Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Taking Heart in God, the All-Recompensing One
The same longing after Zion meets us sounding forth from this as from the preceding Psalm. To remain his whole life long in the vicinity of the house of God, is here his only prayer; and that, rescued from his enemies, he shall there offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, is his confident expectation. The היכל of God, the King, is at present only a אהל which, however, on account of Him who sits enthroned therein, may just as much be called היכל as the היכל which Ezekiel beheld in remembrance of the Mosaic tabernacle, אהל, Eze 41:1. Cut off from the sanctuary, the poet is himself threatened on all sides by the dangers of war; but he is just as courageous in God as in Psa 3:7, where the battle is already going on: "I do not fear the myriads of people, who are encamped against me." The situation, therefore, resembles that of David during the time of Absolom. But this holds good only of the first half, Psa 27:1. In the second half, Psa 27:10 is not in favour of its being composed by David. In fact the two halves are very unlike one another. They form a hysteron-proteron, inasmuch as the fides triumphans of the first part changes into fides supplex in the second, and with the beginning of the δέησις in Psa 27:7, the style becomes heavy and awkward, the strophic arrangement obscure, and even the boundaries of the lines of the verses uncertain; so that one is tempted to regard Psa 27:7 as the appendage of another writer. The compiler, however, must have had the Psalm before him exactly as we now have it; for the grounds for his placing it to follow Psa 26:1-12 are to be found in both portions, cf. Psa 27:7 with Psa 26:11; Psa 27:11 with Psa 26:12.
In this first strophe is expressed the bold confidence of faith. It is a hexastich in the caesural schema. Let darkness break in upon him, the darkness of night, of trouble, and of spiritual conflict, yet Jahve is his Light, and if he is in Him, he is in the light and there shines upon him a sun, that sets not and knows no eclipse. This sublime, infinitely profound name for God, אורי, is found only in this passage; and there is only one other expression that can be compared with it. viz., בּא אורך in Isa 60:1; cf. φῶς ἐλήλυθα, Joh 12:46. ישׁעי does not stand beside אורי as an unfigurative, side by side with a figurative expression; for the statement that God is light, is not a metaphor. David calls Him his "salvation" in regard to everything that oppresses him, and the "stronghold (מעוז from עזז, with an unchangeable ) of his life" in regard to everything that exposes him to peril. In Jahve he conquers far and wide; in Him his life is hidden as it were behind a fortress built upon a rock (Psa 31:3). When to the wicked who come upon him in a hostile way (קרב על differing from קרב אל), he attributes the intention of devouring his flesh, they are conceived of as wild beasts. To eat up any one's flesh signifies, even in Job 19:22, the same as to pursue any one by evil speaking (in Aramaic by slander, back-biting) to his destruction. In בּקרב (the Shebג of the only faintly closed syllable is raised to a Chateph, as in ולשׁכני, Psa 31:12, לשׁאול, and the like. The לי of איבי לּי may, as also in Psa 25:2 (cf. Psa 144:2), be regarded as giving intensity to the notion of special, personal enmity; but a mere repetition of the subject (the enemy) without the repetition of their hostile purpose would be tame in the parallel member of the verse: לי is a variation of the preceding עלי, as in Lam 3:60. In the apodosis המּה כּשׁלוּ ונפלוּ, the overthrow of the enemy is regarded beforehand as an accomplished fact. The holy boldness and imperturbable repose are expressed in Psa 27:3 in the very rhythm. The thesis or downward movement in Psa 27:3 is spondaic: he does not allow himself to be disturbed; the thesis in Psa 27:3 is iambic: he can be bold. The rendering of Hitzig (as of Rashi): "in this do I trust, viz., that Jahve is my light, etc.," is erroneous. Such might be the interpretation, if בזאת אני בוטח closed Psa 27:2; but it cannot refer back over Psa 27:2 to Psa 27:1; and why should the poet have expressed himself thus materially, instead of saying ביהוה? The fact of the case is this, בוטח signifies even by itself "of good courage," e.g., Pro 11:15; and בזאת "in spite of this" (Coccejus: hoc non obstante), Lev 26:27, cf. Psa 78:32, begins the apodosis, at the head of which we expect to find an adversative conjunction.
There is only one thing, that he desires, although he also has besides full satisfaction in Jahve in the midst of strangers and in trouble. The future is used side by side with the perfect in Psa 27:4, in order to express an ardent longing which extends out of the past into the future, and therefore runs through his whole life. The one thing sought is unfolded in שׁבתּי וגו. A life-long dwelling in the house of Jahve, that is to say intimate spiritual intercourse with the God, who has His dwelling (בית), His palace (היכל) in the holy tent, is the one desire of David's heart, in order that he may behold and feast upon (חזה בּ of a clinging, lingering, chained gaze, and consequently a more significant form of expression than חזה with an accusative, Psa 63:3) נעם ה (Psa 90:17), the pleasantness (or gracefulness) of Jahve, i.e., His revelation, full of grace, which is there visible to the eye of the spirit. The interpretation which regards amaenitas as being equivalent to amaenus cultus takes hold of the idea from the wrong side. The assertion that בּקּר בּ is intended as a synonym of חזה בּ, of a pleased and lingering contemplation (Hupf., Hitz.), is contrary to the meaning of the verb, which signifies "to examine (with ל to seek or spie about after anything, Lev 13:36), to reflect on, or consider;" even the post-biblical signification to visit, more especially the sick (whence בּקּוּר הלים), comes from the primary meaning investigare. An appropriate sense may be obtained in the present instance by regarding it as a denominative from בּקשׁ and rendering it as Dunash and Rashi have done, "and to appear early in His temple;" but it is unnecessary to depart from the general usage of the language. Hengstenberg rightly retains the signification "to meditate on." בּהיכלו is a designation of the place consecrated to devotion, and לבקּר is meant to refer to contemplative meditation that loses itself in God who is there manifest. In Psa 27:5 David bases the justification of his desire upon that which the sanctuary of God is to him; the futures affirm what Jahve will provide for him in His sanctuary. It is a refuge in which he may hide himself, where Jahve takes good care of him who takes refuge therein from the storms of trouble that rage outside: there he is far removed from all dangers, he is lifted high above them and his feet are upon rocky ground. The Chethb may be read בּסכּה, as in Psa 31:21 and with Ewald 257, d; but, in this passage, with אהל alternates סך, which takes the place of סכּה in the poetic style (Psa 76:3; Lam 2:6), though it does not do so by itself, but always with a suffix.
(Note: Just in like manner they say in poetic style צידהּ, Psa 132:15; פּנּהּ, Pro 7:8; מדּה, Job 11:9; גּלּהּ, Zac 4:2; and perhaps even נצּהּ, Gen 40:10; for צידתהּ, פּנּתהּ, מדּתהּ, גּלּתהּ, and נצּתהּ; as, in general, shorter forms are sometimes found in the inflexion, which do not occur in the corresponding principal form, e.g., צוּרם, Psa 49:15, for צוּרתם; מגוּרם, Psa 55:16, for מגוּרתם; בּערמם, Job 5:13, for בּערמתם; בּתבוּנם, Hos 13:2, for בּתבוּנתם; פּחם; Neh 5:14, for פּחתם; cf. Hitzig on Hos 13:2, and Bttcher's Neue Aehrenlese, No. 693.)
With ועתּה the poet predicts inferentially (cf. Psa 2:10) the fulfilment of what he fervently desires, the guarantee of which lies in his very longing itself. זבחי תּרוּעה do not mean sacrifices in connection with which the trumpets are blown by the priests; for this was only the case in connection with the sacrifices of the whole congregation (Num 10:10), not with those of individuals. תּרוּעה is a synonym of תּודה, Psa 26:7; and זבחי תּרוּעה is a stronger form of expression for זבחי תודה (Psa 107:22), i.e., (cf. זבחי צדק, Psa 4:6; 51:21) sacrifices of jubilant thanksgiving: he will offer sacrifices in which his gratitude plays a prominent part, and will sing songs of thanksgiving, accompanied by the playing of stringed instruments, to his Deliverer, who has again and so gloriously verified His promises.
Vows of thanksgiving on the assumption of the answering of the prayer and the fulfilment of the thing supplicated, are very common at the close of Psalms. But in this Psalm the prayer is only just beginning at this stage. The transition is brought about by the preceding conception of the danger that threatens him from the side of his foes who are round about him. The reality, which, in the first part, is overcome and surmounted by his faith, makes itself consciously felt here. It is not to be rendered, as has been done by the Vulgate, Exaudi Domine vocem qua clamavi (rather, clamo) ad te (the introit of the Dominica exspectationis in the interval of preparation between Ascension and Pentecost). שׁמע has Dechמ, and accordingly קולי אקרא, voce mea (as in Psa 3:5) clamo, is an adverbial clause equivalent to voce mea clamante me. In Psa 27:8 לך cannot possibly be so rendered that ל is treated as Lamed auctoris (Dathe, Olshausen): Thine, saith my heart, is (the utterance:) seek ye may face. The declaration is opposed to this sense, thus artificially put upon it. לך אמר are undoubtedly to be construed together; and what the heart says to Jahve is not: Seek ye my face, but by reason of this, and as its echo (Calvin: velut Deo succinens): I will therefore seek Thy face. Just as in Job 42:3, a personal inference is drawn from a directly quoted saying of God. In the periodic style it would be necessary to transpose בּקּשׁוּ פּני thus: since Thou hast permitted and exhorted us, or in accordance with Thy persuasive invitation, that we should seek Thy face, I do seek Thy face (Hupfeld). There is no retrospective reference to any particular passage in the Tפra, such as Deu 4:29. The prayer is not based upon any single passage of Scripture, but upon God's commands and promises in general.
The requests are now poured forth with all the greater freedom and importunity, that God may be willing to be entreated and invoked. The Hiph. הטּה signifies in this passage standing by itself (cf. Job 24:4): to push aside. The clause עזרתי היית does not say: be Thou my help (which is impossible on syntactical grounds), nor is it to be taken relatively: Thou who wast my help (for which there is no ground in what precedes); but on the contrary the praet. gives the ground of the request that follows "Thou art my help (lit., Thou has become, or hast ever been) - cast me, then, not away," and it is, moreover, accented accordingly. Psa 27:10, as we have already observed, does not sound as though it came from the lips of David, of whom it is only said during the time of his persecution by Saul, that at that time he was obliged to part from his parents, Sa1 22:3. The words certainly might be David's, if Psa 27:10 would admit of being taken hypothetically, as is done by Ewald, ֗362, b: should my father and my mother forsake me, yet Jahve will etc. But the entreaty "forsake me not" is naturally followed by the reason: for my father and my mother have forsaken me; and just as naturally does the consolation: but Jahve will take me up, prepare the way for the entreaties which begin anew in Psa 27:11. Whereas, if כי is taken hypothetically, Psa 27:11 stands disconnectedly in the midst of the surrounding requests. On יאספני cf. Jos 20:4.
He is now wandering about like a hunted deer; but God is able to guide him so that he may escape all dangers. And this is what he prays for. As in Psa 143:10, מישׁור is used in an ethical sense; and differs in this respect from its use in Psa 26:12. On שׁררים, see the primary passage Psa 5:9, of which this is an echo. Wily spies dodge his every step and would gladly see what they have invented against him and wished for him, realised. Should he enter the way of sin leading to destruction, it would tend to the dishonour of God, just as on the contrary it is a matter of honour with God not to let His servant fall. Hence he prays to be led in the way of God, for a oneness of his own will with the divine renders a man inaccessible to evil. נפשׁ, Psa 27:12, is used, as in Psa 17:9, and in the similar passage, which is genuinely Davidic, Psa 41:3, in the signification passion or strong desire; because the soul, in its natural state, is selfishness and inordinate desire. יפח is a collateral form of יפיח; they are both adjectives formed from the future of the verb פּוּח (like ירב, יריב): accustomed to breathe out (exhale), i.e., either to express, or to snort, breathe forth (cf. πνεῖν, or ἐμπνεῖν φόνον and θόνοῦ, θυμον, and the like, Act 9:1). In both Hitzig sees participles of יפח (Jer 4:31); but Psa 10:5 and Hab 2:3 lead back to פּוּח (פּיח); and Hupfeld rightly recognises such nouns formed from futures to be, according to their original source, circumlocutions of the participle after the manner of an elliptical relative clause (the ṣifat of the Arabic syntax), and explains יפיח כּזבים, together with יפח חמס, from the verbal construction which still continues in force.
Self-encouragement to firmer confidence of faith. Joined to Psa 27:12 (Aben-Ezra, Kimchi), Psa 27:13 trails badly after it. We must, with Geier, Dachselt, and others, suppose that the apodosis is wanting to the protasis with its לוּלא pointed with three points above,
(Note: The ו has not any point above it, because it might be easily mistaken for a Cholem, vid., Baer's Psalterium p. 130.)
and four below, according to the Masora (cf. B. Berachoth 4a), but a word which is indispensably necessary, and is even attested by the lxx (ἑαυτῇ) and the Targum (although not by any other of the ancient versions); cf. the protasis with לוּ, which has no apodosis, in Gen 50:15, and the apodoses with כּי after לוּלי in Gen 31:42; Gen 43:10; 1 Sam. 35:34; Sa2 2:27 (also Num 22:33, where אוּלי = אם לא = לוּלי), which are likewise to be explained per aposiopesin. The perfect after לוּלא (לוּלי) has sometimes the sense of a plusquamperfectum (as in Gen 43:10, nisi cunctati essemus), and sometimes the sense of an imperfect, as in the present passage (cf. Deu 32:29, si saperent). The poet does not speak of a faith that he once had, a past faith, but, in regard to the danger that is even now abiding and present, of the faith he now has, a present faith. The apodosis ought to run something like this (Psa 119:92; Psa 94:17): did I not believe, were not confidence preserved to me...then (אז( ne or כּי אז) I should perish; or: then I had suddenly perished. But he has such faith, and he accordingly in Psa 27:14 encourages himself to go on cheerfully waiting and hoping; he speaks to himself, it is, as it were, the believing half of his soul addressing the despondent and weaker half. Instead of ואמץ (Deu 31:7) the expression is, as in Ps 31:25, ויאמץ לבּך, let thy heart be strong, let it give proof of strength. The rendering "May He (Jahve) strengthen thy heart" would require יאמּץ; but האמיץ, as e.g., הרחיב Psa 25:17, belongs to the transitive denominatives applying to the mind or spirit, in which the Hebrew is by no means poor, and in which the Arabic is especially rich.