Psalm 36:9
For with you is the fountain of life: in your light shall we see light.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) In thy light.—Better, by thy light. This wonderful verse inspired Milton’s sublime invocation:

“The author of all being,

Fountain of light, thyself invisible

Amidst the glorious brightness where thou sitt’st.”

It contains the germ of that moral and spiritual teaching which had its highest development in the Epistles of St. John. But the original intention of the words seems to be that the favour and bounty of God commend themselves as divine in origin, especially to those in the covenant relation.

Psalm 36:9. With thee is the fountain of life — From which those rivers of pleasure flow. Life is in God as in a fountain, and from him is derived to us. As the God of nature, he is the fountain of natural life; in him we live, and move, and have our being. As the God of grace, he is the fountain of spiritual life: all the strength and comfort of sanctified souls; all their gracious principles, powers, and performances, are from him. He is the spring and author of all their sensations of divine things, and of all their motions toward them; and he invites all that thirst, nay, and whosoever will, to come and partake of these waters of life freely. As the God of glory, he is the fountain of eternal life: the happiness of glorified saints consists in the vision and fruition of him, and in the immediate communications of his love, without interruption, or fear, or cessation. This glorious, blessed, and endless life is alone worthy of the name of life: this present temporal life being only a passage to death, and a theatre of great and manifold calamities. In thy light — In the knowledge of thee in grace, and the vision of thee in glory; especially in the latter; in the light of thy countenance, or glorious presence, which then shall be fully manifested unto us, when we shall see thee clearly and face to face, and not through a glass and darkly, as we now see; shall we see light — The light of life, as it is called, John 8:12; light in this clause being the same thing with life in the former: pure light without any mixture of darkness; knowledge without ignorance, holiness without sin, happiness without misery. The word light is elegantly repeated in another signification; in the former clause it is light discovering, in this, light discovered or enjoyed.36:5-12 Men may shut up their compassion, yet, with God we shall find mercy. This is great comfort to all believers, plainly to be seen, and not to be taken away. God does all wisely and well; but what he does we know not now, it is time enough to know hereafter. God's loving-kindness is precious to the saints. They put themselves under his protection, and then are safe and easy. Gracious souls, though still desiring more of God, never desire more than God. The gifts of Providence so far satisfy them, that they are content with such things as they have. The benefit of holy ordinances is sweet to a sanctified soul, and strengthening to the spiritual and Divine life. But full satisfaction is reserved for the future state. Their joys shall be constant. God not only works in them a gracious desire for these pleasures, but by his Spirit fills their souls with joy and peace in believing. He quickens whom he will; and whoever will, may come, and take from him of the waters of life freely. May we know, and love, and uprightly serve the Lord; then no proud enemy, on earth or from hell, shall separate us from his love. Faith calleth things that are not, as though they were. It carries us forward to the end of time; it shows us the Lord, on his throne of judgment; the empire of sin fallen to rise no more.For with thee is the fountain of life - The fountain or source from which all life flows. All living beings derive their origin from thee, as streams flow from fountains; all that is properly "called" life proceeds from thee; everything which makes life real life - which makes it desirable or happy - has its origin in thee. The psalmist evidently meant here to include more than mere "life" considered as animated existence. He recalls what he had referred to in the previous verses - the various blessings which proceeded from the mercy and loving-kindness of God, and which were attendant on his worship; and he here says that all this - all that makes man happy - all that can properly be regarded as "life" - proceeds from God. Life literally, in man and in all animated beings; life spiritually; life here, and life hereafter - all is to be traced to God.

In thy light shall we see light - As thou art the Source of light, and all light proceeds from thee, so we shall be enabled to see light, or to see what is true, only as we see it in thee. By looking to thee; by meditating on thy character; by a right understanding of thyself; by being encompassed with the light which encompasses thee, we shall see light on all those great questions which perplex us, and which it is so desirable that we should understand. It is not by looking at ourselves; it is not by any human teaching; it is not by searching for information "away from thee," that we can hope to have the questions which perplex us solved; it is only by coming to thyself, and looking directly to thee. There is no other source of real light and truth but God; and in the contemplation of himself, and of the light which encompasses him, and in that alone, can we hope to comprehend the great subjects on which we pant so much to be informed. All away from God is dark; all near him is light. If, therefore, we desire light on the subjects which pertain to our salvation, it must be sought by a direct and near approach to him; and the more we can lose ourselves in the splendors of his throne, the more we shall understand of truth. Compare 1 John 1:5; Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5; 1 Peter 2:9.

9. Light is an emblem of all blessings, given of God as a means to gain more. With thee, i.e. in thy power to give it, and in thy presence to be enjoyed.

The fountain; which notes,

1. Causality. It is in God as in a fountain, and from him is derived to us.

2. Abundance.

3. Excellency. Water is sweetest in the fountain; and fountains were rare and highly prized in those hot countries.

Of life; of that glorious, and blessed, and endless life, which alone is worthy of the name of life; this life being only a passage to death, and a theatre of great and manifold calamities. Although it be true, that God is the fountain both of natural and spiritual life.

In thy light; in the light of thy countenance or glorious presence, which then shall be fully manifested unto us, when we shall see thee clearly, and face to face, and not through a glass, and darkly, as we now see, 1 Corinthians 13:12: compare Psalm 17:15.

See, i.e. enjoy, as seeing frequently signifies; of which see on Psalm 34:12. Light; the light of life, as it is called, John 8:12. Light in this branch being the same thing with life in the former, i.e. joy, and comfort, and happiness, which is oft signified by light, as the contrary is by darkness. See Job 29:3 Psalm 27:1 Isaiah 9:2. There we shall have pure light without any mixture of darkness. The word light is elegantly repeated in another signification; in the former clause it is light discovering, in this, light discovered or enjoyed. For with thee is the fountain of life,.... Or "lives" (f): God himself is the fountain of living waters; this is a reason proving the happiness of those that trust in the Lord, and that they shall enjoy the above things; because with God the object of their trust is the fountain of life; not only of natural life, from whom they have it, and by whom it is supported, but of spiritual life, being quickened by him when dead in sin, by virtue of which they live by faith on Christ, and also of eternal life; and the phrase denotes, that life is originally in God as in its fountain, and that both the fulness of it is with him, and the freeness of it in the communication of it to others, as well as its continuance and duration;

in thy light shall we see light; God is light itself, the Father of lights, and the former of it in every sense; in the light of his countenance, and the discoveries of his love, they that trust in him see light, or enjoy comfort; and in the light of his Son Jesus Christ, the sun of righteousness and light of the world, they see the face of God, and enjoy his favour, and behold the glory and excellency of Christ himself; and in the light of the divine Spirit, who is a spirit of wisdom and revelation, they see their sins exceeding sinful, their righteousness as nothing, and a preciousness in the blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ; and in the light of the divine word they see the truths of the Gospel in their native simplicity and excellency, and the duties of religion to be performed by them; and in the light of faith, which is the gift of God, they have at least a glimpse of the unseen glories of the other world; and when the beatific vision shall take place, they shall see no more darkly through a glass, but face to face, even God himself, as he is in Christ.

(f) "vena vitarum", Montanus.

For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. The expectation of Psalm 36:8 is no idle dream, for God is the source of life and light. From Him springs all that constitutes life (Psalm 34:12), physical and spiritual (cp. Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13): from Him proceeds all that makes up true happiness (cp. Psalm 4:6). Golden sayings like this anticipate the revelation of the Gospel. It is only in the light of the Incarnation that their depth of meaning begins to be understood. Cp. John 1:4; John 1:9.Verse 9. - For with thee is the fountain of life. The ultimate source of all life is God. Israel had been taught by Moses (Deuteronomy 30:20) that God was their Life; but this was not all; he is equally the Origin of life to everything that lives - to angels, men, beasts, birds, fishes, zoophytes, plants (see Genesis 1:11, 20, 24, 27, etc.). And, as he is the sole Source of natural life, so is he also the one and only Origin of spiritual vitality (Psalm 30:5; Psalm 66:9; John 1:4; John 6:57; John 7:37-39, etc.). And in thy light shall we see light (comp. John 1:4, 5, 9; 1 John 1:5-7). God is essentially Life and Light. He "has life in himself" (John 5:26). He "is Light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). The Son, who is "the Light of the world" (John 8:12), is but "the Effulgence of his Father's glory" (Hebrews 1:3, Revised Version), "Light of light," the ray which streams from the Sun of the universe. Yet from him comes the light which enlighteneth all creatures (John 1:9). "In his light we see light." (Heb.: 36:1-4) At the outset the poet discovers to us the wickedness of the children of the world, which has its roots in alienation from God. Supposing it were admissible to render Psalm 36:2 : "A divine word concerning the evil-doing of the ungodly is in the inward parts of my heart" (נאם with a genitive of the object, like משּׂא, which is compared by Hofmann), then the difficulty of this word, so much complained of, might find the desired relief in some much more easy way than by means of the conjecture proposed by Diestel, נעם (נעם), "Pleasant is transgression to the evil-doer," etc. But the genitive after נאם (which in Psalm 110:1; Numbers 24:3., 15f., 2 Samuel 23:1; Proverbs 30:1, just as here, stands at the head of the clause) always denotes the speaker, not the thing spoken. Even in Isaiah 5:1 שׁירת דודי לכרמו is not a song concerning my beloved in relation to His vineyard, but a song of my beloved (such a song as my beloved has to sing) touching His vineyard. Thus, therefore, פּשׁע must denote the speaker, and לרשׁע, as in Psalm 110:1 לאדני, the person or thing addressed; transgression is personified, and an oracular utterance is attributed to it. But the predicate בּקרב לבּי, which is intelligible enough in connection with the first rendering of פשׁע as genit. obj., is difficulty and harsh with the latter rendering of פשׁע as gen. subj., whatever way it may be understood: whether, that it is intended to say that the utterance of transgression to the evil-doer is inwardly known to him (the poet), or it occupies and affects him in his inmost parts. It is very natural to read לבּו, as the lxx, Syriac, and Arabic versions, and Jerome do. In accordance therewith, while with Von Lengerke he takes נאם as part of the inscription, Thenius renders it: "Sin is to the ungodly in the midst of his heart," i.e., it is the inmost motive or impulse of all that he thinks and does. But this isolation of נאם is altogether at variance with the usage of the language and custom. The rendering given by Hupfeld, Hitzig, and at last also by Bצttcher, is better: "The suggestion of sin dwells in the ungodly in the inward part of his heart;" or rather, since the idea of בקרב is not central, but circumferential, in the realm of (within) his heart, altogether filling up and absorbing it. And in connection with this explanation, it must be observed that this combination בקרב לבו (instead of בקרבו, or בלבו, בלבבו) occurs only here, where, together with a personification of sin, an incident belonging to the province of the soul's life, which is the outgrowth of sin, is intended to be described. It is true this application of נאם does not admit of being further substantiated; but נאם (cognate נהם, המה), as an onomatopoetic designation of a dull, hollow sound, is a suitable word for secret communication (cf. Arabic nemmâm, a tale-bearer), or even - since the genius of the language does not combine with it the idea of that which is significantly secretly, and solemnly silently communicated, but spoken out - a suitable word for that which transgression says to the ungodly with all the solemn mien of the prophet or the philosopher, inasmuch as it has set itself within his heart in the place of God and of the voice of his conscience. לרשׁע does not, however, denote the person addressed, but, as in Psalm 32:10, the possessor. He possesses this inspiration of iniquity as the contents of his heart, so that the fear of God has no place therein, and to him God has no existence (objectivity), that He should command his adoration.

Since after this נאם פּשׁע we expect to hear further what and how transgression speaks to him, so before all else the most probable thing is, that transgression is the subject to החליק. We do not interpret: He flatters God in His eyes (with eye-service), for this rendering is contrary both to what precedes and to what follows; nor with Hupfeld (who follows Hofmann): "God deals smoothly (gently) with him according to his delusions," for the assumption that החליק must, on account of בּעיניו, have some other subject that the evil-doer himself, is indeed correct. It does not, however, necessarily point to God as the subject, but, after the solemn opening of Psalm 36:2, to transgression, which is personified. This addresses flattering words to him (אל like על in Proverbs 29:5) in his eyes, i.e., such as are pleasing to him; and to what end? For the finding out, i.e., establishing (מצא עון, as in Genesis 44:16; Hosea 12:9), or, - since this is not exactly suited to פשׁע as the subject, and where it is a purpose that is spoken of, the meaning assequi, originally proper to the verb מצא, is still more natural - to the attainment of his culpability, i.e., in order that he may inculpate himself, to hating, i.e., that he may hate God and man instead of loving them. לשׂנא is designedly used without an object just as in Ecclesiastes 3:8, in order to imply that the flattering words of פשׁע incite him to turn into an object of hatred everything that he ought to love, and to live and move in hatred as in his own proper element. Thenius endeavours to get rid of the harshness of the expression by the following easy alteration of the text: למצא עון ולשׂנא; and interprets it: Yea, it flatters him in his own eyes (it tickles his pride) to discover faults in others and to make them suffer for them. But there is no support in the general usage of the language for the impersonal rendering of the החליק; and the בּעיניו, which in this case is not only pleonastic, but out of place, demands a distinction between the flatterer and the person who feels himself flattered. The expression in Psalm 36:3, in whatever way it may be explained, is harsh; but David's language, whenever he describes the corruption of sin with deep-seated indignation, is wont to envelope itself in such clouds, which, to our difficult comprehension, look like corruptions of the text. In the second strophe the whole language is more easy. להשׂכּיל להיטיב is just such another asyndeton as למצא עונו לשׂנא. A man who has thus fallen a prey to the dominion of sin, and is alienated from God, has ceased (חדל ל, as in 1 Samuel 23:13) to act wisely and well (things which essentially accompany one another). His words when awake, and even his thoughts in the night-time, run upon און (Isaiah 59:7), evil, wickedness, the absolute opposite of that which alone is truly good. Most diligently does he take up his position in the way which leads in the opposite direction to that which is good (Proverbs 16:29; Isaiah 65:2); and his conscience is deadened against evil: there is not a trace of aversion to it to be found in him, he loves it with all his soul.

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