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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 36

Verse 1

The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.

Title. - To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord. "The servant of the Lord" occurs nowhere else in a title, except in Psalms 18:1-50: It relates to the subject of the psalm: the dignity of David as the divinely-commissioned "servant of the Lord" gives authority to his words, because he speaks them not as his own, but as God's words, whose Spirit moves him (2 Samuel 23:1). Psalms 36:1-12. The transgression of the wicked fills David's heart with pain (Psalms 36:1-4); his consolation in God's infinite mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, and loving-kindness; herein the children of men, by trusting, find shelter, satisfaction, light, and life (Psalms 36:5-9); consequent prayer for God's continued loving-kindness: its answer in the overthrow of the proud workers of iniquity (Psalms 36:10-12).

The transgression ... saith within my heart. "The transgression of the wicked" is personified. The Psalmist, in his inmost heart, painfully feels that "the transgression of the wicked" speaks as the wicked man's oracle. The Hebrew for "saith" [ nª'um (H5002)] is always used of an inspired utterance (Proverbs 30:1; 2 Samuel 23:1; Numbers 24:3). Translate, therefore, 'speaketh as his oracle.' The wicked man does not say so by word of month; but his transgression, which he hugs to himself as his own [the Hebrew preposition lª- implies how entirely transgression belongs to him], palpably speaks as the only utterance which he regards as oracular.

Thus the contrast to the parallel second clause is, Transgression is their divine oracle, for the fear of God they have not before their eyes. "Within my heart" expresses the Psalmist's heartfelt emotion, in contrast to the wicked man's daring apathy, marked by the parallel "before his eyes." Not only has he no fear of God in his heart, but even in directing his conduct outwardly, he sets no fear of Him before his eyes. There is a contrast also to '(the inspired psalm) OF lª- David, the servant of the Lord.' The wicked is the servant of his own transgression, which is the only inspired utterance that he regards; but the inspiration is that of Satan, the spirit of evil (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The description applies to the man of sin, the final incarnation of 'the mystery of transgression' or 'iniquity,' which has been long at work (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10). He shall "sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God." Compare also 'the, mouth of the little horn speaking great things,' Daniel 7:8; the king who 'shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods' (Daniel 11:36). The wicked listen to the suggestions of sin as the Word of God. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Ethiopic, Arabic, Syriac, and one manuscript of Kennicott and two of DeRossi, read 'in HIS heart' [ libow (H3820)], for 'in MY heart' [ libiy (H3820)]. So Psalms 14:1, "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God;" also Psalms 10:6; Psalms 10:11. Also, 'in his heart' here corresponds to "before his eyes," and "of his mouth" (Psalms 36:3). But the difficulty of the English version reading makes it less likely to be an interpolation. 'His heart' is a natural correction of transcribers.

(That there is) no fear ... Omit "that;" see the preceding note.

Verse 2

For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.

For he flattereth ... be found to be hateful - rather, 'in respect to lª- the finding of his sin, (and) in respect to lª- the hating of it.' Compare on the phrase 'finding of sin,' Genesis 44:16; Numbers 32:23. By self-flatteries be stifles all thoughts of God's justice finding out his sin and punishing it as its hateful character demands. His skill and success in evading temporal punishment leads him to the self-deluding notion that he will escape eternal punishment. This estimate is made "in his own eyes;" for he judges only "after the sight of his eyes" (Isaiah 11:3), since "there is no fear of God before his eyes" (Psalms 36:1). Compare Deuteronomy 29:19, on which this passage rests, "Lest ... when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart."

Verse 3

The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.

He hath left off - instead of leaving off the self-destroying folly of sin (Isaiah 1:16; Jeremiah 4:22; Psalms 14:1-2).

Verse 4

He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil.

He deviseth ... his bed - even there, where one lies down for sleep, he cannot be quiet from restless plans of evil.

In a way that is not good; he abhorreth not evil. His positive sins flow from his negative disobedience to God's direct precepts. Our safety against great sins is to set ourselves 'in a good way,' and to "abhor that which is evil." Compare Romans 12:9.

Verse 5

Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.

The second strophe. The consolation which the pious have in God's inexhaustible mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, and loving-kindness.

Thy mercy ... the heavens - rising far above the haughty impiety of the wicked, who try, like the Babel-builders, to raise the edifice of their pride to "reach unto heaven" (Genesis 11:4; Psalms 73:9: cf. Psalms 57:10). Like the divine pillar of cloud and fire, the goodness of Yahweh so rises aloft above the earth as to be "in the heavens." God's goodness and faithfulness to His people are infinitely above the reach of human malice to counteract. Therefore the Lord's people are inviolably safe, in spite of all the arrogant, restless, and God-despising enmity of their foes.

Verse 6

Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.

Thy righteousness ... the great mountains - literally 'the mountains of God.' The righteousness of God is that whereby He recompenses every man according to his works, awarding salvation to the righteous, and destruction to the wicked. This stands immovable as the mountains, which no earthly power can shake and displace. This "righteousness" is an additional guarantee of security to His trusting people, besides His "mercy" and His "faithfulness" (Psalms 36:5). Another future of the comparison is the 'greatness' and height of the mountains. Standing prominent, and towering above the surrounding country, the mountains direct the beholder's thoughts naturally to the pre-eminent greatness of God, raised so infinitely above every creature. Therefore they are called 'the mountains of God:' just as the cedars, the stateliest among the trees, are called 'the cedars of God,' (Psalms 80:10, margin)

Thy judgments are a great deep - (Job 11:7-8; Romans 11:33). His "judgments" are His judicial dealings in the moral government of the world, whereby He confounds the wicked and vindicates the good at last. His providence wonderfully cooperates with His "righteousness" for this end (Isaiah 28:29). The idea is that of an ocean, immeasurable in vastness as well as depth. The same Hebrew ( tªhowm (H8415)) is used of the flood in Noah's days (Genesis 7:11), "the great deep," or abyss.

Preservest man and beast. The preservation of the 'beasts' implies that He who cares for the humblest of His creatures will much more care for His immortal creature, man, especially for His saints (Matthew 10:29-31). The reference to the flood may here still be sustained (cf. Psalms 29:10; Psalms 32:6). God then showed His 'preserving' love for the beasts as well as for man. Shall not He whose glory it is that He 'preserves man and beast' now preserve His own people from their malicious foes?

Verse 7

How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

How excellent ... O God! - Hebrew, yaaqaar (H3368), 'how precious,' etc.; like some costly treasure. David has here "God" ( 'Elohiym (H430)) instead of 'Lord,' or Yahweh (H3068), because the contrast is between God and man in general. How infinite is the interval between God and man! Yet the "loving-kindness" (Hebrew, chacdªkaa (H2617), goodness) of God bridges over the gulf, and enables frail man to have in God a never-failing shelter, (Psalms 8:1-9.)

The children of men ... shadow of thy wings. "The children of men" is the generic term for mankind. The class meant is the godly. "The shadow," in hot regions, is the natural term for protection. "Thy wings" is a figure from a mother-bird sheltering, with zealous solicitude, her young brood under her feathers (Deuteronomy 32:11; Matthew 23:37; Psalms 17:8).

Verse 8

They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.

They shall be abundantly satisfied ... - literally, They shall be watered; or, as the Chaldaic, Syriac, Vulgate, Ethiopic, and Septuagint, They shall be made drunk with. The Arabic has saturated with. Those filled with the Spirit seemed like persons elated with wine (Acts 2:13-17; Ephesians 5:18). The fatness of God's house is its rich spiritual provision of divine ordinances for the refreshment of His people. These dwell with Him in spirit already in His heavenly sanctuary, sustained by the Divine Householder with richest viands. Hereafter they shall in person feed upon the fruit of the tree of life, in the midst of the paradise of God, and drink of the "pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1-2; Revelation 2:7; Psalms 16:11; cf. Genesis 2:10, to which the allusion is here; Job 20:17; John 4:13-14; Ezekiel 47:1; Zechariah 14:8).

Verse 9

For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

For with thee is the fountain of life. No wonder that in thy house, and in thy presence, there are abundant streams, and a full 'river of pleasures' for thy people to 'drink of,' for "with thee is the fountain of life" itself, including the fullness of happiness, without which existence is death, not life (Psalms 16:11; Deuteronomy 30:20). No malice of foes can rob of life and blessedness these who have access to God, "the Fountain" of both (cf. Psalms 23:5).

In thy light ... "Light" is a figure for 'salvation.' (Psalms 27:1). Through the salvation which is wholly in thee (Psalms 35:3), we shall see salvation (Job 29:3).

Having depicted the malice of the wicked foe, and the fullness of life which the godly have in God, he grounds on the contrast the prayer following, that God would save His people and himself from the proud enemy, and confidently anticipates the downfall of the latter.

Verse 10

O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

O continue thy loving-kindness ... that know thee - literally, 'draw out at length [ mªshok (H4900)] thy loving-kindness' (cf. Psalms 85:5, the same Hebrew). They alone "know" God who love Him, and keep His commandments (1 John 2:3; 1 John 4:8; cf. Jeremiah 22:16; Titus 1:16).

Thy righteousness ... - note, Psalms 36:6. It is 'a righteous thing with God' to award "rest" to "the upright in heart" who are now "troubled," and "tribulation" to their troublers (2 Thessalonians 1:5-7).

Verse 11

Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me.

Let not the foot of pride ... against me - so as suddenly to tread me down. "Come upon" implies a surprise, an one taken in a net (Psalms 35:7-8). The wicked foes are represented as "pride" itself embodied. Compare Jeremiah 51:23; Jeremiah 51:31.

Let not the hand ... remove me - from my land, which is thy land. David had been forced to flee before Saul and Absalom successively (2 Kings 21:8). Or rather, as in Psalms 11:1, note, the removing is not one of mere position, but 'let not the wicked supplant me from my firm spiritual standing.' As the foot treads down, so the hand 'removes.'

Verse 12

There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise.

There ... of iniquity fallen ... In spirit he, by faith, sees his foes already vanquished by the power of prayer, though to the world they seemed in the height of their prosperity. He points to them "there," as if before the eye. Compare Psalms 18:38; Proverbs 24:16, which marks, as here, the contrast between the falls of the godly and of the wicked: "A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again; but the wicked shall fall into mischief" (are destroyed finally).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 36". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.