Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 73:1-28. Of Asaph—(see Introduction). God is good to His people. For although the prosperity of the wicked, and the afflictions of the righteous, tempted the Psalmist to misgivings of God's government, yet the sudden and fearful ruin of the ungodly, seen in the light of God's revelation, reassures his heart; and, chiding himself for his folly, he is led to confide renewedly in God, and celebrate His goodness and love.
1. The abrupt announcement of the theme indicates that it is the conclusion of a perplexing mental conflict, which is then detailed (compare Jer 12:1-4).
Truly—or, "Surely it is so."
clean heart—(Ps 18:26) describes the true Israel.
But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped.
2. The figures express his wavering faith, by terms denoting tottering and weakness (compare Ps 22:5; 62:3).
For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
3-9. The prosperous wicked are insolently proud (compare Ps 5:5). They die, as well as live, free from perplexities: pride adorns them, and violence is their clothing; indeed they are inflated with unexpected success. With all this—
For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.
They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.
Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment.
Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.
They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily.
8. They are corrupt—or, literally, "they deride," they speak maliciously and arrogantly and invade even heaven with blasphemy (Re 13:6), and cover earth with slanders (Job 21:7-14).
They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.
Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them.
10-12. Hence God's people are confounded, turned hither (or back) and thither, perplexed with doubts of God's knowledge and care, and filled with sorrow.
And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?
Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.
12. prosper in the word—literally, "secure for ever."
Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.
13, 14. The Psalmist, partaking of these troubles, is especially disturbed in view of his own case, that with all his diligent efforts for a holy life, he is still sorely tried.
For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.
If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children.
15. Freed from idiomatic phrases, this verse expresses a supposition, as, "Had I thus spoken, I should," &c., intimating that he had kept his troubles to himself.
generation of thy children—Thy people (1Jo 3:1).
offend—literally, "deceive, mislead."
When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me;
16, 17. Still he—
thought—literally, "studied," or, "pondered this riddle"; but in vain; it remained a toil (compare Margin), till he—
Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.
17. went into the sanctuary—to enquire (compare Ex 25:22; Ps 5:7; 27:4).
Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction.
18-20. their end—future (Ps 37:37, 38), which is dismal and terribly sudden (Pr 1:27; 29:1), aggravated and hastened by terror. As one despises an unsubstantial dream, so God, waking up to judgment (Ps 7:6; 44:23), despises their vain shadow of happiness (Ps 39:6; Isa 29:7). They are thrown into ruins as a building falling to pieces (Ps 74:3).
How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.
Thus my heart was grieved, and I was pricked in my reins.
21, 22. He confesses how—
foolish—literally, "stupid," and
ignorant—literally, "not discerning," had been his course of thought.
So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee.
22. before thee—literally, "with Thee," in conduct respecting Thee.
Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand.
23. Still he was with God, as a dependent beneficiary, and so kept from falling (Ps 73:2).
Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.
24. All doubts are silenced in confidence of divine guidance and future glory.
receive me to glory—literally, "take for (me) glory" (compare Ps 68:18; Eph 4:8).
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.
25, 26. God is his only satisfying good.
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
26. strength—literally, "rock" (Ps 18:2).
portion—(Ps 16:5; La 3:24).
For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee.
27, 28. The lot of apostates, described by a figure of frequent use (Jer 3:1, 3; Eze 23:35), is contrasted with his, who finds happiness in nearness to God (Jas 4:8), and his delightful work the declaration of His praise.
But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works.