, indeed, be misunderstood. Therefore we have preferred the literal "as an avenger of blood." Luther inverts the order of the two verbs and says very clearly: Denn er gedenkt und fragt nach ihrem Blut. The suffix on 'otham appears to be best taken proleptically, anticipating the plural noun "the poor." K.S. 1 Ib.

Psalm 9:13

b) A plea for the continuation of this deliverance (Ps 9:13-20)

Ps 9:13. Have pity on me, O Lord, see my affliction from them that hate me; Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death;

Ps 9:14. That I may tell all Thy praises; That in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in the salvation that Thou bestowest.

Ps 9:13. The fundamental motif of this second section of the psalm is petition: it begins and ends with prayer even as the first section began and ended with praiss. Though there was praise for deliverance already experienced, that does not imply that the psalmist waited until every last trouble was removed before he began to think in terms of praise. Therefore, though there was good reason for praise, there were also griefs that would lead men to make earnest pleas. Consequently this plea has the sense: Consider my still remaining distress. Those commentators who fail to note this obvious explanation hold that plea must necessarily mar the tone of praise that prevailed at the beginning of the psalm. Haters are abroad; affliction still presses painfully. Since God has so often lifted up His own in the past, therefore this is called to mind by the use of a new title for God, for the original says practically, "my Lifter-up." The fact that the danger involved was not slight appears in the circumstance that the one crying out had already gotten so far as to be practically at the point of passing through the "gates of death."


Ps 9:13. Chonneni, though regarded by G.K. 20b as Piel, may be regarded as an uncontracted Kal imperative with a suffix.

In Ps 9:14 the psalmist motivates his prayer by indicating that the deliverance which he so earnestly seeks will give him occasion to sing new praises unto God, for he purposes to make mention of them all, as many as there are. A strong contrast is introduced in the statement that these praises will be rendered in that delightful place which is the very antithesis of the "gates of death," namely, "the gates of the daughter of Zion." This refers, of course, to the place in Jerusalem where the concourse of people is the heaviest, where there will be as many as possible to hear this glad thanksgiving. The term ordinarily rendered "Thy salvation" is here translated "the salvation that Thou bestowest" in order to render the term as we might express it.

Psalm 9:15

Ps 9:15. The nations have plunged into the pit they made; In the net which they hid is their own foot caught.

Ps 9:16. It is made known that the Lord has executed judgment; The wicked one is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion, Selah

After the summons to praise, the first half of this psalm at once made mention of the overthrow of the enemies. The second half follows the same pattern but introduces a new thought, that Yahweh made it plain that this was His doing by following a pattern of punishment that had often characterized his judgments: He let the wicked fall into their own pits and nets. By letting the outcome be thus, the justice of His doings was made most obvious. For what could be more just than to have men fall into the very evil that they had secretly prepared for others?

Higgaion is a word that we have left untranslated because its meaning is uncertain. It may be a musical term calling for an interlude of "resounding music" (BDB). Selah (forte) apparently reinforces this.


Ps 9:15. Zu is used as a relative, not a demonstrative.


Ps 9:16. The beginning of the verse is most likely to be construed so that "Yahweh" is taken into the first clause by anticipation, for, "It is known that Yahweh, etc." the Hebrew likes the construction: "Yahweh is known that He, etc." See K.S. 414e.

Psalm 9:17

Ps 9:17. The wicked shall return to the realm of the dead; AII the nations that forget God.

Ps 9:18. For the needy shall not always be forgotten; Nor the hope of the meek perish forever.

By way of a summary as he approaches the conclusion of his psalm the holy writer contrasts the respective fortunes of the wicked nations that were overthrown with those of the poor and needy who put their trust for help in God. The nations perish; the poor shall not always be forgotten. This, too, is the work of the Lord and is to be proclaimed to His praise. When Ps 9:17 presents "the wicked" and "the nations" as synonymous, it becomes clear that the nations were guilty of an inexcusable hostility against the people of God, namely, that hostility which the world has always had toward the church, and which grows out of the fact that they "forget God." When such men are said to "return" to the realm of the dead, that does not mean that they once came from there but involves a loose but perfectly natural use of the idea "return." The "needy" and "meek" here mentioned, together with the "poor" of Ps 9:12, are the same, namely, the persons who are in reality the godly but suffer oppression for the Lord's sake. They bear their affliction in a godly spirit. They will throughout history seemingly be "forgotten," their "hope" will always seem to be at the point of perishing. But they are the ones who will endure.


Ps 9:18. The 'anaw of this verse is analogous to the 'anay of Ps 9:12. These two words are usually identified so nearly with one another that BDB suggests "poor, afflicted, humble, meek" for the one and "poor, afflicted, humble" for the other. Yet it would seem that those interpreters are more nearly correct who claim that the latter means "afflicted" and the former "humble." In other words, the one (lanay) expresses the condition, the other ('anaw) the frame of mind resulting from such a condition. The Jewish marginal reading often suggests the one for the other, perhaps without sufficient warrant.

Psalm 9:19

Ps 9:19. Do arise, O Lord, let not man prevail; Let the nations be judged in Thy presence.

Ps 9:20. Appoint terror for them, O Lord; Let the nations know themselves to be but men. Selah.

Ps 9:19. In a bold concluding prayer the psalmist beseeches God to bring the pending issues to a definite termination, in which the rebellious nations who oppose God are put down once and for all. If this is not done, man would seem to "prevail." So he calls for this judgment in the very presence of God, for He is known as a God who is absolutely just, and it is His intervention that is here sought. The psalmist prays for no more than God Himself has in mind for the ungodly when he asks that "terror" be appointed for all such. Vindictiveness has not dictated this prayer but a strong conformity to the will and purpose of God. The self-intoxication of man or even his self-deification is reflected upon when the purpose of this prayer is said to be that the nations may "know themselves to be but men." Throughout all history man has so often given evidence of the most audacious pride. The church's defense against all such is her prayer.


Ps 9:20. The word for "terror" seems to be rendered more nearly correct than Luther's translation Meister even as that of some of the versions (LXX). Nine manuscripts write the word with a final aleph rather than with an h even as do Theodotion, the Tar gum, and Jerome. The root would then justify our translation, which certainly fits more suitably into the picture.

In addition, we should like to round out the presentation on the similarity between Ps 9 and Ps 10, especially as far as language is concerned. The briefest summary is that of Kirkpatrick: " 'in times of trouble' (Ps 9:10; 10:1) is a peculiar phrase found nowhere else: the word for 'oppressed' or 'downtrodden' (Ps 9:10; 10:18) . . . ; 'mortal man' is mentioned at the close of both psalms in the same connection (Ps 9:20,20; 10:18). Comp. further Ps 9:13a with Ps 10:4,13; 9:13b with Ps 10:12 and Ps 9:19 with Ps 10:11: 'for ever and ever,' Ps 9:6; 10:16: the appeal to 'arise' Ps 9:20 and Ps 10:12: and other points of thought and expression."

It is a quite hopeless task to attempt to reconstruct some so-called original version of Ps 9; 10 on the basis of the sequence of the letters of the alphabet in the acrostic which the two psalms constitute. Several letters do not have sections of the psalm begun by them; several others are out of sequence. Attempts to reconstruct an original is the veriest guesswork and not deserving of serious attention. Those interpreters who delight in clever manipulations of this sort may play with them to their heart's content. The results of such efforts, however, are neither exegesis nor an unfolding of the oracles of God.

One may get somewhat of an idea as to how far the acrostic arrangement is carried through in the two psalms in question by examining the following list of the Hebrew letters used: a, b, g, (d skipped), h, w, z, ch, t, y, k, and Ps 10:1, (m skipped), n, (s skipped), p and 'ayin (order reversed), (ts skipped), q, r, sh, t.

Psalm 10:1

Psalms 10:1



THIS is obviously an independent psalm as we have indicated in connection with the interpretation of the preceding psalm. One difference between the two becomes very noticeable: in this psalm foes within the kingdom are under consideration. In Ps 9 it had been enemies who were in the nations round about Israel.

In regard to the many obvious points of similarity between Ps 9; 10 we refer to the list given under Fs. 9.

Because of the many points of kinship between these two psalms, it would be very reasonable to assign also this psalm to David. Another possibility cannot, however, be ruled out entirely: that some writer who had absorbed the spirit of the former of the psalms had himself composed a psalm that had many points of correspondence with the model after which he patterned. In any case, there is nothing in the psalm that points to the time of Nehemiah as the time of composition of the psalm although, of course, at that time, too, there were inner foes aplenty within the nation of Israel. In fact, this psalm would agree less obviously with the time of Nehemiah inasmuch as the group of foes who are under consideration seem to be rather few in number, vexatious as they may be for all that.

Luther approaches the psalm from this angle: he claims that we here have an exhaustive description of the wicked in their opposition to the kingdom of God. Godlessness as it typically manifests itself is here being portrayed, he claims. In this view he follows the lead of Augustine. On this basis he concludes that it is really Antichrist who is being described. This seems to us to be too pointed an interpretation that is built on the basis of evidence that is a bit scant.

Since the prayer of the psalm practically asks God to dispose of the wicked man, it will scarcely do to conclude with some interpreters that this is a typically shortsighted Old Testament approach in that it never even thinks in terms of the possible conversion of evildoers. There is still the likelihood that such a result is not necessarily excluded. The persons involved do not seem to have been very likely prospects for conversion. Had they turned unto the Lord from their evil ways, no one would have been happier than the psalmist himself. This is a psalm of lament.

This psalm obviously has a different approach to the problem than do certain other psalms like Ps 37 and Ps 92, both of which teach that the prosperity of the ungodly is short-lived. That is, no doubt, often the case. Often, too, the ungodly must be committed into the hands of the Just Judge.

The theme of this prayer is offered above in the caption of the psalm. We submit the following subdivisions:

a) A bitter complaint because of the oppression of the poor and innocent by the wicked (Ps 10:1-11).

b) A prayer for divine intervention (Ps 10:12-15).

c) Assurance that Yahweh has heard (Ps 10:16-18).

a) A bitter complaint because of the oppression of the poor and innocent by the wicked (Ps 10:1-11)

The situation that prevails comes clearly into view in the opening verses.

Ps 10:1. Why dost Thou stand ajar off, O Lord; Why hidest Thou Thyself in troublous times?

Ps 10:2. Because of the pride of the wicked the poor is seared; They [the poor] are caught in the schemes which they [the wicked] have devised.

The times are very disturbed. The wicked push on in their ungodly pride. The poor, who have no resources or friends, become the victims of the deeds of the wicked and are so painfully afflicted that they may be said to be "seared" by these ungodly tactics. Nor are they merely the victims of circumstances. The wicked have actually laid their schemes in such a way as to ensnare the poor. But in the mean-tune the good Lord stands "afar off" like one who cares little as to what happens to those who have only Him as their Helper.

The wicked man is now described as to his character and his attitudes.

Psalm 10:3

Ps 10:3. For the wicked, in spite of the desire of his soul, joins in singing hallelujahs; The greedy getter blesses-rather, spurns the Lord.

"The wicked" very obviously represents a class of men. A rather extensive description of this class is given. The psalmist knows them well. He has evidently studied their motives and character. He has discerned how deep-seated their iniquity is. This may well be incorrigible wickedness. This may explain why the author does not think in terms of conversion of these persons.

First of all (Ps 10:3) the relation of men of this class to the Lord, as far as public worship is concerned, is described. Black as the devices of the wicked man may be ("in spite of the desire of his soul"), he, nevertheless, appears among those that sing praises to the Lord, more particularly "hallelujahs." This he may do, either because religion is something purely habitual to him, or else because he is attempting to create the impression of piety. But the writer describes him as he really is by the term "greedy getter." Blessings of God are, indeed, upon his lips, but all who know him are aware of the fact that in his heart he actually spurns God. Therefore the first verb tells what this man's worship sounds like ("blesses"); the second tells what it actually is ("spurns").

Psalm 10:4

Ps 10:4. The wicked in his arrogancy thinks: "His wrath will not search it out." "There is no God" is what all his schemings amount to.

We are afforded a glimpse into the heart of this man and see how he disposes of the problem of eventual punishment. He is arrogant enough to imagine: "His wrath will not search it out." The second half of the verse may be paraphrased thus: He goes about his schem-ings as though there were no God. He knows there really is, but he acts as though there were not. Schmidt very correctly points out that the persons involved do not deny the existence of God (as Gottes-leugner); they merely despise Him (as Gottesveraechter).

Psalm 10:5

Ps 10:5. His ways are always prosperous; Thy judgments are far above, out of his sight; As for all his foes, he snaps his fingers at them.

How secure this man is, and how confidently he behaves are portrayed at this point. Every course he follows ("his ways") turns out successfully. God's judgments are apparently so far removed from him that they are out of sight. One gains the impression that this sinner and God's judgments will never come together. This man has enemies, but he treats them with contempt as persons that may well be disregarded ("he snaps his fingers at them"); they cannot harm him, upon whom fortune smiles so benignly.

Psalm 10:6

Ps 10:6. He has always said and still does: "I shall not be moved; Forever and ever I am a man who is not in adversity."

So sure is this man of himself that he actually believes that his success must go on forever: "I shall not be moved." Thus godly men have spoken in confidence in the Lord, their God (Ps 16:8; 30:6). Thus this man speaks in superb trust in himself. The rest of his statement amounts to this, translating a bit more freely: "I am the kind of man whom adversity cannot touch." Such pride may be obnoxious, its very audacity may seem to call forth God's judgment. But these sentiments are actually in the heart of such men.

We are now given a sketch as to how this man deals with others whom he encounters in the course of his life.

Psalm 10:7

Ps 10:7. With cursing his mouth is filled, also with deceit and violence; Under his tongue are toil and trouble.

Attention is first centered on what the tongue of such a wicked man utters: it is all of such a sort as is calculated to harm others. Since "deceit and violence" are what comes forth from his mouth over against others, "cursing" must be understood in the sense of curses that he wickedly utters against others, not as referring to imprecations that he rashly utters against himself. About all that his mouth or tongue yields over against others is "toil and trouble." When these are said to be "under his tongue," that means nothing other than that his mouth is full of them: there they are stored for ready usage. This interpretation fits better into the context than does the idea that he turns these things over in his mouth as sweet morsels.

Psalm 10:8

Ps 10:8. He lies in wait in the lurking places of villages; In hiding places he slays innocent men; His eyes spy out the helpless ones.

There follows an account of the manner in which this evildoer practices wickedness against his fellow men. Like a highwayman he bides his time in ambush, waylaying innocent men. He chooses the unwalled "villages" or as some interpreters render this word, "settle-ments," where men are relatively less able to be defended. There he slays innocent men in his "hiding places" where he is comparatively safe from detection. There he spies out others that may also be over-come by violence when the occasion is ripe in the eyes of the murderer. Deeds of this sort had, no doubt, been done, and men had wondered who the author of them was. But the psalmist knows that it was these wicked men whom he is here describing.

Psalm 10:9

Ps 10:9. He lurks in secret as a lion in his thicket; He lurks to catch the poor; He catches him by drawing him into his net.

The wicked is now likened to a lion who lurks in his thicket. Cowardly as he is though likened to a lion, he singles out the "poor" as his victims, such as have few resources for their defense. With a quick change of figure the evil man is described as a hunter who catches his victim by drawing him into his net.

Psalm 10:10

Ps 10:10. He crushes (his victim) and again crouches down; And the helpless fall by his strength.

The description quickly reverts to the former figure, that of a lion, or it may be thought of as changing to that of a thug, who crushes his victim and then swiftly crouches down, ready to seize upon and crush another. So the evil man described uses the great strength that he happens to have.

In the whole of this description we need not regard the various items as being literally exact. It may well be possible that these are but figurative descriptions of the various forms of oppression and iniquity that these rascals engage in.

Psalm 10:11

Ps 10:11. He has always said in his heart and still does:

"God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He has never seen." The description of the evildoer concludes with a summary statement of the attitude of this man on the subject of ultimate punishment by the Almighty that is destined sooner or later to catch the evildoer. This man simply believes that he is outside of the confines of the righteousness of God. God has forgotten to take vengeance upon him or has turned aside so as not to see what is being done. The fact that such an attitude is pure self-deception is quite obvious.

Psalm 10:12

b) A Prayer for Divine Intervention (Ps 10:12-15)

Ps 10:12. Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Thy hand; Do not forget the poor.

Ps 10:13. On what ground has the wicked always spurned God? (Or) has said in his heart: "Thou wilt not search it out"?

Ps 10:14. (But) Thou hast seen, for Thou art wont to note trouble and vexation to deal with them; To Thee the hapless one commits himself. As for the orphan, Thou hast always been his helper.

Ps 10:15. Break Thou the arm of the wicked and evil man; Thou shalt search out his wickedness, not shall Thou find it.

The evil seems to be of the kind that men are powerless to correct. Therefore God is appealed to. In short, eager petitions the psalmist cries out, bidding God to cease from His inaction, and he does this in the boldness of faith. "Arise" involves the thought that God has sat by passively. "Lift up Thy hand" involves the thought that He should bring it down with a stroke of punishment. "Do not forget the poor" reminds the reader of the fact that He is a God who is known to have been wont to champion the case of the poor.

Psalm 10:13

Ps 10:13. On what ground has the wicked always spurned God? (Or) has said in his heart: "Thou wilt not search it out"?

This verse emphasizes what the wicked have generally done. The question really demands the answer: Never have the wicked had any good reasons for the position that they take. They seem to be so sure of themselves, one might suppose that they had reason for saying that God will let these things that they do pass by unavenged.

Psalm 10:14

Ps 10:14. (But) Thou hast seen, for Thou art wont to note trouble and vexation to deal with them; To Thee the hapless one commits himself. As for the orphan, Thou hast always been his helper.

 This verse stands in obvious contrast to the tacit assumption of the wicked. We have, therefore, inserted into the translation the adversative "but." Over against the assumption of the evildoer is pitted the clear knowledge of the righteous: "Thou hast seen." By an obvious change of tense the Hebrew indicates that it is habitual for God to observe matters of this sort: "Thou art wont to note trouble and vexation." The fact that such noting is not an idle observation is indicated by the concluding statement of the verse: "Thou art wont to note ... to deal with them."

In the second member of the verse the translation might also indicate that what the hapless one does is also habitual, the same tense being employed in the original. It might read: "The hapless one is wont to commit himself." The assumption included in this thought is, of course, that those who thus commit their case into the hands of the Almighty have not done so in vain. The third member of the verse expresses this thought by the strong claim that in the case of the orphan God has always been his helper.

Psalm 10:15

Ps 10:15. Break Thou the arm of the wicked and evil man; Thou shalt search out his wickedness, not shall Thou find it.

The prayer now asks that drastic punishment may overtake the wicked one. The writer is obviously more interested in having the evil that such a person does thwarted than he is in seeing the wicked suffer. After God shall have taken such a case in hand He will have effectually disposed of it: if He "search out his wickedness" He shall not find it. The thought is not that the wicked devices of ungodly men are not discernible to the Almighty, but that He will have so completely disposed of them that no trace of them will be left. Hengstenberg reminds us that a subtle irony is involved in this statement. The wicked had thought God could not find out what he was doing. True, He shall not find it, but for quite a different reason.

Psalm 10:16

c) Assurance that Yahweh has heard (Ps 10:16-18)

Ps 10:16. The Lord is king forever and ever; The nations have perished out of His land.

Ps 10:17. Thou hast heard the desire of the meek, O Lord; So dost Thou establish their hearts, dost hearken with Thine ear,

Ps 10:18. In order to do justice to the orphan and the oppressed. Not shall man who is of the earth terrorize any longer.

In the course of this prayer the assurance of the writer grew step by step until it finally rings out boldly and strongly. God's universal control of all things is asserted in the statement that He "is king forever and ever." One striking proof of this kingship, as far as His people Israel are concerned, is offered in the fact that "the nations [i.e., the old Canaanites of every sort that had once possessed the land] have perished out of His land."

Psalm 10:17

Ps 10:17. Thou hast heard the desire of the meek, O Lord; So dost Thou establish their hearts, dost hearken with Thine ear,

At this point the assurance of the psalmist shines forth most clearly; he knows that God has heard his own prayer as well as the cry of all those who have suffered affliction at the hands of the wicked. By thus giving ear to their cry He "establishes their heart," that is, gives them new courage and a brighter outlook for the future. This thought runs over into the first part of Ps 10:18, where it is asserted that this is merely a part of His general work of "doing justice," a characteristic for which He is justly famous in the case of the "orphan and the oppressed." The psalm closes with a reflection upon the evildoers who were so prominently in the foreground throughout the psalm: their doom is sealed. Proud though they were and seemingly successful, they were still only "man who is of the earth." It is scarcely seemly that such men should terrorize the helpless. So the psalm which ran its course in a minor key ends in a major key.

A somewhat unique feature of the psalm is the very colorful description of the wicked men abroad at that time, found in Ps 10:7-10. It might seem like an overstatement. But, as Oesterley remarks, "If one reads such passages as Isa 1:4-6,21-23; Mic 3:10-11; Jer 5:1-9,25-28, among many others, it becomes evident that there is no overstatement here."

Psalm 11:1


DAVID is being wickedly antagonized by ruthless enemies, who have apparently succeeded so well in their machinations that David's own friends counsel him to flee: nothing can avail against these enemies. David, who in bold faith recognizes that God's providence watches most carefully over those who put their trust in Him just as He carefully keeps an eye on the evildoers-David, we say, has taken his refuge in the Lord, and there He proposes to stay. Flee he will not. We have here a psalm of trust, cf., Ps 7:1; 16:1; 31:1; 71:1.

Something can be said in favor of the suggestion that David may well be speaking in the name of the whole body of those who fear the Lord. David is not voicing only his own feelings and attitude. So this would become a hymn of the congregation.

Though authorship by David is considered impossible by quite a few writers on the subject, we cannot help but feel that it is quite feasible. Situations such as the one here described are certainly not at all unthinkable in the days when David was at Saul's court. What such enemies did to David was fraught with all sorts of peril for him, the very foundations of the state seemed to be torn apart. Or the days of Absalom's rebellion could be thought of. Here, as in Ps 12, a measure of hyperbole may enter into the description of the perilous situations created by the enemies. But surely, the case is not pictured in any more dreadful terms than David actually felt it to be. There are two sections in this psalm.

a) The Cowardly Advice to Flee before Treacherous Foes (Ps 11:1-3) To the Director. By David.

Ps 11:1. In the Lord I have taken refuge. How can you say to me: "Flee to your mountain like a bird?

Ps 11:2. For, lo, the wicked bend their bow; They have fitted their arrow on the string To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.

Ps 11:3. When the foundations [of society] are torn down, What can the righteous do?"

Ps 11:1. For the term "Director" see Ps 4. "By David" is part of a reliable heading which indicates David as the author of the psalm.

Though almost the whole of this section is, indeed, the cowardly advice to flee before treacherous enemies it opens with a basic note which will be struck again in the second section and be the essence of it. Here is a man who has "taken refuge in the Lord." If he had not, the statements made later would have been boastful claims without solid ground to stand upon. The words spoken to David appear to come from the mouth of well-being but timid friends. Having put his trust in the Lord, the writer cannot but reject as unseemly the counsel they offer: "How can you say to me, etc.?" The essence of their advice is quick flight. They speak in the figurative language that is characteristic of the Orient. Birds flee to the forests when they are in danger. The forests of Palestine were on the mountains. Therefore: "Flee to your mountain like a bird." The verb is plural, nudhu, "flee ye"; the plural suffix "your mountain" agrees with this form. This led us to say above that the psalmist speaks for a group who are associated with him. As is so often the case, David and the true members of the people of God are making common cause. So the psalm has more than a personal note.


 Tsippor (a bird), a kind of adverbial accusative, involves a comparison. Cf., KS 3321.

Psalm 11:2

Ps 11:2. For, lo, the wicked bend their bow; They have fitted their arrow on the string To shoot in darkness at the upright in heart.

The reasons advanced for immediate flight follow. They are that the wicked have already "bent the bow" and have already "fitted the arrow on the string." This figure may imply any form of threatening danger. It certainly describes the readiness of the foes to take bloody measures to dispose of their opponent. The danger cannot have been small. Their purpose is stated as being "to shoot in darkness at the upright of heart." If the writer's estimate is correct-and there is no reason to question it-then the opposition are "the wicked," and his own party are "the upright 'of heart," as was so often the case in David's life. If the intention of the foes is to shoot "in darkness," then they must have been engaged in underhanded devices to dispose of David and his followers. That these devices were magic and, perhaps, slander (Schmidt) is mere surmise.


Qesheth (bow) without an article, involving the idea of the customary. KS 294f. Konenu (they have fitted) is a case of the omission of a conjuction, asyndeton, in the consecutive use of the verb. KS, 368g.

Psalm 11:3

Ps 11:3. When the foundations [of society] are torn down, What can the righteous do?"

Further reasons for flight are stated. The enemies have apparently done so much damage that it can be claimed that because of their opposition to the righteous "the foundations [of society] are torn down." The parenthesis "of society" does not appear in the text. It was added by way of interpretation. It might have substituted "of the state" or the like or even "the basic principles of justice and righteousness"-all of which amount to practically the same thought. In Saul's time the bitterness of the party opposing David could surely be charged with having done such devilish work. But is it not true that at such times a feeling of futility comes upon those who espouse the cause of righteousness? Therefore his friends were saying: "What can the righteous do?" You cannot change the situation; you cannot stop them; they sweep everything before them.


For emphasis tsaddiq (the righteous) even precedes the interrogative pronoun "what." KS 339e.

Psalm 11:4

b) The Righteous Lord Is a Refuge for the Righteous (Ps 11:4-7)

Ps 11:4. The Lord in His holy temple, The Lord, whose throne is in the heavens- . His eyes behold, His glances test the children of men.'

Ps 11:5. The Lord tests the righteous; But the wicked and the lover of violence He hates.

Ps 11:6. On the wicked He rains slings [of destruction]; Fire and brimstone and a heavy gale will be their lot.

Ps 11:7. For the Lord is righteous; He loveth righteous deeds; His countenance beholds the upright.

When the psalmist evaluates who the Lord is and what He does, the writer must be conscious of his own right attitude toward the Lord, otherwise he could not have spoken thus. He begins with a consideration of the exalted nature of the God who sits enthroned in His sanctuary in the heavens-no thought here of an earthly temple. But this conception of the high and holy God does not imply remoteness on His part or unfamiliarity and indifference toward what is going on upon earth. Just because He is so high, therefore nothing escapes Him. Each man is under His surveillance. Each man's actions are under continual scrutiny. In the light of what was just said about the ungodly schemes of the opposition this means that God is well aware of what is being done and has the right appreciation of it though it be clothed, let us say, with the mantle of royal sanction. For the present the claim is merely that all alike are under this continual scrutiny.


Yahweh (the Lord) is clearly a nominative absolute. KS 341h.

Psalm 11:5

Ps 11:5. The Lord tests the righteous; But the wicked and the lover of violence He hates.

When the first result of this inspection by God is said to be: "The Lord tests the righteous," the thought implied is, of course, that He finds them to be what they claim and aim to be. That implies that His divine approval rests upon them. The case of the "wicked" is stated a bit more precisely. They are, first of all, more clearly defined as being "lovers of violence," implying that God recognizes them to be just that. Saul obviously claimed that his persecutions of David were measures that were necessary for the welfare of the state. For all that, they were deeds of violence, and he was a man who loved violence. Sharp and blunt is the conclusion reached with regard to this class of men: He "hates" them. Strong language, growing out of the correct conception of the vigor of the divine character in its opposition to all forms of evil!

Psalm 11:6

Ps 11:6. On the wicked He rains slings [of destruction]; Fire and brimstone and a heavy gale will be their lot.

The lot of the wicked man is a perilous one, not his own, says the psalmist in effect. For "on the wicked He rains slings." So the Hebrew. The term slings (pachim) would imply some evil that catches and holds the evildoers and so brings them low. So for the sake of explanation we added to the word the parenthesis "of destruction." Textual changes are quite unnecessary here. It would seem that at this point the analogous case of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah came to the writer's mind, for he borrows terms that were characteristic of that calamity only when he says: "Fire and brimstone and a heavy gale will be their lot." When He takes the wicked in hand, there is no trifling, there are no halfhearted measures. The punishment is commensurate with their crime, and their crime was not a light one. "Lot" is "the portion of their cup," which certainly is a far more picturesque way of stating it. God gives a man a cup in hand; in it is found what God in His justice has appointed for him, either an abundance of good ("my cup runneth over," Ps 23:5), or a bitter potion, as here, where it means the drink of God's wrath. "Heavy gale" (Koehler} could be translated literally "winds of wraths" as Hengsten-berg contends. Taylor suggests rightly that "such language is more than an expression of Hebrew vindictiveness. It reflects . . . the belief that evil is in hopeless conflict."



Yamter (He rains), though it looks like a jussive and not like a plain hiphil imperfect is yet to be treated like the latter. GK 109k cites many instances where this happens. Cf. also KS 194f.

Psalm 11:7

Ps 11:7. For the Lord is righteous; He loveth righteous deeds; His countenance beholds the upright.

To build this contention on a solid basis and to sum up effectively, the psalmist now says: "The Lord is righteous." Only a man who is convinced of the justice of his cause and the injustice of the opposition would dare to appeal to the righteousness of God. That, after all, is a broad base on which to stand at all times. From this truth follows the next: "He loveth righteous deeds." Of this love in his own case the psalmist is assured, otherwise he would not have dared to pray as he does and take his refuge in God as he did in Ps 11:1. Since the whole emphasis lies on what God does and is, and that alone constitutes the solid basis of comfort, we have translated the last clause: "His countenance beholds the upright," implying that same watchful care that was stressed above. The words could have been translated: "The upright shall behold His face." But panemo, which equals panaw, His countenance, being a plural, can readily take the verb in the plural, yechesu, which is easier to construe than to regard the singular yashar as a collective plural and so make it the subject of the verb.

Psalm 12:1


THIS PSALM is a complaint and a plea for mercy against treachery which is encountered on every hand but at the same time an expression of confidence that the Lord, as He has promised, will effect the deliverance of His own in due season.

The Hebrew heading indicates that David committed the psalm into the hands of the choir director with the direction that it be sung 'al-hashsheminith, which may mean "by the basses," cf., 1Ch 15:20, where a corresponding expression may refer to the sopranos.

There is no good reason for removing the composition of psalm from the age of David, which the heading suggests. It may well have been written while David was at the court of Saul or during the time when David was in perpetual flight before Saul's jealousy. There were men who were poisoning Saul's mind against him as Kirkpatrick points out (cf., 1Sa 26:19). The city of Keilah proved treacherous (cf., 1Sa 23:11). The Siphites were equally faithless (1Sa 23:19ff.). The attempt to make a late exilic or postexilic date fit the contents of the psalm suffers chiefly from the inadequacy of not agreeing with the type of men who are here depicted as causing grief to the psalmist: they were men of "smooth lips and a double mind," which is surely not a good description of the people who dominated Israel in exilic times or thereafter. At this later date violence and highhanded oppression were the order of the day.

The position that we take does not yet answer the question as to whether the enemies referred to were compatriots or foreigners. From the references given above there may well have been some foreigners among them. But the lament that "the godly have ceased to be" would seem to reflect definitely upon members of the covenant people. For the chasidh (Ps 12:1) is primarily a man who is faithful to the covenant in which his people stand. Cf. also Oesterley, The Psalms, p. 56ff.

It must become obvious on closer examination of the psalm that it sounds nothing of a strictly personal note; there is no "I" and "my." Though a personal experience may have been at the bottom of all that David says, it seems quite likely that he broadened his thinking to the point where he saw that his complaint was the complaint of the people of God of all times though the situation becomes more painful and acute only from time to time. Hengstenberg rightly contends that "without a doubt this psalm is not personal in tone but was composed at the very outset for the needs of the congregation." This is one of the many instances when the psalms rise above the purely personal and local and look to the later needs of the church of God.

Related to this question is the one as to whether this is a strictly liturgical piece (Leslie). To make it such is plainly an overstatement of the case and an excessive use of the principle of the prevalence of the liturgical element in the psalms. Leslie says: Ps 12 is a solemn liturgy prepared for a regularly recurring service of petition. He assigns the first part as a petition to the congregation, Ps 12:4 and Ps 12:5 to the "officiating priest," and Ps 12:6-8 to the congregation. An examination of the psalm will reveal that it simply cannot support such far-reaching conclusions. A pet theory dominates the interpretation. Schmidt quite unfairly makes it the embittered utterance of an old man who cannot get over his bitterness.

One further issue should be disposed of in advance: Is the section Ps 12:5-8 a prophetic utterance in which the poet turns prophet and speaks by divine inspiration? The words could be interpreted thus, but nothing in the psalm makes such an interpretation compulsory. Though we" cannot agree with those interpreters who assert (like Koenig) that the psalmists never speak as prophets, we feel that in this instance all the needs of the case are met if we assume that the writer offers a summary of statements of God that he has heard or read--a free, comprehensive summary of sound prophetic thoughts in poetic fashion.

a) A prayer for deliverance from the men who speak in hypocrisy and treachery and have become very boastful (Ps 12:1-4)

Ps 12:1. Help, O Lord, for the godly have ceased to be, For faithfulness has disappeared from among the children of men.

Ps 12:2. (But rather) they speak deceit, every man with his neighbor; With smooth lips and double mind do they speak.

Ps 12:3. May the Lord cut off all smooth lips, The tongue that talks big;

Ps 12:4. The ones who have said: "With our tongues we shall do heroic things; Our lips are under our control. Who is lord over us?"

Ps 12:1. Dark is the picture that is presented: Loyal members of the covenant people are hard to find, have all but disappeared from the nation. Basic virtues like "faithfulness" are no longer in evidence. The situation is so bad that it presses a strong cry from the psalmist's lips_"help," a common cry when a situation is desperate, without necessarily requiring that an individual state from what he desires help. The situation as such makes the need obvious. It is clear that the form of statement used is a hyperbole. But that is all the more evidence as to how keenly the writer feels the existing corruption. His complaint, as has been well pointed out by Hengstenberg, is not so much about the universal corruption of his time but about the suffering that this has caused the godly. "The psalmist has been brooding over the black outlook till his overcharged heart relieves itself in this single-worded prayer ('help')."


'emunim, though plural and though as to form could well mean "faithful ones," because of the contrast with the deceit mentioned in Ps 12:2 is best regarded as one of the plurals used for abstract qualities, KS 235d.

Psalm 12:2

Ps 12:2. (But rather) they speak deceit, every man with his neighbor; With smooth lips and double mind do they speak.

By prefacing the verse with the words in parentheses ("but rather") we seek to indicate words of transition that the Hebrew usually takes for granted. The sins that have brought about the fact that "the godly have ceased" and that "faithfulness has disappeared" are primarily sins of the tongue-"they speak deceit," "with smooth lips and double mind they speak." In other words, treachery and flattery and duplicity are inherent in all that one hears. The hyperbole used in v. 1 continues, for these sins are charged against "every man" in relation to "Ms neighbor."


What we have rendered "double mind" is "heart and heart" in the Hebrew. Since the heart is the seat of thinking, we believe our rendering is justified.

Psalm 12:3

Ps 12:3. May the Lord cut off all smooth lips, The tongue that talks big;

Since there is little that man can do about this state of affairs, the situation is laid before the Lord with the implied request that He may remedy it. By a typical synecdoche-part for the whole-the destruction of the lips implies the destruction of those whose they are, the lips being mentioned as the particular source of harm. An added feature in the description of these evildoers is that they have a "tongue that talks big." This somewhat colloquial rendering of the Hebrew uses the same idiom, except that the original employs the plural "big things," which plainly means boastful and proud utterances. Since all pride of sinful man is offensive to the Almighty, He is rightly appealed to put an end to such irregularities.

Psalm 12:4

Ps 12:4. The ones who have said: "With our tongues we shall do heroic things; Our lips are under our control. Who is lord over us?"

Three proud claims are specifically ascribed to these sinners: a) "With our tongues we shall do heroic things," in which statement it dare not be overlooked that these tongues were resorting to flattery and deceit. Yet they promise themselves great success from these unholy pronouncements, b) "Our lips are under our control." This would imply that they will suffer no man to interfere with the wicked utterances by which they hope to achieve success. Deceitful tongues are joined with stubborn self-will, c) "Who is lord over us?" They acknowledge no superior, whether it be on earth or in high heaven. Pride and arrogance plus full confidence in their evil use of the tongue are earmarks of these men.

We need not be too worried about the prayer of Ps 12:3 and Ps 12:4, as to whether it implies a spirit of vengeance or the absence of a spirit that would rather see an evil man recover from his sinful ways than be punished and destroyed. David's life gives ample evidence of a conciliatory and forgiving spirit so that we are well justified in taking for granted that he would rather see sinners saved than destroyed. A helpful remark of Madaren's should not be lost sight of: "But the impatience of evil and the certainty that God can subdue it, which make the very nerve of the prayer, should belong to the Christian yet more than to the psalmist."

Psalm 12:5

b) Reassured by promises of God that he recalls, the psalmist rests secure in the confidence that God will sustain His own in the midst of their ungodly enemies (Ps 12:5-8)

Ps 12:5. (Therefore) because of the violence done to the poor, because of the whimperings of the needy, Now will I arise, says the Lord; I will set in safety him who so eagerly pants for it.

Ps 12:6. The words of the Lord are pure words, Silver^refined in a smelter in the ground, Purified seven times.

Ps 12:7. Thou, O Lord, wilt regard them, Thou wilt guard them from this generation forever,

Ps 12:8. Who on every side strut about as wicked men, As if the wickedness of sons of men were exalted.

Over against the heaven-storming pride of those who were just described God is introduced as speaking. What he says (see above) is an effective summary of such godly sentiments as the writer recalls as bearing on the case, perhaps not one of them a quotation but a free paraphrase of what those who know God may rightly expect him to say under the circumstances. Am 8:4-7 and Isa 3:14ff. would be analogous statements which men of a later generation might have remembered under similar circumstances.

Ps 12:5. What stirs Him to action is the violence that the proud manipulators of smooth and deceptive words have done to the "poor" and the "needy" whose "whimperings" He has heard (cf., Ex 3:7). The Lord is represented as forming a resolve: "Now will I arise," and as promising deliverance: "I will set in safety him who so eagerly pants for it." The picture unfolds naturally as we go along. All the harm done, especially to God's saints, by the evil men who were first described was not immediately apparent. Schmidt's peculiar criticism to the effect that the quotation recalled by the psalmist in the second half of the psalm does not quite agree with the situation depicted in the first half is refuted by this simple observation. Nothing further is sketched at this point than the resolve of the Lord to help the needy. That is a guaranty of the fact that it will be achieved.


Mishshodh is an example of the min causal, KS 403e. So is me-'enqath. Yaphiach lo presents some difficulty, none, however, that warrants textual changes. Again the relative has been omitted. Opinion is just about evenly divided as to whether the relative refers to "safety" which immediately precedes or is to be understood as a masculine as we have translated.

Psalm 12:6

Ps 12:6. The words of the Lord are pure words, Silver^refined in a smelter in the ground, Purified seven times.

David reassures himself that this will take place by recalling the general nature of God's words as he and all of God's saints know them: they are "pure words," which expression removes the alloy of unde-pendability. Man may often intend to do well and may promise help but may fall short of keeping his promise because of human frailty. Not so God. Therefore His promises may be likened to "silver refined in a smelter in the ground, purified seven times," the very purest of the precious metal.


There is no valid reason for having misgivings about ba 'alii in the sense of "in a smelter" or "smelting pot." Though the word appears nowhere else, the Targum gives it this meaning, which makes good sense. La'arets allows for another translation. Instead of "in the ground" attached to "smelter" it may be construed with the verb thus: "silver, refined in a smelter (poured out) to the earth." Either seems admissible.

Psalm 12:7

Ps 12:7. Thou, O Lord, wilt regard them, Thou wilt guard them from this generation forever,

Since God may rightly be described in reference to His words as just indicated, the psalmist draws proper conclusions with regard to the situation in which he and other godly men like him find themselves. Addressing God in prayer, he expresses the confidence that God will keep His watchful eye on those that have suffered oppression ("Thou wilt regard") and will go farther in that He will keep His protecting hand over them. The psalm here takes on a note of the more personal feelings in that the writer includes himself ("Thou wilt guard us"). This protection is offered in the face of this wicked class of oppressors above described (in this sense the word "generation" is here used), and this protection of God will be exercised for all times to come.

Psalm 12:8

Ps 12:8. Who on every side strut about as wicked men, As if the wickedness of sons of men were exalted.

The description of the men against whom this prayer for protection is directed continues in the last verse. The last sentence may be construed as having omitted the relative pronoun, a construction as common in Hebrew as it is in English. Therefore we freely inserted a "who" by way of beginning Ps 12:8. No matter where you turn, "on every side," in emphatic position in the Hebrew, these persons are found strutting about as the wicked men that they actually were, making no pretense at being good men, quite content to be known as practicing wickedness. But their brazenness might well create the impression "as if the wickedness of sons of men were exalted," which plainly means that these persons act as if by common consent and popular vote wickedness had been set on a throne as the dominant force ruling in that generation-an extreme that surely had not yet been reached under any circumstances. But all this shall not prevail, for God guards His own. On this note of confidence the psalm closes, for Ps 12:7 is still the chief clause of the final statement.


8. Libhney is to be regarded as having the le which expresses the genitive relationship, KS 280n. Kerum is the infinitive with he.

In Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pp. 405-7 (110) there are a few sentiments in which the person in question speaks of the prevalence of evil men much as the psalmist does in this psalm, but with the significant difference that, as the title of the piece shows ("A Dispute over Suicide"), the Egyptian feels driven to take his own life, cf., Tay-lor, Interpreter's Bible.

Psalm 13:1


A BEAUTIFUL PSALM-brief, helpful, and very instructive. It is obviously born out of a life situation such as many must face. Its tone is highly individual-one man tells what he experienced, tells, that is to say, indirectly through his prayer, which has been preserved for us. There is no good reason for doubting the validity of the heading, which ascribes the piece to David. Thus David may well have cried toward the end of the days when he was being persecuted by Saul and had been hounded day after day through the wilderness of Judea (cf., 1Sa 27). But fortunately the manner of referring to the experience is such that any individual may pray this prayer after the original sufferer. It is to be classified as the lament of an individual.

To the Choir Director. A Psalm of David.

Ps 13:1. How long, O Lord, wilt Thou completely forget me? How long wilt Thou hide Thy face from me?

Ps 13:2. How long shall I devise plans in my soul, grief in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy triumph over me?

Ps 13:3. Look, answer me, O Lord, my God. Lighten my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death;

Ps 13:4. Lest my enemy say, "I have overcome him," And my foes exult that I am shaken.

Ps 13:5. But as for me, I have trusted in Thy faithfulness; May my heart rejoice in Thy deliverance.

Ps 13:6. I will sing unto the Lord Because He will deal bountifully with me.

The psalm opens with a pitiful complaint that expresses the earnest yearning of the soul for deliverance (Ps 13:1-2). It continues with the prayer proper (Ps 13:3-4). It concludes on a note of reassurance (Ps 13:5-6-one verse in the original). At first feeling runs high; gradually it subsides; at the end of the prayer calm has been restored. Even so has many an experience gone in the course of men's lives.

The fourfold "how long" indicates the extremity of this poor man's misery. His strength is well-nigh spent. His patience can hold out no longer. Why has God not intervened this long while? It seems as though God had "completely forgotten." It appears besides as if He were intentionally letting His face be hid from the poor suppliant. Behind this statement lies the vital use of the expression "the face of God." That signifies the experience of His gracious goodness, His divine presence. There has been no tasting of the divine comfort that comes from the reassurance that He will stand by a man and help him. The word that we have translated "completely" (netsach) originally means "forever." To translate it thus in the same sentence with a "how long" does not make sense-Buttenwieser rightly calls this "nonsense." To devise elaborate explanations to reconcile such inconsistency as being due to the bewildered writer's confusion is farfetched. "Forever" is used very loosely, as Luther already saw, who translated it as we have done (so gar).


Heading: lammenatseach, cf. the heading of Ps 4, "Notes."

Psalm 13:2

Ps 13:2. How long shall I devise plans in my soul, grief in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy triumph over me?

The period of waiting has long been filled with plans that were devised for self-deliverance. The verb used implies putting plans into a place where they are stored up. Always new plans are being projected, every night as it were. Night is the time for planning. Day the time for trying to carry them out. But when they are attempted, it is found that they are futile, for God will not grant success, and so the experience of "all the day" is "grief in my heart all the day." If this pattern is kept in mind, it will be seen that the expression "all the night" is presupposed for the first member of the verse. Naturally, then, if all plans have miscarried, it is but natural that the enemy has been successful day after day, and therefore we have as the last complaint: "how long shall my enemy triumph over me?" Here and in v. 4 the enemy appears to be a single individual, a situation which fits well the case of Saul vs. David. One feels keenly that this fourfold cry is uttered out of the depth of the grief of heart and soul.


There is no reason for changing the Hebrew text of the word 'etsoth ("plans"). The traditional text makes perfectly good sense. Because of the absence of a reference to the night after "day" has been mentioned is not sufficient reason for addhig the word. Note the explanation above.

Psalm 13:3

Ps 13:3 Look, answer me, O Lord, my God. Lighten my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death;

If the first two verses are complaint, the next two are petition pure and simple. It is as though God had averted His face and refused to consider what was befalling His child: "Look, answer me." God had done nothing to indicate that He had heard what His child had said or noted what he had done. But the poor man still regards himself as God's child and God as his God-"O Lord, my God." The next petition, "lighten my eyes," implies that he is in danger of having the lamp of life within him go out entirely. When the vital powers grow dim, a Hebrew says his eyes are darkened. When he is refreshed and vitalized he says his eyes are "lightened." Cf. on this usage 1Sa 14:27,29; Ezr 9:8. Here the psalmist feels that, unless God intervenes, his life's lamp may go out completely, perhaps because he would fall entirely into the power of his enemy.


The Hebrew says, "lest I sleep death." In our idiom this must be expanded into "sleep the sleep of death." KS, 329h.

Psalm 13:4

Ps 13:4. Lest my enemy say, "I have overcome him," And my foes exult that I am shaken.

The enemy's triumph is the motive urged for hearing this petition. There is more involved here than merely having one foe exult over his opponent. The writer has identified his cause with God's and knows that it is truly that. Maclaren very wisely remarks in this connection: "God's honor is identified with His servant's deliverance, a true thought, and one that may reverently be entertained by the humblest lover of God, but which needs to be carefully guarded. We must be very sure that God's cause is ours before we can be sure that ours is His."


On yekhaltiw note that it takes an object suffix though it is usually construed with a dative object. This is not an adequate reason for textual correction; cf. especially KS, 21 Ib.

Psalm 13:5

Ps 13:5. But as for me, I have trusted in Thy faithfulness; May my heart rejoice in Thy deliverance.

Some interpreters view the last two verses as giving reasons for being entitled to expect deliverance (Koenig), others call them "a joyous hope of ultimate deliverance" (Kirkpatrick). We prefer to describe them as bringing the note of reassurance. Calm confidence has returned to the heart. Deliverance has not yet come, but trust ("I have trusted") has returned and has as its basis God's "faithfulness" (Chesedh- which always implies His covenant faithfulness). The writer does not know when help will arrive, but when it does come, his sentiment is: "May my heart rejoice in Thy deliverance," meaning, of course, impending deliverance.


bishu1 'athekha ("Thy deliverance") is obviously a subjective genitive implied in the suffix and means: the deliverance that I expect from Thee.

Psalm 13:6

Ps 13:6. I will sing unto the Lord Because He will deal bountifully with me.

Not only shall gladness fill his very heart, but his praise will become vocal at that time-"I will sing unto the Lord." Expressing the sentiment of the preceding verse that this help is still future, he says: "Because He will deal bountifully with me." Faith has climbed out of the lowest depths of despair where it had well-nigh perished into the full sunlight of godly hope. It can wait for the help to come, for it is sure that it will not fail him.


Though gamal means "render," it is so obviously taken in the good sense here that the translations quite regularly render accordingly, like "deal bountifully with me."

Psalm 14:1


THE SPECIAL DIFFICULTY in the interpretation of this psalm is the perplexity of the reader in regard to the situation described. If he knows Ro 3:1-12 he is aware of the fact that Ps 14:1 is cited in support of Paul's contention that all mankind is under the taint of sin. He then tries to make the first verse of the psalm a general truth and is inclined to translate the perfect tenses of these verses as presents. So do Luther, Hengstenberg, Maclaren, Delitzsch, Oesterley, etc. De-litzsch has the strongest presentation of the claim that 'amor and the rest of the perfects are to be translated as an "abstract present." Still it seems so much more natural to let the perfect be a past tense, "The fool hath said" (AV, ARV etc.).

As soon as this view is accepted and the whole psalm translated thus, as Koenig very correctly contends it must be done, one immediately tries to think of a historic situation which would fit this description. No interpreter has attempted this more consistently that has Kirkpatrick, who offers the ingenious suggestion that the author has in mind such situations as the times of the Flood, of the Tower of Babel, and of Sodom and Gomorrah, instances of history when human wickedness was very much in evidence. He then claims that Ps 14:3 is offered as an illustration as to how the same situation appeared also in Israel in the psalmist's day in that the meek and lowly were oppressed by those who had influence and power. But God proves Himself the defender of His people, and the closing prayer drives home the hope of absolute deliverance, which will finally come from God.

But here again, as the text of the psalm is reread, one feels keenly that nothing in the contents of the psalm warrants being so specific about the historical situations that are referred to. Yet on the whole much of the approach mentioned above may be retained. True as it is that the writer did not set out to furnish proof for Paul for the universal depravity of mankind, he is definitely thinking along these lines. In the first section (Ps 14:1-3) he has a situation of prevailing wickedness in mind, that is to say, throughout the world by and large, time and again when we view mankind critically we must get the impression that those who dwell upon the earth are "fools," and that they deny the existence of God, and as a result degenerate morally. The psalmist sees a similar depravity rearing its ugly head also in Israel (Ps 14:3). But he knows full well that God cannot tolerate such iniquity (Ps 14:5f.) and prays that Israel in particular may be restored to its ideal state.

There is no serious reason for claiming that David could not have written this psalm as the heading claims. What he may have seen and heard about neighboring nations may have instructed him as to their depravity. The sad oppression of good men under Saul's rule have furnished the needed illustration of a similar corruption in Israel. The certainty of the overthrow of wicked oppressors in Israel may well have come from David's pen as a suitable conclusion of his prayer.

To the Director. By David.

Ps 14:1. The fool said in his heart, There is no God. They have acted wickedly, made their doings abominable; There was none that did good.

On the "director" see Ps 4:1.

The fool (nabhal) is without an article and is to be taken in the generic sense. To some extent the verb "has said" ('amar) is a gnomic aorist-"has always said." Fools have always said there is no God. What is described is more largely practical atheism rather than theoretical atheism. Both may be included. When men deny God's existence or live as though He were not, then wickedness prevails: men "have acted wickedly, made their doings abominable." Atheism bears its proper fruit in rotten conduct. Many have been the times when such utter degeneracy of mankind has been all but universally in evidence, but it always has its beginning in severing the connection with God. That the fools as a class are meant, though the singular is used, appears from the fact that the verbs unconsciously become plurals-"they have acted wickedly." As further proof note that, when God views what is going on, He is said to behold the "children of men," not an individual.

To cover the whole realm of human conduct and to show that it is to be regarded as being infected by the defection from God, the author offers three statements: "They have acted wickedly, made their doings abominable, there was none that did good." The first two of these statements are without a connective. Asyndeton is sometimes to be regarded as merely one mode of statement resorted to in poetry (KS 357h). If the concluding statement seems somewhat too general, it must at least be admitted that those who are less flagrant in their attitude may very often in a practical way deny God and so really fall under this condemnation if closely scrutinized.

Psalm 14:2

Ps 14:2. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men To see if there was a man of insight, One who sought after God.

The matter is now viewed from the divine perspective. God subjects men to an inspection, "looked down from heaven upon the children of men." The verb actually says "bent over" to look. All "the children of men" are made to pass in review before Him. Basic essentials are the rule by which he judges: is there "a man of insight?" (the participle is used, "a discerning one" or "one who sought after God"). Certainly if God is not in all their thoughts, they cannot be good men. So the divine inspection amis at the things that count.

Psalm 14:3

Ps 14:3. All have gone astray; They have altogether become spoiled; There was not one that did good, not even one.

The result is summarized. The initial "all" is emphatic: The Almighty, the Judge of mankind, finds them all infected with the same virus of sin. That theory and practice lie close together is indicated by the fact that the inevitable issues of ungodly theory immediately result in ungodly living: "All have gone astray; they have altogether become spoiled." The second verb starts from a root that implies souring of milk. Apart from divine grace this is the way mankind looks to the Lord on high. By way of summary comes the statement, refrain like, looking back to the conclusion of Ps 14:1: "There was none that did good, not even one."

Psalm 14:4

Ps 14:4. Have they become aware of this, all these evildoers, Who devour My people to feed themselves? On the Lord they do not call.

The sense of this verse is not immediately connected with that of the former. It has nothing to do with men in the world at large. Indeed, those "who devour My people" could be men of a nation outside of Israel. It seems more likely that a situation is being thought of like that which is encountered in quite a number of other passages in the Scriptures where an ungodly element in the population of Israel preys upon the meek and the lowly, taking cruel advantage of their defenceless position; cf., Isa 3:12; Am 2:6f.;Mic 2:2; 7:3; Eze 34:8. Besides, though a prophet or psalmist could, indeed, refer to Israel as "my people," since in the two preceding verses God had been introduced, it is quite likely that He still speaks here. He is so often introduced as the father of the widow and the fatherless children. These unfortunates are indirectly addressed by the question: Have they never become aware of how God regards the evildoer and speaks His sentence against him? So for the verb "become aware of" we have supplied the object "this," referring to the two preceding verses. The specific sin the "fools" are charged with is that they devour God's people to feed themselves. This reads literally: "eaters of My people they eat bread." We believe this means that they live by means of ungodly preying upon their victims as Kessler has well rendered it. We believe we have caught most of that thought in the translation, "who devour My people to feed themselves." Quite obviously such persons would not be men who are regularly given to prayer. Therefore the further indictment, "on the Lord they do not call." As Maclaren remarks: "Practical atheism is, of course, prayerless." Oesterley gets priests into the picture by translating: "They eat the bread of God." Clearly priests are not in this picture.

Note the omission of the logical object in the case of the verb yadhe'u, a common occurrence; cf., KS, p. 342, 1. Also, that 'okheley, though a participle, is the equivalent of a relative clause, KS, 41 li.

Psalm 14:5

Ps 14:5. Then they were greatly terrified, For the Lord is in the midst of the righteous generation.

There is an intentional vagueness about the initial "there" (sham). Some interpreters translate it "there"; others "then." It may have both meanings. But it is here intended to refer to that situation or that time when the Almighty, the Just One, who cannot tolerate iniquity forever, begins to vent His wrath upon those of Israel who oppress the Lord's true children (cf. Ps 14:4). When He took them in hand, then or there they were always greatly terrified (Hebrew, "trembled with trembling"). They had failed to see that the meek and lowly who have put their trust in the Lord are the objects of His special care; "the Lord is in the midst of the righteous generation." "Generation," as so often, has here gone over from the meaning of people of a given period to a special class of people even as we also use this word. Since the whole verse is cast into the past tense it obviously refers to all those instances in the past when the oppressors were overthrown even as were Ahab and Jezebel who preyed upon defenceless Naboth (1Ki 21).

Psalm 14:6

Ps 14:6. Ye shall be put to shame as far as your plans against the poor are concerned, Because the Lord is his refuge.

In a solemn prediction the psalmist states the fate of all who thus oppress the poor: "Ye shall be put to shame as far as your plans against the poor are concerned." This is not the usual meaning given the words of this verse. But since the parallel form hobhish is usually an intransitive, it is more in keeping with usage to take tabhishu as an intransitive and to regard 'atsath as an accusative of specification with the noun dependent upon it treated as the objective genitive: "plans against the poor" (KS, 336e). Parallel with the second half of Ps 14:5 is the thought, "because the Lord is his refuge."

Psalm 14:7

Ps 14:7 Oh, that the deliverance of Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord completely restores His people, Then may Jacob rejoice, and Israel be glad!

Having been reminded by the issue on which the three preceding verses have dwelt of the unhappy conditions that prevail in many other directions among God's own people, the writer quite naturally turns to prayer that God may heal the grievous hurt of His people. Since Zion was even then the site of the sanctuary, it was to be expected that he would think of God as going forth from His holy place where He dwelt among His people in order that He might deliver them. Therefore the statement: "O that the deliverance of Israel would come out of Zion!" Since a thoroughgoing restoration alone could help, therefore this is thought of as coming to pass. "When the Lord completely restores His people" means, of course, He will in due time most assuredly do this. The form of the prayer, however, asks that, when this comes to pass, Israel may not be remiss, but "Jacob may rejoice, and Israel be glad." For too often God's mercies have been received, and He has not been fittingly thanked for them. Shubh shebhuthdn the sense of bringing about a thoroughgoing change, cf., KS 329i.

Ps 53 has almost the same contents as this psalm. The relation between the two can be discussed after Ps 53 has been studied.

The simplest explanation for the double occurrence of the psalm in the Psalter seems to be that it appeared in each of two earlier collections, which were later combined.

The tendency to make a part of the psalm (Ps 14:4) an invective against corrupt priests is feasible on the score of extensive textual changes, all of which are quite subjective. Weiser, Taylor, et al., refuse to go along with this approach.

Psalm 15:1


THE DETAIL of the heading that reads, "A Psalm of David," may not be brushed aside lightly. It cannot be disproved. It certainly fits into the life and activity of David. Its time may be fixed more precisely as being, that period of his life when he manifested an interest in the restoration of the ark and thus the establishment of public worship. Any man who has lived close to God recognizes the pitfalls of formalism and ritualism that continually tend to corrupt any worship that is cast into some kind of fixed form. David may, therefore, well have seen that, after public worship is instituted, the nation should be instructed not to be content with the externals of worship, in other words: What are "the marks of the true worshiper"? This psalm is, of course, didactic in character.

There is a measure of propriety in having this psalm follow Ps 14.  Ps 14 may be said to have described the typical ungodly man; Ps 15 describes the typical man of God.

One cannot help but be struck by the fact that this psalm does not seem to have any depth of piety. It would appear to move on the surface of things. Homely basic virtues are listed. Rightly viewed, this approach has distinct merit without condemning any other approaches that psalmists and prophets may make elsewhere. For surely, if the basic virtues that are here listed are not in evidence in the life of a worshiper, his worship cannot be effective and his attitude toward his God right. The author is apparently listing basic essentials, which Noetscher says "give examples but do not exhaust the case." Other statements of the case by the same author may be thought of as being supplementary to this treatment of the subject, such as Ps 24.

There may be some merit in the contention of those interpreters who say that this psalm seems to be directed against the hypocrites; and since it is characteristic of such individuals to fall short of practicing the most common virtues, it is just these virtues that must be stressed. Besides, it dare not be overlooked that the psalm may in no sense be described as stressing only a sort of externalism. For the fact that more than ordinary morality is demanded appears in phrases such as "speaking the truth from the heart" and "honoring those that fear God"; as also from the fine regard for the sanctity of the oath so clearly emphasized in Ps 15:4.

The thought pattern followed by the psalm is as follows: an opening question is addressed by the author to God which sets forth the theme of the psalm; this is followed by a detailed answer spoken by the author himself as standing in the sight of God. In this answer there are found, first of all, three broad principles of conduct and then a number of basic virtues, all of which together equal ten commandments of conduct; to which is appended the reassurance that he who meets these requirements shall be able to stand firm.

Maclaren's explanation may well be appended to the effect that the things here required are not "the impalpable refinements of conduct." He adds that "lofty emotions, raptures of communion, aspirations which bring their own fulfilment and all the experiences of the devout soul, which are sometimes apt to be divorced from plain morality, need the ballast of the psalmist's homely answer to the great question."

A Psalm of David.

Ps 15:1. Lord, who may sojourn in Thy tent? Who may dwell in Thy holy hill?

The form of the psalm indicates that it is more than an abstract dissertation on the question, Who is a true worshiper? It does this by addressing a question to God, as much as to say, Of whom, Lord, dost Thou approve? In the answer to the questions asked the speaker is still the psalmist, and he is still standing before God as he did when asking the initial question. The two parts of the question are two figurative expressions. There is obviously no thought of any man's trying to take up permanent residence in the tent which David had raised to house the ark; nor does anyone presume to take up perpetual residence on the holy hill on which the tent was erected. The true children of God or, what amounts to the same, the true worshipers in a certain sense dwell in God's tent and so enjoy the rights commonly associated with Oriental hospitality-protection and sustenance. In a sense they also share the same dwelling with God and "dwell with Him." The question would have this issue defined. Therefore it seems most proper to translate the Hebrew imperfects with the auxiliary "may" as most recent translations do. The "shall abide" and the "shall dwell" of the A.V. shift the emphasis slightly, reflecting on, Who shall in the long run be able to stay there? "Sojourn" (gur) does mean temporary residence but not necessarily brief residence (cf., Ps 61:4). Paraphrased, the question amounts to this: Whom, O Lord, wilt Thou accept when he comes to Thy house?

Psalm 15:2

Ps 15:2. He who walks blamelessly, and does right, And speaks the truth from his heart.

The answer lists broader principles of conduct as the marks of a true worshiper. The first of these is all-inclusive, "He who walks blamelessly." The original tamim covers a broad area. Though it is sometimes translated "perfect" or "perfectly" it signifies completeness of moral conduct, that is to say, a many-sided, well-rounded-out pattern of living which leaves no important area uncultivated. Stated more concisely, this means, he "does right," for which the Hebrew again has the stronger expression-the noun "righteousness." But to blameless conduct and to the idea of always doing the right thing may well be added the most obvious expression that such an attitude finds through the words of the mouth, therefore: "and speaks the truth from his heart." This expression looks at the root of the utterances heard: they emanate from the heart and do not lie superficially on the tongue. The last phrase could also very properly be translated "with his heart." A man who lacks the attributes enumerated would scarcely prove acceptable to his fellow men, therefore quite obviously not to God. Isa 33:15 presents much the same thought as does this verse.

Psalm 15:3

Ps 15:3. He does not slander with his tongue And does no wrong to his fellow man, Nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor.

From this point onward to the concluding statement of Ps 15:5 the RSV attaches the successive clauses to Ps 15:2 by the use of the relative "who." This very properly binds all ten demands together as constituting a unit. We have not done this because the Hebrew sentence structure does not do so. It begins with three participles in Ps 15:2, thereby expressing the thought that these attributes must be enduring qualities. In Ps 15:3 the construction changes to the finite verb (KS 413 1) and uses perfects, expressing that which is habitual (KS 125).

Specific instances of sins avoided are now given. The verse has only negatives. Acceptable lives have the element of what is done as well as the element of what is avoided. The first of these is, "he does not slander with his tongue." No mouth can bless God in worship and slander a fellow man in the next breath. Nor can such an individual be guilty of doing "wrong against a fellow man." Lastly he would always refuse to "take up a reproach against his neighbor." This appears to imply taking up for the sake of gossip anything that may be uttered by way of defaming another's character.

Psalm 15:4

Ps 15:4. He despises the man who deserves to be rejected And honors those that fear God. He swears to his own hurt and does not change it.

The fine balance of such a person's judgment is then effectively described. Since his behavior is consistent, he knows whom to reject- for some deserve our wholehearted contempt-and he also knows who deserves to be respected and honored. Those whom God and man reject-the consistent evildoers-are rightly despised by those who truly love God (cf., Ps 1:1). If a man truly honors God, we cannot but honor him. Those interpreters who render this verse: "Who is displeasing in his own eyes, worthy of contempt"-thus emphasizing the almost abject humility that should be found in worshipers-first of all offer a dubious translation and then introduce a contrast into the text that does not fit it. They also overstate the nature of true humility.

Psalm 15:5

Ps 15:5. He does not put out his money on interest And does not take a bribe against an innocent man.  He who does these things shall never be moved.

One check on a righteous man's conduct is: What is his attitude toward oaths? One of the best tests of this attitude would be, What does a man do when he has sworn an oath and then finds that it is going to be to his disadvantage to carry out what he has sworn? In such a case he must have a high regard for the binding character of the oath if he still abides by it. It is this attitude that is described in the words, "He swear-eth to his own hurt and does not change it." Stated a bit more at length, this would be: He takes an oath which has as a result that he gets into" a bad situation, but he still does not tamper with the oath but holds it to be binding in an irrevocable sense. This obviously implies that the original oath was not made rashly or inadvisedly. It is just a case where things take an unexpected turn to his disadvantage.

Two instances from the area of the use of money conclude the examples cited. The first is, "He does not put out his money on interest." This reflects passages like Ex 22:25; Le 25:36f.; De 23:20, where the taking of interest from a man in need is forbidden. The ethical nature of this demand is obvious. If I enrich myself at my poor neighbor's expense, when he is in financial straits, I certainly have the wrong attitude on the matter. In Israel the other situation that we find commonly in our day when a man lends money to expand his business or the like was not considered in the passages referred to. True charity repudiates the idea of personal gain as a result of usury. Though the second instance mentioned in this verse is too obvious to call for comment, in Israel in days of old bribery was as common an offense in the courts as it is in any modern nation (cf., Ex 23:8; De 27:25; Isa 1:23; Eze 22:12). True impartiality, true fairness is always a basic virtue.

Having completed the listing of ten fundamental virtues, the psalmist has completed his answer to the original question. He now offers a concluding comment: "He who does these things shall never be moved." "To be moved" scarcely means never to be visited by any calamity. That would give the worshiper's virtues too mercenary a cast. A higher result is envisioned: Such a one will never be shaken from the fine position of godliness that he now occupies, either by temptation or by adversity. On this note of high encouragement the psalmist rests his case and concludes his portrayal.

One recent approach to the interpretation of this psalm seems to us to be quite fanciful and to have netted nothing that is either sound or helpful. This is the approach which regards the psalm as "a temple liturgy which was used at the moment when a company of pilgrims was at the point of entering the holy place" (Leslie). This approach takes two forms. It either has the psalm rendered by the priests before such a pilgrim group, or it gives the pilgrims some share in it, letting the priests offer the response. The chief objection to such an interpretation would appear to be that, as hundreds of groups approached the Temple area, this psalm would have been rendered hundreds of times per day to the point of deadening monotony. Besides, nothing indicates such liturgical use.

Psalm 16:1


THE SUPERSCRIPTION ascribes this psalm to David. This may well be correct. For on the one hand, when David was obliged to flee from Saul and thus was separated from his portion among the people of God he may have given earnest thought to the fine expedient of making the Lord Himself his portion. And again, whereas in 1Sa 26:19 we find evidence that David had been taunted with the prospect that he might as well cast in his lot with other gods and serve them, here he emphatically denies any such temptation. Aside from these two items, certainly the warmth of personal relation to God that characterizes this psalm agrees well with what we know of David's personal faith life.

The other detail of the heading, which in Hebrew reads, "A Miktam," may be rendered "a mystery poem" in the sense of a poem that treats of a mysterious issue in life, like the deep mystic relation to God. Absolute certainty cannot be claimed for the interpretation of this word.

The theme of the psalm has been rather well caught by the heading which the ARV has, "Jehovah-the Psalmist's Portion in Life and His Deliverer in Death." There is, perhaps, no statement of prophet or poet that more beautifully and consistently traces down to its final consequences what it means when a man commits himself fully into the hands of God and abides in Him.

The line of thought running through the psalm may be outlined as follows: The writer first states what attitude he has taken toward God, and what God means to him (Ps 16:1-2); he then shows how this basic attitude of his determines his or, for that matter, any man's position over against the two groups found in mankind (Ps 16:3-4); he next describes the present blessedness that he enjoys as a result of having taken the position that he has over against his Lord (Ps 16:5-8); and lastly he outlines the possibilities for the future that lie latent m his basic position (Ps 16:9-11).

A mystery poem. Of David.

Ps 16:1. Preserve me, Thou strong God, for in Thee have I taken refuge.

Some commentators have made altogether too much of the force of the first petition here voiced-"preserve me"-as though it necessarily implied that the speaker was in the greatest of peril, even in danger of death, from which he hoped to be rescued by the Lord. That some measure of peril may be involved is obvious. But according to the context nothing more is involved than that the psalmist has taken refuge in the Lord and now prays Him to help him stay in that close communion with his God and not slip from it. Quite appropriately he calls God 'el in the Hebrew, which means "the Strong One," implying that according to the import of that name God is well able to do what His suppliant asks.

Psalm 16:2

Ps 16:2. I have said to the Lord, "My Lord art Thou;  I have no good beyond Thee."

The unique feature about this psalm is the fact that the writer has taken this step with deep and thoroughgoing conviction. He really made the Lord his refuge. He drew as close to Him as he could. This second verse evaluates the full force of the degree to which he drew near to God. The emphasis lies on the interpretation that the writer himself gives to the words "My Lord art Thou." To him that means, "I have no good beyond Thee." In other words, "Thou art my highest treasure." Nothing can ever mean anything to me as you do. This is the attitude from which he prays God that he may never be shaken.


We have translated 'amort as though it were a defective way of writing 'amarti, "I have said," rather than to supply "O my soul, thou hast said, etc." GK 44i cites a number of instances of the same sort. 'adhonay had better be rendered here, as in 35:23, "my Lord"-not just Lord, which is the far more common meaning, 'al has the sense of "in addition to" or "beyond," cf., KS 308d.

Psalm 16:3

Ps 16:3. As for the saints that are in the land, They are the noble; all my delight is in them.

This determines his position over against those persons that dwell in this world, who are obviously divided into two classes. They are either minded as the writer is-and these are called "the saints"- or they are individuals who fail to take this attitude and thus become persons contact with whom is to be shunned. In reference to these saints the writer indicates that he has a high regard for them, for he knows himself to be of one mind with them. To him they are the true nobility of mankind, not by virtue of accident of birth but as a result of free allegiance to God. Since these are in the nature of the case Israelites, he adds the words, "that are in the land," meaning Palestine. He cannot help but take pleasure in them and in their attitude-"all my delight is in them." This is simply one of the many aspects of the communion of saints: they do delight in godly fellowship with one another. This statement does not conflict with v. 2 ("I have no good beyond Thee") which in a sense defines what the psalmist's true treasure is.


In liqdoshim the initial le serves to introduce the subject in the sense "as for the saints." Our translation of this difficult verse removes the we before 'adhirey (on the authority of the margin in Kittel's text) and so places this word in a sort of apposition to qedhoshim.

Psalm 16:4

Ps 16:4. Many shall be the sorrows of those who woo another god;  I shall not pour out libations of blood for them,  Neither will I take their names upon my lips.

As much as David delights in the fellowship of the one group, so much he utterly detests association with the other. All of this must be viewed in that enlightened sense of opposition of which Ps 1 speaks, where a strong conscious aversion to sin is one of the characteristic marks of a true man of God. For by departing from the living God- this is implied in "woo another god"-such persons create for themselves painful and distressing situations: "Many shall be the sorrows of those who woo another god." That such a position is completely abhorrent to him the writer declares by saying that he could not do such a thing as offer sacrifices for such wicked men, asking God to bless them. That is the meaning of the statement, "I shall not pour out libations of blood for them."

This somewhat difficult statement is, perhaps, best rendered as we have translated it. Nesekh (libation) appears to be used in a broader sense than is customary. Ordinarily it means a libation of wine. It may here be used to designate the pouring out of the blood of a victim at the base of the altar in a regular sacrifice and so could refer to the sacrifice as such. The suffix "their libation" would then mean a libation which is offered for them.

In like manner, without unkindness or prejudice in what he says, the psalmist tries to express his utter abhorrence of the attitude of those who have forsaken the true God for another by saying that he refuses to "take their names upon his lips." Though this could easily be misunderstood it means that these persons have rendered themselves so vile by what they did in their apostasy that the very mention of their name would seem to be a contamination. Gunkel's reconstruction of Ps 16:3-4 is as brilliant as it is unreliable.


Maharu, which could mean purchase, is construed after the meaning of the derivative mohar (the price or dowry paid by the bridegroom) and so may be construed in the sense of "woo."

Psalm 16:5

Ps 16:5. The Lord is my choice portion and my cup;   Thou wilt make my portion of land broad.

Now the description of the present blessedness growing out of the position taken with conviction and firm resolve. He first once again defines his position. This is a restatement of the substance of Ps 16:1 and Ps 16:2. "The Lord is my choice portion and my cup." Though the Hebrew uses two words-"the portion of my portion"-it really implies a superlative. This means: I have no treasure that I value more highly than my Lord. Synonymous is the thought that He is "my cup," which figure signifies that he is the satisfying draught that refreshes and invigorates the soul, a thought developed quite forcefully by Jesus in Joh 4.

In the second half of the verse the description of the present blessedness begins. The first descriptive clause reads thus: "Thou wilt make my portion of land broad." A figure that is taken from the allotment of the land of Canaan to the Twelve Tribes in the days of Joshua is used. Whereas each man had hoped for a choice and roomy portion for himself so that he would have ample space for house and home and tillable acreage, the writer says: spiritually speaking, that is my happy lot since I have made the Lord my refuge. All confining and crippling cares are removed.


 Kos ("cup") in Hebrew becomes synonymous with "lot" or "fate" (KW says Schicksal).

Psalm 16:6

Ps 16:6. The allotted piece of field has fallen to my lot in pleasant places; Yea, I have a goodly heritage.

The same figure is carried a bit farther in this verse. This man views his life as being like that of a godly man of Joshua's time, whose inheritance was situated in a very pleasant place in the land. So his is "a goodly heritage." It may strike the uninformed Bible reader as a very curious circumstance that this verse could be translated by AV, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places," and we now venture to say, "The allotted piece of field has fallen to my lot, etc." The facts are that chabhalim may and does mean "measuring lines" and by metonomy may designate the tracts that are measured off by the surveyor's lines. That is how Koehler arrives at the meaning "the allotted piece of field." All in all, one should not miss the almost exuberant note that pervades this passage.

Psalm 16:7

Ps 16:7. I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; Yea, by night my inmost thoughts have instructed me.

The psalmist is still on the subject of how happy his lot is. He regards the decision that he made to make the Lord his refuge (Ps 16:1) or his highest good (Ps 16:2) or his choice portion (Ps 16:5) as one that was made at the Lord's own suggestion: so the Lord counseled him, and he thanks Him for having done so. Whenever he thinks his situation over in the quiet of the night when all distracting influences are silenced, his "inmost thoughts" instruct him that he has done the right thing. In other words, his present position in reference to the Lord is one that he has taken and cannot and will not disavow. He knows with fullest certainty that it was the right thing and the one and only course for him to follow. The Hebrew expression for "inmost thoughts" is "reins," i.e., old English for "kidneys." But here as always the inmost part of a man's make up, the very core of his being is meant. We have rendered this "inmost thoughts"-"conscience" would not have been inappropriate.

Psalm 16:8

Ps 16:8. I have kept the Lord continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Since such deeply spiritual issues are not easily expressed, the writer, by way of summing up, now chooses another formulation as to what his attitude toward his God really is when he says: "I have kept or set the Lord continually before me." It is as though by a conscious effort of the will he tried to make real to his thinking that which was a reality above all realities, namely, the fact that God is always present with His own. Still another statement of the case would be: I am keeping Him always before my mind's eye. But since the exact wording is not the all-important thing, the psalmist at once substitutes an equivalent clause for the expression just used when he says: "Because He is at my right hand," which is the position of honor. The concluding statement sums up all the benefits that he enjoys as a result of this right relation to his God. They are: "I shall not be moved," or shaken or dislodged or overthrown. Here is security at its best! But it is not inherent in us but the outcome of the vital relation to the living God. Thus ends the description of the present blessedness that the author enjoys.

Psalm 16:9

Ps 16:9. Therefore my heart has always been glad,  And my soul has rejoiced;  Also my flesh shall dwell securely.

The last verses indicate the future possibilities that are latent in his fortunate position. He begins, however, by once again summarizing what it all means to him for the present. Ever since this attitude has consciously been his, his "heart has been glad." And if in Hebrew conception the heart is the center of one's thinking, then this is the equivalent of saying: Glad thoughts have been coursing through my mind. The perfect used here is the gnomic aorist, so to say, which expresses what is constantly true. Besides, his "soul has rejoiced." Soul may well signify the whole inner being of a man.

Now, looking more to the future, he also asserts that his "flesh shall dwell securely." Implied is the thought that his whole being shall enjoy security, for David is here apparently speaking somewhat after the manner of Paul in 1Th 5:23, "May your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless." The three parts of man emphasize that every part of his being shall share in the security which is his. "Heart" and "soul" could well signify the two aspects of his inner being; "flesh" could designate the physical part of him. In this verse there does not appear to be a reference to death and the grave, and so "my flesh shall rest securely" does not mean "in the grave." That turn of thought begins to appear in the next verse. So the thought of this verse may well include total security of the whole being. And again the verse may well be said to be spoken in a somewhat exuberant tone.

Psalm 16:10

Ps 16:10. For Thou wilt not surrender my soul to Sheol; Thou wilt not permit Thy godly one to see destruction.

With beautiful consistency of the logic of faith, the writer develops still more fully what possibilities are latent in this close fellowship with his God that has come to be a reality in his life. Is there any power stronger than this bond whereby he is tied to God, or the strength wherewith God holds him? The answer is a definite No. Death and the grave are being thought of in particular. Though "Sheol" generally refers to the afterlife as such, to the realm into which one passes as he leaves his present form of existence, it can in a practical way be equated with the grave. Or it may simply be thought of as what we call the hereafter.

Sheol is commonly pictured as a huge, relentless monster, standing with mouth wide open, ready to swallow all the children of men as they are swept along toward it. Though the psalmist has never seen a man escape the fate of being swallowed by death, yet the writer is sure that the power of the living God to whom he stands closely bound in faith is such that, as long as he retains his hold on Him, Sheol will not obtain the mastery. God will prevent his passing into Sheol's power. This is what the statement must mean: "Thou wilt not surrender my soul to Sheol." All visible evidence to the contrary, faith still makes this confident assertion. Though the verb 'azabh means "forsake" or "abandon," that meaning is obviously caught quite well by the idea of "surrender." The writer does not express the thought that he hopes merely to escape from death but rather the bolder thought that death shall never get dominion over him. Never did faith wax bolder in dealing with this problem.

The parallel statement is equally bold, "Thou wilt not permit Thy godly one to see destruction." The subjective condition to be met by man finds stronger expression; a man must be one who may be classed as a "holy one," (AV) or "godly one," according to our translation. That means one who is set apart unto the Lord. Surely, God's care for us is so great and His power so strong that this result may rightly be expected. One cannot help but marvel at the boldness of this faith which holds to this valid conclusion, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.


"Thy godly one" is chasidhekha, without the yod before the suffix and so is a singular. An ancient marginal reading suggests the plural form, "Thy godly ones." The plural would be the more difficult form and should from that point of view be accepted. But the verdict of the versions unanimously points to the singular. Many interpreters insist that shdchath must mean "pit." However, those commentators seem to be in the right who see two roots at work in this form, and so it may well be translated "destruction" after the lead of the Septuagint.

Psalm 16:11

Ps 16:11. Thou wilt make known to me the path of life ; Fulness of joy is in Thy presence;  In Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Having gotten past the grave in his thinking, what does the rest of the future hold in store for a saints of God? Three things. First, "Thou wilt make me to know the path of life," meaning, of course, the path that leads to life, and the traveling of which is life. "Make to know" is the equivalent of tasting and experiencing the reality of all that is involved. Whereas some individuals see only death in prospect after life's candle is snuffed out, this man sees life. Second, "fulness of joy is in Thy presence." The central point at issue was that the psalmist had firmly grasped God in faith and would not let go. In that sense is he in the "presence" of God. But that reality is "joy" and "fulness of joy" without end. Here lies the secret of a truly happy life. Third, "in Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore." Gifts are held in readiness by God to give to those that abide in Him. They are described as "pleasures" or "raptures" and as being available "for evermore." Having reached this point, the psalmist breaks off abruptly as though the highest point of advance had been reached, and as though any further attempt to picture the utmost of felicity must result in an anticlimax.

The boldness of it all almost leaves the reader breathless. How can a man see all men dying and note that all the children of men before him have died without exception and still say: God cannot let that happen to me! It appears like sheer being carried away into rhapsody of bold assertions. But still, in the last analysis, must not faith draw the conclusion that, if you hold to God, God will take care of you perfectly? We seem to face a hopeless dilemma: experience teaches one thing; faith holds the very opposite to be true in the face of inescapable evidence.

The statement involved seems to reach beyond itself and have Something of the prophetic element in it. How much the psalmist knew about the element that reached beyond the horizon of his thinking we may never be able to ascertain.

Peter, making effective use of this passage in his Pentecost sermon (Ac 2:25ff.) points out that, having said he would not die, David did lie down and die, and so in a sense this statement was never fulfilled in regard to him. But in Christ it was fulfilled; and the best statement of the case is offered by Peter (Ac 2:31): David "foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ." Again, to what extent he did this consciously we are unable to fathom. Shall we say with Hengstenberg: "David in Christ could very properly speak as he here does"? Rightly understood, this could be the case. Better, however, seems to be the approach which says in effect that in the providence of God it pleased Him so to guide the spirit of the writer by His own Holy Spirit that he gave shape and form to his utterance in such a way that what he concluded in the logic of faith reached a marvelous fulfilment in the resurrection of Christ for every believer. For those that are "in Christ" do most assuredly share in the fruits of His resurrection. Christ's resurrection has vindicated David's bold assertions of faith, and though to all intents and purposes he died, yet he did not die but lives forevermore. This result was not accidental but the outcome of the work of the Spirit, whose modes of working are marvelous and wonderful. For sheer boldness few passages in Holy Writ can equal this utterance. It ranks on a par with Ro 8:31ff.

Psalm 17:1


THIS PSALM bears many striking resemblances to Ps 16, in its conclusion and as to the situation of the suppliant and as to words employed. Its major difference from the former psalm seems to be the nature of the danger which threatens; in this psalm it is more immediate. Nor can it be denied that this psalm is more aggressive in its tone: it rumbles with a threatening note. Constructions seem more difficult and the thought a bit more involved. Difficulties of interpretation are a bit more numerous. All of this does not, however, warrant resorting to manifold textual changes as, though the state of the text were quite corrupt. The compactness of utterance constitutes a part of the difficulty.

The psalm is to be classified as the lament of an individual. The author may well be David as the traditional heading indicates. Saul is the leader of those who oppose him. 1Sa 23:24ff. fits the situation of the psalm rather well. Surely, the proofs adduced to deny Davidic authorship are not of a substantial sort. It may be a bit difficult to determine whether the tone of the Psalm is strictly personal and individual or whether it is spoken in the name of a group of godly men of those times. The evidence points in the direction of a purely personal plea growing out of David's situation.

As to the note of self-righteousness charged against the writer, this is, in the last analysis, nothing more than the claim: I am not guilty of the things with which I am charged; besides, I have sought to live a blameless life and am not to be charged with insincerity. If this claim is maintained rather stoutly, it should not be overlooked that the writer had apparently been slandered rather viciously. Such an attack naturally calls for an indignant disavowal. Delitzsch's remark may be recalled at this point: "In all such assertions of the pious self-consciousness, what is meant is a righteousness that has its basis in the righteousness of faith." So also Madaren's reminder is much in place: "The modern type of religion which recoils from such professions, and contents itself with always confessiong sins which it has given up hope of overcoming, would be all the better for listening to the psalmist and aiming a little more vigorously and hopefully at being able to say, 'I know nothing against myself.' "

a) An earnest plea for help by a man innocently accused (Ps 17:1-5)

A Prayer of David.

Ps 17:1. Hear, O Lord, a just cause, Give heed to my outcry, Give ear to my prayer, which does not come from deceitful lips.

Ps 17:2. From Thee let my verdict come forth; Let Thy eyes behold the right.

Ps 17:3. When Thou triest my heart and visitest me by night, When Thou purifiest me, Thou shalt find nothing; I have resolved: My mouth shall not transgress.

Ps 17:4. As for the works of men, 1 for one, according to the word of Thy lips, Have shunned the ways of the violent.

Ps 17:5. Inasmuch as my feet have held to Thy prescribed path, My feet have not slipped.

The Psalm launches into eager petition: "Hear . . . give heed . . . give ear." Being wrongfully accused, the singer at once vigorously asserts his innocence. He describes his case with one word, tsedheq-the "right" or "a just cause." He makes an issue of this cause of his in the first five verses. "Outcry" usually has the connotation of jubilant outcry; here it is obviously painful. In pleading for a hearing he at once strongly asserts that there is no hypocrisy in what he says: his prayer "does not come from deceitful lips."

Psalm 17:2

Ps 17:2. From Thee let my verdict come forth; Let Thy eyes behold the right.

Vindication rests with God alone. Only the verdict of the Most High is of moment to this poor petitioner. Therefore the word order: "From Thee let my verdict come forth." "Verdict" (mishpat) has connotations like "justice" and "judgment." Here it must mean "a just decision." God's beholding of the right in this case implies very definitely that He is being thought of as hearing the prayer of His faithful follower with distinct favor. It is worth much to a man to be so sure of the justice of his cause. David certainly merits such a description in the period when he was continually in flight before Saul.


"The right" appears in the Hebrew as a plural noun, in conformity with the principle that KS (262f) has pointed out that abstract nounsnare-frequently found in the plural.

Psalm 17:3

Ps 17:3. When Thou triest my heart and visitest me by night, When Thou purifiest me, Thou shalt find nothing; I have resolved: My mouth shall not transgress.

Self-assurance grows bolder. It must naturally be understood that the psalmist refers only to the things with which he is charged. In reference to them he is ready to maintain his total innocence. Whether he is otherwise a sinless man was not under consideration at the time. Therefore he is ready to submit to God to being "tried" and "visited" and "purified." Surely, this means the very closest inspection on God's part. It is a wonderful thing to be able to maintain one's innocence so sturdily as to be able to say with confidence, "Thou shalt find nothing." The added statement, "I have resolved. My mouth shall not transgress," must apparently be limited to the present situation and must mean, I have resolved to keep my mouth from any hasty or unseemly utterance-to which: we are so prone when we are strongly and wrongfully accused.


The Hebrew has three coordinated clauses in the perfect, which could be translated: "Thou hast tried . . . hast visited . . . hast purified." Yet it should be noted that it is frequently the context which indicates that such clauses are to be regarded as the equivalents of conditional sentences although Hengstenberg strenuously opposes such an approach. See KS 390r. "I have resolved" (zammothi), though variously interpreted as to form, is most likely a perfect from zaman; see £523 la.

Psalm 17:4

Ps 17:4. As for the works of men, 1 for one, according to the word of Thy lips, Have shunned the ways of the violent.

One of the major charges raised against the psalmist is apparently being mentioned. He had been accused of violence. But he could with a good conscience repudiate the charge: "I have shunned the ways of the violent." In doing that he had consciously kept in conformity with the "Word of God's lips." Men in his condition-he and his followers were fugitives from justice because of the unreasoning persecution of Saul-are so apt to fall into a type of "works of men" that are marked by little regard for the rights of others. David could assert with emphasis that he was innocent of the charge raised against him.


"As for the works"-the introductory le is used as a means for placing a term prominently into the foreground; KS 27 Ib. The be in bidbar indicates the sphere or the norm; KS 332r.

Psalm 17:5

Ps 17:5. Inasmuch as my feet have held to Thy prescribed path, My feet have not slipped.

Still viewing his life in the light of divine precepts and before the very judgment of the Almighty, the writer claims that he has been able to keep from slipping with his feet, "inasmuch as my steps have held to Thy prescribed path." Literally he says only "Thy paths," but he certainly means that in the sense of: the paths Thou hast prescribed. God indicated the way His servants are to follow. This servant has followed these prescriptions. That made for firm, correct going and blameless conduct. No trace of self-righteousness is to be detected in these claims. But they are strongly made because the writer knows that God will not heed the prayers of the evildoer.


The somewhat unusual construction tamokh is best construed as an absolute infinitive used as noun in the construct with 'ashuray dependent upon it, literally "as for the holding fast of my steps." See KS225d.

Psalm 17:6

b) The Plea Reinforced by a Sketch of the Wickedness of His Assailants (Ps 17:6-12)

Ps 17:6. I indeed have called upon Thee, for Thou, O God, art wont to answer me; Incline Thy ears to me; hear my words.

Ps 17:7. Give a marvelous display of Thy steadfast love, Thou Savior of those who seek refuge from those that rise up against Thy right hand.

Ps 17:8. Protect me as the apple of Thy eye; Hide me under the shadow of Thy wings,

Ps 17:9. From the wicked who have done violence to me. From my enemies who viciously encircle me.

Ps 17:10. They are enclosed in their own fat; Their mouth has always been wont to speak arrogantly.

Ps 17:11. As for our steps-already they have surrounded us; They have set their eyesjo cast us down to the ground.

Ps 17:12. Each one is like a lion ready To tear, Like a young lion lurking in ambush.

After making a strong claim of innocence the writer again utters a plea which continues through the next four verses. When men cry so persistently, trouble lies heavy upon them. In contrast with the wicked dealings of his opponents the writer emphatically mentions himself ('ani), "I indeed," stressing, without sanctimoniousness, that he has been engaged in calling upon God ('el, the "Strong One" who is able to deliver), and he has some experience of what God is ready to do for His own: "Thou art wont to answer me." Brief and urgent are the two additional pleas for help: "Incline Thy ear to me; hear my words."

Psalm 17:7

Ps 17:7. Give a marvelous display of Thy steadfast love, Thou Savior of those who seek refuge from those that rise up against Thy right hand.

Faith grows bolder as the prayer advances. The psalmist ventures to ask that God may do something out of the ordinary. This is not presumption but a clear insight into the fact that God's children are important to Hun. Therefore: "Give a marvelous display of Thy steadfast love." The thing that is to be outstanding is God's steadfast love. To pray for its display can come from the worthiest of motives. Beautiful is the title given to God in this connection, "Thou Savior of those that seek refuge."

Those individuals from whom the godly seek refuge are described in such a manner that one cannot regard them as mere personal enemies of the writer. They are "those that rise up against Thy right hand." When a man says that in the sight of God he must know that God is the one who will most readily detect whether one merely imagines that they are God's enemies, or whether they actually are such. If we grant the sincerity of the psalmist as we do, we cannot but accept this description as a correct characterization. His opponents are men who are in rebellion and defiance against God. Their reason for so viciously assaulting the writer is that they know that he openly espouses the cause of God. As soon as one recognixes that this is consistently the situation in the psalms of David, one can begin to understand why his prayers so insistently call for the overthrow of his opponents.


The phrase "from those rising up" as well as the phrase biminekha have been construed as modifiers of the verb "deliver," necessitating the translation of the second phrase as "by Thy right hand." However, since verbs implying attack or warfare are usually construed with a be, it would be better in this instance to make the second phrase depend upon the first and translate "against Thy right hand."

Psalm 17:8

Ps 17:8. Protect me as the apple of Thy eye; Hide me under the shadow of Thy wings,

The two figures employed to reinforce the next petition reveal more of the insight that the author has of the importance of God's saints in His eyes. Ae we tenderly guard the "apple of the eye," so may he be guarded. As a bird shelters its young so may he be sheltered. For God's love is more than a mother's love. It scarcely seems likely that the figure is exactly that employed in Mt 23:27, for hens were apparently not known before New Testament times.


"The apple of the eye" really reads: "pupil, daughter of the eye," "daughter" being used as a mere relation word. But since in English "apple of the eye" has become well-nigh proverbial, it seemed better to translate thus than to render it "pupil." Stranger still, the word for "pupil" really means "little man."

Psalm 17:9

Ps 17:9. From the wicked who have done violence to me. From my enemies who viciously encircle me.

The sentence then describes those against whom protection is sought as "the wicked who have done violence to me." He is only too keenly aware of the fact that his enemies have ridden roughshod over his rights>He feels it every day that they are "enemies who viciously encircle" him. For the expression benephesh most evidently means "against my life," a common meaning of nephesh. Since they encircle him with murderous intent, this action may well be termed "viciously" or even murderously. Too often we have failed to catch the extremity of danger which led David to plead for divine help as strongly as he does. 1Sa 23:24 is but one of many such instances in which David found himself involved. Quite remarkably David never once mentions Saul, his chief assailant-a notable instance of the fine restraint exercised in these so-called imprecatory psalms, and a factor too little noted.

Psalm 17:10

Ps 17:10. They are enclosed in their own fat; Their mouth has always been wont to speak arrogantly.

 Now comes a further description of those who deal so unfairly with the writer, a description which continues to the end of Ps 17:12. "They are enclosed in their own fat" indicates their extreme carnal-mindedness; cf., Ps 73:7 for a parallel and especially Ps 119:70. This is better than RSV: "They close their hearts to pity," implying that the fat is thought of as the seat of emotions and therefore rendered "heart." A clear instance of such usuage cannot be cited. "Their mouth has always been wont to speak arrogantly" indicates that whatever arrogant things they have asserted with regard to themselves and against their foe in this case is but the same pattern they have always followed. Condemning their enemies and exculpating themselves is a vile habit of theirs.


The first verb is not a passive. Rendered literally, we should translate: "(with) their fat (adverbial accusative) they have closed." The object to be supplied is "themselves." But the simplest English rendering seems to be to use a passive: "They are enclosed in their own fat." Similarly the second half of the verse omits the preposition before "mouth" and should be rendered literally: "With their mouth they have always spoken arrogantly." For a smoother rendering we have made pimo, though singular, the subject of the plural verb. We regard dibberu as a kind of gnomic aorist. The ending mo, twice used in the verse, equals am and is poetic.

Psalm 17:11

Ps 17:11. As for our steps-already they have surrounded us; They have set their eyes to cast us down to the ground.

"Our steps" stands first in the Hebrew as a nominative absolute. The reference to 1Sa 23:24 is most appropriate, for on that occasion David was all but trapped by an encircling movement. The goal on which these men have relentlessly fixed their eyes is, says he, "to cast us to the ground." The "us" is not in the text but grows out of the connection and implies furthermore that the writer did not live through this experience alone. Complete overthrow of him and his followers was the avowed plan of the wicked opposition. It is not as though the psalmist were trying to inform God about things that he thought the Almighty had not noted. It is rather a case of making vocal that which is the particular danger that besets our heart continually.


"As for our steps" is one of several instances within the psalm where a noun is moved forward for emphasis. Here the word may be regarded as an accusative of specification; see KS 328f.

Psalm 17:12

Ps 17:12. Each one is like a lion ready To tear, Like a young lion lurking in ambush.

The description concludes with comparing the spirit animating these enemies to that of ravenous beasts, who on their part cannot be blamed for being so bloodthirsty. But such traits on the part of man testify to the utter degradation of those that manifest them.


We have translated dimyono, not as "his likeness," but as "the likeness of each one of them." This was smoothed out to read: "Each one is like," etc. The pronominal suffix often has a distributive force like "of each one of them." See KS 380 c.

Psalm 17:13

c) The Plea for the Complete Confusion of His Enemies Reinforced by a Lively Hope (Ps 17:13-15)

Ps 17:13. A rise, O Lord, confront them, bring them low! Deliver my life from the wicked one with Thy sword,

Ps 17:14. From men by Thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, whose portion is in this life.  Do Thou fill their belly with what Thou hast in store for them; May their children have their fill; may they leave their surplus to their babes.

Ps 17:15. As for me, I would behold Thy face in righteousness; Let me be satisfied with beholding Thy form when I awake.

The prayer grows more insistent. The psalmist would have God act and delay no longer. Therefore strong forms of the imperative are employed, "arise . . . confront . . . deliver." The fact that such prayers do not exclude the thought of a possible repentance and restoration of the ungodly enemies appears, for example, in Ps 83:16. However, since such an outcome is scarcely likely, it is seldom expressed in the psalms; cf. also Ps 2:10ff. With strict consistency the opponent is again described as what he actually is, "the wicked one," whose wickedness consist in part in this that he actually aims to take the writer's "life." It is not unseemly to describe the Lord Himself as being like unto a mighty warrior who also wields a "sword."


Practically all of the imperatives have a specially reinforced form, stressing the urgency of the prayer.

Psalm 17:14

Ps 17:14. From men by Thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, whose portion is in this life.  Do Thou fill their belly with what Thou hast in store for them; May their children have their fill; may they leave their surplus to their babes.

The sentence begun in Ps 17:13 continues into Ps 17:14-a very difficult verse, but not to be thought of as presenting an utterly corrupt and unusable text. The opponents are first described merely as "men," a term frequently used when the insignificance in numbers is to be emphasized. So here in the last analysis they are a meagre host over against the Lord, no matter how numerous they may be otherwise. From these God will deliver His saint "by His hand," implying, as so often, the omnipotence with which the hand of the Lord is so regularly associated. The fact that these opponents are further described as "men of the world, whose portion is in [this] life" again reminds us how little understanding of God and His own they had if they found righteousness in the life of the opponent they were hunting down.

The prayer now becomes really aggressive, more so than we would dare to make our prayers. But it must be remembered that the writer had an unusually clear call from God to be the leader of God's people and in following the ways of his calling was encountering an opposition that he saw was fanned by all the forces of evil. How could he do other than work and pray for the total and drastic overthrow of those who clashed with the purposes of the Almighty? This can surely be interpreted as a very wholesome attitude on his part. Continually to find fault with it often results from refusing to allow that the psalmist's motives could have been noble and enlightened.

Believing that God has punishment in store for those who maliciously oppose Him, he asks God to give them a strong dose of the medicine that is due them, "Do Thou fill their belly with what Thou hast in store for them." Surely, the spirit of the next statement is the same as that noted in lixod. 20:5, which definitely states that the children are in danger of the same judgment as their fathers if they persist in going in the same evil ways as their fathers. Therefore "may their children have their fill" means: of the same punishment, and obviously would not apply to them if they had broken with the ways of their fathers. And in almost inescapable reference to Ex 20:5 the third generation is also brought into the picture, for "may they leave their surplus to their babes" takes up the "children" of the preceding clause. In one sense it may be said: "This sounds heartless," but no more heartless than God Himself is when He speaks as he does in the Decalogue.

Psalm 17:15

Ps 17:15. As for me, I would behold Thy face in righteousness; Let me be satisfied with beholding Thy form when I awake.

As so often, also here the troubles that completely surround a man are conceived as likely to continue as long as one lives; so complete deliverance from them will be possible only when this present life has run its course. From that point of view it should seem quite natural that the hope of the great deliverance that all saints cherish comes to the forefront here. If affliction has caused the flame of hope to be kindled more brightly in this instance, that would be in line with what has often been found to be the experience of God's children. The tune will come when he hopes to see God face to face "in righteousness," which here implies total vindication and surely is but a short step removed from the clear concept of justification by faith as found in the New Testament. Then will he truly "be satisfied" when he "awakes" from the slumber of death to the experience that he shall be "beholding" His form. That sight puts an end to all troubled doubts and is the perfect and final answer to prayer. Oesterley summarizes the issue well: "How can communion with the ever-living God be broken by death?"

Many interpreters do not venture to find here so clear a statement of the hope of the resurrection and of life eternal with God. Their chief reason is that it has been claimed that at this point in their history God's people could not have had a clear conception of the blessedness of the hereafter. But it can be demonstrated that that hope had always been a part of godly faith, dimmer, indeed, in patriarchal days and still much in need of clarification in the early days of the monarchy. But both Ps 16 and Ps 17 offer clear-cut testimony as to how faith practically postulates such a solution, and how saints grew in experience to see that on the premises of true trust in God hope of complete fruition of His presence is a logical necessity. A very unsatisfactory interpretation is that which dreams of the singer's spending the night in the Temple of God and waking up in the morning with his doubts allayed (Schmidt, Leslie, etc.) Such an interpretation scarcely does justice to the statements made. This view was originally projected by Mowinckel (Psalmenstudien, I, 155).


The verbs could be translated "I shall behold" and "I shall be satisfied." However, the second has a qametz he hortative appended and is, therefore, better rendered "let me be satisfied"; then the parallelism suggests a similar form for the first verb; therefore, "I would behold."

The word rendered "form" reminds the reader of the similar expression found in Nu 12:8. But even as in that passage an actual beholding of God of some sort is under consideration, so it appears to be here. And that further supports our interpretation that the writer thinks in terms of a beholding of God after the awakening from death. Koenig, reluctant to concede a reference to a physical resurrection, has it refer to the great "day of the Lord" so frequently mentioned by the prophets and to the event of the great and final restoration of God's people (the shubh shebhuth), and thus he arrives at almost the same result.

Psalm 18:1


THERE is every reason for accepting the heading of this psalm as correct, whether it originated with David or with some editor who merely recorded a well-established tradition. Many features point to Davidic authorship-the general tone of the psalm, its note of confident faith, its poetic fervor, its agreement with the facts of David's life as they are known to us. To this must be added the propriety of having a man like David sum up in one paean of praise his feelings of gratitude, which he must have experienced in unusual strength at the time when he had already been granted many remarkable deliverances by the Lord his God in the course of a life crowned with victories. It might, indeed, seem as if this psalm had been penned before David's great lapse into sin because its mood might well have been toned down considerably after that tragic event. Even Weiser concedes the possibility of Davidic authorship.

It is also fitting that the heading speaks of all deliverances but specifices those that were granted him from the persecutions of Saul, which did, indeed, constitute a major experience during David's life. It is with this in mind that we translated the "and from the hands of Saul" as "especially from the hands of Saul," a translation of the "and" that is qujite permissible in Hebrew syntax.

Though this psalm strikes a distinctively personal note, it need not be restricted to David's personal thanksgiving. There were so many who shared in David's experiences and were involved in his deliverances almost as much as he was. To call this a psalm to be used by the congregation would, therefore, be most appropriate. It is a hymn of thanksgiving (Gunkel).

There is scarcely a poem from the pen of David that is better attested historically than is this psalm because it appears also in the historical books-2Sa 22. This double recording also testifies to the importance of the piece. But this double transmission raises an unusual question. How are these two versions of the poem related to each other? The question is by no means easy to answer. The interpreter who is convinced that there are many poor copies of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament Scriptures will appeal to this basic fact to provide an answer to our question and will label the one the poorer copy and the other the better text. Since, however, in almost every instance it is never a group of words or a phrase that are changed but only single words, and these again seem to differ according to a fixed pattern, it may well be that our psalm is the original text, which abounds in somewhat unusual words and forms. This leads to the opinion that the version of the poem found in Samuel may have been consistently altered by an editor, who for purposes of clarification substituted the simpler and more common forms for the more difficult, abstruse, and more highly poetic wordings. Such is the contention of Hengstenberg, who has made as good a case for this view as has any writer. As to the differences involved, commentators frequently list them all. Koenig has done this as completely as has any interpreter.

Another issue that looms unusually large in regard to this psalm is the question of the tenses, so called, of the Hebrew verbs. Imperfects are rather common, so much so that Buttenwieser felt impelled to make a drastic change from the traditional interpretation of the psalm, calling it not a prayer of thanksgiving but "A Cry of the Depths." However, if the tenses are evaluated a bit more carefully as Koenig has done, in his Commentary and Syntax, quite a different impression is gained, and the traditional interpretation is seen to have been entirely correct. Grammatical details will be given below. When Schmidt states that this is a story of recovery from sickness he loses almost all of the distinctive elements in the psalm.

The following may constitute a workable outline of the psalm:

a) What God now means to the psalmist as a result of his experience (Ps 18:1-2).

b) The story of the psalmist's deliverance (Ps 18:3-19).

c) Why God condescended to deliver him (Ps 18:20-24).

d) The basic principle involved (Ps 18:25-27).

e) The story of deliverance retold, with applications to the future (Ps 18:28-45).

f) A concluding note of praise (Ps 18:46-50).

a) What God now means to the psalmist as a result of his experience (Ps 18:1-2)

To the Choir Director. By the servant of the Lord-David-who addressed the words of this song to the Lord at the time when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of his enemies, especially from the hand of Saul. He said:

Ps 18:1. I dearly love Thee, O Lord, my strength.

Ps 18:2. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock on which I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my deliverance, and my high tower.

Ps 18:1. An unusual word, used only here, opens the first verse. Since it does imply a love of a very tender sort, we follow Luther's lead in translating: "I dearly love Thee." Who would not love God after having experienced so many and strong tokens of His favor? Then follow terms that are expressive of the rich understanding of God and the richness of His being, terms which a loving ingenuity loves to multiply, still feeling that it cannot exhaust the wealth of the divine Being.

Ps 18:2. The first word rendered "rock" might have been rendered "crag" as it is by some interpreters since a prominent single portion of rock is meant, on which a man may take refuge and stand far above the reach of his enemies. Among the many figurative terms there is one that is nonfigurative-"my deliverer." All expressions used convey the thought of safety, protection, and deliverance, with varied shades of color. All these again have as a central core the ancient title of God 'el, "the Strong One." This is obviously a case where the mouth speaketh out of the fulness of the heart.


Ps 18:2. metsudha is a mountain fastness. In the expression "horn of my deliverance" we have a genitive of apposition (KS 3371) and so: the horn which is my deliverance or works deliverance. In "high tower," misgabh, the height and inaccessibility are the chief points of emphasis. An "and" (") may well have fallen out before misgab as this frequently happened before m (KS 330 p).

Psalm 18:3

b) The story of the psalmist's deliverance (Ps 18:3-19)

Ps 18:3. I called on the Lord, who is deserving of praise, And I was delivered from my enemies.

Ps 18:4. The pains of death had overtaken me, The torrents of destruction had terrified me.

Ps 18:5. The snares of Sheol had closed me in, The traps of death had confronted me.

Ps 18:6. In the distress that was upon me I called upon the Lord; Unto my God I cried for help.  From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.

Ps 18:7. The earth shook and quaked; And the foundations of the mountains trembled and were shaken because He was angry.

Ps 18:8. Smoke arose from His nostrils, And fire from His mouth devoured-coals were kindled by it.

Ps 18:9. And He bowed the heavens and came down; Thick darkness was under His feet.

Ps 18:10. He rode upon a cherub and flew; He soared upon the wings of the wind.

Ps 18:11. He made darkness His covering round about Him; His pavilion was the darkness of waters-thick masses of clouds.

Ps 18:12. Because of the brightness before Him the clouds about Him passed away; Hailstones and coals of fire.

Ps 18:13. Then the Lord thundered in the heavens; And the Most High uttered His voice-hailstones and coals of fire.

Ps 18:14. And He shot His arrows and scattered them; He hurled His lightnings and confounded them.

Ps 18:15. Then the bed of the waters could be seen; The foundations of the earth were laid bare because of Thy rebuke, O Lord, and because of the blast of the breath of Thy nostrils.

Ps 18:16. He reached down from on high and took me; He drew me out of the great waters.

Ps 18:17. He delivered me from my strong enemies And from those that hated me, for they were mightier than I.

Ps 18:18. They overcame me in the day of my calamity; But the Lord became my stay.

Ps 18:19. And He brought me forth where there was ample room; He delivered me, for He took pleasure in me.

The psalmist composes a highly poetic description of what he experienced at the hands of his God. All deliverances are described as one deliverance. This one experience is again stated as having been an instance when he was drawn out of dangerous waters that threatened to engulf him. It may be, and has been, called a magnificent "theoph-any." It is as though the Lord actually appeared to His servant and extricated him from his dangers. This is certainly an emphatic way of ascribing all to God. But the whole description is correct psychologically. For in a man's recollection many experiences may telescope themselves together into one whole, and consequently this description is accurate in every way. That the literal meaning of the psalmist's words dare not be pressed is obvious. David may never have been in danger/of drowning in deep waters. It is the poet who speaks here.

The opening (Ps 18:3) is again a summary of the whole of the following experience. It all amounted to this: "I called on the Lord, and I was delivered from my enemies." Quite appropriately already here the author intimates that such a God indeed "is deserving of praise." Besides, what may afterward be described as grievous dangers threatening from deep waters is in the last analysis danger threatening from persons-"my enemies."

Then the extremity that was upon him is described as having been imminent death with its pains, torrents of destruction, snares, and traps. All terms used are indicative of forces of evil closing in on a man, threatening to overwhelm him (Ps 18:4-5). But what could a man of God do under such circumstances other than call upon the Lord and cry for help, Ps 18:6? The heavenly temple is thought of in this instance (see Ps 11:4; 29:9; Mic 1:2; Hab 2:20).

The description now becomes colorful. God is pictured as being angry because a faithful follower of His has been unjustly assaulted, and terrible is the anger of the Almighty. It causes the very earth and the mountains to tremble before Him: they sense the terribleness of anger even if man should fail to do so. He Himself is pictured in terms that are almost startling in their force: smoke emanates from His nostrils; blasts of fire that issue from His mouth devour all that stands before them; coals are even kindled by a single blast.

But his anger does not remain static. He comes in person to deliver His saint. The picture is that of a violent storm-a figure so frequently used in the Scriptures to furnish the accompaniment of God's approach, He Himself being as it were housed in the storm. From the time of Sinai onward these figures become standard (cf., Ex 19:16-18; Jg 5:4-5; Ps 68:7-8; 77:16-18; Isa 29:6; 30:27ff., etc.). As the storm sweeps near, He is in it. The thick storm clouds are the material upon which He rides.

A cherub, the heavenly being embodying and representing all the forces and powers of nature, bears up this throne of His.[1] Deep as the darkness in which He is enshrouded is on the one hand (Ps 18:9-11), just so bright may it become with overwhelming brightness when His lightnings flash forth before Him (Ps 18:12). These lightnings dispel the darkness, and masses of hail and lightning are vomited forth by the enshrouding cloud-"hailstones and coals of fire"-twice repeated for emphasis. Then to cap the climax God's mighty thunder rolls. This is most appropriately called, "He uttered His voice." But since all this is an attack upon His enemies or those that beset the writer these lightnings become arrows that He shoots forth at them; and they become utterly confounded (Ps 18:14).

The waters of trouble into which the psalmist had sunk are blasted aside. The very beds of the ocean are disclosed (Ps 18:15). It was as though a man could see the very foundations of the earth and the mountains laid bare since the waters receded from before Him or receded at the blast of His mouth. Then with personal solicitude the Almighty reached down and took His own distressed child out of the dangerous waters (Ps 18:16) or, to change the figure, He "delivered me from my strong enemies," men who "hated" him and at the same time could have prevailed against him, for "they were mightier" than he (Ps 18:17). Though they had already gained the upper hand they had to relinquish their hold and yield up their prey because the Lord was his sure and invincible defender (Ps 18:18). To complete the description, the poor, afflicted soul was brought out of all his troubles and set in an open and secure place "where there was ample room." The description closes most aptly by pointing out that, whatever escape or deliverance there was, it was God who delivered him that trusted in Him and called upon Him. That which prompted Him was nothing other than His free sovereign good will that led Him "to take pleasure" in His follower (Ps 18:19).


Ps 18:3. I called on the Lord, who is deserving of praise, And I was delivered from my enemies.

Mehulal, strictly meaning "praised," was originally used in the past; but when it is related to the present and the future it gains the meaning "deserving to be praised" (KS 236 b).

In 'eqra' as well as in numerous instances throughout this psalm (cf. especially Ps 18:36 and Ps 18:38) the imperfect is used as a means of presenting the various acts described as transpiring before the writer's eye, in what may well be called a sort of "historical present"; and that the past is really involved appears from the constructions with waw consecutive which appear in Ps 18:7, or the perfect at the beginning of Ps 18:8; cf. also the first verbs in Ps 18:9 and Ps 18:10. KS 158.

Ps 18:6. In the distress that was upon me I called upon the Lord; Unto my God I cried for help.  From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.

Batstsar li does not mean "my distress" - the simple suffix on tsar could have secured that result - but rather "the distress that was upon me" (KS 281 o).

"His sanctuary" need not refer to the Temple at Jerusalem as some interpreters maintain but may well describe the heavenly dwelling place of the Most High.

Ps 18:13. Then the Lord thundered in the heavens; And the Most High uttered His voice-hailstones and coals of fire.

"Uttered" may rightly be regarded as one of those numerous instances when the imperfect is used even though another word has been inserted between the waw consecutive and the imperfect. (See KS 368 h).

Ps 18:16. He reached down from on high and took me; He drew me out of the great waters.

In "he drew me out" the very root of the verb used (mashah) makes this a hidden reference to the parallel case of Moses, whom God also had drawn out of the waters.

Ps 18:17. He delivered me from my strong enemies And from those that hated me, for they were mightier than I.

"My strong enemies" - literally: he that is my enemy with might.

[1] This scarcely leads to the conclusion that cherubim are the personification of the storm cloud as Eichrodt claims, Theologie des Alien Testaments, Leipzig, Hinrichs, 1935, II, p. 108.

Psalm 18:20

c) Why God condescended to deliver him (Ps 18:20-24)

Ps 18:20. The Lord rewarded me in accordance with my righteousness; In accordance with the cleanness of my hands He requited me.

Ps 18:21. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not dealt wickedly in departing from my God.

Ps 18:22. For I kept His ordinances before me; And His statutes I have not thrust away from me.

Ps 18:23. And so I was blameless with Him; And I guarded myself against my iniquity.

Ps 18:24. And so the Lord requited me because of my righteousness; Because of the cleanness of my hands In His sight.

We obviously have an explanation as to why God condescended to deliver the writer. In one word, it was because of his righteousness. Emphasis on this point would seem to have been in the mind of the psalmist lest persons who have not lived a life worthy of the people of God derive unwarranted comfort from what was previously written about God's readiness to help those that call upon Him.

Interpreters who sense here a note of self-righteousness and therefore speak of the lower level of ethical insight in the Old Testament may well take note of the fact that such a misconception is offset, among other things, by the fact that at the conclusion of the psalm the writer ascribes all that God did for him to His own "steadfast love" (cf. also Ps 18:32). Besides, the tone of this section is in no sense proud or haughty. Hengstenberg drew attention to the fact that what is here asserted about David's righteousness is not set in contrast to human frailty but in contrast to outright iniquity. Frailty the author could not deny, iniquity he could.

The general thought is that there is an eminent propriety about having one who does the will of his God experience the help of his God in adversity. It is still true that, generally speaking, God delights in standing by those that serve Him. The following points are stressed: David has kept himself from obvious infractions of God's law: his hands are clean, he dealt righteously with others. Besides, he has known what God's laws demanded, what way they outlined for a man to walk in, and he has carefully walked in these "ordinances" (Ps 18:20). But such obedience was not a mere outward observance of the letter of the law but a conscious attempt to keep from "departing from God" (Ps 18:21). Whatever ordinances and "statutes" he knew he kept continually before his eye, never thrust them away from him, and so he can maintain that he has with steadfast purpose tried to do what God has required to be done (Ps 18:22).

It cannot be denied that what he has just outlined can be described as living with a holy purpose in mind, and no man can deny that such living may achieve some measure of being "blameless with Him." All the while David was not ignorant of certain sins that beset him, and so he guarded himself against these as carefully as possible. Sins that he is liable to commit he calls "my iniquity" (Ps 18:23). And so he may well claim by way of a summary: "And so the Lord requited me because of my righteousness; because of the cleanness of my hands in His sight" (Ps 18:24).

Some writers have remarked that in portraying this situation somewhat at length David may well have intended to encourage others to walk in the way of the Lord's precepts and thus in perfect holiness in the sight of the Lord. The element of indirect instruction often enters into the psalms. No forced or unwholesome construction is put upon a section such as this when it interpreted in this manner.


Ps 18:21. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not dealt wickedly in departing from my God.

The expression "in departing from my God" is the familiar constructio praegnans, for the Hebrew says merely: "I have not dealt wickedly from my God." (KS 213 c.)

Ps 18:23. And so I was blameless with Him; And I guarded myself against my iniquity.

"And I was blameless" we have translated, "And so I was blameless" because in giving the result the Hebrew often omits little words like "so." The same holds true in the next verse: "And so the Lord requited me."

Ps 18:24. And so the Lord requited me because of my righteousness; Because of the cleanness of my hands In His sight.

Though some commentators translate kebhor yaday literally: "according to the cleanness of my hands" (RSV), nevertheless, the cause rather than the norm is being stressed (KS 403 a); therefore: "because of the cleanness."

Psalm 18:25

d) The basic principle involved (Ps 18:25-27)

Ps 18:25. With a faithful man Thou keepest faith; With a blameless man Thy conduct is blameless.

Ps 18:26. With a pure man Thou dost act purely; And with a crooked man Thou dost prove Thyself astute.

Ps 18:27. For Thou wilt deliver humble folk; But haughty eyes Thou wilt bring low.

The psalmist reduces what he is saying to a broad, basic principle. He has made the observation, and it is quite correct, that God very appropriately deals with every man as that man deals with Him. God lets man, as it were, choose the pattern after which he will be dealt with. The complete fairness of such a procedure can scarcely be questioned. If a man keeps faith with God he will find that God "keeps faith" with him (Ps 18:25). If a man's conduct is blameless-and it should be noted that this is a typically Biblical mode of speaking also in the New Testament (Lu 1:6)-he will never find a thing that he can blame God for. The same holds true with regard to a "pure" man (Ps 18:26) or, as we might say, a sincere man. God is found to meet him with an approach that is in turn entirely pure.

But then there is also the opposite tendency to be reckoned with- and here the writer is content with one example, for his intention was primarily to illustrate the positive-"and with a crooked man Thou dost show Thyself astute." The pattern followed cannot be strictly adhered to, ascribing a similar ungodly trait to the Holy One. So the verb changes in reference to God, and we believe it is a bit precarious to give to the verb used with reference to Him a meaning such as "fro-ward." For the root involved merely means "to twist or be tortuous." In God's case that must have a good sense; therefore "be astute." Nothing more is said than this: since man insists on going devious ways in his dealings with God, God outwits him, as that man deserves. On the whole this is a deep and far-reaching observation.

One general application must still be made in a practical way, which can be of special help to God's people (Ps 18:27), and that is that God delights in delivering "humble folk," but on the other hand continually brings low the "haughty eyes." When the writer says this he must in all humility class himself among the humble. We cannot help but feel that arrogance would be ascribed to him only by a very uncharitable interpretation.

Having summarized the whole situation for purposes of godly instruction, the psalmist continues much in the spirit of the first major section of the psalm.

Psalm 18:28

e) The story of deliverance retold, with applications to the future (Ps 18:28-45)

Ps 18:28. For Thou wilt light my lamp, O Lord; My God will lighten my darkness.

Ps 18:29. For by Thee I will overrun a troop; And by my God I shall leap over a wall.

Ps 18:30. As for God-His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is tested-He is a shield to all that take refuge in Him.

Ps 18:31. For who is God but the Lord? And who is a rock save our God,

Ps 18:32. The God who girded me with strength And made my way blameless;

Ps 18:33. Who made my feet swift like a doe's And made me to stand on my heights.

Ps 18:34. Who taught my hands to war, So that my arms drew a bow of bronze?

Ps 18:35. And Thou hast given me Thy shield of safety; And Thy right hand has sustained me, and Thy condescension has made me great.

Ps 18:36. Thou didst provide ample room for my steps; My ankles have not turned.

Ps 18:37. / pursued my enemies and overtook them; And I did not turn back until they were consumed.

Ps 18:38. / shattered them, and they were not able to rise; They fell under my feet.

Ps 18:39. And Thou didst gird me with strength for war; Thou didst subdue under me those that rose against me.

Ps 18:40. Thou didst make my enemies turn their back; And them that hate me I have destroyed.

Ps 18:41. They cried, but there was none to deliver; Unto the Lord, but He did not answer them.

Ps 18:42. And so I pulverized them as dust in the face of the wind; As the mire of the streets I poured them out.

Ps 18:43. And Thou didst deliver me from wars fought for the people; Thou didst set me as head of the nations; People that I knew not serve me.

Ps 18:44. As soon as they heard of me they submitted to me; Foreigners fawned upon me.

Ps 18:45. Foreigners jaded away And came trembling out of their strongholds.

One can well see the propriety of telling twice over so wonderful a story as the psalmist had to tell. For this section (Ps 18:28-45) is the story of deliverance retold. But it immediately becomes obvious that we are not dealing with an idle repetition. In fact, in the first three verses of this section the author's purpose is not at once apparent. For, basing his thoughts on what the first half of the psalm had presented, he begins to draw conclusions as to the future and how God's steadfast love, which was so strongly manifested in his life heretofore, will, no doubt, continue to show itself in the future.

The first of the things that God will do for His servant is that He "will light his lamp." Though this can in a general way signify that God will as time goes on remove every danger and evil that threatens, the use of this phrase in 1Ki 11:36 and similar passages indicates that it has the specific meaning of giving him an heir to follow him on the throne. But the second half of Ps 18:28 would rather convey the meaning we first suggested. Then (Ps 18:29) the writer grows superlatively bold in the confidence of faith, employing two illustrations that immediately captivate the imagination-with God at his side he is able single-handedly to encounter a "troop" and vanquish it; with God at his side, though he be confined by a wall, he can overleap any wall. The old confidence of true faith that was so remarkably manifested in the days of the conflict with Goliath here speaks again by the mouth of David. Cf., 1Sa 17:45ff.

Once again reducing his entire experience to a general truth, David summarizes by saying that no one who has cast himself on the mercy of God can arrive at any other conclusion than that there is never a flaw in God's dealings with His own-"His way is perfect." Since He keeps His promises, "the word of the Lord is tested." In fine, "He is a shield to all that take refuge in Him" (Ps 18:30).

The retelling of the story of God's deliverance begins most appropriately (Ps 18:31) by ascribing to God, the Lord, His utterly exclusive character. None can be what He is; none can be a refuge such as He is. Among the things that He did there are listed, first of all, a number of personal blessings that He has bestowed on David by way of equipping him for the manifold conflicts in which he had to engage (Ps 18:32-36). Among these favors bestowed upon him are: He gave me strength (Ps 18:32); for what can a warrior engaged in conflict do unless he is physically able successfully to encounter his foes? Besides that, a basic requirement for felicitous conduct in every walk of life is to be enabled to live blamelessly. Note how absolutely this result in his own life is attributed to God's gracious dealings with him.

Or again (Ps 18:33) when swiftness of feat was essential for flight or pursuit or for successful combat, God made his feet swift like those of a doe. Or if the psalmist was enabled to rise to certain heights in life, that is, achieve outstanding fame, it was again God who bestowed that ability. Still more (Ps 18:34), when personal conflict with foes took place -and David seems to have been engaged in the thick of the fray almost to the end of his days (2Sa 21:15-17)-it was the Lord who gave skill and success in the manipulation of the instruments of war. In addition, in a beautiful figure David ascribes to Yahweh the lending of His shield to His servant so as to keep him utterly safe; and whenever he stumbled, it was the hand of the Lord that sustained him. In fact, throughout all his experiences God condescended to serve him, and this it was that made the writer great (Ps 18:35)-a telling description of the true source of his success. One more figure is employed (Ps 18:36) to convey the same impression: God always gave him sufficient room to walk and move and never suffered his ankles to turn on rough ground.

Since David's enemies were so many, it is not to be wondered at that he has some remarks to make on the subject of how he was enabled to deal with them. But the same undercurrent of thought appears also here: the Lord gave me strength to overcome what would without Him have been an invincible opposition. In regard to his dealing with these his opponents (Ps 18:37-42) David at once strikes a note of victory in a summary account: "I pursued my enemies and overtook them; and I did not turn back until they were consumed." In still more drastic language (Ps 18:38) he describes his effort as being a shattering of them so that they were not able to rise. Well aware of the fact that he fought the wars of the Lord, he claims that God gave him whatever strength he needed to conquer in these wars (Ps 18:39); and the claim that he was not the aggressor he makes with a good conscience, as in the sight of God. They "rose against" him, and God enabled him to subdue them.

After further describing the victory that was given him which forced his enemies to turn their back, he characterizes them as persons that had hated him, the implication being that he had given them no occasion for such hatred, and thus the hatred was unjust (Ps 18:40). It is this fact that determines the interpretation of the next verse (Ps 18:41). For if "they cried, and there was none to deliver," if they directed their petitions "unto the Lord, but He did not answer them," then it must be true that they had no just plea to present. A man must be thoroughly sure of the full justice of his cause before he makes assertions such as these, otherwise he lays himself open to the charge of a very unwholesome self-righteousness. Concluding this part of his resume (Ps 18:42), the writer describes the defeat which he administered to his foes in these terms: "And so I pulverized them as dust in the face of the wind," total destruction and removal from the scene being implied. The parallel statement presents the same thought with still more color.

The conclusion of this account very properly speaks of the nature of the victory he secured in the process just described. Since this was written at a time when all David's wars had been successfully concluded, he could well state: "Thou didst deliver me from wars." Step by step his success is ascribed to the Lord. As a further indication of the fact that the wars were wars that were thrust upon him and not begun by him we find the expression "wars of the people," which we have rendered "wars fought for the people," for 'am quite regularly refers to the people of God. A further unplanned and unsought outcome was that by God's help David became "head of the nations," and people about whom he had concerned himself little, in fact, had not even known, now served him (Ps 18:43).

In some instances (see 2Sa 10:9ff.) David's campaigns were dangerous and extremely difficult. But the result was always such a total overthrow of the enemy that the submissiveness of the enemy was most surprising: "As soon as they heard of me they submitted to me; foreigners fawned upon me" (Ps 18:44). Some measure of hyperbole is evident here. But now in retrospect it seems as simple as it is here described. Such is also the nature of the last statement (Ps 18:45): "Foreigners faded away and came trembling out of their strongholds." But not for a moment can the reader get the impression that there is some unseemly self-glorification involved in what is here said. Here is grateful acknowledgment of mercy received.


Ps 18:30. As for God-His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is tested-He is a shield to all that take refuge in Him.

Ha'el offers an instance of a nominative absolute - best translated "as for God." See KS 341 h.

Ps 18:32. The God who girded me with strength And made my way blameless;

Wayyitten offers one of those instances when the Hebrew passes over from the participial construction to the finite verb (KS 413 1).

Ps 18:33. Who made my feet swift like a doe's And made me to stand on my heights.

 Ya'amidheni (cf ., Ps 18:13 ) imperfect with waw consecutive though another word has been inserted.

The Hebrew says "feet like a doe's," omitting the point of comparison in a shortened expression (KS 319 g) .

Ps 18:35. And Thou hast given me Thy shield of safety; And Thy right hand has sustained me, and Thy condescension has made me great.

'anawah is the German Demut, Herablassung and thus "condescension." This is better than a pale "help" (RSV) .

Ps 18:36. Thou didst provide ample room for my steps; My ankles have not turned.

The use of the imperfect tarchibh is to be explained as a reference to an act that is not yet concluded (KS 158).

Ps 18:38. / shattered them, and they were not able to rise; They fell under my feet.

"I shattered them" is another instance of the historical present. "They fell" is the same.

Ps 18:40. Thou didst make my enemies turn their back; And them that hate me I have destroyed.

The Hebrew has: "As for my enemies, Thou didst give them to me, in reference to the back," 'oreph being an accusative of reference (KS 328 h).

Ps 18:41. They cried, but there was none to deliver; Unto the Lord, but He did not answer them.

"They cried" is another instance when the waw consecutive was dropped after m (_KS 330 p).

Ps 18:42. And so I pulverized them as dust in the face of the wind; As the mire of the streets I poured them out.

"And so . . . ," cf. Ps 18:23.

Ps 18:45. Foreigners jaded away And came trembling out of their strongholds.

Waw is lost as it was in Ps 18:41. It is also lost before, "Thou didst set me."

Psalm 18:46

f) A concluding note of praise (Ps 18:46-50)

Ps 18:46. The Lord lives, and praised be my rock, And exalted be the God of my salvation,

Ps 18:47. The God that executed full vengeance for me And subdued peoples under me

Ps 18:48. And delivered me from my wrathful foes And raised me up above those that rose against me; From the man of violence He delivered me.

Ps 18:49. Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee among the gentiles, O Lord; And I will sing praise unto Thy name;

Ps 18:50. Who gives great victories unto His king And shows steadfast love to His anointed, To David and to his seed forever.

This concluding paean of praise very appropriately closes the psalm. In addition to having ascribed all success to God, David ventures into extended praise and thanksgiving. To begin with, he has arrived at a new understanding of the fact that his "Lord lives" (Ps 18:46). This is a triumphant assertion of a truth which has taken on new vitality for the psalmist. Reverting to the words of the beginning, David describes the Lord as his "rock and the God of [his] salvation." The threefold description of the enemy that follows-"wrathful foes . . . those that rose against me ... the man of violence"-shows how manifold was the opposition, and how many types of deliverence were experienced (Ps 18:48). David also gives expression to a vow to the effect that he intends to make known the marvelous deeds of his God "among the gentiles," implying that he will make a public proclamation that will reach the nations subdued and other nations as well, that it was the Lord, Yahweh, who wrought such great things for him (Ps 18:49). This was the least that he could do, for even among nations like the Moabites victories would be publicly ascribed to the power of the god of the nation (cf., the Moabite Stone).

In the last statement (Ps 18:50) David brings a new thought into the picture, which it must be said gives a touch of the Messianic to the whole. Well aware of the fact that the victories achieved were God's gift and tokens of His "steadfast love," David recalls the unique position that his own seed has attained in the providence of God (2Sa 7) and thus freely claims that God's mercies were granted him because his own seed has been promised so high a destiny, and that, therefore, God must have had this goal in mind: David was given victory to make possible the greater victories of his Greater Son.

Heading: That David is styled the "servant of the Lord" agrees with the same title in the heading of Ps 36. Cf. also 2Sa 3:18; 7:5,8; 1Ki 8:24; Ps 78:70; 89:3,20; 132:10.


Ps 18:47. The God that executed full vengeance for me And subdued peoples under me

Neqamoth, plural of intensity; therefore "full vengeance."

Ps 18:48. "Man of violence" is used generically. Therefore RSV: "men."


Ps 18:50. Who gives great victories unto His king And shows steadfast love to His anointed, To David and to his seed forever.

 The final h of the preceding verse should apparently be attached to the initial word of Ps 18:50 as the article before the participle, which is then to be thought of as carrying over to the second participle 'oseh, See KS p. 283, N. 1.

The basic and original unity of the psalm can be defended in spite of the strong prevailing tendency which claims that two originally distinct psalms are welded into one.

Cross and Freedman, Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. LXXII, part 1, March, 1953, offer an excellent study of the relation of this psalm to 2Sa 22 and support an early date for its composition.

Psalm 19:1


THIS is A PSALM of eloquent praise of the law of the Lord. This view can be maintained in spite of the fact that the first impression it creates is that it treats of the glory of God in nature. The usual interpretation given to the psalm, therefore, runs something like this, "Two Witnesses of God" (Kessler-Zwei Herolde Gottes). In other words, it is asserted that the subject is God's glory as it is manifested first in the book of nature and second in the book of God's law. Such an approach makes the glory of God the chief subject and certainly subordinates the eloquent praise of the law, which stands out as the most prominent feature of the psalm. Besides, such an approach denies the unity of the psalm.

The best solution is that offered by Hengstenberg, who subordinates the first part to the second by having it present the praises of the great Giver of the law and thus prepares for the unique glory of the law which comes from the hand of so great an Author. It is true that such an approach seems to overlook the fact that in the first six verses the glory of the Lawgiver seems to be regarded as an independent subject, and thus the introduction to the main subject becomes unusually long. However, it may well be claimed that the author is swept along by the magnitude of his subject as he describes the glory of Him who is the Author of the law. But this is an issue which deals with the subject matter of the psalm.

A structural problem looms rather large in the treatment of the psalm, and that is the problem as to whether it may justly be maintained that the psalm was originally a unit. The differences between parts A and B seem too prominent to allow one to think of the two parts as having from the outset constituted one piece. However, several strong considerations may be urged in support of the original unity. In the first place, if some later writer, familiar with these two fragments (or two independent poems, for that matter) saw that they might effectively be joined into a unified piece, why could not the original author just as readily have seen such a possibility?

Others, like Kessler, point to the obvious symmetry of the two parts. When the abruptness of the transition from the first part to the second is stressed as an obstacle to original unity, Maclaren rightly points out that this constitutes rather an argument for the opposite point of view inasmuch as a compiler, in putting the two parts together, might well have striven to smooth over the transition. Though Schmidt's position agrees with the majority of writers on the subject, his approach borders on arrogance when he asserts that the two parts cannot originally have belonged together "as is apparent without further argument" (ohne weiteres), though he does for good measure submit a few arguments. Also the change of rhythm and meter is no more pronounced than is that found between sections of Schiller's Glocke.

That David is the author is claimed by the Hebrew heading. Though this is again challenged on the ground that the law had not achieved a position of such prominence in David's day, such a negative claim is based on an artificial reconstruction of Israel's development. The valid historical record attributes just this kind of regard for the law to David (1Ki 2:1-4). This would then determine the time of composition.

When we use the approach indicated by the title we give the psalm we indicate clearly that we place it in the category of didactic psalms which glorify the Word of the Lord from one or another viewpoint. Only incidentally can it be claimed that this is a nature psalm. In this connection several unfortunate approaches must be discarded like the claim that this is a kind of hymn to the sun. Schmidt claims that in this psalm the heavenly spheres sing the praises of the most glorious planet of their number, admitting, however, that in the process of so doing their song almost incidentally becomes a song of praise of a greater One. This scarcely squares with the facts of the case. Kittel, too, claims that at least Ps 19:5c-Ps 19:6-7 are a hymn to the sun. Then all interpreters of this school of thought state that it becomes quite obvious that the material of the psalm is in the process of transition from mythological lore to the distinctive type of Israel's literature.

The following outline can be traced through this psalm:

a) The glory of the Lawgiver (Ps 19:1-6).

b) The glory of the law in its manifold uses (Ps 19:7-10).

c) The law in relation to the psalmist (Ps 19:11-14).

a) The glory of the Lawgiver (Ps 19:1-6)

To the Choir Director. A Psalm of David.

Ps 19:1. The heavens are telling the glory of God; And the firmament is declaring the work of His hands.

Ps 19:2. One day pours forth speech to the next day; And night to night proclaims knowledge.

Ps 19:3. There is no speech, nor are there words, Where their voice is not heard.

Ps 19:4. Through all the earth their influence has gone forth; And to the ends of the earth their words. In them He has set a tent for the sun,

Ps 19:5. Which is like a bridegroom leaving his chamber And rejoices like a strong man about to run a race.

Ps 19:6. Its starting point is from one end of the heavens; And its circuit to the other end thereof; And there is nothing hid from its heat.

The glory of the Lawgiver is being declared. "Heavens" are in an emphatic position in the Hebrew as much as to say: The very heavens declare, or even, The heavens in a very distinct sense declare. Since the participle follows and expresses continuous action, we must render the verb "are telling," for they do it continually by day or by night. Downright majestic is the "glory" which these heavens advertise. Since this is a truth which is apparent even to the heathen (cf., Ro 1:19ff.), one of the most general names of God is used-'el, "the Strong One." We might begin the second half of the verse thus: "And especially the firmament . . ." which, according to Ge 1, seems to refer to the lower realm of the heavens immediately above the earth. By its very beauty and magnitude this firmament declares clearly that it, too, is the work of none other than the omnipotent Creator and is fashioned by His hands.

To think here and in the next two verses of something like the hymn of the heavenly spheres as they run their course through the heavenly regions is a bit fantastic. "Telling" and "declaring" are used in that figurative sense\so commonly found elsewhere in the Scriptures (cf., Isa 14:8; Ps 35:10; 50:6; 96:12; 148:2-4; 98:8, etc.). The approach is like that of Ps 8: it is as though the word "glory" were written in capital letters across the very heavens and the firmament.

Psalm 19:2

Ps 19:2. One day pours forth speech to the next day; And night to night proclaims knowledge.

Day and night are now thought of as conveying the same truth about God's glory, but in their own way. They "pour forth" or literally "bubble forth" their information. As someone has rightly remarked, it is as though their eloquent testimony bubbled forth at every crack and cranny of the universe. In fact, the very existence of day and night in the form in which they function is so remarkable as to tell about their Maker. So each day is poetically envisioned as informing the next of this glory, and thus the uninterrupted tradition has gone down through the ages.

Psalm 19:3

Ps 19:3. There is no speech, nor are there words, Where their voice is not heard.

"Speech" and "language" (AV) convey the thought of the verse exceedingly well. That is to say, in all languages, or to be more precise, among all nations where these languages are spoken this testimony has been noted: not one is exempt. The point is the universality of the testimony referred to in Ps 19:2. The translation of this verse has long been an issue on which interpreters showed little agreement, except that perhaps the majority reject the translation we offer. But our translation is defensible. It shows the progression from the long history of this testimony (2) to its universal character. The terms "speech" and "words" may by metonomy refer to the nations using them. All that is required is to supply the relative before "their voice," the relative being omitted in the Hebrew about as frequently as it is in the English. So the lead given by the Septuagint may still be safely followed. The customary translations emphasize the silent testimony of the witnesses named: "There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard" (RSV). But this approach necessitates a change of the text of the next verse to secure the desired contrast: "Yet their voice goes out." (RSV).


 The words belt nishma' may be construed as a clause of circumstances-"without their being heard"-as is most generally done; but when the relative is supplied, we get a rendering that fits better into the context. For the first view see KS 412 w. In his Commentary Koenig changed to the view we advocate.

Psalm 19:4

Ps 19:4. Through all the earth their influence has gone forth; And to the ends of the earth their words. In them He has set a tent for the sun,

The thought expressed in Ps 19:3 is reiterated. The influence of the testimony of the heavens has gone out through all the earth. We believe this to be the easiest way to capture the thought of the very unfamiliar Hebrew idiom, which had been retained, for example, by A V: "Their line is gone out through all the earth." "Line" {qaw) is "measuring line." By a simple figure the thought may substitute the territory measured for the line that does the measuring. So some interpreters understand the qaw, "the extent of territory" (Hengsten-berg) or "The measuring line marks the limits of possession" (Kirk-patrick). Our idiom would seem to require "their influence," which is certainly not difficult to understand. This also agrees well with the second half of the verse: "And to the ends of the earth their words (have gone forth)."

From the third member of this verse onward through two more verses attention centers on the greatest of the heavenly bodies, the sun, which is introduced in the statement: "In them [that is, the heavens] He has set a tent for the sun." The idea is: the sun has its place of residence in the heavens. Some writers are so intent on noting a supposed resemblance to heathen lore that they write: "The sun-hero (Sonnenmann) has his heavenly tent in the sea" (Schmidt) quite a far cry from what David wrote!

Psalm 19:5

Ps 19:5. Which is like a bridegroom leaving his chamber And rejoices like a strong man about to run a race.

The glory of this heavenly body which has awed all nations from days of old may well be delineated at this point, for it reflects the glory of its Maker. Two figures are employed. The first likens the sun to a "bridegroom leaving his chamber," the point of comparison being the fresh, lusty strength of the young man, happy in his youthful love. The second likens the sun to "a strong man about to run a race." The thought stressed is obviously the same.

Psalm 19:6

Ps 19:6. Its starting point is from one end of the heavens; And its circuit to the other end thereof; And there is nothing hid from its heat.

Abandoning these figures, which are colorful enough, the writer dwells on the vastness of the course traversed by the sun. The point of departure ("starting point") is the one end of the heavens; the point of its turning around ("circuit") is "at the other end" of the heavens. Though the ancients could scarcely have had a conception of what happens astronomically they all noted that a great distance had to be covered and a repetition of the same course had to be run with unwearied strength. Quite naturally the writer speaks according to what the eye sees and not in an attempt to make statements that square with the findings of the astronomer as Louis Harms clearly preached when he explained this psalm. The last member of the verse could be translated: "And there is nothing hid from its light," as Koenig suggests, inasmuch as heat and light are so closely associated. Some interpreters determine the time of composition of the psalm by remarks such as: "It is a testimony to the antiquity of this psalm that the hero covers the vast distance afoot" and not like Apollo in his chariot. If this is exegesis, make the most of it! The author of the statement (Schmidf) chooses a date that is later than the time of Ezra!

Psalm 19:7

b) The glory of the law in its manifold uses (Ps 19:7-10)

. Ps 19:7. The law of the Lord is perfect-restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure-making wise the simple;

Ps 19:8. The precepts of the Lord are right-rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure-enlightening the eyes;

Ps 19:9. The fear of the Lord is clean-enduring forever; The verdicts of the Lord are true-and righteous altogether;

Ps 19:10. More to be desired are they than gold-even much fine gold, Sweeter also than honey-and the droppings of the honeycomb.

It should be rather obvious that the singer has now mounted to a higher level and speaks with greater eloquence as he touches upon the higher theme-the excellencies of the law in its manifold uses. Quite appropriately he ascribes this law to the Lord (Yahweh), the covenant God of Israel, who has revealed Himself in it. Furthermore, it must be equally obvious that David does not use the term law in the Pauline New Testament sense. Though the root meaning of torah is "instruction," it is noted immediately that the term is here almost the equivalent of what we commonly call the Word of the Lord. It is well known that it soon became the term for the Pentateuch. It must be equally clear that gospel elements are included in/the law. To the writer it has become a means of grace-all of which could in no sense be a criticism of Paul's approach, who thinks of the law quite generally in Romans and Galatians as that which makes unconditional demands upon men and so is harsh and unrelenting. The use made of this term in this psalm is more like that called the Third Use of the Law in the Confessions (FC. Epitome VI).

A fixed pattern is followed in the next three verses: first a distinctive name for the law; then an appropriate adjective; then a beneficial effect or some other encomium.

Note first the distinctive names in addition to law. It is "testimony," perhaps chiefly in the sense of "reminder" (Koehler) reminding man both of what he should do and of where he has failed to do it. It is then designated "precepts"-also to be translated "orders," for these words claim attention as words that the authority of the Almighty has uttered, and which we cannot do other than obey. "Commandments" is even more specific. "Fear" is strictly not a synonym for law but rather emphasizes a reaction that it calls forth, namely, a wholesome reverence for the will of the Lawgiver, emphasizing that no one who deals with the law dare regard it merely as an abstraction or in a spirit of absolute objectivity but should rather feel the need of his submitting to it. It may also be described as "verdicts" in that God's law does pronounce a verdict on many difficult issues and so speaks with final authority.

The following descriptive adjectives are then used. This law is first "perfect" in the sense of being all-sided so as to cover completely all aspects of life. It is "sure" in the sense of being a foundation on which a man can unhesitatingly build. It is "right" in that it maps out a straight course for any man that would be guided by it. It is "pure" insofar as it may well be conceived as a product that has been thoroughly purified and is thus unadulterated; there are no unwholesome elements in it. "Clean" expresses practically the same thought; it is used, e.g., with reference to metals. "True" is particularly strong, being the only noun used as adjective in the series. It implies utter dependability.

The beneficial effects are, first, the restoration of the soul, not to be thought of in the sense of conversion but rather as a beneficial reviving effect that permeates the very life and soul of a converted child of God. "Making wise the simple"-that is to say, imparting true heavenly wisdom to all who will keep their soul open to its effects. "Simple" is not a derogatory term; it is not albern ("foolish") as Luther renders it. It is also said to "rejoice the heart" which surely implies deep and satisfying joys. It "enlightens the eyes," for it imparts a freshness and joy to the very lookp/of the eye. Nor does it offer a mere chance opinion that may lose its value shortly: it "endures forever." If the last virtue ascribed to the law is its "righteous" character, that signifies that it is the essence of true normalcy, a meaning which this root regularly has.

True, these are all more or less abstract concepts, lacking some of the lustre that marked the figures employed in the description of the sun. But that is due to the nature of the words used and does not make this section less poetical. He that knows the value of the Word of God will find his heart ringing with responsive vibrations of joy and will scarcely say of this section that it "has been commonly overrated" (Buttenwieser).

Psalm 19:10

Ps 19:10. More to be desired are they than gold-even much fine gold, Sweeter also than honey-and the droppings of the honeycomb.

Abandoning the fixed pattern followed throughout three verses, the author closes his words of praise of the law by showing its absolute desirability and sweetness. As for true value, there is no gold that can be compared with it; and the sweetest of the honey is inferior to the attractive taste of the law that God gives to His people.


The initial participle, attached to a noun that does not immediately precede, becomes the equivalent of a relative clause, a fact that is completely obscured by our translation, which is still very much to the point. See KS, p. 283, Note. The article before this participle carries over to the adjective "sweet."

Psalm 19:11

c) The law in relation to the psalmist (Ps 19:11-14)

Ps 19:11. Furthermore by them has Thy servant been warned; In keeping them there is great reward.

Ps 19:12. Who can discern his errors?  Absolve Thou me from hidden jaults.

Ps 19:13. Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me. Then I shall be blameless; And I shall be absolved of manifold transgressions.

Ps 19:14. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before Thee, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

The author is now speaking of the law in relation to himself. He thinks first of this past experiences. He has often (niphal participle) been warned by the law and kept from evil ways. Quite modestly he refers to himself merely as God's servant. But he has also found that whenever he has kept the course the law prescribes, God has given tokens of His pleasure-"great reward." This, as has been correctly observed, was scarcely written to promote the spirit of selfish observance of the law for the reward's sake but is part of the manifold praises of the law offered here. It is a law that brings this added blessing of a reward from God.

Psalm 19:12

Ps 19:12. Who can discern his errors?  Absolve Thou me from hidden jaults.

But as for the future, there are still further blessings that the law can convey. Its bright light can help a man detect and remove "errors," which are in reality sins of weakness inadvertently committed. They are the sins that we ordinarily do not even discern as being committed by us. They may also for that reason be called "hidden faults." When we become conscious of them, it is our most earnest desire that God may "absolve" us of them. Note what a wholesome attitude the faithful use of the law has begotten in the writer. But more of this.


The agent is introduced by be in bahem; see KS 106.

Psalm 19:13

Ps 19:13. Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me. Then I shall be blameless; And I shall be absolved of manifold transgressions.

There is another less insidious but, perhaps, more damaging type of sin, the "presumptuous" that one might commit in defiance of the Lord. He, therefore, prays that God may guard him from such, for if one once begins to slip into them, they may, like all other sins, "rule over" a man. Only so, by God's enlightenment wrought through His law and by His protecting grace, can a man be kept "blameless and be absolved of manifold transgressions." It must be very obvious that the writer's relation to the law is not one of abstract and fruitless meditation. He is not content with mere theory about the excellence of the law. He has felt its beneficent effects and desires to have more of them.


Zedim could, of course, be translated "the proud ones," but in the connection in which it appears it is much better to regard it as referring to one of the various types of sin that are to be shunned-therefore "presumptuous sins."

The claim commonly made in our day that this psalm dates from the time of Ezra because in that age the interest in the law of the Lord is supposed to have become strong is a viewpoint that grows out of the late dating of the so-called sources of the Pentateuch. There is much historical evidence pointing to the fact that in the age of David the distinctive importance of the law was rather clearly understood (cf., 1Ki 2:1-4; 9:4ff).

Psalm 19:14

Ps 19:14. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before Thee, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Well aware as to how imperfect our best efforts are, the psalmist very appropriately closes his prayer with a humble plea that that which his mouth has uttered and his heart devoutly meditated on may be well pleasing in His sight, who is his "rock" on which he builds and his "redeemer" who delivers him in his many needs.

Psalm 20:1


THE GENERAL PURPOSE of the psalm is rather obvious. The nation is offering a prayer for its king. We have, therefore, a psalm of intercession. The course of its thoughts is as follows:

a) The prayer is presented (Ps 20:1-5).

b) Expression given to the assurance of the king's success (Ps 20:6-8).

c) A summary petition by way of conclusion (Ps 20:9).

Is the heading found in the Hebrew text, which ascribes the psalm to David, reliable? There is ample reason to believe that it is. The major problem would then be: Is it reasonable to suppose that a king like David would himself have composed a prayer in which he is the object of his people's petitions? Why should such a thought be incongruous?

The king is aware of his God-given responsibility as the head of the Lord's people. He knows the efficacy of believing intercession on the part of the people of God. Any enlightened king may serve as a spiritual leader of his people on such issues. David and Solomon repeatedly functioned as teachers of Israel (cf. especially Ps 122; 127); and surely, in the case of a king of Israel it cannot be regarded as an undue preoccupation with one's self when he instructs his people to pray for him. Other objections to authorship by David stem from nebulous argu-ments based on taste and style and seem to be of little moment.

An issue challenging special attention in connection with this psalm is the question as to whether we have here a strictly liturgical piece. Some interpreters go so far in their claims that the poem bears just such a character that they specify that it is designed to be prayed at the very moment when the sacrifices for victory are being offered; or they say that the section (Ps 20:6-8) was to be spoken by the priest; or they distribute the verses of the psalm over a responsive pattern that covers the whole; or they even place the king at the entrance to the Temple court when the first strains of the psalm begin to be spoken; or they insist that it was a hymn that was used so frequently as to bear evidence of being a bit worn and prosy. All such approaches give evidence of reading something into the psalm that is not there. In general it is one of those instances when a pet theory, like the liturgical interpretation, comes to be an obsession that must be maintained at all costs.

We should concede that the psalm bears a half-liturgical stamp. When it was composed it could well have been used by the assembled congregation on a special occasion (perhaps a situation such as the one described in 2Sa 8 or 2Sa 10) or at any time thereafter, when Israel's monarch stood in special need of divine assistance. But it certainly could have been part of the prayer of any devout Israelite at any time when he felt impelled to invoke the blessing of the Almighty upon his government and its king in times of trouble. So much may safely be claimed without going beyond the evidence offered by the psalm. Offering up prayer especially for victory is met with in a number of Scripture passages; cf., 1Sa 7:9; 13:9; 2Ch 14:11; 20:4ff.

Ps 21 is a companion piece to our psalm as will appear when we examine this psalm.

a) The prayer is presented (Ps 20:1-5)

To the Choir Director. A Psalm of David.

Ps 20:1. The Lord answer you in the day of distress; . The name of the God of Jacob protect you!

Ps 20:2. May He send you help from the sanctuary; And may He from Zion uphold you!

Ps 20:3. May He remember all your offerings; And your burnt offerings may He regard with favor!

Ps 20:4. May He grant you your heart's desire; And your plans may He fulfil!

Ps 20:5. May we exult over the victory granted you; And in the name of our God may we unfurl our banner; May the Lord fulfil all your petitions!

It seems a little too definite to label this the beginning of a prayer for the king in time of battle or on the eve of battle. For though Ps 20:5 may be translated as we have rendered it ("victory^), the word there used is basically "salvation." And since this verse calts the situation one of "distress," we had best let that term stand. Here again we may have one of those instances when a prayer that is born out of a very special situation reflects the nature of that situation somewhat less definitely, so as to be usable in all manner of similar situations. In other words, the prayer may be used in all kinds of emergencies.

The burden of the petition, however, is that the Lord may answer the prayers that the people know that their king is making. For they have confidence in him that he is a man who prays. The expression "the name of the God of Jacob" means: the revealed character of the Lord as His people know Him in so far as this character is summed up in His holy name. The expression "God of Jacob" appears to be used in distinct reference to the experiences that Jacob had of the faithfulness of his God in the days when he called upon Him.

Ps 20:1. The Lord answer you in the day of distress; . The name of the God of Jacob protect you!

To maintain full consistency with the manner of rendering the verbs in the first five verses it would have been better to begin: "May the Lord answer you . . . may he protect." The AV apparently suggested the approach we have used above as the more familiar.

Psalm 20:2

Ps 20:2. May He send you help from the sanctuary; And may He from Zion uphold you!

Since Israel had been taught to think of God as being enthroned in its midst, graciously present above the ark of the covenant, what could be more natural than to think of His help as emanating from that very sanctuary as the parallel expression "from Zion" clearly suggests? To speak thus means to look for the Lord and His help where He has taught His people that they should look. He is envisioned, not as a remote God, therefore, but as One who is near.


This verse and the next two have a chiastic arrangement of the members: a) verb-object; b) object-verb. We have tried to keep that pattern by the wording of our translation even though the English style is less inclined to favor this pattern.

Psalm 20:3

Ps 20:3. May He remember all your offerings; And your burnt offerings may He regard with favor!

For people to pray as they do in this verse implies that they are aware of the fact that their king has been wont to fulfill his religious obligations as these are expressed in sacrifices regularly and faithfully. They would also know that in the case of a faithful king such as they had such a fulfilment of religious obligations would not have been a matter of mere form but a truly devout service of God in a manner ordained by Him and pleasing to Him, outward form and inner spirit being in fullest harmony with one another. Since the sacrifices were prayers incarnate, the nation may well refer to them and express the desire that God "may regard them with favor." It is uncharitable criticism of the psalm and its author to speak of "utilitarian motives. In return for their offerings, the king and his army expected God to grant them victory over the nation's enemies" (Buttenwieser).


The Hebrew verb "remember" (zakhar) is suggestive of a term used in connection with sacrifices in Leviticus, 'azkarah) (Le 2:2,9,16), which terms implies that sacrifices offered for individuals bring them up in remembrance before God. It may well be questioned whether minchah ("offerings") should be rendered, as the German versions prefer, "meal offerings" even though it may seem to be in contrast with "burnt offerings." Minchah is the broadest term available, signifying all manner of gifts-which meaning is most appropriate here. The verb "regard with favor" (dishshen) literally means "regard as fat." For the suffix on the verb-eh for ah-see GK 48 d.

Psalm 20:4

Ps 20:4. May He grant you your heart's desire; And your plans may He fulfil!

So thoroughly is the nation in sympathy with the king's objectives and so completely convinced that they are right and good that it cannot but desire that God may grant whatever the king's heart desires under the circumstances (literally: "according to your heart"). It surely bespeaks a strong confidence when the people can pray: "and all your plans may He fulfil." This is surely much more than cheap chauvinism.

Psalm 20:5

Ps 20:5. May we exult over the victory granted you; And in the name of our God may we unfurl our banner; May the Lord fulfil all your petitions!

One might be inclined to prefer the rendering, "we will triumph" and "we will set up," (ARV) which are expressive of the resolve to rejoice when God grants the petitions previously expressed. However, the Hebrew syntax suggests that, since all the forms involved in Ps 20:1-5 are of the same pattern (regular imperfects used as optatives), it is much better to consider the verse as a part of the prayer which the psalm began and to let the expression of assurance begin with the following verse. The prayer, therefore, asks that those who pray may be granted the privilege of exulting over the victory when it comes as well as for the privilege of unfurling the victory banner on the great day. Summarizing all the petitions, the last one, like Ps 20:5b, asks: "May the Lord fulfil all your petitions." Very aptly stated, for they know that their king is the kind of man who not only teaches others to offer prayers but himself faithfully offers them.


The rendering "the victory granted to you" expresses more clearly the import of the suffix, which in the Hebrew reads merely: "your victory."

Psalm 20:6

b) Expression given to the assurance of the king's success (Ps 20:6-8)

Ps 20:6. Now I know that the Lord has helped His anointed; He has answered him from His holy heaven with mighty deeds of deliverance by His right hand.

Ps 20:7. Some make their boast of chariots and some of horses; But we shall make our boast in the name of the Lord our God.

Ps 20:8. They have always bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand firm.

The "now" marks a new point in the development of the prayer. On the basis of what has been asked the conviction has strongly grown upon the people who pray that God has in the past given victories to their king, who is anointed by God's appointment, and, therefore, "His anointed." It is unnatural to translate the verb found here in the past tense "has helped" as though it implied a present "saveth" or a future "will help." The obvious meaning is that we here have a reference to things that God has done in the past. This is expressed more fully in the second member: "He has answered him from His holy heaven." It is the nation that speaks in the collective singular, which quite naturally broadens out into a "we" in Ps 20:7b. It is rather artificial to assume that in this verse the voice of some individual is being heard, that of a prophet or priest or even of the king himself. The natural unity of the psalm is maintained by our interpretation. Those many instances of the past when God saved David "by mighty deeds of deliverance by His right hand" form the basis for a mighty assurance of being heard in the present instance.


The verb ya'anehu seems to be a future. But when it is thus construed it comes into conflict with yadha'ti. So this is apparently an instance when the final waw of meshicho is written but once but must serve also as the waw consecutive for the verb following (haplography); cf., KS 368f. For "mighty deeds of deliverance by His right hand" the Hebrew has a unique construction: "by heroic deeds of salvation of His right hand."

Psalm 20:7

Ps 20:7. Some make their boast of chariots and some of horses; But we shall make our boast in the name of the Lord our God.

The prayer gives a broader statement of the case, almost in the form of a basic principle that motivates the thinking of God's people now and at all times. In their attitude the people of God are radically different from the heathen way of thinking, which amounts to this: "Some make their boast of chariots and some of horses." By the omission of the verb the original makes the statement more striking: Some in chariots; some in horses. The basic error of the unbelieving mind is here scored: warlike equipment is the source of victory. But God's people have a higher and safer ground of confidence: "We shall make our boast in the name of the Lord our God." Again that mighty and saving power, the "name" of the Lord (cf., Ps 20:1)! With it could be equated the idea of the character, the well-known character of the Lord.

Psalm 20:8

Ps 20:8. They have always bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand firm.

Being on the subject of the contrast between the heathen and the people of God, the psalm presents it from another point of view, namely, the ultimate outcome. In the area defeat has always been the lot of the one group, victory and confidence the lot of the other. The assurance expressed is striking and clearly marked with the note of a sturdy faith. It is as though the psalmist understood very well that when you ask "believing you shall receive."


The perfects kare'u and naphelu are best regarded as the equivalent of gnomic aorists (KS 126). Since synonyms are involved, the usual arrangement with waw consecutive is not used (KS 370 f).

Psalm 20:9

c) A summary petition by way of conclusion (Ps 20:9)

Ps 20:9. O Lord, help;
May the King answer us when we call!

Since the burden of the psalm was prayer, it is most appropriate that a petition, by way of a summary, addresses one last plea to the Almighty. A note of tense earnestness is thus struck. It is also very proper in this connection to consider how the prayer for the king of Israel is addressed to the King of the whole world. So the Hebrew text has it, and there is no good reason for departing from this approach as RSV does. The balance of the parallelism is a further argument for retaining the familiar rendering.


Though the Hebrew has "in the day when we call," the expression "in the day" has no emphasis; therefore "when." Schmidt makes this a reference to some special day.

It should yet be remarked that the psalm has a somewhat general tone so that it could well be employed by Israel as well as by Christian people of all times when they know their ruler to be engaged in espousing a just cause or even, for that matter, whenever they know their government to be in distress.

That raises the further question: Is the psalm Messianic? It can scarcely be claimed that it was intended to be this. Luther said that such an interpretation seemed to him to be "too remote." Hengsten-berg, however, claimed that the psalm "ultimately points to Christ and His kingdom." The truth seems to be that, being a prayer for a godly kind in a just cause, it may fitly be adapted to a Messianic use by any pious soul.

Psalm 21:1


As INDICATED above, this psalm is a companion piece to the preceding psalm. The latter was primarily a prayer of intercession; this one is dominated by the note of thanksgiving. That will, however, scarcely warrant putting the two so close to one another as to describe the first as offering the petition and the second as offering praise for the answering of the petition just offered. It cannot be demonstrated that the two psalms grew out of one and the same situation and offer two different reactions to this situation.

In fact, it has become quite common to designate our psalm as a prayer of thanksgiving for victory. That theme is not quite broad enough. The psalm may include thanksgiving of such a type. But a wider possibility must be considered.

But another issue must first be disposed of: Is this a psalm of David? The claim which the heading of the psalm offers under this head may well be maintained-"a Psalm of David." Davidic authorship cannot be brushed aside by a mere verdict such as Koenig offers, "The author cannot be David." Why not? The arguments we offered in connection with the preceding psalm hold good in this instance also. David, aware of his unique position as the king of Israel, confident of his people's interest in his position and success, and mindful of their prayers and the value of such prayers, may well have written a psalm that embodied in acceptable petition the deep needs of the kingdom of David, which was then the earthly manifestation of the kingdom of God. Only a selfless king who was well aware of his theocratic importance could have ventured to do such a thing; and David was just such a king.

If he was, then the question arises as to what particular event occurred in the life of David that called for the nation's thanksgiving in a special sense. Certainly, his eminent success on the field of battle against the many foes that he had to encounter may well be thought of. But there was one event that must be regarded as the crowning climax of all that he experienced, and that is the event recorded in 2Sa 7, where David is apprised of the fact that God shall bless him in such a measure that his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, to be ruled by One of the line of David who shall reign eternally. Ps 89 and Ps 132 show how profoundly the people had been impressed by this promise. Ps 21:4 and Ps 21:6 emphasize in particular the eternal character of the blessings that had just been bestowed on David. It is true that no part of the sacred record that we have states what is mentioned in Ps 21:2, namely, that David had desired this blessing from his Lord. But what is unnatural about assuming that such a desire may have arisen in the heart of David though it is not specifically mentioned in the record as such? Did David not know and understand Ge 49:10? On the assumption that he did alone we may rightly suppose that it had been the deep yearning of his heart to have his own line of descent honored by God in this significant way.

And what would be unseemly about the prayers offered in Ps 21:7-13; or for David to lay such prayers on the lips of his people? The situation is far different from that of any ambitious earthly monarch when a godly king of Israel teaches his people to pray thus. He has godly desires in so doing, and so have his people in following his suggestions. Authorship by David is, therefore, both reasonable and possible.

a) Thanksgiving for mercies granted to the king (Ps 21:1-6)
To the Choir Director. A Psalm of David.

Ps 21:1. O Lord, in Thy strength the king rejoices; And in Thy help how greatly he rejoices!

Ps 21:2. Thou has given him what his heart desires; Thou hast not refused him what his lips ask.

Ps 21:3. For Thou dost come to meet him with rich blessings; Thou settest a crown of fine gold upon his head.

Ps 21:4. He asked life of Thee, and Thou didst give it, Length of days forever and ever.

Ps 21:5 His glory is great through Thy help; Honor and majesty Thou dost lay upon him.

Ps 21:6 For Thou dost render him most blessed forever; Thou dost make him glad with joy in Thy presence.

God has done something for Israel's king. The nation is aware of it. The people are vitally interested in it. The psalmist king, though himself involved, teaches the people to express their thanksgiving in these words. It must have been something notable. The word we have in Ps 21:1 translated "help" could be rendered "victory" if there were a direct indication of such a victory. On the meaning ascribed to this one word yeshu'a hinges the whole direction of the interpretation. We feel that "help" is broader and allows for all the issues that may be involved. That it comes from God is most obvious. That it made the recipient very glad cannot be denied. It was (Ps 21:2) a matter of such great concern to the author that he had previously prayed for this gift. As indicated above, that could well have been the case with regard to the promise of the greatness of his house given him by God.

Moreover, regarding this blessing it could be said most appropriately (Ps 21:3) that God came "to meet the king with rich blessings," or even that He had set "a crown of fine gold upon his head." This second statement is not out of keeping with the fact that David was definitely crowned king before this time. The grace that God granted him set the regal crown upon his head a second time; or this grace instated him in his great office more effectually than ever.

The promise of an everlasting dynasty may also be called "life" (Ps 21:4) in a most eminent sense. For it may well have been David's prayer that God might grant him to live in the sight of his God. Thereupon God gave him this promise as an answer. In fact, He gave "length of days forever and ever." 2Sa 7:13,16 agree so perfectly with this thought as to make this interpretation most apropos.

It is also quite obvious that a blessing like the one promised to David on that great and auspicious occasion could most properly be described as "glory" (Ps 21:5) and as "honor" and "majesty." All this became David's lot "through the help" of the Lord. It was certainly not merited and achieved by the king. Besides, all this may be summarized as a case where God had "rendered him most blessed forever." Or again, this was an experience that made "him glad with joy" in the presence of God. For it must be recalled that according to 2Sa 7:18 David immediately went into the sanctuary of God and voiced his heartfelt thanks. Since this involves the nation's greatest welfare, Israel as a whole may well be invited to praise God as is here done.

Psalm 21:7

b) The hope of future victories for the king (Ps 21:7-12)

Though some of the expressions used may seem to point to the possibility that God is being addressed, and that this is a prayer, yet on closer inspection it will become apparent that the nation is thought of as expressing these pious wishes in behalf of its king.

Ps 21:7. For the king trusts in the Lord; And because of the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

Ps 21:8 Your hand shall dispose of all your enemies; Your right hand shall dispose of those who hate you.

Ps 21:9 You shall make them like a blazing oven at your appearing; The Lord in His anger will consume them; Fire shall devour them.

Ps 21:10 Their fruit you will destroy from the earth, And their offspring from among the children of men.

Ps 21:11 When they have planned evil against you or devised mischief, They shall not prevail.

Ps 21:12 For you will drive them away in flight; With your bow you will aim at their faces.

Since the people cherish good wishes for their king, and rightly so because of his rare destiny, the king composes godly wishes for their use as they express their hopes for his future success. It must first be stressed that the king is not a man who trusts in his own strength and abilities, his trust is in the Lord. It is only because the Lord is so faithful to His covenant that the king will not be moved or brought to fall.

It is to be hoped that the following instances of success shall be the lot of their king. First that (Ps 21:8) "his hand shall dispose of his enemies." The verb employed is "find" the enemies. This means something like "dispose" of them. Since they hate a king who has so high a destiny as this one has, it is but proper that the wish also be expressed that his right hand dispose of such ungodly haters. To make the opponents like "a blazing oven" implies that they may be cast into such an oven and be consumed. However, any such act of judgment must be left to the Lord. Therefore (Ps 21:9b) this thought is expressed. For already in the Old Testament the truth was known that vengeance is the Lord's.

In Ps 21:10 the word "fruit" refers to the plans and undertakings of the wicked or also to their achievements. It is hoped that Israel's good king will destroy what the wicked produce and also dispose successfully of their children ("offspring") if they continue in the evil ways of their parents. Such a condition, though not expressed, must quite naturally be assumed. For the Lord would reject all prayers that are prompted by a spirit of vindictiveness.

The hope expressed for the king becomes more positive in Ps 21:11. Whatever evil or mischief may be devised, it is positive that these things "shall not prevail." And so the section closes with the picture of the enemy in precipitate flight before the victorious king (Ps 21:12), and the king himself as a victorious hero who aims his lethal bow at their very faces to cause their overthrow.

Psalm 21:13

c) Praise of God for His goodness to the king (Ps 21:13)

In one pregnant prayer of utmost brevity the nation or any individual in it is taught to pray to the Almighty as the only One who can achieve what they so earnestly desire, and that the glory for it all may be His. Those who pray thus are not asking for trivial or selfish blessings but understand right well that what they seek is the very welfare of the kingdom over which God Himself is the omnipotent Ruler and David His humble appointed servant. For all success that may come they say: "We shall sing and praise Thy might." On this lofty note the psalm closes.

Ps 21:13 Be Thou exalted, O Lord, in Thy strength; We will sing and praise Thy power.


One could regard this psalm as a liturgical piece as follows: "Ps 21 is a king's song, sung by the royal choir in the presence of the reigning monarch of Judah. The occasion is the anniversary of the enthron-ment" (Leslie). Two considerations make this dubious: Was there a "royal choir"? and, Was the "anniversary of the enthronment" observed?

Again, to state that there was "an oracle or a sign of the divine favor" between the two halves of the psalm lets the imagination play rather freely.

Psalm 22:1


To GIVE a somewhat more precise formulation for a title of this psalm we might have said: A Prophecy concerning the Messiah's Sufferings and Victory. This is the noblest of the passion psalms. It is sanctified in a singular sense by Christ in that He used its opening words in the extremity of His agony on the cross.

The most difficult problem seems to be to characterize the exact nature of this psalm, that is to say, just how it is related to the Christ. Kirkpatrick has the most exact statement of the four possibilities involved. They are: Is this psalm to be interpreted in the personal, the ideal, the national, or the predictive sense? A brief review of the meaning of each of the four terms here used will clarify issue.

If the personal interpretation is to be adopted, the basis of approach is the supposition that some individual, David or some anonymous person, lived through the experiences here described and now recounts them.

The ideal interpretation claims that this is not a record of the experiences of any one man but a statement of the things that would befall the ideal righteous man; a sort of composite picture of all the sufferings that would befall a man if he were entirely righteous. Hengstenberg is the chief exponent of this approach.

The national approach would refer the experiences here detailed to the nation of Israel, particularly in the Exile. Among modern interpreters Buttenwieser is the most notable exponent of this view, with the exception that he refers the psalm to the national crisis of 344 B.C.

The predictive approach regards the entire psalm as pure prophecy concerning the Christ Himself and assumes that the author was conscious of the fact that he was prophesying. This is the oldest of the four types and is in reality the one that was predominant in the Christian Church from days of old and to a very large extent still is.

We believe that this last type of interpretation is the one that deserves the preference but do not deny that an element of some of the others may be detected here and there. For to tell the truth, some of the experiences related here are duplicated in the life of David. It may also be maintained that these sufferings are a kind of composite picture of what righteous men have endured throughout the ages; but such an abstraction has too little flesh and blood to be located in this psalm. Some of Israel's experiences could be said to be remotely set forth here although that is only incidentally the case. The psalmists could on occasion turn prophets, witness Ps 110 (cf., Mt 22:43); and so this poet may be placed by the side of Isaiah, the great author of the prophecy of chapter 53. (Isa 53)

We do not hesitate to ascribe the psalm to David as the heading maintains. For only if the position is taken that the psalm must recount only such experiences as lay within the limit of the events recorded in Scriptures concerning David can this poem be denied to David. Or one must take the position, also not warranted by fact, that psalmists could not function as prophets.

The heading reads thus: "To the Choir Director. According to 'the Hind of the Dawn.' A Psalm of David." Much ingenuity has been expended to make this expression "the Hind of the Dawn" a kind of mystical reference to Christ and thus a sort of summary of the contents of the psalm. The approach of Luther is usually followed who found in "the dawn" a reference to the fact that that is the time when hinds are hunted; and so he translated, "Concerning the hind which is hunted in early morning." Though many interpreters still advocate this interpretation, we cannot help but feel that it is a bit fanciful.

The other major approach just as insistently claims that "the Hind of the Dawn" must be a poem or piece of music and thus find here a reference to the time or manner according to which this psalm is to be rendered. In other words, we have here a musical direction. Neither of the approaches can be validly established, and so our verdict must be: We cannot tell with any finality what this part of the heading means.

We offer, in a sort of preview, the following outline:

a) Forsaken of God (Ps 22:1-21).

Ps 22:1f. A pitiful cry for help.

Ps 22:3-5. The fathers' experience-never an appeal in vain,

Ps 22:6-8. The scornful treatment experienced at the hands of the enemy,

Ps 22:9-11. A plea for help to the God who has always been a Helper,

Ps 22:12-13. The danger threatening from the enemies,

Ps 22:14-18. The extremity of this manifold misery,

Ps 22:19-21. The last desperate plea for help, which suddenly bursts into the assurance of having been heard.

a) Forsaken by God (Ps 22:1-21)

Ps 22:1. My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? Why are the words of my groaning so far from obtaining my help?

Ps 22:2. O my God, I cry unto Thee by day, and Thou answerest not, Also by night, and still there is no silence for me.

No one can read this first verse without at once thinking of Jesus Christ on the cross and the use He made of this outcry. Men may have had analogous experiences in their life. In no case was their experience quite as acute as was that of Jesus. Pages could be written on the import of this cry. Suffice it to say that in the case of Christ there must have been far greater suffering than that experienced by any mortal man, otherwise, from the standpoint of faith, men would in some cases have manifested greater courage in enduring their lot than did this great Sufferer. It must also be noted that the "why" is not so much an attempt to find the deepest reason for it all as it is a complaint as to the incomprehensibility of it all (Kessler). Surely, God had forsaken Him who utters this complaint, but the reason was that He had made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin (2Co 5:21). No man can fathom the mystery of this outcry and what it meant in the experience of Christ. But of this we can be assured: the God-forsakenness was real.

The more familiar translation of the second member of this verse, "Why art Thou so far from helping me?" must insert four auxiliary words to express this thought and two more in the statement, "and from the words of my groaning, "namely, the italicized words. This procedure points out the weakness of this translation. The rendering we have given, "Why are the words of my groaning so far from obtaining my help?" is what the words say. Restated, this would mean: much as I have cried, why is it that my words have not obtained the help I seek? God has withdrawn Himself. In every sense of the word He is the deus absconditus,

b) Delivered by God (Ps 22:22-31).

Ps 22:22-25. Praise on the part of the sufferer and of the godly for this deliverance.

Ps 22:26-31. The various kinds and classes of men sharing in the resultant blessings.

Looking at the first division of the psalm as a whole, we observe a strange wavelike movement, a vacillation between wretchedness and hope. As soon as one mood has found expression, the poor sufferer enters into the other, being unable to come to rest until of a sudden in the midst of the last verse of this division (21) a positive note of assurance is struck, which comes like one of those sudden changes of mood that all of us have at one time or another experienced in life.


"Why hast Thou forsaken me?" Luther, unaware of the fact that Christ spoke Aramaic, changes the transliteration of the Aramaic in the Gospels back to the Hebrew and writes lama 'azabhtdni. Rachoq, though the predicate of dibhrey, is singular according to the Hebrew rule to begin with the singular if the number is as yet uncertain. Cf., GKU5r.

Psalm 22:2

Ps 22:2. O my God, I cry unto Thee by day, and Thou answerest not, Also by night, and still there is no silence for me.

This is a reiteration of the thought of the preceding verse. Though he is not heard he lets his cries continually ascend to his God whom, here and in the preceding verse, he designated "my God," so giving proof that, though he is forsaken, he refuses to cast away his hope in God. That is the very essence of faith. It should, however, be noted that the two expressions for "my God" are not the same in the two verses. Ps 22:1 has 'eli (my Strong One); Ps 22:2 has the most common designation of God, 'elohay (the One to be feared by me).

Two objections have been raised against the direct Messianic character of this verse. The one claims that Jesus did not pray to be helped out of His trying situation but willingly took all suffering upon Himself. But it should not be overlooked that Gethsemane surely reflects the spirit of this verse.

The other objection (by Koenig) is that it can scarcely be maintained with any show of reason that Jesus cried thus for days and nights on end. But prophecy cannot be interpreted too literally, otherwise all prophetic utterances would have their inadequacies. In His great Passion Christ did, without a doubt, cry by day and by night as long at it lasted. For though the Gospel records do not report the continuous sequence of prayers that welled up from His heart, who would doubt that they flowed without interruption?

The second half of this verse, "and still there is no silence for me," means nothing other than, since God does not answer, I cannot become silent but must keep crying until He hears me.

Psalm 22:3

Ps 22:3. But Thou art holy, Enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Hope reasserts itself in this section, it finds an anchorage in the holiness of God. For in this case "holy" means "exempt from the shortcomings of man." It would be an obvious defect in the character of God if He could simply abandon one who had put his trust in Him. The thought is reinforced by the rest of the verse, "enthroned on the praises of Israel," a highly poetic statement and an exceptionally beautiful one, signifying in plain prose: One who has so faithfully delivered His own in times past that they, to use another figure, have enshrined Him in their praises. The figure is built on the fact that in the Tabernacle and the Temple God was enthroned (Hebrew: "sitting") above the mercy seat, which was His throne. So the praises of the faithful for blessings received are the new throne above which He resides.



"Thou" is emphatic and adversative; KS 360b. For "enthroned" the Hebrew has yashabh, here used transitively (KS 21 Id).


Psalm 22:4

Ps 22:4. In Thee did our fathers trust; They trusted, and Thou didst deliver them.

 The experiences of the fathers that gave rise to their praises are now described more fully. Fundamental to any such experience is trust on the part of the individual. Therefore: "in Thee did our fathers trust." Whenever they pinned their hopes on Him, He "did deliver them." Sometimes at a time they had not appointed. Sometimes in a manner other than they had expected. It is still true: "I have never seen the righteous forsaken."

Psalm 22:5

Ps 22:5. To Thee did they cry and were freed; In Thee they trusted and were not disappointed.

The experience is so great that it deserves ampler statement. It can be put into these words: "To Thee did they cry and were freed." Or again: "In Thee they trusted and were not disappointed." One would have expected that on this platform faith would find a secure footing and fearlessly face the future. But this sufferer's extremity is too great; and so he relapses into his previous mood.



"Were freed" lacks the wow consecutive and has two successive perfects connected by waw copulative, as is done in actions that are parallel and belong together (KS 370e).

Psalm 22:6

Ps 22:6. But as for me, I am a worm and not a man, An object of the derision of men and despised by the people.

We see in the figure of a "worm" used here (also Isa 41:14; Job 25:6) a reference to utter helplessness and frailty. It seems to be going too far to suppose that the worm had already been crushed by a hobnailed boot as some interpreters do. Such an extremity might befall the sufferer unless God intervenes. Much in the spirit of Isa 53 this Sufferer describes Himself as "the object of the derision of men" (for which it suffices in the Hebrew to say, "the derision of men") and "despised by the people." Ridicule hurts and produces a peculiar diffidence in men.

Psalm 22:7

Ps 22:7. All who see me mock at me; They gape with open mouth and shake their head.

The description continues in the same vein. It is the universality of the mockery that is especially high lighted as was actually the case in the sufferings on Golgotha: all men present seemed to share in the scoffing that began with the high priests. For what we have rendered, "they gape with open mouth," the original has: "they make an opening with the lip," which is close to the rendering of the RSV, "they make mouths at me." As that is an obvious gesture of derision, so is the further action, they "shake their head." This is, no doubt, to be thought of as a plain gesture that expresses hopelessness in a derisive way.

Psalm 22:8

Ps 22:8. "Commit all issues to the Lord! let Him help him to escape! Let Him rescue him, seeing He delighted in him."

The whole verse is a direct quotation which is not formally introduced. The opposition seems to quote from remarks that their victim had previously made. In all situations his watchword seemed to be, "Commit all issues to the Lord!" With obvious ridicule they suggest his own word to him as happened in striking fulfilment when the Jews all but quoted these words when they had their enemy affixed to the cross. On this motto they build the further suggestion: "Let Him help him to escape," implying, however, in this instance that this man was too far gone in wretchedness to be capable of deliverance. Still in the spirit of utter mockery they continue: "Let Him rescue him, seeing He delighted in him." The baseness of it all consists in this, that a man's faith in God is the point at which he is attacked.



It may well be that gol is the absolute infinitive (KS 217b). We have, nevertheless, translated it as an imperative for convenience' sake. A literal rendering might read as follows: "To commit things to the Lord (that was his motto)." The object of the verb is not ex­pressed. We thought it to be in harmony with the spirit of the verb to add, "all issues."

Psalm 22:9

Ps 22:9. Yea, Thou art He that took me from the womb; Thou didst make me to feel safe at my mother's breast.

Ps 22:10 Upon Thee was I cast from birth; Thou hast been my God since I was born.

Faith and hope begin to reassert themselves. At the same time the poor sufferer does exactly what his opponents have just recommended to him to do, to commit all issues to God. He recounts what God has meant to him in the past, and what He has done for him from earliest infancy. In the process of birth it was God who held a protecting hand over him and delivered him. In the tender years of extreme infancy it was He again who gave to the infant's heart that assurance of safety that comes when the little one can nestle close to its mother's breast. Though he may not have understood it at that time, yet he now knows that he was cast upon God from his birth (Ps 22:10), yea, since that time God has been his God and given evidence of this fact. Summing it up, it is as though he had said: During every moment of my life till now Thou hast been my God and hast sustained me.

Psalm 22:11

Ps 22:11. Be not far from me, for distress is near; For there is no helper.

This leads quite obviously to the inference that He can and will help in the present extremity. Therefore the petition to be near as He always was. For there is no other helper. But somehow assurance does not come to the troubled heart with this prayer. Again the poor sufferer relapses into distress at the thought of those who are against him.

Psalm 22:12

Ps 22:12. Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me.

Again the critics of our interpretation insist that such statements cannot refer to Christ directly inasmuch as He was not surrounded by His enemies, who had not yet gotten Him into their power. However, all that is stated here is purely figurative language. It surely represents one aspect of the case. He was certainly hemmed in by His foes. They on their part were certainly anxious to wreak their vengeance on Him.

These enemies are likened to vicious bulls or to strong bulls from the grassy plains of Bashan, where they found ample pasturage and were well fed, who are thought of as being ready to dash in on this poor victim whom they have encircled, making escape impossible. Imagine what fear must come to a man in such a case! Figuratively, Christ's enemies continually hovered around Him, shutting off every avenue of escape. And He as a man felt the danger and horror of His situation.

Psalm 22:13

Ps 22:13. They have opened their mouth wide at me- A ravening and roaring lion.

The figure of the bulls is dropped. There is substituted the one of ravenous wild beasts who are anxious to devour their victim. In the second member of the verse the figure again changes-one of the number of the enemy, perhaps their most aggressive member, is compared to a ravenous and roaring lion. Gunkel offers the fantastic suggestion that we should at this point think of the "Babylonian demons in animal form."

We might have added the next three verses to the preceding two to make one stanza of five verses. Yet Ps 22:13f. describe the enemy; Ps 22:14-16 describe the sufferer's wretched plight.

Psalm 22:14

Ps 22:14. I am poured out like -water, and all my bones are out of joint; My heart has become like -wax, it is melted within me.

Though the expression is variously understood, to be "poured out like water" may well be a symbol of the feeling of utter helplessr ness and weakness that overwhelms this poor individual. He can scarcely mean the statement literally that all his "bones are out of joint." He may imply that his pain is as extreme as if all bones were thrown out of joint. The distorted position into which the body of a crucified person was thrust may have brought about something anal­ogous to this. In addition, his "heart has become like wax" and is melted within him. Surely, this is a description of being utterly without courage.

Psalm 22:15

Ps 22:15 My strength has dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; Into the dust of death Thou layest me

The extremity of misery includes the fact that he has as little strength as moisture that might be found in a potsherd—which is obviously nil. It furthermore seems that when men are in great physical suffering the dryness of the tongue as it cleaves to a man's jaws seems to be one of the chief elements of discomfort. The man is all but dead. That is what he means by the words, "Into the dust of death Thou layest me." But it must be noted that even in this grave crisis, God is still the One who controls all things that may befall him—strong evi­dence of a persistent faith.



Wehithparedhu omits the waw consecutive as above, Ps 22:5.

Psalm 22:16

Ps 22:16 For dogs have surrounded me; A gang of evildoers have encircled me; They have pierced my hands and my feet.

This is not another description in the spirit of Ps 22:12, which likens the opposition to vicious beasts. For dogs come under the head of scurrilous creatures, especially when one thinks of the packs of them that run wild through the streets of Oriental cities as scaven­gers. The parallel statement reinforces this thought by likening the same persons to a "gang of evildoers," not a "congregation" of them as older versions translate, which invests the description with too much dignity. The very last line of the verse brings the famous words, "They have pierced my hands and my feet." This translation can safely be re­tained (see the Notes at the conclusion) and is the one statement of the psalm that most obviously points to the crucifixion.



For a full defense and explanation of the translation given above for ka'arey, construct of the participle kal of kur, we refer to Koenig's Kommentar and KW. The translation "like a lion" cannot be made to yield sense, no matter how the issue is turned. There is no need to resort to textual changes. The Septuagint and the Vulgate support this translation. The participle, of course, if derived from kur, would have no 'aleph unless it were written after the Aramaic fashion as is some­times the case in Hebrew (cf., Ho 10:14).

Psalm 22:17

Ps 22:17 I can count all my bones; But they gaze, they feast their eyes on me.


This is the last section in which the poor victim recounts his suffering. Looking first at his physical condition, he notes that some sort of emaciation has set in that makes the entire bony framework visible. This could scarcely be applied literally to the Crucified One, for His suffering was not protracted long enough to produce such com­plete emaciation. But the extremity of cruel treatment could have pro­duced some results that were analogous to this. In any event, He was reduced to a state of such misery that it should have produced some pity in the heart of the onlookers. Instead "they gaze" heartlessly and with some measure of satisfaction. They may even be said to "feast their eyes" on Him. This verse may well be said to sum up the enemies' cruelty and his own wretchedness.

Psalm 22:18

Ps 22:18 They apportion my garments among them; And for my raiment they cast lots.


One last action of theirs is described, a sort of rude horseplay (as Luther also interpreted it) on the part of the soldiers, by which they wanted to dramatize their conviction that this pretender's am­bitions were at an end. His garments can have meant little to them, but by partitioning them and casting lots over them they emphasized the thought that this man was completely done for. The parallelism of the verse aims at nothing more than to restate the thought with emphasis. It needed not to be fulfilled to the letter. But so strange are the ways of divine providence that even the second member of the verse was liter­ally fulfilled.

Psalm 22:19

Ps 22:19 But Thou, O Lord, be not ajar off; Thou source of my strength make haste to help me.


Ps 22:20 Deliver my life from the sword, My one treasure from the power of the dog.


Ps 22:21 Save me from the lion's mouth—Yea, from the horns of the wild oxen Thou hast answered me.


In these verses we have the last eager cry for help. With em­phasis the "Thou" addressing God is placed first, contrasting Him with the heartless behavior of those who are attempting to dispose of the sufferer. The separation from God, of which the first verse of the psalm complained, is still a matter of concern. Nearness of God is what he wants to be assured of. For that matter, he seeks quick relief, for he cannot survive much longer. Therefore: "make haste to help me." He addresses God as "my strength," which, like similar expressions, is always best regarded as signifying, "Source of my strength."

Psalm 22:20

Ps 22:20  Deliver my life from the sword, My one treasure from the power of the dog.


Since the issue is actually one of life and death, the one of whom the psalm speaks prays for the deliverance of his "life," (Hebrew, "soul"), which, in the parallel expression, he designates as his "one treasure," sometimes rendered the "only one," an obvious reference to the soul or life. For man has but one, and it is, in the last analysis his chief treasure. In the figure used the sword is to be thought of as drawn and poised above his head, ready to descend. So imminent is the danger. Or again, the "dog" has thrown his soul to the ground arid is about to begin to tear it to pieces.

Psalm 22:21

Ps 22:21 Save me from the lion's mouth—Yea, from the horns of the wild oxen Thou hast answered me.

From one figure that is expressive of extreme danger the author proceeds to another. It is the powerful lion that is about to sink his fangs into his poor victim.


Then of a sudden, in the very middle of this verse as indicated above in the outline, the assurance of help breaks through, and the complaints and pleas are at an end. The tense of the verb suddenly becomes the historical perfect, "Thou hast answered me." How extreme the peril was is indicated by the last figure, "from the horns of the wild oxen." This could well mean that the victim envisions himself as being caught up on the oxen's horns and about to be further tossed or gored to death when he is suddenly snatched away and set beyond the pale of danger. There is some dispute as to whether the creature referred to is the white antelope or the wild ox. In either case it must have been a singularly ferocious beast, a thought that is best expressed by the second name for the creature.


If the first half of the psalm could be captioned, "Forsaken by God," the second half could quite properly have the title, "Delivered by God." The tone is so notably different. Whether Ps 22:21should have been included in the second half may be left as an open question. The tone now becomes so jubilant, the blessings recounted as resulting from the experience are so many and so illustrious that one cannot help but realize that the sufferings involved must have been different from those endured by any other of the sons of men. All this, too, points to the great redemption that was here achieved.

Psalm 22:22

b) Delivered by God (Ps 22:22-31)


Ps 22:22 I will proclaim Thy name to my brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise Thee.


Ps 22:23 You that fear the Lord, praise Him; AII you, the descendants of Jacob, honor Him; And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.


Ps 22:24 For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; And He has not hidden His face from him, but He hearkened when he cried to Him.


Ps 22:25 From Thee comes my praise in the great assembly; My vows will I pay before them that fear Him.


There is even a formal difference between the first half of the psalm and the second. In the first half the statements of the individual verses are shorter, like gasps breathed in distress. Now they are longer, for the speaker is delivered and free from pain.


It must also be plain that the marvelous results that are here enumer­ated are to be thought of as being fruits of the experience through which the sufferer has just gone.


The emphasis is now on the thought that such a deliverance calls for praise on the part of the one delivered as well as on the part of all the godly. Naturally, as we now see in the light of the fulfilment, the basic thought is not that the speaker was kept from suffering but rather that he passed through the extremest form of it and was yet de­livered. True, there is no mention of the resurrection from the dead as there is in Isa 53. But what prophetic Scripture can cover every pos­sible aspect of a case?


Though we do not usually think of Christ's reaction to His deliverance from death and His Passion as being one of gratitude to His Father, it is that, too. He will declare to His brethren what God has done for Him. It must be told that God was not appealed to in vain. Joh 20:17 may contain an allusion to this verse in that Christ there calls His disciples "brethren." Of course, as the second member of the verse shows, the basic thought is that this is an experience that is to be discussed in the company of like-minded souls, who will ap­preciate what it means.

Psalm 22:23

Ps 22:23  You that fear the Lord, praise Him; AII you, the descendants of Jacob, honor Him; And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.


But not only He Himself will praise God. As a result of this experience others will have ample occasion to share in this praise. Different classes are called upon as being vitally interested. First, those "that fear the Lord." Then all who are truly "descendants of Jacob." Lastly all who "stand in awe of Him," implying that persons other than the offspring of Jacob shall have a vital concern in these matters.

Psalm 22:24

Ps 22:24 For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; And He has not hidden His face from him, but He hearkened when he cried to Him.


Again we have an instance which demonstrates that prophetic passages cannot cover every aspect of the fulfilment. In His Passion Christ's major concern was our salvation as the Gospels testify in so many ways. But it can well have been a matter of grave concern to Him to be delivered from the extremeity of suffering in which He found Him­self, and after He was raised above it all, thanksgiving for this de­liverance may also have had a place in His praise. That is what this verse indicates. Viewed thus, it requires no further comment.

Psalm 22:25

Ps 22:25 From Thee comes my praise in the great assembly; My vows will I pay before them that fear Him.


The Great Sufferer likens Himself to any other person in Israel who might have been in distress in days of old. He here speaks the language of the faithful in Israel in Old Testament times. These would have wanted to praise God "in the great assembly," and sincerely pay any "vows" that they may have made in time of trouble, and do that "before them that fear Him." Viewed thus, this verse does not require the interpretation that Christ must have made some vows during the time of His suffering.

Psalm 22:26

Ps 22:26 The meek shall eat and be satisfied; They that seek the Lord shall praise Him. "May your hearts live forever!''

This section indicates that every class and kind of men shall share in the blessings of the experience which the psalm has reported. Those listed first as expressing their gratitude are "the meek" and the ones "that seek the Lord." These two groups might be put under the head of the more earnest and devout among mankind. They will re­joice especially in the redemption that Christ secured for mankind. The "meek," however, are spoken of as those who "eat and are satis­fied." The language is borrowed from a typical Old Testament mode of expressing thanksgiving to the Lord, the peace offering (Le 3), in connection with which a feast was prepared (Le 7:15f.) to which a man would invite poor friends of his that they might share in his joy and deliverance. It could be possible that Ps 22:25 and Ps 22:26 are con­nected in thought in that the vows spoken of may include the vow to sacrifice such a peace offering if the sufferer was delivered. The con­cluding benediction is one that at such a meal the guest, perhaps, spoke in reference to his host: "May your heart live forever"—another way of saying, May God be your reward, or the like. Such unintro? duced exclamations are found elsewhere in the Scriptures; cf., Ps 104:24; 87:6b; Ps 31:14a; Ps 45:6a.

Psalm 22:27

Ps 22:27 All the ends of the earth shall bear this in mind and return to the Lord. All the families of the nations will bow down before Him.


Turning from the truly devout, the writer directs attention to persons all over the world. That is to say, the effects of this experience will be world-wide. "All the ends of the earth" is synonymous with the remotest corners of our globe, or as the parallel expression states it, "all the Jamilies of the nations." The first member says literally that "all the ends of the earth shall remember." This last verb is not used in the sense of recalling a thing previously known but rather in the sense of the German eingedenk sein (KB), i.e., retain in mind. And as they thus keep revolving this matter in their mind, it will induce many of mankind who have been long drifting about far from the Father's house to bethink themselves "and return to the Lord." We need not be as literal as Koenig is, who believes that, strictly speaking, only those can return who have consciously departed. And so he prefers the somewhat forced meaning "the outlying district of the land" for "ends of the earth" and mentions that the outlying regions were more ex­posed to idolatry than was the core of the land. The second member of the verse indicates that world-wide results are being considered. What is echoed is in essence the blessed gospel, which induces men to "bow down before Him" in faith and adoration.

Psalm 22:28

Ps 22:28 For the kingdom is the Lord's; And He is the Ruler among the nations.


All who thus return and find their God recognize at the same time the sole sovereignty of Jehovah; and so, leaving their idolatrous misconceptions behind them, they offer the confession that "the king­dom is the Lord's; and He is Ruler among the nations." If anything had convinced them of this fact it was the signal victory that the Great Sufferer had won.

Psalm 22:29

Ps 22:29 All the weighty personages of the earth will eat and worship Him; Before Him will bow down all who go down to the dust, and the man who cannot keep himself alive.

The effects of this experience will be felt not only among those who are far distant, but another group is also singled out by two con­trasting expressions: "weighty personages" and "all who go down to the dust," that is to say, men in the prime of their strength and in­fluence as well as those about to perish, "who cannot keep their soul alive." Not persons already dead are referred to, for the parallel clause asserts that they cannot keep themselves alive for any length of time. In other words, the weak and the strong will alike glory in what He experienced.


The first verb, 'akhelu, is obviously to be regarded as a prophetic perfect. Therefore we have translated "will eat" and "will worship," KS 147. Though in the Hebrew the subject is "fat ones of the earth," we felt that it would come closer to our idiom to render the word "weighty personages." The suffix on naphsho is distributive.

Psalm 22:30

Ps 22:30 Posterity shall serve Him; Men shall tell concerning the Lord to that generation.


The last two verses round out the picture that tells that the effects of this great deliverance shall be universal. For they state that also the generations yet to come are to hear of and rejoice in that which happened. This class is described by the terms "posterity," "that gen­eration," "a people yet to be born." That the influence of what they hear shall be of tremendous importance to those yet to be born is in­dicated by the fact that they "shall serve Him," and that one group shall declare it to the next, for this is a truth worth perpetuating. The truth that shall be thus handed down from generation to generation is "that He has executed justice." That is to say, God Himself has carried out that which was the proper thing for Him to do, namely, the saving of mankind. We prefer this translation of Koenig, for the customary ap­proach to the last clause allows everything to remain suspended in midair because the last verb lacks an object, even more so than the customary English translations indicate. For the Hebrew reads: "that He hath done." No textual emendation needs to be made to secure our translation. It is merely a case where, as so often in the Hebrew, one term of an object clause is in advance taken into the preceding clause (like Ge 1:4, etc.) : "they shall declare His righteousness to a people to be born, that He hath executed it."

So the psalm closes by pointing out the many classes and kinds of men who shall benefit by what was suffered.



We feel that the last word, laddor, is a case where the article has a kind of demonstrative force.


The approach used in the above interpretation, namely, the pre­dictive, meets with scant favor in our day. The historical meets with some favor. It supposes that the psalm is the record of the sufferings of an individual, which Jesus found rather helpful in His day and applied to Himself. However, the weakness of this approach is that the resuits expected from the deliverance of the sufferer involved are far in excess of what any human sufferer dared claim as the outcome of his experience.


The other rather popular approach is the assumption that in the first half of the psalm the author was a very sick man and had been in such a state for a long time. This scarcely does justice to the state­ments of the psalm.


Psalm 23:1

Ps 23


expositors vie with one another in describing the rare beauty and charm of this psalm. Perhaps none has stated it better and simpler than Maclaren: "The world could spare many a large book better than this sunny little psalm." Commentators stress the strong note of faith that rings through the poem. Others claim that it is pitched on too high a level to be in any real sense attainable by any saint of God. Some in­terpreters read things into the psalm that are not warranted by the material available. Since they are rather liturgically minded they claim that a sacrifice must have been offered, and that this psalm was its ac­companiment. Others almost insist that it is a psalm of praise after recovery from severe sickness.

Then there is the matter of the unity of the psalm or the unity of the
figure employed by the psalmist. Some, the majority, perhaps, find only one figure, that of the shepherd. Of a slightly more recent date is the interpretation that finds two figures, that of the shepherd and that of the host. Others insert a third between the two, the guide. Others, giving special thought to Ps 23:6, devise some kind of a fourth figure. By this time one is compelled to admit that the beautiful little psalm has been pretty sadly fragmentized.


In the face of these diverse approaches it seems best to let the open­ing statement serve as a theme sentence and stick to the one figure, that of the shepherd. However, though attempts have been made to have the total imagery, excepting, perhaps, Ps 23:6, derive from actual shepherd usage as it is still witnessed in the Orient (cf., Knight, The Song of Our Syrian Guest), it would seem a bit more appropriate to insist on the unity of the figure but at the same time to allow for a bit of exuberance in the use of the figure, so that its limits are not too sharply observed. (Morganstern, Journal of Biblical Literature, vol. LXV, pt. 1, pp. IB-24, arrives at practically the same conclusion.)


The chief defect of the two-figure interpretation (shepherd and host) is that the use of it would involve a strange conception of the work of the shepherd: he does everything except feed his sheep; that task is performed by the host. Such a weakness in the first figure is nothing short of fatal. For a further validation of our argument note especially the interpretation of  Ps 23:2.


Then there is the question as to whether the speaker in the psalm is to be thought of as an individual, or whether we have a collective subject. This latter interpretation was presented already in days of old by the Talmud. Though it cannot be denied that the idea of the Lord as a shepherd of His people Israel is found frequently in psalms and prophecy (Ps 74:1; 77:20; 78:52,70ff; Ps 79:13; 80:1; Isa 40:11; Jer 31:10; Eze 34:12-14; Mic 5:4), the tone pervading this psalm seems to strike almost all readers as being so thoroughly personal in its warmth as to make the collective idea of the subject seem quite arti­ficial.


It must also be pointed out that no really valid argument against authorship of the psalm by David has yet been advanced. Yet it is far less likely that "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sa 23:1) wrote this piece in his youthful days while he was still tending his father's flock. Romantic as that thought may seem, it would be far more in keeping with what the Scriptures reveal elsewhere concerning him, when they tell us that after his anointing the spirit of God came upon him (1Sa 16:13), to assume that the spirit-filled servant of the Lord composed such helpful songs as these. Details found in Ps 23:2 especially indicate that it was, perhaps, even the older David who composed the psalm. For if the first virtue stressed in reference to a good shepherd is the fact that he gives rest, then men must have begun to know what weariness is.


We offer the following outline of the psalm:


The Lord Is My Shepherd


He provides:


a) Rest and guidance (Ps 23:2-3).


b) Protection (Ps 23:4).


c) Food (Ps 23:5)
   (a parenthesis in which all figures are abandoned, Ps 23:6a).


d)  Fellowship with God (Ps 23:6b).
 A Psalm of David.

One grammatical item must be noted in determining the whole pat­tern of the translation. Practically all versions from the Septuagint down very properly begin with the future in Ps 23:1"I shall not want." Mir wird nichts mangeln, etc. From this point onward all the verbs till Ps 23:5a have the same form of the Hebrew verb—the imperfect. Con­sistency demands that these imperfects be rendered either as futures or presents. Though the Hebrew verb allows for either, the future deserves the preference, for on the basis of the fact that the Lord is the shepherd, the psalmist looks confidently toward the future. This plain fact, though noted already in the Prayer Book Version (Book of Common Prayer) has not been observed in any of the familiar versions, not even in the RSV. Koenig has it in his Kommentar on the psalms.


Ps 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not suffer any want.


 The opening statement is characterized by utter simplicity. Old and young can grasp its import, all the more so in lands where sheep and shepherds are commonly found. The great name of God, Yahweh, is used most appropriately, for this name always connotes God's ab­solute faithfulness to His people. If God is one's shepherd, it cannot be denied that one could conclude with regard to the future that under His care one shall never "suffer any want." Note our form of trans­lation. Though the idiom is now sanctioned because of its usage in this psalm, we do not ordinarily use the verb "to want" absolutely. For that reason we supplied the object "any want" somewhat as Luther did, Mir wird nichts mangeln. Though this statement is one of absolute trust, it should not be objected that this is too elevated a position to ascribe to David. For there are many times in life when the faith of men rises to this level, at least for a time.

Psalm 23:2

Ps 23:2 He will make me to lie down in grassy meadows; He will lead me beside waters of resting places.

Emphasis is now placed upon the rest which the shepherd knows how to provide for his sheep at proper times. For it is characteristic of the everyday task of most Oriental shepherds that, with but scanty pasturage available, they must spend a good bit of time moving from one spot where a bit of grass is available to another. This verse actually starts with noonday, when the flock has already covered quite a bit of ground in thus moving about and is in need of rest lest it be over­driven (Ge 33:13). When the shepherd makes the sheep to lie down, it is in a place where there are "grassy meadows." We have translated thus because sheep do not graze when they lie down, and the verb also does not mention grazing but only resting. So "green pastures" (KJ, etc.) is a little less to the point. So the first prospect held before the eyes of faithful followers of the good Lord is that, when rest becomes imperative, He will supply it.


The parallel thought is very similar. When the place for relaxation is to be furnished, He will so guide His own that they find themselves "besides waters of a resting place." Though the Hebrew uses the plural ("resting places"), this refers only to such water as is commonly found at resting places. The best interpretation of this much disputed ex­pression that we have been able to find is that of KB, who offers: "rest­ing place with water (on river, brook, well, lake)." We may well think of the resting places that are customarily used by shepherds for their flocks and have become traditional because they are safe, and the water supply is sufficient. That could in some instances include even the water found at khans or caravansaries, the typical Eastern inns, bare, but open to caravans. For caravansaries are "resting places" as Koenig interprets. But the concept must be kept broader and include all that we have mentioned above. So the emphasis is on places where, in addition to rest, also an ample water supply is to be found. "Still waters" does not quite meet the force of the expression. The literal use of the Hebrew expression, "waters of rest," is unsatisfactory because it is not understood. Nor does "quiet waters" express the precise idea. The "waters" are brought into the picture merely to supplement the concept of rest, which is to be thought of as being in every sense adequate.

Psalm 23:3

Ps 23:3. He will restore my soul; He will lead me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.


The shepherd also furnishes guidance. It is certainly very arti­ficial to forget that shepherds, especially Oriental shepherds, must guide their sheep and to insist that at this point the new figure of the guide is introduced. To tell the truth, the first part of this verse, strictly speaking, does not continue the shepherd figure or any other. It in­troduces momentarily a nonfigurative statement of spiritual values, reminding us for the moment that it is not only physical well-being that the true Shepherd provides for His own. It savors of pedantry to press this statement, "He restores my soul," to the level of what sheep can experience and to stress, what is true enough that nephesh can also mean "life," and so arrive at the meaning: He revives me or my life. One must allow for deeper values and not insist on purely mechanical procedures.


The second member of the verse has also provoked much discus­sion, especially as to the precise meaning of "paths of righteousness." Following the lead of Luther who rendered this expression, auf rechter Strasse, many interpreters insist on translating, "in the right way," citing passages like Le 19:36 ("just balances," etc.) where the same noun for "righteousness" appears, viz., tsedheq. But some of the richer content of the Hebrew word is squeezed out of it by ren­dering it merely "right" or "just." We cannot but agree with men like Hengstenberg, Kessler, etc., who prefer to retain "in the paths of right­eousness." There is an emphasis on God's righteousness, which mani­fests itself in the way in which He leads men, which emphasis here calls to mind that He faithfully fulfils the demands that His covenant obligations to His people impose on Him. This larger thought plainly includes the much lesser thought that the individual will then always be guided on the right path.


All this He does "for His name's sake." Since "name" is the equiv­alent of "character" or "reputation," this beautiful little phrase means: He does all this because He has a reputation among His saints for faith­ful dealings with them, a reputation which must be cautiously upheld.

Psalm 23:4

Ps 23:4. Even though I should walk through the darkest valley I shall fear no evil; For Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff—they will comfort me.


The author now emphasizes the feature of protection. The shep­herd figure may still be involved. In the course of the late afternoon dark defiles may have to be entered. The sheep, a timid creature, may manifest a certain reluctance about passing through the dark spot, where beasts or robbers may lurk. But the very presence of the shep­herd gives it strong reassurance. Besides, the sheep may have noted that in previous instances the shepherd's staff stood him in good stead, and wild and dangerous beasts were beaten off or even killed—"Thy rod and Thy staff, they will comfort me." But without a doubt the all-important thing is the presence of the Shepherd Himself—"Thou art with me."


Two things call for special comment here. The first is the word which we have rendered "darkest valley," which is literally "valley of deepest darkness." The Hebrew word is tsalmdveth, which could, indeed, be broken up into its component parts: tsal, "shadow," and maveth, "death," except for the fact that the Hebrew almost never forms com­pound nouns except in the case of proper names. This has led to the very proper claim that a kind of popular etymology .is involved, one that, perhaps, originated after the Hebrew had begun to fade out as a spoken language, and which operated with the idea of the "shadow of death." The Hebrew word used contains no reference to death as such but does refer to all dark and bitter experiences, one of which may be death. So in the common use of the passage the thought of death need not be ex­cluded, but the reference is certainly much broader.


Again in interpreting the double expression "rod and staff" a num­ber of differing meanings are offered. Some interpreters have observed Syrian shepherds carrying but one staff. Others have seen a shepherd equipped with a typical shepherd's crook and with a small but heavy club besides, whose heavy end may have been reinforced with nails driven into it or with a ball of bitumen which had hardened to rocklike consistency. Etymologically the interpretation can scarcely be deter­mined, for the two words used, shebhet and mish leneth, have such a multiplicity of uses. Observed usage also does not quite warrant the claim that every shepherd went about equipped with two separate im­plements. Perhaps, then, those interpreters are nearest the truth who claim that the one commonly observed shepherd's crook could be used for purposes of defense as well as to guide and direct sheep that stray from the road, an approach which Kirkpatrick expresses thus: "The shepherd's crook is poetically described by two names, as the rod or club with which he defends his sheep . . . and the staff on which he leans." To the last statement we would add the idea of occasional use for guidance.


The pronominal subject which recapitulates—"they comfort"—has an emphasis somewhat like: They, if nothing else, would quite reassure me. In the middle of this verse the thought quite naturally turned from speaking about God to direct address of Him.



For "shadow of death" (KJ) the Hebrew has, at least according to the pointing of the Masoretic text, tsalmdweth. As Oesterley remarks, it "has long been recognized [that] the word should be pointed tsalmuth, from tselem, 'shadow' . . . with the noun termination -uth" (GK 86k).

Psalm 23:5

Ps 23:5. Thou wilt prepare a table before me in the sight of my enemies; Thou hast already anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows.


The thought turns to the food and sustenance that the shepherd provides. The limits of the figure are not strictly maintained, for it might seem to come closer to the figure of an Oriental banquet when the sec­ond member of the verse speaks of the anointing with (perfumed) oil, a courtesy shown guests at a banquet in early times. The "enemies" are introduced for the moment as looking on helplessly while the guest enjoys the sanctity of the home of the host even as at an Oriental ban­quet onlookers were often permitted to observe everything from with­out. However, without attempting to be too literalistic, it is not going too far to point out that all may still be strictly within the figure of the shepherd's activity if he is a faithful man. For, in the first place, the "table" (shulchan), as dictionaries point out, was in days of old a large piece of leather on which food was set or, in this case, on which some supplementary reserve fodder might be spread by the shepherd on days when forage was scarce. In like manner shepherds are still known to carry a little flask of oil to anoint the scratched face of the sheep that was obliged to seek its food among thorns and brambles. And even the last factor need not exceed the limits of the figure employed. For when the sheep is overtired and out of sorts, it would not be beneath the dig­nity of a faithful shepherd to carry a drinking vessel of some sort to refresh the poor creature that needed it.


We would not insist that everyone reading the psalm interpret every­thing strictly according to the letter of the figure. Who in everyday life is so strict about the use of figures? A bit of mixed metaphor is not unwholesome, except in the eyes of the pedant. This much is sure, the verse conveys the thought that every last want of the hungry sheep will be adequately supplied.


A bit of change of tense creates an unusual emphasis when the sec­ond member of the verse introduces the first perfect tense in the psalm, a fact which we tried to catch by inserting an "already" into the trans­lation. For the thought is: not only will my wants be provided for, but Thou hast already given indication of Thy feelings toward me by anointing my head. Luther caught the force of the last statement very beautifully when he rendered it: You fill my cup brimful—Du schenkest mir voll ein.

Psalm 23:6

Ps 23:6. Surely, goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


 At this point, perhaps, every figure is abandoned and a kind of parenthetical summary is given shortly before the end of the psalm. We say "perhaps" because one may still contend that we here have a kind of personification of "goodness" and "mercy." This scarcely de­serves to be made an issue. A worthier question is whether these two graces that follow a man are to be thought of as a kind of abstrac­tion, or whether they are the goodness and mercy of God. The lat­ter seems more feasible, for all the blessings enumerated thus far are thought of as growing out of the care of the heavenly Shepherd. The new emphasis of the verse is partly on the enduring nature of the re­lationship involved, for we have the two terms "all the days of my life" and "forever."


The very last line brings a new blessing, which may well be the con­crete summary of them all—fellowship with God, expressed in the words, "And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." It will be conceded, we believe, that the broader thought is not physical presence in the Temple or sanctuary but rather actual communion with God. Therefore the claim that these words require a Temple built at Jeru­salem and therefore point beyond the days of David misses their deeper import. True, deep, and real fellowship with God, that is the climax of all the blessings enjoyed when a man is under the protecting care of this true Shepherd.




One is almost compelled to accept the correction, found in the versions, weyashabhti, i.e., "and I shall dwell."


Now as for the psalm as a whole. Is there anything Messianic about it? Some interpreters feel that they cannot begin to do justice to the psalm unless they think of it in terms of the Messiah, who said of Him­self that He was the good shepherd. Yet we feel that the psalm does not expressly point in this direction. If a reader desires to make a practical application of the facts set forth in the psalm and raises the claim that in Christ all reaches a perfect climax, he is entirely correct. But the psalm does not say that. Our application of the thoughts of the psalm suggest that as a further and devout consideration that need not be overlooked. The psalm is not Messianic, but it suggests thoughts that point in the direction of the Messiah.

Psalm 24:1

Ps 24


A great majority of writers on the subject will concede that this psalm may have been written on the occasion of the return of the ark to its position of honor and dignity in the city of Jerusalem after it had been captured by the Philistines in the days of Eli and had then for a long time under Saul and in the beginning of David's reign been all but entombed or at least consigned to comparative oblivion. 2Sa 6:12ff. relates the consummation of this purpose by David after an abortive attempt had previously been made with somewhat disastrous results'. The people had not apparently yet learned the proper spirit of respect and humility at this first attempt, and so they were in need of sober cor­rection. After this had been administered, and it was obvious that wholesome instruction might well be in place, David himself may well have written this psalm further to instruct the nation. Nothing in the psalm conflicts with this view; all things in it strongly substantiate such an approach.


It will serve a good purpose to submit an outline of the contents of the psalm. It has the following three major parts:


a)  The Lord's rulership of the world established by creation (Ps 24:1f).


b) The conditions upon which men may come before the Lord (Ps 24:3-6).


c) The coming of the Lord to His holy place (Ps 24:7-10).


If this outline is examined closely, and if one keeps in mind that David was endeavoring to instruct Israel as to the holy nature of the Lord and of the symbol of His presence, the ark, it would seem quite logical to suppose that the third part, which describes the coming of the Lord and His ark into its place, will constitute the core of the psalm and its obvious climax. This section describes the event around which everything centers. It would seem highly desirable to prefix to this sec­tion a statement of the conditions that one should meet who desires to come into God's presence after the place of the ark comes to be known as the one place where His presence among His people was guaranteed. In other words, part c) requires as an obvious prelude part b). But more than this is required. Any effort to localize God, as it were, for the purpose of public worship may readily lead to gross misconceptions as experience has amply proved. Localizing often becomes synonymous with confining Him to one place in a manner in which it is actually im­possible to confine Him. David, therefore, found it highly desirable to append some wholesome instruction on the subject of God's omnipres­ence over against His localized presence which He has seen fit to prom­ise His people. Therefore part a) becomes such instruction and a protest against narrow and unwholesome views of the living God.


Viewed thus, the psalm is its own refutation of the critical claim that it originally consisted of two, if not three, separate poems or portions of poems, which at some later date were finally smelted together. To refute that ungrounded opinion we need merely remember that, if some later compiler saw how two portions, related in thought to one another, could be effectively combined, equal insight of the relevance of the two parts to one another could also have been in the mind of one original composer of both parts. Biblical writers were not so sadly afflicted with one-track-mindedness.


Another issue in connection with this psalm is the question as to whether it should in part or in its entirety be assigned to different indi­viduals or groups for liturgical rendering. Quite a number of different patterns would be possible such as assigning the whole to be sung by the Levites as they bore the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the holy hill of the Lord, reserving the last section till the time when they had finally arrived before the city gates. Others again let the questions of Ps 24:3; Ps 24:8, and Ps 24:10 be spoken by individuals and the answers either by individuals or by groups. How successful such an assignment of roles may be depends largely on the ingenuity of the interpreter who con­trives it. It must, however, always be borne in mind that we have noth­ing more than surmises as to how this liturgical rendering may have been done. The very divergence of the answers given shows how much of conjecture is involved. Since, especially in our day, the liturgical approach is being sadly overworked with the injection of theories such as the one concerning the New Year's Festival of the enthronement of Yahweh, great caution is advisable, and it must always be clearly borne in mind that there are such devices as rhetorical questions, which any writer may resort to, which together with the answers here given may be all that the holy writer intended. It surely avails little to have surmises, conjectures, and mere possibilities regarded as though they were irref­utable proofs of what took place. Consult these subjects as treated under this head in the Introduction.


a) The Lord's rulership of the world established by creation (Ps 24:1f).


Of David. A Psalm.


Ps 24:1. The earth is the Lord's and whatever is in it, The world and they that dwell in it.


Ps 24:2. For He Himself founded it by the side of the seas; And by the side of the rivers He established it.


b) The conditions upon which men may come before the Lord (Ps 24:3-6)


Ps 24:3. Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?


Ps 24:4. The clean of hands, the pure of heart; He who has no delight in what is false And does not swear deceitfully.


Ps 24:5. He will receive a blessing from the Lord And righteousness from the God who saves him.


Ps 24:6. This is the generation that seeks Him, They that seek Thy face are Jacob. Selah.


Though in the first two verses, the emphasis might seem to be on the sovereignty of the Lord, it appears to be much more to the point to regard what is said as a protest against the idea that God is or can be limited to a certain area like Jerusalem or like the sanctuary in which He is thought by some to be confined. The vast world is His domain, and since it is His, He is ever present and in full control, and any notion that would limit this broad truth is to be rejected. He is master of the world as a whole and of the many things that fill it. More particularly of the "world," i.e., the inhabitated and cultivated part of it, and of those beings who are His chief creatures, namely, "they that dwell in it." This is a broad and sweeping confession of God's unchallengeable dominion.

Psalm 24:2

Ps 24:2 For He Himself founded it by the side of the seas; And by the side of the rivers He established it.


In proof of the claim just advanced the writer with good logic points to the other accepted fact, that God made it. What I make is mine if I am working of my own choice and volition. The writer, how­ever, offers the much richer thought that He made it in an incomparable manner which still challenges attention: "He founded it by the side of the seas" so that it overtops the waters, and they, greedy as they some­times seem to be to swallow up the land, are restrained so as not to be able to overstep their boundaries. We may oftentimes be too dull to note it, but there is a marvel involved here. The parallel statement sug­gests: "And by the side of the rivers He established it." The thought added is that the smaller areas of water like the rivers are also parts of the well-planned and well-functioning system that He originally estab­lished.


The greater number of present-day commentators translate the prep­osition involved in such a way that the thought is, "founded upon the sea . . . established upon the flood or rivers." By way of explanation these writers usually introduce some primitive ideas that were suppos­edly held by the Hebrews to the effect that the world, at least the dry­land part of it, in some mysterious manner floated on the waters and yet was stable. This would, indeed, be rather marvelous. By way of proof, passages from Genesis are cited, (Ge 1:9; 7:11), and Ps 136:6. The meaning advocated by these writers is arrived at by choosing the more difficult force of the preposition involved ('al). But this preposi­tion can also have the meaning "by" or "by the side of," and KB gives as its first meaning, "higher than." So there is no compelling necessity to translate it in such a way as to find in the thought expressed remnants of some "primitive Semitic cosmology" (Leslie) and then to claim that "ethical theism has here triumphed over Semitic mythology," and to add other features which make the original material which is supposed to have been reworked in this psalm still more primitive and fantastic.


In any case, the opening words remind the reader of this psalm not to cherish any thoughts of God that are unworthy of Him.

Psalm 24:3

Ps 24:3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?


Furthermore, the situation as it obtained at the time of the writer called for careful evaluation of motives and attitudes. Fresh in the memory of David and the nation was the calamity of the death of Uzzah (2Sa 6:6ff.). Surely, a punishment such as that would never have been visited upon an individual by way of warning to the nation if the people had not entertained some very unwholesome attitudes regard­ing the worship of the Lord. We can now understand better why God had let the nation be deprived of the ark: it had been unworthy of its presence and of what it signified. To remedy the evil, David offers a concise digest of demands that God would naturally make of all those who aspire to come into His presence. It is, indeed, a privilege to appear before the Lord God Almighty. For that reason it is better to translate the imperfect tense of the verbs of this verse as permissives, "Who may," etc. The implied supposition in connection with this verse is: Who may come and who may stand as one who is acceptable in God's sight? This means "stand" in the common sense of "stand one's ground unashamed and unafraid." One might paraphrase the verse thus: What are the requirements of proper worship of the Lord?

Psalm 24:4

Ps 24:4 The clean of hands, the pure of heart; He who has no delight in what is false And does not swear deceitfully.


The answers have a sharp conciseness in the original which is completely lost in our versions. A literal rendering can capture quite a bit of it. It is just a brief as we have stated it: "The clean of hands and the pure of heart." This is followed by complete statements. This is obviously not a complete catalogue of the requirements of true worship. The author means something like this: Here are typical ethical qualities that a true worshiper would manifest. The spirit is like that in Ps 15, where the most obvious requirements are listed, for if even such re­quirements could not be met, what claim has a man to being accepted by the Lord? Therefore first the outward virtue of not being tainted by foul deeds—"clean of hands." As a warning against the spirit that might be content with externals the next phrase emphasizes a corresponding attitude of heart—"pure of heart." Another typical requirement that should be met—"he who takes no delight in what is false." When one lifts up or directs the soul toward an object, as the original idiom views it, that means in our language to take delight in such a thing. Therefore our translation, patterned after Luther's more popular rendering. In brief, utter sincerity marks such an individual. And lastly again a type of deed that goes deeper in that it defines a man's attitude toward the Eternal One Himself—"he does not swear deceitfully." He has a sin­cere reverence for things holy. These are typical virtues to be found in true worshipers.

Psalm 24:5

Ps 24:5. He will receive a blessing from the Lord And righteousness from the God who saves him.


 Such persons God will accept. They will come from His presence with a "blessing." More than that, He will impute to them "righteous­ness," which they so earnestly desired and came into His presence to seek. To interpret tsedaqah in this manner catches the deeper signifi­cance of the term and of the spirit of Old Testament worship. The reason this greater gift is sought and expected is that the worshiper knows from previous experience how often God has saved Him in other situations in life. For "God of his salvation" means just that: "the God who saves Him."




One possibility must at least be reckoned with, namely, that "righteousness" could mean "due reward" as Taylor suggests.

Psalm 24:6

Ps 24:6 This is the generation that seeks Him, They that seek Thy face are Jacob. Selah.


Summarizing his description, David says: "This is the generation that seeks Him," for true worship always involves a measure of earnest seeking after God. In fact, it involves seeking to penetrate into the very presence of God; therefore the parallel expression: "seek Thy face," another of the many instances when the contemplative mood suddenly turns to direct address of God. Two different verbs are used for "seek," but any attempt at a valid distinction between the two would be futile. However, the new feature about the second member is that those who seek to come into the very presence of God deserve to be compared to Jacob of old, from whom stems the memorable utterance, "I will not leave Thee except Thou bless me," Ge 32:26. Therefore David says: "They . . . are Jacob." This is a perfectly valid and satisfactory state­ment, and, therefore, the text requires no such emendation as inserting "God" before Jacob and translating, "O God of Jacob," as the Greek version did. It is unthinkable that the word "God" could have been so carelessly dropped by a scribe. The KJ rendering, "that seek thy face, O Jacob," just does not make sense.


Note that we have not translated Ps 24:6a: "This is the generation of them that seek Him," for that would necessitate a textual change which is unnecessary. Doresho, kal active participle singular, "seeking Him," makes perfectly good sense as a modifier of dor, "generation."

Psalm 24:7

c) The coming of the Lord to His holy place (Ps 24:7-10)


Ps 24:7. Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors! That the glorious King may enter in.


Ps 24:8.  Who is this glorious King? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.


Ps 24:9. Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors! That the glorious King may enter in.


Ps 24:10. Who then is this glorious King? The Lord of hosts, He is the glorious King.


 Though this is a psalm which has a partly didactic purpose and could later have been used at the sanctuary, for Jewish tradition has it that it also was the stated psalm for the day after the Sabbath, we are liot averse to an interpretation that would allow for its having been sung by Levites on the occasion of the transfer of the ark from the house of Obed-edom. There would then have been a fine propriety in its being sung for the first time before the gates of the new capital city. Yet one and the same chorus of Levites could have sung both the questions fbund here as well as their answers with as much propriety as we in our day may answer a rhetorical question appearing in the hymnal. With equal propriety it may be assumed that one chorus of Levites stood within the gates about to be opened, and that another chorus stood outside.


In any case, the ark was the God-appointed symbol of His presence; therefore, where it was, there He was also. When the ark, therefore, for the first time stood outside the "ancient doors" of Jerusalem, which in their day had witnessed the entrance of the old priest-king Melchizedek, it was, indeed, a memorable occasion. We can well understand the poet's holy imagination and his thinking in terms of the much greater One about to enter and trying to express the thought that these gates are far too small to permit such a One to enter and so crying out: "Lift up your heads," that is, enlarge yourself vastly, for here comes One who is not cast in the small pattern of mortal beings; here is a truly "glorious King." The double summons to the gates becomes quite dramatic, to say the least. Luther's rendering of the first member has still not been equalled: Machet die Tore weit, "Open wide the portals." But the sec­ond member of his translation cannot be accepted: und die Tueren in der Welt hoch. Luther resorted to the post-Biblical force of the word 'olam, "world," whereas in Biblical usage it can mean only something like "very ancient," scarcely "everlasting" (KJ).

Psalm 24:8

Ps 24:8.  Who is this glorious King? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.


To obtain an occasion to state fully and emphatically who it is that on the present occasion deigns to enter the holy city for the first time as a type of a gracious presence never before met in this place, the question is propounded: "Who is this glorious King?" Since this is the meaning of the phrase traditionally rendered "king of glory," we prefer this form of statement. It is cheerfully conceded that He must be a glo­rious king, but who is He? The answer comes—rich, strong, and sono­rous: "The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle." Why should Israel not cheerfully acknowledge particularly His strength and victorious character when the Philistines had been compelled to make free admission concerning His great power (1Sa 5:6ff.)? Since He had sustained His people in the conquest, during the days of the judges, and now again in a striking manner through the great victories granted to David, such an emphasis on the Lord's power to direct the course of battles is most appropriate, without necessitating the supposition that this was an inferior conception on the part of Israel to the effect that Yahweh was a "God of war" (Buttenwieser). Not every aspect of God's being must be mentioned at each reference to Him to prove that we know all His attributes.

Psalm 24:9

Ps 24:9. Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors! That the glorious King may enter in.


No one can deny that so weighty a question may well bear repeti­tion for emphasis' sake. It appears with a slight variation: for "be lifted up" it substitutes "lift them up," requiring that the object of the verb se'u be supplied. So also the answer (10) is almost the same, except that is uses the most glorious of all the names of the Old Testament for the full identification of the glorious King, the title "the Lord of hosts." The full form of this name, by common consent, is "Yahweh (the God) of hosts," as it appears in 2Sa 5:10. We believe that those commen­tators are right who refer this name to God's rulership over the entire host of created things, including the heavenly armies and even the armies of Israel. In some instances the last factor may get special em­phasis; but the name is one of unusual scope and so most appropriate on this occasion. For if the whole host of created things is His, who could venture to deny Him entrance into a city where He deigns to dwell? So the psalm comes to an unusual climax in a blaze of glory.



The most popular approach to the psalm as a whole at the present time is that it graced the New Year festival, the importance of which is exaggerated; and that it commemorated the enthronement of Yahweh, a festival which is pure assumption, no trace of it appearing in the Scrip­tural record. Taylor states the case thus without committing himself: "Some scholars, therefore, assume that the psalm is a processional hymn which was used at the annual feast when the Lord's enthronement as king of men and of the world was celebrated."


Oesterley brushes interpretations like our own aside with the verdict, "There is not the slightest justification for regarding the gates as those of the city." Since he states that all the action must take place at the Temple gates, nothing else is even possible.

Psalm 25:1

Ps 25


is a psalm with an acrostic arrangement (see below on the peculi­arities of this acrostic). As a result of being bound by this somewhat artificial device the sequence of thought does not flow as freely as is ordinarily the case in the psalms. Yet it would be unwarranted to claim that each verse stands in a kind of aphoristic isolation. Furthermore, the psalm is not a conglomerate of sententious proverbs, nor is it removed from life and its actual problems ("It was worked out at the desk"—Hans Schmidt). Though it may be difficult to prove that it was the outgrowth of some specific experience that we can now describe, it still throbs with life and vitality.


Whatever heading is given the psalm will needs have to be somewhat general. Yet it can be rightly claimed that there are three discernible divisions of equal length, that is to say, of seven verses each, with a "supernumerary" attached. There is first an eager petition for help from some distress; then follows a confession of God's goodness in helping in the past; and lastly the note of petition is sounded a second time. There is nothing that stands in the way of accepting the claim presented by the heading that David was the author. Nor is there any need of departing from a purely personal interpretation of the whole and claim­ing that the individual speaks in the name of the whole congregation of Israel though he, without a doubt, belongs to it very intimately.


By David.


Ps 25:1. To Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.


Ps 25:2.  (O my God) in Thee do I trust; Let me not be put to shame; Let not my enemies exult over me.


Ps 25:3.  Yea, none that trust in Thee shall be put to shame; They shall be put to shame who deal treacherously without cause.


Ps 25:4. Help me to know Thy ways, O Lord; Teach me Thy paths.


Ps 25:5. Guide me in Thy truth and teach me, For Thou art the God who helps me, On Thee do I wait all the day.


Ps 25:6. Be mindful, O Lord, of Thy tender mercies and steadfast love, For they have been from of old.


Ps 25:7. The sins of my youth and my transgressions—be not mindful of them; According to Thy steadfast love be Thou mindful of me for Thy goodness' sake, O Lord.


Considering the section as a whole, the first thought noticeable is the longing that the author has for the Lord. There are enemies in the pic­ture who would gloat over his downfall (Ps 25:2). A principle is at stake— a man is in distress who trusts in the Lord. Such individuals can never be abandoned by Him (Ps 25:3). What he needs to understand better is the way in which God is leading him. He is the only one who can give him this understanding, for He is the God who has always helped heretofore, and for that reason His faithful one waits unwaveringly on Him (Ps 25:4-5). One of the pleas that God's saints often presented was the appeal to the mercies and love of God, which had been so marvelously mani­fested in the past. So here (Ps 25:6). One dark cloud is in the sky—sins— both the careless ones of the days of youth and the more deliberate ones of more mature years ("transgressions" is "rebellions"). Therefore the plea that God may graciously not take note of them but recall His "steadfast love" which has been the refuge of all His saints.


Throughout the psalms the terms "way" or "ways" and "paths" keep recurring. Opinions differ sharply as to whether these mean the way man should go or the way in which God is leading man. There appears to be no necessity of insisting on a uniform interpretation of the term. In this first section it seems most natural (Ps 25:4) to think of the psalmist as praying that he may understand the way in which God is leading him. In Ps 25:8 and Ps 25:12 it seems a bit more likely that the way is meant in which man should walk, the path of duty and of God's commandments.


It is obvious that the note of confession of sins comes into the picture as a subordinate one. The sense of wrongdoing is not overwhelming, and, as has been rightly observed, it does not seem to grow out of the chastisement which God has inflicted. Yet for all that this is a psalm that has rightly found much use among believers and seems to fit many situations. The title, "The Hunger for Intimacy with God," (Leslie} is not broad enough.

Psalm 25:8

Ps 25:8. Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore will He teach sinners as to the right way.


Ps 25:9. He will guide the meek in what is right; He will teach the meek His way.


Ps 25:10 All the ways of the Lord are steadfast love and truth For those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.


Ps 25:11. For Thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, For it is great.


Ps 25:12.  Who is the man that fears the Lord?  Him will He teach the way he should choose.


Ps 25:13. He himself shall dwell at ease; And his offspring shall possess the land.


Ps 25:14. Intimate association with the Lord is for those that fear Him; And His covenant aims to give them understanding.


From contemplating his personal needs and distress the writer turns to the contemplation of the Lord and the manner in which He deals with the children of men, especially with those who are His own.


One great favor that flows from the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord is that He guides men in the way of good conduct. For the word "way" used in Ps 25:8b seems to dictate that interpretation, and we have, therefore, ventured to render "the right way." This thought is developed more fully in Ps 25:9: the "meek" are the ones for whom He does this; He guides and instructs them as to what He would have them do. But a man must show teachableness; therefore: "He will guide the meek."


When the next verse asserts that "all the ways of the Lord are stead­fast love and truth," it is almost imperative, we believe, to think of these "ways" as being the ways in which He leads men. So Ps 25:10 marks an advance upon Ps 25:9: not only what He demands of men does He teach them, but He also instructs men as to how He guides them. But to share in the privilege of being thus led by the Lord, it must be borne in mind that His covenant and His testimonies must be dutifully ob­served. That is another form of the meekness recommended in Ps 25:9.


Quite naturally personal inadequacy is again felt, and so a petition for pardon again appears. The sin involved is felt to be more than a trifle. The only hope of pardon is the character of God, which has al­ways been marked by mercy and grace. Therefore the plea: "Pardon . . . for Thy name's sake." But the negative note is not sounded for long. For the individuals that enjoy God's gracious help have al­ready been defined as "the meek" and "those that keep His covenant." There is now added the further definition, they "that fear the Lord." The interrogative form of the statement merely means: "Whoever fears the Lord, Him will He teach." But here again it seems quite obvious that the "way" referred to is the way of conduct, the way of keeping the Lord's commandments. That is why the versions render, "the way he should choose."


Now the blessings are described that God is wont to bestow on those that walk in the way He has outlined for them. First, he "himself shall dwell at ease." (For "at ease" the Hebrew says "in good.") "His off­spring shall possess the land" as was promised so often to the fathers in the days of the wilderness wanderings. The more spiritual blessings are these: first, he will have intimate association with the Lord, and second, the covenant relation in which he stands to his God increases his understanding of godly truth. All these are marks and testimonies of the goodness of God which His saints have enjoyed in all ages. All together they constitute the "name" of the Lord.

Psalm 25:15

Ps 25:15. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, For He shall draw feet out of the net.

Ps 25:16. Turn unto me and have mercy upon me, For I am lonely and afflicted.

Ps 25:17. The troubles of my heart have grown vast; Bring Thou me out of my distresses.

Ps 25:18. Consider my affliction and my trouble And forgive all my sins.

   Ps 25:19. Consider how many my enemies are, And that they hate me with hatred ready to burst into violence.

   Ps 25:20. O keep my soul and deliver me; Let me not be put to shame, For in Thee have I taken refuge.

   Ps 25:21. Let integrity and unrightness preserve me, For I hope in Thee. 

As prayers for deliverance are again uttered, it becomes apparent that the situation of the psalmist is more desperate than his first set of petitions would have led us to believe. Quite naturally the view of God's mercies often cannot be kept before our eyes for a great length of time. After they have been beheld, the sense of our miserable situation often comes home to us the more painfully.

The grave character of the writer's situation appears from the fact that he may describe himself as having his feet caught in the "net." Only the Lord can extricate him from that difficulty. Again he makes a plea of his loneliness and affliction (Ps 25:16). Again the troubles of his heart have grown vast; he is in "distresses" from which God's strength alone can deliver him. Besides, he has "affliction" and "trou­ble." Here it is that the sense of his sinfulness comes upon him, not overwhelmingly, but as a stern reality from which the Lord alone can free him.

In addition to all this there are "enemies," and they are "many" (Ps 25:19), and they hate him "with a hatred ready to burst into violence." Who would not in the face of such and so many dangers cry out (Ps 25:20): "O keep my soul and deliver me; let me not be put to shame; for in Thee I have taken refuge"? But more keenly than some individuals he still feels the obligation of unimpeachable conduct and so pleads that God may also grant him the favor that he may be a man who is marked by "integrity and uprightness." Characteristic of the saints of God have been such motivating pleas as "for in Thee I have taken refuge," and "for I hope in Thee." Thus end his personal petitions.

Psalm 25:22

Ps 25:22 (Book had no Leupold translation here)


With an appropriate afterthought the writer recalls that he is not the only person who is in a difficult situtation. Many of God's people are in equal distress. Unselfishly he remembers them all: "Redeem Israel, O Lord, out of all his trouble." This is certainly no trivial ap­pendage, nor a loose and inappropriate addition. We are never to be­come so immersed in our own problems as to forget the needs of all of God's saints.


Listing the irregularities of the acrostic arrangement of this psalm,
we note that the beth (Ps 25:2) has one word that has been inserted before what should be the initial letter—"my God." This could be omitted without altering the thought of the verse, but it has likely been inserted for emphasis rather than by accident. The verse beginning with waw between Ps 25:5 and Ps 25:6 is not to be found. Two verses beginning with peh occur, Ps 25:16 and Ps 25:22. There is no verse beginning with qoph, but two begin with resh. Strangely, the absence of the verse beginning with waw and the introduction of a second verse beginning with peh as a supernumerary at the close also appear in Ps 34. Therefore these ir­regularities seem to be rather designed than an accident or due to carelessness on the part of copyists. No satisfactory explanation for these strange departures from the regular pattern is to be offered.


Ps 25:3 is frequently rendered as a petition, "Yea, let none that wait on Thee be ashamed, etc." It seems better in this case to render the imperfect as a regular future: "None . . . shall be put to shame." In any case, it is a far stronger rendering.


Ps 25:9 is analogous, only the reverse. The initial verb yadhrekh is strictly precative and should be rendered, "May He guide the meek in what is right," etc., as KS (195) points out.


In Ps 25:13 the subject of the first member of the verse is literally "his soul." But this is in contrast with his "offspring" and is, therefore, best rendered "he himself."


In Ps 25:17 there is no need of changing hirchibhu to the singular and have it mean "relieve" (RSV). As KS well points out, the form may be rendered "have grown vast" (haben einen hohen Grad erreicht, 339r).


The claim that this psalm must be regarded as postexilic is based on two factors: first, the acrostic form, second, the presence of wisdom motifs which are mixed with the hymnic strains. These wisdom motifs are Ps 25:4-5 and Ps 25:12-14. The fact that wisdom literature had not been developed in the days of David and Solomon is one of many unproved assertions. Besides, we know too little about the acrostic form to as­cribe only late dates to it.

Psalm 26:1

Ps 26


it is, indeed, strange to note how differently this psalm has been in­terpreted. Some commentators dispose of it brusquely with the charge, "Nor does it even ring true" (Buttenwieser). More commonly the criticism is voiced that it is a composition that is distinctly self-righteous, some, like Koenig, class the writer with those who are re­ferred to by Christ when He said, "They that be whole need not a physician," Lu 5:31. Kittel writes it off in the same spirit and offers a lengthy explanation that is designed to mitigate the sharpness of the criticism and stresses particularly that the psalm has its Old Testa­ment limitations. Some mention the possibility of the psalmist's being carried away by sickness in a time of pestilence—a very remote pos­sibility, to say the least (Gunkel). Somewhat better is the approach which states that the psalm deals with the "Love of God's House and its Rituals" (Leslie). But why the "rituals" should be made so promi­nent is far from obvious, except for the fact that one strong trend of the present is to include everything in the psalms under the category of the liturgical. But the love of God's house is an incidental thought in the psalm; scarcely its theme. A unique level of misinterpretation is reached when the claim is voiced that the whole psalm is practically a prescribed ritual procedure for a man who is charged with witch­craft and with taking part in a conspiracy (Hans Schmidt). Noetscher very properly suggests that the writer is concerned about being vindi­cated before he passes off the scene.

We believe that it must be quite obvious that the writer is a man who has been falsely accused and is on the defensive, pleading with God that He may take his case in hand, vindicate, and protect him.

Since the charge of self-righteousness raised in connection with the author of the psalm is so strong and so commonly repeated, this issue has to be dealt with in some detail. The writer is not to be thought of as coming to the Temple, or sanctuary for worship in a calm frame of mind, untroubled by difficulties, and then, Pharisee—like, reciting this proud catalogue of his virtues. According to the evidence of the psalm itself, he is not placing himself over against God but over against certain accusers. He has been roundly defamed; he rises in protest.

 Within such a situation, with the limitations just described, the man is naturally not saying everything about his relation to his God that can be said. He is on the defensive, and as Weiser has most fittingly pointed out, must be judged from this point of view and in the light of Ps 26:11, which definitely cancels out the spirit of self-righteousness. It is unfair in view of the whole content and spirit of the psalm to compare its author with the Pharisee in the Temple (Lu 18:9ff). We feel that a theme like "A Plea for Vindication and Protection" is far more suit­able in catching the spirit of the psalm.

Nothing very definite can be stated on the question as to whether the psalmist speaks purely for himself or in the name of the whole con­gregation (the collective "I"). We feel that the psalm has a distinctly personal note.

It seems feasible to divide the psalm into two parts:

a) A plea for vindication, adducing proof of blameless conduct (Ps 26:1-8).

b)  A plea to be spared the fate of evildoers (Ps 26:9-12).

We see no valid reason for denying the Davidic authorship of the psalm which the heading claims. Though there is not too much material available for or against this view, yet during the days when David was fleeing before Absalom he may well have uttered sentiments like Ps 26:8 as 2Sa 15:25 shows. There certainly were men who at that time consistently maligned David; and what is more natural than that David should have placed his case into the hands of the Lord as this writer certainly does.

It should be noted that there are several points of resemblance with the preceding psalm, points such as those men who compiled the book of psalms seemed particularly to observe. Compare the claims of in­tegrity in Ps 26:1 and Ps 26:11 with Ps 25:21; the claims of trust in the Lord Ps 26:1 with Ps 25:2; also the prayer for deliverance Ps 26:11 with Ps 25:16,21-22; also Ps 26:3 with Ps 25:5-7,10 on the subject of the love of God.

a) A Plea for vindication, adducing proof of blameless  conduct (Ps 26:1-8)

1.  Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity; And I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.

2. Examine me, O Lord, and test me; Tried is my heart and my mind.

3. For Thy steadfast love is before my eyes; And I walk in fidelity to Thee.

4  I have not sat with false men; Neither do I mingle with dissemblers.

5. I have hated the company of evildoers; And I will not sit down with the wicked.

6. I wash my hands in innocence That I may go about Thy altar, O Lord,

7. Giving utterance to praises with a loud voice And recounting all Thy wondrous works.

8. O Lord, I love the refuge that Thy house offers, And the place where Thy glory dwells.

Much depends on catching the tone and meaning of the first verse. "Judge me" (KJ) could be construed as a proud and self-satisfied utterance. Luther indicated a different and correct approach when he rendered, Shaffe mir recht, "vindicate me." David means, "Prove me to be right." This is said in the face of charges, spoken or assumed, that the writer has been a hypocrite, and that the ills that now befall him are proof of this fact. But the man has served God in sin­cerity to the very best of his ability; and he knows well that ordinarily God is not wont to let His faithful followers go unrewarded. The in­tegrity that he claims (tummi)—a word that is sometimes rendered "per­fect"—really implies conduct from which no essential element is miss­ing. It is not far removed from utter sincerity. But that the type of con­duct involved is not self-righteousness at all appears in the second member of the verse, "and I have trusted in the Lord without waver­ing." His need for dependence on God is quite obvious though it is also clear that the speaker especially emphasizes the fact that this conduct toward God has been consistent—"without wavering." Any truly con­sistent Christian might still speak thus without becoming guilty of pride.


Though the last clause could be translated, "therefore I shall not slide," it is preferable to render it as a circumstantial clause, some­what thus, "so that I do not waver." Therefore "without wavering," according to GK 156 g.

Psalm 26:2

Ps 26:2 Examine me, O Lord, and test me; Tried is my heart and my mind.


He has lived his life as in the sight of God in all sincerity and still does so. It is God's verdict that counts; that he knows right well, and so he appeals to the Supreme Court for an inspection. But at the same time, since he has been living his life as before God's eyes, he can say with assurance: "Tried is my heart and my mind." This second statement may appear to be a bold claim, but the writer is about to offer evidence for what he claims. It must be remembered that he al­ways claims that he is not what his opponents claim he is.



Tsorephah, as the margin suggests, would be an imperative as it is most commonly rendered. The consonants call for tseruphah, feminine of the passive participle, a form which makes good sense and fits well the author's claim of integrity. For "heart and mind" the He­brew has "kidneys" (seat of emotions) and "heart" (seat of mental activity).

Psalm 26:3

Ps 26:3 For Thy steadfast love is before my eyes; And I walk in fidelity to Thee.

The proof of blameless-conduct that he submits begins with a definition of his attitude toward his God. He keeps his eyes fixed on the polestar of all faith and godly living, the "steadfast love" of his God. The very idea involved is that the basis of all steadfastness is God's steadfast love. Surely, this is not self-sufficiency. That this attitude does not imply an idle gazing at God is made clear by the second member: "And I walk in fidelity to Thee." This is the better rendering of the phrase "in Thy truth." He looks for divine approval, and he walks so as to keep divine approval.



The older versions render ba'amittekha "in Thy truth," but re­garding the suffix as an objective genitive, the newer renderings de­serve the preference when they translate, "in fidelity to Thee," or the like.

Psalm 26:4

Ps 26:4  I have not sat with false men;

A few additional instances of godly conduct are listed, and it may well be possible that they are chosen to indicate that the writer is not guilty of certain types of misconduct of which his opponents are ob­viously guilty. The first of these is negative, "I have not sat with false men." He is of so radically different a spirit that he cannot consort with such men. Implied is the idea, of course, that, if one has sat with such, some kind of iniquity was being planned. But the verse implies more by its use of the perfect and the imperfect. The first clause uses the perfect; the imperfect that follows means as much as: neither do I now mingle with dissemblers. I have not kept fellowship with such either in the past or do so now. If he had mingled with "dissemblers" he would have been of the same ilk with them. The term implies such as use craft in an underhand way, hinterlistig (KW).



"False men" are literally "men of vanity," men whose moral fibre is quite insubstantial.

Psalm 26:5

Ps 26:5  I have hated the company of evildoers; And I will not sit down with the wicked.

By the same use of tenses in the two members of this verse the same result is obtained: I have always hated the company of evildoers, neither will I now sit down with the wicked as a friend and companion of theirs. Of course, behind all this lies the assumption: Tell me with whom you associate, and I will tell you what you are. This need not be construed as a self-righteous assertion any more than is the anal­ogous pronouncement of the first psalm: "Blessed is the man that walketh not," etc.

Psalm 26:6

Ps 26:6. I wash my hands in innocence That I may go about Thy altar, O Lord,

Aside from shunning evil associates, this man aims to preserve a blameless type of conduct, such that he may claim that his hands are not stained with evil deeds. Figuratively expressed, the claim is stated thus: "I wash my hands in innocence." It would appear that from days of old the rite of washing the hands was used as a "solemn attestation" that a man was guiltless (Leslie) as is indicated by the passages De 21:6; Ps 75:10; Mt 27:24. It was required also on the part of priests that before they apprached the altar they engage in ceremonial ablutions (Ex 30:17-21). This thought may also have been in the psalmist's mind. For this was one goal that he had in mind when he cultivated blameless behavior. The expression "that I may go about" does not seem to involve a solemn procession as is so commonly claimed. Neither do the passages cited proved this point. For Ps 42:5 and Ps 118:27 (Kittel) can be made to refer to ceremonial processions only after a change in the text has introduced this feature--a rather unwarranted way of securing proof for a contention! Kirkpatrick goes far enough when he asserts the meaning to be, "take my place in the ring of the worshippers around it." Luther seems to come even closer to the meaning when he translates, und halte mich, Herr, zu deinem Altar, i.e., I resort to Thy altar.


The waw consecutive introduces a final clause when it is joined to an optative form in the second member of the verse (KS 364 g). Therefore, "that 1 may go about" and not, "and go about" (RSV). KJ seems to be closer to the right approach: "so will I compass."

Psalm 26:7

Ps 26:7. Giving utterance to praises with a loud voice And recounting all Thy wondrous works.

The thought, beginning with Ps 26:6, is as follows: I abstain from iniquity that I may be accounted worthy to appear at Thy sanctuary, "giving utterance to praises with a loud voice." Not mere appearance in the sanctuary but the praising of God after one has arrived there and being fit to praise worthily--that is his wholesome objective. In ad­dition, like many another saint of the Old Testament, he desires to "recount all of God's wondrous works." When such ambition activates a man's deeds, he surely does not deserve to be classed with evildoers and may call on God to vindicate him.

Psalm 26:8

Ps 26:8 O Lord, I love the refuge that Thy house offers, And the place where Thy glory dwells.

The last item in his solemn protestation of innocence is the claim that he loves to take refuge in the very presence of God: "O Lord, I love the refuge that Thy house affords." This means more than loving to resort to the sanctuary in public worship, though according to our familiar versions this is the thought usually associated with this verse. Here, as in Ps 23:6, the "house of the Lord" is His immediate presence, whether it be experienced in the public sanctuary or any­where else. It means actual fellowship with God. That always affords a place of "refuge" for men. As far as the earthly sanctuary is con­cerned, this is also "the place where God's glory dwells." For the Tabernacle and later the Temple were marked by the coming of God's glory to this sacred spot in the visible cloud. So it is clear that this man does not seek fellowship with God apart from the earthly place of His manifestation; but the personal fellowship is still his chief concern.


It would seem that this man had adduced sufficient proof that his conduct is above reproach, and that he does not deserve the calumny of his opponents. Neither was there any unseemliness about any of the claims that he made, nor any self-righteousness.


Having offered a basis for his petition, he now proceeds to



"Refuge of Thy house" means "refuge that Thy house offers," subjective genitive covered by the suffix.

Psalm 26:9

b) A plea to be spared the fate of evildoers (Ps 26:9-12)


Ps 26:9. Do not gather me up together with sinners, Nor my life together with bloodthirsty men,


Ps 26:10. In whose hands are dastardly deeds; And whose right hand is full of bribes.


Ps 26:11 But as for me who walk in my integrity, Redeem me and be gracious unto me.


Ps 26:12. My foot stands On level ground; In the congregations I will bless the Lord.


Ps 26:9. Do not gather me up together with sinners, Nor my life together with bloodthirsty men,

Only when a man has thoroughly and consistently shunned the ways of evil and completely detests them can he speak as this man does. This is another proof of his innocence. He shrinks from the thought of a fate like that which awaits the sinners. This does not imply that there is some judgment abroad which threatens the good and the evil alike as some interpreters conclude from the verb "gather," which some render in German raffe, which seems to imply "snatch" or "sweep" (RSV), which is, however, altogether too strong a rendering. Para­phrased, the thought of Ps 26:9 and Ps 26:10 could well be: May I never drop to the level of these whose fate is such a terrible one. Yet these were apparently the ones who strongly opposed and threatened the psalmist.

Psalm 26:11

Ps 26:11 But as for me who walk in my integrity, Redeem me and be gracious unto me.

He throws himself completely upon the mercy of God, for he has no other refuge. Though he can and does consistently claim that he is one "who walks in his integrity," yet his deliverance cannot come from any other source than the goodness of his God. This is the thought ex­pressed in "redeem me and be gracious unto me." It is true that "re­deem" (padhah) does not primarily have a spiritual connotation such as we are wont to associate with the term "redemption." It includes any and every form of deliverance from ills that beset us. But God is the liberator, not the goodness of the speaker. "Be gracious" involves more of the same thought for the root involved stresses the fact that the benefactor inclines of His own volition to the one to whom He shows mercy. He delivers because He is kindly disposed and of a gracious disposition. When the psalmist, therefore, utters the petition, "redeem me and be gracious unto me," he certainly entertains no thought of self-sufficiency and superior personal merit, and this verse must with­out a doubt be taken into account when an estimate is made of his frame of mind.

Psalm 26:12

Ps 26:12. My foot stands On level ground; In the congregations I will bless the Lord.

The calmness of faith comes upon the petitioner. He becomes certain of his being heard and delivered and sees all the rough places of the path on which he has been walking smoothed out. The perfect of the verb 'amedhah has something of the prophetic element in it. As so often, the faithful believer feels the urge publicly to praise the Almighty for His gracious help "in the congregations" whenever in times to come he may find himself in the midst of groups of the faithful. Gracious deliverance calls for public acknowledgment.

Psalm 27:1

Ps 27


A better title than this could scarcely be found. It at least expresses in a positive way what echoes throughout the psalm.

Aside from this note of confidence the second most prominent fea­ture of the psalm is its obvious change of mood: the first half (Ps 27:1-6) being on the very heights of supreme confidence in God, the second section (Ps 27:7-12) being on the lower level of plaintive petition. The last two verses may be regarded as a formal conclusion that brings the second section back into the spirit of the first. However, many inter­preters assume that the first two sections are so radically different from one another that they refuse to believe that any one man could have spoken or written the two consecutively as one piece without having the one flatly contradict the other. However, it should be noted that in actual experience men may find moods undergoing a swift transi­tion, like Goethe's himmelhoch jauchzend, zum Tode betruebt. Why should religious experience be exempt from such fluctuation? Greater difficulty arises if the two parts are ascribed to two authors or to the same author writing of two different experiences. Who would have dreamt of combining things that are so much at odds with one another and presenting them as a unit? Besides, the same situation is reflected in both of these major parts. In spite of the strong confidence voiced in part one there are even then "evildoers" who are called "adversaries and foes" (Ps 27:2); dangers are obviously threatening (Ps 27:3); triumph­ing over enemies is thought of (Ps 27:6). Only at the beginning is the writer able to rise victoriously over all things that threaten. The ex­uberance of faith later dies down, but he still trusts in the help of the Living God.

The correctness of the ascription of the psalm to David according to the heading need not be questioned. This could have been what David felt at the time when he fled before Absalom (cf., Ps 3:5 for similar sentiments). Again, Ps 27:10 may refer to the situation described in 1Sa 22:3-4.

Another issue that disturbs commentators is the question as to whether the actual sanctuary at Jerusalem is referred to as the asylum to which the writer would love to repair, or whether the thing he desires is the spiritual fellowship with God that is the object of his heart's de­sire. We believe the latter unquestionably to be the case. No one ever ventured to aspire to dwell in the visible sanctuary "all the days of his life" (Ps 27:4). Nor would a man seek refuge there from trouble (Ps 27:5). As so often, especially also in Ps 23:6, dwelling in the house of the Lord means personal spiritual fellowship with Him, being assured of His favor and loving-kindness.

a) Confident trust in God in the midst of danger (Ps 27:1-6)

Ps 27:1. Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? 

Ps 27:2. When evildoers approached to slander me—my adversaries and foes— It was they who stumbled and fell. 

Ps 27:3. Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war arise against me, nevertheless I will be confident. 

Ps 27:4. One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after—to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; To behold the kindness of the Lord and to inquire in His Temple. 

Ps 27:5. For He shall hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; In the hiding place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock. 

Ps 27:6 And then shall my head be lifted up above my enemies round about me; And I will offer in His tabernacle sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, and I will make music to the Lord.

Ps 27:1. Of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the refuge of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Any Christian might well wish that he could in times of trouble always occupy as lofty a ground as do these verses. This is as we should always be minded if the Lord is truly our "light and salvation." "Light" means more than intellectual insight, and "salvation" obviously means deliverance from every form of evil. "Light" includes joy (cf., Ps 97:11), life, and hope. If an individual's heart is thus truly established in God, what or whom could he fear? If one continually takes refuge in Him as the "refuge of one's life," what reason is there for ever being afraid? This is a certainty that faith has often spoken to our hearts. We fail to carry through on the obvious logic of this position.

Psalm 27:2

Ps 27:2. When evildoers approached to slander me—my adversaries and foes— It was they who stumbled and fell.


The psalmist cites past experiences in support of his contention. He has again and again found it to be true that, when "evildoers ap­proached to slander" him, they were the ones that fell, not he. The ex­pression found in many versions (e.g., KJ), "to eat up my flesh," in the Aramaic means slander as appears from Da 3:6; 6:25. To trans­late the verse as referring to the present as even RSV does overlooks the rule that infinitives (biqrobh) derive their connotation of time from the mam verb on which they depend (here kashelu wenaphalu) as KS 216 demonstrates. The "adversaries and foes" could well be the opposition party at the time of Absalom's revolt.



In the expression "they stumbled and fell" it will be observed that we have an instance to show how the use of the waw consecutive grew less common in the course of time, especially with synonyms; see KS 370f.

Psalm 27:3

Ps 27:3. Though a host encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war arise against me, nevertheless I will be confident.


It would be unwise to press the literal statement about a "host encamping" and "war arising" and insist that all this must have tran­spired at the time of some war. It would also be unwise to insist that the psalm does not voice the thoughts of a single person but is to be referred to the collective "I," the congregation. For this psalm is poetry as Kittel rightly points out. Reduced to prose, this statement means: No matter how great and threatening a danger may arise against me, I refuse to be afraid; I shall still be confident. It is a statement made in the exuberance of faith.

Psalm 27:4

Ps 27:4. One thing I have asked of the Lord, that I will seek after—to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; To behold the kindness of the Lord and to inquire in His Temple.


We now come to the roots of this bold faith. The psalmist had kept in closest communion with his God. He knew that God had made his courage strong, and he t