Matthew Poole's Commentary
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD. The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.THE ARGUMENT
This Psalm seems to have been composed by David when he was persecuted by Saul and his courtiers; upon which occasion he enlargeth his thoughts further, and contemplates the sad state and condition of the world and of the church at that time, in which wickedness of all sorts greatly abounded, and seemed to prosper; and withal, he declares the great felicity and safety of God’s people, and gives an account of their supports and comforts, under the sense of these public disorders and mischiefs.
i.e. One wholly and resolvedly devoted to the service of God, both in my public and private capacity. This title is, as I remember, but twice used in this book, Psalm 18:1, (of which see there,) and in this Psalm, where it seems to be prefixed as a public protestation of his resolution to cleave unto the Lord in this time of general corruption, of which he is now going to speak.
David showeth the grievous state of the wicked, Psalm 36:1-4; the excellency of God’s mercy, Psalm 36:5-9; and prayeth for favour to the children of God, Psalm 36:10-12.
When I consider the great and manifold transgressions of ungodly men, I conclude within myself that they have cast off all fear, and sense, and serious belief of the Divine Majesty.
For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.For; so this is the proof of that assertion, Psalm 36:1. Or, although; and so it is an anticipation of an objection against it.
He flattereth himself in his own eyes; he deceiveth himself with vain and false persuasions, either,
1. Concerning God, that he doth not see or mind his sins, or that he will not punish them. Or,
2. Concerning himself and his sins; either that they are not sins, which a mind bribed by passion and interest can easily believe; or that they are but small and venial sins; or that they will be excused, if not justified by honest intentions, or by outward professions and exercises of religion, or by some good actions, wherewith he thinks to make some compensation for them, or some other way. Otherwise thus, he flattereth him (i.e. God) in his eyes, i.e. openly and publicly makes a show of religion, as if he designed to deceive or mock God, whilst inwardly and secretly he is projecting wickedness. But it seems better to understand the last word reciprocally of his own eyes, as the same word is used in the end of the foregoing verse.
Until his iniquity be found to be hateful, i.e. until God by some dreadful judgment undeceive him, and find, i.e. discover or make him and others to find and feel by experience, that it is a sin, and a very hateful one too. Or, until his abominable iniquity be found out, i.e. punished, as the same word and phrase is used, Numbers 32:23, Your sin shall find you out, i.e. bring you to condign punishment. In the Hebrew it is, to find out his iniquity to hate. But active verbs are oft taken passively, of which there are plain instances, Joshua 2:5 Esther 6:6 Psalm 32:9 51:6, compared with Romans 3:4 Psalm 119:4; and so here, to find, is put for to be found; and to hate, for to be hated, or to be hateful.
The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.Are iniquity and deceit, i.e. are wicked and deceitful. Once he had some shadows or degrees of wisdom, and sometimes did some things that were good in their kind; but new he hath not so much as the appearance of it, and is become an open apostate from that which once he professed.
He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.He deviseth mischief upon his bed; which notes that he doth it,
1. Constantly and unweariedly, preferring it before his own rest.
2. Earnestly and seriously, when his mind is freed from all outward distractions, and wholly at leisure to attend that business about which it is employed: compare Psalm 4:4.
3. Freely, from his own inclination, when none are present to provoke him to it.
He setteth himself; he doth not repent of his wicked devices, but resolutely proceeds to execute them, and persists therein.
That is not good, i.e. which is very bad, as this phrase is used, 1 Samuel 2:24 Proverbs 20:23 24:23, and elsewhere.
He abhorreth not evil: though he sometimes pretends remorse, and desists from his violent practices against me, as Saul did; yet he doth not truly repent of nor abhor his sin, and therefore is ready to return to it, when any occasion offers itself.
Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.Though this be the disposition and carriage of mine enemies towards me, and therefore I can expect no good from them, yet thou, O Lord, blessed be thy name, art of another temper; they are cruel and perfidious and unrighteous, but thou art infinite in mercy, and faithfulness, and righteousness, and loving-kindness, as it here follows; and therefore though I despair of them, yet I trust in thee, as other men do for these reasons, Psalm 36:7.
Is in the heavens; or, is unto (as the prefix beth oft signifies, as Genesis 11:4, and elsewhere, and as it is here explained in the following clause)
the heavens. As it is on the earth, of which there was no question, so it reacheth thence to the heavens, i.e. it is infinite and incomprehensible.
Thy faithfulness; the truth both of thy threatenings against thine and mine enemies, and of thy promises made to me and other good men.
Reacheth unto the clouds, i.e. is far above our reach, greater and higher than we can apprehend it.
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.Thy righteousness, in all thy counsels and ways in the government of the world, is like the great mountains; either,
1. Stedfast and unmovable. Or,
2. Eminent and conspicuous to all men. Or rather,
3. Very high and out of our reach; for so it agrees best with the foregoing and following expressions.
Thy judgments, i.e. thy executions of thy counsels, or thy administrations of the affairs of the world, and of thy church,
are a great deep, i.e. unsearchable. as the ocean is in some parts. The worst of men, yea, lad the brute beasts, have experience of thy care and kindness, and therefore I have no reason to doubt of it.
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.Thy loving-kindness; or, thy mercy; for it is the same word which is used and so rendered, Psalm 36:5. The sense is, Though all thine attributes now reckoned, and the rest of them, be excellent and glorious, yet above all thy mercy is most
excellent or precious and amiable, as being most necessary and beneficial unto us, poor sinful, miserable men.
Put their trust under the shadow of thy wings, i.e. cheerfully commit themselves to thy care and kindness, notwithstanding their own sinfulness, and the rage and power of their adversaries, against all which thy mercy is a sufficient security.
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.They, i. e. those children of men who trust in thee, as he now said,
shall be abundantly satisfied; though now they are straitened, oppressed, and persecuted, yet they shall not only be protected and supported for the present, but in due time shall have all their wants and desires fully satisfied. Heb.
shall be made drunk, i.e. shall be as it were overwhelmed with the plenty of it, which they shall no more be able to comprehend than a drunken man is able perfectly to understand and judge of things; and shall be free, as drunken men also are, from all cares and fears, either of not obtaining it, or of losing it.
With the fatness of thy house; with those rich and delightful provisions which thou hast prepared for them in thy habitation, i.e. either,
1. In the tabernacle, where they used to feast upon the remainders of the sacrifices; to which also he seems here to allude. Or rather,
2. In heaven; which is called God’s house, both in Scripture, as John 14:2, and in divers ancient heathen authors. For the expressions here used are too magnificent to be bestowed upon those feasts, or indeed upon any of the enjoyments of this life, and do ill become him, who professedly disowns the having of his portion in this life, and declares his expectation of happiness in the next life, Psalm 17:14,15. And seeing it is apparent from Hebrews 11, and from many other scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, that both David, and Job, and Abraham, and the rest of the holy patriarchs and prophets, had a firm belief and hope of the future life, and their felicity therein; it seems most reasonable to understand all those passages of David and the other prophets of it, which naturally, and without any force, may be so understood; of which number certainly this verse and the following is one.
Drink: before they had fatness, i.e. fat meats; and now drink, to note the completeness of their feast.
Of the river; which notes both their plenty, and their constancy and perpetuity.
Of thy pleasures; which thou preparest, and which thou enjoyest; whence it is called the joy of the Lord, Matthew 25:21. Or this notes their great eminency; for things most excellent in their kinds are entitled to God, as the goodliest cedars, mountains, &c., are called cedars of God, mountains of God, &c.
For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.With thee, i.e. in thy power to give it, and in thy presence to be enjoyed.
The fountain; which notes,
1. Causality. It is in God as in a fountain, and from him is derived to us.
3. Excellency. Water is sweetest in the fountain; and fountains were rare and highly prized in those hot countries.
Of life; of that glorious, and blessed, and endless life, which alone is worthy of the name of life; this life being only a passage to death, and a theatre of great and manifold calamities. Although it be true, that God is the fountain both of natural and spiritual life.
In thy light; in the light of thy countenance or glorious presence, which then shall be fully manifested unto us, when we shall see thee clearly, and face to face, and not through a glass, and darkly, as we now see, 1 Corinthians 13:12: compare Psalm 17:15.
See, i.e. enjoy, as seeing frequently signifies; of which see on Psalm 34:12. Light; the light of life, as it is called, John 8:12. Light in this branch being the same thing with life in the former, i.e. joy, and comfort, and happiness, which is oft signified by light, as the contrary is by darkness. See Job 29:3 Psalm 27:1 Isaiah 9:2. There we shall have pure light without any mixture of darkness. The word light is elegantly repeated in another signification; in the former clause it is light discovering, in this, light discovered or enjoyed.
O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.Continue; as this word signifies, Psalm 85:5 Ecclesiastes 2:3 Jeremiah 31:3. As thou hast begun, so continue the manifestation and exhibition of it, both in this life, and to the next. Or, extend, or draw forth. Let it not be like a fountain sealed, but let it be drawn forth for their comfort. Know thee, i.e. sincerely love thee, as it is explained in the next clause; for knowing implies affection, as Psalm 9:10, and oft elsewhere.
Thy righteousness; which will appear in giving them that protection and assistance which thou art by thy nature inclined, and by thy promise engaged, to give them.
Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me.Of pride, i. e. of my proud and insolent enemies; the abstract being put for the concrete, as Jeremiah 50:31,32: so also Proverbs 12:27 13:6.
Against me; or, upon me, to wit, so as to overthrow or remove me, as it is in the next clause. Remove me; either,
1. From my trust in thee, or obedience to thee. Or,
2. From my place and station; from the land of my nativity, and the place of thy worship. Or, shake me, or cast me down, i.e. subdue and destroy me.
There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise.There, where they come against me, and hope to ruin me. He seems as it were to point at the place with his finger, as if it were already done, and he could tell all the circumstances of it. Or, then, i.e. when they thought all sure, and me irrecoverably lost.
Fallen, i.e. they shall certainly and suddenly fall; which the prophets use to express in the time past.