Matthew Poole's Commentary
A Psalm of Asaph. The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.THE ARGUMENT
The design of this Psalm is, partly, to reprove and protest against the common miscarriages of many professors of religion, who satisfied their own consciences, and fancied that they pleased God, with their external and ceremonial performances, notwithstanding their gross neglect of those more necessary and fundamental duties of piety, and justice, and charity; partly, to instruct men concerning the nature of the true and acceptable worship of God; and partly, to prepare the Israelites for, and tacitly warn them of, that change which would be made in the outward form and way of God’s worship under and by the Messias, and of the abolition of the legal sacrifices, which God did not appoint for his own need, nor for his people’s perpetual use.
Asaph was not only the chief of the sacred singers, 1 Chronicles 15 1Ch 16 1 Chronicles 25:2, but also a prophet, 1 Chronicles 25:1, and a composer of some Psalms, as it is apparent from 2 Chronicles 29:30, and therefore, as is most probable, of those that go under his name.
God cometh with great majesty into his church, Psalm 50:1-4, and gathereth together his saints, Psalm 50:5,6; testifieth he has no pleasure in ceremonies, Psalm 50:7-13, but in sincerity of obedience, Psalm 50:14,15; threateneth the wicked for contemning his word, Psalm 50:16-22, and showeth who it is that glorifieth him, Psalm 50:23.
i.e. All the inhabitants of the earth, from one end to the other; whom he here summons to be witnesses of his proceedings in this solemn judgment between him and his people, which is here poetically represented; for here is a tribunal erected, the judge coming to it, the witnesses and delinquents summoned, and at last the sentence given, and cause determined.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.The place where he was supposed to reside, and where he would now sit in judgment; or from whence he would come to a more public and conspicuous place, where all the world might see and hear the transactions.
The perfection of beauty; the most beautiful and amiable place of the whole world, because of the presence, and worship, and blessing of God, which was there, and there only. God hath shined, i.e. hath appeared or manifested himself in a glorious manner, as judges do when they come to the judgment-seat.
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.Our God: these words are used here, as they are also Hebrews 12:29, emphatically. The prophet speaks this in the person of the Israelites and worshippers of God, whereof he was one, and thereby takes off their fond pretence, as if because God was their God, in covenant with them, and nearly related to them by Abraham his friend for ever, he would bear with their miscarriages, and would not deal so severely with them as some fancied; which also was their conceit, Jeremiah 7:4, &c.; Matthew 3:9,10. No, saith he, though he be our God, yet he will come to execute judgment upon us.
Shall come; either,
1. From heaven, his dwelling-place, to Zion, to sit in judgment there. Or,
2. Out of Zion to some other place, as was said on Psalm 50:2.
And shall not keep silence: so the sense is, he will no longer forbear or connive at the hypocrisy and profaneness of the professors of the true religion, but will now speak to them in his wrath, and will effectually reprove and chastise them. But because the psalmist is not now describing what God did or would say against them, which he doth below, Psalm 50:7, &c., but as yet continues in his description of the preparation or coming of the Judge to his throne, it seems more proper to translate the words, as some do, he will not cease, (for this verb signifies not only a cessation from speech, but from motion or action, as it doth 2 Samuel 19:11 Psalm 83:1 Isaiah 42:14,15) i.e. not neglect or delay to come. So here is the same thing expressed, both affirmatively and negatively, (as is frequent in Scripture, whereof divers instances have been formerly given,) for the greater assurance of the truth of the thing.
It shall be very tempestuous round about him: this is a further description of that terrible majesty wherewith God clothed himself when he came to his tribunal, in token of that just severity which, he would use in his proceedings with them. He alludes to the manner of God’s appearance at Sinai, Exodus 19, and intimates to them, that although Zion was a place of grace and blessing to all true Israelites, yet God would be as dreadful there to the hypocrites among them, as ever he was at Sinai. See Isaiah 33:14.
He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.Either to heaven and earth themselves, and so it is a figure called prosopopoeia; or to the inhabitants of them, all angels and men, whom he calls in for witnesses and judges of the equity of his present proceedings. Compare Deu 4:26 Deu 31:28 32:1. That he may judge his people, to wit, in their presence and hearing.
Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.O ye angels, summon and fetch them to my tribunal; which is poetically spoken; not as if they were actually to do so, but only to continue the metaphor and representation of the judgment here mentioned.
My saints; the delinquents, the Israelites, whom he calls saints; partly, because they were all by profession a holy people, as they are called, Deu 14:2; partly, by an irony, intimating how unworthy they were of that name; and partly, as an argument or evidence against them, because God had chosen and separated them from all the nations of the earth, to be a holy and peculiar people to himself, and they also had solemnly and frequently consecrated and devoted themselves to God, and to his faithful service; all which did greatly aggravate their present apostacy.
Those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice, i.e. which have entered into covenant with me, and have ratified that covenant with me by sacrifice, not only in their parents, Exodus 24:4, &c., but also in their own persons from time to time, even as oft as they offer sacrifices to me. This clause seems to be added here, to acquaint them with the proper nature, use, and end of sacrifices, which were principally appointed to be signs and seals of the covenant made between God and his people; and consequently to convince them of their great mistake and wickedness in trusting to their outward sacrifices, when they neglect the very life and soul of them, which was the keeping of their covenant with God; and withal to diminish that overweaning conceit which they had of sacrifices, and to prepare the way for the abolition of them, as being only necessary to confirm the covenant; which being once for all confirmed by the blood of Christ, they might without any inconvenience be laid aside and abrogated.
And the heavens shall declare his righteousness: for God is judge himself. Selah.The heavens shall declare his righteousness; which they were called to witness, Psalm 50:4. So was the earth also. But here he mentions the heavens only, as I humbly conceive, because they were the most impartial and considerable witness in the case; for men upon earth might be false witnesses, either through ignorance and mistake, or through prejudice, and partiality, and passion: but the angels understand things more thoroughly and certainly, and are so exactly pure and sinless, that they neither can nor will tell a lie for God; and therefore their testimony is more valuable. Or the meaning is, that God would convince the people of his righteousness, and of their own wickedness, by terrible thunders and lightnings, and storms, or other dreadful signs wrought by him in the heaven or the air; by which he did convince his people in two like cases, Deu 5:22,23, &c.; 1 Samuel 12:17-19.
God is Judge himself; in his own person, or immediately. God will not now reprove them, or contend with them, by his priests or prophets, with whom they may easily strive, as they used to do, but he will do it in an immediate and extraordinary manner from heaven; and therefore they shall be forced to acknowledge his righteousness, and their own unrighteousness; as they must needs do, when the contest is between them and that God who is the great Judge of the world, and cannot possibly do any unrighteous thing, Job 34:13 Romans 3:6, who exactly knows all their hearts and works, and cannot be deceived nor contradicted.
Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against thee: I am God, even thy God.Having brought in God as coming to judgment with them, he now gives an account of the process and of the sentence of the Judge, whose words are contained in this and the following verses.
I will testify against thee; I will plead with thee, and declare my charge or indictment against thee.
Even thy God; not only in general, as thou art my creature, but in a special manner, by many singular favours and obligations, and by that solemn covenant made at Sinai; whereby I avouched thee to be my peculiar people, and thou didst avouch me to be thy God, Deu 26:17,18.
I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me.I do not charge thee, or at least this is not the principal matter of my charge, that thou hast neglected sacrifices which thou shouldst have offered; for although thou hast many times omitted thy duty in that kind, yet I have greater things than these to charge thee with.
To have been; or, they have been. I confess thou hast been frequent in that work, and hast laid too great a stress upon it, and satisfied thy conscience with it, as if thereby thou hadst made me amends for the errors of thy life.
I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds.But be not so vain and foolish as to imagine that thou dost lay any obligations upon me by thy sacrifices; or that I required them because I had need of them, or took any pleasure in them for themselves, or for my own satisfaction by them.
For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.I would command or dispose them at my pleasure, without thy leave or assistance, even the cattle which feed upon innumerable hills, or in valleys and fields.
I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.I know where they are, and whence I can easily fetch them when I think good.
The fowls of the mountains; not only tame and domestic fowls, but even such as are wild and fly up and down upon mountains; which though out of man’s reach, are at God’s command.
If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.If I wanted or desired any thing, as I do not, being the all-sufficient God,
I would not tell thee, that thou mightest supply my wants.
The fulness thereof, i.e. all those creatures wherewith it is replenished.
Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?If I did want anything, hast thou such carnal and gross conceptions of me, that I need or delight in the blood of brute creature.
Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:If thou wouldst know what sacrifices I most prize, and indispensably require, in the first place, it is that of thankfulness and praise proportionable to my great, and glorious, and numberless favours; which doth not consist barely in verbal acknowledgments, but proceeds from a heart truly and deeply affected with God’s mercies, and is accompanied with such a course of life as is gratified or well-pleasing to God; all which is plainly comprehended in
thanksgiving, as that duty is explained in other Scriptures.
Thy vows; either,
1. Ceremonial vows, the sacrifices which thou hast vowed to God. Or rather,
2. Moral vows; for the things here mentioned are directly opposed unto sacrifices, and preferred before them; for having disparaged, and in some sort rejected,
their sacrifices and burnt-offerings, Psalm 50:8, it is not likely that he should have a better opinion of, or value for, their vowed sacrifices; which were of an inferior sort. He seems therefore to understand those substantial vows, and promises, and covenants, which were the very soul of their sacrifices, and to which their sacrifices were but appurtenances and seals, as was noted above, on Psalm 50:5, whereby they did avouch the Lord to be their God, and to walk in his ways, &c., as it is expressed, Deu 26:17, and engaged themselves to love, and serve, and obey the Lord according to that solemn vow and covenant which they entered into at Sinai, Exodus 24:3,7,8, which they oft renewed, and indeed did implicitly repeat in all their sacrifices, which were appointed for this very end, to confirm this covenant.
And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.And make conscience of that great duty of constant and fervent prayer to me; which is an acknowledgment of thy subjection to me, and of thy trust and dependence upon me, and therefore is pleasing to me.
In the day of trouble; when trouble comes, do not avoid it by sinful shifts, not’ trust to creatures for relief, as hypocrites generally do, but give glory to me, by relying upon my promises, and expect help from me by hearty and unfeigned prayer.
Thou shalt glorify me: this is mentioned, either,
1. As a privilege; thou shalt have occasion to praise and glorify me for thy deliverance. Or,
2. As a further duty; thou shalt give me the glory of thy deliverance by praising me for it, and improving it to my service and glory.
But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?Unto the wicked, i.e. the same ungodly and hypocritical professors whom he calleth saints, Psalm 50:5, in regard of their profession, and here wicked in respect of their practice, and the truth of the thing. God saith: he told them what he would not reprove them for, Psalm 50:8, and why, Psalm 50:9,10, &c.; now he tells them for what he did reprove and condemn them, even for a vain and false profession of religion. With what confidence darest thou make mention of or boast of God’s grade and favour vouchsafed unto time, in giving thee such a covenant and statutes, pretending to embrace them, and to give up thyself to the observation of them? This concerns not only the teachers, (of whom some understand these words,) but all the Israelites in general; of whom he rather seems to speak.
Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.Seeing thy practice contradicts thy profession, and makes thee a notorious and impudent liar. Though with thy mouth thou showest much love (as is said of them, Ezekiel 33:31) to my statutes and counsels, yet in truth thou hatest them, as they are curbs to thy beloved lusts, and instruments of thy just condemnation, and a manifest reproach to thy conversation. Or,
seeing thou hatest reproof, as this word is oft rendered. And this, above all other parts of God’s word, is most hateful to ungodly men, Proverbs 9:8 Proverbs 12:1 15:10,12 Am 5:10. And therefore this is fitly alleged as an evidence of their wickedness.
Castest my words behind thee; as men do things which they abhor or despise.
When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.Sawest; or, didst observe, or consider; when he came into thy presence and company, and thou didst understand and consider his ways, and his success and impunity, and he invited thee to a participation of his profit.
Thou consentedst with him; or, as many render it, then didst run with him; thou didst readily and greedily associate thyself with him in his unrighteous courses. Thou didst yield to his motions, and that with great complacency and diligence.
Partaker with adulterers, by joining with them in their lewd and filthy practices.
Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit.Thou givest, Heb. thou sendest forth, to wit, free; for the word is used of men’s dismissing their wives or their servants, whom they left to their freedom. Thou hast an unbridled tongue, and castest off all restraints of God’s law, and of thy own conscience, and givest thy tongue liberty to speak what thou pleasest, though it be offensive and dishonourable to God, and injurious to thy neighbour, or to thy own soul; which is justly produced as an evidence of their hypocrisy.
To evil; either to sinful or mischievous speeches.
Frameth deceit, i.e. uttereth lies or fair words, wherewith to circumvent those who deal with them.
Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son.Thou dost not only speak evil in a sudden passion, or upon some great provocation, but this is thy constant and deliberate practice and business, which thou dost pursue with great facility and complacency; all which this phrase implies.
Thy brother; strictly so called, as the next clause explains it; which is a great aggravation of the sin, and a proof of his inveterate and obstinate wickedness.
Thou slanderest; takest away his good name, which is better than all riches; yea, than life itself; which is contrary to my express and oft-repeated commands.
These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.I kept silence; I did not express my displeasure against thee in such grievous judgments as thou didst deserve. Or, I was deaf; I carried myself like one that did not hear thy sinful speeches, nor see or take any notice of thy wicked actions. And thou didst misconstrue and abuse this my patience and long-suffering, as if it had proceeded from my ignorance, or regardlessness, or approbation of thy evil courses, which I seemed by my connivance to justify or allow, and thereupon didst grow more audacious and impudent in sin. See Ecclesiastes 11:9 Isaiah 26:10 Romans 2:4,5.
I will reprove thee, not with verbal, but real reproofs, i.e. by severe punishments, as this word is used, Job 13:10 Psalm 6:1 38:1 39:11, and oft elsewhere. I will quickly undeceive and convince thee of the contrary to thy cost.
Set them in order before thine eyes; I will bring to thy remembrance, and lay upon thy conscience, all thy sins, in full number and in their order, with all their circumstances; and thou shalt then see and know that I diligently observed and hated them all, and that none of them shall go unpunished.
Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.Ye that forget God; ye hypocritical and ungodly Israelites, who have forgotten (as Moses foretold you would do, Deu 32:18) the God that formed you, and made you his people, and forgotten his mercies and judgments, by which you should have been instructed, and the covenant which you made with him, and by which you stand obliged to him.
Lest I tear you in pieces; lest my patience be turned into fury, and I proceed to take vengeance on you.
And there be none to deliver; or, for (as the Hebrew particle is oft rendered) there is none that can or will deliver you. None can rescue you from the power of mine anger.
Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.Praise; or, thanksgiving as this word is rendered, Psalm 50:14. See Poole "Psalm 50:14".
Glorifieth me; he and he only gives me the honour that I require and prize, and not he who loads my altar with a multitude of sacrifices; whereby you vainly and falsely conceit that you please and glorify me, although in the mean time you live in the gross neglect of the more important duties of piety, and justice, and charity; whereas in truth you greatly dishonour me, and my worship and service, by your infamous lives.
That ordereth his conversation aright, Heb. that composeth or disposeth the way or manner of his (which pronoun is frequently understood) life, i.e. that lives orderly, and according to rule; for sinners are said to walk disorderly, 2 Thessalonians 3:6,7,11, and by chance, as it is in the Hebrew text, Leviticus 26:21,23, which is opposed to order; and the Scripture owns no order but what God prescribes or approves; and therefore this word
aright is justly added in our translation.
Will I show, Heb. I will make him to see, i.e. to enjoy, as that verb is oft used, as we have showed again and again.
The salvation of God, i.e. my salvation; that true and everlasting happiness which I have prepared for all my faithful friends and servants, and for them only. So false is that position of some of the Jewish rabbins, that every Israelite hath a portion in the world to come.