Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 8: Psalms, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
David complains in this psalm, that he is reduced to such circumstances of distress that he is like a man in despair. But after having recounted the calamities with which he was so severely afflicted, he emerges from the abyss of temptations, and gathering courage, comforts himself with the assurance of deliverance. At the same time, he sets before us, in his own person, a type of Christ, who he knew by the Spirit of prophecy behoved to be abased in marvellous and unusual ways 494 previous to his exaltation by the Father. Thus the psalm, in the two parts of which it consists, explains that prophecy of Isaiah, (Isa 53:8,) “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation?”
To the chief musician. Upon the hind of the morning. A psalm of David.
This inscription is obscure; but interpreters have needlessly perplexed themselves in seeking after I know not what sublime mystery in a matter of small importance. Some are of opinion that the word אילת, ayeleth, means the morning star; 495 others that it denotes strength 496 but it is more correctly rendered hind. As it is evident, from the testimony of the apostles, that this psalm is a prophecy concerning Christ, the ancient interpreters thought that Christ would not be sufficiently dignified and honored unless, putting a mystical or allegorical sense upon the word hind, they viewed it as pointing out the various things which are included in a sacrifice. Those, also, who prefer translating the original words, אילת השחר, ayeleth hashachar, the dawn of the day or morning, 497 have endeavored to do the same thing. But as I find no solidity in these subtleties, it will be better to take that view of the title which is more simple and natural. I think it highly probable that it was the beginning of some common song; nor do I see how the inscription bears any relation to the subject-matter of the psalm. From the tenor of the whole composition, it appears that David does not here refer merely to one persecution, but comprehends all the persecutions which he suffered under Saul. It is, however, uncertain whether he composed this psalm when he peaceably enjoyed his kingdom, or in the time of his affliction; but there is no doubt that he here describes the thoughts which passed through his mind in the midst of his troubles, perplexities, and sorrows.
1. My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou far from my help, and from the words of my roaring? 2. O my God! I cry in the day-time, 498 but thou hearest not: and in the night-season, and there is no silence to me.
1. My God! The first verse contains two remarkable sentences, which, although apparently contrary to each other, are yet ever entering into the minds of the godly together. When the Psalmist speaks of being forsaken and cast off by God, it seems to be the complaint of a man in despair; for can a man have a single spark of faith remaining in him, when he believes that there is no longer any succor for him in God? And yet, in calling God twice his own God, and depositing his groanings into his bosom, he makes a very distinct confession of his faith. With this inward conflict the godly must necessarily be exercised whenever God withdraws from them the tokens of his favor, so that, in whatever direction they turn their eyes, they see nothing but the darkness of night. I say, that the people of God, in wrestling with themselves, on the one hand discover the weakness of the flesh, and on the other give evidence of their faith. With respect to the reprobate, as they cherish in their hearts their distrust of God, their perplexity of mind overwhelms them, and thus totally incapacitates them for aspiring after the grace of God by faith. That David sustained the assaults of temptation, without being overwhelmed, or swallowed up by it, may be easily gathered from his words. He was greatly oppressed with sorrow, but notwithstanding this, he breaks forth into the language of assurance, My God! my God! which he could not have done without vigorously resisting the contrary apprehension 499 that God had forsaken him. There is not one of the godly who does not daily experience in himself the same thing. According to the judgment of the flesh, he thinks he is cast off and forsaken by God, while yet he apprehends by faith the grace of God, which is hidden from the eye of sense and reason; and thus it comes to pass, that contrary affections are mingled and interwoven in the prayers of the faithful. Carnal sense and reason cannot but conceive of God as being either favorable or hostile, according to the present condition of things which is presented to their view. When, therefore, he suffers us to lie long in sorrow, and as it were to pine away under it, we must necessarily feel, according to the apprehension of the flesh, as if he had quite forgotten us. When such a perplexing thought takes entire possession of the mind of man, it overwhelms him in profound unbelief, and he neither seeks, nor any longer expects, to find a remedy. But if faith come to his aid against such a temptation, the same person who, judging from the outward appearance of things, regarded God as incensed against him, or as having abandoned him, beholds in the mirror of the promises the grace of God which is hidden and distant. Between these two contrary affections the faithful are agitated, and, as it were, fluctuate, when Satan, on the one hand, by exhibiting to their view the signs of the wrath of God, urges them on to despair, and endeavors entirely to overthrow their faith; while faith, on the other hand, by calling them back to the promises, teaches them to wait patiently and to trust in God, until he again show them his fatherly countenance.
We see then the source from which proceeded this exclamation, My God! my God! and from which also proceeded the complaint which follows immediately after, Why hast thou forsaken me? Whilst the vehemence of grief, and the infirmity of the flesh, forced from the Psalmist these words, I am forsaken of God; faith, lest he should when so severely tried sink into despair, put into his mouth a correction of this language, so that he boldly called God, of whom he thought he was forsaken, his God. Yea, we see that he has given the first place to faith. Before he allows himself to utter his complaint, in order to give faith the chief place, he first declares that he still claimed God as his own God, and betook himself to him for refuge. And as the affections of the flesh, when once they break forth, are not easily restrained, but rather carry us beyond the bounds of reason, it is surely well to repress them at the very commencement. David, therefore, observed the best possible order in giving his faith the precedency - in expressing it before giving vent to his sorrow, and in qualifying, by devout prayer, the complaint which he afterwards makes with respect to the greatness of his calamities. Had he spoken simply and precisely in these terms, Lord, why forsakest thou me? he would have seemed, by a complaint so bitter, to murmur against God; and besides, his mind would have been in great danger of being embittered with discontent through the greatness of his grief. But, by here raising up against murmuring and discontent the rampart of faith, he keeps all his thoughts and feelings under restraint, that they may not break beyond due bounds. Nor is the repetition superfluous when he twice calls God his God; and, a little after, he even repeats the same words the third time. When God, as if he had cast off all care about us, passes over our miseries and groanings as if he saw them not, the conflict with this species of temptation is arduous and painful, and therefore David the more strenuously exerts himself in seeking the confirmation of his faith. Faith does not gain the victory at the first encounter, but after receiving many blows, and after being exercised with many tossings, she at length comes forth victorious. I do not say that David was so courageous and valiant a champion as that his faith did not waver. The faithful may put forth all their efforts to subdue their carnal affections, that they may subject and devote themselves wholly to God; but still there is always some infirmity remaining in them. From this proceeded that halting of holy Jacob, of which Moses makes mention in Ge 32:24; for although in wrestling with God he prevailed, yet he ever after bore the mark of his sinful defect. By such examples God encourages his servants to perseverance, lest, from a consciousness of their own infirmity, they should sink into despair. The means therefore which we ought to adopt, whenever our flesh becomes tumultuous, and, like an impetuous tempest, hurries us into impatience, is to strive against it, and to endeavor to restrain its impetuosity. In doing this we will, it is true, be agitated and sorely tried, but our faith will, nevertheless, continue safe, and be preserved from shipwreck. Farther, we may gather from the very form of the complaint which David here makes, that he did not without cause redouble the words by which his faith might be sustained. He does not simply say that he was forsaken by God, but he adds, that God was far from his help, in as-much as when he saw him in the greatest danger, he gave him no token to encourage him in the hope of obtaining deliverance. Since God has the ability to succor us, if, when he sees us exposed as a prey to our enemies, he nevertheless sits still as if he cared not about us, who would not say that he has drawn back his hand that he may not deliver us? Again, by the expression, the words of my roaring, the Psalmist intimates that he was distressed and tormented in the highest degree. He certainly was not a man of so little courage as, on account of some slight or ordinary affliction, to howl in this manner like a brute beast. 500 We must therefore come to the conclusion, that the distress was very great which could extort such roaring from a man who was distinguished for meekness, and for the undaunted courage with which he endured calamities.
As our Savior Jesus Christ, when hanging on the cross, and when ready to yield up his soul into the hands of God his Father, made use of these very words, (Mt 27:46,) we must consider how these two things can agree, that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and that yet he was so penetrated with grief, seized with so great mental trouble, as to cry out that God his Father had forsaken him. The apparent contradiction between these two statements has constrained many interpreters to have recourse to evasions for fear of charging Christ with blame in this matter. 501 Accordingly, they have said that Christ made this complaint rather according to the opinion of the common people, who witnessed his sufferings, than from any feeling which he had of being deserted by his father. But they have not considered that they greatly lessen the benefit of our redemption, in imagining that Christ was altogether exempted from the terrors which the judgment of God strikes into sinners. It was a groundless fear to be afraid of making Christ subject to so great sorrow, lest they should diminish his glory. As Peter, in Ac 2:24, clearly testifies that “it was not possible that he should be holden of the pains of death,” it follows that he was not altogether exempted from them. And as he became our representative, and took upon him our sins, it was certainly necessary that he should appear before the judgment-seat of God as a sinner. From this proceeded the terror and dread which constrained him to pray for deliverance from death; not that it was so grievous to him merely to depart from this life; but because there was before his eyes the curse of God, to which all who are sinners are exposed. Now, if during his first conflict “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood,” and he needed an angel to comfort him, (Lu 22:43,) it is not wonderful if, in his last sufferings on the cross, he uttered a complaint which indicated the deepest sorrow. By the way, it should be marked, that Christ, although subject to human passions and affections, never fell into sin through the weakness of the flesh; for the perfection of his nature preserved him from all excess. He could therefore overcome all the temptations with which Satan assailed him, without receiving any wound in the conflict which might afterwards constrain him to halt. In short, there is no doubt that Christ, in uttering this exclamation upon the cross, manifestly showed, that although David here bewails his own distresses, this psalm was composed under the influence of the Spirit of prophecy concerning David’s King and Lord.
2. O my God! I cry in the day-time. In this verse the Psalmist expresses the long continuance of his affliction, which increased his disquietude and weariness. It was a temptation even still more grievous, that his crying seemed only to be lost labor; for, as our only means of relief under our calamities is in calling upon God, if we derive no advantage from our prayers, what other remedy remains for us? David, therefore, complains that God is in a manner deaf to his prayers. When he says in the second clause, And there is no silence to me, the meaning is, that he experienced no comfort or solace, nothing which could impart tranquillity to his troubled mind. As long as affliction pressed upon him, his mind was so disquieted, that he was constrained to cry out. Here there is shown the constancy of faith, in that the long duration of calamities could neither overthrow it, nor interrupt its exercise. The true rule of praying is, therefore, this, that he who seems to have beaten the air to no purpose, or to have lost his labor in praying for a long time, should not, on that account, leave off, or desist from that duty. Meanwhile, there is this advantage which God in his fatherly kindness grants to his people, that if they have been disappointed at any time of their desires and expectations, they may make known to God their perplexities and distresses, and unburden them, as it were, into his bosom.
3. Yet thou art holy, who inhabitest the praises of Israel. 4. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. 6. But I am a worm, and not a man; the scorn of men, and the contempt of the people. 7. All those who see me mock at me: they thrust out the lip, and shake the head. 8. “He has committed,” say they, “his cause unto [or, devolved his cause upon] Jehovah: 502 let him deliver him, let him deliver him, 503 seeing he delights in him.”
3. Yet thou art holy. In the Hebrew, it is properly, And thou art holy: but the copula ו, vau, ought, without doubt, to be rendered by the adversative particle yet. Some think that the eternal and immutable state of God is here set in opposition to the afflictions which David experienced; 504 but I cannot subscribe to this opinion. It is more simple and natural to view the language as meaning, that God has always shown himself gracious to his chosen people. The subject here treated is not what God is in heaven, but what he has shown himself to be towards men. It may be asked, whether David, in these words, aggravates his complaint, by insinuating that he is the only person who obtains nothing from God? or whether, by holding up these words as a shield before him, he repels the temptation with which he was assailed, by exhibiting to his view this truth, that God is the continual deliverer of his people? I admit that this verse is an additional expression of the greatness of David’s grief; but I have no doubt, that in using this language he seeks from it a remedy against his distrust. It was a dangerous temptation to see himself forsaken by God; and, accordingly, lest by continually thinking upon it, he should nourish it, he turned his mind to the contemplation of the constant evidences afforded of the grace of God, from which he might encourage himself, in the hope of obtaining succor. He, therefore, not only meant to ask how it was that God, who had always dealt mercifully with his people, should now, forgetting as it were his own nature, thus leave a miserable man without any succor or solace; but he also takes a shield with which to defend himself against the fiery darts of Satan. He calls God holy, because he continues always like himself. He says that he inhabiteth the praises of Israel; because, in showing such liberality towards the chosen people, as to be continually bestowing blessings upon them, he furnished them with matter for continued praise and thanksgiving. Unless God cause us to taste of his goodness by doing us good, we must needs become mute in regard to the celebration of his praise. As David belonged to the number of this chosen people, he strives, in opposition to all the obstacles which distrust might suggest as standing in the way, to cherish the hope that he shall at length be united to this body to sing along with them the praises of God.
4. Our fathers trusted in thee. Here the Psalmist assigns the reason why God sitteth amidst the praises of the tribes of Israel. The reason is, because his hand had been always stretched forth to preserve his faithful people. David, as I have just now observed, gathers together the examples of all past ages, in order thereby to encourage, strengthen, and effectually persuade himself, that as God had never cast off any of his chosen people, he also would be one of the number of those for whom deliverance is securely laid up in the hand of God. He therefore expressly declares that he belongs to the offspring of those who had been heard, intimating by this, that he is an heir of the same grace which they had experienced. He has an eye to the covenant by which God had adopted the posterity of Abraham to be his peculiar people. It would be of little consequence to know the varied instances in which God has exercised his mercy towards his own people, unless each of us could reckon himself among their number, as David includes himself in the Church of God. In repeating three times that the fathers had obtained deliverance by trusting, there is no doubt that with all modesty he intends tacitly to intimate that he had the same hope with which they were inspired, a hope which draws after it, as its effect, the fulfillment of the promises in our behalf. In order that a man may derive encouragement from the blessings which God has bestowed upon his servants in former times, he should turn his attention to the free promises of God’s word, and to the faith which leans upon them. In short, to show that this confidence was neither cold nor dead, David tells us, at the same time, that they cried unto God. He who pretends that he trusts in God, and yet is so listless and indifferent under his calamities that he does not implore his aid, lies shamefully. By prayer, then, true faith is known, as the goodness of a tree is known by its fruit. It ought also to be observed, that God regards no other prayers as right but those which proceed from faith, and are accompanied with it. It is therefore not without good reason that David has put the word cried in the middle between these words, They trusted in thee, they trusted, in the fourth verse, and these words, They trusted in thee, in the fifth verse.
6. But I am a worm, and not a man. David does not murmur against God as if God had dealt hardly with him; but in bewailing his condition, he says, in order the more effectually to induce God to show him mercy, that he is not accounted so much as a man. This, it is true, seems at first sight to have a tendency to discourage the mind, or rather to destroy faith; but it will appear more clearly from the sequel, that so far from this being the case, David declares how miserable his condition is, that by this means he may encourage himself in the hope of obtaining relief. He therefore argues that it could not be but that God would at length stretch forth his hand to save him; to save him, I say, who was so severely afflicted, and on the brink of despair. If God has had compassion on all who have ever been afflicted, although afflicted only in a moderate degree, how could he forsake his servant when plunged in the lowest abyss of all calamities? Whenever, therefore, we are overwhelmed under a great weight of afflictions, we ought rather to take from this an argument to encourage us to hope for deliverance, than suffer ourselves to fall into despair. If God so severely exercised his most eminent servant David, and abased him so far that he had not a place even among the most despised of men, let us not take it ill, if, after his example, we are brought low. We ought, however, principally to call to our remembrance the Son of God, in whose person we know this also was fulfilled, as Isaiah had predicted,
“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isa 53:3)
By these words of the prophet we are furnished with a sufficient refutation of the frivolous subtlety of those who have philosophised upon the word worm, as if David here pointed out some singular mystery in the generation of Christ; whereas his meaning simply is, that he had been abased beneath all men, and, as it were, cut off from the number of living beings. The fact that the Son of God suffered himself to be reduced to such ignominy, yea, descended even to hell, is so far from obscuring, in any respect, his celestial glory, that it is rather a bright mirror from which is reflected his unparalleled grace towards us.
7. All those who see me mock at me, etc., 505 This is an explanation of the preceding sentence. He had said that he was an object of scorn to the lowest of men, and, as it were, to the refuse of the people. He now informs us of the ignominy with which he had been treated, — that not content with opprobrious language, they also showed their insolence by their very gesture, both by shooting out their lips, 506 and by shaking their heads. As the words which we render they thrust out the lip, is, in the Hebrew, they open with the lip, 507 some explain them as meaning to rail. But this view does not appear to me to be appropriate; for the letter ב, beth, which signifies with, is here superfluous, as it often is in the Hebrew. I have therefore preferred rendering the original words, they thrust out the lip; which is the gesture of those who mock openly and injuriously. The reproachful language which follows was much more grievous when they alleged against him that God, who he openly avowed was his father, was turned away from him. We know that David, when he saw himself unjustly condemned of the world, was accustomed to support and console himself with the assurance, that since he had the approving testimony of a good conscience, he had God in heaven for his guardian, who was able to execute vengeance upon his revilers. 508 But now, all who saw him reproached him, that with vain arrogance he had groundlessly boasted of the succor he would receive from God. Where is that God, say they, on whom he leaned? Where is that love to which he trusted? Satan has not a more deadly dart for wounding the souls of men than when he endeavors to dislodge hope from our minds, by turning the promises of God into ridicule. David’s enemies, however, do not simply say that his prayers were in vain, and that the love of God of which he boasted was fallacious; but they indirectly charge him with being a hypocrite, in that he falsely pretended to be one of the children of God, from whom he was altogether estranged.
How severe a temptation this must have been to David every man may judge from his own experience. But by the remedy he used he afforded a proof of the sincerity of his confidence: for unless he had had God as the undoubted witness and approver of the sincerity of his heart, he would never have dared to come before him with this complaint. Whenever, therefore, men charge us with hypocrisy, let it be our endeavor that the inward sincerity of our hearts may answer for us before God. And whenever Satan attempts to dislodge faith from our minds, by biting detraction and cruel derision, let this be our sacred anchors — to call upon God to witness it, and that, beholding it, he may be pleased to show his righteousness in maintaining our right, since his holy name cannot be branded with viler blasphemy than to say that those who put their trust in him are puffed up with vain confidence, and that those who persuade themselves that God loves them deceive themselves with a groundless fancy. As the Son of God was assailed with the same weapon, it is certain that Satan will not be more sparing of true believers who are his members than of him. They ought, therefore, to defend themselves from this consideration - that although men may regard them as in a desperate condition, yet, if they commit to God both themselves and all their affairs, their prayers will not be in vain. By the verb, גל, gol, which is rendered to commit, the nature and efficacy of faith are very well expressed, which, reposing itself upon the providence of God, relieves our minds from the burdens of the cares and troubles with which they are agitated.
9. Surely thou didst draw me forth from the womb, and thou didst cause me to confide upon the breasts of my mother. 509 10. I was cast upon thee 510 from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. 11. Depart not far from me, for distress is near, and there is none to help me.
9. Surely thou. David again here raises a new fortress, in order to withstand and repel the machinations of Satan. He briefly enumerates the benefits which God had bestowed upon him, by which he had long since learned that he was his father. Yea, he declares that even before he was born God had shown towards him such evidence of his fatherly love, that although now overwhelmed with the darkness of death, he might upon good ground venture to hope for life from him. And it is the Holy Spirit who teaches the faithful the wisdom to collect together, when they are brought into circumstances of fear and trouble, the evidences of the goodness of God, in order thereby to sustain and strengthen their faith. We ought to regard it as an established principle, that as God never wearies in the exercise of his liberality, and as the most exuberant bestowment cannot exhaust his riches, it follows that, as we have experienced him to be a father from our earliest infancy, he will show himself the same towards us even to extreme old age. In acknowledging that he was taken from the womb by the hand of God, and that God had caused him to confide upon the breasts of his mother, the meaning is, that although it is by the operation of natural causes that infants come into the world, and are nourished with their mother’s milk, yet therein the wonderful providence of God brightly shines forth. This miracle, it is true, because of its ordinary occurrence, is made less account of by us. But if ingratitude did not put upon our eyes the veil of stupidity, we would be ravished with admiration at every childbirth in the world. What prevents the child from perishing, as it might, a hundred times in its own corruption, before the time for bringing it forth arrives, but that God, by his secret and incomprehensible power, keeps it alive in its grave? And after it is brought into the world, seeing it is subject to so many miseries, and cannot stir a finger to help itself, how could it live even for a single day, did not God take it up into his fatherly bosom to nourish and protect it? It is, therefore, with good reason said, that the infant is cast upon him; for, unless he fed the tender little babes, and watched over all the offices of the nurse, even at the very time of their being brought forth, they are exposed to a hundred deaths, by which they would be suffocated in an instant. Finally, David concludes that God was his God. God, it is true, to all appearance, shows the like goodness which is here celebrated even to the brute creation; but it is only to mankind that he shows himself to be a father in a special manner. And although he does not immediately endue babes with the knowledge of himself, yet he is said to give them confidence, because, by showing in fact that he takes care of their life, he in a manner allures them to himself; as it is said in another place,
“He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry,” (Ps 147:9.)
Since God anticipates in this manner, by his grace, little infants before they have as yet the use of reason, it is certain that he will never disappoint the hope of his servants when they petition and call upon him. This is the argument by which David struggled with, and endeavored to overcome temptation.
11. Depart not far from me. Here he employs another argument to induce God to show him mercy, alleging that he is sorely pressed and hemmed in by the greatest distress. He doubtless set before his eyes the office which the Scriptures every where attribute to God of succouring the miserable, and of being the more ready to help us the more we are afflicted. Even despair itself, therefore, served as a ladder to elevate his mind to the exercise of devout and fervent prayer. In like manner, the feeling we have of our afflictions should excite us to take shelter under the wings of God, that by granting us his aid, he may show that he takes a deep interest in our welfare.
12. Strong bulls have encompassed me; the bulls of Bashan have beset me round. 13. They have opened their mouth against me, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 14. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are disjointed: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me to the dust of death. 16. For dogs have encompassed me; the assembly of the wicked have surrounded me: they have pierced my hands and my feet.
12. Strong bulls have encompassed me. The Psalmist now complains of the cruelty and barbarous rage of his enemies; and he compares them first to bulls, secondly to lions, and thirdly to dogs. When the anger of bulls is kindled, we know how fierce and terrible they are. The lion, also, is a cruel beast, and dreadful to mankind. And the eager and fierce boldness with which dogs, when once they are irritated, rush upon a man to do him injury, is well known. In short, David’s enemies were so blood-thirsty and cruel, that they more resembled wild beasts than men. He calls them not simply bulls, but strong bulls. Instead of rendering the original word רבים, rabbim, strong, as we have done, some would render it many: with which I cannot agree. David, it is true, was assailed by great hosts of enemies; but it appears, from the second clause of the verse, that what is here described is their strength, and not their number. He there terms them the bulls of Bashan; meaning by that expression, well-fed bulls, and, consequently, large and strong: for we know that the hill of Bashan was distinguished for rich and fat pastures. 511
14. I am poured out like water. Hitherto he has informed us that being surrounded by wild beasts, he was not far from death, as if he had been at the point of being devoured every moment. He now bewails, in addition to this, his inward distress; from which we learn that he was not stupid or insensible in dangers. It could have been no ordinary fear which made him almost pine away, by which his bones were disjointed, and his heart poured out like water. We see, then, that David was not buffeted with the waves of affliction like a rock which cannot be moved, but was agitated within by sore troubles and temptations, which, through the infirmity of the flesh, he would never have been able to sustain had he not been aided by the power of the Spirit of God. How these sufferings are applicable to Christ I have informed you a little before. Being a real man, he was truly subject to the infirmities of our flesh, only without the taint of sin. The perfect purity of his nature did not extinguish the human affections; it only regulated them, that they might not become sinful through excess. The greatness of his griefs, therefore, could not so weaken him as to prevent him, even in the midst of his most excruciating sufferings, from submitting himself to the will of God, with a composed and peaceful mind. Now, although this is not the case with respect to us, who have within us turbulent and disorderly affections, and who never can keep them under such restraint as not to be driven hither and thither by their impetuosity, yet, after the example of David, we ought to take courage; and when, through our infirmity, we are, as it were, almost lifeless, we should direct our groanings to God, beseeching him that he would be graciously pleased to restore us to strength and vigor. 512
15. My strength is dried up. He means the vigor which is imparted to us by the radical moisture, as physicians call it. What he adds in the next clause, My tongue cleaveth to my jaws, is of the same import. We know that excessive grief not only consumes the vital spirits, but also dries up almost all the moisture which is in our bodies. He next declares, that in consequence of this, he was adjudged or devoted to the grave: Thou hast brought me to the dust of death. By this he intimates, that all hope of life was taken from him; and in this sense Paul also says, (2Co 1:9,) that “he had received the sentence of death in himself.” But David here speaks of himself in hyperbolical language, and he does this in order to lead us beyond himself to Christ. The dreadful encounter of our Redeemer with death, by which there was forced from his body blood instead of sweat; his descent into hell, by which he tasted of the wrath of God which was due to sinners; and, in short, his emptying himself, could not be adequately expressed by any of the ordinary forms of speech. Moreover, David speaks of death as those who are in trouble are accustomed to speak of it, who, struck with fear, can think of nothing but of their being reduced to dust and to destruction. Whenever the minds of the saints are surrounded and oppressed with this darkness, there is always some unbelief mixed with their exercise, which prevents them from all at once emerging from it to the light of a new life. But in Christ these two things were wonderfully conjoined, namely, terror, proceeding from a sense of the curse of God; and patience, arising from faith, which tranquillised all the mental emotions, so that they continued in complete and willing subjection to the authority of God. With respect to ourselves, who are not endued with the like power, if at any time, upon beholding nothing but destruction near us, we are for a season greatly dismayed, we should endeavor by degrees to recover courage, and to elevate ourselves to the hope which quickens the dead.
16. They have pierced my hands and my feet. The original word, which we have translated they have pierced, is כארי, caari, which literally rendered is, like a lion. As all the Hebrew Bibles at this day, without exception, have this reading, I would have had great hesitation in departing from a reading which they all support, were it not that the scope of the discourse compels me to do so, and were there not strong grounds for conjecturing that this passage has been fraudulently corrupted by the Jews. With respect to the Septuagint version, there is no doubt that the translators had read in the Hebrew text, כארו, caaru, that is the letter ו, vau, where there is now the letter י, yod. 513 The Jews prate much about the literal sense being purposely and deliberately overthrown, by our rendering the original word by they have pierced: but for this allegation there is no color of truth whatever. What need was there to trifle so presumptuously in a matter where it was altogether unnecessary? Very great suspicion of falsehood, however, attaches to them, seeing it is the uppermost desire of their hearts to despoil the crucified Jesus of his escutcheons, and to divest him of his character as the Messiah and Redeemer. If we receive this reading as they would have us to do, the sense will be enveloped in marvellous obscurity. In the first place, it will be a defective form of expression, and to complete it, they say it is necessary to supply the verb to surround or to beset. But what do they mean by besetting the hands and the feet? Besetting belongs no more to these parts of the human body than to the whole man. The absurdity of this argument being discovered, they have recourse to the most ridiculous old wives’ fables, according to their usual way, saying, that the lion, when he meets any man in his road, makes a circle with his tail before rushing upon his prey: from which it is abundantly evident that they are at a loss for arguments to support their view.
Again, since David, in the preceding verse, has used the similitude of a lion, the repetition of it in this verse would be superfluous. I forbear insisting upon what some of our expositors have observed, namely, that this noun, when it has prefixed to it the letter כ, caph, which signifies as, the word denoting similitude, has commonly other points than those which are employed in this passage. My object, however, is not here to labor to convince the Jews who in controversy are in the highest degree obstinate and opinionative. I only intend briefly to show how wickedly they endeavor to perplex Christians on account of the different reading which occurs in this place. When they object, that by the appointment of the law no man was fastened with nails to a cross, they betray in this their gross ignorance of history, since it is certain that the Romans introduced many of their own customs and manners into the provin ces which they had conquered. If they object that David was never nailed to a cross, the answer is easy, namely, that in bewailing his condition, he has made use of a similitude, declaring that he was not less afflicted by his enemies than the man who is suspended on a cross, having his hands and feet pierced through with nails. We will meet a little after with more of the same kind of metaphors.
17. I will number all my bones; they look and stare upon me. 18. They part my garments among them, and cast the lot upon my vesture. 19. Be not thou then, O Jehovah! far from me. O thou: who art my strength, make haste to help me. 20. Deliver my soul from the sword; my only one 514 from the hand [or power] of the dog. 21. Save me from the mouth of the lion, and hear me from the horns of the unicorns. 515
17. I will number. The Hebrew word עצמות, atsmoth which signifies bones, is derived from another word, which signifies strength; and, therefore, this term is sometimes applied to friends, by whose defense we are strengthened, or to arguments and reasons which are, as it were, the sinews and the strength of the defense of a cause. Some, therefore, put this meaning upon the passage, — I will profit nothing by reckoning up all my arguments in self-vindication; for my enemies are fully determined to destroy me by some means or other, whether fair or foul, without having any regard to the dictates of justice. Others explain it thus: Although I should gather together all the aids which might seem to be capable of affording me succor, they would avail me nothing. But the exposition which is more generally received seems to me to be also the more simple and natural, and, therefore, I embrace it the more readily. It is this - that David complains that his body was so lean and wasted, that the bones appeared protruding from all parts of it; for he adds immediately after, that his enemies took pleasure in seeing him in so pitiable a condition. Thus the two clauses of the verse are beautifully connected together. The cruelty of his enemies was so insatiable, that beholding a wretched man wasted with grief, and as it were pining away, they took pleasure in feeding their eyes with so sad a spectacle.
What follows in the next verse concerning his garments is metaphorical. It is as if he had said, that all his goods were become a prey to his enemies, even as conquerors are accustomed to plunder the vanquished, or to divide the spoil among themselves, by casting lots to determine the share which belongs to each. Comparing his ornaments, riches, and all that he possessed, to his garments, he complains that, after he had been despoiled of them, his enemies divided them among themselves, as so much booty, accompanied with mockery of him; and by this mockery the villany of their conduct was aggravated, inasmuch as they triumphed over him, as if he had been a dead man. The Evangelists quote this place to the letter, as we say, and without figure; and there is no absurdity in their doing so. To teach us the more certainly that in this psalm Christ is described to us by the Spirit of prophecy, the heavenly Father intended that in the person of his Son those things should be visibly accomplished which were shadowed forth in David. Matthew, (Matt. 8:16, 17,) in narrating that the paralytic, the blind, and the lame, were healed of their diseases, says, that this was done “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bear our sicknesses;” although the prophet, in that place, sets before us the Son of God in the character of a spiritual physician. We are extremely slow and backward to believe; and it is not wonderful, that, on account of our dullness of apprehension, a demonstration of the character of Christ, palpable to our senses, has been given us, 516 which might have the effect of arousing the sluggishness of our understandings.
19. Be not thou, then, far from me, O Jehovah! We must keep in mind all that David has hitherto related concerning himself. As his miseries had reached the utmost height, and as he saw not even a single ray of hope to encourage him to expect deliverance, it is a wonderful instance of the power of faith, that he not only endured his afflictions patiently, but that from the abyss of despair he arose to call upon God. Let us, therefore, particularly mark, that David did not pour out his lamentations thinking them to be in vain, and of no effect, as persons who are in perplexity often pour forth their groanings at random. The prayers which he adds sufficiently show that he hoped for such an issue as he desired. When he calls God his strength, by this epithet he gives a more evident proof of his faith. He does not pray in a doubting manner; but he promises himself the assistance which the eye of sense did not as yet perceive. By the sword, by the hand of the dog, by the mouth of the lion, and by the horns of the unicorns, he intimates that he was presently exposed to the danger of death, and that in many ways. Whence we gather, that although he utterly fainted in himself when thus surrounded by death, he yet continued strong in the Lord, and that the spirit of life had always been vigorous in his heart. Some take the words only soul, or only life, for dear and precious; 517 but this view does not appear to me to be appropriate. He rather means, that, amidst so many deaths he found no help or succor in the whole world; as in Ps 35:17 the words, only soul, 518 are used in the same sense for a person who is alone and destitute of all aid and succor. This will appear more clearly from Ps 25:16, where David, by calling himself poor and alone, doubtless complains that he was completely deprived of friends, and forsaken of the whole world. When it is said in the end of the 21st verse, Answer me, or, Hear me from the horns of the unicorns, this Hebrew manner of speaking may seem strange and obscure to our ears, but the sense is not at all ambiguous. The cause is only put instead of the effect; for our deliverance is the consequence or effect of God’s hearing us. If it is asked how this can be applied to Christ, whom the Father did not deliver from death? I answer, in one word, that he was more mightily delivered than if God had prevented him from falling a victim to death, even as it is a much greater deliverance to rise again from the dead than to be healed of a grievous malady. Death, therefore, did not prevent Christ’s resurrection from at length bearing witness that he had been heard.
22. I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the assembly will I praise thee. 23. [Saying, 519 ] Ye who fear Jehovah, praise him: all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 24. For he hath not despised nor disdained the poor; nor hath he hidden his face from him; and when he cried unto him he heard him.
22. I will declare thy name. 520 David, in promising that when he is delivered he will not be ungrateful, confirms what I have previously stated, that he had never been so cast down by temptation as not to take courage to resist it. How could he be putting himself in readiness, as he is doing here, to offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, if he had not beforehand entertained the assured hope of deliverance? Should we even grant that this psalm was composed after David had actually obtained what he desired, there is no doubt that what he afterwards put into writing formed the meditations and reflections which had passed through his mind during the time of his heavy afflictions. It ought to be particularly noticed, that it is no ordinary token of gratitude which he promises, but such as God required for rare blessings; namely, that the faithful should come into his sanctuary, and there bear solemn testimony to the grace which they had received. The design of public and solemn thanksgiving is, that the faithful may employ themselves in all variety of ways, in serving and honoring God, and that they may encourage one another to act in the same manner. We know that God’s wonderful power shone forth in the protection of David; and that not only by one miracle, but by many. It is, therefore, not wonderful that he brings himself under obligation, by a solemn vow, to make open and public profession of his piety and faithfulness towards God. By his brethren he means the Israelites; and he gives them this appellation, not only because he and they were both descended from the same parentage, but rather because the religion which they had in common, as a sacred bond, kept them united to one another by a spiritual relationship. The apostle, (Heb 2:12) in applying this verse to Christ, argues from it, that he was a partaker of the same nature with us, and joined to us by a true fellowship of the flesh, seeing he acknowledges us as his brethren, and vouchsafes to give us a title so honorable. I have already repeatedly stated, (and it is also easy to prove it from the end of this psalms) that under the figure of David, Christ has been here shadowed forth to us. The apostle, therefore, justly deduces from this, that under and by the name of brethren, the right of fraternal alliance with Christ has been confirmed to us. This, no doubt, to a certain extent belongs to all mankind, but the true enjoyment thereof belongs properly to genuine believers alone. For this reason Christ himself, with his own mouth, limits this title to his disciples, saying,
“Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God,”
The ungodly, by means of their unbelief, break off and dissolve that relationship of the flesh, by which he has allied himself to us, and thus render themselves utter strangers to him by their own fault. As David, while he comprehended under the word brethren all the offspring of Abraham, immediately after (verse 23) particularly addresses his discourse to the true worshippers of God; so Christ, while he has broken down “the middle wall of partition” between Jews and Gentiles, and published the blessings of adoption to all nations, and thereby exhibited himself to them as a brother, retains in the degree of brethren none but true believers.
23. Ye who fear Jehovah. Here, again, the Psalmist expresses more distinctly the fruit of public and solemn thanksgiving, of which I have spoken before, declaring, that by engaging in this exercise, every man in his own place invites and stirs up the church by his example to praise God. He tells us, that the end for which he will praise the name of God in the public assembly is to encourage his brethren to do the same. But as hypocrites commonly thrust themselves into the church, and as on the barn-floor of the Lord the chaff is mingled with the wheat, he addresses himself expressly to the godly, and those who fear God. Impure and wicked men may sing the praises of God with open mouth, but assuredly, they do nothing else than pollute and profane his holy name. It were, indeed, an object much to be desired, that men of all conditions in the world would, with one accord, join in holy melody to the Lord. But as the chief and most essential part of this harmony proceeds from a sincere and pure affection of heart, none will ever, in a right manner, celebrate the glory of God, except the man who worships him under the influence of holy fear. David names, a little after, the seed of Jacob and Israel, having a reference to the common calling of the people; and certainly, he put no obstacle in the way to hinder even all the children of Abraham from praising God with one accord. But as he saw that many of the Israelites were bastard and degenerate, he distinguishes true and sincere Israelites from them; and at the same time shows that God’s name is not duly celebrated, unless where there is true piety and the inward fear of God. Accordingly, in his exhortation he again joins together the praises of God and reverence towards him. — Fear him, ye seed of Israel, says he; for all the fair faces which hypocrites put on in this matter are nothing but pure mockery. The fear which he recommends is not, however, such as would frighten the faithful from approaching God, but that which will bring them truly humbled into his sanctuary, as has been stated in the fifth psalm. Some may be surprised to find David addressing an exhortation to praise God, 521 to those whom he had previously commended for doing so. But this is easily explained, for even the holiest men in the world are never so thoroughly imbued with the fear of God as not to have need of being continually incited to its exercise. Accordingly, the exhortation is not at all superfluous when, speaking of those who fear God, he exhorts them to stand in awe of him, and to prostrate themselves humbly before him.
24. For he hath not despised. To rejoice in one another’s good, and to give thanks in common for each other’s welfare, is a branch of that communion which ought to exist among the people of God, as Paul also teaches,
“That for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf.”
But this statement of David serves another important purpose — it serves to encourage every man to hope that God will exercise the same mercy towards himself. By the way, we are taught from these words that the people of God ought to endure their afflictions patiently, however long it shall please the Lord to keep them in a state of distress, that he may at length succor them, and lend them his aid when they are so severely tried.
25. My praise shall proceed from thee 522 in the great assembly; I will pay my vows in the presence of them that fear him. 26. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; they shall praise Jehovah that seek him: your heart shall live for ever. 27. All the ends of the earth shall remember, and turn to Jehovah; and all the tribes of the Gentiles shall prostrate themselves before his face. 28. For the kingdom is Jehovah’s, that he may be the governor among the nations. 29. All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship; all those who are going down to the dust shall bow before him; and he who quickeneth not his own soul, [or he who is unable to keep himself alive.]
25. My praise shall proceed from thee. I do not reject the other translation; but in my opinion, the Hebrew manner of expression here requires this sense - that David will take the matter of his song of praise from God. Accordingly, I supply the verb shall proceed, or shall flow, — My praise shall proceed or flow from thee; and he made this statement in order to testify that he owed his deliverance entirely to God. We know that there are many who, under pretense of praising God, trumpet forth their own praises, and those of their friends, and leaving God in the back-ground, take occasion from one thing or another to celebrate their own triumphs. The Psalmist repeats what he had touched upon a little before, that he will show the tokens of his gratitude in a public manner, in order thereby to edify others. He adds, that among these tokens will be the solemn exercise of godliness enjoined by the law: I will pay my vows in the presence of them that fear him. In important affairs, and when threatened with imminent danger, it was a common practice among God’s ancient people to vow a peace-offering, and after having obtained the object of their desire, they performed their vow. As David, therefore, belonged to the number of the saints, he conformed himself, as it became him, to that common and understood regulation of the Church. The vows which he promises to pay are those which he intimates he had made in his extreme distress, and he prepares himself to perform them with a noble and cheerful heart, yea, with a heart full of confidence. Now, although it behoved him to perform this solemn act of religion in the presence of the whole assembly without distinction, he again confesses it to be his desire, that all who should be present there to witness it should be the true worshippers of God. Thus, although it may not be in our power to cleanse the Church of God, it is our duty to desire her purity. The Papists, by wresting this passage to support their false and deceitful vows, show themselves so stupid and so ridiculous, that it is unnecessary to spend much time in refuting them. What resemblance is there between these childish fooleries, with which according to their own imagination they attempt to appease God, and this holy testimony of gratitude, which not only a true sense of religion and the fear of God suggested to the fathers, but which God himself has commanded and ratified in his law? Yea, how can they have the face to equal their foolish and infamous superstitions to the most precious of all sacrifices - the sacrifice of thanksgiving? even as the Scriptures testify, that the principal part of the service of God consists in this, that true believers publicly and solemnly acknowledge that he is the author of all good things.
26. The poor shall eat. The Psalmist has a reference to the custom which was at that time prevalent among the Jews, of feasting on their sacrifices, as is very well known. He here promises this feast, in order to exercise and prove his charity. And surely that is a pleasant and an acceptable oblation to God to which compassion and mercy are joined. Without these, the ceremonies by which men profess to worship God, with all their pomp and magnificence, vanish into smoke. David does not, however, simply promise to bestow upon the poor and the hungry something for the mere nourishment of the body. He declares that they shall be partakers of this feast for another purpose, namely, that matter of comfort being ministered to them, joy might be restored to their hearts and flourish afresh. For they saw in that feast, as in a mirror, the goodness of God set forth to all who are in affliction, which might assuage with wonderful consolation the grief arising from all their calamities. The Psalmist therefore adds, They shall praise Jehovah that seek him. The abundant repast of which they had partaken ought, no doubt, to have incited them to give thanks to God; but what is particularly meant is, praising God for that deliverance in grateful commemoration of which the sacrifice was offered. This appears still more clearly from the last clause of the verse: Your heart shall live for ever One meal could not have sufficed to make their hearts live for ever. It was rather the hope which they entertained of having ready succor from God which did this; for all the faithful justly reckoned the deliverance of this one man as a deliverance wrought for themselves in particular. Whence it follows, that, in the peace-offerings, the praises of God were so celebrated, as that genuine worshippers also exercised their hope in them. Farther, as hypocrites content themselves with merely going through the bare and lifeless ceremony, the Psalmist restricts the right performance of this exercise to true and holy Israelites; They shall praise Jehovah that seek him; and to seek God is the certain mark of genuine godliness. Now, if the fathers under the law had their spiritual life renewed and invigorated by their holy feasts, this virtue will show itself much more abundantly at this day in the holy supper of Christ, provided those who come to partake of it seek the Lord truly, and with their whole heart.
27. All the ends of the earth shall remember. This passage, beyond all doubt, shows that David stops not at his own person, but that under himself, as a type, he describes the promised Messiah. For even then, it ought to have been a well-known point, that he had been created king by God, that the people might be united together and enjoy a happy life under one head; and this was at length completely fulfilled in Christ. David’s name, I admit, was great and renowned among the neighboring nations; but what was the territory which they occupied in comparison of the whole world? Besides, the foreign nations whom he had subdued had never been converted by him to the true worship of God. That forced and slavish submission, therefore, which the heathen nations had been brought by conquest to yield to an earthly king, was very different from the willing obedience of true godliness by which they would be recovered from their miserable wanderings, and gathered to God. Nor does the Psalmist mean an ordinary change, when he says, that the nations shall return to God, after having become well acquainted with his grace. Moreover, by uniting them to the fellowship of the holy feast, he manifestly grafts them into the body of the Church. Some explain these words, They shall remember, as meaning, that upon the restoration of the light of faith to the Gentiles, they should then come to remember God, whom they had for a time forgotten; 523 but this seems to me too refined, and far from the meaning. I allow that the conversion or return of which mention is here made, implies that they had previously been alienated from God by wicked defection; but this remembrance simply means that the Gentiles, awakened by the signal miracles wrought by God, would again come to embrace the true religion, from which they had fallen away. Farther, it is to be observed, that the true worship of God proceeds from the knowledge of him; for the language of the Psalmist implies, that those shall come to prostrate themselves before God, in humble adoration, who shall have profited so far in meditation upon his works, as that they shall have no more desire proudly and contemptuously to break forth against him.
This sense is more fully confirmed by the reason 524 which is added in the following verse, (28) The kingdom is Jehovah’s, that he may rule over the nations Some explain these words thus:- It is not to be wondered at if the Gentiles should be constrained to yield honor to God, by whom they were created, and by whose hand they are governed, although he has not entered into a covenant of life with them. But I reject this as a meagre and unsatisfactory interpretation. This passage, I have no doubt, agrees with many other prophecies which represent the throne of God as erected, on which Christ may sit to superintend and govern the world. Although, therefore, the providence of God is extended to the whole world, without any part of it being excepted; yet let us remember that he then, in very deed, exercises his authority, when having dispelled the darkness of ignorance, and diffused the light of his word, he appears conspicuous on his throne. We have such a description of his kingdom by the prophet Isaiah,
“He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people.” (Isa 2:4)
Moreover, as God had not subdued the world to himself, prior to the time when those who before were unconquerable were subdued to a willing obedience by the preaching of the gospel, we may conclude that this conversion was effected only under the management and government of Christ. If it is objected, that the whole world has never yet been converted, the solution is easy. A comparison is here made between that remarkable period in which God suddenly became known every where, by the preaching of the gospel, and the ancient dispensation, when he kept the knowledge of himself shut up within the limits of Judea. Christ, we know, penetrated with amazing speed, from the east to the west, like the lightning’s flash, in order to bring into the Church the Gentiles from all parts of the world.
29. All the fat ones of the earth shall eat and worship. Lest it should be thought inconsistent that now the fat ones of the earth are admitted as guests to this banquet, which David seemed immediately before to have appointed only for the poor, let us remember that the first place was given to the poor, because to them principally comfort was set forth in the example of David. Yet it was necessary, in the second place, that the rich and the prosperous should be called to the feast, that they might not think themselves excluded from the participation of the same grace. They are not, it is true, urged, by the pressure of present calamities, to seek comfort for grief, but they have need of a remedy to prevent them from intoxicating themselves with their delights, and to excite them rather to lay up their joy in heaven. Again, since they also are subject to a variety of troubles, their abundance will be a curse to them, provided it keep their minds down to the earth. The amount of the Psalmist’s statement is, that this sacrifice will be common as well to those who are sound, lusty, and in opulent circumstances, as to those who are lean, poor, and half dead from the want of food; that the former, laying aside their pride, may humble themselves before God, and that the latter, though they may be brought low, may lift up their minds by spiritual joy to God, the author of all good things, as James (Jas. 1:9, 10) admonishes both classes, in these words, “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted; but the rich in that he is made low.” Now, if God, under the law, joined the full with the hungry, the noble with the mean, the happy with the wretched, much more ought this to take place at the present day under the gospel. When, therefore, the rich hear that food is offered to them elsewhere than in earthly abundance, let them learn to use the outward good things which God has bestowed upon them for the purposes of the present life, with such sobriety as that they may not be disgusted with spiritual food, or turn away from it, through loathing. So long as they wallow in their own filth, they will never long for this food with a holy desire; and although they may have it at hand, they will never take pleasure in tasting it. 525 Farther, as those who are fat must become lean, in order that they may present themselves to God to be fed and nourished, so David endeavors to inspire the famished with assured and undaunted confidence, lest their poverty should hinder them from coming to the banquet. Yea, he invites even the dead to come to the feast, in order that the most despised, and those who, in the estimation of the world, are almost like putrefying carcases, may be encouraged and emboldened to present themselves at the holy table of the Lord. The change which the Psalmist makes in the number, from the plural to the singular, in the end of the verse, somewhat obscures the sense; but the meaning undoubtedly is, that those who seem already to be reduced to dust, and whose restoration from death to life is, as it were, despaired of, shall be partakers of the same grace with him.
30. Their seed shall serve him, and shall be registered to the Lord 526 for a generation. 31. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness to a people that shall be born, because he hath done it.
30. Their seed shall serve him. The more to exalt the greatness of the benefit, he declares that it will be of such a character that posterity will never forget it. And he shows how it will come to be perpetuated, namely, because the conversion of the world, of which he has spoken, will not be for a short time only but will continue from age to age. Whence we again conclude, that what is here celebrated is not such a manifestation of the glory of God to the Gentile nations as proceeds from a transitory and fading rumor, but such as will enlighten the world with its beams, even to the end of time. Accordingly, the perpetuity of the Church is here abundantly proved, and in very clear terms: not that it always flourishes or continues in the same uniform course through successive ages, but because God, unwilling that his name should be extinguished in the world, will always raise up some sincerely to devote themselves to his service. We ought to remember that this seed, in which the service of God was to be preserved, is the fruit of the incorruptible seed; for God begets and multiplies his Church only by means of his word.
The expression, To be registered to the Lord for a generation, is explained in two ways. Some take the Hebrew word דור, dor, for a succession of ages, and explain the clause thus: They shall be registered to the Lord age after age. Others take it for generation, in the sense in which the word natio [nation] is used in the Latin tongue. As both these senses suit very well, and come almost to the same thing, I leave my readers at liberty to choose between them. I am, however, I admit, rather inclined to the opinion, that by this word is designated God’s chosen people and peculiar nation, which may be accounted the heritage of God. Farther, as the name Jehovah, which is expressive of God’s essence, is not here used as it is a little before, but the word Adonai, I do not disapprove of the opinion of those who think that Christ is here expressly invested with authority over 527 the Church, that he may register all who shall give in their names as on the side of God his Father. And, indeed, as our heavenly Father has committed all his chosen ones to the protection and guardianship of his own Son, he acknowledges as his people none but those who belong to the flock of Christ.
31. They shall come, and shall declare. The Psalmist here confirms what I have previously stated, that since the fathers will transmit the knowledge of this benefit to their children, as it were from hand to hand, the name of God will be always renowned. From this we may also deduce the additional truth, that it is by the preaching of the grace of God alone that the Church is kept from perishing. At the same time, let it be observed, that care and diligence in propagating divine truth are here enjoined upon us, that it may continue after we are removed from this world. As the Holy Spirit prescribes it as a duty incumbent on all the faithful to be diligent in instructing their children, that there may be always one generation after another to serve God, the sluggishness of those who have no scruple of conscience in burying the remembrance of God in eternal silence, a sin with which those are virtually chargeable who neglect to speak of him to their children, and who thus do nothing to prevent his name from utterly perishing, is condemned as involving the greatest turpitude. The term righteousness, in this place, refers to the faithfulness which God observes in preserving his people, of which we have a memorable example in the deliverance of David. In defending his servant from the violence and outrage of the wicked, he proved himself to be righteous. Hence we may learn how dear our welfare is to God, seeing he combines it with the celebration of the praise of his own righteousness. If then the righteousness of God is illustriously manifested in this, that he does not disappoint us of our hope, nor abandon us in dangers, but defends and keeps us in perfect safety, there is no more reason to fear that he will forsake us in the time of our need, than there is reason to fear that he can forget himself. We must, however, remember that it is not for any particular succor afforded to one individual, but it is for the redemption of the human race, that the celebration of the praise of God is required from us in this passage. In short, the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of David, recommends to us the publication of Christ’s resurrection. In the end of this psalm some commentators resolve the particle כי, ki, because, into the pronoun אשר, asher, which, as if it had been said, The righteousness which he hath done. But the sentence will be fuller if we read, because, and explain the passage thus: They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness, because God shall have given proof, or demonstration, of his righteousness - shall have afforded evidence by the effect, or the deed itself, that he is the faithful guardian of his own people.
“En toutes les sortes qu’il est possible de penser.” — Fr. “In every way which it is possible to conceive.”
And this title they say is prefixed to the psalm, because the whole of it is concerning Christ the morning star.
Those who render it strength derive the word from איל, eyl, strength, and observe, that the cognate word in verse 20, אילותי, eyaluthi, is rendered by the Septuagint την βοηθειαν μου, my aid or strength. By the strength of the morning they understand the dawning of the day.
This is the sense in which Lightfoot understands the words.
“Mon Dieu, je crie tout le jour.” — Fr. “O my God, I cry all the day.”
“Ce qu il ne pouvoit faire si non en resistant vivement a la apprehension contraire.” — Fr.
“Et de faict, il n’estoit point de si petit courage, que pour quelque real leger il hurlast ainsi comme une beste brute.” — Fr. “The original word [for roaring] properly denotes the roaring of a lion, and is often applied to the deep groaning of men in sickness. See among other places, Ps. 32:3, Ps. 38:9.” — Bishop Mant.
“Pour crainte de charger Christ de ce blasme.” — Fr.
In the Hebrew it is, “He rolled [himself] upon God.” In the Latin version our author reads, “Devolvit ad Jehovam;” and in the French, “Il a remis disent-ils, au Seigneur son a l’aime.”
“Let him deliver him, let him deliver him. This repetition is also the rendering adopted by Street, and it is approved by Poole. “The same thing,” says Poole, “is twice repeated, to show both the vehemence of their hatred and their confidence of success against him.”
As ישב, yashab, not only signifies to inhabit, but also to remain or continue, (see Ps 102:13,) Hammond thinks this last is the meaning here, and renders the word, “But thou remainest or continuest to be holy, O thou, the praises of, or who art the praises of Israel, that is, the object of all their praises; or more simply, But thou remainest holy, the praises of Israel.”
Bishop Horsley reads these words, “All who see me insult [me] with gestures of derision:” and says, “I can no otherwise render the verb לעג, than by this periphrasis. Bishop Mant translates the whole verse thus,
“All who to slaughter see me led,
Deride my state distrest;
They curl the lip, they shake the head,
They point the taunting jest:”
And observes, “The distinctness and colouring of the prophetic picture here are as striking to the imagination, as the subject is painful to the heart.”
“To protrude the lower lip is, in the East, considered a very strong indication of contempt. Its employment is chiefly confined to the lower orders.” — Illustrated Commentary upon the Bible.
בשפה, besaphah, with the lip.
“Qu’il avoit Dieu au ciel pour garent qui s’avoir bien faire la vengence de ses mesdisans.” — Fr.
“Qui m’as donne asseurance, lorsque je suchoye les mammelles de ma mere.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, thou gavest me confidence whilst I sucked the breasts of my mother.”
“Abandonne entre tes mains.” — Note, Fr. marg. “That is, left among thy hands.” Poole, applying this to Christ says, “I was like one, forsaken by his parent, and cast wholly upon thy providence. I had no father upon earth; and my mother was poor and helpless.”
“The bull is known to be a fierce animal, and those of Bashan, from its luxuriant pastures, were uncommonly so.” — Dr Geddes.
“Ace qu’il luy plaise nous remettre sus, et nous rendre force et vigueur.” — Fr.
This word has created much discussion. In the Hebrew Bible, the kethib or textual reading is, כארי, caari, like a lion; the keri, or marginal reading, is כארו, caaru, “they pierced,” from כרה, carah, to cut, dig, or pierce. Both readings are supported by MSS. There is, however, no ground to doubt that the genuine reading is, כארו, caaru. As the Septuagint here reads ωρυξαν, they pierced, the translators, doubtless, considered that the correct reading of the Hebrew text was כארו, caaru. The Vulgate, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic, give a similar rendering. All the Evangelists also quote and apply the passage to the crucifixion of Christ. Besides, the other reading, כארי, caari, as a lion, renders the passage unintelligible. The Chaldee version has combined both the ideas of pierced and as a lion, reading, “Biting, as a lion, my hands and my feet.” Our author supposes that the text has been fraudulently corrupted by the Jews, who have intentionally changed כארו, caaru, into כארי, caari. But there is no necessity for supposing that there has been any fraud in the case. In the process of transcription, the change might have been made unintentionally, by the substitution of the letter י, yod, for the letter ו, vau, which it so nearly resembles. Walford observes, “that the present reading [כארי, caari] is quite satisfactory, if it be taken as a participle plural in reflexive, and be translated, ‘Wounders of my hands and my feet.’”
“Asgavoir, vie, qui est seule.” — Note, Fr. marg. “Namely, my life, which is alone.”
“Et me respon, en me sauvant des cornes des licornes.” — Fr. “And answer me, by saving me from the horns of the Unicorns.”
“Il nous a este faite une demonstration si grossiere, qu’on la pouvoit taster, au doigt.” — Fr. “There has been given us a demonstration so palpable, that it might be touched with the finger.
That is, my life, which is dear and precious to me.
“La vie esseulee.” — Fr. “Life deserted or left alone.”
“Disant.” — Fr.
The second part of the psalm here commences. There is a transition from language of the deepest anguish to that of exalted joy and gratitude. The suffering Messiah here contemplates the blessed results of his sufferings.
It is “praise God,” both in the Latin and French versions; but the train of thought seems to require that it should be “fear God.”
“Ate laus mea.” — Lat. “Ma louange proviendra de toy.” — Fr. “Ou, ma louange sera de toy.” — Ft. marg. “Or, my praise shall be of thee.”
As it is not said what they should remember, some commentators explain it thus: That they shall remember, with penitence, their sins; and, particularly, their idolatry. Others, that they shall remember the goodness and mercy of God, through Christ, to a lost world. And others, that they shall remember God whom they had forgotten, worshipping, instead of him, wood and stones. This last seems to be the view to which Calvin refers.
The reason why the Gentiles shall remember, and turn to the Lord.
“Et encores qu’ils les ayent en main, ils ne pourront prendre plaisir in les savourer.” — Fr.
The Hebrew word here is אדני, Adonai.
The Hebrew word Adonai is derived from a verb which signifies to direct, rule, judge; and it therefore signifies director, ruler, judge.