Verses 1-5. - Prayer, the predominant note of the entire psalm, holds almost exclusive possession of the first strophe, only passing into praise when the last verse is reached, where the petitioner reminds God of his loving kindness and readiness to forgive. Verse 1. - Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me (comp. Psalm 31:2; Proverbs 22:17). For I am poor and needy; or, "I am afflicted and in misery." Poverty in the ordinary sense is scarcely intended.
Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.
Verse 2. - Preserve my soul. It is one of the special offices of God to "preserve the souls of his saints" (Psalm 97:10). He is not only man's Creator, but his "Preserver" (Job 7:20; Job 10:12). For I am holy. The psalmist does not mean to claim for himself perfect holiness, but only that sincerity in religion which God's servants may rightly vindicate to themselves. O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee (comp, Psalm 34:22; Psalm 37:40).
Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.
Verse 3. - Be merciful unto me, O Lord; for I cry unto thee daily; rather, all day long (Revised Version).
Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
Verse 4. - Rejoice the soul of thy servant. The prayer rises from mere entreaties for relief and recovery from a state of suffering, into an earnest request for that which the heart of man is ever longing for and seeking after - gladness and joy. The faithful are promised that they shall come ultimately to a condition of exceeding great joy; but even saints are sometimes impatient, and want their joy in this world and at once. For unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul (comp. Psalm 25:1, entitled, like this, "a Psalm of David"). There is no more likely way of attaining to spiritual joy than to be always lifting up the soul to God.
For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.
Verse 5. - For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive. The word translated "ready to forgive," סַלָח, occurs here only; but the context sufficiently fixes its meaning, which is well expressed by the ἐπιεικὴς of the LXX. As God was "good" and "forgiving," he would be likely to grant the petitions just addressed to him. And plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee (comp. Exodus 34:6; Joel 2:13).
Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.
Verses 6-10. - In this second strophe praise is predominant. Prayer occupies two verses only (vers. 6, 7); in the other three (vers. 8-10) God is magnified and glorified. Verse 6. - Give ear, O Lord, unto my prayer. An echo of ver. 1. The psalmist begins, as it were, afresh, calling God's attention to himself, as if he had not yet spoken. And attend to the voice of my supplications (comp. Psalm 17:1; Psalm 55:2; Psalm 61:1, etc.). That God's ear is always attent to the prayers of his people does not make it superfluous for them to entreat his attention. He will listen more favourably when besought to listen.
In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.
Verse 7. - In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee (comp. vers. 1 and 14). The nature of the trouble is not distinctly stated; but it appears to have been caused by domestic rather than foreign enemies. For thou wilt answer me (comp. ver. 5).
Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.
Verse 8. - Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord (see the Song of Moses, Exodus 15:11). The imaginary gods of the heathen - not, perhaps, known to the psalmist to be wholly imaginary - are probably meant (comp. Psalm 77:19; Psalm 89:6; Psalm 95:3). Neither are there any works like unto thy works. So in Deuteronomy 3:24, "What god is there in heaven or in earth that can do according to thy works?"
All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.
Verse 9. - All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord (comp. Psalm 72:11, 17; Psalm 82:8, etc.). Since God had made all nations (Acts 17:26), it was safe to conclude that they would all one day worship him. The prophecy, however, still remains unfulfilled. And shall glorify thy Name. Either with their lips, or in their lives, or in both ways. Compare the anticipations of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:23), Zephaniah (Zephaniah 2:10), and Zechariah (Zechariah 14:9, 16).
For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
Verse 10. - For thou art great, and doest wondrous things. The" greatness" of God, in reality most clearly manifested by the facts of his ordinary providence, seems to men in general, as it seemed to this psalmist, especially indicated by the "wonders," or "miracles" - נפלאות - which he wrought (comp. Exodus 15:11; Psalm 72:18; Psalm 77:14). Thou art God alone (see 2 Kings 19:15; Isaiah 37:16; Isaiah 44:6, 8).
Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.
Verses 11-17. - The third strophe is almost equally divided between prayer and praise, vers. 11, 16, and 17 being devoted to the one; and vers. 12, 13, and 15 to the other. Ver. 14 is of the nature of a complaint. Verse 11. - Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth (comp. Psalm 25:4; Psalm 27:11; Psalm 119:33). Man cannot know "the way of the Lord," unless he is taught of God. The inward anointing of the Spirit is needful to teach us what God would really have us do (1 John 2:27). It is only when we are thus taught that we can "walk in his truth." Unite my heart to fear thy Name. So Symmachus, who has ἕνωσον; Canon Cook, Dr. Kay, Hupfeld, Professor Alexander, and the Revised Version. Hengstenberg prefers "incline my heart;" and Professor Cheyne would alter the text into accordance with the LXX., Αὐφρανθήτω ἡ καρδία μου, "Make my heart to rejoice." But the textual reading has the weight of authority in its favour, and gives an excellent sense, "Bring all my heart into unison, that it may be wholly fixed on thee." Compare the following verse.
I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.
Verse 12. - I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart; i.e. "with an undivided heart." And I will glorify thy Name (see ver. 9) forevermore. A belief in immortality is implied, if not formally asserted.
For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.
Verse 13. - For great is thy mercy toward me (see ver. 5). And thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. The actual deliverance was from death (ver. 14); but death involved descent into Hades, so that those who were delivered from the one were at the same time delivered from the other. The expression translated "the lowest hell" means no more than "Hades which is beneath the earth." No comparison is made of one part of Hades with another.
O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.
Verse 14. - O God, the proud are risen against me (comp. Psalm 119:51, 69, 85, 122; and also Psalm 54:3). And the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; rather, a crew of violent ones have sought after my soul, or "plotted against my life" (comp. Psalm 7:1, 2; Psalm 17:13; Psalm 35:3, 4, etc.). And have not set thee before them; i.e. "have given no thought to God, or how he would act, whether he would allow their wickedness or prevent it."
But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
Verse 15. - But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion. The appeal is to God's own revelation of himself. He had declared that he was "merciful and gracious, long suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6, 7); he could not, therefore, desert the psalmist in his need. And gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth (comp. above, ver. 5; and see also Numbers 14:18; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2).
O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.
Verse 16. - Oh turn unto me, and have mercy upon me. God had for a time turned his face away from his servant; now he is entreated to turn it towards him, and, as a consequence, to "have mercy upon him" and deliver him. Give thy strength unto thy servant. Only in God's strength can we effectually contend against either our spiritual or our temporal foes. If, however, we ask him for strength, his strength will be "sufficient for us" (2 Corinthians 12:9). And save the son of thine handmaid. Either "the son of one who was specially religious," like the mother of Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5). or" the son of an Israelitish mother," therefore born and bred up in thy household.
Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.
Verse 17. - Show me a token for good; i.e. give me some sign - not necessarily a miraculous one - that thou art dealing with me, not for evil, but "for good" (Jeremiah 24:6), and that thou wilt grant me that which I have requested of thee. That they which hate me may see it. A visible token is therefore requested, not a mere inward conviction or assurance (see 2 Kings 20:8; Isaiah 7:11). And be ashamed (comp. Psalm 6:10; 56:17; 119:78, etc.). Because thou, Lord, hast holpen me, and comforted me. The psalmist's deliverance would be his enemies' shame; it would show that God was on his side, and against them.