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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 94

Verse 1

O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself.

Psalms 94:1-23 -Prayer for Yahweh's appearing as Judge to execute vengeance on the proud (Psalms 94:1-2); ground of the prayer, the seeming impunity of the wicked in violent deeds and words (Psalms 94:3-7); refutation of their imagination that God does not see (Psalms 94:8-11); blessedness of those who, not misjudging God's longsuffering with the wicked oppressors, profit by chastening, being taught by God out of His law; at last they shall have rest, and the wicked be cast into the pit (Psalms 94:12-15); the Church's confidence in Yahweh, when ready to slip through the enemy's persecution (Psalms 94:16-19); Yahweh will not let the throne of iniquity prevail, but will save His people, and bring upon sinners their own iniquity (Psalms 94:20-23). The series of psalms, Psalms 91:1-16; Psalms 92:1-15; Psalms 93:1-5; Psalms 94:1-23; Psalms 95:1-11; Psalms 96:1-13; Psalms 97:1-12; Psalms 98:1-9; Psalms 99:1-9; Psalms 100:1-5 have the common theme, the Lord's manifestation for His people's comfort, and their foes' confusion. Repetitious of phrases are frequent (Psalms 94:1; Psalms 94:3; Psalms 94:23: cf. Psalms 93:3). They probably belong to the time when Assyria, having carried away the Ten tribes, was threatening Judah. Their anticipation of Yahweh's manifestation for His people was realized in the overthrow of Sennacherib at Jerusalem. The ulterior reference is to Antichrist's overthrow by the Lord's Epiphany.

O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth ... show thyself - rather, as in Psalms 50:2; Psalms 80:1, "shine forth;" make thine Epiphany. So the Chaldaic and Syriac also, like the English version, takes it imperatively. But the Septuagint, Vulgate, Ethiopic, and Arabic versions take it in the past or present tense, as Psalms 50:2; Deuteronomy 33:2. Hengstenberg prefers this, 'The God of vengeance ... shines forth.' The Psalmist begins with the expression of confidence in the appearance of God for help, 'The God of vengeance shines' (Psalms 94:1). On the ground of this there rises the following prayer. But the prayer in Psalms 94:2 seems to me abrupt if taken by itself, and more easy if taken as the continuation of a previous prayer in Psalms 94:1.

However, the Hebrew form here is not the same as the imperative form in Psalms 80:1. [Here it is howpiya` (H3313), instead of howpiy`aah]. Also Psalms 93:1-5; Psalms 97:1-12; Psalms 99:1-9 begin with the preterite, "The Lord reigneth." The confident expectation of the speedy coming of the Lord to reign is the distinguishing feature of these psalms. This is the Psalmist's starting point. The twice-uttered 'O God of vengeances' (Hebrew), and the plural, imply vehement earnestness. 'There is in God a whole fullness of vengeance for His injured Church' (Hengstenberg). Compare Deuteronomy 32:35, to which this verse alludes. That God's righteousness binds Him to give, in "vengeance," "tribulation to them that trouble" His people, and "rest" unto the latter from all their troubles, is the ground on which the Church's hope of His appearing rests (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8).

Verse 2

Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth: render a reward to the proud.

Lift up thyself, thou Judge of the earth - (Psalms 7:6.) Set thyself on high on the throne of judgment. Thou art really "judge of the earth:" manifest thy power as such.

Render a reward to the proud - (Psalms 28:4.) "The proud" are the haughty and seemingly triumphant persecutors of the godly.

Verses 3-4

LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?

Lord, how long shall the wicked ... triumph? (How long) shall they utter (and) speak hard things? - rather, an assertion without an ellipsis, or a question-`They sputter, they speak wanton things' (Psalms 75:5; Psalms 31:18; Jude 1:15).

All the workers of iniquity boast themselves? The Hebrew Hithpael implies impassioned speaking.

Verse 5

They break in pieces thy people, O LORD, and afflict thine heritage.

They break in pieces thy people, O Lord - a sample of the deeds of "the workers of iniquity," as Psalms 94:4 is a sample of their words.

And afflict thine heritage - as Pharaoh did to Israel in Egypt (Genesis 15:13; Exodus 1:12).

Verse 6

They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless.

They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. As the pagan enemies did not usually make the widow and the fatherless the chief objects of their rage, perhaps under the image of "the widow" the widowed Church, in the absence visibly of the Heavenly Bridegroom, is meant (Luke 18:3-8); "the stranger" expresses the relation in which the saint stands to this world (Psalms 39:12); "the fatherless," the orphaned state of the disciples on the departure of their Lord, (John 14:18, margin.) However, the Assyrians, probably, like the Chaldeans, "slew with the sword, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man or him that stooped for age" (2 Chronicles 36:17); so that the literal meaning may also hold good. God, as being the "Father of the fatherless, and Judge of the windows" (Psalms 68:5: cf. Deuteronomy 10:18), will be moved to compassion by such wrongs inflicted on the defenseless, so as to interpose in behalf of His elect. No appeal could be more effectual with the righteous and merciful God than this.

Verse 7

Yet they say, The LORD shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither ... the God of Jacob regard it - (Psalms 10:11; Psalms 10:13; Psalms 59:7; Psalms 73:11.)

Verse 8

Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise?

Understand, ye brutish among the people. The Psalmist turns from the infidel oppressors who uttered the cavil against God (Psalms 94:7) to those "among the people" of God by profession who give ear to and secretly sympathize with it. Men become "brutish" by severance from God; because it is only by union with Him that man, made in the image of God, attains His true ideal (Psalms 73:22; Psalms 92:6).

And ye fools, when will ye be wise? "The world by wisdom knew not God" (1 Corinthians 1:21). Therefore, "if any man seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise" (1 Corinthians 3:18). The worldly pique themselves on an intelligence superior to superstitions prejudices in ignoring God; yet this is the very acme of folly.

Verse 9

He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?

He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? - Can He give these faculties to others, and yet all the while not possess them Himself? Nay, He must and does hear the infidel's scoff, and His people's sighs and groans.

Verse 10

He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?

He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? He who admonishes the pagan through His law written on the conscience (though they have not the revealed law), and through the inward thoughts reproving them for sin (Romans 1:20; Romans 2:14-15), shall not He punish? The Hebrew [ yaacar (H3256)] for "chastiseth" means to admonish (here by the voice of conscience witnessing for God even in the pagan breast), as the parallelism to 'teacheth knowledge' proves. So the same Hebrew is used in Psalms 94:12; also in Psalms 2:10, "be instructed, ye judges of the earth." From the admonitory influence which God exercises on the consciences of the people and the pagan, there follows necessarily the conclusion that He 'sees' and 'punishes' their evil deeds against the godly. Translate, 'shall not He punish?' The sense is not, shall not He who formerly punished the pagan, punish them also now? The Hebrew verbs are distinct, and there is no 'formerly' or 'now' to sustain such a sense.

He that teacheth man knowledge, (shall not he know)? It is to God that men owe whatever knowledge they have. Shall not, then, He know what they know and think? The latter clause is rightly supplied in the English version.

Verse 11

The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity.

The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. "The thoughts" or 'schemes' of men against His people God not only 'knows,' but 'knows that they will prove vanity' - i:e., abortive. But the sense rather is, "they" [ heemaah (H1992), the masculine], not "the thoughts," but 'men' (as the Hebrew for "man" is) are vanity. In opposition to the scoff that God does not "see" or know, the Psalmist declares that God, as being 'Yahweh,' the self-existing Being whereas 'men are vanity' or nothingness, must and 'does know the thoughts' or 'schemes of men,' (cf. Psalms 40:17; Psalms 39:5; Psalms 39:11; Psalms 62:9). Translate, 'Yahweh knoweth the devices of men, seeing that they (men) are vanity.' So the Syriac. Seeing that men possess all their knowledge only by God's gratuitous gift, Yahweh, the self-existent source of intelligence, must know their thoughts.

Verse 12

Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O LORD, and teachest him out of thy law;

Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord - literally, 'Oh the blessednesses of the man whom thou dost admonish!' (as in Psalms 94:10, note) Those who give themselves up to the Lord's monitions are contrasted with the "brutish among the people," who listen to the infidel and paganish scoffs (Psalms 94:7), "The Lord shall not see."

And teachest him out of thy law - thy revealed "law;" a teaching raised in point of clearness, fullness, and blessedness far above the natural law written on the conscience alluded to (Psalms 94:10) in the case of the pagan, 'He that admonishes the pagan ... He that teacheth man knowledge.' For the fall, man's innate corruption, and sinful practice have greatly perverted even conscience, so that it only partially now witnesses for God and His law. The revealed "law" is the fountain out of which the Holy Spirit draws the waters of life for man's spiritual teaching. The use of it referred to here (see Psalms 94:13). is to comfort God's people by its sure promises of "rest" to them, when the pit of destruction shall swallow the wicked, (Leviticus 26:1-46; Deuteronomy 32:1.)

Verse 13

That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked.

That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity -- i:e., That thou mayest give him rest of mind, so as to be free from fear in the days of adversity. The promises in God's "law" (Psalms 94:12) remove all distress, murmuring and despondency from the godly in times when the cause of the ungodly seems to triumph (Psalms 112:8; Psalms 49:5, note: Luke 21:9; Luke 21:19).

Until the pit be dug for the wicked. The phrase, "the wicked" here explains who are "the pagan" meant in Psalms 94:10. The godly can well afford to be tranquil and patient until the day of righteous retributions. Psalms 37:31-34 is exactly parallel, 'The law of God in the heart' of the godly man, keeping him from slipping, so that he "waits on the Lord" until the day of recompenses, when the present depression of the godly and elevation of the ungodly shall be forever reversed (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10); where "rest" refers to the consummation of the "rest" spoken of here-the mental and partial rest of the godly here being hereafter about to be perfected in complete rest alike outward and inward.

Verse 14

For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance.

For - introducing the ground of the blessedness of those who, being taught by the Lord, have inward rest even in adversity.

The Lord will not cast off his people - forever, though He forsake them for a time (Psalms 94:5; Judges 6:13; Isaiah 2:6) in righteous chastisement for their forsaking Him (Deuteronomy 32:15).

Verse 15

But judgment shall return unto righteousness: and all the upright in heart shall follow it.

But judgment shall return unto righteousness - i:e., unto that which is righteous. At length just judgment, which seems now to have forsaken the earth (Isaiah 59:14-15), shall return (cf. Isaiah 42:4).

And all the upright in heart shall follow it. The righteous shall accompany justice in its return to earth with joy of heart, and, as in a triumphant procession, welcome its ascendancy (DeBurgh). As they in heart follow it now, longing for its re-establishment on earth, so on its return they shall accompany it with exultation of heart (cf. Isaiah 14:12; Isaiah 60:21). Messiah, the embodiment of "righteousness," shall bring it with Him at His coming, (Isaiah 11:1-16.) The Chaldaic explains, 'And after him all the upright in heart shall be redeemed' (cf. Romans 8:23).

Verse 16

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

Who will rise up for me against the evil doers? The answer is contained in Psalms 94:17. Who else except Yahweh?

Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? - (Psalms 35:1; Zechariah 3:1-5.) Especially at His visible coming again, Christ will "stand up" for His people (Job 19:25; Daniel 12:1).

Verse 17

Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.

Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence - my soul was within a little of having had silence for its habitation, being given over to the stillness of death (Psalms 31:17; Psalms 115:17).

Verse 18

When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O LORD, held me up.

When I said, My foot slippeth; thy mercy, O Lord, held me up. Here he explains Psalms 94:17. The occasion of thy "help" was when I was almost giving way to despair and apostasy. The spiritual slipping of the foot and the upholding mercy of the Lord are vividly typified by Peter's foot sinking through unbelieving fear of the boisterous winds and waves, until Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him (Matthew 14:30-31: cf. Psalms 66:9). The trial here is inward and the mercy vouchsafed inward (cf. Psalms 94:19). The outward deliverance is yet future.

Verse 19

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul. "My thoughts" are literally, 'my distracting and perplexed thoughts' [ sar`apay (H8312): explained by Mercator as the principal bough in the top of a tree which is tossed to and fro by the wind: compounded of sar (H8269), chief, and 'aapaa', a leafy bough, (Gesenius takes it from sª`ipiym, in Job 4:13, with a waw (w) inserted]. One who is brought to an extremity bordering on despair is distracted with conflicting thoughts how to find a way of escape. This was my state, says the Psalmist, when thou didst 'intensely delight' my soul with the comfort of thy relief. The Hebrew for "delight" is reduplicated to express intense delight.

Verses 20-23

Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee, which frameth mischief by a law?

-God will not suffer enthroned iniquity to prevail, but will visit the wicked according to their iniquity, and will be the refuge of His people.

Verse 20. Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee - literally, 'be bound together' or 'joined (in covenant), with thee.' "Iniquity" - literally, 'miseries.' The throne that causes wicked destructions. "The east of violence" (Amos 6:3). Compare Psalms 125:3, margin. Wilt thou suffer it to prevail, as if thou, the source of all dominions, wert in covenant with it?

Which frameth mischief by a law? - literally, 'upon statute.' The statute rule upon which their proceedings are based is mischievousness. But the Syriac and Arabic translate, 'against thy law' [so `al (H5921) often means]. "Mischief" - literally, suffering.

Verse 21. They gather themselves together - literally, 'they rush in troops.'

Verse 22. But the Lord is my defense - literally, 'high tower.'

Verse 23. And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity - (Proverbs 5:22; Jeremiah 2:19.)

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 94". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.