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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 36

Verse 1

The NIV translation, "An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked," is preferable. That of Leupold is even clearer: "A divine oracle about transgression has been heard in my heart with reference to the wicked." [Note: Leupold, p. 293.] An oracle is a message from God. The Lord had given His prophet special revelation concerning how the wicked look at life and how they live. They do not dread (Heb. pahad, rather than yirah, the usual word for "fear") the Lord. That is, they feel no uneasiness as they should since God will judge them for their sins. This is the climactic characteristic of sin in Romans 3:18.

Verses 1-4

1. Revelation concerning the wicked 36:1-4

Verses 1-12

Psalms 36

This primarily wisdom psalm, with elements of individual lament and praise, contains an oracle that David received from the Lord concerning the wicked. In contrast to them, he rejoiced in the loyal love and righteousness of God. One writer titled his exposition of this psalm, "Man at His Worst, God at His Best." [Note: Armerding, p. 76.]

"This is a psalm of powerful contrasts, a glimpse of human wickedness at its most malevolent, and divine goodness in its many-sided fullness. Meanwhile the singer is menaced by the one and assured of victory by the other. Few psalms cover so great a range in so short a space." [Note: Kidner, p. 145.]

"The coexistence of three literary types within a poem of thirteen verses points up the limitations of the form-critical approach to the Psalter." [Note: Dahood, 1:218.]

Verses 2-4

Without this dread of the Lord, the wicked boldly pursues evil continually. He silences his conscience and goes on speaking deceptively and acting vainly without any inner restraint.

"’Listen to your heart!’ the world tells us, forgetting that ’The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?’ (Jeremiah 17:9, NASB)." [Note: Wiersbe, The . . . Wisdom . . ., p. 163.]

Verses 5-6

David delighted in meditating on God’s attributes rather than disregarding Him. Instead of pushing God out of his worldview, the psalmist made Him the center of it. He gloried in God’s loyal love, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice.

Verses 5-9

2. Reflection concerning the Lord 36:5-9

Verses 7-9

The result of this philosophy of life contrasts with that of the wicked (Psalms 36:2-4). Because God is lovingly loyal, His people can find refuge in Him (cf. Ruth 2:12; Matthew 23:37). They also enjoy the provisions of His house. They experience a virtual paradise on earth, as Adam and Eve did in Eden before the Fall. God provides life and the light of understanding for those who take Him into account.

"Knowing the character of God is essential to a balanced Christian life, and these five verses are a concise systematic theology." [Note: Ibid.]

Verses 10-12

3. Request concerning the future 36:10-12

David prayed in closing that God’s loyal love and righteousness would continue to captivate his affections so that the evil philosophy of the wicked would not win his heart. He wanted to abide in humble submission to the Lord rather than rising up in pride and disregarding Him. The ultimate end of the wicked would be destruction from which they could not recover.

"Our best defense against violence is still prayer." [Note: Leupold, p. 297.]

We may contemplate the two philosophies of life, espoused by the wicked and the God-fearing, as well as their consequences. The godly should appreciate the superiority of recognizing God and living in the light of His revealed character. Nevertheless, we should realize that the wicked person’s viewpoint is attractive, and we should guard against slipping into it.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 36". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.