<<A Psalm of David, when he changed his behaviour before Abimelech; who drove him away, and he departed.>> I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Verse 1. - I will Bless the Lord at all times; i.e. even in times of adversity. If the statement in the title may be relied upon, David's fortunes were now at the lowest ebb. He had fled from the court of Saul on finding that Saul was determined to put him to death (1 Samuel 20:31). He had hoped to find a safe refuge with Achish, but had been disappointed. He was on the point of becoming a fugitive and an outlaw, a dweller in dens and caves of the earth (1 Samuel 22:1). He had as yet no body of followers. We cannot but admire his piety in composing, at such a time, a song of thanksgiving to God. His praise shall continually be in my mouth (comp. Psalm 92:1, 2; Psalm 145:1, 2; Psalm 146:1, 2; Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). "Continually" must be understood as meaning either "every day" or "many times every day," but must not be taken quite literally, or the business of life would be at a stand.
My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.
Verse 2. - My soul shall make her boast in the Lord (comp. Psalm 44:8; and for the meaning of "boasting in the Lord," see Jeremiah 9:24, "Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which executeth loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth" ). The humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. They will anticipate joy for themselves when they hear of my rejoicing.
O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.
Verse 3. - O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his Name together. Not content with praising God in his own person, the psalmist calls on Israel generally to praise the Lord with him. He then proceeds to assign reasons why God should be praised (vers. 4-10).
I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Verse 4. - I sought the Lord, and he heard me. To "seek the Lord" is not merely to trust in him, but to fly to him, and make our requests of him in our troubles. David apparently speaks of some special occasion on which he "sought the Lord," and some special request which he made of him, but does not tell us what the occasion or request was. We may presume that it was in some way connected with his "escape to the cave Adullam" (1 Samuel 22:1). And delivered me from all my fears; literally, frown all the things which I feared (comp. Isaiah 66:4).
They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
Verse 5. - They looked unto him, and were lightened; or, were brightened (Hengstenberg); i.e. had their countenances lighted up and cheered. And their faces were not ashamed. As they would have been if God had made no response to their appeal (comp. Psalm 25:2, 3; Psalm 74:21).
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
Verse 6. - This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. Almost a repetition of ver. 4, but in the third person instead of the first. The "poor man" intended is David him* self, not an ideal poor man. Otherwise the demonstrative "this" (זֶה) would not have been employed.
The angel of the LORD encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
Verse 7. - The angel of the Lord eneampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. According to some commentators (Rosenmuller, 'Four Friends,' and others), the expression, "angel of the Lord," is here used as a collective, and means the angels generally. With this certainly agrees the statement that the angel "encampeth round about them that fear him;" and the illustration from 2 Kings 6:14-18 is thus exactly apposite. But others deny that "the angel of the Lord" has ever a collective sense, and think a single personality must necessarily* be intended, which they regard as identical with "the captain of the Lord's host," who appeared to Joshua (Joshua 5:14, 15), and "the angel of the Lord's presence" spoken of by Isaiah (Isaiah 63:9); so Kay, Hengstenberg, Bishop Horsley, Professor Alexander, and the 'Speaker's Commentary.' When pressed to say how this one angel can "encamp round" a number of persons, they reply that, of course, he has his subordinates with him - a "spangled host," that "keep watch in squadrons bright;" and that he is said to do what they do, which is no doubt quite in accordance with ordinary modes of speech. Thus, however, the two expositions become nearly identical, since, according to both, it is the angelic host which "encamps around" the faithful.
O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
Verse 8. - O taste and see that the Lord is good; i.e. put the matter to the test of experience (comp. 1 Peter 2:3). There is no other way of really knowing how good God is. Blessed is the man that trusteth in him (comp. Psalm 2:12; Psalm 84:12; Proverbs 16:20; Isaiah 30:18; Jeremiah 17:7). Trust in God is a feeling which is blessed in itself. God also showers blessings on such as trust in him.
O fear the LORD, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
Verse 9. - O fear the Lord, ye his saints. Fear of God, a reverent and godly fear, will always accompany trust in God, such as God approves. The saints of God both love and fear him (comp. Psalm 31:23). There is no want to them that fear 'him since God supplies all their wants.
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
Verse 10. - The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger. Some suppose the "young lions" here to represent the proud and violent, as in Job 4:10. But it is simpler to take the present passage literally. In God's animal creation even the strongest suffer want for a time, and have no remedy; his human creatures need never be in want, since they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. It is open to them to "seek the Lord" at any time.
Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Verses 11-22. - The second, didactic, part of the psalm here begins. The writer assumes the role of the teacher, and, addressing his readers as "sons," undertakes to "teach them the fear of the Lord" (ver, 11), or, in other words, to point out to them in what true religion consists. This he does in two remarkable verses (vers. 13, 14); after which he proceeds, in the remainder of the psalm, to give reasons which may incline them to the practice of it (vers. 15-22). The reasons resolve themselves into two main grounds - the tender love and care of God for the righteous (vers. 15, 17-20, 22), and his hostility to and punishment of the wicked (vers. 16, 21). Verse 11. - Come, ye children, hearken unto me (comp. Proverbs 4:1; Proverbs 8:32; 1 John 2:1, 18; 1 John 3:18; 1 John 4:4, etc.). I will teach you the fear of the Lord; i.e. I will teach you the nature of true religion. Note the absence from what follows of any merely legal requirements, and the simple insist-ance on right moral conduct (vers. 13, 14).
What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good?
Verse 12. - What man is he that desireth life? Like most moralists, David begins with asking men - Do they wish for happiness? If so, and he assumes that it is so (comp. Arist., 'Eth. Nic.,' I. 1. - 7.), then he will point them out the way to it. And loveth many days, that he may see good? Mere life, mere length of days, would not suffice for men, would be no object of desire, unless it were assumed that the days would bring them "good" - in other words, that they would be happy days.
Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
Verse 13. - Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. If the end be happiness, the means will be right moral conduct; and, first of all, right government of the tongue. Sins of the tongue are numerous, and abundantly noted in the Psalms (Psalm 5:9; Psalm 10:7; Psalm 12:3; Psalm 15:3; Psalm 50:19; Psalm 57:4; Psalm 73:8, 9, etc.). They are more difficult to avoid than any others; they cling closer to us; they are scarcely ever wholly laid aside. "If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body" (James 3:2). The meek Moses "spake unadvisedly with his lips" (Psalm 106:33). Job "darkened counsel by words without knowledge "(Job 38:2). St. Peter's words on one occasion drew upon him the rebuke, "Get thee behind me, Satan" (Matthew 16:23).
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
Verse 14. - Depart from evil, and do good. From words the psalmist proceeds to acts, and, in the briefest possible way, says all that can be said. First, he enjoins negative goodness - "depart from evil," i.e. do nothing that is wrong; break no laws of God, no command of conscience; have a conscience void of offence, both towards God and towards man. Secondly, he requires positive goodness - "Do good;" i.e. actively perform the will of God from the heart; discharge every duty; practise every virtue; carry out the precepts of the moral law in every particular. Seek peace, and pursue it. It is not clear why this virtue - one of many - is specially enjoined; but probably some circumstances of the time made the recommendation advisable.
The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
Verse 15. - The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous (comp. Job 36:7; Psalm 33:18; 1 Peter 3:12; and see the comment on Psalm 33:18). And his ears are open unto their cry. The specific statement of ver. 6 is now generalized. What God had done in the case of the psalmist, he will do in all other similar cases. His eyes will be open to his people's needs, and his ears attent unto their prayers (2 Chronicles 6:40).
The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
Verse 16. - The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. Conversely, God turns away his face from the wicked, and punishes them by causing their very memory to perish from among men (comp. Job 18:17; Psalm 109:13; Proverbs 10:7). The natural wish for continuance, which causes men to build themselves monuments, and erect other great works, and delight in offspring, and seek to establish their families, and create entails, and have their portraits taken, and "call the lands after their own names" (Psalm 49:11), was especially strong in the Hebrew race, and made the threat that their remembrance should be cut off peculiarly terrible to them.
The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
Verse 17. - The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth; literally, they cry, and the Lord heareth. "Cry," which by the ordinary rules of grammar should have for its subject the "evil-doers" of the preceding verse, must, it is obvious from the context, refer to the "righteous" of ver. 15, who are the predominant subject of the entire passage(vers. 15-22). And delivereth them out of all their troubles (comp. ver. 19 and Psalm 54:7).
The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
Verse 18. - The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and sayeth such as be of a contrite spirit. On the value in God's sight of a broken and contrite heart, see Psalm 2:17; and on his mercy towards the truly contrite, see Psalm 147:3; Isaiah 57:15; 69:2. He "is nigh" to such persons, he "dwells with" them, "looks to them, .... revives their heart, .... heals" them, "saves" them.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.
Verse 19. - Many are the afflictions of the righteous (comp. Job 36:8-10; Acts 14:22; 1 Corinthians 15:19; 2 Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 11:33-38; Hebrews 12:5-10, etc.). The righteous suffer afflictions because they are so imperfectly righteous. They need purging, purifying, chastening, to rid them of the dross and defilement of sin which still clings to them, and from which they are never wholly freed while they continue in the flesh. "We must through mush tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22). We must, like the Captain of our salvation, be "made perfect through suffering" (Hebrews 2:10). But the Lord delivereth him out of them all. When they have done their appointed work of purging, purifying, instructing, improving, or whatever else their work may be, God removes the afflictions with which he has visited us or allowed us to be visited, ultimately, when he takes us to himself, mercifully delivering us "out of them all."
He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
Verse 20. - He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. The "bones" are put for the entire frame, or body, of a man (comp. Psalm 6:2; Psalm 31:10; Psalm 32:3; Psalm 38:3; Psalm 42:10; Psalm 102:3). God "keepeth," i.e. watches over, keeps from harm, the entire persons of the righteous, letting no hurt touch them, but such as he permits and sees to be needful. In using the phrase, "not one of them is broken," the psalmist probably alludes to Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12, taking the Paschal lamb as a type of innocence, and so of godliness.
Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
Verse 21. - Evil shall slay the wicked. His own misconduct shall bring destruction upon the wicked man-destruction of the body in many cases (Psalm 7:15, 16), in all, if he persists in his wickedness, destruction of the soul. And they that hate the righteous shall be desolate; rather, shall be held guilty (comp. Psalm 5:10, and the comment ad loc.).
The LORD redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate.
Verse 22. - The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants (comp. Psalm 25:22; Psalm 130:8). Some translate, "The Lord delivers," etc. But the LXX. have λυρώσεται. And the verb used means primarily, as Dr. Kay says, "to sever," then "to set free, release, emancipate; especially to set free by paying a price; to redeem, or ransom." And none of them that trust in him shall be desolate; rather, shall be held guilty, or shall be condemned - the same word as in the preceding verse (comp. Romans 8:33, 34). Those whom God has redeemed he justifies, and saves from all condemnation. They are "passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).