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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Psalms 14

Verse 1




The title we have chosen here is our own, and it is derived from the apostle Paul's use of this psalm in his description of the Judicial Hardening of Mankind in the first three chapters of the Book of Romans. A study of this phenomenon is of fundamental importance in the understanding of God's ultimate prophecies concerning the repeated apostasy and final destruction of the Adamic race.

We have devoted many pages to this subject in Romans, Amos, Genesis and Revelation.

The great Biblical type of God's hardening men is of course the example of Pharaoh, whose heart the Lord hardened, but not till Pharaoh had hardened his own heart no less than ten times. The three centers of this phenomenon called judicial hardening are (1) in wicked men themselves, (2) in God who hardens men's hearts in the sense of allowing it, and (3) in Satan himself who, with the proper advantage afforded by the conduct of the wicked is able to "blind men," (2 Corinthians 4:4).

What happens when men are hardened? (1) They are blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4), meaning that they are incapable of seeing or understanding the plainest truth. (2) "Their foolish heart (the scriptural heart is the mind) is darkened (Romans 1:21), with the meaning that an essential element of human intelligence has been judiciously removed by God Himself. (3) They become vain in their reasonings (Romans 1:21). (4) They become fools (Romans 1:22), and (5) God gives them up (Romans 1:22,26,28).

The universal hardening of mankind has already occurred three times: (1) in the total apostasy that preceded the Great Deluge; (2) in the conceited trust of mankind in their tower of Babel; and (3) again in the universal wickedness and rebellion against God described by Paul in Romans first three chapters. God's response to that shameful and reprobate condition was epic in all three instances. The first was terminated by the flood; the second resulted in the call of Abraham and the introduction of the device of a Chosen People who, in God's purpose, were to keep the knowledge of God and his commandments before all the world, and in the fulness of time to deliver to the human family the Messiah himself. God's response to the third judicial hardening of the race (so vividly described by Paul in Romans) was the First Advent of Christ, the coming of the Messiah. This, of course, was a mission of mercy.

There will yet be a fourth and final judicial hardening of mankind, as categorically stated in Revelation 15-16, fulfilling the prophecy of the apostles that, "Wickedness would wax worse and worse" (2 Timothy 3:13), and the searching question of Christ himself, "When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).

God has already revealed what his response to the fourth and final hardening of the Adamic race will be: namely, the Second Advent of Jesus Christ; and contrasted with the first Advent, which was a mission of mercy, his Second Advent will be a mission of judgment on that Day which God has appointed (Acts 17:31).

The determination that the fourth judicial hardening of Adam's race will be the terminal one is derived from the remarkable prophecy of Amos who in eight successive prophecies of God's judgments upon the wicked prefaced each one with the word:

For three transgressions of Damascus, yea for four ... JUDGMENT.

For three transgressions of Gaza, yea for four, ... JUDGMENT.

For three transgressions of Tyre, yea for four, ... JUDGMENT.

For three transgressions of Edom, yea for four, ... JUDGMENT.

For three transgressions of Ammon, yea for four, ... JUDGMENT.

For three transgressions of Moab, yea for four, ... JUDGMENT.

For three transgressions of Judah, yea for four, ... JUDGMENT.

For three transgressions of Israel, yea for four, ... JUDGMENT.

- Amos 1:3-2:6.

The inability of any man to identify the "three transgressions" or the "four" in a single one of these cases is the only proof needed that something far more important than the destruction of ancient nations was in view here. It is our conviction that these "three" and "four" transgressions are references to the four times that human morality and love of God shall virtually perish from the earth; and the "yea for four" indicates that the fourth such instances of it will usher in the Final Judgment itself.

But does this psalm actually prophesy such a judicial hardening. Romans 3:10-18 is quoted verbatim from this psalm; and while it is true that the last five verses of Paul's quotation are not in our version, there is all kinds of evidence to the effect that the five verses do indeed belong. "They are in the LXX, and the Latin Vulgate, in the Syriac and in another ancient version, the PBV."[1]

There is very little likelihood that the apostle Paul could have found that language anywhere else except in this psalm; and his statement that, "It is written," at the head of his quotation is the only proof of this that is needed.

Furthermore, as many scholars have pointed out, this psalm is repeated almost verbatim in Psalms 53, where the name God is used instead of the word Jehovah, proving, of course, that the Jews used the words interchangeably.

In that passage in Romans from Paul, there is no doubt whatever that the universal judicial hardening of the human race is Paul's theme; and it appears to us that this is the best of reasons for our conviction that the same subject is the focus here.

Psalms 14:1

"The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works; There is none that doeth good."

"The fool." This word, in the singular, is actually a word for the whole race of Adam, as indicated by the next three lines. The atheist here is not a single individual but the whole rebellious race of Adam. Again in Zephaniah 1:2, we have the whole Adamic race referred to in the singular "man." It is the same here.

The Hebrew word for "fool" here is [~nabal], which does not mean a simpleton, but one whose moral thinking is perverted and who has deliberately closed his mind against the reality of God and to the imperatives of God's moral government.[2]

We believe that Kidner struck a note of solemn truth when he wrote that, "This might well be twentieth century man.[3]

We have already pointed out that atheism is not the product of knowledge, education, intelligence, or discernment of any kind, but the child of corruption. "Atheism is the essence of ingratitude, injustice, pride, hatred and selfishness."[4]

Verse 2

"Jehovah looked down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there were any that did understand, That did seek after God. They are all gone aside, they are together become filthy; There is none that doeth good, no not one."

"The point of these two verses is that the arrogant materialist of Psalms 14:1, is but an example of man in general."[5] "What is lamented here is not the corruption of Israel and not that of the heathen, but the universal corruption of man."[6]

In Romans 3:10-18, we have the following from the apostle Paul:

"We laid to the charge of both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin;

As it is written,

There is none righteous, no not one;

There is none that understandeth,

There is none that seeketh after God;

They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable;

There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one:

Their throat is an open sepulchre;

With their tongues they have used deceit:

The poison of asps is under their lips:

Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

Their feet are swift to shed blood;

Destruction and misery are in their ways;

And the way of peace they have not known:

Their is no fear of God before their eyes."

One may read every line of this almost verbatim in the LXX and in two or three other ancient versions as pointed out by Dummelow; and Paul's use of these words to describe the condition of judicially hardened mankind in the days of the Messiah is the only proof needed that we have a description of exactly the same condition here.

We do not know how to account for the omission of some of this material from the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and from our version; but Paul's declaration that, "It is written," certainly identifies all of the material as Scripture.

Verse 4

"Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, Who eat up people as they eat bread, and call not upon Jehovah?"

The custom of eating bread without calling upon Jehovah was also mentioned by Paul in Romans in Romans 1:21, where the very beginning of mankind's hardening was lodged in their refusal to "Give God thanks." "Knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their foolish heart was darkened."

Yes, this has its application to eating without offering thanks to God, the giver of all gifts. There is no failure in America today that is any more shameful or loaded with any greater potential for ultimate moral disaster for the whole nation than is this simple neglect of thanksgiving for food. The beginning of all wickedness is "eating bread and not calling upon Jehovah," as stated here. Jesus gave thanks for the loaves and fishes that he himself had created; and Paul gave thanks in a storm at sea facing a shipwreck; and there is no excuse whatever for the widespread neglect of such thanksgiving for meals that marks our society today.

Barnes pointed out that in our text, the fact of the sinful people not offering prayer and thanksgiving to God, "Is placed last, as the crowning thing in their depravity."[7] This does not contradict Paul's placing it first as the beginning of depravity, because it is true both ways.

Verse 5

"There were they in great fear;

For God is in the generation of the righteous."

This verse answers the question raised in Psalms 14:4, "Are the wicked totally without knowledge of God?" Indeed they are not. In every wicked man, there is the haunting fear, the secret dread, that, after all, God may indeed overthrow him at last in hell. God's being in the generation of the righteous may have the meaning that a residual knowledge of God remains in all men, "generation" here being understood as posterity, or descendants. Whether that is true or not, wicked men indeed have some knowledge of God, as witnessed by his holy name being so frequently profanely used by them. As George DeHoff stated it, "Evil people have some knowledge of God and they fear the day of retribution."[8]

Verse 6

"Ye put to shame the counsel of the poor, Because Jehovah is his refuge."

Delitzsch pointed out that the text here is damaged and that the meaning is difficult to determine, He suggested that, Whatever plans and intentions of godly men to do for the glory of God, these are the counsels of the poor which, "The children of the world, who are in possession of worldly power seek to frustrate."[9]

In the picture of the total depravity of mankind that emerges here, whatever good may be intended or advocated by anyone, the possessors of worldly power will move to frustrate any such good intentions.

Verse 7

"Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!

When Jehovah bringeth back the captivity of the people.

Then shall Jacob rejoice, and Israel shall be glad."

One of the best comments on this we have seen is that of Addis:

Here is the Messianic hope. The Psalmist anticipates a time when Yahweh will "bring back the captivity" of His people. This expression need mean no more than a radical change for the better in the state of the people. "Restore the fortune" would be an adequate translation.[10]

"There is no need to refer the expression `bringeth back the captivity' to the Babylonian exile."[11] The expression here has the same meaning that it has in Job 42:10. namely, "restoring prosperity to."

Jacob and Israel here are names that refer to the people of God.

The appearance of this Messianic promise at the end of this prophesy of the third total depravity of the race of Adam (When this was written there had already been two such hardenings.) has the utility of revealing this Psalms 14, and its twin Psalms 53, as a double prophecy of the Third Judicial Hardening of Adam's race and God's response to it in the First Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel, and ushering in the dispensation of Christianity. This is "God's last word to man." "Last of all, God sent his Son" (Matthew 21:37). When, once more, Satan is able to accomplish through the indifference and wickedness of mankind another situation of total hardening and depravity, our rebellious race may indeed expect the final Judgment of the Great Day.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 14". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.