Psalm 119:1
Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
ALEPH.

(1) Undefiled.—Better, blameless or perfect.

Way.—See the same use without a qualifying epithet in Psalm 2:12. There was only-one way of safety and peace for an Israelite, here by the parallelism defined as “the law of Jehovah.” But even heathen ethics bore witness to the same truth: “Declinandum de viâ sit modo ne summa turpitudo sequatur” (Cic, De Amicitia, 17).

ALEPH.

Psalm 119:1-3. Blessed are the undefiled — Hebrew, תמימי, temimee, the perfect, or sincere, as the word properly and most frequently signifies; namely, those whose hearts and lives agree with their profession; in the way — The way of the Lord, as it is explained by the next clause; who walk in the law of the Lord — Who order their lives according to the rule of God’s word. That keep his testimonies — Who, in mind and heart, carefully and diligently observe his precepts. And that seek him — Namely, the Lord: that seek his presence and favour, with the whole heart — Sincerely, diligently, and earnestly, above all other things. They also do no iniquity — That is, knowingly: they make it their constant care to shun every known sin. They walk in his ways — In the paths which God hath prescribed to them.119:1-8 This psalm may be considered as the statement of a believer's experience. As far as our views, desires, and affections agree with what is here expressed, they come from the influences of the Holy Spirit, and no further. The pardoning mercy of God in Christ, is the only source of a sinner's happiness. And those are most happy, who are preserved most free from the defilement of sin, who simply believe God's testimonies, and depend on his promises. If the heart be divided between him and the world, it is evil. But the saints carefully avoid all sin; they are conscious of much evil that clogs them in the ways of God, but not of that wickedness which draws them out of those ways. The tempter would make men think they are at them out of those ways. The tempter would make men think they are at liberty to follow the word of God or not, as they please. But the desire and prayer of a good man agree with the will and command of God. If a man expects by obedience in one thing to purchase indulgence for disobedience in others, his hypocrisy will be detected; if he is not ashamed in this world, everlasting shame will be his portion. The psalmist coveted to learn the laws of God, to give God the glory. And believers see that if God forsakes them, the temper will be too hard for them.Blessed are the undefiled in the way - In the way or journey of life; in the path of religion; in the road which leads to heaven. As life - the religious life - is represented under the image of a journey, the expression here is equivalent to saying, "Blessed are those who in the journey of life - in their religious course - are pure, Sincere, uncontaminated." On the word way, see the notes at Psalm 1:6. The margin here on the word undefiled, is perfect, or sincere. So the Hebrew. The word is the same as in Job 1:1, where it is rendered "perfect." See the notes at that passage. The Greek translation is undefiled - ἄμωμοι amōmoi. So the Latin, "immaculati." Luther renders it, "Who live without blemish" or stain. The idea is, "Blessed are they who are upright, sincere, perfect, in their course." The whole psalm is designed to illustrate this thought, by showing what the influence of a sincere and conscientious attachment to the principles of the law or word of God in the various circumstances of life must be.

Who walk in the law of the Lord - Who habitually obey his law. This constitutes sincerity, uprightness, perfection in a man's life, for the law of the Lord is the only just rule of human conduct.

PSALM 119

Ps 119:1-176. This celebrated Psalm has several peculiarities. It is divided into twenty-two parts or stanzas, denoted by the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza contains eight verses, and the first letter of each verse is that which gives name to the stanza. Its contents are mainly praises of God's Word, exhortations to its perusal, and reverence for it, prayers for its proper influence, and complaints of the wicked for despising it. There are but two verses (Ps 119:122, 132) which do not contain some term or description of God's Word. These terms are of various derivations, but here used, for the most part, synonymously, though the use of a variety of terms seems designed, in order to express better the several aspects in which our relations to the revealed word of God are presented. The Psalm does not appear to have any relation to any special occasion or interest of the Jewish Church or nation, but was evidently "intended as a manual of pious thoughts, especially for instructing the young, and its peculiar artificial structure was probably adopted to aid the memory in retaining the language."

ALEPH. (Ps 119:1-8).

1. undefiled—literally, "complete," perfect, or sincere (compare Ps 37:37).

in—or, "of"

the way—course of life.

walk—act

in the law—according to it (compare Lu 1:6).

law—from a word meaning "to teach," is a term of rather general purport, denoting the instruction of God's Word.

1 Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.

2 Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.

3 They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.

4 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.

5 O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!

6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

7 I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.

8 I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.

These first eight verses are taken up with a contemplation of the blessedness which comes through keeping the statutes of the Lord. The subject is treated in a devout manner rather than in a didactic style. Heart-fellowship with God is enjoyed through a love of that word which is God's way of communing with the soul by his Holy Spirit. Prayer and praise and all sorts of devotional acts and feelings gleam through the verses like beams of sunlight through an olive grove. You are not only instructed, but influenced to holy emotion, and helped to express the same.

Lovers of God's holy words are blessed, because they are preserved from defilement (Psalm 119:1), because they are made practically holy (Psalm 119:2 and Psalm 119:3), and are led to follow after God sincerely and intensely (Psalm 119:2). It is seen that this holy walking must be desirable because God commands it (Psalm 119:4); therefore the pious soul prays for it (Psalm 119:5), and feels that its comfort and courage must depend upon obtaining it (Psalm 119:6). In the prospect of answered prayer, yea, while the prayer is being answered the heart is full of thankfulness (Psalm 119:7), and is fixed in solemn resolve not to miss the blessing if the Lord will give enabling grace (Psalm 119:8).

The changes are rung upon the words "way" - "undefiled in the way," "walk in his ways," "O that my ways were directed"; "keep" - "keep his testimonies," "keep thy precepts diligently," "directed to keep," "I will keep"; and "walk" - "walk in the law," "walk in his ways." Yet there is no tautology, nor is the same thought repeated, though to the careless reader it may seem so.

The change from statements about others and about the Lord to more personal dealing with God begins in Psalm 119:3, and becomes more clear as we advance, till in the later verses the communion becomes most intense and soul moving. O that every reader may feel the glow.

Psalm 119:1

"Blessed." The Psalmist is so enraptured with the word of God that he regards it as his highest ideal of blessedness to be conformed to it. He has gazed on the beauties of the perfect law, and, as if this verse were the sum and outcome of all his emotions, he exclaims, "Blessed is the man whose life is the practical transcript of the will of God." True religion is not cold and dry; it has its exclamations and raptures. We not only judge the keeping of God's law to be a wise and proper thing, but we are warmly enamoured of its holiness, and cry out in adoring wonder, "Blessed are the undefiled!" meaning thereby, that we eagerly desire to become such ourselves, and wish for no greater happiness than to be perfectly holy. It may be that the writer laboured under a sense of his own faultiness, and therefore envied the blessedness of those whose walk had been more pure and clean; indeed, the very contemplation of the perfect law of the Lord upon which he now entered was quite enough to make him bemoan his own imperfections, and sigh for the blessedness of an undefiled walk.

continued...THE ARGUMENT

The author of this Psalm was David; which I know none that deny, and of which there is no just reason to doubt. The scope and design of it is manifest, to commend the serious and diligent study, and the stedfast belief and the constant practice of God’s word, as incomparably the best counsellor and comforter in the world, and as the only way to true blessedness. And this he confirmeth by his own example, which he proposeth to them for their imitation; and he declareth the great and frequent experience which he had of its admirable sweetness and manifold benefits in all conditions, and especially in the times of his distresses. And because it was a hard thing rightly to understand this word in all its parts, and harder to put it in practice, he therefore intermixeth many prayers to God for his help therein, thereby directing and encouraging others to take the same course. And because this Psalm was very large, and the matter of it of greatest importance, the psalmist thought fit to divide it into two and twenty several parts, according to the number of the Hebrew letters, that so he might both prevent tediousness, and fix it in the memory. It is further observable that the word of God is here diversely called by the names of law, statutes, precepts or commandments, judgments, ordinances, righteousness, testimonies, way, and word; by which variety he designed to express the nature and the great perfection and manifold parts and uses of God’s word: which is called his word, as proceeding from his mouth, and revealed by him to us; his way, as prescribed by him for us to walk in; his law, as binding us to obedience, his statutes, as declaring his authority and power of giving us laws, his precepts, as declaring and directing our duty; his ordinances, as ordained and appointed by him; his righteousness, as exactly agreeable to God’s righteous nature and will; his judgments, as proceeding from the great Judge of the world, and being his judicial sentence to which all men must submit; and his testimonies, as it contains the witnesses of God’s mind and will, and of man’s duty. And there are very few of these 176 verses contained in this Psalm, in which one or other of these titles is not found.

This Psalm contains the commendation of God’s word; David’s love to it; a prayer for grace to carry himself according to it; with an account of God’s law, institutions, commandments, testimonies, precepts, word, promises, ways, judgments, name, righteousness, truth, &c.; with a prayer for help and assistance.

ALEPH.

The undefiled; or, the perfect or sincere, as this word properly and most frequently signifies; such whose hearts and course of life agree with their profession.

In the way; either,

1. In their way or course of life, which in Scripture is oft called a man’s way; or,

2. In the way of the Lord, as it seems to be explained by the next clause.

Who walk in the law of the Lord; who order their lives according to the rule of God’s law or word.

ALEPH.--The First Part.

ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way,.... Who are in the right way to heaven and happiness, which is Jesus Christ; the strait gate, and narrow way to eternal life; the only true way of life and salvation, in which way believers walk by faith. All out of this way are altogether become filthy; but all in this way are clean, even every bit: they are without spot and blemish, blameless and unreproveable, and without fault, before the throne of God and in his sight; being washed from their sins in the blood of the Lamb, and clothed with his righteousness; and even "perfect" and complete in him, as the Targum renders the word. These are also found in the way of their duty, and walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless before men, and are sincere and upright in the sight of God; and are upon all accounts happy persons:

who walk in the law of the Lord: within the boundaries and limits of it, according to its direction, as it is a rule of walk and conversation in the hands of Christ the Lawgiver; and who continue to walk in it, as in a pleasant path, with great delight; and cheerfully obey its precepts, as influenced by the love of God, and assisted by the Spirit and grace of Christ. The word "law", or "doctrine", as it signifies, may design every revelation of the divine will; and even the doctrine of Christ, which believers should abide in, and not transgress; and should walk uprightly according to the truth of it, and as becomes it, and as they are enabled to do.

ALEPH. Blessed are {a} the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.

(a) Here they are not called blessed who think themselves wise in their own judgment, nor who imagine to themselves a certain holiness, but they whose conversation is without hypocrisy.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. Tôrâh, ‘law,’ LXX νόμος, occurs 25 times. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:8 &c. It has however a much wider range of meaning than ‘law.’ It denotes (a) direction or instruction, whether human (Proverbs 1:8) or Divine: (b) a body of teaching: (c) more definitely, a law, or (d) a code of laws, whether the Deuteronomic code or the Levitical legislation, ‘the law of Moses’: and so finally (e) the Pentateuch. Here, as in Psalms 1, 19, it must be taken in its widest sense, as synonymous with the ‘word’ of Jehovah (Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 2:3), to include all Divine revelation as the guide of life, prophetic exhortation as well as priestly direction, the sum of an Israelite’s duty. (Cp. the use of ‘the law’ to denote the whole O.T. in John 10:34.)

1. Blessed &c.] Happy the perfect (or upright) in way, integri vitae, those whose course of life is directed and governed by single-hearted devotion to Jehovah, and integrity in dealing with their fellow men. Cp. Psalm 1:1; Psalm 15:2 note; Psalm 101:2; Psalm 101:6.

who walk &c.] Integrity of life is defined as a walking in Jehovah’s law. This is the path (Psalm 119:33) which man must follow if he would avoid sin. Cp. Exodus 16:4; Luke 1:6. For the meaning of ‘law’ see above, p. 703.

1–8. Aleph. Loyal obedience to Jehovah’s law is the source of man’s truest happiness, and therefore the Psalmist prays that it may be the fixed rule of his life, and that he may learn to understand it better.Verse 1. - Blessed are the undefiled in the way; rather, the perfect, or those that are per feet (Revised Version). The "way" intended is, no doubt, "the way of righteousness" (Psalm 1:7; 23:3, etc.). Who walk in the Law of the Lord. Compare the introductory paragraph for the meaning of "Law" in this psalm. This clause is exegetical of the preceding. The gates of the Temple are called gates of righteousness because they are the entrance to the place of the mutual intercourse between God and His church in accordance with the order of salvation. First the "gates" are spoken of, and then the one "gate," the principal entrance. Those entering in must be "righteous ones;" only conformity with a divine loving will gives the right to enter. With reference to the formation of the conclusion Psalm 118:19, vid., Ew. 347, b. In the Temple-building Israel has before it a reflection of that which, being freed from the punishment it had had to endure, it is become through the mercy of its God. With the exultation of the multitude over the happy beginning of the rebuilding there was mingled, at the laying of the foundation-stone, the loud weeping of many of the grey-headed priests. Levites, and heads of the tribes who had also seen the first Temple (Ezra 3:12.). It was the troublous character of the present which made them thus sad in spirit; the consideration of the depressing circumstances of the time, the incongruity of which weighed so heavily upon their soul in connection with the remembrance of the former Temple, that memorably glorious monument of the royal power of David and Solomon.

(Note: Kurtz, in combating our interpretation, reduces the number of the weeping ones to "some few," but the narrative says the very opposite.)

And even further on there towered aloft before Zerubbabel, the leader of the building, a great mountain; gigantic difficulties and hindrances arose between the powerlessness of the present position of Zerubbabel and the completion of the building of the Temple, which had it is true been begun, but was impeded. This mountain God has made into a plain, and qualified Zerubbabel to bring forth the top and key-stone (האבן הראשׁה) out of its past concealment, and thus to complete the building, which is now consecrated amidst a loud outburst of incessant shouts of joy (Zechariah 4:7). Psalm 118:22 points back to that disheartened disdain of the small troubles beginning which was at work among the builders (Ezra 3:10) at the laying of the foundation-stone, and then further at the interruption of the buidling. That rejected (disdained) corner-stone is nevertheless become ראשׁ פּנּהּ, i.e., the head-stone of the corner (Job 38:6), which being laid upon the corner, supports and protects the stately edifice - an emblem of the power and dignity to which Israel has attained in the midst of the peoples out of deep humiliation.

In connection with this only indirect reference of the assertion to Israel we avoid the question - perplexing in connection with the direct reference to the people despised by the heathen - how can the heathen be called "the builders?" Kurtz answers: "For the building which the heathen world considers it to be its life's mission and its mission in history to rear, viz., the Babel-tower of worldly power and worldly glory, they have neither been able nor willing to make use of Israel...." But this conjunction of ideas is devoid of scriptural support and without historical reality; for the empire of the world has set just as much value, according to political relations, upon the incorporation of Israel as upon that of every other people. Further, if what is meant is Israel's own despising of the small beginning of a new ear that is dawning, it is then better explained as in connection with the reference of the declaration to Jesus the Christ in Matthew 21:42-44; Mark 12:10., Acts 4:11 (ὑφ ̓ ὑμῶν τῶν οἰκοδομούντων), 1 Peter 2:7, the builders are the chiefs and members of Israel itself, and not the heathen. From 1 Peter 2:6; Romans 9:33, we see how this reference to Christ is brought about, viz., by means of Isaiah 28:16, where Jahve says: Behold I am He who hath laid in Zion a stone, a stone of trial, a precious corner-stone of well-founded founding - whoever believeth shall not totter. In the light of this Messianic prophecy of Isaiah Psa 118:22 of our Psalm also comes to have a Messianic meaning, which is warranted by the fact, that the history of Israel is recapitulated and culminates in the history of Christ; or, according to John 2:19-21 (cf. Zechariah 6:12.), still more accurately by the fact, that He who in His state of humiliation is the despised and rejected One is become in His state of glorification the eternal glorious Temple in which dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and is united with humanity which has been once for all atoned for. In the joy of the church at the Temple of the body of Christ which arose after the three days of burial, the joy which is here typically expressed in the words: "From with Jahve, i.e., by the might which dwells with Him, is this come to pass, wonderful is it become (has it been carried out) in our eyes," therefore received its fulfilment. It is not נפלאת but נפלאת, like הבאת in Genesis 33:11, קראת from קרא equals קרה in Deuteronomy 31:29; Jeremiah 44:23, קראת from קרא, to call, Isaiah 7:14. We can hear Isaiah 25:9 sounding through this passage, as above in Psalm 118:19., Isaiah 26:1. The God of Israel has given this turn, so full of glory for His people, to the history.

(Note: The verse, "This is the day which the Lord hath made," etc., was, according to Chrysostom, an ancient hypophon of the church. It has a glorious history.)

He is able now to plead for more distant salvation and prosperity with all the more fervent confidence. אנּא (six times אנּה) is, as in every other instance (vid., on Psalm 116:4), Milra. הושׁיעה is accented regularly on the penult., and draws the following נא towards itself by means of Dag. forte conj.; הצליחה on the other hand is Milra according to the Masora and other ancient testimonies, and נא is not dageshed, without Norzi being able to state any reason for this different accentuation. After this watchword of prayer of the thanksgiving feast, in Psalm 118:26 those who receive them bless those who are coming (הבּא with Dech) in the name of Jahve, i.e., bid them welcome in His name.

The expression "from the house of Jahve," like "from the fountain of Israel" in Psalm 68:27, is equivalent to, ye who belong to His house and to the church congregated around it. In the mouth of the people welcoming Jesus as the Messiah, Hoosanna' was a "God save the king" (vid., on Psalm 20:10); they scattered palm branches at the same time, like the lulabs at the joyous cry of the Feast of Tabernacles, and saluted Him with the cry, "Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord," as being the longed-for guest of the Feast (Matthew 21:9). According to the Midrash, in Psalm 118:26 it is the people of Jerusalem who thus greet the pilgrims. In the original sense of the Psalm, however, it is the body of Levites and priests above on the Temple-hill who thus receive the congregation that has come up. The many animals for sacrifice which they brought with them are enumerated in Ezra 6:17. On the ground of the fact that Jahve has proved Himself to be אל, the absolutely mighty One, by having granted light to His people, viz., loving-kindness, liberty, and joy, there then issues forth the ejaculation, "Bind the sacrifice," etc. The lxx renders συστήσασθε ἑορτὴν ἐν τοῖς πυκάζουσιν, which is reproduced by the Psalterium Romanum: constituite diem solemnem in confrequentationibus, as Eusebius, Theodoret, and Chrysostom (although the last waveringly) also interpret it; on the other hand, it is rendered by the psalterium Gallicum: in condensis, as Apollinaris and Jerome (in frondosis) also understand it. But much as Luther's version, which follows the latter interpretation, "Adorn the feast with green branches even to the horns of the altar," accords with our German taste, it is still untenable; for אסר cannot signify to encircle with garlands and the like, nor would it be altogether suited to חג in this signification.

(Note: Symmachus has felt this, for instead of συστήσασθε ἑορτὴν ἐν τοῖς πυκάζουσιν (in condensis) of the lxx, he renders it, transposing the notions, συνδήσατε ἐν πανηγύρει πυκάσματα. Chrysostom interprets this: στεφανώματα καὶ κλάδους ἀνάψατε τῷ ναῷ, for Montfaucon, who regards this as the version of the Sexta, is in error.)

Thus then in this instance A. Lobwasser renders it comparatively more correctly, although devoid of taste: "The Lord is great and mighty of strength who lighteneth us all; fasten your bullocks to the horns beside the altar." To the horns?! So even Hitzig and others render it. But such a "binding to" is unheard of. And can אסר עד possibly signify to bind on to anything? And what would be the object of binding them to the horns of the altar? In order that they might not run away?! Hengstenberg and von Lengerke at least disconnect the words "unto the horns of the altar" from any relation to this precautionary measure, by interpreting: until it (the animal for the festal sacrifice) is raised upon the horns of the altar and sacrificed. But how much is then imputed to these words! No indeed, חג denotes the animals for the feast-offering, and there was so vast a number of these (according to Ezra loc. cit. seven hundred and twelve) that the whole space of the court of the priests was full of them, and the binding of them consequently had to go on as far as to the horns of the altar. Ainsworth (1627) correctly renders: "unto the hornes, that is, all the Court over, untill you come even to the hornes of the altar, intending hereby many sacrifices or boughs." The meaning of the call is therefore: Bring your hecatombs and make them ready for sacrifice.

(Note: In the language of the Jewish ritual Isru-chag is become the name of the after-feast day which follows the last day of the feast. Psalm 118 is the customary Psalm for the Isru-chag of all מועדים.)

The words "unto (as far as) the horns of the altar" have the principal accent. In v. 28 (cf. Exodus 15:2) the festal procession replies in accordance with the character of the feast, and then the Psalm closes, in correspondence with its beginning, with a Hodu in which all voices join.

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