Psalm 26:6
I will wash my hands in innocence: so will I compass your altar, O LORD:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) I will wash.—First a symbolical action (Deuteronomy 21:6 seq.; Matthew 27:24), then a figure of speech (Job 9:30; Ezekiel 36:25). The Levitical authorship or, at all events, the Levitical character of the psalm appears from comparison of this with Exodus 30:17 seq.

So will I.—Better, that I may, &c. There is no other reference in Jewish literature to the custom of pacing round the altar, but it was a very natural and obvious addition to a gorgeous ceremonial—like the processions in churches where a high ceremonial is adopted. It is, however, implied from the Talmud that it was part of the ceremonial of the Feast of Tabernacles for people to march round the altar with palms.

Psalm 26:6-7. I will wash my hands in innocency — “It was a common custom among all the Jews to wash before prayers; but the priests, in particular, were not to perform any sacred office in the sanctuary till they had poured water out of the laver, and washed their hands in it. David here alludes to this custom. But, because those outward ablutions might still leave impurities within, which all the water in the world could not wash away, he here declares that he would wash his hands in innocency itself, which he elsewhere calls the cleanness of his hands.” — Dodd. See note on Psalm 18:24. The word נקיון, nikajon, here rendered innocency, more properly signifies cleanness, or purity. He seems to mean by the expression integrity, or a pure conscience, as if he had said, I will not do, as my hypocritical enemies do, who content themselves with those outward washings of their hands or bodies prescribed in the law, while their hearts and lives are filthy and abominable: but I have washed my hands, and withal purged my heart and conscience from dead works: so will I compass thine altar — That is, approach to thy altar with my sacrifices; which I could not do with any comfort or confidence, if I were conscious to myself of those crimes whereof mine enemies accuse me. Respecting the phrase of compassing the altar, see note on Psalm 7:7. That I may publish — May proclaim, namely, thy wondrous works, as it here follows; with the voice of thanksgiving — Accompanying my sacrifices with my own solemn thanksgivings and songs of praise.26:9 David, in this psalm, appeals to God touching his integrity. - David here, by the Spirit of prophecy, speaks of himself as a type of Christ, of whom what he here says of his spotless innocence was fully and eminently true, and of Christ only, and to Him we may apply it. We are complete in him. The man that walks in his integrity, yet trusting wholly in the grace of God, is in a state of acceptance, according to the covenant of which Jesus was the Mediator, in virtue of his spotless obedience even unto death. This man desires to have his inmost soul searched and proved by the Lord. He is aware of the deceitfulness of his own heart; he desires to detect and mortify every sin; and he longs to be satisfied of his being a true believer, and to practise the holy commands of God. Great care to avoid bad company, is both a good evidence of our integrity, and a good means to keep us in it. Hypocrites and dissemblers may be found attending on God's ordinances; but it is a good sign of sincerity, if we attend upon them, as the psalmist here tells us he did, in the exercise of repentance and conscientious obedience. He feels his ground firm under him; and, as he delights in blessing the Lord with his congregations on earth, he trusts that shortly he shall join the great assembly in heaven, in singing praises to God and to the Lamb for evermore.I will wash mine hands in innocency - The psalmist here refers, as another evidence of his piety, to the fact that it was a ruling purpose of his life to be pure, to worship and serve his Maker in purity. He had stated that he had no sympathy with the wicked, and that he did not make them his companions; he now states what his preferences were, and where his heart was to be found. He had loved, and he still loved the worship of God; he delighted in the pure service of the Most High. Washing the hands is an emblem of purity. So Pilate Matthew 27:24 "took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person." Compare Deuteronomy 21:6-7. The word rendered "innocency" means properly "cleanness, purity;" and perhaps the allusion here is to water that is perfectly pure. The sense of the passage is, that he would endeavor to make himself pure, and would thus worship God. He would not come, practicing iniquity, or cherishing sin in his heart. He would banish all from his mind and heart and life that was wrong, and would come with true love to God, and with the spirit of a sincere worshipper.

So will I compass thine altar, O Lord - In this manner, and with this spirit, I will worship thee. The word "compass" may either mean that he would "embrace" it by throwing his arms around it, or that he would "go round" it with others in a solemn procession in worship. The idea is, that he would come to the altar of God with his offering in sincerity and truth. It was to himself one evidence of sincere piety that he so purposed in his heart, or that he was conscious of a desire to worship God in purity and truth. This desire is always an indication of true piety.

6. wash mine hands—expressive symbol of freedom from sinful acts (compare Mt 27:24).6 I will wash mine hands in innocency so will I compass thine altar, O Lord:

7 That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

8 Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.

Psalm 26:6

"I will wash mine hands in innocency." - He would publicly avow himself to be altogether clear of the accusations laid against him, and if any fault in other matters could be truthfully alleged against him, he would for the future abstain from it. The washing of the hands is a significant action to set forth our having no connection with a deed, as we still say, "I wash my hands of the whole business." As to perfect innocence, David does not here claim it, but he avows his innocence of the crimes whereof he was slanderously accused; there is, however, a sense in which we may be washed in absolute innocence, for the atoning blood makes us clean every whir. We ought never to rest satisfied short of a full persuasion of our complete cleansing by Jesus' precious blood. "So will I compass thine altar, O Lord." Priests unto God must take great care to be personally cleansed; the brazen laver was as needful as the golden altar; God's worship requires us to be holy in life. He who is unjust to man cannot be acceptably religious towards God. We must not bring our thank offerings with hands defiled with guilt. To love justice and purity is far more acceptable to God than ten thousands of the fat of fed beasts. We see from this verse that holy minds delight in the worship of the Lord, and find their sweetest solace at his altar; and that it is their deepest concern never to enter upon any course of action which would unfit them for the most sacred communion with God. Our eye must be upon the altar which sanctifieth both the giver and the gift, yet we must never draw from the atoning sacrifice an excuse for sin, but rather find in it a most convincing argument for holiness.

Psalm 26:7

"That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving." David was so far instructed that he does not mention the typical offering, but discerns the spiritual offering which was intended thereby, not the groans of bullocks, but songs of gratitude the spiritual worshipper presents. To sound abroad the worthy praises of the God of all grace should be the everyday business of a pardoned sinner. Let men slander us as they will, let us not defraud the Lord of his praises; let dogs bark, but let us like the moon shine on. "And tell of all thy wondrous works." God's people should not be tongue-tied. The wonders of divine grace are enough to make the tongue of the dumb sing. God's works of love are wondrous if we consider the unworthiness of their objects, the costliness of their method, and the glory of their result. And as men find great pleasure in discoursing upon things remarkable and astonishing, so the saints rejoice to tell of the great things which the Lord hath done for them.

Psalm 26:8

"Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house." Into the abodes of sin he would not enter, but the house of God he had long loved, and loved it still. We were sad children if we did not love our Father's dwelling-place. Though we own no sacred buildings, yet the church of the living God is the house of God, and true Christians delight in her ordinances, services, and assemblies. O that all our days were Sabbaths! "And the place where thine honour dwelleth." In his church where God is had in honour at all times, where he reveals himself in the glory of his grace, and is proclaimed by his people as the Lord of all. We come not together as the Lord's people to honour the preacher, but to give glory to God; such an occupation is most pleasant to the saints of the Most High. What are those gatherings where God is not honoured, are they not an offence to his pure and holy eyes, and are they not a sad stumbling-block to the people of God? It brings the scalding-tear upon our cheek to hear sermons in which the honour of God is so far from being the preacher's object, that one might almost imagine that the preacher worshipped the dignity of manhood, and thought more of it than of the Infinite Majesty of God.

In innocency, or, with integrity, or with a pure heart and conscience. I will not do as my hypocritical enemies do, who content themselves with those outward washings of their hands or bodies prescribed in the law, Exodus 29:4 &c.; Deu 21:6 Hebrews 9:10, whilst their hearts and lives are filthy and abominable; but

I will wash, or I have washed, my hands, and withal purged my heart and conscience from dead works. Compare Isaiah 1:15161 Timothy 2:8.

Compass thine altar, i.e. approach to thine altar with my sacrifices; which I could not do with any comfort or confidence, if I were conscious to myself of those crimes whereof mine enemies accuse me. By the phrase Of compassing the altar, either,

1. He alludes to some Levitical custom of going about the altar, as the priests did in the oblation of their sacrifices, and the people, especially those of them who were most devout and zealous, who possibly moved from place to place, but still within their own court, that they might discern what was done on the several sides of the altar, and so be the more affected with it. Or rather,

2. He implies that he would offer many sacrifices together, which would employ the priests round about the altar; and so he is said to compass it, because the priests did it in his name, and upon his account, as persons are very oft said in Scripture to offer those sacrifices which the priests offer for them. I will wash my hands in innocency,.... The Vulgate Latin version renders it, "among innocent persons"; men of a holy harmless life and conversation; with these he determined to converse in common, and not with such as before described; or the sense is, that he would wash his hands, in token of his innocence, integrity, and uprightness, he had before spoke of, and of his having nothing to do with such evil men as now mentioned; see Deuteronomy 21:6; "hands" are the instrument of action, and to "wash" them may design the performance of good works, Job 9:30; and to do this "in innocency", or "purity", may signify the performance of them from a pure heart, a good conscience, and faith unfeigned; and particularly may have some respect to the lifting up of holy hands in prayer to God, previous to public worship; there seems to be an allusion to the priests washing their hands before they offered sacrifice, Exodus 30:19;

so will I compass thine altar, O Lord; frequent the house of God, where the altar was, and constantly attend the worship and ordinances of God; the work of the altar being put for the whole of divine service; the altar of burnt offering is here meant, which was a type of Christ; see Hebrews 13:10; reference is had to the priests at the altar, who used to go round it, when they laid the sacrifice on the altar, and bound it to the horns of it, at the four corners, and there sprinkled and poured out the blood; compare Psalm 43:4; in order to which they washed their hands, as before; and in later times it was usual with the Heathens (y) to wash their hands before divine service.

(y) "----pura cum veste venito, et manibus puris sumite fontis aquam, nunc lavabo ut rem divinam faciam", Tibull. l. 2. eleg. 1. Plantus in Aullular. Acts 3. Sc. 6. Vide Homer. Odyss, 12. v. 336, 337.

I will {e} wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD:

(e) I will serve you with a pure affection, and with the godly that sacrifice to you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. I will wash mine hands in innocency] “As the priests, before they came near to the altar to minister (Exodus 30:17-21). What the priest did in symbolical rite, that the priestly people were to do in spiritual reality.” Kay. Cp. Psalm 73:13 : and for the ceremony as symbolising innocence see Deuteronomy 21:6; Matthew 27:34.

compass thine altar] Take my place in the ring of worshippers around it. A reference to solemn processions round the altar is questionable.Verse 6. - I will wash mine hands in innoceney; so will I compass thine altar, O Lord. This seems to be the key-note of the psalm. If not a necessary, it is at any rate a probable, exegesis, that David composed this psalm on an occasion when he was about to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God for some mercy recently vouchsafed him (ver. 7). Before offering, he feels the necessity of doing spiritually that which the priest' who officiated would have to do ceremonially (Exodus 30:17-21) - to "wash his hands in innocency, and so to go to God's altar." His self-justification from ver. 1 to ver. 5 has had for its object to clear him from guilt. His experience is not singular, but the enmity of the world and sin bring all who belong to the people of God into straits just as they have him. And the need of the individual will not cease until the need of the whole undergoes a radical remedy. Hence the intercessory prayer of this meagre closing distich, whose connection with what precedes is not in this instance so close as in Psalm 34:23. It looks as though it was only added when Psalm 25 came to be used in public worship; and the change of the name of God favours this view. Both Psalms close with a פ in excess of the alphabet. Perhaps the first פ represents the π, and the second the φ; for Psalm 25:16; Psalm 34:17 follow words ending in a consonant, and Psalm 25:22; Psalm 34:23, words ending in a vowel. Or is it a propensity for giving a special representation of the final letters, just as these are sometimes represented, though not always perfectly, at the close of the hymns of the synagogue (pijutim)?
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