Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Prayer for Gracious Protection and Guidance
A question similar to the question, Who may ascend the mountain of Jahve? which Psa 24:1-10 propounded, is thrown out by Ps 25, Who is he that feareth Jahve? in order to answer it in great and glorious promises. It is calmly confident prayer for help against one's foes, and for God's instructing, pardoning, and leading grace. It is without any definite background indicating the history of the times in which it was composed; and also without any clearly marked traits of individuality. But it is one of the nine alphabetical Psalms of the whole collection, and the companion to Ps 34, to which it corresponds even in many peculiarities of the acrostic structure. For both Psalms have no ו strophe; they are parallel both as to sound and meaning in the beginnings of the מ, ע, and the first פ strophes; and both Psalms, after having gone through the alphabet, have a פ strophe added as the concluding one, whose beginning and contents are closely related. This homogeneousness points to one common author. We see nothing in the alphabetical arrangement at least, which even here as in Ps 9-10 is handled very freely and not fully carried out, to hinder us from regarding David as this author. But, in connection with the general ethical and religious character of the Psalm, it is wanting in positive proofs of this. In its universal character and harmony with the plan of redemption Ps 25 coincides with many post-exilic Psalms. It contains nothing but what is common to the believing consciousness of the church in every age; nothing specifically belonging to the Old Testament and Israelitish, hence Theodoret says: ἁρμόζει μάλιστα τοῖς ἐξ ἐθνῶν κεκλημένοις. The introits for the second and third Quadragesima Sundays are taken from Psa 25:6 and Psa 25:15; hence these Sundays are called Reminiscere and Oculi. Paul Gerhardt's hymn "Nach dir, o Herr, verlanget mich" is a beautiful poetical rendering of this Psalm.
The Psalm begins, like Psa 16:1-11; Psa 23:1, with a monostich. Psa 25:2 is the ב strophe, אלהי (unless one is disposed to read בך אלהי according to the position of the words in Psa 31:2), after the manner of the interjections in the tragedians, e.g., oo'moi, not being reckoned as belonging to the verse (J. D. Kצhler). In need of help and full of longing for deliverance he raises his soul, drawn away from earthly desires, to Jahve (Psa 86:4; Psa 143:8), the God who alone can grant him that which shall truly satisfy his need. His ego, which has the soul within itself, directs his soul upwards to Him whom he calls אלהי, because in believing confidence he clings to Him and is united with Him. The two אל declare what Jahve is not to allow him to experience, just as in Psa 31:2, Psa 31:18. According to Psa 25:19, Psa 25:20; Psa 38:17, it is safer to construe לי with יעלצוּ (cf. Psa 71:10), as also in Psa 27:2; Psa 30:2, Mic 7:8, although it would be possible to construe it with אויבי (cf. Psa 144:2). In Psa 25:3 the confident expectation of the individual is generalised.
That wherewith the praying one comforts himself is no peculiar personal prerogative, but the certain, joyous prospect of all believers: ἡ ἐλπίς ου ̓ καταισχύνει, Rom 5:5. These are called קויך (קוה participle to קוּה ot elp, just as דּבר is the participle to דּבּר). Hope is the eye of faith which looks forth clear and fixedly into the future. With those who hope in Jahve, who do not allow themselves to be in any way disconcerted respecting Him, are contrasted those who act treacherously towards Him (Psa 119:158, Aq., Symm., Theodot. οἱ ἀποστατοῦντες), and that ריקם, i.e. - and it can only mean this-from vain and worthless pretexts, and therefore from wanton unconscientiousness.
Recognising the infamy of such black ingratitude, he prays for instruction as to the ways which he must take according to the precepts of God (Psa 18:22). The will of God, it is true, lies before us in God's written word, but the expounder required for the right understanding of that word is God Himself. He prays Him for knowledge; but in order to make what he knows a perfect and living reality, he still further needs the grace of God, viz., both His enlightening and also His guiding grace.
His truth is the lasting and self-verifying fact of His revelation of grace. To penetrate into this truth and to walk in it (Psa 26:3; Psa 86:11) without God, is a contradiction in its very self. Therefore the psalmist prays, as in Psa 119:35, οδήγησόν με ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ σου (lxx Cod. Alex.; whereas Cod. Vat. ἐπὶ τὴν..., cf. Joh 16:13). He prays thus, for his salvation comes from Jahve, yea Jahve is his salvation. He does not hope for this or that, but for Him, all the day, i.e., unceasingly,
(Note: Hupfeld thinks the accentuation inappropriate; the first half of the verse, however, really extends to ישׁעי, and consists of two parts, of which the second is the confirmation of the first: the second half contains a relatively new thought. The sequence of the accents: Rebia magnum, Athnach, therefore fully accords with the matter.)
for everything worth hoping for, everything that can satisfy the longing of the soul, is shut up in Him. All mercy or grace, however, which proceeds from Him, has its foundation in His compassion and condescension.
The supplicatory reminiscere means, may God never forget to exercise His pity and grace towards him, which are (as the plurals imply) so rich and superabundant. The ground on which the prayer is based is introduced with כּי (nam, or even quoniam). God's compassion and grace are as old in their operation and efficacy as man's feebleness and sin; in their counsels they are eternal, and therefore have also in themselves the pledge of eternal duration (Psa 100:5; Psa 103:17).
May Jahve not remember the faults of his youth (חטּאות), into which lust and thoughtlessness have precipitated him, nor the transgressions (פּשׁעים), by which even in maturer and more thoughtful years he has turned the grace of God into licentiousness and broken off his fellowship with Him (פּשׁע בּ, of defection); but may He, on the contrary, turn His remembrance to him (זכר ל as in Psa 136:23) in accordance with His grace or loving-kindness, which אתּה challenges as being the form of self-attestation most closely corresponding to the nature of God. Memor esto quidem mei, observes Augustine, non secundum iram, qua ego dignus sum, sed secundum misericordiam tuam, quae te digna est. For God is טּוב, which is really equivalent to saying, He is ἀγάπη. The next distich shows that טוּב is intended here of God's goodness, and not, as e.g., in Neh 9:35, of His abundance of possessions.
The בּ with הורה denotes the way, i.e., the right way (Job 31:7), as the sphere and subject of the instruction, as in Psa 32:8, Pro 4:11; Job 27:11. God condescends to sinners in order to teach them the way that leads to life, for He is טוב־וישׂר; well-doing is His delight, and, if His anger be not provoked (Psa 18:27), He has only the sincerest good intention in what He does.
The shortened form of the future stands here, according to Ges. ֗128, 2, rem., instead of the full form (which, viz., ידרך, is perhaps meant); for the connection which treats of general facts, does not admit of its being taken as optative. The ב (cf. Psa 25:5, Psa 107:7; Psa 119:35) denotes the sphere of the guidance. משׁפּט is the right so far as it is traversed, i.e., practised or carried out. In this course of right He leads the ענוים, and teaches them the way that is pleasing to Himself. ענוים is the one word for the gentle, mansueti, and the humble, modesti. Jerome uses these words alternately in Psa 25:9 and Psa 25:9; but the poet designedly repeats the one word - the cardinal virtue of ענוה - here with the preponderating notion of lowliness. Upon the self-righteous and self-sufficient He would be obliged to force Himself even against their will. He wants disciples eager to learn; and how richly He rewards those who guard what they have learnt!
The paths intended, are those which He takes with men in accordance with His revealed will and counsel. These paths are חסד loving-kindness, mercy, or grace, for the salvation of men is their goal, and אמת truth, for they give proof at every step of the certainty of His promises. But only they who keep His covenant and His testimonies faithfully and obediently shall share in this mercy and truth. To the psalmist the name of Jahve, which unfolds itself in mercy and truth, is precious. Upon it he bases the prayer that follows.
The perf. consec. is attached to the יהי, which is, according to the sense, implied in למען שׁמך, just as in other instances it follows adverbial members of a clause, placed first for the sake of emphasis, when those members have reference to the future, Ges. ֗126, rem. 1. Separate and manifold sins (Psa 25:7) are all comprehended in עון, which is in other instances also the collective word for the corruption and the guilt of sin. כּי gives the ground of the need and urgency of the petition. A great and multiform load of sin lies upon him, but the name of God, i.e., His nature that has become manifest in His mercy and truth, permits him to ask and to hope for forgiveness, not for the sake of anything whatever that he has done, but just for the sake of this name (Jer 14:7; Isa 43:25). How happy therefore is he who fears God, in this matter!
The question: quisnam est vir, which resembles Psa 34:13; Psa 107:43; Isa 50:10, is only propounded in order to draw attention to the person who bears the character described, and then to state what such an one has to expect. In prose we should have a relative antecedent clause instead, viz., qui (quisquis) talis est qui Dominum vereatur.
(Note: The verb ver-eri, which signifies "to guard one's self, defend one's self from anything" according to its radical notion, has nothing to do with ירא (ורא).)
The attributive יבהר, (viam) quam eligat (cf. Isa 48:17), might also be referred to God: in which He takes delight (lxx); but parallels like Psa 119:30, Psa 119:173, favour the rendering: which he should choose. Among all the blessings which fall to the lot of him who fears God, the first place is given to this, that God raises him above the vacillation and hesitancy of human opinion.
The verb לין (לוּן), probably equivalent to ליל (from ליל) signifies to tarry the night, to lodge. Good, i.e., inward and outward prosperity, is like the place where such an one turns in and finds shelter and protection. And in his posterity will be fulfilled what was promised to the patriarchs and to the people delivered from Egypt, viz., possession of the land, or as this promise runs in the New Testament, of the earth, Mat 5:5 (cf. Psa 37:11), Rev 5:10.
The lxx renders סוד, κραταίωμα, as though it were equivalent to יסוד. The reciprocal נוסד, Psa 2:2 (which see), leads one to the right primary signification. Starting from the primary meaning of the root סד, "to be or to make tight, firm, compressed," סוד signifies a being closely pressed together for the purpose of secret communication and converse, confidential communion or being together, Psa 89:8; Psa 111:1 (Symm. ὁμιλία), then the confidential communication itself, Psa 55:15, a secret (Aquila ἀπόῤῥητον, Theod. μυστήριον). So here: He opens his mind without any reserve, speaks confidentially with those who fear Him; cf. the derivative passage Pro 3:32, and an example of the thing itself in Gen 18:17. In Psa 25:14 the infinitive with ל, according to Ges. ֗132, rem. 1, as in Isa 38:20, is an expression for the fut. periphrast.: faedus suum notum facturus est iis; the position of the words is like Dan 2:16, Dan 2:18; Dan 4:15. הודיע is used of the imparting of not merely intellectual, but experimental knowledge. Hitzig renders it differently, viz., to enlighten them. But the Hiph. is not intended to be used thus absolutely even in Sa2 7:21. בּריתו is the object; it is intended of the rich and deep and glorious character of the covenant revelation. The poet has now on all sides confirmed the truth, that every good gift comes down from above, from the God of salvation; and he returns to the thought from which he started.
He who keeps his eyes constantly directed towards God (Psa 141:8; Psa 123:1), is continually in a praying mood, which cannot remain unanswered. תּמיד corresponds to ἀδιαλείπτως in Th1 5:17. The aim of this constant looking upwards to God, in this instance, is deliverance out of the enemy's net. He can and will pull him out (Psa 31:5) of the net of complicated circumstances into which he has been ensnared without any fault of his own.
The rendering "regard me," so far as פּנה אל means God's observant and sympathising turning to any one (lxx ἐπιβλέπειν), corresponds to Psa 86:16; Lev 26:9. For this he longs, for men treat him as a stranger and refuse to have anything to do with him. יחיד is the only one of his kind, one who has no companion, therefore the isolated one. The recurrence of the same sounds עני אני is designedly not avoided. To whom could he, the isolated one, pour forth his affliction, to whom could he unveil his inmost thoughts and feelings? to God alone! To Him he can bring all his complaints, to Him he can also again and again always make supplication.
The Hiph. הרחיב signifies to make broad, and as a transitive denominative applied to the mind and heart: to make a broad space = to expand one's self (cf. as to the idea, Lam 2:13, "great as the sea is thy misfortune"), lxx ἐπληθύνθησαν, perhaps originally it was ἐπλατηύνθησαν. Accordingly הרחיבוּ is admissible so far as language is concerned; but since it gives only a poor antithesis to צרות it is to be suspected. The original text undoubtedly was הרחיב וממצוקותי (הרחיב, as in Psa 77:2, or הרחיב, as e.g., in Kg2 8:6): the straits of my heart do Thou enlarge (cf. Psa 119:32; Co2 6:11) and bring me out of my distresses (Hitzig and others).
The falling away of the ק is made up for by a double ר strophe. Even the lxx has ἴδε twice over. The seeing that is prayed for, is in both instances a seeing into his condition, with which is conjoined the notion of interposing on his behalf, though the way and manner thereof is left to God. נשׂא ל, with the object in the dative instead of the accusative (tollere peccata), signifies to bestow a taking away, i.e., forgiveness, upon any one (synon. סלח ל). It is pleasing to the New Testament consciousness that God's vengeance is not expressly invoked upon his enemies. כּי is an expansive quod as in Gen 1:4. שׂנאת חמס with an attributive genitive is hatred, which springs from injustice and ends in injustice.
He entreats for preservation and deliverance from God; and that He may not permit his hope to be disappointed (אל־אבושׁ, cf. Ch1 21:13, instead of אל־אבושׁה which is usual in other instances). This his hope rests indeed in Him: he has taken refuge in Him and therefore He cannot forsake him, He cannot let him be destroyed.
Devoutness that fills the whole man, that is not merely half-hearted and hypocritical, is called תּם; and uprightness that follows the will of God without any bypaths and forbidden ways is called ישׁר. These two radical virtues (cf. Job 1:1) he desires to have as his guardians on his way which is perilous not only by reason of outward foes, but also on account of his own sinfulness. These custodians are not to let him pass out of their sight, lest he should be taken away from them (cf. Psa 40:12; Pro 20:28). He can claim this for himself, for the cynosure of his hope is God, from whom proceed תם and ישׁר like good angels.
His experience is not singular, but the enmity of the world and sin bring all who belong to the people of God into straits just as they have him. And the need of the individual will not cease until the need of the whole undergoes a radical remedy. Hence the intercessory prayer of this meagre closing distich, whose connection with what precedes is not in this instance so close as in Ps 34:23. It looks as though it was only added when Ps 25 came to be used in public worship; and the change of the name of God favours this view. Both Psalms close with a פ in excess of the alphabet. Perhaps the first פ represents the π, and the second the φ; for Psa 25:16; Psa 34:17 follow words ending in a consonant, and Psa 25:22; 34:23, words ending in a vowel. Or is it a propensity for giving a special representation of the final letters, just as these are sometimes represented, though not always perfectly, at the close of the hymns of the synagogue (pijutim)?