The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Fool.—Heb., nabal, from a root meaning “to wither;” hence flat, insipid (insipiens). But this is not therefore speculative atheism, but practical—a denial of the moral government of God—so that fool and wicked become almost synonymous.
They have done abominable works.—Literally, they have made to be abhorred their works. The LXX. and Vulg. have caught the sense, “They have become abominable in their practices.” Instead of works, Psalms 53 has “iniquity.”Psalm 14:1. The fool hath said in his heart — In his secret thoughts, or within himself, what he is afraid or ashamed to utter with his lips; There is no God — Or none that concerns himself with the affairs of mankind, none that governs the world, and observes and recompenses men’s actions according to their quality. And a fool indeed he must be who says or thinks so, for, in so doing, he speaks or thinks against the clearest light, against his own knowledge and convictions, and the common sentiments of the wise and sober part of mankind. Indeed, no man will say, There is no God, till he is so hardened in sin that it is become his interest there should be none to call him to an account. What St. Paul says of idolaters is equally true of atheists. Their foolish heart is darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they show that they are become fools, utterly destitute of true wisdom, as devoid of reason as of grace. They are corrupt — In practice as well as principle. “Infidelity is the beginning of sin, folly the foundation of infidelity, and the heart the seat of both.” — Horne. There is none — None of the fools here spoken of, and none of mankind by nature, none without supernatural grace; that doeth good — From a right principle, to a right end, and in a right spirit. None of their actions are really and thoroughly good and pleasing to God. For if some of them be good, as to the matter of them, as when they do an act of justice or charity; yet those actions are corrupt in their principles or ends, not being performed out of love to God, and a conscientious desire and care to please him, or with a view to his glory, for then they would do other good actions as well as these: but in hypocrisy, or vain glory, or for some other sinister and unworthy design. Job 2:10; Psalm 74:18; Genesis 34:7; Deuteronomy 22:21. The Hebrew word is rendered "vile person" in Isaiah 32:5-6. Elsewhere it is rendered "fool, foolish," and "foolish man." It is designed to convey the idea that wickedness or impiety is essential folly, or to use a term in describing the wicked which will, perhaps, more than any other, make the mind averse to the sin - for there is many a man who would see more in the word "fool" to be hated than in the word "wicked;" who would rather be called a "sinner" than a "fool."
Hath said - That is, has "thought," for the reference is to what is passing in his mind.
In his heart - See the note at Psalm 10:11. He may not have said this to others; he may not have taken the position openly before the world that there is no God, but such a thought has passed through his mind, and he has cherished it; and such a thought, either as a matter of belief or of desire, is at the foundation of his conduct. He "acts" as if such were his belief or his wish.
There is no God - The words "there is" are not in the original. The literal rendering would be either "no God," "nothing of God," or "God is not." The idea is that, in his apprehension, there is no such thing as God, or no such being as God. The more correct idea in the passage is, that this was the belief of him who is here called a "fool;" and it is doubtful whether the language would convey the idea of desire - or of a wish that this might be so; but still there can be no doubt that such is the wish or desire of the wicked, and that they listen eagerly to any suggestions or arguments which, in their apprehension, would go to demonstrate that there is no such being as God. The exact state of mind, however, indicated by the languaqe here, undoubtedly is that such was the opinion or the belief of him who is here called a fool. If this is the true interpretation, then the passage would prove that there have been people who were atheists. The passage would prove, also, in its connection, that such a belief was closely linked, either as a cause or a consequent, with a corrupt life, for this statement immediately follows in regard to the character of those who are represented as saying that there is no God. As a matter of fact, the belief that there is no God is commonly founded on the desire to lead a wicked life; or, the opinion that there is no God is embraced by those who in fact lead such a life, with a desire to sustain themselves in their depravity, and to avoid the fear of future retribution. A man who wishes to lead an upright life, desires to find evidence that there is a God, and to such a man nothing would be more dark and distressing than anything which would compel him to doubt the fact of God's existence. It is only a wicked man who finds pleasure in an argument to prove that there is no God, and the wish that there were no God springs up only in a bad heart.
They are corrupt - That is, they have done corruptly; or, their conduct is corrupt. "They have done abominable works." They have done that which is to be abominated or abhorred; that which is to be detested, and which is fitted to fill the mind with horror.
There is none that doeth good - Depravity is universal. All have fallen into sin; all fail to do good. None are found who are disposed to worship their Maker, and to keep his laws. This was originally spoken, undoubtedly, with reference to the age in which the psalmist lived; but it is applied by the apostle Paul, Romans 3:10 (see the note at that passage), as an argument for the universal depravity of mankind.
Ps 14:1-7. The practical atheism and total and universal depravity of the wicked, with their hatred to the good, are set forth. Yet, as they dread God's judgments when He vindicates His people, the Psalmist prays for His delivering power.
1. Sinners are termed "fools," because they think and act contrary to right reason (Ge 34:7; Jos 7:15; Ps 39:8; 74:18, 22).
"The fool." The Atheist is the fool pre-eminently, and a fool universally. He would not deny God if he were not a fool by nature, and having denied God it is no marvel that he becomes a fool in practice. Sin is always folly, and as it is the height of sin to attack the very existence of the Most High, so is it also the greatest imaginable folly. To say there is no God is to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy; to oppose the common consent of mankind, which is stupidity; to stifle consciousness, which is madness. If the sinner could by his atheism destroy the God whom he hates there were some sense, although much wickedness, in his infidelity; but as denying the existence of fire does not prevent its burning a man who is in it, so doubting the existence of God will not stop the Judge of all the earth from destroying the rebel who breaks his laws; nay, this atheism is a crime which much provokes heaven, and will bring down terrible vengeance on the fool who indulges it. The proverb says, "A fool's tongue cuts his own throat," and in this instance it kills both soul and body for ever: would to God the mischief stopped even there, but alas! one feel makes hundreds, and a noisy blasphemer spreads his horrible doctrines as lepers spread the plague. Ainsworth, in his "Annotations," tells us that the word here used is Nabal, which has the signification of fading, dying, or falling away, as a withered leaf or flower; it is a title given to the foolish man as having lost the juice and sap of wisdom, reason, honesty, and godliness. Trapp hits the mark when he calls him "that sapless fellow, that carcase of a man, that walking sepulchre of himself, in whom all religion and right reason is withered and wasted, dried up and decayed." Some translate it the apostate, and others the wretch. With what earnestness should we shun the appearance of doubt as to the presence, activity, power and love of God, for all such mistrust is of the nature of folly, and who among us would wish to be ranked with the fool in the text? Yet let us never forget that all unregenerate men are more or less such fools.
The fool "hath said in his heart." May a man with his mouth profess to believe, and yet in heart say the reverse? Had he hardly become audacious enough to utter his folly with his tongue? Did the Lord look upon his thoughts as being in the nature of words to him though not to man? Is this where man first becomes an unbeliever? - in his heart, not in his head? And when he talks atheistically, is it a foolish heart speaking and endeavouring to clamour down the voice of conscience? We think so. If the affections were set upon truth and righteousness, the understanding would have no difficulty in settling the question of a present personal Deity, but as the heart dislikes the good and the right, it is no wonder that it desires to be rid of that Elohim, who is the great moral Governor, the Patron of rectitude and the Punisher of iniquity. While men's hearts remain what they are, we must not be surprised at the prevalence of scepticism; a corrupt tree will bring forth corrupt fruit. "Every man," says Dickson, "so long as he lieth unrenewed and unreconciled to God is nothing in effect but a madman." What wonder then if he raves? Such fools as those we are now dealing with are common to all time, and all countries; they grow without watering, and are found all the world over. The spread of mere intellectual enlightenment will not diminish their number, for since it is an affair of the heart, this folly and great learning will often dwell together. To answer sceptical cavillings will be labour lost until grace enters to make the mind willing to believe; fools can raise more objections in an hour than wise men can answer in seven years, indeed it is their mirth to set stools for wise men to stumble over. Let the preacher aim at the heart, and preach the all-conquering love of Jesus, and he will by God's grace win more doubters to the faith of the gospel than any hundred of the best reasoners who only direct their arguments to the head.
"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," or "no God." So monstrous is the assertation, that the man hardly dared to put it as a positive statement, but went very near to doing so. Calvin seems to regard this saying "no God," as hardly amounting to a syllogism, scarcely reaching to a positive, dogmatical declaration; but Dr. Alexander clearly shows that it does. It is not merely the wish of the sinner's corrupt nature, and the hope of his rebellious heart, but he manages after a fashion to bring himself to assert it, and at certain seasons he thinks that he believes it. It is a solemn reflection that some who worship God with their lips may in their hearts be saying, "no God." It is worthy of observation that he does not say there is no Jehovah, but there is no Elohim; Deity in the abstract is not so much the object of attack, as the covenant, personal, ruling and governing presence of God in the world. God as ruler, lawgiver, worker, Saviour, is the butt at which the arrows of human wrath are shot. How impotent the malice! How mad the rage which raves and foams against him in whom we live and move and have our being! How horrible the insanity which leads a man who owes his all to God to cry out, "No God"! How terrible the depravity which makes the whole race adopt this as their hearts' desire, "No God"!
"They are corrupt." This refers to all men, and we have the warrant of the Holy Ghost for so saying; see the third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Where there is enmity to God, there is deep, inward depravity of mind. The words are rendered by eminent critics in an active sense, "they have done corruptly:" this may serve to remind us that sin is not only in our nature passively as the source of evil, but we ourselves actively fan the flame and corrupt ourselves, making that blacker still which was black as darkness itself already. We rivet our own chains by habit and continuance.
"They have done abominable works." When men begin with renouncing the Most High God, who shall tell where they will end? When the Master's eyes are put out, what will not the servants do? Observe the state of the world before the flood, as portrayed in Genesis 6:12, and remember that human nature is unchanged. He who would see a terrible photograph of the world without God must read that most painful of all inspired Scriptures, the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans. Learned Hindoos have confessed that the description is literally correct in Hindostan at the present moment; and were it not for the restraining grace of God, it would be so in England, Alas! it is even here but too correct a picture of things which are done of men in secret. Things loathsome to God and man are sweet to some palates.
"There is none that doeth good." Sins of omission must abound where transgressions are rife. Those who do the things which they ought not to have done, are sure to leave undone those things which they ought to have done. What a picture of our race is this! Save only where grace reigns, there is none that doeth good; humanity, fallen and debased, is a desert without an oasis, a night without a star, a dunghill without a jewel, a hell without a bottom. The design of this Psalm is to describe and bewail the terrible wickedness and corruption of mankind, and especially of ungodly men, and of his own enemies.
there is no God; though they do not express it with their mouths, yet they would fain persuade their hearts to deny the being of God; that so having no superior to whom they are accountable, they may go on in sin with impunity; however, to consider him as altogether such an one as themselves, and to remove such perfections from him, as may render him unworthy to be regarded by them; such as omniscience, omnipresence, &c. and to conceive of him as entirely negligent of and unconcerned about affairs of this lower world, having nothing to do with the government of it: and thus to deny his perfections and providence, is all one as to deny his existence, or that there is a God: accordingly the Targum paraphrases it,
"there is no "government" of God in the earth;''
so Kimchi interprets it,
"there is no governor, nor judge in the world, to render to man according to his works;''
they are corrupt; that is, everyone of these fools; and it is owing to the corruption of their hearts they say such things: they are corrupt in themselves; they have corrupt natures, they are born in sin, and of the flesh, and must be carnal and corrupt: or "they do corrupt", or "have corrupted" (z): they corrupt themselves by their atheistic thoughts and wicked practices, Jde 1:10; or their works, as the Chaldee paraphrase adds; or their ways, their manner and course of life, Genesis 6:12; and they corrupt others with their evil communications, their bad principles and practices, their ill examples and wicked lives;
they have done abominable works: every sinful action is abominable in the sight of God; but there are some sins more abominable than others; there are abominable idolatries, and abominable lusts, such as were committed in Sodom; and it may be these are pointed at here, and which are usually committed by such who like not to retain God in their knowledge; see Romans 1:24;
there is none that doeth good; anyone good work in a spiritual manner; not in faith, from love, in the name and strength of Christ, and with a view to the glory of God: nor can any man do a good work without the grace of God, and strength from Christ, and the assistance of the Spirit of God: hence, whatsoever a wicked man does, whether in a civil or in a religious way, is sin; see Proverbs 21:4. Arama takes these to be the words of the fool, or atheist, saying, there is no God that does good, like those in Zephaniah 1:12.<
(a) He shows that the cause of all wickedness if forgetting God.
(b) There is nothing but disorder and wickedness among them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. The fool] A class of men, not a particular individual. The word nâbâl here used for fool denotes moral perversity, not mere ignorance or weakness of reason. ‘Folly’ is the opposite of ‘wisdom’ in its highest sense. It may be predicated of forgetfulness of God or impious opposition to His will (Deuteronomy 32:6; Deuteronomy 32:21; Job 2:10; Job 42:8; Psalm 74:18; Psalm 74:22): of gross offences against morality (2 Samuel 13:12-13): of sacrilege (Joshua 7:15): of ungenerous churlishness (1 Samuel 25:25). For a description of the ‘fool’ in his ‘folly’ see Isaiah 32:5-6 (A.V. vile person, villainy).
hath said in his heart] It is his deliberate conclusion, upon which he acts. Cp. Psalm 10:6; Psalm 10:11; Psalm 10:13.
There is no God] Cp. Psalm 10:4. This is hardly to be understood of a speculative denial of the existence of God; but rather of a practical disbelief in His moral government. Cp. Psalm 73:11; Jeremiah 5:12; Zephaniah 1:12; Romans 1:28 ff.
They are corrupt &c.] More emphatically the original: They corrupted their doings, they made them abominable, there was none doing good. Mankind in general are the subject of the sentence. Abandoning belief in God, they depraved their nature, and gave themselves up to practices which God ‘abhors’ (Psalm 14:6). ‘Corrupted’ describes the self-degradation of their better nature; ‘made abominable’ the character of their conduct in the sight of God. Such was the condition of the world before the Flood. See Genesis 6:11-12; and with the last line of this verse, cp. Genesis 6:5. P.B.V. follows LXX and Vulg. in adding no not one as in Psalm 14:5. For doings Psalms 53 has iniquity:—‘they did abominable iniquity.’
1–3. The universal depravity of mankind, and its cause.Verse 1. - The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. An atheism is here depicted which goes beyond even that of Psalm 10. There the existence of God was not so much denied as his providence. Here his existence is not only denied, but denied in the very depths of the man's heart. He has contrived to convince himself of what he so much wishes. The psalmist regards such a state of mind as indicative of that utter perversity and folly which is implied in the term nabal (נָבַל). They are corrupt; literally, they have corrupted themselves (comp. Gem 6:12; Judges 2:19). Their atheism is accompanied by deep moral corruption. We have no right to say that this is always so; but the tendency of atheism to relax moral restraints is indisputable. They have done abominable works (comp. vers. 3 and 4). There is none that doeth good; i.e. none among them. The psalmist does not intend his words to apply to the whole human race. He has in his mind a, " righteous generation" (ver. 5), "God's people" (ver. 4), whom he sets over against the wicked, both in this psalm and elsewhere universally (see Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 2:12; Psalm 3:8; Psalm 4:3, etc.). Psalm 74:10; Psalm 79:5; Psalm 89:47), is the expression of a complicated condition of soul, in which, as Luther briefly and forcibly describes it, amidst the feeling of anguish under divine wrath "hope itself despairs and despair nevertheless begins to hope." The self-contradiction of the question is to be explained by the conflict which is going on within between the flesh and the spirit. The dejected heart thinks: God has forgotten me for ever. But the spirit, which thrusts away this thought, changes it into a question which sets upon it the mark of a mere appearance not a reality: how long shall it seem as though Thou forgettest me for ever? It is in the nature of the divine wrath, that the feeling of it is always accompanied by an impression that it will last for ever; and consequently it becomes a foretaste of hell itself. But faith holds fast the love that is behind the wrath; it sees in the display of anger only a self-masking of the loving countenance of the God of love, and longs for the time when this loving countenance shall be again unveiled to it. Thrice does David send forth this cry of faith out of the inmost depths of his spirit. To place or set up contrivances, plans, or proposals in his soul, viz., as to the means by which he may be able to escape from this painful condition, is equivalent to, to make the soul the place of such thoughts, or the place where such thoughts are fabricated (cf. Proverbs 26:24). One such עצה chases the other in his soul, because he recognises the vanity of one after another as soon as they spring up. With respect to the יומם which follows, we must think of these cares as taking possession of his soul in the night time; for the night leaves a man alone with his affliction and makes it doubly felt by him. It cannot be proved from Ezekiel 30:16 (cf. Zephaniah 2:4 בּצּהרים), that יומם like יום (Jeremiah 7:25, short for יום יום) may mean "daily" (Ew. 313, a). יומם does not mean this here, but is the antithesis to לילה which is to be supplied in thought in Psalm 13:3. By night he proposes plan after plan, each one as worthless as the other; and by day, or all the day through, when he sees his distress with open eyes, sorrow (יגון) is in his heart, as it were, as the feeling the night leaves behind it and as the direct reflex of his helpless and hopeless condition. He is persecuted, and his foe is in the ascendant. רוּם is both to be exalted and to rise, raise one's self, i.e., to rise to position and arrogantly to assume dignity to one's self (sich brsten). The strophe closes with ‛ad-āna which is used for the fourth time.
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