Verse 1. - The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. An atheism is here depicted which goes beyond even that of Psalm 10. There the existence of God was not so much denied as his providence. Here his existence is not only denied, but denied in the very depths of the man's heart. He has contrived to convince himself of what he so much wishes. The psalmist regards such a state of mind as indicative of that utter perversity and folly which is implied in the term nabal (נָבַל). They are corrupt; literally, they have corrupted themselves (comp. Gem 6:12; Judges 2:19). Their atheism is accompanied by deep moral corruption. We have no right to say that this is always so; but the tendency of atheism to relax moral restraints is indisputable. They have done abominable works (comp. vers. 3 and 4). There is none that doeth good; i.e. none among them. The psalmist does not intend his words to apply to the whole human race. He has in his mind a, " righteous generation" (ver. 5), "God's people" (ver. 4), whom he sets over against the wicked, both in this psalm and elsewhere universally (see Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 2:12; Psalm 3:8; Psalm 4:3, etc.).
The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
Verse 2 - The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men. Corruption having reached such a height as it had, God, is represented as looking down from heaven with a special object - to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. To see, i.e., if among the crowd of the "abominable" doers spoken of in ver. 1 there were any of a better spirit, and possessed of understanding, and willing to seek after God. But it was in vain. The result of his scrutiny appears in the next verse.
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Verse 3. - They are all gone aside. Haccol (הַכֹּל), "the totality" - one and all of them had turned aside, like the Israelites at Sinai (Exodus 32:8); they had quitted the way of righteousness, and turned to wicked courses. The expression "denotes a general - all but universal-corruption" ('Speaker's Commentary'). They are all together become filthy; literally, sour, rancid - like milk that has turned, or butter that has become bad. There is none that doeth good, no, not one. St. Paul's application of this passage (Romans 3:10-12), to prove that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (ver. 23), goes beyond the intention of the psalmist.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.
Verse 4. - Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? The exclamation is put in the mouth of God. Can it be possible that none of these evil-doers is aware of the results of evil-doing? Do they think to escape Divine retribution? The "wonder expresses the magnitude of their folly" (Hengstenberg). Who eat up my people as they eat bread. Reducing men to poverty, robbing them, and devouring their substance, is called, in Scripture, devouring the men themselves (see Proverbs 30:14; Isaiah 3:14; Micah 3:3). Those who are plundered and despoiled are compared to "bread" in Numbers 14:2. The Homeric δημοβόρος βασιλεὺς, adduced by Dr. Kay, is an instance of the same metaphor. And call not upon the Lord. This might have seemed scarcely to need mention, since "how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?" (Romans 10:14). But it connects them definitely with the atheists of ver. 1.
There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.
Verse 5. - There were they in great fear. "There" - in the midst of their evil-doing, while they are devouring God's people - a sudden terror seizes on them. Psalm 53:5 adds, "Where no fear was," which seems to imply a panic terror, like that which seized the Syrians when they were besieging Samaria (2 Kings 7:6, 7). For God is in the generation of the righteous. God's people cannot be attacked without provoking him; they ere in him, and he in them; he will assuredly come to their relief.
Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.
Verse 6. - Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his Refuge. The sense is obscure. Some translate, "Ye may shame the counsel of the poor (i.e. put it to shame, baffle it); but in vain; for the poor have a sure Refuge," and the ultimate triumph will belong to them. Others, "Ye pour contempt on the poor man's counsel," or "resolve," because "the Lord is his Refuge;" i.e. ye contemn it, and deride it, just because it rests wholly on a belief in God, which you regard as folly (see ver. 1).
Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.
Verse 7. - Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! The salvation of the "righteous generation" (ver. 5), the "true Israel," is sure to come. Oh that it were come already! It will proceed "out of Zion," since God's Name is set there. The ark of the covenant had been already set up in the place which it was thenceforth to occupy (see 2 Samuel 6:12-17). David's reign in Jerusalem is begun. When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people; either, when the Lord turneth the ill fortune of his people, or, when the Lord re-turneth to the captivity of his people; i.e. when he no longer turns away from their sufferings and afflictions, but turns towards them, and lifts up the light of his countenance upon them, then Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. (For the union of these two names, see Psalm 78:21, 71; Psalm 105:23; Psalm 135:4, etc.) God's people shall celebrate their deliverance with a psalm of thanksgiving.