Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This psalm is mainly composed of a number of sentences and verses from older compositions, arranged not without art, and, where it suited the adapter, so altered as to present forms of words peculiar to himself. (See Notes on Psalm 86:5-6.) There is also evidence of design in the employment of the Divine names, Adonai being repeatedly substituted for Jehovah.
Title.—See end of Psalms 42 and Introduction above.
A Prayer of David. Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.(2) For I am holy.—Rather, in order to reproduce the feeling, for I am one of the chosen ones; one of Thy saints, &c. He pleads the covenant relation as a claim to the blessing. (See, on chasid, Note, Psalm 1:5.)
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.(5) For thou.—Up to this time the psalmist has only put forward his needs in various aspects as a plea for God’s compassion. Now, not without art, he clenches his petition by an appeal to the nature itself of the Divine Being. The originals of the expressions in this verse will be found in Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:6-9; Numbers 14:18-19.
Ready to forgive.—The Hebrew word occurs nowhere else in the form found here. Etymologically it means remitting. The LXX. have ἐπιεικὴς, a word for which perhaps our considerate is the nearest equivalent, implying that legal right is overlooked and suspended in consideration of human weakness. Wisdom Of Solomon 12:18 gives a good description of this Divine attribute.
Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.(6) Give ear.—Here the petition takes a new starting-point.
Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.(8) For the sources of this verse see marginal reference and Exodus 15:11. After expressing his conviction of God’s willingness to hear prayer, the psalmist goes on to his confidence in Divine power to save.
All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.(9) For this wide prospect of Divine dominion see Psalm 22:31; Isaiah 43:7.
Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.(11) A reminiscence of older psalms. In addition to the marginal references, see Psalm 26:3.
Unite my heart—i.e., unite all my powers and concentrate them on Thy service. No doubt with recollection of Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12. Comp. also Jeremiah 32:39, on which apparently the expression is directly based. An undivided will is in morals and religion equally essential.
I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.(12, 13) Comp. Psalm 56:13; Psalm 57:9-10.
For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.(13) Lowest hell.—Literally, sheôl, beneath, a fuller expression for the usual sheôl, underworld. (See Note, Psalm 6:5.) There is no comparison implied as in the Authorised Version. It is evident from the next verse that what is meant is danger of death from violence.
O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.(14) See Note, Psalm 54:3, whence the verse is taken.
O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.(16) Servant . . . son of thine handmaid.—Comp. Psalm 116:16. The combined expressions imply a homeborn slave. (Comp. Genesis 14:14; Jeremiah 2:14)
Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.(17) A token for good—i.e., some sign of continued or renewed providential care and love, such, indeed, as an Israelite under the old covenant saw, and every pious heart under the new sees, in what to others is an every-day occurrence. The expression for good is a favourite one with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:31) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 24:5-6, and comp. Romans 8:28. &c).