Verse 1. - In the Lord put I my trust; or, in the Lord have I taken refuge (Kay, Cheyne). Before his friends address him on the subject of his danger, David has himself recognized it, and has fled to God for succour. How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? rather, flee ye, birds, to your mountain. Probably a proverbial expression, used when it was necessary to warn a man that in flight lay his only safety. The singular (צִפור) is used collectively.
For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.
Verse 2. - For, lo, the wicked bend their bow. The words are still those of the timid friends. "Lo," they say, "the ungodly are already bending the bow against thee" - preparing, i.e., to attempt thy life. They make ready their arrow upon the string; or, fit their arrow to the string. The last thing before discharging it. That they may privily shoot at the upright in heart; literally, that they may shoot amid darkness at the upright in heart (comp. 1 Samuel 19:1, 2, where, Saul having given orders to "all his servants, that they should kill David," Jonathan persuades him to hide himself "until the morning").
If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Verse 3. - If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? The word translated" foundations" is a rare one, only occurring here and in Isaiah 19:10. The meaning of "foundations," first given to it by Aquila, is now generally adopted. We must suppose the timid friends to be still speaking, and to mean that, under the lawless rule of Saul, the very foundations of society and of moral order were swept away; the righteous (צַדִּיק, a collective) had done and could do nothing to prevent it. What remained for David, but to withdraw from a community where there was neither law nor order, where the first magistrate commanded (1 Samuel 19:1) and attempted (1 Samuel 19:10) assassination?
The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD'S throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.
Verse 4. - The Lord is in his holy temple. David's reply to his timid advisers is an expression of absolute faith and trust in God. Saul may reign upon earth; but Jehovah is in his holy temple (or rather, "palace," הֵיכַל) on high - his throne is in heaven, where he sits and reigns. What need, then, to fear an earthly king? Especially when God is not inattentive to human affairs, but his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men (comp. Psalm 7:9; Psalm 17:3; Psalm 139:1). His "eyelids" are said to try men, because, when we closely scrutinize a thing, we drop our eyelids and half close our eyes.
The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.
Verse 5. - The Lord trieth the righteous. God tries the righteous, scrutinizing them with his penetrating glance, but a glance wherein there is protection and love. When he tries (or closely scrutinizes) the wicked, the result is different - the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.
Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.
Verse 6. - Upon the wicked he shall rain snares. On Divine displeasure follows Divine punishment - not always speedy, but sure. Those who have plotted against David will have" snares rained" upon them. God is said to "rain" on men both his blessings and his curses, when he gives them abundantly (comp. Job 20:23; Hosea 10:12; Ezekiel 34:26). By "snares" are meant any difficulties or troubles in which men are entangled by the action of Divine providence. Fire and brimstone. The punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah was the typical example of God's vengeance to the Israelites generally. And an horrible tempest; literally, a breath of horrors (comp. Psalm 119:53; Lamentations 5:10). It is thought that the simoom may be intended. But none of the threats are to be taken literally. All that the psalmist means is that God's vengeance, in some shape or ether, will overtake his persecutors. This shall be the portion of their cup. This is probably the earliest place where the metaphor of a "cup" for man's lot in life is employed. Other instances are Psalm 16:5; Psalm 23:5; Psalm 73:10; Psalm 75:8; Psalm 116:13; Isaiah 51:17, 22; Jeremiah 25:15; Ezekiel 23:31, 32; Matthew 20:22, 23; Matthew 26:39; John 18:11.
For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.
Verse 7. - For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; rather, for the Lord is righteous; he loveth righteousness (see the Revised Version); literally, righteousnesses; i.e. good and righteous deeds. His countenance doth behold the upright. So the LXX., the Vulgate, Hengstenberg, Bishop Horsley, and ethers; but the bulk of modern commentators prefer to render, "The upright will behold his countenance." Either translation yields a good sense.