Psalm 119:96
I have seen an end of all perfection: but your commandment is exceeding broad.
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(96) I have seen.—The exact thought of the psalmist here is doubtful, and it offers such a wide application, embracing so many truths of experience, that possibly he had more than one meaning in his mind. Keeping as close to the context as possible, the meaning will be: “To all perfection (or apparent perfection) a limit is visible, but the Divine Law is boundless alike in its scope and its requirements.” This, translated into the language of modern ideas, merely says that the actual can never correspond with the ideal:

“Who keeps a spirit wholly true

To that ideal which he bears?”

But in the word end in Hebrew, as in English, there is a limitation in time, as in space (see Job 26:10; Job 28:3; comp. Symmachus, “I have seen the end of all settled things”), and the Prayer Book version may really give the psalmist’s thought as indicating the difference between mere change and progress.

“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfils Himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.”

TENNYSON: Morte d’Arthur.

Psalm 119:96. I have seen an end of all perfection — I have observed that all human things, how complete soever they may seem, such as wisdom and power, glory and riches, and the greatest and most perfect accomplishments and enjoyments in this world, are exceeding frail, and soon come to an end. But thy commandment — Thy word, (one part being put for the whole,) is exceeding broad — Or large, both for extent and for continuance; it is useful to all persons, in all times and conditions, and for all purposes, to inform, direct, quicken, comfort, sanctify, and save me; it is of everlasting truth and efficacy; it will never deceive those who trust to it, as all worldly things will, but will make men happy both here and for ever.119:89-96 The settling of God's word in heaven, is opposed to the changes and revolutions of the earth. And the engagements of God's covenant are established more firmly than the earth itself. All the creatures answer the ends of their creation: shall man, who alone is endued with reason, be the only unprofitable burden of the earth? We may make the Bible a pleasant companion at any time. But the word, without the grace of God, would not quicken us. See the best help for bad memories, namely, good affections; and though the exact words be lost, if the meaning remain, that is well. I am thine, not my own, not the world's; save me from sin, save me from ruin. The Lord will keep the man in peace, whose mind is stayed on him. It is poor perfection which one sees and end of. Such are all things in this world, which pass for perfections. The glory of man is but as the flower of the grass. The psalmist had seen the fulness of the word of God, and its sufficiency. The word of the Lord reaches to all cases, to all times. It will take us from all confidence in man, or in our own wisdom, strength, and righteousness. Thus shall we seek comfort and happiness from Christ alone.I have seen an end of all perfection - The word which is here rendered "perfection" - תכלה tiklâh - occurs only in this place; but a similar word from the same root - תכלית taklı̂yth - occurs in the following places: in Nehemiah 3:21, and Job 26:10, rendered "end;" in Job 11:7; Job 28:3, rendered "perfection;" and in Psalm 139:22, rendered "perfect." It means properly "completion, perfection;" or, as others suppose, "hope, confidence." It is rendered, in the Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, "consummation." Luther renders it, "of all things." It is proper here to apply it to character; to perfect virtue, or to claims to perfect virtue - either in one's-self or in others. The word rendered "end" here refers not to the fact of its existence, or to its duration, but to a limit or boundary as to its extent. To all claims to perfection made by man, he had seen an end or limit. He had examined all which claimed to be perfect; he had found it defective; he had so surveyed and examined the matter, as to be able to say that there could be no claim to perfection which would prove good. All claim to perfection on the part of man must be abandoned forever.

But thy commandment is exceeding broad - The word but is not in the original, and enfeebles the sense. The idea is, that the law of God, as he now saw it, was of such a nature - was so "broad" - as to demonstrate that there could be no just claim to perfection among people. All claims to perfection had arisen from the fact that the law was not properly understood, that its true nature was not seen. People thought that they were perfect, but it was because they had no just view of the extent and the spirituality of the law of God. They set up an imperfect standard; and when they became conformed to that standard, as they might do, they imagined themselves to be perfect; but when their conduct was compared with a higher and more just standard - the law of God - it could not but be seen that they were imperfect people. That law had claims which they had not met, and never would meet, in this life. It is very easy to flatter ourselves that we are perfect, if we make our own standard of character; it is not possible for man to set up a claim to perfection, if he measures himself by the standard of God's word; and all the claims of people to perfection are made simply because they do not properly understand what the law of God requires. Compare the notes at Job 9:20.

Psalm 119:96"As the hart panteth after the water brooks,

So panteth my soul after Thee, O God."

93. The bounds of created perfection may be defined, but those of God's law in its nature, application, and influence, are infinite. There is no human thing so perfect but that something is wanting to it; its limits are narrow, whereas God's law is of infinite breadth, reaching to all cases, perfectly meeting what each requires, and to all times (Ps 19:3, 6, 7-11; Ec 3:11). It cannot be cramped within any definitions of man's dogmatical systems. Man never outgrows the Word. It does not shock the ignorant man with declared anticipations of discoveries which he had not yet made; while in it the man of science finds his newest discoveries by tacit anticipations provided for. I have seen an end of all perfection; I have observed by my experience that the greatest and most perfect accomplishments and enjoyments in this world, the greatest glory, and riches, and power, and wisdom, are too narrow and shortlived to make men happy.

Thy commandment; thy word; one part of it being synecdochically put for the whole.

Broad, or large, both for extent and for continuance; it is useful to all persons in all times and conditions, and for all purposes, to inform, direct, quicken, comfort, sanctify, and save men; it is of everlasting truth and efficacy; it will never deceive nor forsake those who trust to it, as all worldly things will, but will make men happy both here and for ever. I have seen an end of all perfection,.... An end, limit, or border, to every country, as the Syriac version; as there is to every kingdom and state, and to the whole world; but none to the commandment of God: or an end of all created beings, the finished works of God, the most perfect in their kind. Manythings had already fallen under the observation of the psalmist: he had seen men of the greatest strength, and of the most consummate wisdom, and that had attained to the highest degree of power and authority, of wealth and riches, and yet were all come to nothing; he had seen some of the most flourishing states and kingdoms brought to desolation; he had seen an entire end of them: he saw by the Spirit of God, and by the word of God, and faith in it, that all things would have an end, the heavens and earth, and all that is therein; for so it may be rendered, "I see an end of all perfection" (b); or that the most perfect things will have an end, and that the end of them is at hand; see 1 Peter 4:7. Moreover, he had looked over the wisdom of this world, and the princes of it, which comes to nought; he had considered the several political schemes of government, the wisest digest and system of laws, made by the wisest lawgivers among men, and found them all to be limited, short and shallow, in comparison of the word of God, as follows: the Targum is,

"I have seen an end of all that I have studied in and looked into.''

but thy commandment is exceeding broad; the word of God is a large field to walk and meditate in; it is sufficient to instruct all men in all ages, both with respect to doctrine and duty, and to make every man of God perfect; it has such a height and depth of doctrine and mysteries in it as can never be fully reached and fathomed, and such a breadth as is not to be measured: the fulness of the Scripture can never be exhausted; the promises of it reach to this life, and that which is to come; and the precepts of it are so large, that no works of righteousness done by men are adequate and proportionate to them; no righteousness, but the righteousness of Christ, is as large and as broad as those commandments; wherefore no perfection of righteousness is to be found in men, only in Christ; who is the perfect fulfilling end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes, Romans 10:4.

(b) Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius.

I {d} have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.

(d) There is nothing so perfect in earth, but it has an end, only God's word lasts forever.

96. The meaning may be, ‘I have learnt by experience that all earthly perfection has its limit; but God’s commandment is unlimited in extent and value.’ The word for ‘perfection’ (tiklâh) however occurs here only, and if its sense is to be determined by that of the most closely cognate word taklîth, it would seem to mean rather ‘completeness,’ the sum of things. The sum of earthly things is limited, Jehovah’s law is infinite.Verse 96. - I have seen an end of all perfection; i.e. to all other perfection I have seen, and see, a limit; but there is no limit to the perfection of thy Law. Thy commandment is exceeding broad. Unlimited - measureless in its range. It inculcates on man an absolute perfection. The eightfold Lamed. Eternal and imperishable in the constant verifying of itself is the vigorous and consolatory word of God, to which the poet will ever cling. It has heaven as its standing-place, and therefore it also has the qualities of heaven, and before all others, heaven-like stability. Psalm 89 (Psalm 89:3) uses similar language in reference to God's faithfulness, of which here Psalm 119:90 says that it endureth into all generations. The earth hath He creatively set up, and it standeth, viz., as a practical proof and as a scene of His infinite, unchangeable faithfulness. Heaven and earth are not the subjects of Psalm 119:91 (Hupfeld), for only the earth is previously mentioned; the reference to the heavens in Psalm 119:89 is of a very different character. Hitzig and others see the subject in למשׁפּטיך: with respect to Thy judgments, they stand fast unto this day; but the עבדיך which follows requires another meaning to be assigned to עמדוּ: either of taking up one's place ready for service, or, since עמד למשׁפט is a current phrase in Numbers 35:12; Joshua 20:6; Ezekiel 44:24, of placing one's self ready to obey (Bttcher). The subject of עמדוּ, as the following הכּל shows, is meant to be thought of in the most general sense (cf. Job 38:14): all beings are God's servants (subjects), and have accordingly to be obedient and humble before His judicial decisions - היּום, "even to this day," the poet adds, for these judicial decisions are those which are formulated beforehand in the Tra. Joy in this ever sure, all-conditioning word has upheld the poet in his affliction, Psalm 119:92. He who has been persecuted and cast down as it were to death, owes his reviving to it, Psalm 119:93. From Him whose possession or property he is in faith and love he also further looks for his salvation, Psalm 119:94. Let evil-doers lie in wait for him (קוּוּ in a hostile sense, as in Psalm 56:7, קוּה, cf. חכּה, going back to קוה, Arab. qawiya, with the broad primary signification, to be tight, firm, strong) to destroy him, he meditates on God's testimonies. He knows from experience that all (earthly) perfection (תּכלה) has an end (inasmuch as, having reached its height, it changes into its opposite); God's commandment (singular as in Deuteronomy 11:22), on the contrary, is exceeding broad (cf. Job 11:9), unlimited in its duration and verification.
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