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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 32

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary


Psalms 32

David celebrates in this Psalm the happiness of a sinner who has obtained mercy from God, the preciousness of the forgiveness of sins, and the blessing of purity and uprightness before God, which alone lead to the obtaining of forgiveness. In the introduction, Psalms 32:1 and Psalms 32:2, he indicates his subject in general, by pronouncing the man to be blessed who has obtained the forgiveness of sin, and has not excluded himself from it by inward impurity. In the main body of the Psalm, he depicts; first ( Psalms 32:3 and Psalms 32:4), the misery which he endured, so long as the sin of which he was conscious stood like a partition wall between him and God, and he, stained with impurity, had neither repented before God, nor asked from Him the grace of forgiveness. Then he tells us that forgiveness immediately followed upon confession, Psalms 32:5. In Psalms 32:6 and Psalms 32:7, he represents, in opposition to Psalms 32:3 and Psalms 32:4, the blessed consequences of forgiveness obtained through uprightness: he is now sheltered from those judgments which hang over sinners; he has God again for his friend; and in Him he has protection against every danger, and the joyful assurance of deliverance. In Psalms 32:8 and Psalms 32:9, he grounds doctrine upon history: the righteous man who has fallen may seek the forgiveness of sin through the free return to God, alone worthy of him. In the conclusion, Psalms 32:10 and Psalms 32:11, the Psalmist, proceeding from what is particular to what is general, pronounces the man to be happy who has placed his confidence in God: all things, even his sins, must in the end work together for good, while the ungodly is visited with severe punishment.

The formal arrangement of this Psalm is very obvious. The whole is broken up into strophes of two verses, with the exception that the fifth verse, which may be considered as the heart of the Psalm, representing, as it does, the inseparable connection between free confession and forgiveness, forms a strophe by itself, and thus stands apart from the general train of the Psalm—a circumstance which is evidently pointed out by its disproportionate length. The introduction consists of two verses, and there is a corresponding conclusion of an equal number. The main body is complete in the number seven. The three chief divisions in the historical part are indicated by the thrice repeated selah.

Most commentators suppose that David composed this Psalm when he obtained forgiveness from God after his adultery with Bathsheba, and the death of Uriah, to which that sin led. The correctness of this view can scarcely be called in question. That the case represented in Psalms 32:3 is no fiction, but a reality, is clear as day. The Psalmist speaks in language far too definite of himself and of a particular case, to allow us to regard the matter as a fiction. Now, if the matter be a reality, no other circumstances can be referred to, except those above mentioned. All the characteristic features agree exactly. Here, as there, it is none of the common sins of infirmity that are spoken of, but a dreadful transgression, yea, an assemblage of dreadful transgressions: compare the expression in the ( Psalms 32:5) 5th verse, “I will confess my crimes to the Lord,” in which respect, the transgression of David with Bathsheba, and the accompanying circumstances, are said to hold a peculiar place in the history of David, 1 Kings 15:5. Here, as there, we have a long continuance of impenitence: according to Psalms 32:3, “the bones of the Psalmist waxed old continually;” according to Psalms 32:4, “the hand of the Lord was heavy upon him day and night;” and, according to the history, there elapsed nearly a whole year between the sin of David and the repentance. Here, as there, we have a sudden transition: confession of sin at once breaking out, and forgiveness immediately following. Compare Psalms 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin unto Thee, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and Thou didst take away the guilt of my sin,” with 2 Samuel 12:13, “And David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said to David, The Lord forgiveth thy sin, thou shalt not die.”

The reasons which have been adduced to show that the historical account given in Samuel is not wholly in accordance with the Psalm, are easily set aside. David, it is said, according to that account, did not confess his sin, but had it brought before him by Nathan. But, even according to Samuel, David did confess his sin; and the circumstance, that his confession was called forth by Nathan’s address, did not detract from its character as a voluntary act. David must have arrived, within his own mind, even at the very threshold of repentance; otherwise the address of Nathan would not have produced the effect which it did. Nathan did not originate the confession, he only set it loose. In what other way can we explain the fact, king for such a length of time after the sin was committed, that Nathan postponed the discharge of his duty towards the except by assuming that he waited, according to the direction of God, for the crisis in David’s mind? Inasmuch, therefore, as the address of Nathan occupied only a subordinate place, and was not the ground, but merely the occasion of David’s confession, David might very well pass it over in silence in this Psalm, in the same way in which he does in the (Psalms 51) 51st Psalm, which refers to the same circumstance. Again, stress is laid upon the circumstance, that the writer of this Psalm is joyful at having obtained deliverance from the punishment of his sin, with which he had already been visited ( Psalms 32:6 and Psalms 32:7); whereas in 2 Samuel 12, David obtained forgiveness previous to the infliction of the punishment. But the punishment, in deliverance from which the Psalmist rejoices, is not one with which he had been already visited, but one which he dreaded, with which he was threatened,—one, present indeed, in the view of conscience, which already saw the angel with the flaming sword approaching, but in reality yet future. In Psalms 32:6, it is said that “the floods shall not reach to the godly who prays at the right time to God for forgiveness of sin,” but not that “they shall turn away from him;” and in Psalms 32:7, the preceding clause, “Thou preservest me from trouble,” leads us to consider the “songs of deliverance,” as songs called forth by deliverance from threatened danger. Now, David had been visited with anxiety in regard to future punishment after his adultery with Bathsheba. Nathan’s words, 2 Samuel 12:10, “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house, because thou hast despised Me and taken the wife of Uriah,” would not have produced such a dreadful impression on his mind, had not his conscience, before this, distinctly and repeatedly made the same announcement.

It has been frequently maintained that this Psalm stands in opposition to the general point of view of the Old Testament. “It teaches inward reconciliation with God through faith; whereas, according to the theocratic view and practice, reconciliation is outward, and obtained by sacrifice.” But there cannot be produced, out of the whole Old Testament, one single passage in which the doctrine that sacrifices of themselves, and apart from the state of mind of the offerers, are well-pleasing to God, is advanced, except for the purpose of vigorously opposing it. The law of Moses disowns this doctrine with complete decision. When, for example, in Leviticus 26:31, it is said in reference to the ungodly, “I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours;” and when, in Genesis 4:4-5, we find that, along with an outward similarity, the offerings of Cain and Abel met with such different receptions from God, and that this difference is traced back to a difference in the persons; it is all but expressly asserted, that sacrifices are regarded only as expressive of the mind within. Moreover, how could any such importance be attached to sacrifices, considered as such, when the value of all that man does is so repeatedly and so decidedly represented as dependent on his love to God? Compare Beitr. P. iii. p. 611. Now, just as sacrifices do not exclude faith, but faith is rather the soul of sacrifices, so faith does not exclude sacrifices. It is not a matter of any consequence, that David should have made no reference to them in this Psalm, inasmuch as, although generally available in the case before us (compare on this Psalms 51), they occupy in every instance a very subordinate place.

According to Amyraldus and others, the Psalm is irreconcilably at variance with Psalms 1. “For whoever receives prosperity as the reward of his virtue and holiness, stands in no need of forgiveness of sin; and, on the other hand, whoever needs forgiveness of sin, cannot hope for prosperity as the reward of his good works.” But, that the variance is altogether in appearance, is obvious from the fact, that in many Psalms (as, for example, Psalms 19), both positions are maintained, that salvation is the reward of righteousness (comp. on Psalms 19:12), and that salvation is the consequence of forgiveness of sin, and that in many instances both occur in immediate connection with each other. As even the righteousness of the man who is in a state of grace (and it is only with such a man that both these Psalms have to do), is in every instance but a righteousness of aim, so the reward which is promised to diligence in good works, and to which Psalms 1 refers, can be obtained only when forgiveness of manifold transgressions has been sought and obtained from the compassion of God.

The Psalm is termed in the title, a Maskil of David. The most obvious explanation of this term, which occurs in the titles of thirteen Psalms, is that of Instruction—a Didactic Poem: compare השכיל , in the sense of “to make intelligent, prudent,” in Proverbs 16:23, Proverbs 21:11. A very decisive circumstance in favour of this interpretation, is the occurrence of אשכילך in Psalms 32:8, where there is as good as an express explanation of the title; and this circumstance is to be regarded as all the more important, from the fact, that the word is made use of in the very first Psalm which bears the title. Further, it may be urged in favour of this interpretation, that the Psalm has so decided a didactic character, that the author seems as if he had resolved beforehand to lose sight of all regard to everything of an individual character, for the purpose of influencing the whole Church. To this it may be added, that in Psalms 53 this interpretation is clearly demanded by the reference to the title contained in Psalms 32:2. That Poem was designed to bring to reason the unreasonable men there spoken of. Compare page 211. The current objection against this interpretation, that all the Psalms so designated do not bear a didactic character, is not to be set aside by the remark of Stier, that it is of the nature of such names that they are on these occasions used also in a vague manner. It may rather be observed, that every expression of holy feeling is subservient to the purpose of instruction in righteousness; that in the Psalms which were called forth by individual occasions, the Psalmists express their feelings on behalf of the whole Church; that in the very many Psalms in which the Righteous man is the speaker, the hortatory character is obvious to all except the most superficial readers. The designation is indeed applicable, properly, to all the Psalms, inasmuch as they all have been reckoned worthy to be made use of in the services of the sanctuary, and to be admitted as part of the sacred Scriptures: compare 2 Timothy 3:16, where as much is said of the whole Scriptures of the Old Testament. For this reason, after a Psalm had been placed at the head, the very form of which at once shows it to be a didactic Psalm, might this designation be prefixed especially to those Psalms in which this character is least apparent. The didactic Psalms, properly so called, did not need this N.B.

The common interpretations of משכיל have been refuted in the Christology, I. 1, p. 113. The exposition there adopted, “a pious poem,” cannot be maintained against the positive grounds on which the exposition, “Instruction,” rests.

The relation of משכיל to אשכילך in Psalms 32:8, leaves little room for doubt as to David’s having composed the title, and affords a pretty strong presumption in favour of the titles generally.

Verses 1-2

Ver. 1. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Ver. 2. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. The reasons why the Psalmist pronounces the man to be blessed who has obtained forgiveness of sin, are apparent in the following verses: compare Romans 4:6. He, whose sins have not been forgiven, and who has the hand of God lying heavy upon him, and is in fearful expectation of the judgment with which, at its own time, he will infallibly be visited. In this declaration of blessedness belonging to the man whose sin has been forgiven, there lies an indirect exhortation not to shut ourselves out from this benefit by our own fault. Compare 1 John 1:8-9. Hence is explained the stringing on of the last clause, in which mention is made of that which brings this exclusion infallibly in its train. The words are directed against the error of those who seek to come to terms with their sin, by expiating it themselves, by concealing, or by not charging themselves with it. The Berleb. Bib.: “As children imagine that they are not seen when they put their hands upon their eyes, and cover them so that they themselves see no one, in like manner, men act with equal folly, in supposing that their sins and crimes, when concealed from themselves, are also concealed from the all-seeing eye of God.” The three expressions applied to sin (compare on פשע at Psalms 19:14), are borrowed from the fundamental passage on the forgiveness of sin, Exodus 34:7: “Keeping mercy for thousands, and forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.” The form נשוי , instead of נשוא , is adopted on account of its similarity in form to כסוי . חשב with ל occurs, as it does here, in 2 Samuel 19:19, where Shimei addresses David, apparently in allusion to common religious expressions, and particularly, perhaps, to this very Psalm: “Let not my lord impute iniquity to me, neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely.” The king, who could extol so gloriously the forgiving grace of God, would not turn away the man who had fled to his forgiving grace. Compare Matthew 18:23, etc.

The succeeding context contains an explanation, as to where it is that the guile lies. As an outflow thereof, we find mention made of “keeping silence,” of “not making known,” of “hiding iniquity,” and of “not confessing transgressions.” The guile, the want of inward truth, which denies, extenuates, excuses, or seeks for apologies, is the cause why so few attain to the blessedness of forgiveness, here praised by David, which is bestowed only for sin acknowledged and confessed. The roots of this guile, which made its appearance immediately after the fall, are pride, want of confidence in God, and love of sin. Many are hereby prevented altogether from confessing sin: with Pelagian self-delusion, they take pleasure in their misery, and consider themselves as altogether excellent. Others, again, exhibit the first beginnings of true confession of sin, but they do not reach the proper point, because this guile will not allow them to recognise the whole magnitude of their guilt. But even those also who have really attained to the state of grace, embitter, in many ways, by means of this guile, the blessing of forgiveness, which they have obtained through uprightness and sincerity. What exposes them particularly to this temptation is, their stern views of sin, and of their condemnation before God, and the consciousness of the favour obtained from God, and of their state. Nature struggles hard against that thorough humiliation of soul which brings with it for them conviction and acknowledgment of sin. Hence it is necessary for them to lay to heart the words of this verse, dictated for their use by David, as the result of his own peculiarly painful experience of the misery which flows from sin unforgiven, because of the prevalence of guile. In the case of David, although his transgressions were so enormous, guile found, as it generally does, when the heart is so inclined, many points on which to lay hold. The first sin was not one which he had sought for; it was one, the temptation to which presented itself before him: and a monarch, especially an Eastern one, in a case of this kind, would feel quite disposed to adopt a standard of his own. And after the first sin was committed, it is easy to see how he might look upon after circumstances, rather as the result of a sad necessity, than as involving heinous guilt.

In the main body of the Psalm, the Psalmist unfolds the grounds which led him to pronounce the man to be blessed whose sin had been forgiven, and in whose spirit there was no guile. These grounds, as manifested in his own experience, were the sufferings which he had endured when, through guile, he continued shut out from the forgiveness of sin, and the peace which he enjoyed when he had unreservedly acknowledged his guilt. Upon this he founds an exhortation, addressed to the fallen, to follow him in the way of sincerity and repentance.

Verse 3

Ver. 3. For I kept silence, then my bones wasted away, through my howling continually. The particle כי which is rendered by some expositors, “when,” and by others, “because,” is, as the part. rat., altogether in the right place, whether we refer it merely to the verse before us—the suffering induced by the silence, the guile with which the holding fast of sin is inseparably connected, lays the basis of the declaration of blessedness belonging to the man whose sin has been forgiven, because in his spirit there is no guile—or to the whole following exposition in reference to the two introductory verses. The object of the silence is defined by the context: I was silent in regard to my sin. “I made known to Thee my sin,” in Psalms 32:5, is the opposite clause. The expression, “I was silent,” does not imply that David altogether refrained from prayer, but intimates that he had never once brought forward in prayer the matter in question. Even although he had spoken of it to God as a small weakness, and asked forgiveness for it as such, he might still be said to have kept silence. In all probability, however, he carefully avoided the mention of it in prayer altogether: his conscience must have spoken with too loud a voice to permit him to attempt even to extenuate such a matter either before himself or before God. But in very proportion to the depth of his silence, would be the loudness of his sighs and his groans. He who resists the confession of his sin, and gives way to guile, lays himself open to the torments of conscience, which it is beyond the reach of human power to calm. בלה , is “to grow old,” “to pine away.” The bones are named as the seat of strength in the human frame. When they become, as it were, corroded, the whole body is weak and powerless. Jo. Arnd: “Melancholy arising from sin consumes away the body, reduces it to a wretched condition, and gives rise to a secret weeping at heart, so that there is constantly a rugitus, a howling. This inward pain and melancholy continues to increase, so that even the bones, says David, waste away, when a man is determined to hide his sins from God, and will not confess them from the bottom of his heart, with supplication and humble prayer. As soon, however, as a man turns with his whole heart to God, confesses to Him his sins, complains of his melancholy and sorrow, and humbly deprecates the offence which he has given Him, the pain diminishes, and conscience becomes tranquil and happy. For, previous to humble supplication, there is always fear and anxiety at heart, so that the man takes God for his enemy; as we see Adam did, who was afraid of God, and hid himself among the trees, where he was in perpetual fear, regarding God as his enemy. Wherefore, the best plan to obtain a quiet conscience is to mourn over sin before God, and humbly to deprecate His wrath.”

Verse 4

Ver. 4. For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me: my heart was changed through the heat of summer. Selah. The “for” gives the reason why the bones of the Psalmist were wasted perpetually. How should a man not howl, upon whom the hand of God ( Job 13:21) is laid! We learn from Psalms 32:6 and Psalms 32:7, in what the Divine inflictions consisted; for there we find David rejoicing that, in consequence of his having received the forgiveness of his sins, he had obtained security against the judgments of God, protection against trouble, and the full assurance of deliverance. Conscience, according to Luther’s expression, pictures the wrath of God standing as with a club over us. He thought of the terrible threatenings of Divine judgments against sinners as they occur in the law; for example, in Deuteronomy 28:15, etc. He looked back upon the fate of Saul and of his family as prophetic of his own.—לשד is generally translated by “animal spirits.” This translation is derived from the Arabic, where the verb signifies “to suck.” But in the only other passage where the word occurs ( Numbers 11:8), this meaning is unsuitable. There לשד signifies a “compact mass.” According to that passage, and Psalms 102:4, “My heart is smitten and withered like grass,” it appears that it ought to be considered as a poetical expression for “the heart.” The heart was changed; instead of being a strong, beating, lively heart, it had become faint and dead. The “heat of summer” is a poetical expression for the torments of conscience, anxiety in regard to threatened judgments—identical with “the hand of God” in the preceding clause. This is to the heart what the heat of summer is to the plants: compare Psalms 102:4.

Verse 5

Ver. 5. I made known to Thee my sin, and mine iniquity I did not cover: I said, I will confess my transgression to the Lord, and Thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. What is expressed here as a personal experience, is announced in Proverbs 28:13 as doctrine: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercy.” The Psalmist designedly repeats the three terms applied to sin in Psalms 32:1 and Psalms 32:2, for the purpose of intimating that his experience had amply confirmed the general truth there expressed. The expression, “I make known my sin to Thee,” on which many expositors have refined much, is to be explained by the simple consideration, that the strength of the Psalmist’s feelings made him speak of what was past as actually present: compare the corresponding term תכבד ( Psalms 32:4), properly, “ is heavy.” It is obvious that the Psalmist is not speaking of “a making known” by the mouth, but “of an inward confession, such as is accompanied with painful repentance and sorrow, with begging of pardon for sin, and for the offence rendered to the Divine majesty. Mary Magdalene did not utter one word; she wept and spoke with the heart.” Arnd. The confession which is here spoken of, as the subjective condition of forgiveness, is distinguished from the confession of a Cain and of a Judas, by its being the fruit of faith, which opens the heart and the mouth. The Psalmist confesses his sins freely to God, because he has the conviction, that God both can and will help him; while the forced confession of the ungodly is connected with despair and murmuring against God. It must have been infinitely more difficult, under the Old Testament dispensation, to rise to this confidence than it now is, under the New, where we behold the compassion of God in Christ, and are taught to regard Christ’s merits as the cause of our justification. If we hesitate to take refuge in the forgiving grace of God, we shall be much more guilty than David was.

The expression, “I covered not,” forms a tacit contrast to the conduct of hypocrites, in which the Psalmist hitherto had participated. They endeavour, as far as they possibly can, to conceal and to gloss over their sins. The words bear reference, also, to the expression, “whose sin is covered,” in Psalms 32:1. He only has his sins covered, who does not himself cover them. Forgiveness of sin is in exact proportion to confession of sin. ידה in Hiph., with the accusative, is, “to confess;” with על , “to lay confession over.”

Verse 6

Ver. 6. For this reason let every pious man pray to Thee at the time when Thou mayest be found: truly, when great waterfloods come, they shall not reach him. Already, even in this verse, the Psalmist makes an attempt to pass from the representation of his own personal experience, to the teaching and exhortation founded upon it. Still, even in this attempt, there remains (and, indeed, substantially this strophe contains) a representation of personal experience. This is “clear from the contents of the ( Psalms 32:7) 7th verse, and from the circumstance, that, for the first time, in the ( Psalms 32:8) 8th verse, the Psalmist makes known his resolution, in accordance with the title משכיל , to base doctrine on history. It is as if he had said: “Because in my case forgiveness immediately followed confession, therefore may every pious man pray for the same at the right time. For my experience has rendered it obvious that this is the sure means of avoiding Divine judgments: I have obtained, as the sequel of forgiveness, a joyful assurance of deliverance, and a sure refuge in God.” The main idea of the strophe is contained in Psalms 32:7, which cannot be understood by those who look upon the whole strophe as having an applicatory character. על זאת is “therefore,” “for this reason,”—“on account of the close connection, proved in my case, between confession and forgiveness,”—the effect resting upon the cause, the consequence upon its basis it corresponds to the ordinary expression על כן . After the example of the Vulgate ( pro hac), many expositors give, “for this thing,” viz. “for the forgiveness of sin.” But התפלל never occurs with על of the object. The object of the prayer, viz. the forgiveness of sin, is not specified, because the context renders it apparent. The “time of finding” is equivalent to “so long as Thou mayest be found:” compare Isaiah 55:6, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found.” The object of the finding, God, is also to be supplied from the context. The fundamental passage, Deuteronomy 4:29, directs us here: “And ye seek from thence the Lord thy God, and thou findest.” The “finding,” there, as here, stands without any object. The “seek,” there, corresponds to the “pray,” here. Compare also the passage, Jeremiah 29:12-14, which is based upon the one in Deuteronomy. The “finding of the Lord,” is there also the opposite of “the seeking,” and corresponds to the “being found,” in Ps 32:14. The expositions, “at the time of obtaining,” — and “at the time of befalling, i.e. when misfortune overtakes men,” are to be rejected. The last is altogether contrary to the sense; for the exhortation of the Psalmist implies, that men may be reconciled to God before misery comes.

The time when God, according to the sure promise in the fundamental passage, may be found, is the time previous to the infliction of that punishment which invariably follows sin, unless averted by forgiveness. The expression, “at the time of finding,” corresponds exactly to “ere the decree is executed,” “ere the day of the wrath of the Lord comes upon you.” “The time of finding,” is the space between the sin and the punishment, the day of Grace, which is designed to lead the sinner to repentance. רק stands here in its usual sense of “only.” The simplest view to take of the word, and one in entire accordance with its position, is to consider it as implying the assurance that only this, and no other, will be the consequence: in reality, it is equivalent to “assuredly.” That the ל in לשטף is to be regarded as a note of time ( at the floods of many waters, comp. Psalms 29:10), is evident from the reference, which it is impossible not to notice, to the preceding לעת : “whoever at the time of finding, during the season of grace, flies to God for forgiveness, shall at the time of judgment be exempted from it.” The expression, waterflood, indicates some great Divine judgment, spreading over everything. Perhaps the Psalmist refers to the deluge, at which, though it overspread the whole earth, the pious Noah was delivered as one who had obtained the forgiveness of sin. This reference is the more obvious, from the circumstance, that there is also a reference in Psalms 29:10 to the deluge.

Psalms 32:7. Thou art my hiding-place, Thou preservest me from trouble, Thou surroundest me with songs of deliverance. “For” might have stood at the beginning of the verse. For it confirms, by the experience of the Psalmist, the assertion contained in the preceding verse, that whoever has obtained from the Lord forgiveness of sin, is at the same time delivered from danger and judgment. Many expositors regard this verse, very inaptly, as containing the prayer to be addressed by the pious man to God. The object of this prayer can be nothing else than forgiveness of sin. It is, however, only of the blessed consequences of forgiveness, and not at all of forgiveness itself, that this verse speaks. Between צר and תצרני , and also between תצרני and רני , there is a significant alliteration. The plural form רני occurs nowhere else. According to rule, the singular ought to be written רֹ?ן ; and this form also occurs really as the infinitive of רנן in Job 38:7: compare the infinitives of פלט and הבין used as nouns. Some, and among others, Hitzig, are inclined to elide רני . Against this, however, we have the alliteration, the reference to a fulness and a crowd in “Thou surroundest me,” הרנינו in ver. 11, and the baldness of פלט if it stands by itself. The words point to a whole host of dangers and troubles, by which the Psalmist formerly, when he had God for his enemy, saw himself in spirit surrounded. He now sees around him joyful, instead of sorrowful prospects.

The Psalmist had hitherto spoken to God: now, when it is his purpose to base doctrine on history, he turns to his brethren. The circumstance, that it is here, for the first time, that such a transition occurs, is sufficient to show, that it is here for the first time that we enter the domain of application. The Psalmist informs us, first, of his determination to give good advice to his brethren, Psalms 32:8; and then, in Psalms 32:9, he gives them that advice.

Verse 8

Ver. 8. I will instruct thee, and teach thee the way which thou shouldst go; I will counsel thee with my eye. It is the pious man, laden with the guilt of sin, that is here addressed. The singular is used for the purpose of giving more impressiveness to the exhortation. We can speak to men most impressively when we are alone with them. In Psalms 32:9, the plural is made use of instead of the singular; but at the end of the Psalm the singular again occurs, for the purpose of showing that the same persons are addressed. According to several expositors, it is God that speaks in this verse, expressing approval of the trust of David, the returning sinner, and promising him further help. But against this idea, which is not only without foundation, but which entirely destroys the connection and train of thought, there may be urged, in addition to many other reasons, the manifest reference which the clause, “I will instruct thee,” bears, on the one hand, to the title, in which David announces his purpose to deliver instruction, and, on the other, to the “ without understanding,Psalms 32:9: the instruction given is designed to remove the want of understanding. Then, there is the parallel passage, Psalms 51:13, where David promises to the Lord, that he will teach sinners His ways, when he shall have obtained forgiveness. This promise he here fulfils.

On the words, “the way which thou shalt go,” Jo. Arnd remarks, “This way means repentance and the forgiveness of sins.” עיני , properly, “according to my eye,” is the accusative, which is often used in this way, when, besides the whole, any particular part is added, which is more especially brought into action: compare on Psalms 3:4. The tender care of the counsellor is expressed by the construction of יעץ with על ,—properly, “to take counsel on any one.” The eye, besides, is the organ by which tender care is expressed. Hence tender forbearance is expressed by “Mine eye pities:” compare Genesis 44:21, where Joseph says, “Bring him down, and I will set mine eye upon him;” Jeremiah 24:6. Many expositors render, “I will counsel, mine eye shall be upon thee.” But in this way, words evidently connected are torn asunder: after counsel, the person who receives the counsel ought to be named.

At the end of this verse, we should supply marks of quotation. For the counsel of tender and thoughtful love follows in the ( Psalms 32:9) 9th verse.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. Be not like the horses and the mules, without understanding, whose ornaments are bridle and bit, for restraint, because they do not come near thee. David compares impenitent sinners to irrational beasts, which must be kept under by strong instruments of restraint. By this comparison he directs attention to the disgracefulness of such obstinacy—(to man, especially in a pious man—and it is with such alone that David has to do—a free, willing, and joyful obedience is becoming; for such a one it is particularly humbling to be subjected to compulsion)—and also to the fruitlessness of it, since God knows as well how to subdue it, as man knows how to break the obstinacy of brutes. The Berleb. Bib.: “If we do not consent to serve God willingly, we must serve Him in the long run whether we will or not. He, who runs away from God’s willing service, falls into His compulsory service. On this account the conscientious Stoic prayed, ‘Lead me, O God, the way which Thou hast chosen: and if I will not, nothing is better than that I be compelled.’ Recourse is not had to bit and bridle, unless we will not become wise by gentler means. God employs these for the purpose of delivering us from destroying ourselves. Let us then rather follow with good-will, than be dragged along by compulsion. . . . The ungodly will make a cross of everything that has been sent them by God in punishment of their sins. But that is not worth the name. It is nothing more than a rod of punishment for an ass.” Jo. Arnd: “You have received from God a reasonable soul, yea, you hear the friendly, pleasing voice of your Father and His dear Son. But, if you will be as stupid as the horse or the mule, God, in that case, will act well in putting upon your neck a bridle, and a bit in your mouth, for the purpose of compelling and restraining you like a senseless brute. God, for example, put a bridle and bit into Nebuchadnezzar’s mouth, and tamed the proud beast. God also put a bridle and bit into Manasseh’s mouth: when he lay bound in iron chains, he would gladly have bowed the knee before God, if his iron fetters would have permitted him. God brought down the proud Pharaoh by means of contemptible creatures—frogs, lice, and grasshoppers, and put a wonderful bridle into the mouth of the proud horse.”—עדי has always the sense of “ornament:” and this is to be retained here, and by no means to be exchanged for the arbitrary one, “harness” (on which Gesenius remarks, frigidius hoc est et otiosum), nor for “jaw” (Luther’s: “into the mouth”). They answer very well as ornaments for their obstinacy, says the Psalmist: men put upon them bridle and bit, and know how to restrain them by these. ב indicates that in which the ornament consists. The infinitive בלום occupies the place of the noun, and therefore the suffix is unnecessary. David speaks here in part out of his own painful experience: bit and bridle were, if not put upon him, yet threatened to be put upon him: compare Psalms 32:3 d and ( Psalms 32:4) 4th.

The last clause, lit.: not to come near thee, is abrupt, and implies, “because they do not come near thee, for the purpose of rendering a willing obedience.” The “to thee,” refers “to every one here addressed, who is exhorted not to render it necessary for God to use the same violence with him which he himself uses with his beast.” Stier.

There follows, in Psalms 32:10 and Psalms 32:11, the Conclusion, in which David, in contrast to the miserable condition of the wicked, praises the happy state of the righteous, who put their confidence in God, in language called forth by the deliverance which, when he had fallen very deeply, had been vouchsafed to him by God, out of apparently irremediable destruction. The verses lead from the particular to the general; and several expositors have in vain attempted to find in them a more precise reference to the case on which the Psalm is grounded.

Verse 10

Ver. 10. The wicked has many sorrows; but he who trusts in the Lord, He encompasseth him with mercy. We may either translate, “mercy surrounds him,” or, “He surrounds him with mercy.” In favour of the latter translation we have the ( Psalms 32:7) 7th verse, where, in like manner, סובב is construed with a double accusative. “He who trusts in the Lord,” is the pious man. The contrast shows that the language does not refer to a single act, but to an abiding relation. Inasmuch as David stood related to God, in general, as one who trusted in Him, though God visited him with fatherly chastisement, this chastisement tended to his good. Jo. Arnd: “The cross of believers is a fatherly rod applied for the best of purposes, for correction and instruction, and it has a joyful termination. But the punishment of the ungodly is a plague and a pain by which their pride and impudence are put to shame.”

Verse 11

Ver. 11. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye upright. It is very obvious here that the RIGHTEOUS MEN of the Psalms are not absolutely righteous.

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 32". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-32.html.
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