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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 27

Psalms 27

The Lord is the Psalmist’s light and salvation; therefore he may not fear, though in the midst of the greatest dangers. If he only remain an inmate in the house of God, in possession of the favour of God, he is hid; for God protects His own. Therefore, though he is in the midst of the oppressions of enemies, he is sure of deliverance and victory, Psalms 27:1-6. The Psalmist had, in the first part, risen to heaven on the wings of faith, and, looking down from thence on the trouble and danger deep below upon the earth, despised them. Now he descends again, with the power which he had there acquired, into the midst of the troubles and oppressions of earth. The tone of triumph now disappears; but there still remains so much of joy, that the Psalmist, even in the midst of his melancholy and complaint, can still pray, in the second part, with heartfelt confidence, Psalms 27:7-12, that God would take pity upon his trouble, and would deliver him out of the hands of those who, through artifice and force, seek his ruin. After these two strophes,—the one, that of confidence, the other, that of prayer; the one, that of the descent from God to trouble, the other, that of the ascent (thereby rendered possible) from trouble to God,—there follows the conclusion in Psalms 27:13 and Psalms 27:14, which brings together within a short compass the contents of the whole Psalm, and points out what is really its scope: if the Psalmist place not his trust in God, he must—so great is his danger—necessarily despair. Hence he exclaims to his soul, expressively and repeatedly, “Wait on the Lord,” which forms the essence of the whole Psalm.

It will not do to subdivide the two chief divisions of the Psalm, each into two strophes of three verses, though the ( Psalms 27:4) 4th verse would seem, at first sight, to lead us to make such an attempt. For the ( Psalms 27:6) 6th verse draws the conclusion which it contains, not only from the ( Psalms 27:4) 4th and ( Psalms 27:5) 5th verses, but also from the whole preceding paragraph; and in the second part there is no break in the sense at Psalms 27:9.

The Psalmist has evidently paid particular attention to numbers. The main body of the Psalm is complete in twelve,—the number of the people of the covenant: the whole Psalm contains twice seven,—the signature of the covenant. The word Jehovah is repeated six times in the first half, in manifest accordance with the six verses in each of the two chief divisions, and in reference to the twelve verses of the whole main body of the Psalm. In accordance with the doubled seven of the verses of the whole, the word Jehovah occurs seven times in the second half, the second strophe ( Psalms 27:7-12), and the conclusion together. If we count up the number of times the word Jehovah is repeated in the first strophe and the second together, we find it amounts to ten,—the signature of completeness. The names of God occur in the conclusion three times,—the signature of the blessing.

That the position of the name of Jehovah was designed, even as to most minute particulars, is evident also from the circumstance, that it begins and concludes the Psalm, and that it also marks where the first strophe ends, and the second begins.

The situation referred to in the Psalm, is that of one who is completely surrounded by enemies, Psalms 27:6, who in every way seek his ruin (which is the most earnest wish of their hearts), Psalms 27:12; who is destitute of all human help, Psalms 27:10; and who, unless God interpose, is utterly ruined, Psalms 27:13.

The intimation given in the title, that David is the author of the Psalm, is confirmed by internal evidence. It is impossible to refer the Psalm to a later age than that of David, because at Psalms 27:5 the author speaks of God hiding him in His pavilion, and in His tabernacle, and in the ( Psalms 27:6) 6th verse, of offering unto God sacrifice in His tabernacle. While it is evident that the היכל , from the use of which in the ( Psalms 27:4) 4th verse an argument has been drawn against the Davidic authorship of the Psalm, was applied to the holy tabernacle, as is proved by what has been said on the (Psalms 5) 5th Psalm, there cannot even be the shadow of a proof adduced to show that, under Solomon, the temple was still called a tabernacle or pavilion. And in proof that David was the author of the Psalm, it may be said, not only in general, that among the manifold kinds of troubles, there is here, in remarkable correspondence with his experience, peculiar prominence given to distress arising from the oppression of enemies, but also, in particular, that the Psalmist speaks like a warrior borne down by hostile armies, and that the idea uppermost in his mind is that of a battle that has been waged, and of a camp that has been pitched against him.

All attempts to find out any particular event in the life of David, to which the Psalm may more especially be referred, have failed. And from the failure of these, we may draw the inference, either that David originally uttered the Psalm from the soul of the oppressed righteous man, or, that if he wrote it in reference to a particular occasion, he generalized his own experience.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Calvin: “David, in laying, as it were, in the balances all the power of earth and hell, considers the whole as lighter than a feather, while God alone infinitely outweighs it all.” He represents misery and trouble under the figure of darkness, and the Lord, who graciously sends help, under that of light, which enlightens the darkness: compare Micah 7:8, “If I sit in darkness, the Lord is my light.” What, therefore, he first expresses figuratively by “my light,” he immediately expresses in proper language by “my salvation.” The Psalmist recognises God as his light and his salvation, first, from His word—from the promises of Divine aid which are held out in the law to the righteous, directly and indirectly, under the form of history, in the experience of those who stand on the same ground with himself, particularly the patriarchs; and second, from his own personal experience—every case in which the Lord had manifested Himself as the Psalmist’s salvation, has strengthened his conviction that He is so. The question, “Whom shall I,” etc., throws aside, as it were, with indignation, every cause of fear. The Psalmist calls God the strength of his life, because He protects his life, of which his enemies seek to rob him, as surely as the strong walls of a fortified town defy the assaults of an enemy, and afford protection to the inhabitants.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. When the wicked wretches come near against me, to eat my flesh, mine opponents and my enemies against me: THEY stumble and fall. The case is, in the first instance, as it is also at Psalms 27:3, a supposed one. But it is evident from the ( Psalms 27:6) 6th and ( Psalms 27:12) 12th verses, that the Psalmist really was in a situation very analogous to this supposed one. While the Psalmist rises above possible dangers, he, at the same time, rises above those also that are real, which he therefore afterwards sets before the eye in a stronger and more defined manner, because an over-hasty glance at them, which easily assume an unreasonable importance, might have disturbed the view of the real relations of things. Luther, not wholly correctly, connects this verse with the one preceding it, by the word wherefore. The verse, like the one which follows it, carries forward the thought, “Whom should I fear, of whom should I be afraid, even when, for example, the wicked?” etc. The idea of hostile approach does not lie in קרב , but in על , to come near over any one, so that one falls upon him, sets on him. The metaphor in to eat my flesh, is taken from savage beasts of prey. צרי ואיבי is not in apposition to מרעים . In that case, לי is inexplicable. It is evident that this word cannot be “redundant.” When it appears to stand thus, as it does in Psalms 144:2, it renders the my more emphatic than a simple affix could do: my deliverer to me =MY deliverer, tenderly expressed. But in the case before us such an emphasis is unsuitable. It is necessary rather to supply בקרב , though my opponents and enemies come near to me: and there is the less objection to this, as קרב is elsewhere connected with ל , Job 33:22. It is not without reason that the Psalmist gives prominence to the word evil-doers. For he cannot expect victory over his enemies unless he stand to them in the relationship of a righteous man to the wicked: this was the case in all the conflicts which David had to maintain. המה is a word of emphasis,— they, not I, with whom this would assuredly be the case, did not the circumstance that the Lord is my light and my salvation disturb their otherwise very accurate calculations. The Preterites כשלו and נפלו are explained from the confidence of faith.

Verse 3

Ver. 3. Though an host encamp against me, yet my heart is not afraid: though war rise against me, yet in this case I am full of confidence. This verse agrees remarkably with Psalms 3:6. מחנה is, in all probability, here, as at Genesis 32:9, united to a feminine for the sake of the symmetry with תקום . בזאת , “in this,” is, “even in such circumstances, to all human appearance desperate;” compare Leviticus 26:27; Job 1:22. The exposition, “I trust in this, namely, that Thou, O Lord, art my light and my salvation,” is unnecessary, because, though undoubtedly בטח is generally construed with the ב of the object, we do repeatedly meet with it in an absolute form, in Judges 18:7; Jeremiah 12:5; Proverbs 11:5. It is moreover opposed by the analogy of the preceding clauses, which merely expand, “I am afraid of no one,” without again pointing to the cause of the fearlessness. “I am full of confidence,” corresponds exactly to “my heart is not afraid.” Luther’s translation depends on this exposition: “I trust in Him,” being only a free rendering.

Verse 4

Ver. 4. One thing I desired of the Lord, after that I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to meditate thereon in His holy place. The Lord is the Psalmist’s light and salvation, affords him protection against all enemies and all dangers. On this account he has only one prayer, one wish,—if this be granted, happen what may,—namely, that the Lord may abide with him, in which everything else is given to him; that he may never lose His favour, or be shut out from His fellowship. For the Lord ( Psalms 27:5) protects His own in all dangers.

The change of tense in שאלתי , and אבקש , is to be carefully attended to: it indicates that this prayer and desire extend throughout the whole of the Psalmist’s life. The Preterite denotes the action completed, concluded, but yet reaching unto the present time; Ew. Sm. Gr. 262, (Venema’s semper is more correct than Schmidt’s jam olim): the Future marks still more particularly the continuance of this effort in the present.

The prayer is a true one, only when it goes forth on the ground of effort and exertion, when the longing desire of the heart is directed towards its object.

The “dwelling in the house, of the Lord,” towards which the prayer and the desire are directed, is here, as in all other passages (compare Psalms 23:6, Psalms 15:1), to be understood figuratively, as equivalent to, “being an inmate of God’s house,” “to stand towards Him in a confidential relation,” “to enjoy His favour.” The cause of this figurative language is, that the tabernacle, and afterwards the temple itself, bore a symbolical character, represented the connection between God and His people who dwelt with Him spiritually there; compare the proof of this in Part III. of the Beitr. p. 831, etc.

It is for this reason that the Psalmist, desires to be, and to continue to be, an inmate in God’s house. To this the words point, “That I may behold,” etc.; that is, “that I may in this way behold what is inseparably connected therewith,” etc. When God takes any man into the number of His own people, such a one beholds also His beauty, and enjoys the opportunity of meditating upon it in His sanctuary. נעם יהוה , means always the beauty of the Lord: compare Psalms 90:17, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,” i.e. let it be made known in our experience; Zechariah 11:7. [Note: Venema: The beauty of the Lord here denotes whatever in the Lord is sweet, pleasant, and salutary to the sinner; and therefore His virtues of goodness and grace, together with all their signs and effects.] To behold it, is to experience it, to know God as beautiful in His dealings. The expression in the 13th verse is exactly parallel: “to see the goodness of the Lord.”

The בקר means always, “to search for,” Leviticus 13:36, Leviticus 27:33; Ezekiel 34:11-12; “to meditate on,” 2 Kings 16:15; Proverbs 20:25, in accordance with the Chaldaic usage, and the fundamental sense of the word, “to open,” “to cleave:” compare Gesenius on the word. As the word is never followed by ב of the object, the object of the inquiry and the meditation cannot therefore be contained in the בהיכלו , but must thus be drawn from what goes before: “and meditate thereon,” namely, on the beauty of the Lord manifested in the experience of the inmates of His house, in His holy place. The holy place is mentioned as the place of meditation, because there thanks are offered to the Lord for the manifestations of His beauty. This exposition is confirmed by the ( Psalms 27:6) 6th verse, where the Psalmist expresses his hope that, being delivered by the Lord, he shall offer joyful offerings in His tabernacle: compare also Psalms 26:7, according to which the Psalmist lets the voice of praise be heard in the sanctuary, and makes known all God’s wondrous works.

According to the usual interpretation, the Psalmist expresses a wish to be delivered from danger, to serve God undisturbed in the temple, and to enjoy the pleasure of, looking upon the splendour of the sanctuary. Some translate, “that I may spend my life in the house of Jehovah, for the purpose of beholding the splendour of Jehovah (Luther: ‘the beautiful service of God’), and viewing His temple” (others, “repairing to His temple”). This translation, in the first place is contrary to the usus loquendi in three respects. It is altogether arbitrary to consider “to dwell in the house of the Lord” equivalent to “to attend it carefully,” “to abide in it;” compare against this at Psalms 23:6. This difficulty is not removed by Hitzig’s violent supposition, that the Psalm was composed by a priest: for not even the priests dwelt in the temple. נעם יהוה is arbitrarily translated by “the splendour of the Lord;” and this is just as arbitrarily supposed to signify the splendour of His sanctuary, or His splendid service. בקר is never united with ב , and means neither “to view,” nor “to repair to.” If we interpret, agreeably to etymology, the clause, “to behold the beauty of the Lord,” etc., we shall be compelled to abandon the idea of outward dwelling in the house of the Lord; for that which is derived from the dwelling of the Lord, cannot be regarded as the consequence of outward presence in the temple. This exposition is, moreover, opposed by the parallel passages in which dwelling in the temple is spoken of: in all these, the idea is that of spiritual presence; compare, for example, Psalms 23. The fifth verse is also opposed to it. The thought of that verse, “for He protects me,” is not at all fitted to give the reason why the Psalmist wishes to be in the temple; this is clear from the fruitless attempt of De Wette to refer the “for,” with which he does not know how to begin, not to our verse, but to the first paragraph of the Psalm ( Psalms 27:1-3). It is also altogether inadmissible, if we understand there the “hiding in the pavilion,” and the “concealing in the tabernacle of the Lord,” in a figurative sense, to interpret literally the “dwelling in His house.” Lastly, only on the figurative view of “dwelling in the house of the Lord,” can we give any explanation of “ one thing I desire of the Lord,” etc. The one thing which gives the Psalmist strength and courage against the whole world, is the favour of God; hence the one thing which he desires and seeks after, is not his bodily presence in the temple, with which in such a connection a man can have nothing to do, but the possession of the favour of God. In reality, “to dwell in the house of the Lord,” must be similar to, “to have Him for light and salvation.” This is clear, moreover, from the circumstance, that the same consequence is deduced from “the dwelling in the house of the Lord,” in Psalms 27:5, which is deduced from “the Lord is my light and salvation” ( Psalms 27:1-5), namely, safety against all attacks of enemies; and also from the circumstance, that in Psalms 27:6 assurance of victory in present trouble is deduced from the two taken together, “the Lord is my light and my salvation,” and, “I dwell in the house of the Lord.”

Verse 5

Ver. 5. For He hides me in His pavilion in the time of trouble, He covers me in the covering of His tent, He lifts me up upon a rock. The Psalmist here gives the ground why, in view of the oppression of his enemies, “the dwelling in the house of the Lord, the possession of His favour,” is sufficient for him: whom the Lord loves, him He also protects. Corresponding to the representation of the gracious relation to the Lord, under the figure of dwelling with Him in the temple, we have, in the first two clauses of this verse, the protection which is the consequence of this gracious relation, represented by the figure of a sure place of refuge and concealment, which the Lord affords to His persecuted people, beside Himself in His tabernacle. These two clauses have been misunderstood in two ways. First, by those who, like the Jewish expositors and Knapp, understand the words in a coarse literal sense, and suppose that David on one occasion found shelter in the holy tabernacle, and was in this manner delivered out of the hands of his enemies. This is opposed by the last clause, which must necessarily be taken in a figurative sense. Second, by those who, with De Wette, maintain that the pavilion and the tabernacle of this passage are not at all the holy place, but are only emblems of protection, taken from the master of a house, who gives protection in his house to a stranger, from some peril to which he may be exposed. This is undoubtedly the origin of the figurative expression; but that the friendly pavilion and the friendly tabernacle are the sanctuary of the Lord, is clear from the corresponding expression, “the house of the Lord,” in Psalms 27:4: “I have only one wish, to abide in the house of the Lord; for He hides me in His house, or His tabernacle;” and “His tabernacle” in 6th verse: “He hides me in His tabernacle; therefore shall I bring’ forward thank-offerings in His tabernacle.” It will not do to refer to Psalms 31:20, “Thou keepest them secretly in a pavilion;” for there it is in a pavilion, here it is in His pavilion. סכה , a pavilion, is used poetically for the holy tabernacle in Psalms 76:2. It has already been adverted to in the introduction, that the expression, “in His pavilion and in His tabernacle,” involves in insuperable difficulty the supposition that the Psalm was composed at a period posterior to that of David. Solomon’s temple, especially, could not possibly be called “a pavilion.” The name, “tabernacle,” might have been carried forward from the earlier to the later sanctuary: there is, however, no proof even of this.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. And now mine head shall be lifted up above all mine enemies round about, and I will offer in His tabernacle offerings of joy, I will sing and praise the Lord. This verse concludes the first strophe: in Psalms 27:1-5, the conviction that the Lord is the Psalmist’s light and salvation, and that he dwells in the house of the Lord, gives him confidence against all conceivable dangers: here, in the possession of this favour of God, he is completely sure of victory in the difficulties in which he now finds himself. ועתה is either “and now,”—quare etiam nunc in presenti periculo,—or it may be considered as the particle of inference, “and now, since it is so (compare Psalms 2:10, Psalms 39:7), I shall triumph securely over my present enemies.” On, “my head shall be lifted up,” compare Psalms 3:3. The clause, “I will offer,” etc., shows that the Psalmist feels as sure of deliverance as if he had already obtained it. He is already preparing to offer thanks for it. Joy-offerings are offerings which are accompanied with rejoicings for deliverance, and are themselves matter-of-fact rejoicings. The תרועה stands here, as in Num. 23:31, and in all other passages, in the general sense of “shouts of joy:” comp. קול תודה in Psalms 26:7. De Wette and other expositors give, “offerings of the sound of trumpets:” “the holy trumpets were blown at the burnt and thank-offerings,” Numbers 10:10. But this passage refers only to the public thank-offerings on holy days. We never read of trumpets being used at private offerings.

At the beginning of the second strophe, the tone changes at once. Instead of triumphant confidence, we have mournful supplication. But the last verse of the first strophe softens the transition. There the Psalmist has descended from the serene heights of heaven to the earth: from the contemplation of possible dangers, in which he conquers, through the aid of his heavenly helper, to whom in faith he rises, he has begun to turn to the consideration of those that are real. At first, the tone of triumph still continues: the danger is rather too small than too great for him. But, in proportion as he gets a nearer view of it, it becomes greater; he is terrified, and begins to sink; and retains only so much of his early confidence as to enable him to cry out, and to say, “Lord, help me.” But this is in reality a very great deal; and for a man who has begun to take to heart the sufferings and the dangers of this life, it is really enough.

It is in this transition from triumphant confidence to mournful supplication, that is to be found the truth of the Psalm, and also much of its practical power. We could not have found ourselves in it, had the tone of triumph been continued to the end. The first strophe is sufficient only for painted suffering.

Verse 7

Ver. 7. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me, and answer me. In reference to קולי אקרא , compare what has been said on Psalms 3:4. The קולי is not redundant, it indicates a loud cry.

Verse 8

Ver. 8. My heart always holds forth to Thee Thy word, “Seek My face:” Thy face, O Lord, I do seek. As always, so particularly now, the heart of the Psalmist in trouble is turned towards God, expecting deliverance from Him alone; and whoever is in such a state of mind is all the more sure of being delivered by God, inasmuch as His word commands us to seek Him in trouble, and promises that those who seek shall find Him. אמר and אבקש stand in the same relation to each other as שאלתי and אבקש do in Psalms 27:4: always, and particularly now. It is impossible to translate simply: my heart says to Thee. There was no need for inserting “Thy word,” which we have supplied, inasmuch as the clause, “seek My face,” shows by its form, that what the Psalmist says to God, is only an echo of what God has said to His people. “To seek the face of any one,” is to “seek to be admitted to his presence:” compare Proverbs 29:26, “Many seek the ruler’s face.” As admission into the presence is allowed only to those who enjoy the favour of the ruler, it is the mark and expression of this favour, and because it is so, is sought after; so, to seek the face of the Lord, is to seek to be admitted into His presence, and in reality to seek to enjoy His favour compare 2 Samuel 21:1, “There was a famine in the days of David, and David sought the face of the Lord;” Psalms 24:6, and Psalms 105:4. In reality, “to seek the face of the Lord,” is “to seek the Lord;” 2 Samuel 12:16; 2 Chronicles 20:4, 2 Chronicles 15:2. The Divine saying, to which the Psalmist here refers, occurs, though not exactly in the same terms, in Deuteronomy 4:29, “And ye seek from thence the Lord thy God, and thou findest Him, if thou seek Him with all thy heart (compare here, ‘my heart says to Thee’), and with all thy soul.” The seeking of the Lord, and the finding Him, are there placed in inseparable connection with each other. Hosea 5:15 refers, like the passage before us, to the same expression: “I will go and return to My place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek My face: in their affliction (verbatim from Deut.) they will inquire after Me:” compare the Beitr. ii. p. 61. There, as here, “to seek the face of God,” is substituted for “to seek God.”

Muis, De Wette, and other interpreters, translate the first words: “my heart speaks of Thee.” But, in this way, the signification of the Preterite is misunderstood: אמר with ל signifies, with a few exceptions, “to speak to some one,” and the sense of, “to speak of one,” is unsupported. “To seek the face of the Lord,” is considered as equivalent to, “to repair to the temple.” But this sense is one in which the phrase is never used; and, in the case before us, it is excluded both by the reference to the fundamental passage, and by what follows in the next verse, “ hide not Thy face:” the whole scope and connection, moreover, are altogether opposed to any reference to repairing to the temple.

After the example of the Vulgate, “de to dixit cor meum: require O facies mea,” Hitzig translates, “my heart speaks of Thee, Seek Him, my face.” But, irrespective of all other considerations, the phrase בקש פני יהוה will not admit of such a rendering.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. Hide not Thy face from me, drive not away Thy servant in anger, Thou who hast always been my helper; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God, my salvation. The “hiding” of the face stands opposed to the “showing” of it, which God in His word hath promised to those who seek it with all their heart. The אל תט—apoc. Fut. in Hiph.—is not to be translated, “turn not away,” but, “drive not away:” compare הטה , in the sense of “to set aside,” “to put aside,” which suits very well to the hiding of the face, in Job 24:4; compare also Job 36:18; 2 Samuel 3:27. “Thy servant,” contains in it the ground of the prayer: “Do not act towards Thy servant as Thou attest only towards the wicked.” This ground is given still more distinctly in what follows: “Thou who hast always been my helper.” This corresponds to the expression at the conclusion, “my salvation-God;” and must therefore denote the abiding relation in which God stands to the Psalmist, on which he grounds his prayer for special deliverance. The Preterite היית , denotes past time stretching forward to the present.

Verse 10

Ver. 10. For my father and my mother forsook me, and the Lord takes me up. The Psalmist gives the reason why he had called upon the Lord for assistance so mournfully in the preceding verse: the love of God is the only love that is sure, in heaven, or on earth: the love of men disappears on the approach of misfortune, in which they recognise a dispensation to renounce love; but the love of God is proved most gloriously in affliction: the afflicted are above all others dear to Him.

In the clause, “father and mother have forsaken me,” the Psalmist speaks of something which had already happened; and the translation, “ though they forsake me,” is inadmissible. But there is no reason why we should feel ourselves necessitated to seek for an individual reference. Every one who is in great trouble may speak in this manner. Father and mother stand as an individualizing designation of those who are united to us by the closest ties, and in whom love towards us, when we are in a state of suffering, might be expected to continue the longest. Whoever has no parents, puts his friends in their room. It lies deep in human nature that suffering should cool, if it does not extinguish, love: men are only too much inclined to seek in the sufferer the cause of this. This is seen in the case of the friends and the wife of Job; compare also Psalms 88:8. The proverb, “that the unfortunate may lay their account with contempt,” is verified even in the case of nearest relatives. David had, in all probability, had experience of the instability of human love in suffering under the very form to which he here refers, and made choice of this expression in reference to his own personal experience. His parents, whom, according to 1 Samuel 22:3, he took care of in misfortune, were, assuredly, on many occasions (from the character of human nature, it could scarcely be otherwise), ill pleased with him by whom their peace had been to often disturbed, and he must have had to bear with many hard speeches at their hand. The Lord takes me up, like one who takes a weary wanderer, or a fugitive who has lost his way, into his house, and treats him kindly: compare Psalms 27:5; Joshua 20:4; Judges 19:5.

Verse 11

Ver. 11. Teach me, O Lord, Thy way, and lead me in an even path, because of mine enemies. Most expositors are of opinion, that the Psalmist prays that the Lord would lead him by His Spirit and preserve him from sin. Calvin saw that this sense would not do in connection with what precedes and follows, the whole language is about Divine assistance against enemies. The way of the Lord here is the way of salvation: this limitation flows from the person who is speaking, for the paths of God can be only paths of safety for His servants. The even path forms a contrast to the stones and rocks which rendered the Psalmist’s progress through life so difficult. Psalms 25:4 is exactly parallel, where we met with the same false exposition: compare also Psalms 26:12. “Because of mine enemies,” points out the cause, more fully opened up in the following verse, why the Psalmist stood so much in need of Divine guidance and help.

Verse 12

Ver 12. Give me not over to the will of mine enemies; for there are false witnesses risen up against me, and such as breathe violence. The soul of the enemies stands for their passions, because the soul is wholly absorbed by these. By “the false witnesses,” and “such as breathe violence,” two classes of enemies are meant: those who seek to accomplish their ardent wish to annihilate the righteous man by cunning lies and deceit, and by false and slanderous accusations; and, second, those who employ open violence. יפח is the status constructus of the adjective יָ?פֵ?חַ? . This is to be derived not from יפח , but from the Fut. Hithp. of פוח , which occurs in the same form in Habakkuk 2:3: compare יָ?רֵ?ב from ריב . “Those who breathe violence” (not, who breathe out), are “those whose every breath is violence:” compare Proverbs 6:19, “A false witness that speaketh (lit. breatheth) lies;” “breathing threatenings and slaughter,” Acts 9:9; “Spirare minas” in Latin; and “κακί?ας καὶ? συκοφαντί?ας πνεῖ?” in Aristoph. Knights, 435.

The conclusion now follows, summing up once more in narrow compass the contents of the Psalm, trouble and distress in the world, and hope in God.

Verse 13

Ver. 13. If I had not believed to see the goodness of God in the land of the living, . . . That this verse is not to be immediately connected with what goes before, but marks the beginning of the conclusion, is clear from the circumstance, that whereas in the former verses God is addressed, here He is spoken of, and that this verse contains the foundation for the exhortation of the last verse, to trust in God.

Had the Psalmist brought the sentence to a conclusion, he would have added, “I must have yielded to despair, or I should have been ruined.” This fatal word, however, he finds it very difficult to utter; and ere he does so, a voice within is raised, exhorting him to continue firmer and firmer in his trust in God, which he designated as his only ground of hope. Among all the passages which contain similar aposiopeses, there is none so exactly like the one before us as Genesis 31:42: “Except (לולי ) the God of my fathers, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, . . . (it would have been all over with me); for Thou wouldst have sent me away empty.” Compare also Genesis 1:15; Zechariah 6:15. Ewald, p. 663. In this aposiopesis the Masorites have not been able to find their feet: they put their so-called puncta extraordinaria over the לולא , which perplexed them: they are, however, just as little deserving of regard as the Keris. The old translators, with the exception of the Chaldaic, leave out לולא altogether: no conclusion, however, ought to be drawn from this against it; they may have been of the same opinion as De Wette, who remarks, “We may very easily get quit of it, seeing it yields no very suitable sense.” In favour of the genuineness of לולא , it may be remarked, that it would certainly never occur to any one to insert it; and that, on deep reflection (such, however, as a glossarist was not likely to indulge in), it appears to be indispensably necessary to complete the sense. The bare and unconditional clause, “I believe to see,” etc., is unsuitable and incongruous, after the anxious prayer of the preceding verse for deliverance from false witnesses and those who breathe violence, whose look cries out to the Psalmist that he is lost; and then the exhortation of the following verse implies that weakness had come over the Psalmist, and that danger had assailed him with great violence: the weakness is here, the remedy is there. טוב יהוה is explained by several interpreters as “the good things of the Lord,” “His blessings and acts of kindness.” Gesenius: “optima dei munera.” But טוב יהוה always signifies the “goodness of God,” “the goodness of His nature:” compare Psalms 25:7, Psalms 31:19; Zechariah 9:17, where the goodness and the beauty of the Lord occur together (Christology, P. 3, p. 135, 6); and this sense is especially demanded here by the corresponding clause in ver. 4, נעם יהוה . To see the goodness of the Lord, is to experience His excellence. The “land of the living” stands in opposition to “the land of the dead,” or “Sheol;” compare Jeremiah 38:11; Ezekiel 26:20, Ezekiel 32:32. The reference, revived by Claus and Stier, to the “life to come,” has been completely set aside by Muis. It is assuredly in this life, ere he “go whence he shall not return, to the land of darkness and the shadow of death,” Job 10:21, into which his enemies are on the point of sending him, that the Psalmist hopes still to see the goodness of the Lord. The writers of the Psalms are far removed from that resignation, which gives up to the ungodly everything on this side the grave. Their faith is far too fresh and powerful for this.

Verse 14

Ver. 14. The reflection, that the grace of God is his only ground of hope, and that but for it, his own weakness, and the fury and might of his enemies, would have brought him into an irremediable condition, and left him the prey of despair, gives the Psalmist occasion to exhort himself to trust in the Lord.

Wait on the Lord: be strong, and may He strengthen thy heart; and wait upon the Lord. The strong part of the soul speaks to the weak, as is the case throughout the whole of the (Psalms 42) 42d and (Psalms 43) 43d Psalms. We cannot entertain the idea, that the Psalmist is addressing the pious, and that he makes an application of his own experience to the case of those in similar circumstances. In this way, the connection with the ( Psalms 27:13) 13th verse would be altogether broken. The individual who is here exhorted to trust in God, must be the same one who had there declared, that but for his trust in God he must become the victim of despair. Instead of, “may He strengthen thy heart,” most translators have, “may thy heart get strong.” But we cannot give up the usual sense of the Hiph. either here or in the passage, Ps. 31:25;—these are the only two passages in which the Hiph. of אמץ occurs. And the strictly grammatical translation in the passage before us, brings out a much finer meaning. The Psalmist, after having exhorted himself to be strong, directs attention to Him who alone can give the strength to comply with this exhortation. He does not express His name, because none but He who is the fountain of all strength can be thought of, when we speak of being strengthened. There is something very great in the expression, “be strong.” Calvin: “When trembling comes upon thee, when temptation shaketh thy faith, when the feelings of thy flesh are driven hither and thither, be not overcome, but rather rise up with indefatigable power of mind.” Nature cannot accomplish this: none but He can bring it about, who giveth might to the weary and sufficient strength to the weak. He gives not only outward strength, but also that which is inward: He not only gives deliverance to those who trust in Him, but He also works trust in Him.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 27". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.