Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
To the chief musician upon Nehiloth, a Psalm of David.
1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
Consider my meditation.
2 Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God:
For unto thee will I pray.
3 My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD;
In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.
4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness:
Neither shall evil dwell with thee.
5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight:
Thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing:
The LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
7 But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy:
And in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies;
Make thy way straight before my face.
9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness;
Their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.
10 Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels;
Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee.
11 But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice:
Let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them:
Let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.
12 For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous;
With favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
Respecting the title, vid. Introduction. This is a morning prayer, which is not only in general a testimony to the Divine grace and righteousness in defending and blessing the pious, and in excluding the wicked from their society, to their own destruction (Venema); or a prayer against hypocrites and false prophets who mislead the people of God and the inheritance of Christ with their human precepts (Luther); but the prayer of a pious man, surrounded by ungodly enemies, which are deceitful rather than powerful; and he prays for Divine guidance, blessing, and protection for himself, and punishment for his enemies, who are at the same time adversaries of God; and he bases both petitions on the righteousness of God, who rules over Israel as king.
We thus have not only a subjective source for a didactic Psalm, in which the poet speaks in the abstract as a righteous person (Hengst.), but the reference is to a special circumstance, which yet does not appear in such a way, that we are obliged with the Rabbins to consider Doeg or Ahithophel as the real opponents of the Psalmist. Psalm 5:7 is not necessarily against David as the author of this Psalm (vid. exegesis). The interpreters differ very much in the analysis of this Psalm. It seems to me most natural; since the symbolism of numbers, accepted by Hengstenberg, is not favored at all by the structure or contents of the Psalm, and there is no sign of a homogeneous structure of the strophes, to divide according to the contents: a) An introductory invocation of God. Psalm 5:1–3; b) reasons for the Psalmist’s confidence in prayer, Psalm 5:4–7; c) petition for his own person, with reasons, Psalm 5:8, 9; d) petition with respect to his opponents, Psalm 5:10; e) closing statement respecting the consequences of such a prayer being heard, with reasons, Psalm 5:11, 12.
Str. I. Psalm 5:1. Hear my sighs [“consider my meditation,” A. V.] The construction of the verb with the accusative, does not allow the translation “listen to.” Instead of sighs it may be translated “meditation,” (Syr., Rabb., Hengst.), since this word, which occurs only here and Ps. 39:4, is derived from a root which denotes thinking, as well as a dull tone, a low sound.15 Either translation gives a suitable contrast to the loud cry mentioned, Psalm 5:3.
Psalm 5:2. My king.—[Hupf.: “Here, and generally in the Old Testament, not only in a general sense as Ruler of the earth, as the ancient nations called their gods kings, but in a special theocratic relation to the people of Israel, as a subject to his king, whose righteousness and protection he invokes, and can expect with confidence, Psalms 10:6; 44:4; 48:2; 68:24; 74:12; 84:3; 1 Sam. 12:12.”—C. A. B.]
Psalm 5:3. In the morning.—This word has the same meaning in both members of the verse, its first use and its repetition. Hupfeld even has rejected the figurative, soon, early, but yet would find in the local reference only a poetical force; whilst Delitzsch, on the contrary, in justification of Hengst., remarks that then the allusion to the daily morning sacrifice would be done away with. But עַרַךְ is the usual word for the arrangement of the wood of the offering, Lev. 1:7, and of the pieces offered, 1:8, 12; 6:5; the holy lamps, Ex. 27:21; Lev. 24:8; the show bread, Ex. 40:23; Lev. 24:8; and the arrangement of the wood for the lamb of the morning sacrifice was one of the first duties of the priest as soon as the day began. Ps. 55:17 mentions three times for prayer. [Wordsworth: “David lays his prayer on the altar as a sacrifice to God. The wood and the victim are of no avail without the spiritual sacrifice of the heart of the offerer.”—C. A. B.] This figure, Look out (Look up, A. V.), is used, Mich. 7:7; Hab. 2:1. [Barnes: “The idea is that he would watch narrowly and carefully (as one does who is stationed on a tower) for some token of Divine favor.—This is perhaps equivalent to the Saviour’s oft-repeated command “watch and pray!” Perowne: “As the priest might look (or as Elijah looked on Carmel) for the fire from heaven to descend and consume the victim.”—C. A. B.]
Str. II. Psalm 5:4. For thou art not a God,etc.—The Psalmist bases his courage in drawing near to God in prayer, and his confidence of being heard on attributes which are derived from the Being of God; and indeed his confidence is based on the holiness of God, and his courage on the abundance of Divine grace; the former negatively, the latter positively.
Be a guest [“dwell,” A. V.]. נּוּר is usually connected with עם, but also with the accusative, and indeed of the person, when the idea of place is applied to persons (Hupf.) Comp. Pss. 58:4; 68:18; 120:5; Gen. 30:20. It indicates not only the right of external entrance into the temple, but the enjoyment of the rights of hospitality which include that of protection. The same figure is used, Pss. 15:1; 23:6; 27:4; 31:20; 36:8; 61:4; 84:4. [Thus Ewald, Hupf., Perowne, et al. Perowne “Evil (personified) cannot be a guest or friend of Thine; cannot tarry in Thy house, as 15:1; 61:5; not merely, however, with a reference to the temple, but to that spiritual abiding in the presence of God, and in the light of His countenance, which is the joy only of them that are true of heart. To the wicked the light of God’s countenance is a consuming fire.”—C. A. B.]
Psalm 5:5. In this connection it is proper in the following verse to think of the privilege of standing before the eyes of God. It may mean however not to endure the judicial glance of God, as is usual. Instead of fools comp. Pss. 73:3; 75:4, others translate vain-glorious and haughty, or mad, raging. For the etymology of the word and its many meanings, vid. Hupfeld in loco. [Hupfeld thinks of the privilege of the nobles and others, who stand in the presence of the King, Prov. 22:29, and the angels which are said to stand before God, Job 1:6; 2:1. Perowne seems to favor this view. It is the privilege of the pious to stand before God as a gracious symbol of their intimate relations with Him as Sovereign and Friend. This idea makes the entire strophe harmonious and beautiful. The three negative clauses, Psalm 5:4 and 5a, are followed by three positive clauses, Psalm 5:5b and 6, which unfold and carry out the ideas advanced positively and emphatically. There is a beautiful gradation and correspondence in the six clauses. Thus the statement that God has no pleasure in wickedness is carried out into, “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity;” that evil cannot be a guest with Thee, that is, have Thy care and protection, and enjoy Thy hospitality passes over into, “Thou destroyest them that speak lies; that the foolish cannot stand in Thy sight,” that is, in Thy favor, regard, and affection, as Thy friends and favorite subjects, becomes, “the bloody and deceitful man doth the Lord abhor.”—C. A. B.]
Psalm 5:7. Palace [“temple,” A. V.]. The preceding word “house” had already made many interpreters doubtful of the Davidic authorship of this Psalm; the expression “palace” seems to them entirely irreconcilable with it. As far as the former is concerned we know that bait (beit) in the Semitic languages denoted originally, the place where the night was passed, and that the signification afterwards became more general; but the reference to night-time, especially, passed out of use (vid. Fleischer in Delitzsch, Comm. on the Psalms.) It is in accordance with this that the place where God appeared to Jacob in the open field was named Beth-El, Gen. 28:17. Accordingly every place of prayer, as the place of the Divine presence might bear this name. And is it otherwise with “palace”? As soon as God is conceived as King this reference is natural and proper. That it does not at all matter about the material, follows from the designation of heaven as the palace of God, Pss. 11:4; 18:6; 29:9, and that we are not compelled to think of a large building, but that the reference is to the place of Jehovah’s throne, is proved from the fact that it is just the most holy place that is called the palace of the house, 1 Kings 6:3. Naturally also the entire temple of Solomon might be called the palace, as well as the house of God (2 Kings 23:4). But the assertion that the entire manner of the reference presupposes the temple, cannot be proved. On the contrary, the heavenly relations are throughout, the ideal and type of that which is presented on earth. Accordingly, Moses even beholds the pattern of the tabernacle (Ex. 25:40; 26:26 sq.; Heb. 8:5), and the legal places of sacrifice were according to Ex. 23:19; 34:26, to be in the house of the Lord. The real sanctuary bears the same name, Josh. 6:24, and at the time of David, 2 Sam. 12:20. What form then had the “tabernacle” which David erected over the ark, 2 Sam. 6:17? We have as little knowledge of this as of the form of the house of God at Shiloh, which in 1 Sam. 2:22 is called “tabernacle of testimony” (Luther, “tabernacle of the covenant”), but 1 Sam. 1:7, 24,”house,” and 1 Sam. 1:9; 3:3, “palace.” of Jehovah (Luther always translates hekal by temple). The same interchange of names Ps. 27:4, 6; comp. Ezek. 41:1. In this passage the reference is not to “prayer in the temple,” but of turning in prayer to the holy place of the throne of Jehovah. In this I agree with Hengst., but not in the statement that the object of the future coming and worship was the thanksgiving here promised on account of the deliverance wrought by the divine grace, as Ps. 66:13. The reference is certainly not to the greatness of love towards God, but to the divine grace; but so that its fulness is designated by him as the accomplishment of the Psalmist’s entrance into the sanctuary. It is necessary to regard the imperfects as future, on account of the character of the Psalm as a morning prayer, but the contrast with the preceding words limits the potential coloring = I may and will (Hupf., Delitzsch, Hitzig). Oraturi quasi cœlum ingressuri et coram majestate infinita locuturi (Hugo).
Str. III. Psalm 5:8. Lead me in Thy righteousness, according to some, at least Hengstenberg, refers to the attribute of God as the righteous helper and avenger, Ps. 31:1, 3. But the opponents, although not exactly called “capricious” (Aquil., Jerome, and most others), are yet described, not as oppressors threatening with external danger, but as those who prepared danger with their mouths, and this character of these persons is expressed Psalm 5:9 as the reason of the petition, that God would lead the pious Psalmist in righteousness, which discloses itself in an inoffensive walk (Ps. 27:11). This righteousness, however, is not merely the virtue which God demands and is well pleasing to Him (De Wette), but a characteristic of the pious, which is indeed well pleasing to God, but yet at the same time has its source and its standard in God Himself (Hupf.), whose action is in all respects righteous.
Make thy way level before me [straight before my face, A. V.).—Either make it straight before me that I may see it and find it (Hitzig), or better, make it level for me to walk. Yet this does not suppose an easy exercise of motion, without trouble, but a removal of hindrances, which are not in the person who walks, but which lie in the Divine way of righteousness, in which the Psalmist would have God lead him. In order that he may walk in safety, he requests Divine help, and indeed either by removal of the mountains of trouble, the ambushes of enemies, or the setting aside of stones of stumbling, and occasions of temptation. The decision on this point must be in accordance with the explanation of the preceding member of the verse, since this second member is added without any connecting word. Even with the latter interpretation, which we prefer, the connection with the following clause which gives the reason of the petition, although overlooked by Hupfeld, is very evident. According to another reading, approved by Grotius, the Sept., Vulg., Arab., translate: “level my path before Thee.” But Syr., Chald., Aquil., Symm., Theod., follow already the present text, and it is confirmed by the investigation of Jerome.
Psalm 5:9. In their mouth.—The singular suffix among nothing but plurals, and referred to a plural, is not so much a collective as a distributive (Delitzsch) “in ore uniuscujusque eorum.” אֵין is separated from its genitive by a word which is shoved in between, as Pss. 6:5: 32:2.—Abyss [“very wickedness,” A. V.] either of destruction (Pss. 38:12; 52:4; 55:11; Prov. 17:4), or the wicked lust (Prov. 10:13; 11:6; Micah 7:3; perhaps Ps. 52:7; comp. Hupf.).
Psalm 5:10. By their own counsels, so that these are the cause of their fall=overthrew, as Hos. 11:6, etc. (Hengst., Hupf., Camph.). Others (Olsh., De Wette, Ewald, Delitzsch), comparing Sir. 14:2, refer these words to the frustration of their counsels and translate “from,” or add to it “away” [Ewald, “let them fall from their plans.”—C. A. B.], Luther even in the sense that the enemies should fall, be ruined, without being able to carry out their counsels. Hitzig maintains his explanation in accordance with the Arabic figure of “down from the counsel which they ride.” So also in the following member many translate: “owing to,” “on account of,” and understand the thrusting out [“cast out,” A. V.] as their overthrow. But since the verb in question is very frequently used for the rejection of the Israelites, and their dispersion among foreign nations, it probably means hero “their thrusting away” (Sept., Vulg., Mich., Rosenm., Delitzsch), and, indeed, whilst they thought to live in their sins, John 8:21, 24—[For they have rebelled against Thee.—Perowne. “The enemies of David are the enemies of David’s God. ‘Whoso toucheth you, toucheth the apple of Mine eye,’ ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou Me?’ ”—C. A. B.]
Psalm 5:11. And they will rejoice [“Let—rejoice,” A. V.].—Luther continues the imperative of petition. The imperfects may indeed be taken as optative, but it is better to regard them as future, since these clauses state the lot of the pious and their behaviour subsequent to the hearing of their prayer and the judicial act of God. “Ille placet Deo, cui placet Deus” (Augustine).
[Psalm 5:12. Shield.—The צִנַּה, Tsinnah, is a large shield, larger than מָגֵן, māgên, covering the whole body, used of the shield of Goliath, 1 Sam. 17:7, vid. SMITH’SBib. Diet., Art. Arm.—C. A. B.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. He who sides with God, must be prepared as well for hostility and persecution on the part of the ungodly, as he is assured of protection on the part of the Almighty; but he must also hold fast to his communion with God, and cultivate it by prayer and Divine service, and show its power by walking in the ways of righteousness.
2. Walking in the way of righteousness has its difficulties, restraints and dangers ; but God makes the way level for those who fear Him ; God leads those who are devoted to Him upon it; God protects in it those who trust in Him.
3. To be reminded of the nature and Providence of God is a terror to the wicked, but a consolation to the pious; for the former are condemned, the latter saved thereby: therefore, also, the former feel that they are frightened away from the place where God reveals Himself a»d is worshipped; the latter, on the other hand, are drawn to this place ; and whilst the latter render prayer, praise and thanksgiving’; the former commit grievous sins with their tongue without shame or repentance. The frightful extent of natural corruption, since the fall of Adam, appears everywhere in essentially the same characteristics, hence the use made of this Psalm, in Rom. 3:11 sq.
4. If those who blame us are to be declared liars, those who complain of us, slanderers, those who persecute us at the same time fools and evil-doers, and if our adversaries in general are the enemies of God, then we ourselves must be found in the closest communion with God and therefore we must diligently and faithfully make use of all the means of His grace.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
We cannot solemnize the morning more properly than by prayer and worship; we cannot consecrate the day better than by walking in the way of righteousness: we cannot make the evening more delightfully blessed than by praising the name of God, and by again committing ourselves with thankfulness to His protection.—The righteous government of God shows itself: 1) in the judgment with which He punishes the wicked ; 2) in the grace with which He blesses the pious.—God has revealed His name not only that we may know Him; we ought likewise to call upon Him, and praise Him, that we have not received the grace of God in vain. He who would receive grace must likewise use the means of grace. The ungodly devices of the wicked are the reason of their fall, the cause of their destruction; on the other hand, the pious are saved, not by their righteousness, but by the grace of God in which they have taken refuge by faith.—Blessed is the man, whose mind is fixed in righteousness, whose life is supported by the Divine grace, whose daily work is surrounded and penetrated with prayer.—God hears not only the cry, but also the sigh of prayer.—Pious kings regard themselves as the subjects of God.
STARKE: God is righteousness and piety itself; therefore it is impossible that the ungodly should stand before Him.—It is true, that believers have sins in themselves, but they are not evil-doers, who wantonly sin and make a business of sinning.—Although the vices of lying, blood-thirstiness and deceitfulness are in the highest degree accursed and injurious, yet they are usually found together.—O man, learn to tame thy mouth and bridle thy tongue, else thou art like a wild beast in human form.—The man who is guided by God is not led astray; he who is led by God does not err or stumble, neither in faithnor in life; and this grieves his enemies.—What an abomination is an unconverted man! What a poisonous, wicked heart man has by nature I No sin is too great for him to commit, if not restrained by the grace of God.—The reason of condemnation is not the lack of grace, the love of God, and the redemption of Christ, but the guilt of wanton obstinacy. The joy of believers in the righteous judgment of God upon the ungodly, is no revengeful satisfaction in the misfortunes of their enemies, but a sacred satisfaction in the preservation of the Divine truth, holiness, righteousness, and the honor of His name.—The grace of God is the believer’s ornament and crown, but likewise his shelter, protection, and shield. Grace adorns him with righteousness, and protects him from condemnation.—Here is the labor, there is the reward; here is the conflict, there the crown ; a crown of grace instead of the crown of thorns borne in this world. Although we should pray for our enemies, who either have slandered our persons, or persecuted us from ignorance of the truth, Matt. 5:44; yet we ought not to pray for those who blaspheme against known truth, or persecute those who confess it; for they sin against the Holy Ghost and unto death, Matth. 12:32; 1 John 5:6; yet we may likewise pray against them not from revengeful feelings, but from a zeal for God, Ps. 59:5.
LUTHER: We should be pious before man, and stand in fear before God.—CALVIN: God Himself will be to us such a God as we need; and we can and should make such a God of our God.—OSIANDER: Although God has no bodily ears, for He is a Spirit (John 4:24); yet He hears very sharply (Ps. 94:9).—We should avoid giving our enemies occasion to blaspheme the name of God and His holy Gospel, on account of our ill treatment of them.—ARNDT: The righteousness of faith and Christian life are a mighty protection and victory over bodily and spiritual enemies.—Trust in God brings blessing and grace.—MENZEL: We should hold fast to the righteous God and His sure Word; come what will, it will have a good issue, as the contrary does not fail that crowd which forsakes Him.—FRANKE: When the children of the world are in need and misery, they run about and seek here and there for help, and leave God in the heavens. On the other hand, a true child of God lets all others go, and goes to his Father in his need.—RENSCHEL: Sin without fear, and hypocrisy, have as their reward punishment and hate; piety has the crown of grace.—FRISCH: In order to overcome the enmity of the world, David goes first to the sanctuary, then he gives himself to prayer, humiliates himself before God, and calls upon Him for help and assistance for the sake of the Messiah; finally he undertakes to walk in God’s ways, and resigns himself to the holy government of God.—Even the righteous and pious have still so many weaknesses that they cannot do without the Divine guidance.—HERBERGER: The more wickedly our enemies rage, the riper are they for punishment, the nearer their ruin.—What God roots out and casts away you should not plant, cherish, and praise.—What we lack in our houses, we may seek in the house of God.—As the wagon goes on two tracks so Christianity runs on in two parts, in pure faith and irreproachable life.—It is better that God should precede us with his favor, than follow us with the sharp rod.—He who is to dwell in the heavens, God crowns with four crowns: (1) With the crown of grace and mercy, Ps. 5.; (2) with the crown of virtue and piety (Sir. 1.); (3) with the crown of the cross and adversity, Is. 22:17; (4) with the crown of life, of honor, and of everlasting bliss (James 1:12).—RIEGER: To walk before the eyes of our heavenly Father is very desirable.—The more we know and experience of the world and human wickedness the more we desire the gracious government of God.—TAUBE: A model of a prayerful life for the children of God. Notice (1) how devout David’s soul is towards God; (2) how well acquainted he is with God; (3) how humble before God; (4) how bold towards his God; (5) how happy in his God.
[MATT. HENRY: Four things David here promiseth, and so must we. (1) That he will pray; that he will make a conscience of it, and make a business of it; “unto Thee will I pray.” Others live without prayer, but I will pray. Kings on their thrones must be beggars at God’s throne. (2) That he will pray in the morning. Morning prayer is our duty; we are the fittest for prayer when we are in the most fresh, lively, and composed frame, got clear of the slumbers of the night, revived by them, and not yet filled with the business of the day. (3) That he will have his eye single, and his heart intent on the duty. As a marksman directs his arrow to the white; or as we direct a letter to a friend at such a place. (4) That he will patiently wait for an answer of peace. We must look up or look out, as he that has shot an arrow looks to see how near it has come to the mark.—SPURGEON: There are two sorts of prayers—those expressed in words, and the unuttered longings which abide as silent meditations. Words are not the essence, but the garments of prayer.—Here is a grand argument why God should answer prayer—because He is our King and our God. We are not aliens to Him: He is the King of our country. Kings are expected to hear the appeals of their own people. We are not strangers to Him; we are His worshippers, and He is our God; ours by covenant, by promise, by oath, by blood.—While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul. Let us give to God the morning of our days, and the morning of our lives. Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night. Devotion should be both the morning star and the evening star.—We should be careful to keep the stream of meditation always running; for this is the water to drive the mill of prayer. It is idle to pull up the flood-gates of a dry brook, and then hope to see the wheel revolve.—Neither on earth nor in heaven shall evil share the mansion of God. Oh, how foolish are we if we attempt to entertain two guests so hostile to one another as Christ Jesus and the Devil! Rest assured Christ will not live in the parlor of our hearts if we entertain the Devil in the cellar of our thoughts.—SPURGEON’S TREASURY OF DAVID.—GURNALL: For want of looking up, many a prayer is lost. If you do not believe, why do you pray? And if you believe, why do you not expect? By praying you seem to depend on God; by not expecting, you again renounce your confidence. What is this, but to take His name in vain? O, Christian, stand to your prayer in a holy expectation of what you have begged upon the credit of the promise.—HALDANE: What proceeds out of their mouth is infected and putrid; and as the exhalation from a sepulchre proves the corruption within, so it is with the corrupt conversation of sinners.—C. A. B.]
[“Meditation” is the better translation adopted by Ewald, Hupfeld, Perowne, Delitzsch, et al.—C. A. B.]
To the chief Musician upon Nehiloth, A Psalm of David. Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation.