Psalm 27
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Enthusiastic confidence is the keynote of the first six verses of the Psalm. Under Jehovah’s guardianship the Psalmist knows no fear in the midst of dangers (Psalm 27:1-3). His highest desire is to enjoy Jehovah’s fellowship and protection as a guest in His house. He anticipates a speedy triumph over his foes, and promises grateful thanksgiving (Psalm 27:4-6). The swing of the rhythm corresponds to the energy of the thought.

Suddenly all is changed: the jubilant rhythm is abandoned; anxious supplication takes the place of joyous faith. Earnestly the Psalmist pleads that Jehovah will not forsake His servant, and appeals to His promises and His past mercies (Psalm 27:7-12). Yet in this crisis Jehovah is his only stay, and he concludes by encouraging himself to faith and patience (Psalm 27:13-14).

Thus the Psalm falls into two equal divisions, with a conclusion. If the two parts are by the same poet, he must clearly have written them at different times, and under the influence of different circumstances. When he added the prayer of Psalm 27:7-14 to his former song he reaffirmed the faith of happier days, though it had ceased to give joy and comfort in his present distress. But the marked difference in tone, contents, and rhythm, makes it not improbable that two independent Psalms are here combined, or that a later poet appended Psalm 27:7-14 to Psalm 27:1-6. It is as though he would say: ‘I would fain appropriate this bold utterance of faith; but all is dark around me, and I can only pray in faltering tones, and strive to wait in patience.’

The Psalm (or at any rate the first part) has strong claims to be regarded as Davidic, and may best be assigned to the time of Absalom’s rebellion, shortly before the final battle. The language of Psalm 27:2-3 is that of a warrior; Psalm 27:3 breathes the same spirit as Psalm 3:6; and with Psalm 27:4 ff. comp. 2 Samuel 15:25. Jehovah’s abode is still a tent (Psalm 27:6), though it can be called a temple or palace (Psalm 27:4) as the abode of a king. Comp. 2 Samuel 6:17. The Sept. addition to the title, before he was anointed, would refer it to Saul’s persecution, or to the wars of the first seven years of his reign.

Comp. Psalms 3, 23, 91.

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
1. my light] Illuminating the darkness of trouble, anxiety, and danger; giving life and joy. Cp. Psalm 4:6; Psalm 18:28; Psalm 36:9; Psalm 43:3; Psalm 84:11; Isaiah 10:17; Micah 7:8. Again the N.T. interprets the words for us in a larger spiritual sense. John 1:4; John 1:9; John 8:12; 1 John 1:5.

my salvation] Cp. Psalm 27:9; Exodus 15:2.

strength] Or, stronghold, a defence against all assaults. Cp. Psalm 18:2; Psalm 31:2-3.

1–3. With Jehovah on his side, he knows no fear. This faith, the constant theme of prophet and psalmist, finds its N.T. extension in Romans 8:31.

When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.
2. When evil-doers came near against me to eat my flesh,

Even mine adversaries and my foes, they stumbled and fell.

This may refer to past experience, or it may be a confident anticipation of the discomfiture of his foes. According to a common Hebrew idiom the perfect tense may realise their defeat as an accomplished plished fact. See Appendix, Note IV. He compares his assailants to wild beasts, eager to devour him. Cp. Psalm 3:7.

stumbled and fell] Cp. Isaiah 8:15; Jeremiah 46:6.

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
3. The language may be figurative, but is more natural, if the writer was, like David, actually exposed to war’s alarms. Cp. Psalm 3:6.

in this] In the truth of Psalm 27:1. But it is better to render with R.V., even then, in spite of opposing armies.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
4. One thing have I desired] R.V., One thing have I asked; above all others as the climax of my petitions.

to behold] The word implies a wondering and delighted gazing.

the beauty] Or, pleasantness; not merely the outward beauty of the sanctuary and its worship, but the gracious kindliness of Jehovah to His guests. Cp. Psalm 16:11; Psalm 90:17; Proverbs 3:17.

to inquire in his temple] Investigating His character and dealings with men. For knowledge gained and doubts solved by meditation in the Temple see Psalm 73:17. We may also render, to consider his temple (R.V. marg.); to contemplate it, for the sanctuary and its ordinances were to the devout worshipper symbols of heavenly realities. Cp. Isaiah 6.

4–6. To be Jehovah’s guest and live secure under His protection is the Psalmist’s chief desire; and even now he confidently anticipates deliverance from his foes. Psalm 27:4 can hardly be understood literally of a lifelong residence in the Temple. Rather, as in Psalm 23:4-5; Psalm 15:1, Jehovah is thought of as the royal host, whose guests are secure under His protection, and enjoy familiar intercourse with Him. But the language is suggested by the possibility of approach to God in His earthly house, and perhaps by the suppliant’s right of asylum there.

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
5. For he shall conceal me in his pavilion in the day of trouble,

He shall hide me in the hiding-place of his tent;

Upon a rock shall he lift me up.

He will be secured from danger as one who is sheltered from heat and storm, or safe from assault in some inaccessible rock fortress. Cp. Psalm 31:20; Isaiah 4:6; and the expression his hidden or secret ones in Psalm 83:3.

And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.
6. And now &c.] In the immediate future he anticipates not protection only but triumphant victory. Cp. Psalm 3:3; Psalm 110:7.

in his tabernacle] Lit. in his tent, as in the preceding verse. There it may simply mean dwelling, in a general figurative sense; but here in connexion with the offering of sacrifice, it would seem that the tent which David pitched for the Ark on Mount Zion (2 Samuel 6:17) must be meant.

sacrifices of joy] A bold expression for sacrifices of thanksgiving. Joy may mean the jubilant shouting with which religious festivities were celebrated (2 Samuel 6:15; Psalm 33:3; Psalm 47:5); or trumpet-sound, such as accompanied certain sacrifices (Numbers 10:10); here probably the former.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
7. Have mercy] Be gracious.

7–14. The tone of the Psalm changes abruptly to plaintive and anxious supplication. God seems to be on the point of hiding His face.

When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.
8. The A.V. gives the general sense fairly. But the text as it stands must be rendered:

Unto thee my heart hath said:

‘Seek ye my face’; ‘Thy face, Jehovah, will I seek.’

In prayer from his innermost heart the Psalmist pleads the invitation which Jehovah addresses to His people, Seek ye my face; and responds to it on his own behalf, Thy face, Jehovah, will I seek. The construction is bold, but finds a parallel in Job 42:3-5, where in Psalm 27:3 a, Psalm 27:4 Job quotes the Lord’s words, and in Psalm 27:3 b, 5 answers them. We need not assume a reference to any particular passage (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:29). The invitation is the sum of all revelation. Cp. Matthew 7:7 ff.

Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
9. Hide not thy face from me (R.V.). A prayer grounded on the divine promise which he has obeyed. Cp. Psalm 22:14.

put not &c.] Or, turn not, like the unjust judge who turns the needy from his right (Job 24:4; Isaiah 10:2; Luke 18:1 ff.).

in anger] See note on Psalm 6:1.

thou hast been my help] An appeal to past experience. Surely God cannot have changed.

leave me not] R.V., cast me not off (Psalm 94:14; 1 Kings 8:57).

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.
10. When my father &c.] Or, as R.V.,

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but &c.

A proverbial expression. (Comp. ‘bereavement to my soul,’ Psalm 35:12). Though he is friendless and forsaken as a deserted child, Jehovah will adopt him and care for him. His love is stronger than that of the closest human relations. Cp. Isaiah 49:15; Psalm 103:13.

Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.
11. Cp. Psalm 5:8; Psalm 25:12. In the course of life designed for him by God he will be safe. He prays that it may be like a path along a level open plain, free from pitfalls and places where enemies may lurk in ambush. Plain is the same word as even in Psalm 26:12; and mine enemies means literally, those that lie in wail for me, as in Psalm 5:8. Cp. Mark 12:13 for illustration.

Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.
12. enemies] R.V., adversaries, as in Psalm 27:2.

false witnesses] Slanderous calumniators are meant, rather than actual witnesses in court. Cp. Psalm 35:11; Proverbs 6:19.

such as breathe out cruelty] Bent on injuring him by their talk. For the phrase cp. Acts 9:1.

I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
13. The word for unless is marked with dots in the Massoretic text as probably spurious. Omitting it, we may render;

I believe that I shall see &c.

If it is retained, the construction is an aposiopesis:

O! had I not believed &c.;

or an apodosis may be supplied, as in A.V.

to see] The construction of the Heb. verb implies the sense, to see and enjoy.

in the land of the living] Here, as in Psalm 3:5; Psalm 116:9; Psalm 142:5; Isaiah 38:11; Isaiah 53:8; &c, this life on earth in contrast to Sheol, the land of death: not, as in the natural Christian application of the words and as the Targum already paraphrases, ‘the land of everlasting life’.

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.
14. The Psalmist addresses himself, and encourages himself to patience. His faith rebukes his faintness.

Be of good courage] R.V., Be strong, and let thine heart take courage. Cp. Psalm 31:24; Deuteronomy 31:7; Joshua 1:6-7; Joshua 1:9; Joshua 1:18.

Wait, I say] R.V., Yea, wait thou. Cp. Psalm 25:3; Psalm 37:9; Psalm 37:34; Proverbs 20:22.

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