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Bible Commentaries

Clarke's Commentary

Psalms 27

Verse 1

In the Hebrew and Chaldee this Psalm has no other title than simply לדוד ledavid: To or For David. In the Syriac: "For David; on account of an infirmity which fell upon him." In the Vulgate, Septuagint, Arabic, and AEthiopic, it has this title: "A Psalm of David, before he was anointed." The Anglo-Saxon omits all the titles. For this title there is no authority in fact. However, it may be just necessary to state that David appears to have received the royal unction three times:

1. In Bethlehem from the hand of Samuel, in the house of his father Jesse; 1 Samuel 16:13.

2. At Hebron after the death of Saul, by the men of Judah; 2 Samuel 2:4.

3. By the elders of Israel, at Hebron, after the death of Ishbosheth, when he was acknowledged king over all the tribes; 2 Samuel 5:3.

At which of these anointings the Psalm was written, or whether before any of them, we know not; nor is the question to be decided. Some commentators say that it is a Psalm belonging to the captivity, and upon that system it may be well interpreted. And lastly, it has been contended that it was written by David after he had been in danger of losing his life by the hand of a gigantic Philistine, and must have perished had he not been succoured by Abishai; see the account 2 Samuel 21:17; and was counselled by his subjects not to go out to battle any more, lest he should extinguish the light of Israel. To these advisers he is supposed to make the following reply: -

Verse Psalms 27:1. The Lord is my light and my salvation — This light can never be extinguished by man; the Lord is my salvation, my safeguard, my shield, and my defence; of whom then should I be afraid?

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 27:2. When the wicked - came upon me — Near as I appeared to you to be in danger of losing my life, I was safe enough in the hands of the Lord; and those who thought to have eaten me up, stumbled, failed of their purpose, and fell; the Philistine lost his own life.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 27:3. Though a host should encamp against me — I am so confident of the Almighty's protection, that were I alone, and encompassed by a host, I would not fear. I am in the hand of God; and while in that hand, I am safe.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 27:4. One thing have I desired — If I am grown too old, and from that circumstance unable to serve my country, I shall then prefer a retirement to the tabernacle, there to serve God the rest of my days. There I shall behold his glory, and there I may inquire and get important answers respecting Israel.

But though these words may be thus interpreted, on the above supposition, that David penned the Psalm on the occasion of his escape from the Philistine, and the desire expressed by his subjects that he should go no more out to war; yet it appears that they more naturally belong to the captivity, and that this verse especially shows the earnest longing of the captives to return to their own land, that they might enjoy the benefit of Divine worship.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 27:5. He shall hide me in his pavilion — בסכה besuccoh, in his tabernacle. I would make his temple my residence; I would dwell with God, and be in continual safety. Pavilion comes from papilio and παπιλιων, a butterfly. It signifies a tent made of cloth stretched out on poles, which in form resembles in some measure the insect above named.

In the secret of his tabernacle — Were there no other place, he would put me in the holy of holies, so that an enemy would not dare to approach me.

He shall set me upon a rock. — He shall so strengthen and establish me, that my enemies shall not be able to prevail against me. He shall hide me where they cannot find me, or put me out of the reach of the fiery darts of the wicked. He who lives nearest to God suffers least from temptation. "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to thee: resist the devil and he will flee from thee."

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 27:6. Now shall mine head be lifted up — We shall most assuredly be redeemed from this captivity, and restored to our own land, and to the worship of our God in his own temple. There shall we offer sacrifices of joy; we will sing praises unto the Lord, and acknowledge that it is by his might and mercy alone that we have been delivered.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 27:7. Hear, O Lord, when I cry — This is the utmost that any man of common sense can expect - to be heard when he cries. But there are multitudes who suppose God will bless them whether they cry or not; and there are others, and not a few, who although they listlessly pray and cry not, yet imagine God must and will hear them! God will answer them that pray and cry; those who do not are most likely to be without the blessings which they so much need.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 27:8. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face — How much labour and skill have been employed to make sense of this verse as it stands in our translation! The original words are the following, from which our Version has been forcibly extracted: -

לך אמר לבי בקשו פני את פניך יהוה אבקש lecha amar libbi bakkeshu panai; eth paneycha, Yehovah, abakkesh; of which I believe the true rendering to be as follows: "Unto thee, my heart, he hath said, Seek ye my face. Thy face, O Jehovah, I will seek. O my heart, God hath commanded thee to seek his face." Then, his face I will seek. Which may be paraphrased thus: Unto thee, his Church, God hath said, Seek ye, all who compose it, my face. To which I, his Church, have answered, Thy face, O Jehovah, I will seek. On referring to Archbishop Secker, I find that he, and indeed Bishop Horsley, are of the same mind.

I had formerly proposed another method of reading this difficult verse. Suspecting that some error had got into the text, for בקשו פני bakkeshu panay, "seek ye my face," I had substituted אבקש פניך abakkesh paneycha, "I will seek thy face;" or with the Vulgate and Septuagint, בקשתי פניך bakkesti paneycha, "I have sought thy face," exquisivit te facies mea, Εξεζητησα το προσωπον σου. And this small alteration seemed to make a good sense: "My heart said unto thee, I have sought thy face, (or, I will seek thy face,) and thy face, O Lord, I will seek." I have not only done what it was my duty and interest to do, but I will continue to do it. Some have proposed to mend the text thus: לך לך אמר לבי lech lecha, amar libbi, "Go to, saith my heart," נבקש פני יהוה nebakkesh peney Jehovah, "Let us seek the face of Jehovah." This is rather a violent emendation, and is supported by neither MSS. nor Versions. The whole verse is wanting in one of Dr. Kennicott's MSS. On the whole I prefer what is first proposed, and which requires no alteration in the text; next, that of the Vulgate and Septuagint.

The old Psalter paraphrases thus: Til the saide my hert, the my face soght: thy face, lord, I sal seke. "The gernyng of my hert that spekes til god, and he anely heres: saide til the my face, that es my presence soght the and na nother thyng. And fra now I sal seke thy face lastandly, til my dede; and that I fynd my sekyng:" i.e., To thee, said my heart; thee my face sought: thy face, O Lord, I shall seek. "The gerning of my hert, that spekes til God, and he anely heres, til the my face; that es, my presence soght the and no nother thyng: and fra now I sal seke thy face lastandly, til my dede, and that I fynd my sekyng:" i.e., The yearning strong desire of my heart, which speaks to God, and he alone hears; my face is to thee; that is, myself sought thee, and none other thing, and from now I shall seek thee lastingly till my death, and till that I find what I seek.

Verse 9

Verse Psalms 27:9. Hide not thy face - from me — As my face is towards thee wheresoever I am, so let thy face be turned towards me. In a Persian MS. poem entitled [Persic] Shah we Gudda, "The King and the Beggar," I have found a remarkable couplet, most strangely and artificially involved, which expresses exactly the same sentiment: -

the wine-cellar?

I shall subjoin a higher authority than either: -

Ὁτι οφθαλμοι Κυριου επι δικαιους,

Και ωτα αυτου εις δεησις αυτων·

Προσωπον δε Κυριου επι ποιουντας κακα.

1 Peter 3:12.

For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous;

And his ears to their supplication:

And the face of the Lord is upon the workers of evil.

Verse 10

Verse Psalms 27:10. When my father and my mother forsake me — Or, more literally, "For my father and my mother have forsaken me; but the Lord hath gathered me up." My parents were my protectors for a time; but the Lord has been my Protector always. There is no time in which I do not fall under his merciful regards.

Verse 11

Verse Psalms 27:11. Teach me thy way — Let me know the gracious designs of thy providence towards me, that my heart may submit to thy will.

And lead me in a plain path — In the path of righteousness, because of mine enemies, who watch for my halting.

Verse 12

Verse Psalms 27:12. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemiesTo their soul benephesh; their whole soul thirsts for my destruction. Let them not be gratified. They have suborned witnesses against me, but they are false witnesses: unmask their wickedness, and confound their counsels.

Verse 13

Verse Psalms 27:13. I had fainted, unless I had believed — The words in italics are supplied by our translators; but, far from being necessary, they injure the sense. Throw out the words I had fainted, and leave a break after the verse, and the elegant figure of the psalmist will be preserved: "Unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" ----What! what, alas! should have become of me!

Dr. Hammond has observed that there is a remarkable elegance in the original, which, by the use of the beautiful figure aposiopesis, makes an abrupt breaking off in the midst of a speech. He compares it to the speech of Neptune to the winds that had raised the tempest to drown the fleet of AEneas.-AEneid. lib. i., ver. 131.

Eurum ad se zephyrumque vocat: dehinc talia fatur;

Tantane vos generis tenuit fiducia vestri?

Jam coelum terramque, meo sine numine, venti,

Miscere, et tantas audetis tollere moles?

Quos ego-sed motos praestat componere fluctus.

To Eurus and the western blast he cried,

Does your high birth inspire this boundless pride?

Audacious winds! without a power from me,

To raise at will such mountains on the sea?

Thus to confound heaven, earth, the air, and main;

Whom I------but, first, I'll calm the waves again.


Verse 14

Verse Psalms 27:14. Wait on the Lord — All ye who are in distress, wait on the Lord. Take me for an example. I waited on him, and he strengthened my heart; wait ye on him, and he will strengthen your heart. You cannot be unsuccessful; fear not. Wait, I say, on the Lord; wait for his succour in doing his will. Age viriliter, says the Vulgate; act like a man, hope, believe, work, and fear not.

There are four general parts in this Psalm. David shows,

I. How free he is from fear in any danger; and he shows also the cause of his confidence, Psalms 27:1-3.

II. He expresses his love to God's house and his religion, Psalms 27:4-6.

III. He prays for succour and support Psalms 100:0; Psalms 27:7, c.

IV. He exhorts others to dependence on the Lord, Psalms 27:14.

I. It is possible (independently of the reason given in the notes) that some person, friend or foe, might ask David how he felt during the persecutions raised against him by Saul? To whom he may be supposed to return this answer: "I was never disheartened, never in despair and the reason was, God was my Light to guide me, my Rock to save me, and my Strength to sustain and support me: 'The Lord is my light,' c." And this he amplifies in the next two verses: 1. By experience: he had already found this true: "When the wicked, even mine enemies, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell." 2. He puts a case: "Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident."

The arguments for his confidence were, 1. God's goodness, Psalms 27:1. Psalms 27:2. His own experience, Psalms 27:2. To which he adds, 3. What God would do for him.

1. He would hide him in his tabernacle, Psalms 27:5.

2. That though his father and mother should forsake him, God would take him up, Psalms 27:10.

3. That he should see the goodness of God in the land of the living, Psalms 27:13.

II. He expresses his great love and affection to the house of God: "One thing I have desired," and in this he was constant. "THAT (emphatically) I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life." For three ends: -

1. "To behold the beauty of the Lord." To taste how good and gracious he is.

2. "To inquire in his temple." There to search the mind of God.

3. "To offer in his temple sacrifices of joy, and to sing praises to the Lord."

And this was another argument of his security: "For in the time of trouble he will hide me in his pavilion - he shall set me upon a rock, and my head shall be lifted up." And -

III. He prays for succour and support.

1. For audience, and an answer: "Hear, O Lord, when I cry; have mercy upon me, and answer me."

2. The ground of his prayer; his having willingly received the commandment of God: "He hath said, Seek ye my face. Thy face, O Lord, will I seek."

3. The matter of his prayer in general: "Hide not thy face from me; put not thy servant away in anger." In which he had good hope of success from former experience. "Thou hast been my help;" be to me now as thou hast been: "Leave me not, nor forsake me, O God of my salvation," c.

4. The matter of his prayer in particular: "Teach me thy way, O God lead me in a plain path." That is, teach me what to do that I may please thee, and "lead me in a plain path," that I may escape the snares of my enemies. "Deliver me not over to their will," for they seek my ruin. 1. They are perjured men: "False witnesses have risen up again me." 2. They are mischievously bent: "They breathe out cruelty."

5. And their cruelty and falsehood are so great that "unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living," what would have become of me!

IV. He concludes with an exhortation that all others would consider his example, and in their greatest extremities be courageous, and put their trust in God as he did: "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart; wait, I say, on the Lord." Be an expectant; for he that has promised to come will come, and will not tarry. But wait actively; be not idle. Use the means of grace; read, hear, pray, believe, work. Acknowledge him in all thy ways, and he will direct thy steps. They that wait upon the Lord shall never be confounded.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 27". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.