Psalm 26
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
This Psalm is the appeal of conscious integrity for recognition and vindication. The Psalmist calls upon Jehovah to do him justice, pleading the integrity of his life, and offering himself to the searching scrutiny of the All-knowing, upon whose lovingkindness and faithfulness he grounds his confidence (Psalm 26:1-3). He has shunned and will shun the society of the godless, and strives to prepare himself duly for the worship of the sanctuary which is his delight (Psalm 26:4-7). And therefore he prays that he may not share the premature fate of the wicked, and declaring his purpose to live hereafter as heretofore in his integrity, concludes with a trustful assurance that his prayer is answered, and a resolution of public thanksgiving (Psalm 26:8-12).

This Psalm is linked to Psalms 25, by several resemblances of thought and expression. Compare the professions of integrity in Psalm 26:1; Psalm 26:11 with Psalm 25:21, and of trust in Psalm 26:1 with Psalm 25:2; the prayer for deliverance and grace in Psalm 26:11 with Psalm 25:16; Psalm 25:21-22; the sense of God’s loving-kindness and faithfulness in Psalm 26:3 with Psalm 25:5-7; Psalm 25:10. On the other hand, the confessions of sin and prayers for pardon which are a marked feature of Psalms 25 are absent. The Psalmist is contrasting his own sincerity and innocence with the hypocrisy and violence of those whose fate he deprecates, rather than measuring his own defects by the standard of God’s holiness.

There are no sufficient grounds for assigning the Psalm to a particular period of David’s life, such as Saul’s persecution or Absalom’s rebellion. More suggestive is Ewald’s acute conjecture that it and Psalms 28 were written in a time of national calamity, probably a pestilence (cp. Psalm 28:1), which seemed likely to sweep away righteous and wicked in a common judgement, though his supposition that Josiah was the author is a mere speculation. The Psalmist prays that Jehovah would distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, and save him from sharing the fate of the wicked by a premature death. Yet in the face of the danger his confidence in God is unshaken.

A Psalm of David. Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide.
1. Judge me] Do me justice; shew me to be in the right; vindicate my integrity by discriminating between me and wicked men. Cp. Psalm 7:8; Psalm 35:24; Psalm 43:1.

for I have walked in mine integrity] Sincerity of purpose and single-heartedness of devotion have been the rule of his life. Cp. Psalm 7:8; Psalm 15:2; Psalm 18:23; and Introd. p. lxxxvii.

therefore I shall not slide] A possible rendering: but better, as R.V., without wavering. The context here requires a description of the character of his trust, rather than of its issue.

1–3. The Psalmist’s plea for the recognition of his integrity.

Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.
2. God knows him already (Psalm 17:3); and fearlessly he offers himself for a fresh scrutiny. This prayer attests at once the clearness of his conscience, and his desire that if aught of evil remains, it may be purged away. Cp. Psalm 139:23-24. Three words are used to express the thoroughness of the scrutiny. Examine me, as the refiner assays his metal to test its fineness; prove me, by bringing me into circumstances in which the reality of my faith may be demonstrated; try me, as the refiner smelts gold to get rid of any remaining dross. So God ‘proved’ Abraham (Genesis 22:1); and Israel (Deuteronomy 8:2; Deuteronomy 8:16). The purpose of such heart-searching is ‘to give every man according to his ways’ (Jeremiah 17:10).

my reins and my heart] The reins are the seat of the affections, the heart of thought and will. Cp. Psalm 7:9; Psalm 11:4.

For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.
3. The ground of the prayers in Psalm 26:1-2. He can pray for a favourable judgement, and submit himself to this scrutiny, because he knows God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness. They are the object of his constant meditation, the daily experience of his life. Cp. Psalm 16:8; Psalm 25:10, note.

I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers.
4. I have not sat] Of deliberate and prolonged intercourse, implying community of tastes and interests. Cp. Psalm 1:1; Jeremiah 15:17.

vain persons] Lit. men of vanity; hollowness, falsehood, unreality: the opposite of truth and righteousness. See Psalm 12:2; Psalm 24:4.

neither will I go in] To their houses: or an abbreviation for go in and out, associate with.

dissemblers] Lit. those who hide themselves; hypocrites who disguise their real thoughts and purposes (Psalm 28:3).

4–7. The proof of his integrity in his conduct in the past, and his purpose for the future.

I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.
5. I have hated] R.V., I hate.

the congregation of evil doers] Cp. Psalm 22:16. Is there not a tacit contrast between the congregation which meets for its own evil purposes, and that which assembles for the worship of Jehovah (Psalm 26:12)?

I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD:
6. I will wash mine hands in innocency] “As the priests, before they came near to the altar to minister (Exodus 30:17-21). What the priest did in symbolical rite, that the priestly people were to do in spiritual reality.” Kay. Cp. Psalm 73:13 : and for the ceremony as symbolising innocence see Deuteronomy 21:6; Matthew 27:34.

compass thine altar] Take my place in the ring of worshippers around it. A reference to solemn processions round the altar is questionable.

That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.
7. That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving] Better, as R.V., that I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard.

thy wondrous works] Or, marvellous works. See note on Psalm 9:1.

LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.
8. Taking up the thought of Psalm 26:7-8, he makes it the ground of his plea in Psalm 26:9-10.

I have loved] R.V., I love. It is the correlative of I hate in Psalm 26:5.

the place where thine honour dwelleth] Better, with R.V., the place where thy glory dwelleth: lit. the place of the tabernacle of thy glory; for the word mishkan, rendered tabernacle, means properly dwelling, the sanctuary where Jehovah dwelt among His people (Exodus 25:8-9). Jehovah’s glory is His manifested Presence, of which the Ark was the outward symbol. Cp. Exodus 16:7; Exodus 33:18; Exodus 33:22; 1 Samuel 4:21-22; Psalm 78:61.

8–12. His love for God’s house is a further reason why he should not be involved in the fate of sinners.

Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men:
9. Gather not] i.e. take not away. Let me not share the fate of those whose society and practices I have ever shunned. How natural a prayer if a pestilence was raging which seemed to strike righteous and wicked indiscriminately! The wicked are described as men of blood (Psalm 26:6), who do not shrink from violence and murder: in whose hands is mischief (Psalm 7:3), they deliberately plan and execute crime; and their right hand is full of bribes, which they take to pervert justice (Psalm 15:5). Nobles and men in authority are referred to. Comp. Micah 7:2-3.

In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes.
But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.
11. With such evil-doers the Psalmist contrasts himself. His purpose, if his life is spared, is to shape his conduct as hitherto; and therefore he prays redeem me (Psalm 25:22), deliver me from the fate of the wicked, and be gracious unto me (Psalm 4:1, note).

My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD.
12. Faith realises the answer to its prayer as already granted, and security assured. He has traversed the rough winding path through the gloomy defile, and stands in the open plain, where there is no more fear of stumbling or sudden assault. Life thus prolonged is the reason and the opportunity for public thanksgiving. Cp. Psalm 22:25.

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