Psalm 14:5
There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) There were they.—Literally, there they feared a fear, i.e., terror overtook them. Psalms 53 adds, “which was no fear.” The local “there” brings the scene before us as in a picture. We see them there before us, these wicked men; there in the midst of their intrigues, or their exactions, or their pleasures, the hand of God seizes them, and lo! they are struck with fear. We evidently have not here any indication by which to fasten on a particular event. Whether the addition in Psalms 53 gives any is discussed there.

For God is.—For the singular variation in Psalms 53 consult Note on Psalm 14:5 of that psalm. The uneasy sense that, after all, the good have God on their side—this general truth is implied in the phrase “generations of the righteous,” even if first employed of faithful Israel—is always a cause of fear to the wicked.

Psalm 14:5. There were they in great fear — In the place, or upon the spot where they practised these insolences: or, then, that is, in the height of their tyranny and prosperous impiety, when they seemed to have no cause for it, God struck them with a panic fear. Hebrew, פחדו פחד, pachadu pachad, they feared with fear, that is, vehemently, namely, from their own guilty consciences and the just expectation of divine vengeance. Or, they shall be greatly afraid, the past tense being put for the future prophetically. Thus Bishop Patrick understands it, whose paraphrase on the words is, “What a terror will it be to them to see the divine vengeance seize on them when they think themselves most secure!” For God is in the generation of the righteous — He, who is the righteous Judge, will not desert those that are faithful to him, but will graciously deliver them. Or, God is for the generation, &c., as the Hebrew particle ב, here used, often signifies: that is, God is on their side, and therefore their enemies have great cause to tremble.14:1-7 A description of the depravity of human nature, and the deplorable corruption of a great part of mankind. - The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. The sinner here described is an atheist, one that saith there is no Judge or Governor of the world, no Providence ruling over the affairs of men. He says this in his heart. He cannot satisfy himself that there is none, but wishes there were none, and pleases himself that it is possible there may be none; he is willing to think there is none. This sinner is a fool; he is simple and unwise, and this is evidence of it: he is wicked and profane, and this is the cause. The word of God is a discerner of these thoughts. No man will say, There is no God, till he is so hardened in sin, that it is become his interest that there should be none to call him to an account. The disease of sin has infected the whole race of mankind. They are all gone aside, there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Whatever good is in any of the children of men, or is done by them, it is not of themselves, it is God's work in them. They are gone aside from the right way of their duty, the way that leads to happiness, and are turned into the paths of the destroyer. Let us lament the corruption of our nature, and see what need we have of the grace of God: let us not marvel that we are told we must be born again. And we must not rest in any thing short of union with Christ, and a new creation to holiness by his Spirit. The psalmist endeavours to convince sinners of the evil and danger of their way, while they think themselves very wise, and good, and safe. Their wickedness is described. Those that care not for God's people, for God's poor, care not for God himself. People run into all manner of wickedness, because they do not call upon God for his grace. What good can be expected from those that live without prayer? But those that will not fear God, may be made to fear at the shaking of a leaf. All our knowledge of the depravity of human nature should endear to us salvation out of Zion. But in heaven alone shall the whole company of the redeemed rejoice fully, and for evermore. The world is bad; oh that the Messiah would come and change its character! There is universal corruption; oh for the times of reformation! The triumphs of Zion's King will be the joys of Zion's children. The second coming of Christ, finally to do away the dominion of sin and Satan, will be the completing of this salvation, which is the hope, and will be the joy of every Israelite indeed. With this assurance we should comfort ourselves and one another, under the sins of sinners and sufferings of saints.There were they in great fear - Margin, as in Hebrew, "they feared a fear." The idea is, that they were in great terror or consternation. They were not calm in their belief that there was no God. They endeavored to be. They wished to satisfy themselves that there was no God, and that they had nothing to dread. But they could not do this. In spite of all their efforts, there was such proof of his existence, and of his being the friend of the righteous, and consequently the enemy of such as they themselves were, as to fill their minds with alarm. People cannot, by an effort of will, get rid of the evidence that there is a God. In the face of all their attempts to convince themselves of this, the demonstration of his existence will press upon them, and will often fill their minds with terror.

For God is in the generation of the righteous - The word "generation" here, as applied to the righteous, seems to refer to them as a "race," or as a "class" of people. Compare Psalm 24:6; Psalm 73:15; Psalm 112:2. It commonly in the Scriptures refers to a certain age or duration, as it is used by us, reckoning an age or generation as about thirty or forty years (compare Job 42:16); but in the use of the term before us the idea of an "age" is dropped, and the righteous are spoken of merely as a "class" or "race" of persons. The idea here is, that there were such manifest proofs that God was among the righteous, and that he was their friend, that the wicked could not resist the force of that evidence, however much they might desire it, and however much they might wish to arrive at the conclusion that there was no God. The evidence that he was among the righteous would, of course, alarm them, because the very fact that he was the friend of the righteous demonstrated that he must be the enemy of the wicked, and, of course, that they were exposed to his wrath.

4-6. Their conduct evinces indifference rather than ignorance of God; for when He appears in judgment, they are stricken with great fear.

who eat up my people—to express their beastly fury (Pr 30:14; Hab 3:14). To "call on the Lord" is to worship Him.

5 There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.

Oppressors have it not all their own way, they have their fits of trembling and their appointed seasons of overthrow. There - where they denied God and hectored against his people; there - where they thought of peace and safety, they were made to quail. "There were they" - these very loud-mouthed, iron-handed, proud-hearted Nimrods and Herods, these heady, high-minded sinners - "there were they in great fear." A panic terror seized them: "they feared a fear," as the Hebrew puts it; an undefinable, horrible, mysterious dread crept over them. The most hardened of men have their periods when conscience casts them into a cold sweat of alarm. As cowards are cruel, so all cruel men are at heart cowards. The ghost of past sin is a terrible spectre to haunt any man, and though unbelievers may boast as loudly as they will, a sound is in their ears which makes them ill at ease.

"For God is in the generation of the righteous." This makes the company of godly men so irksome to the wicked because they perceive that God is with them. Shut their eyes as they may, they cannot but perceive the image of God in the character of his truly gracious people, nor can they fail to see that he works for their deliverance. Like Haman, they instinctively feel a trembling when they see God's Mordecais. Even though the saint may be in a mean position, mourning at the gate where the persecutor rejoices in state, the sinner feels the influence of the believer's true nobility and quails before it, for God is there. Let scoffers beware, for they persecute the Lord Jesus when they molest his people; the union is very close between God and his people, it amounts to a mysterious indwelling, for God is in the generation of the righteous.

There, i.e. in the place, or upon the spot, where they practised these insolences, God struck them with a panic fear. Or, then, i.e. in the height of their tyranny and prosperous impiety, when they seemed to have no cause for it. An adverb of place for an adverb of time, of which there want not examples in Scripture and other authors, as hath been noted before. Or, thence, as this particle is rendered, Genesis 2:10 49:24 Isaiah 65:20; i.e. from that time; or for that cause, as some take it, and it may be taken, Job 35:12 Psalm 36:12, i.e. for this their contempt of God and manifest injury to men.

In great fear, from their own guilty consciences, and the just expectation of Divine vengeance. Heb. they feared with fear, i.e. vehemently, where there was no cause of fear, as is here implied, (for they are now supposed to be in a state of power and tyranny,) as is expressed in the parallel place, Psalm 53:5. Or, they shall be greatly afraid, the past tense being put for the future prophetically.

For; for they remembered what a potent adversary they had, and therefore had cause enough to fear. Or, but, as this particle is taken, Genesis 45:8 Psalm 37:20 Ecclesiastes 2:10 6:2. So he describes the contrary and safe condition of the righteous. Or, when, as it oft signifies, and so it answers to the then in the beginning of the verse, when God shall once appear for his people, a dreadful horror shall seize upon their wicked enemies.

In the generation of the righteous, i.e. among them, with his gracious and powerful presence to defend them, and to fight against their enemies. Or, God is for, &c., as the Hebrew beth oft signifies, that is, God is on their side, and therefore their enemies have great cause to tremble. There were they in great fear,.... This, shows that they had some knowledge of God, and consciousness of guilt, which they endeavoured to banish out of their minds by their fears of punishment; and these fears men of the most atheistic principles cannot get rid of. In Psalm 53:5 it is added, "where no fear was": that is, any cause or reason for it: such men are often frightened at their own shadows, afraid to be in the dark alone, as Hobbes the atheist was. The wicked flee when no man pursues, and are chased by the sound of a shaken leaf; see Proverbs 28:1; or where there was no fear of God before their eyes, nor on their hearts, as well as no regard to men; or where before there were perfect peace and security, and no apprehension or dread of any calamity, ruin, and destruction;

for God is in the generation of the righteous, or "of the righteous One" (b); which some understood of Jesus Christ the righteous: and though the age or generation in which he lived was a very wicked one, yet God was with him; as was seen by the doctrines he taught, and the miracles he wrought; and which filled the Jews with panic fears, lest the Romans should come and take away their place and nation: but rather this is to be understood of the generation of the saints, who are righteous through the righteousness of Christ, and have the new man in them, which is created in righteousness and true holiness, and live soberly and righteously; these are sometimes called the generation of the upright, and of the children of God, and of them that seek him, Psalm 112:2; in the midst of these God is, among them he affords his gracious presence, and is with them, for their help and assistance against their enemies: and as this makes them fearless of them, it fills their enemies with dread and terror; see Joshua 2:9. The Targum renders it,

"the Word of the Lord is in the generation of the righteous.''

(b) "justi", Montanus, Gejerus.

{d} There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.

(d) Where they think themselves most sure.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. This verse is commonly explained to refer to the future, the perfect tense expressing the certain assurance of the Psalmist that judgement will be executed. Cp. Psalm 36:12. But it is more natural to refer it to the past. ‘There’ points emphatically to some signal instance in which panic terror and overwhelming calamity overtook ‘the workers of iniquity.’ If Psalm 14:4 may be understood of the oppression of Israel in Egypt, Psalm 14:5 will refer to the overthrow of the Egyptians in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:24-25). Psalm 53:5 adds where no fear was, no natural cause for alarm.

for God &c.] Present among them to defend them. ‘The generation’ (see on Psalm 12:7) ‘of the righteous’ is synonymous with ‘my people;’ either the nation, which might be so described in respect of its calling, and in contrast to its oppressors: or the godly part of it. Cp. Psalm 118:15.Verse 5. - There were they in great fear. "There" - in the midst of their evil-doing, while they are devouring God's people - a sudden terror seizes on them. Psalm 53:5 adds, "Where no fear was," which seems to imply a panic terror, like that which seized the Syrians when they were besieging Samaria (2 Kings 7:6, 7). For God is in the generation of the righteous. God's people cannot be attacked without provoking him; they ere in him, and he in them; he will assuredly come to their relief. (Heb.: 13:6) Three lines of joyous anticipation now follow the five of lament and four of prayer. By יאני he sets himself in opposition to his foes. The latter desire his death, but he trusts in the mercy of God, who will turn and terminate his affliction. בּטח בּ denotes faith as clinging fast to God, just as חסה בּ denotes it as confidence which hides itself in Him. The voluntative יגל pre-supposes the sure realisation of the hope. The perfect in Psalm 13:6 is to be properly understood thus: the celebration follows the fact that inspires him to song. גּמל על to do good to any one, as in Psalm 116:7; Psalm 119:17, cf. the radically cognate (על) גּמר Psalm 57:3. With the two iambics gamal‛alaj the song sinks to rest. In the storm-tossed soul of the suppliant all has now become calm. Though it rage without as much now as ever - peace reigns in the depth of his heart.
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