Verse 1. - The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart. This is a difficult passage. In the first place, the text is uncertain, since some manuscripts have לבו, "his heart," in the place of לבי, "my heart." And further, whichever reading we prefer, the meaning is far from clear. Dr. Kay translates, "Transgression's oracle to the wicked is, 'In the interior of my own heart;'" and understands the meaning to be that the sinfulness of the wicked man deludes him into the belief that his wickedness is known to no one but himself - it is all safely locked up in the recesses of his own heart. Professor Alexander suggests as possible, "Thus saith depravity to the wicked man, 'In the midst of my heart, there is no fear of God before his (i.e. God's) eyes.'" Others, preferring לבו to לבי, render, "Transgression speaks to the wicked within his heart; There is no fear of God," etc.; regarding the two clauses as perfectly independent the one of the ether. This is, perhaps, the best explanation. There is no fear of God before his eyes. Either he belongs to the class of "fools, who say in their heart, There is no God" (Psalm 14:1), or he agrees with those who cry, "Tush, God hath forgotten: he hideth away his face; he will never see it" (Psalm 10:11).
For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.
Verse 2. - For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful. Another very obscure verse, explained in various ways. The rendering of Professor Alexander is to be preferred, "For he fiattereth himself in his own eyes, as to God's finding his sin and hating it;" i.e. he flatters himself that he will conceal his sin from God, so that God will not discover it to hate it (see also the comment of Dr. Kay, and the Revised Version)
The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.
Verse 3. - The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit (comp. Psalm 12:2; Psalm 28:3). He hath left off to be wise, and to do good. There was a time when he occasionally acted wisely, and did what was right. But that time is gone by. Now he is consistently wicked.
He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.
Verse 4. - He deviseth mischief upon his bed; rather, he deviseth iniquity - the same word as in the preceding verse. In the night, when he should be looked in innocent slumber, he lies awake, devising wicked schemes against others (comp. Proverbs 4:16; Micah 2:1). He setteth himself in a way that is not good. More correct than the Prayer-book Version, "He hath set himself in no good way." The wicked man is not merely negatively bad; he determinately chooses a path of life that is evil. He abhorroth not evil. He has no aversion to it, no horror of it, no shrinking from it. Whether a thing is right or wrong is to him a matter of complete indifference. So callous is he, so hardened.
Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.
Verse 5. - Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens. Instead of the usual contrast between the wicked man and the godly one (Psalm 1:1-6; Psalm 4:2, 3; Psalm 5:10, 11, etc.), the psalmist here makes the startling contrast between the wicked man and God! The character of the wicked man is given in four verses (vers. 1-4), the portrait of God in five (vers. 5-9). God's first and principal characteristic is "mercy" - or rather, "loving-kindness" (חסר). This quality is revealed, not on earth only, but also in heaven, towards the angels. Thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Next to loving-kindness in God comes "faithfulness" - fidelity to every promise that he has ever made, unswerving attachment to those whom he has once loved, undeviating maintenance of the truth (comp. Psalm 57:10; Psalm 108:4).
Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.
Verse 6. - Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; literally, like the mountains of God; and so Luther, Rosenmuller, Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne, and the Revised Version. According to the Hebrew idiom, this means "the very greatest mountains" - those which seem to stand the strongest and the firmest. Thy judgments are a great deep; i.e. such as man cannot fathom - unsearchable - past finding out. O Lord, thou preservest man and beast. The providential care of God for his creatures is another of his leading characteristics, and one especially deserving man's attention and gratitude. It is a form of his loving-kindness.
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
Verse 7. - How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! The psalmist, having made mention of the "loving-kindness of God" as his most characteristic quality (ver. 5), and again brought it into notice as causing him to provide so carefully for all his creatures (ver. 6), cannot refrain from glorifying the quality whereto he has called attention. "How excellent" - or, how precious (Kay, Alexander, Cheyne, Revised Version) - " is thy loving-kindness!" How does it exceed all that we could have anticipated! How far does it go beyond all that we deserve! Therefore the children of men put their trust (or, shall put their trust, or shall take refuge) under the shadow of thy wings (comp. Psalm 17:8; Psalm 57:1; Psalm 63:7, etc.). Encouraged by the consideration of thy goodness, the beney Adam, the children of weak, frail, sinful man, shall take heart, and lay abide their natural timidity, and turn to thee, and put their trust in thee, gathering themselves under the shadow of thy protecting wings, and looking to thee, and thee only, for safety and defence (see Ruth 2:12).
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
Verse 8. - They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house. God will satisfy all who trust in him with "blessings out of his holy seat," and will satisfy them abundantly. The blessings intended are spiritual blessings; and the "house" is, primarily, "the place where God set his name," which at this time was the tabernacle. Faithful Israelites were to expect spiritual blessings through faithful attendance on the tabernacle worship, so far as it was accessible to them. The "house" typified heaven, whence, of course, the blessings really came. And thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures; literally, the river of thy Edens. Thou shalt give them access to an exhaustless fountain of delight, a stream like that which watered Eden (comp. Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 55:1; John 4:14; John 7:37, 38).
For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.
Verse 9. - For with thee is the fountain of life. The ultimate source of all life is God. Israel had been taught by Moses (Deuteronomy 30:20) that God was their Life; but this was not all; he is equally the Origin of life to everything that lives - to angels, men, beasts, birds, fishes, zoophytes, plants (see Genesis 1:11, 20, 24, 27, etc.). And, as he is the sole Source of natural life, so is he also the one and only Origin of spiritual vitality (Psalm 30:5; Psalm 66:9; John 1:4; John 6:57; John 7:37-39, etc.). And in thy light shall we see light (comp. John 1:4, 5, 9; 1 John 1:5-7). God is essentially Life and Light. He "has life in himself" (John 5:26). He "is Light, and in him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5). The Son, who is "the Light of the world" (John 8:12), is but "the Effulgence of his Father's glory" (Hebrews 1:3, Revised Version), "Light of light," the ray which streams from the Sun of the universe. Yet from him comes the light which enlighteneth all creatures (John 1:9). "In his light we see light."
O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.
Verse 10. - O continue thy loving-kindness unto them that know thee. Here begins the third strophe. Having finished his" instruction," the psalmist passes on to prayer; and is content to ask that God will be in the future such as he has been in the past - that he will "lengthen out," prolong, or "continue his loving-kindness" to his faithful servants, dealing with them as he has hitherto dealt with them (vers. 5, 7), mercifully, graciously, and lovingly. His faithful servants are "those that know him," because, as Hengstenberg observes, "the true and essential knowledge of God is to be found only in a sanctified mind." And thy righteousness to the upright in heart. Continue, i.e., to deal justly with those whose heart is right with thee - who, in spite of occasional lapses, are really in heart sincere.
Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me.
Verse 11. - Let not the foot of pride come against me. The mention of "the foot of pride" is noted as a mark of Davidical authorship. "Every psalm of David which speaks of danger points to the pride of his enemies as the source" (Canon Cook). And let not the hand of the wicked remove me; or, drive me away (Revised Version), i.e. force me into exile, as Absalom's party succeeded for a time in doing (2 Samuel 15:13-30).
There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise.
Verse 12. - There are the workers of iniquity fallen; or, yonder (Kay). It is as if the psalmist suddenly saw a vision. "There" - on a spot that presents itself to his eyes - are the wicked actually "fallen;" they lie prostrate in the dust. They are cast down, and shall not be able to rise; or, to rise up again (comp. Psalm 18:38). Whereas the righteous may fall into misfortune repeatedly, and recover themselves (Proverbs 24:16), the workers of iniquity, when their time comes to fail, usually perish. At any rate, this would be the result of the overthrow which the psalmist sees in a sort of vision.