Psalm 55:19
God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that stays of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.
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(19) God shall hear.—Render this verse,

God shall hear and afflict them,

He abideth of old;

One in whom are no changes,

And yet they fear not God.

(Comp. James 1:17, “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”) As the text stands, for afflict we should have answer; but the LXX. and Vulg. have the true reading. The Selah must be removed as plainly out of place. The plural pronoun is used poetically for the singular. The word changes, chalîpôth, is used of troops relieving guard (Job 14:14), of servants taking their turn of work, of a change of clothing, &c. Here generally variableness. The rendering of the Authorised Version does not suit the context. The reason of the assertion that, in spite of his in variableness, the wicked do not fear God, appears in the next verse. Instead of respecting those in covenant with one who does not change, they have not feared to attack and oppress them.

Psalm 55:19. God shall hear — My prayer against them, mentioned Psalm 55:15, or their reproaches, Psalm 55:12, their deceitful and treacherous speeches, Psalm 55:21. He had said, God would hear his voice, Psalm 55:17, now he adds that God will hear his enemies’ voice also, of which he spake, Psalm 55:3. And afflict them — Or, testify against them; or, give an answer to them, as יענם, jagnaneem, may be properly rendered; not in words, but in deeds, and by dreadful punishments, as this word signifies Ezekiel 14:4, which seems best to agree with the word next foregoing, God will hear and answer them. Even he that abideth of old — Hebrew, וישׁב קדם, vejosheb kedem, he that inhabiteth antiquity, or eternity: who is eternal, and, therefore, unchangeable and almighty; who sits judge from the beginning of time, and hath always presided in the affairs of the children of men, and consequently, as he ever was, so he still is and ever will be, ready to defend his people, and to destroy their enemies; and none can prevent or hinder him in either of these designs. Chandler, after Cocceius, translates the clause, Even he who reigns from everlasting: and observes, “The introducing God, as reigning of old, and holding the government of the world from before all ages, has great propriety, and was one of the principal considerations which established David’s hope in God, that he would deliver him from this unnatural rebellion.” Mortal men, though ever so high and strong, will easily be crushed by an eternal God, and are a very unequal match for him. Because they have no changes — No afflictions, no crosses, nor disappointments, no interruption to the constant course of their prosperity, no trouble and distress to empty them from vessel to vessel; therefore they fear not God — Their prosperous success makes them go on securely and obstinately in their wicked courses, without any regard to God, or dread of his judgments; there being nothing which more hardens men’s hearts, or makes them more presumptuous and incorrigible, than uninterrupted prosperity. See Psalm 30:6; Proverbs 1:32; Jeremiah 22:21.55:16-23 In every trial let us call upon the Lord, and he will save us. He shall hear us, and not blame us for coming too often; the oftener the more welcome. David had thought all were against him; but now he sees there were many with him, more than he supposed; and the glory of this he gives to God, for it is he that raises us up friends, and makes them faithful to us. There are more true Christians, and believers have more real friends, than in their gloomy hours they suppose. His enemies should be reckoned with, and brought down; they could not ease themselves of their fears, as David could, by faith in God. Mortal men, though ever so high and strong, will easily be crushed by an eternal God. Those who are not reclaimed by the rod of affliction, will certainly be brought down to the pit of destruction. The burden of afflictions is very heavy, especially when attended with the temptations of Satan; there is also the burden of sin and corruption. The only relief under it is, to look to Christ, who bore it. Whatever it is that thou desirest God should give thee, leave it to him to give it in his own way and time. Care is a burden, it makes the heart stoop. We must commit our ways and works to the Lord; let him do as seemeth him good, and let us be satisfied. To cast our burden upon God, is to rest upon his providence and promise. And if we do so, he will carry us in the arms of his power, as a nurse carries a child; and will strengthen our spirits by his Spirit, so that they shall sustain the trial. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved; to be so shaken by any troubles, as to quit their duty to God, or their comfort in him. He will not suffer them to be utterly cast down. He, who bore the burden of our sorrows, desires us to leave to him to bear the burden of our cares, that, as he knows what is best for us, he may provide it accordingly. Why do not we trust Christ to govern the world which he redeemed?God shall hear and afflict them - That is, God will hear my prayer, and will afflict them, or bring upon them deserved judgments. As this looks to the future, it would seem to show that when in the previous verse he uses the past tense, and says that God "had" redeemed him, the language there, as suggested above, is that of strong confidence, implying that he had such certain assurance that the thing would be, that he speaks of it as if it were already done. Here he expresses the same confidence in another form - his firm belief that God "would" hear his prayer, and would bring upon his enemies deserved punishment.

Even he that abideth of old - The eternal God; he who is from everlasting. Literally, "He inhabits antiquity;" that is, he sits enthroned in the most distant past; he is eternal and unchanging. The same God who has heard prayer, will hear it now; he who has always shown himself a just God and an avenger, will show himself the same now. The fact that God is from everlasting, and is unchanging, is the only foundation for our security at any time, and the only ground of success in our plans. To a Being who is always the same we may confidently appeal, for we know what he will do. But who could have confidence in a changeable God? Who would know what to expect? Who can make any "calculation" on mere chance?

Because they have no changes ... - Margin, "With whom there be no changes, yet they fear not God." Literally, "To whom there are no changes, and they fear not God." Prof. Alexander supposes this to mean that God will "hear" the reproaches and blasphemies of those who have no changes, and who, therefore, have no fear of God. The meaning of the original is not exactly expressed in our common version. According to that version, the idea would seem to be that the fact that they meet with no changes or reverses in life, or that they are favored with uniform prosperity, is a "reason" why they do not fear or worship God. This may be true in fact (compare the notes at Job 21:9-14), but it is not the idea here. The meaning is, that the God who is unchanging - who is always true and just - will "afflict," that is, will bring punishisment on those who heretofore have had no changes; who have experienced no adversities; who are confident of success because they have always been prosperous, and who have no fear of God. Their continual success and prosperity "may" be a reason - as it often is - why they do "not" feel their need of religion, and do "not" seek and serve God; but the precise truth taught here is, that the fact of continued prosperity is no argument for impunity and safety in a course of wrong doing. God is unchangeable in fact, as they seem to be; and an unchangeable God will not suffer the wicked always to prosper. To constitute safety there must be a better ground of assurance than the mere fact that we have been uniformly prospered, and have experienced no reverses hitherto.

They fear not God - They do not regard him. They do not dread his interposition as a just God. How many such there are upon the earth, who argue secretly that because they have always been favored with success, therefore they are safe; who, in the midst of abundant prosperity - of unchanging "good fortune," as they would term it - worship no God, feel no need of religion, and are regardless of the changes of life which may soon occur, and even of that one great change which death must soon produce!

19. God hears the wicked in wrath.

abideth—or, "sitteth."

of old—enthroned as a sovereign.

Because … no changes—Prosperity hardens them (Ps 73:5).

God shall hear; either,

1. My prayers against them, mentioned Psalm 55:15. Or,

2. Their reproaches, Psalm 55:12; their deceitful and treacherous speeches, Psalm 55:21. He said God would hear his voice, Psalm 55:17; now he adds that God will hear his enemies’ voice also, of which he spake Psalm 55:3.

Afflict them; or, testify against them, or give an answer to them; not in words, but really, and by dreadful punishments, as this word signifies, Ezekiel 14:4; which seems best to agree with the next foregoing word, God will hear and answer them. He that abideth of old, Heb. he that inhabiteth antiquity or eternity; who is eternal, and therefore unchangeable and almighty; and consequently, as he ever was, so he still is and will be, ready to defend his people, and to destroy their enemies; and none can prevent nor hinder-him in either of those designs.

No changes; either,

1. For the better; because they do not repent nor turn from their sins. But then the next clause must be rendered, as it is in the Hebrew, and not fear God. Or rather,

2. For the worse; for of such destructive changes this word, when applied to persons. is generally used in Scripture, as Job 10:17 Job 14:14, &c., because they meet with no crosses nor disappointments, and hitherto all their counsels succeed well, and the people flow in to them unanimously; as it was in the beginning and progress of Absalom’s rebellion.

They fear not God; their prosperous success makes them go on securely and obstinately in their wicked courses, without any regard to God, or dread of his judgments; there being nothing which more hardens men’s hearts, and makes them presumptuous and incorrigible, than uninterrupted prosperity. See Psalm 30:6 Proverbs 1:32 Jeremiah 22:21. God shall hear and afflict them,.... That is, either he shall hear the prayers of his servant, imprecating evils upon his enemies, Psalm 55:9; and shall bring them down upon them, in answer to his requests; or it may be, rendered, "God shall hear and answer them" (c); he shall hear their blasphemies, and take notice of their wickedness, and answer them by terrible things in righteousness;

even he that abideth of old; or "is the inhabitant of eternity" (d) Isaiah 57:15; the eternal God, from everlasting to everlasting, who was before all creatures and before all time, and will ever remain the same, out of whose hands there is no escaping. The Targum is,

"and he inhabiteth the heavens from of old to everlasting.''

Selah; of this word; see Gill on Psalm 3:2.

Because they have no changes; Kimchi renders it, who hath no changes; taking to be the same with and interprets it of God; connecting it with the former clause, that he that abideth of old hath no changes. There is no variableness nor shadow of turning with him; he never changes his mind, nor alters his counsel, whether it be for good or evil; and yet wicked men fear him not. But rather this is to be understood of sinners, as the Targum paraphrases it,

"who are not of old, and who do not change their evil way;''

who have no changes in their hearts, nor in their lives, but continue in their natural and sinful estate, without any impression of the power and grace of God upon them. Or they have no changes in their worldly circumstances, from good to bad, as Aben Ezra explains it; things go well with them, and they are not in trouble as other men; they are at ease and quiet, and are settled on their lees; see Job 10:17. Or they have no regard to their last change by death; and are not afraid of that, as Jarchi interprets it; they put away this evil day far from them; think nothing about it, as if it would never be, and as if they had made an agreement with it that this change should never come upon them, Job 14:14;

therefore they fear not God; do not serve and worship him now, and are not afraid of his judgments here or hereafter; no change being made in their hearts, nor any alteration in their secular affairs for the worse; but having much goods laid up for many years, and sentence against their evil works not being speedily executed, their hearts are hardened, and they live secure in sin.

(c) "et respondeat illis", Cocceius. (d) "et incola antiquitatis, vel aeternitatis", Gejerus.

God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they {o} have no changes, therefore they fear not God.

(o) But their prosperous estate still continues.

19. The judgement of his enemies.

God shall hear, and afflict them] Or, humble them. This, which is the rendering of the Ancient Versions, is probably right. But it requires a change of the vocalisation. The text as it stands must be rendered with R.V., God shall hear, and answer them, meaning apparently, that God will hear their raging and answer them with judgement. But this is an unnatural form of expression. The object to the verbs ‘hear’ and ‘answer’ could hardly be other than the Psalmist or his prayer.

even he that abideth of old] Render, He that sitteth enthroned eternally, as Judge of the world. (Cp. “Thou most worthy Judge Eternal.”) Cp. Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 9:7-8; Psalm 29:10; Psalm 74:12; Habakkuk 1:12.

Because they have no changes] This is best taken as a relative clause, dependent on the preceding sentence. Render with R.V. (placing a comma only after of old),

(The men) who have no changes,

And who fear not God.

‘Changes’ will mean vicissitudes of fortune. God will humble these men, who, because their prosperity is unbroken, fear Him not. Cp. Psalm 10:4-6; Psalm 73:4 ff. The truth is a general one, but the Psalmist is thinking particularly of his own enemies. The P.B.V., for they will not turn, nor fear God, takes changes in the sense of change of mind, repentance, an interpretation adopted by some critics, but not justified by usage. The text is not free from difficulty, but the explanation given above is sufficiently probable to make it unnecessary to assume a further corruption or displacement of the text.

Selah in the middle of a sentence is quite inexplicable, and must be misplaced, as it seems to be in Psalm 55:7.Verse 19. - God shall hear, and afflict them; i.e. "God will hear my prayers, and will afflict my adversaries;" or, perhaps, "God will hear me and answer me." But this requires a change in the reading. Even he that abideth of old; or, "he that is enthroned of old;" he, i.e., that sitteth, and has always sat, on his eternal throne in the heavens. Selah. The "selah" here marks probably a pause for adoration of the great and eternal King enthroned in all his glory. Because they have no changes; rather, the men who have no changes - exegetical of "them" in the first clause of the verse. The wicked "have no changes," i.e. no great reverses of fortune, until their end comes (see Job 21:7-15). Therefore they fear not God; rather, and who do not fear God. In the second group anger is the prevailing feeling. In the city all kinds of party passions have broken loose; even his bosom friend has taken a part in this hostile rising. The retrospective reference to the confusion of tongues at Babel which is contained in the word פּלּג (cf. Genesis 10:25), also in remembrance of בּלל (Genesis 11:1-9), involves the choice of the word בּלּע, which here, after Isaiah 19:3, denotes a swallowing up, i.e., annihilation by means of confounding and rendering utterly futile. לשׁונם is the object to both imperatives, the second of which is פּלּג (like the pointing usual in connection with a final guttural) for the sake of similarity of sound. Instead of חמס וריב, the pointing is חמס וריב, which is perfectly regular, because the וריב with a conjunctive accent logically hurries on to בּעיר as its supplement.

(Note: Certain exceptions, however, exist, inasmuch as ו sometimes remains even in connection with a disjunctive accent, Isaiah 49:4; Jeremiah 40:10; Jeremiah 41:16; and it is pointed ו in connection with a conjunctive in Genesis 45:23; Genesis 46:12; Leviticus 9:3; Micah 2:11; Job 4:16; Ecclesiastes 4:8.)

The subjects to Psalm 55:11 are not violence and strife (Hengstenberg, Hitzig), for it is rather a comical idea to make these personified run round about upon the city walls; but (cf. Psalm 59:7, Psalm 59:15) the Absalomites, and in fact the spies who incessantly watch the movements of David and his followers, and who to this end roam about upon the heights of the city. The narrative in 2 Samuel 15 shows how passively David looked on at this movement, until he abandoned the palace of his own free will and quitted Jerusalem The espionage in the circuit of the city is contrasted with the movements going on within the city itself by the word בּקרב. We are acquainted with but few details of the affair; but we can easily fill in the details for ourselves in accordance with the ambitious, base, and craftily malicious character of Absalom. The assertion that deceit (מרמה) and the extremest madness had taken possession of the city is confirmed in Psalm 55:13 by כּי. It is not open enemies who might have had cause for it that are opposed to him, but faithless friends, and among them that Ahithophel of Giloh, the scum of perfidious ingratitude. The futures ואשּׂא and ואסּתר are used as subjunctives, and ו is equivalent to alioqui, as in Psalm 51:18, cf. Job 6:14. He tells him to his face, to his shame, the relationship in which he had stood to him whom he now betrays. Psalm 55:14 is not to be rendered: and thou art, etc., but: and thou (who dost act thus) wast, etc.; for it is only because the principal clause has a retrospective meaning that the futures נמתּיק and נהלּך describe what was a custom in the past. The expression is designedly אנושׁ כּערכּי and not אישׁ כערכי; David does not make him feel his kingly eminence, but places himself in the relation to him of man to man, putting him on the same level with himself and treating him as his equal. The suffix of כערכי is in this instance not subjective as in the כערכך of the law respecting the asham or trespass-offering: according to my estimation, but objectively: equal to the worth at which I am estimated, that is to say, equally valued with myself. What heart-piercing significance this word obtains when found in the mouth of the second David, who, although the Son of God and peerless King, nevertheless entered into the most intimate human relationship as the Son of man to His disciples, and among them to that Iscariot! אלּוּף from אלף, Arabic alifa, to be accustomed to anything, assuescere, signifies one attached to or devoted to any one; and מידּא, according to the Hebrew meaning of the verb ידע, an intimate acquaintance. The first of the relative clauses in Psalm 55:15 describes their confidential private intercourse; the second the unrestrained manifestation of it in public. סוד here, as in Job 19:19 (vid., supra on Psalm 25:14). המתּיק סוד, to make friendly intercourse sweet, is equivalent to cherishing it. רגשׁ stands over against סוד, just like סוד, secret counsel, and רגשׁה, loud tumult, in Psalm 64:3. Here רגשׁ is just the same as that which the Korahitic poet calls המון חוגג in Psalm 42:5.

In the face of the faithless friends who has become the head of the Absalomite faction David now breaks out, in Psalm 55:16, into fearful imprecations. The Chethb is ישׁימות, desolationes (super eos); but this word occurs only in the name of a place ("House of desolations"), and does not well suit such direct reference to persons. On the other hand, the Ker ישּׁיאמות, let death ensnare or impose upon them, gives a sense that is not to be objected to; it is a pregnant expression, equivalent to: let death come upon them unexpectedly. To this ישּׁיא corresponds the חיּים of the second imprecation: let them go down alive into Hades (שׁאול, perhaps originally שׁאולה, the ה of which may have been lost beside the ח that follows), i.e., like the company of Korah, while their life is yet vigorous, that is to say, let them die a sudden, violent death. The drawing together of the decipiat (opprimat) mors into one word is the result of the ancient scriptio continua and of the defective mode of writing, ישּׁי, like יני, Psalm 141:5, אבי, 1 Kings 21:29. Bttcher renders it differently: let death crash in upon them; but the future form ישּׁי equals ישׁאה from שׁאה equals שׁאי is an imaginary one, which cannot be supported by Numbers 21:30. Hitzig renders it: let death benumb them (ישּׁים); but this gives an inconceivable figure, with the turgidity of which the trepidantes Manes in Virgil, Aenid viii. 246, do not admit of comparison. In the confirmation, Psalm 55:16, בּמגוּרם, together with the בּקרבּם which follows, does not pretend to be any advance in the thought, whether מגור be rendered a settlement, dwelling, παροικία (lxx, Targum), or an assembly (Aquila, Symmachus, Jerome). Hence Hitzig's rendering: in their shrine, in their breast ( equals ἐν τῷ θησαυρῷ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, Luke 6:45), מגוּרם being short for מגוּרתם in accordance with the love of contraction which prevails in poetry (on Psalm 25:5). But had the poet intended to use this figure he would have written בּמגוּרת קרבם, and is not the assertion that wickedness is among them, that it is at home in them, really a climax? The change of the names of God in Psalm 55:17 is significant. He calls upon Him who is exalted above the world, and He who mercifully interposes in the history of the world helps him.

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