The fool hath said in his heart ... - For the meaning of this verse, see the notes at Psalm 14:1. The only change in this verse - a change which does not affect the sense - is the substitution of the word "iniquity," in Psalm 53:1-6, for "works," in Psalm 14:1-7.
God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.
God looked down from heaven ... - See the notes at Psalm 14:2. The only change which occurs in this verse is the substitution of the word אלהים 'Elohiym, rendered "God," for "Yahweh," rendered Lord, in Psalm 14:2. The same change occurs also in Psalm 14:4, Psalm 14:6. It is to be observed, also, that the word "Yahweh" does not occur in this psalm, but that the term used is uniformly. אלהים 'Elohiym, God. In Psalm 14:1-7 both terms are found - the word אלהים 'Elohiym three times Psalm 14:1-2, Psalm 14:5, and the word יהוה Yahweh four times, Psalm 14:2, Psalm 14:4,Psalm 14:6-7. It is impossible to account for this change. There is nothing in it, however, to indicate anything in regard to the authorship of the psalm or to the time when it was written, for both these words are frequently used by David elsewhere.
Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Every one of them is gone back - See the notes at Psalm 14:3. The only variation here in the two psalms is in the substitution of the word - סג sâg, for סור sûr - words almost identical in form and in sense. The only difference in meaning is, that the former word - the word used here - means "to draw back," or "to go back;" the other, the word used in Psalm 14:1-7, means "to go off, to turn aside." Each of them indicates a departure from God; a departure equally fatal and equally guilty, whether people turn "back" from following him, or turn "aside" to something else. Both of these forms of apostasy occur with lamentable frequency.
Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread: they have not called upon God.
Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? - See the notes at Psalm 14:4. The only change in this verse is in the omission of the word "all." This word, as it occurs in Psalm 14:1-7 ("all the workers of iniquity"), makes the sentence stronger and more emphatic. It is designed to affirm in the most absolute and unqualified manner that none of these workers of iniquity had any true knowledge of God. This has been noticed by critics as the only instance in which the expression in Psalm 14:1-7 is stronger than in the revised form of the psalm before us.
There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them.
There were they in great fear ... - Margin, as in Hebrew, "they feared a fear." For the general meaning of the verse, see the notes at Psalm 14:5. There is, however, an important change introduced here - the most important in the psalm. The general sentiment of two verses Psalm 14:5-6 in Psalm 14:1-7 is here compressed into one, and yet with such an important change as to show that it was by design, and apparently to adapt it to some new circumstance. The solution of this would seem to be that the original form Psalm 14:1-7 was suited to some occasion then present to the mind of the writer, and that some new event occurred to which the general sentiment in the psalm might be easily applied (or which would express that as well as could be done by an entirely new composition), but that, in order to adapt it to this new purpose, it would be proper to insert some expression more particularly referring to the event.
The principal of these additions is found in the verse before us. In Psalm 14:5-6, the language is, "There were they in great fear, for God is in the generation of the righteous; ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge." In the psalm before us, the language is, "There were they in great fear, where no fear was: for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them." "Where no fear was." The reference here, as in Psalm 14:5, is to the fear or consternation of the people of God on account of the designs and efforts of the wicked. They were apprehensive of being overthrown by the wicked. The design of the psalmist in both cases is to show that there was no occasion for that fear. In Psalm 14:5, he shows it by saying that "God is in the congregation of the righteous." In the psalm before us fie says expressly that there was no ground for that fear - "where no fear was," - and he adds, as a reason, that God had "scattered the bones" of them "that encamped against" them. That is, though there seemed to be occasion for fear - though those enemies were formidable in numbers and in power - yet God was their friend, and he had now showed them that they had no real occasion for alarm by dispersing those foes.
For God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee - Of the besieger. This, as already intimated, would seem to have been introduced in order to adapt the psalm to the particular circumstances of the occasion when it was revised. From this clause, as well as others, it appears probable that the particular occasion contemplated in the revision of the psalm was an attack on Jerusalem, or a siege of the city - an attack which had been repelled, or a siege which the enemy had been compelled to raise. That is, they had been overthrown, and their bones had been scattered, unburied, on the ground. The whole language of Psalm 14:1-7, thus modified, would be well suited to such an occurrence. The general description of atheism and wickedness in Psalm 14:1-7 would be appropriate in reference to such an attempt on the city - for those who made the attack might well be represented as practically saying that there was no God; as being corrupt and abominable; as bent on iniquity; as polluted and defiled; and as attempting to eat up the people of God as they eat bread; and as those who did not call upon God. The verse before us would describe them as discomfited, and as being scattered in slaughtered heaps upon the earth.
Thou hast put them to shame - That is, they had been put to shame by being overthrown; by being unsuccessful in their attempt. The word "thou" here must be understood as referring to God.
Because God hath despised them - He has wholly disapproved their character, and he has "despised "their attempts; that is, he has shown that they were not formidable or to be feared. They were efforts which might be looked on with contempt, and he had evinced this by showing how easily they could be overthrown.
Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.
Oh that the salvation of Israel ... - The only change here from Psalm 14:7 is that the word אלהים 'Elohiym, God, is substituted for "Jehovah," Lord, and that the word rendered "salvation" is here in the plural. On the supposition that the psalm was adapted to a state of things when the city had been besieged, and the enemy discomfited, this language would express the deep and earnest desire of the people that the Lord would grant deliverance. Perhaps it may be supposed, also, that at the time of such a siege, and while the Lord interposed to save them from the siege, it was also true that there was some general danger hanging over the people; that even the nation might be described as in some sense "captive;" or that some portions of the land were subject to a foreign power. The desire expressed is, that the deliverance might be complete, and that the whole land might be brought to the possession of liberty, and be rescued from all foreign domination. That time, when it should arrive, would be the occasion of universal rejoicing.