|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
36:1-4 From this psalm our hearts should be duly affected with hatred of sin, and seek satisfaction in God's loving-kindness. Here is the root of bitterness, from which all the wickedness of wicked men comes. It takes rise from contempt of God, and the want of due regard to him. Also from the deceit they put upon their own souls. Let us daily beg of God to preserve us from self-flattery. Sin is very hurtful to the sinner himself, and therefore ought to be hateful; but it is not so. It is no marvel, if those that deceive themselves, seek to deceive all mankind; to whom will they be true, who are false to their own souls? It is bad to do mischief, but worse to devise it, to do it with plot and management. If we willingly banish holy meditations in our solitary hours, Satan will soon occupy our minds with sinful imaginations. Hardened sinners stand to what they have done, as though they could justify it before God himself.
Verse 1. - The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart. This is a difficult passage. In the first place, the text is uncertain, since some manuscripts have לבו, "his heart," in the place of לבי, "my heart." And further, whichever reading we prefer, the meaning is far from clear. Dr. Kay translates, "Transgression's oracle to the wicked is, 'In the interior of my own heart;'" and understands the meaning to be that the sinfulness of the wicked man deludes him into the belief that his wickedness is known to no one but himself - it is all safely locked up in the recesses of his own heart. Professor Alexander suggests as possible, "Thus saith depravity to the wicked man, 'In the midst of my heart, there is no fear of God before his (i.e. God's) eyes.'" Others, preferring לבו to לבי, render, "Transgression speaks to the wicked within his heart; There is no fear of God," etc.; regarding the two clauses as perfectly independent the one of the ether. This is, perhaps, the best explanation. There is no fear of God before his eyes. Either he belongs to the class of "fools, who say in their heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1), or he agrees with those who cry, "Tush, God hath forgotten: he hideth away his face; he will never see it" (Psalm 10:11).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart,.... Which is represented as a person speaking within him; not that the transgression of the wicked was really in him; sin was in him, and sin of the same kind and nature with the wicked man's; but he taking notice of and considering the wicked man's sinful course of life, and his daring impieties, conceived in his own mind, and concluded from hence,
that there is no fear of God before his eyes; no reverential affection for him, but enmity to him; no godly filial fear, but at most only a slavish fear, a fear of punishment; no holy and humble fear of him, but pride and wickedness; no fiducial and obediential fear, but all the reverse; true worship of him, either internally or externally: there can be no fear of God in any unregenerate man's, heart, because it is not of nature, but of grace, and is, what is implanted at first conversion; there is in some an appearance of it, where it is not really, whose fear is taught by the precept of men; and in others there may be some awe of the divine Being, and trembling at the thought of a future judgment, arising from the dictates of nature, the light of revelation, and the enjoyment of a religious education; but in some there is no fear of God at all, and they are bold and daring enough to assert it themselves, as the unjust judge did, Luke 18:4. Such as the atheist, the common swearer, the debauchee and epicure, who give up themselves to all manner of wickedness, contemn revelation, despise the word of God, and regard no day nor manner of worship; and this notwithstanding the majesty of God, at whose presence they tremble not, and notwithstanding the goodness of God, which should induce them to fear him, and notwithstanding the judgment of God on others, and even on themselves; see Jeremiah 3:8; and notwithstanding the future awful judgment, which they put far away or disbelieve. The Targum is, "transgression saith to the wicked within my heart"; and Jarchi's note upon the text is this,
"this text is to be transposed thus, it is in my heart, that transgression, which is the evil imagination, says to the wicked man, that there should be no fear of God before his eyes; and the phrase, "in the midst of my heart", is as if a man should say, so it seems to me.''
The Septuagint version, and those that follow it, render the words thus, "the transgressor said, that he might sin in himself, there is no fear of God before his eyes". Gussetius (b) interprets "before his eyes", before the eyes of God himself, who is so good a Being, that the sinner fears no punishment from him, but will pardon all his sins.
(b) Ebr. Comment. p. 488.
The Treasury of David
1 The transgressions of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2 For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.
3 The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.
4 He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.
"The transgression of the wicked." His daring and wanton sin; his breaking the bounds of law and justice. "Saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes." Men's sins have a voice to godly ears. They are the outer index of an inner evil. It is clear that men who dare to sin constantly and presumptuously cannot respect the great Judge of all. Despite the professions of unrighteous men, when we see their unhallowed actions our heart is driven to the conclusion that they have no religion whatever. Unholiness is clear evidence of ungodliness. Wickedness is the fruit of an atheistic root. This may be made clear to the candid head by cogent reasoning, but it is clear already and intuitively to the pious heart. If God be everywhere, and I fear him, how can I dare to break his laws in his very presence? He must be a desperate traitor who will rebel in the monarch's own halls. Whatever theoretical opinions bad men may avow, they can only be classed with atheists, since they are such practically. Those eyes which have no fear of God before them now, shall have the terrors of hell before them for ever.
"For." Here is the argument to prove the proposition laid down in the former verse. David here runs over the process of reasoning by which he had become convinced that wicked men have no proper idea of God or respect for him. God-fearing men see their sins and bewail them, where the reverse is the case we may be sure there is no fear of God. "He flattereth himself in his own eyes." He counts himself a fine fellow, worthy of great respect. He quiets his conscience, and so deceives his own judgment as to reckon himself a pattern of excellence; if not for morality, yet for having sense enough not to be enslaved by rules which are bonds to others. He is the free-thinker, the man of strong mind, the hater of cant, the philosopher; and the servants of God are, in his esteem, mean-spirited and narrow-minded. Of all flatteries this is the most absurd and dangerous. Even the silliest bird will not set traps for itself; the most pettifogging attorney will not cheat himself. To smoothe over one's own conduct to one's conscience (which is the meaning of the Hebrew) is to smooth one's own path to hell. The descent to eternal ruin is easy enough, without making a glissade of it, as self-flatterers do. "Until his iniquity be found to be hateful." At length he is found out and detested, despite his self-conceit. Rottenness smells sooner or later too strong to be concealed. There is a time when the leprosy cannot be hidden. At last the old house can no longer be propped up, and falls about the tenant's ears: so there is a limit to a man's self-gratulation; he is found out amid general scorn, and can no longer keep up the farce which he played so well. If this happen not in this life, the hand of death will let light in upon the covered character, and expose the sinner to shame and contempt.
The self-flattering process plainly proves the atheism of sinners, since the bare reflection that God sees them would render such self-flatteries extremely difficult, if not impossible. Belief in God, like light reveals, and then our sin and evil are perceived; but wicked men are in the dark, for they cannot see what is so clearly within them and around them that it stares them in the face.
"The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit." This pair of hell dogs generally hunt together, and what one does not catch the other will; if iniquity cannot win by oppression, deceit will gain by chicanery. When the heart is so corrupt as to flatter itself, the tongue follows suit. The open sepulchre of the throat reveals the foulness of the inner nature. God-fearing men make a conscience of their words, and if they sin through infirmity they do not invent excuses, or go about to boast of their wickedness: but because wicked men think little of evil and artful speeches, we may be clear that God rules not in their souls. The original by declaring that the words of the wicked are falsehood and deceit is peculiarly strong; as if they were not only false in quality, but actual falseness itself. "He hath left off to be wise, and to do good." From the good way he has altogether gone aside. Men who fear God proceed from strength to strength in the right path, but godless men soon forsake what little good they once knew. How could men apostatise if they had respect unto the supreme Judge? Is it not because they grow more and more forgetful of God, that in due season they relinquish even that hypocritical reverence of him which in former days they maintained in order to flatter their souls?
"He deviseth mischief upon his bed." His place of rest becomes the place for plotting. His bed is a hot-bed for poisonous weeds. God-fearing men meditate upon God and his service; but when men turn all their thoughts and inventive faculties towards evil, their godlessness is proved to a demonstration. He hath the devil for his bed-fellow who lies abed and schemes how to sin. God is far from him. "He setteth himself in a way that is not good." When he gets up he resolutely and persistently pursues the mischief which he planned. The worst of ways he prefers for his walking, for he has taught his heart to love filthiness, having accustomed himself to revel in it in imagination. "He abhorreth not evil." So far from having a contempt and abhorrence for evil, he even rejoices in it, and patronises it. He never hates a wrong thing because it is wrong, but he meditates on it, defends it, and practises it.
What a portrait of a graceless man these few verses afford us! His jauntiness of conscience, his licentiousness of speech, his intentness upon wrong-doing, his deliberate and continued preference of iniquity, and withal his atheistical heart, are all photographed to the life. Lord, save us from being such.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 36:1-12. On servant of the Lord, see on Ps 18:1, title. The wickedness of man contrasted with the excellency of God's perfections and dispensations; and the benefit of the latter sought, and the evils of the former deprecated.
1. The general sense of this difficult verse is, "that the wicked have no fear of God." The first clause may be rendered, "Saith transgression in my heart, in respect to the wicked, there is no fear," &c., that is, such is my reflection on men's transgressions.
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