He that has clean hands, and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul to vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)His soul.—The Hebrew margin is “my soul,” a reading confirmed by the Alexandrian Codex of the LXX. The Rabbis defend it by saying soul here = name (comp. Amos 6:8; Jeremiah 51:14), and to lift up to vanity = to take in vain.
Vanity.—Evidently, from the parallelism, in the sense of falsehood, as in Job 31:5.
Deceitfully.—Literally, to fraud, from a root meaning to trip up. The LXX. and Vulg. add (from Psalms 15) “to his neighbour.”Psalm 24:4. He that hath clean hands — Whose actions and conversation are holy and unblameable. It is here very observable that the character of a right and acceptable worshipper of God is not taken from his nation and relation to Abraham; nor from any or all of those costly and laborious rites and ceremonies of the law in which the generality of the Israelites placed their confidence, but from moral and spiritual duties, which most of them grossly neglected. And a pure heart — Purged from hypocrisy, and corrupt desires and designs, and careful to approve itself to God, as well as men, ordering a man’s very thoughts, intentions, and affections, according to God’s word. This is fitly added, because a man may keep his hands clean, in a good measure, from mere worldly motives, and without any respect to God, and even with an evil design. Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity — Who doth not worship idols, often called vanities in Scripture, and who doth not value or desire the vain things of this life, such as honour, riches, pleasures; but who makes God his portion. And this, also, is very fitly mentioned as essential to the character of a truly good man, because, hereby he is distinguished from all carnal and ungodly men whatsoever, whose inseparable property it is, according to both the Old and New Testament, to love vanity, and to set their hearts chiefly upon the things of this world. Whereas good men are everywhere described to be such as seek their happiness in God, and prize and desire his favour and service infinitely more than all the enjoyments or this life; yea, even than life itself. Nor sworn deceitfully — Hebrew, למרמה, lemirmah, unto, or with deceit, that is, falsely, or with a purpose of deceiving others thereby. Under this negative the contrary affirmative is included, namely, that he is one who, when he is called to swear, doth swear in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, Jeremiah 4:2.Psalm 15:2, the answer to the question is, "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness." The sentiment is substantially the same there as in the passage before us. The meaning is, that he who would be recognized as a friend and worshipper of Yahweh must be an upright man; a person not living in the practice of iniquity, but striving always to do that which is right. The "hands" are the instruments by which we accomplish anything; and hence, to have clean hands is equivalent to being upright. See Job 17:9; Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 59:3; Acts 2:23; Psalm 26:10. The margin here, as the Hebrew, is "the clean of hands."
And a pure heart - Not merely the one whose external conduct is upright, but whose heart is pure. The great principle is here stated which enters always into true religion, that it does not consist in outward conformity to law, or to the mere performance of rites and ceremonies, or to external morality, but that it controls the heart, and produces purity of motive and of thought.
Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity - Unto that which is "vain," or which is "false." This expression might refer to one who had not devoted himself to the worship of an idol - regarded as vain, or as nothing 1 Corinthians 8:6; Isaiah 41:24; Psalm 115:4-8; or to one who had not embraced that which is false and vain in opinion; or to one who had not sworn falsely, or taken the name of God in vain, Exodus 20:7. The probable meaning is, that he has not set his heart on vain things, or that which is false. He has sought after substantial truth, alike in the object of worship, in that which he professes to believe, and in the statements and promises which he makes to others. He aims to secure that which is true and real. He is in no sense "carried away" with that which is unreal and false.
Nor sworn deceitfully - This is one form of that which had been just specified - his love of truth. The idea here is, that he has not affirmed under the solemnities of an oath, that which was false; and that he has not, under similar solemnities, promised what he has not performed. He is a sincere man; a man seeking after the true and the real, and not running after shadows and falsehood; a man true to God and to his fellow-creatures; a man whose statements are in accordance with facts, and whose promises may be always relied on. In the parallel passage, in Psalm 15:2, the statement is, "he that speaketh the truth in his heart." See the notes at that passage.
vanity—or, any false thing, of which swearing falsely, or to falsehood, is a specification.
A pure heart; purged from hypocrisy and inward filthiness, and careful to approve itself to God as well as to men, ordering a man’s very thoughts and affections according to God’s word. This is fitly added, because a man may keep his hands clean in good measure upon mere worldly motives, or with an evil design, or without any respect to God.
Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity; either,
1. Who doth not worship idols, which are oft called vanities in Scripture. Or,
2. Who doth not swear vainly or falsely, the phrase here being much the same with that in the third commandment, of taking God’s name in vain. But that seems to be a quite differing phrase, and the name of God there mentioned determines the sense of that general phrase to oaths, which without that addition, or something equivalent, is never to my knowledge used in Scripture in that sense. Nor do all those learned men who so expound this place give one instance of that signification of this phrase. And for their other argument for that sense, that this clause is conjoined with the next by the conjunction vau, and therefore is to be explained by it, it seems to have no weight, because thesameconjunctionjoinsthetwofirstcharacterstogether, and yet it is confessedthat cleanhands and a pureheart are two distinct and very differingthings. Orrather,
3. Who doth not immoderately value and affect, or ardently desire, (as this very phrase of lifting up the soul doth oft signify, as Deu 24:15 Psalm 25:1 Jeremiah 22:27 44:14 Ezekiel 24:25 Hosea 4:8) the vain things of this present life and world, such as honours, riches, pleasures, and the like, which are oft called vain things or vanities in Scripture, as Psalm 4:2 119:37 Ecclesiastes 1:2 12:8. And this is very fitly mentioned as a character of a truly goodman, because hereby he is distinguished from all ungodly men whatsoever, whose inseparable property this is, both in the Old and New Testament, noted to be, to love vanity, and to set their hearts chiefly upon the good things of this life, such as corn and wine, Psalm 4:2,6,7; and to have their portion in this life, Psalm 17:14; and to mind earthly things, Philippians 3:19; and to be friends of the world, Jam 4:4; and to love the world, and the things of the world, 1Jo 2:15. Whereas good men are every where described to be such as make God their portion, Psalm 16:5; and prize and desire his favour and service infinitely more than all the enjoyments of this life, yea, even than life itself, Job 23:12 Psalm 4:6,7 63:3 119:72; and such as are weaned from earthly things, Psalm 131:1,2; and have their affections set on things above, not on things of the earth, Colossians 3:2; and lay not uptheir treasure in earth, but in heaven, Matthew 6:19,20; all which is directly opposite to this lifting up the soul to vanity. Deceitfully, Heb. unto or with deceit, i.e. falsely, or with a purpose of deceiving or injuring others thereby. Under this negative the contrary affirmative is included, that he is one who, when he is called to swear, doth swear in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, Jeremiah 4:2. Matthew 27:24; not a conversation entirely free from sin, nor by which a man is justified before God; for though he wash his hands ever so clean, they will not be pure in his sight, and will need washing in the blood of the Lamb; but it denotes a conversation upright in general, and declares a man righteous in the sight of men, and distinguishes him from one of a dissolute life, whose hands are full of blood, and defiled with sin;
who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity; or "set his heart upon" (g), and desired vain things, as the phrase is sometimes used, Deuteronomy 24:15; that is, the vain things of this world; as the riches, honours, pleasures, and profits of it; or has not served other gods, the idols of the Gentiles, which are lying vanities, but has lifted up his soul to God, and served him only: or "who hath not received his soul in vain" (h); from the hands of God, but loves him with all his soul, believes with the heart in Christ for righteousness, being sanctified by the Spirit of God; and so the desire of his soul is to his name, and the remembrance of him. The "Keri", or marginal reading, according to the points, is, "who hath not lifted up my soul to vanity" (i); that is, has not taken the name of God in vain, or swore falsely by his name; his soul being put for his name or himself; and by which he is said sometimes to swear, Jeremiah 51:14; and this sense the Jewish interpreters (k) generally give into. The Targum seems to take in both the writing of the text and the marginal reading, as it often does, and renders the words, "who hath not sworn in vain, to the condemnation of his soul"; though sometimes to his own disadvantage, yet not to the hurt of others; see Psalm 15:4; it follows,
nor sworn deceitfully; by bearing false witness against any man; or by cheating him out of his substance through a false oath.He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart] He who is innocent of violence and wrong-doing (Psalm 18:20; Psalm 18:24); nay, innocent even in thought and purpose as well as in deed. Cp. Psalm 73:1; Matthew 5:8.
Who hath not lift up his soul unto vanity] i.e. who is true and faithful to Jehovah. ‘To lift up the soul’ means to direct the mind towards (Psalm 25:1), to set the heart upon (Deuteronomy 24:15), to desire (Hosea 4:8). ‘Vanity’ denotes what is transitory (Job 15:31), false and unreal (Psalm 12:2), or sinful (Isaiah 5:18), and may even designate false gods (Psalm 31:6). It includes all that is unlike or opposed to the nature of God. The traditional reading (Qrç) however is, my soul (so too Cod. Alex. of the LXX.). This reading must be rendered, Who hath not taken me in vain. God speaks; and the words are an echo of Exodus 20:7, with my soul (= my being) substituted for my name. But this explanation is forced, and cannot be defended even by Amos 6:8, and Jeremiah 51:14, where God is said to swear ‘by His soul’ = by Himself.
nor sworn deceitfully] R.V., and hath not sworn deceitfully. The paraphrase of P.B.V., ‘nor sworn to deceive his neighbour,’ which follows the LXX and Vulg., gives the sense rightly. He has been true to his neighbour, as well as to God. Cp. Psalm 15:4.Verse 4. - He that hath clean hands. He whose hands are free from acts of sin (comp. Psalm 15:2-5), and not only so, but he who hath also a pure heart, since the heart is the source of all evil (Matthew 15:19, 20), and wrongful words and wicked acts are the necessary results of the heart being impure. "God's demands upon his people," as Hengstenberg observes, "go beyond the domain of action. Those only see him - those only are fit to ascend into his hill - who have a pure heart." Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity; i.e. who has not lusted after vain and worthless things, whose desires are subdued, brought into captivity to the Law of God, and kept under strict control. This is really implied in purity of heart. Nor sworn deceitfully. False swearing is the worst - or, at any rate, one of the worst - sins of the tongue. The psalmist means to say that a man is not fit to draw near to God unless he is righteous in act, in thought, and in word. Micah 7:14, and in connection with it, cf. Numbers 21:18, משׁענת as the filling up of the picture), as the means of guidance and defence. The one rod, which the shepherd holds up to guide the flock, and upon which he leans and anxiously watches over the flock, has assumed a double form in the conception of the idea. This rod and staff in the hand of God comfort him, i.e., preserve to him the feeling of security, and therefore a cheerful spirit. Even when he passes through a valley dark and gloomy as the shadow of death, where surprises and calamities of every kind threaten him, he hears no misfortune. The lxx narrows the figure, rendering בגיא according to the Aramaic בּגוא, Daniel 3:25, ἐν μέσῳ. The noun צלמות, which occurs in this passage for the first time in the Old Testament literature, is originally not a compound word; but being formed from a verb צלם, Arab. ḏlm (root צל, Arab. ḏl), to overshadow, darken, after the form עבדוּת, but pronounced צלמות (cf. חצרמות, Hadra-môt equals the court of death, בּצלאל in-God's-shadow), it signifies the shadow of death as an epithet of the most fearful darkness, as of Hades, Job 10:21., but also of a shaft of a mine, Job 28:3, and more especially of darkness such as makes itself felt in a wild, uninhabited desert, Jeremiah 2:6.
After the figure of the shepherd fades away in Psalm 23:4, that of the host appears. His enemies must look quietly on (נגד as in Psalm 31:20), without being able to do anything, and see how Jahve provides bountifully for His guest, anoints him with sweet perfumes as at a joyous and magnificent banquet (Psalm 92:11), and fills his cup to excess. What is meant thereby, is not necessarily only blessings of a spiritual kind. The king fleeing before Absolom and forsaken by the mass of his people was, with his army, even outwardly in danger of being destroyed by want; it is, therefore, even an abundance of daily bread streaming in upon them, as in 2 Samuel 17:27-29, that is meant; but even this, spiritually regarded, as a gift from heaven, and so that the satisfying, refreshing and quickening is only the outside phase of simultaneous inward experiences.
(Note: In the mouth of the New Testament saint, especially on the dies viridium, it is the table of the Lord's supper, as Apollinaris also hints when he applied to it the epithet ῥιγεδανῶν βρίθουσαν, horrendorum onustam.)
The future תּערך is followed, according to the customary return to the perfect ground-form, by דּשּׁנתּ, which has, none the less, the signification of a present. And in the closing assertion, כּוסי, my cup, is metonymically equivalent to the contents of my cup. This is רויה, a fulness satiating even to excess.
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