Psalm 15:1
A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
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(1) Abide . . . dwell.—Properly, as in margin, sojourn like a passing guest, and dwell like a resident. But here the two terms are apparently used as synonyms. It was the natural form in which to put the question at Jerusalem, where God had His abode in the Temple, and we may paraphrase it thus: “What constitutes a true and genuine citizen of the kingdom of God?The form of Wordsworth’s poem, “Who is the happy warrior? who is he,” &c, was possibly suggested by the Psalm, and it may be read with advantage by the side of it.

Psalm 15:1. Lord, who shall, &c. — The psalmist proposes this question to God, that the answer, coming from the Supreme Lord of earth and heaven, the Lawgiver and Judge of men and angels, might have the greater authority and influence on men’s consciences. Who shall abide — Hebrew מי יגור, mi jagur, who shall sojourn in thy tabernacle? — In thy church here, and be a true member thereof, and an acceptable worshipper of thee therein? Who shall dwell — Hebrew, ישׁכן, jishchon, shall reside, and have his constant and perpetual mansion, in thy holy hill of Zion, often put for heaven, where is the true tabernacle not made with hands, Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:11; Revelation 21:3. Who shall be permitted and enabled so to worship thee in thy church on earth, and enjoy and improve the privileges thereof, as to dwell with thee in heaven for ever hereafter? The reader will easily observe, that the psalmist alludes to the hill of Zion, to the tabernacle of God which was thereon, and to the character of the priest who should officiate in that tabernacle. And he will remember that “all these were figures of a celestial Jerusalem, a spiritual Zion, a true tabernacle, and an eternal priest. To the great originals, therefore, we must transfer our ideas, and consider the inquiry as made after Him who should fix his resting-place on the heavenly mount, and exercise his unchangeable priesthood in the temple not made with hands. And since the disciples of this new and great high-priest become righteous in him, and are by the Spirit conformed to his image, the character which essentially and inherently belongs only to him will derivatively belong to them also, who must follow his steps below, if they would reign with him above.” — Horne.

15:1-5 The way to heaven, if we would be happy, we must be holy. We are encouraged to walk in that way. - Here is a very serious question concerning the character of a citizen of Zion. It is the happiness of glorified saints, that they dwell in the holy hill; they are at home there, they shall be for ever there. It concerns us to make it sure to ourselves that we have a place among them. A very plain and particular answer is here given. Those who desire to know their duty, will find the Scripture a very faithful director, and conscience a faithful monitor. A citizen of Zion is sincere in his religion. He is really what he professes to be, and endeavours to stand complete in all the will of God. He is just both to God and man; and, in speaking to both, speaks the truth in his heart. He scorns and abhors wrong and fraud; he cannot reckon that a good bargain, nor a saving one, which is made with a lie; and knows that he who wrongs his neighbour will prove, in the end, to have most injured himself. He is very careful to do hurt to no man. He speaks evil of no man, makes not others' faults the matter of his common talk; he makes the best of every body, and the worst of nobody. If an ill-natured story be told him, he will disprove it if he can; if not, it goes no further. He values men by their virtue and piety. Wicked people are vile people, worthless, and good for nothing; so the word signifies. He thinks the worse of no man's piety for his poverty and mean condition. He reckons that serious piety puts honour upon a man, more than wealth, or a great name. He honours such, desires their conversation and an interest in their prayers, is glad to show them respect, or do them a kindness. By this we may judge of ourselves in some measure. Even wise and good men may swear to their own hurt: but see how strong the obligation is, a man must rather suffer loss to himself and his family, than wrong his neighbour. He will not increase his estate by extortion, or by bribery. He will not, for any gain, or hope of it to himself, do any thing to hurt a righteous cause. Every true living member of the church, like the church itself, is built upon a Rock. He that doeth these things shall not be moved for ever. The grace of God shall always be sufficient for him. The union of these tempers and this conduct, can only spring from repentance for sin, faith in the Saviour, and love to him. In these respects let us examine and prove our own selves.Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? - Margin, "sojourn." The Hebrew word means properly to "sojourn;" that is, to abide in a place as a sojourner or stranger; not permanently, but only for a while. The idea in this place is taken from the word "tabernacle" or "tent," with which one naturally associates the thought of sojourning, rather than that of a permanent abode. Compare Hebrews 11:9. It should not be inferred, however, that it is meant here that the residence with God would be "temporary." The idea of permanency is fully expressed in the other member of the sentence, and the language here is only such as was customary in speaking of the righteous - language derived from the fact that in early times men dwelt in tents rather than in permanent habitations.

Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? - Zion, regarded as the dwelling-place of God, and the type of heaven - the eternal abode of the Most High. See the note at Psalm 2:6. The question is equivalent to asking, who is qualified to dwell with God? who may properly be regarded as his friend? who has a title to his favor? who is truly pious? By us the same question would be put in another form, though implying the same thing: Who is qualified to become a member of the church; who has evidence of true conversion and real piety? who is he who is prepared for heaven?


Ps 15:1-5. Those who are fit for communion with God may be known by a conformity to His law, which is illustrated in various important particulars.

1. abide—or, "sojourn" (compare Ps 5:4), where it means under God's protection here, as (Ps 23:6, 27:4, 6) communion.

tabernacle—seat of the ark (2Sa 6:17), the symbol of God's presence.

holy hill—(Compare Ps 2:6).

The Question

1 Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

Jehovah. Thou high and holy One, who shall be permitted to have fellowship with thee? The heavens are not pure in thy sight, and thou chargedst thine angels with folly, who then of mortal mould shall dwell with thee, thou dread consuming fire? A sense of the glory of the Lord and of the holiness which becomes his house, his service, and his attendants, excites the humble mind to ask the solemn question before us. Where angels bow with veiled faces, how shall man be able to worship at all? The unthinking many imagine it to be a very easy matter to approach the Most High, and when professedly engaged in his worship they have no questionings of heart as to their fitness for it; but truly humbled souls often shrink under a sense of utter unworthiness, and would not dare to approach the throne of the God of holiness if it were not for him, our Lord, our Advocate, who can abide in the heavenly temple, because his righteousness endureth for ever. "Who shall abide in thy tabernacle?" Who shall be admitted to be one of the household of God, to sojourn under his roof and enjoy communion with himself? "Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?" Who shall be a citizen of Zion, and an inhabitant of the heavenly Jerusalem? The question is raised, because it is a question. All men have not this privilege, nay, even among professors there are aliens from the commonwealth, who have no secret intercourse with God. On the grounds of law no mere man can dwell with God, for there is not one upon earth who answers to the just requirements mentioned in the succeeding verses. The questions in the text are asked of the Lord, as if none but the Infinite Mind could answer them so as to satisfy the unquiet conscience. We must know from the Lord of the tabernacle what are the qualifications for his service, and when we have been taught of him, we shall clearly see that only our spotless Lord Jesus, and those who are conformed unto his image, can ever stand with acceptance before the Majesty on high.

Impertinent curiosity frequently desires to know who and how many snail be saved; if those who thus ask the question, "Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?" would make it a soul-searching enquiry in reference to themselves they would act much more wisely. Members of the visible church, which is God's tabernacle of worship, and hill of eminence, should diligently see to it, that they have the preparation of heart which fits them to be inmates of the house of God. Without the wedding dress of righteousness in Christ Jesus, we have no right to sit at the banquet of communion. Without uprightness of walk we are not fit for the imperfect church on earth, and certainly we must not hope to enter the perfect church above. THE ARGUMENT

The occasion and time of composing this Psalm is uncertain; but the scope of it is plain, which is to give the character of a holy and happy man, and to describe the way to true blessedness; wherein this is observable, that he is wholly silent as to the ceremonial or ritual observations of the law; not that he doth disown them, or allow the neglect of them, as is manifest from David’s constant practice, an from many other passages; but that he might undeceive the hypocritical Israelites, who laid too great a stress upon those things, as the diligent performance thereof would excuse their wicked lives, which error almost all the prophets do observe and condemn in them; and that he might inform the church of that and all succeeding ages, that the substance of religion did consist in the practice of true holiness and righteousness.

David describeth a citizen of Zion, Psalm 15:1, i.e. he is pure in heart, Psalm 15:2; governeth his tongue, Psalm 15:3; contemns a vile person, but honours him that fears God, Psalm 15:4. He is no usurer, Psalm 15:5.

O thou who art the sovereign Lord of this holy hill and tabernacle, to whom it belongs to give laws to it, and to admit or reject persons as thou seest fit, I beg of thee the resolution of this important question. And he proposeth this question to God, that the answer coming from him may have the greater authority and influence upon men’s consciences.

Who shall abide, Heb. sojourn, to wit, so as to dwell, as it is explained in the next clause; unless this clause be meant of sojourning in the church here, and the next of dwelling in heaven hereafter. Who shall enter thither and abide there, with thy good leave and liking?

In thy tabernacle, i.e. in thy church; either,

1. Militant. Who is a true and will be a persevering member of this church? Or,

2. Triumphant, or in heaven; which is called the true tabernacle, not made with man’s hands, Hebrews 8:2 9:11 Revelation 21:3.

In thy holy hill, to wit, of Zion, so called Psalm 2:6, which is oft put for the church and for heaven. Who shall so dwell in thy church here as to dwell with thee for ever hereafter in heaven?

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?.... This question, with the following, is put by the psalmist in a view of the sad corruption and degeneracy of mankind described in the preceding psalm, which renders the sons of men unfit for the presence of God, and communion with him; and it is put to the Lord himself, the founder of Zion, who has set his King over this holy hill of his; who has enacted laws for the good of it, and brings his people thither, making them meet for it, and so is most proper to give the qualifications of such as are admitted here; for by the tabernacle is meant not the human nature of Christ, as in Hebrews 8:2; as some interpret it, and apply all the characters in the following verses to Christ; nor heaven itself, of which the holy place made with hands in the tabernacle and temple were a figure, Hebrews 9:24; for to "sojourn" (d) or "lodge", as in an inn, as the word rendered abide signifies, will not suit with that state and place which is fixed and immovable; but the church of God on earth, called a "tabernacle", in allusion to the tabernacle of Moses, where God granted his presence, sacrifices were offered up with acceptance, and the holy vessels were put; and which was mean without, but rich and glorious within: so God affords his gracious presence in his church, accepts the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise offered to him there; and here are the vessels of mercy placed, which are sanctified and meet for the master's use; and though it is mean and despicable in its outward appearance, in the eyes of men, it is all glorious within; see Sol 1:6; and this is the tabernacle of God, being of his building and preserving, and the place of his residence;

who shall dwell in thy holy hill? the same is here intended as in the preceding clause; the allusion is to Mount Zion, whither the ark of the Lord was brought in David's time, and on one part of which the temple was afterwards built: and the church may be compared to this hill, for its eminence and visibility in the world; for the holiness which God has put upon it, and for the immovableness of it; for though like, a tabernacle it may be carried from place to place, yet it is like an hill that can never be removed out of the world; it is built on a sure foundation, the Rock of ages. Now the purport of these questions is, who is a proper person to be an inhabitant of Zion? or to be a member of the church of God? the answer is in the following verses.

(d) "peregrinabitur", Pagninus, Montanus; "diversabitur", Muis; so Ainsworth; "vel hospitabitur", Cocceius.

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
1. More exactly:

Jehovah, who shall sojourn in thy tent?

Who shall dwell in thy holy mountain?

Who is worthy to be received as Jehovah’s guest, to enjoy His protection and hospitality, to dwell in the place which He has consecrated by His Presence? Cp. Psalm 5:4. It is not as a mere form of speech that the Psalmist addresses Jehovah. By this appeal he at once places himself and his readers in immediate relation to Jehovah. The question is asked of Him, and the answer is given as in His Presence.

In thy tent might be wholly metaphorical and mean no more than in thy abode, but here where it stands in parallelism to thy holy mountain, it is natural to see a reference to ‘the tent’ which David pitched for the Ark on Mount Zion. Cp. Psalm 27:5-6. ‘Sojourn’ commonly denotes a temporary stay, but not necessarily so (Psalm 61:4); the special point here lies in the protection which the guest in Oriental countries claims from his host. “The Arabs give the title of jâr allâh to one who resides in Mecca beside the Caaba.” Robertson Smith’s Religion of the Semites, p. 77.

Not merely ministers at the sanctuary or even worshippers are meant, but all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were often too prone to assume that God’s presence among them was a guarantee of security, instead of recognising that it demanded holiness on their part (Micah 3:11). Spiritually, the question concerns all who would draw near to God.

Verse 1. - Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? rather, Who shall sojourn? Whom wilt thou accept as a sojourner in thy tent, to be near to thee, and consort with thee? Who shall dwell (i.e. whom wilt thou permit to dwell) in thy holy hill? The "tabernacle" and the "holy hill" of Zion are, of course, not to be understood literally. They are figurative expressions, pointing to the Divine presence and favour, and the blessedness of abiding in them. Psalm 15:1That which is expanded in the tristichic portion of the Psalm, is all contained in this distichic portion in nuce. The address to God is not merely a favourite form (Hupfeld), but the question is really, as its words imply, directed to God. The answer, however, is not therefore to be taken as a direct answer from God, as it might be in a prophetical connection: the psalmist addresses himself to God in prayer, he as it were reads the heart of God, and answers to himself the question just asked, in accordance with the mind of God. גּוּר and שׁכן which are usually distinguished from each other like παροικεῖν and κατοικεῖν in Hellenistic Greek, are alike in meaning in this instance. It is not a merely temporary גּוּר (Psalm 61:5), but for ever, that is intended. The only difference between the two interchangeable notions is this, the one denotes the finding of an abiding place of rest starting from the idea of a wandering life, the other the possession of an abiding place of rest starting from the idea of settled family life.

(Note: In the Arabic jâm ‛lllh is "one under the protection of God, dwelling as it were in the fortress of God" vid., Fleischer's Samachschari, S. 1, Anm. 1.)

The holy tabernacle and the holy mountain are here thought of in their spiritual character as the places of the divine presence and of the church of God assembled round the symbol of it; and accordingly the sojourning and dwelling there is not to be understood literally, but in a spiritual sense. This spiritual depth of view, first of all with local limitations, is also to be found in Psalm 27:4-5; Psalm 61:5. This is present even where the idea of earnestness and regularity in attending the sanctuary rises in intensity to that of constantly dwelling therein, Psalm 65:5; Psalm 84:4-5; while elsewhere, as in Psalm 24:3, the outward materiality of the Old Testament is not exceeded. Thus we see the idea of the sanctuary at one time contracting itself within the Old Testament limits, and at another expanding more in accordance with the spirit of the New Testament; since in this matter, as in the matter of sacrifice, the spirit of the New Testament already shows signs of life, and works powerfully through its cosmical veil, without that veil being as yet rent. The answer to the question, so like the spirit of the New Testament in its intention, is also itself no less New Testament in its character: Not every one who saith Lord, Lord, but they who do the will of God, shall enjoy the rights of friendship with Him. But His will concerns the very substance of the Law, viz., our duties towards all men, and the inward state of the heart towards God.

In the expression הולך תמים (here and in Proverbs 28:18), תמים is either a closer definition of the subject: one walking as an upright man, like הולך רכיל one going about as a slanderer, cf. היּשׂר הולך Micah 2:7 "the upright as one walking;" or it is an accusative of the object, as in הולך צדקות Isaiah 33:15 : one who walks uprightness, i.e., one who makes uprightness his way, his mode of action; since תמים may mean integrum equals integritas, and this is strongly favoured by הלכים בּתמים, which is used interchangeably with it in Psalm 84:12 (those who walk in uprightness). Instead of עשׂה צדקה we have the poetical form of expression פּעל צדק. The characterising of the outward walk and action is followed in Psalm 15:2 by the characterising of the inward nature: speaking truth in his heart, not: with his heart (not merely with his mouth); for in the phrase אמר בּלב, בּ is always the Beth of the place, not of the instrument-the meaning therefore is: it is not falsehood and deceit that he thinks and plans inwardly, but truth (Hitz.). We have three characteristics here: a spotless walk, conduct ordered according to God's will, and a truth-loving mode of thought.

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