Psalm 4:1
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: you have enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Hear me.—Better, In my crying hear me, God of my righteousness.

The conception of God as supremely just, and the assertor of justice, is one of the noblest legacies from the Hebrew faith to the world. It is summed up in the question, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” The strength of the innocent in the face of calumny or oppression lies in the appeal to the eternal source of righteousness.

Thou hast enlarged.—Better, in my straitness Thou (or, Thou who) hast made room for me. This is a thought very common in the Psalter, and apparently was a favourite phrase of David’s, occurring in Psalm 18:19 (comp. Psa. 4:36), and in other psalms attributed to him.

Psalm 4:1. O God of my righteousness — Or, my righteous God, the witness and defender of my righteous cause, and the person from whom I expect that righteous judgment and decision of it which I cannot obtain from mine enemies, who load me with manifold injuries and calumnies. Or the expression may mean, The foundation, source, and author of my righteousness. Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress — Delivered me from my former straits and troubles, temporal and spiritual, which makes me hope thou wilt still take pity upon me, and grant the humble petition which I present unto thee. “The church, like David,” says Dr. Horne, and, we may add, every true member thereof, “calls aloud for God’s assistance; addresses him as the God of her righteousness, as the fountain of pardon and grace; reminds him of that spiritual liberty, and enlargement from bondage, which he hath purchased for her, and oftentimes wrought in her; and conscious of her demerit, makes her prayer for mercy.”4:1-5 Hear me for thy mercy-sake, is our best plea. He who will not ask such blessings as pardon, and justifying righteousness, and eternal life, must perish for the want of them. Alas! that so many should make so fearful a choice. The psalmist warns against sin. Keep up holy reverence of the glory and majesty of God. You have a great deal to say to your hearts, they may be spoken with, let it not be unsaid. Examine them by serious self-reflection; let your thoughts fasten upon that which is good, and keep close to it. Consider your ways, and before you turn to sleep at night, examine your consciences with respect to what you have done in the day; particularly what you have done amiss, that you may repent of it. when you awake in the night, meditate upon God, and the things that belong to your peace. Upon a sick-bed, particularly, we should consider our ways. Be still. when you have asked conscience a question, be serious, be silent, wait for an answer. Open not the mouth to excuse sin. All confidence must be pan answer. Open not the mouth to excuse sin. All confidence only: therefore, after commanding the sacrifices of righteousness, the psalmist says, Put your trust in the Lord.Hear me when I call - When I pray. The word "hear" in such cases is always used in the sense of "listen to," "hear favorably," or "attend to;" hence, in the literal sense it is always true that God "hears" all that is said. The meaning is, "hear and answer me," or grant me what Iask.

O God of my righteousness - That is, O my righteous God. This is a common mode of expression in Hebrew. Thus, in Psalm 2:6, "hill of my holiness," meaning "my holy hill;" Psalm 3:4, "his hill of holiness," meaning "his holy hill." The psalmist here appeals to God as "his" God - the God in whom he trusted; and as a "righteous" God - a God who would do that which was right, and on whom, therefore, he might rely as one who would protect his own people. The appeal to God as a righteous God implies a conviction in the mind of the psalmist of the justice of his cause; and he asks God merely to do "right" in the case. It is not on the ground of his own claim as a righteous man, but it is that, in this particular case, he was wrongfully persecuted; and he asks God to interpose, and to cause justice to be done. This is always a proper ground of appeal to God. A man may be sensible that in a particular case he has justice on his side, though he has a general conviction that he himself is a sinner; and he may pray to God to cause his enemies to do right, or to lead those whose office it is to decide the case, to do what ought to be done to vindicate his name, or to save him from wrong.

Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress - That is, on some former occasion. When he was "pressed" or "confined," and knew not how to escape, God had interposed and had given him room, so that he felt free. He now implores the same mercy again. He feels that the God who had done it in former troubles could do it again; and he asks him to repeat his mercy. The prayer indicates confidence in the power and the unchangeableness of God, and proves that it is right in our prayers to recall the former instances of the divine interposition, as an argument, or as a ground of hope that God would again interpose.

Have mercy upon me - In my present troubles. That is, Pity me, and have compassion on me, as thou hast done in former times. Who that has felt the assurance that God has heard his prayer in former times, and has delivered him from trouble, will not go to him with the more confident assurance that he will hear him again?

PSALM 4

Ps 4:1-8. On Neginoth, that is, stringed instruments, as the kind of musical accompaniment. On other parts of title, see [569]Introduction., The historical occasion was probably the same as that of the foregoing [see on [570]Ps 3:1]. The writer, praying for further relief, admonishes his enemies of the vanity of attacking God's servant, exhorts them to repentance, and avows his confidence and peace in God's favor.

1. Hear—as in Ps 3:4.

God of my righteousness—or, "my righteous God, as my holy hill" (Ps 2:6), who will act towards me on righteous principles.

thou hast enlarged—expresses relief afforded in opposition to "distress," which is expressed by a word denoting straits or pressure. Past favor is a ground of hope for the future.

1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

This is another instance of David's common habit of pleading past mercies as a ground for present favour. Here he reviews his Ebenezers and takes comfort from them. It is not to be imagined that he who has helped us in six troubles will leave us in the seventh. God does nothing by halves, and he will never cease to help us until we cease to need. The manna shall fall every morning until we cross the Jordan.

Observe, that David speaks first to God and then to men. Surely we should all speak the more boldly to men if we had more constant converse with God. He who dares to face his Maker will not tremble before the sons of men.

The name by which the Lord is here addressed, "God of my righteousness," deserves notice, since it is not used in any other part of Scripture. It means, Thou art the author, the witness, the maintainer, the judge, and the rewarder of my righteousness; to thee I appeal from the calumnies and harsh judgments of men. Herein is wisdom, let us imitate it and always take our suit, not to the petty courts of human opinion, but into the superior court, the King's Bench of heaven.

"Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress." A figure taken from an army enclosed in a defile, and hardly pressed by the surrounding enemy. God hath dashed down the rocks and given me room; he hath broken the barriers and set me in a large place. Or, we may understand it thus: - "God hath enlarged my heart with joy and comfort when I was like a man imprisoned by grief and sorrow." God is a never-failing comforter.

"Have mercy upon me." Though thou mayest justly permit my enemies to destroy me, on account of my many and great sins, yet I flee to thy mercy, and I beseech thee hear my prayer, and bring thy servant out of his troubles. The best of men need mercy as truly as the worst of men. All the deliverances of saints, as well as the pardons of sinners, are the free gifts of heavenly grace. The chief musician; the master or director of the sacred musicians and music of the temple; of whom see 1 Chronicles 6:31 15:16,17 25:1,2 2 Chronicles 20:21 34:12,13. Heb. To him that overcometh, or excelleth, or triumpheth, to wit, in his profession of music.

On Neginoth; or, on stringed instruments, as this word is translated, Habakkuk 3:19; for the Hebrew verb niggen, whence this is derived, signifies to play with the hand upon an instrument, 1 Samuel 16:23 18:10. This Psalm is, for the matter or substance of it, much like the former, and seems to have been made upon the same or some other like occasion, when he was distressed either by Absalom, or by Saul, or by some other great and powerful enemies.

David prayeth for audience, Psalm 4:1. He reproves the wicked, Psalm 4:2. The privilege of the godly, and his faith in God, Psalm 4:3. An exhortation to duty, Psalm 4:4,5. The ungodly satisfied with earthly blessings, but the godly cannot be at rest without the favour of God, Psalm 4:6-8.

O God of my righteousness; either the witness and defender of my righteous cause; or from whom I expect that righteous judgment and decision of my cause which I cannot obtain from mine enemies, who load me and my cause with manifold injuries and calumnies. Or, O my righteous God. Or, O God of my mercy; which title is given to God elsewhere, as Psalm 59:10,17; whereas this title, O God of my righteousness, is not given to God in any other place of Scripture. O God, to whose mercy I owe all that I have or hope for: which was a very fit and powerful argument in prayer, and very agreeable to the following words, in which there is an acknowledgment of God’s former mercies, and a petition for mercy. And so this and other words in Hebrew and Greek, which properly signify righteousness, are oft used for mercy or kindness, as Isaiah 58:8 Psalm 31:1 36:10 2 Corinthians 9:9, and in many other places.

Thou hast enlarged me, i.e. freed me from my former straits and troubles. So he urgeth God and strengtheneth his own faith with his former experiences.

Have mercy upon me; thou mayst justly destroy me for my many and great sins, and therefore I flee from thy justice to thy mercy, on which all my hopes are grounded.

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness,.... Or, "my righteous God" (h), who is righteous in his nature, ways, and works, the just Judge of the whole earth, who will do right; or "the vindicator of my righteousness", as the Syriac version renders it; that is, of his innocence and uprightness, which the Lord knew and was a witness of: and since he was his covenant God, he doubted not but he would bring it forth as the light, and favour his righteous cause, and do him justice upon his enemies: or the psalmist addresses God in this manner, because he was the author of his righteousness, and was the justifier of him, by imputing the righteousness of his Son unto him. So Christ addresses his Father, John 17:26; who he knew would justify him, and by whom he was justified as the surety of his people, when he, rose from the dead: and so the saints can draw nigh to God the Judge of all, through the righteousness of Christ; knowing that he is just, and the justifier of him that believes in Jesus; and that he is just and faithful to forgive their sins, and cleanse them from all unrighteousness, on account of his blood. The petition put up by the psalmist is, to be heard when he called, that is, to hear his prayer, as it is explained in the latter part of the verse: and God is a God hearing prayer; and so David, Christ, and all the saints, have found him to be: and the encouragement to pray to the Lord, in hope of being heard, arose from past experience of divine goodness;

thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; when he had like to have been killed by Saul casting a javelin at him; and when his house was watched by men that Saul set there, and he was let down through a window and escaped; and when he was shut in at Keilah, where Saul thought he had him safe; and at other times, to which he may here refer, as in Psalm 18:19; and this may be applied to the Messiah, when in the garden, beset with sorrows, and an angel strengthened him; and when on the cross, surrounded by various enemies, whom he conquered; and when in death and the grave, from the pains and cords of which he was loosed, and set in a large place. And this agrees also with the experience of the saints; who, when in distress through sin, Satan, and the law, have been set free, through the Gospel proclaiming liberty to the captives to such enemies; and the opening of the prison to them that have been bound by them: and when they have been so shut up and straitened in themselves, that they could not come forth in the discharge of duty, and in the exercise of grace; through the Spirit of the Lord, who is a spirit of liberty, they have been enlarged in the duty of prayer and of praise, and in the exercise of faith and love; and their hearts have been enlarged through the discoveries of the love of God towards them, so that they have run cheerfully in the ways of his commandments; who also gives them largeness of heart, an increase of the knowledge of Christ, and of the love of God, and tills them with joy and peace in believing, and draws out the desires of their souls to his name, and the remembrance of him;

have mercy upon me: the psalmist pleads no merit nor worthiness of his own, but applies to the grace and mercy of God; and sensible of his sin, both original and actual, he entreats a discovery of pardoning grace and mercy. The words may be rendered, "be gracious unto me" (i), or "show me favour"; bestow the blessings of grace, grant larger measures of grace, and fresh supplies of it: and so all sensible sinners apply to God for mercy; and all the saints have recourse to him as the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, for every mercy, both temporal and spiritual. Nor is this unsuitable to the Messiah, as man and Mediator; with whom, God keeps his mercy for evermore, as the head and surety of his people, and upon whom, as man, the grace of God was; and who increased, as in stature, so in favour with God and man; and which, no doubt, was desirable by him;

and hear my prayer: the same petition with that in the beginning of the verse; invocation and prayer being the same thing.

(h) . (i) "gratiosus esto mihi", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius.

<<{a} To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David.>> Hear me when I call, {b} O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in {c} distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

(a) Among those who were appointed to sing the psalms and to play on instruments, one was appointed chief to set the tune, and to begin: who had the charge because he was most excellent and he began this psalm on the instrument called Neginoth or in a tune so called.

(b) You who are the defender of my just cause.

(c) Both of mind and body.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. Hear me &c.] When I call, answer me. Cp. Psalm 4:3 and Psalm 3:4. The LXX and Vulg. represent a different vocalisation and render, “when I called, the God of my righteousness answered me.” This reading agrees well with the second clause of the verse, but on the whole the rhythm of the sentence is in favour of the Massoretic text.

O God of my righteousness] David is confident of the integrity of his heart and the justice of his cause. To God alone he looks to help him to his right, and vindicate his righteousness openly in the sight of men by making that cause triumphant. Cp. Psalm 7:8 ff.; 1 Kings 8:32.

thou hast enlarged me] R.V., Thou hast set me at large. But the words are perhaps best taken as a relative clause, thou who hast set me at large; giving a second reason for his appeal to God in the experience of past deliverances, possibly with particular reference to the events of the last few days. This natural figure for liberation from distress may be derived from the idea of an army which has been hemmed in by enemies in some narrow pass escaping into the open plain, Cp. 1 Samuel 23:16 for an illustration.

Have mercy upon me] Rather, as marg., be gracious unto me. The word suggests the free bestowal of favour rather than the exercise of forgiving clemency. It is connected with the word rendered ‘gracious’ in the fundamental passage Exodus 34:6. Cp. Psalm 86:15.

1, 2. An appeal to God, and an expostulation with men.Verse 1. - Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness. Not "the God who imputes to me righteousness," as some render, but "the God who sees that I and my cause are righteous," and who wilt therefore certainly lend me aid. Thou hast enlarged me; or, made room for me - "set me at ease" In the language of the Old Testament, "straits" and "narrowness" mean trouble and affliction; "room," "space," "enlargement," mean prosperity. David has experienced God's mercies in the past, and therefore looks for them in the future (comp. Psalm 3:7). When I woe in distress; literally, in [my] distress. Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. This is David's usual cry, repeated in a hundred varied forms throughout the Psalms (see Psalm 5:2; Psalm 6:2; Psalm 9:13; Psalm 27:7; Psalm 30:10, etc.). (Heb.: 3:4-5) But cleansed by penitence he stands in a totally different relationship to God and God to him from that which men suppose. Every hour he has reason to fear some overwhelming attack but Jahve is the shield which covers him behind and before (בּעד constr. of בּעד equals Arab. ba‛da, prop. pone, post). His kingdom is taken from him, but Jahve is his glory. With covered head and dejected countenance he ascended the Mount of Olives (2 Samuel 15:30), but Jahve is the "lifter up of his head," inasmuch as He comforts and helps him. The primary passage of this believing utterance "God is a shield" is Genesis 15:1 (cf. Deuteronomy 33:29). Very far from praying in vain, he is assured, that when he prays his prayer will be heard and answered. The rendering "I cried and He answered me" is erroneous here where אקרא does not stand in an historical connection. The future of sequence does not require it, as is evident from Psalm 55:17. (comp. on Psalm 120:1); it is only an expression of confidence in the answer on God's part, which will follow his prayer. In constructions like קולי אקרא, Hitzig and Hupfeld regard קולי as the narrower subject-notion beside the more general one (as Psalm 44:3; Psalm 69:11; Psalm 83:19): my voice - I cried; but the position of the words is not favourable to this in the passage before us and in Psalm 17:10; Psalm 27:7; Psalm 57:5; Psalm 66:17; Psalm 142:2, Isaiah 36:9, though it may be in Psalm 69:11; Psalm 108:2. According to Ew. 281, c, קולי is an accusative of more precise definition, as without doubt in Isaiah 10:30 cf. Psalm 60:7; Psalm 17:13.; the cry is thereby described as a loud cry.

(Note: Bttcher, Collectanea pp. 166f., also adopts the view, that נפשׁי, פּי, קולי are each appositum vicarium subjecti and therefore nomin. in such passages. But 1) the fact that את never stands beside them is explained by the consideration that it is not suited to an adverbial collateral definition. And 2) that elsewhere the same notions appear as direct subjects, just as 3) that elsewhere they alternate with the verbal subject-notion in the parallel member of the verse (Psalm 130:5; Proverbs 8:4) - these last two admit of no inference. The controverted question of the syntax is, moreover, an old one and has been treated of at length by Kimchi in his Book of Roots s. r. אוה.)

To this cry, as ויּענני as being a pure mood of sequence implies, succeeds the answer, or, which better corresponds to the original meaning of ענה (comp. Arab. ‛nn, to meet, stand opposite) reply;

(Note: Vid., Redslob in his treatise: Die Integritat der Stelle Hosea 7.4-10 in Frage gestellt S. 7.)

and it comes from the place whither it was directed: מהר קדשוּ. He had removed the ark from Kirjath Jeraim to Zion. He had not taken it with him when he left Jerusalem and fled before Absolom, 2 Samuel 15:25. He was therefore separated by a hostile power from the resting-place of the divine presence. But his prayer urged its way on to the cherubim-throne; and to the answer of Him who is enthroned there, there is no separating barrier of space or created things.

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