Bible Commentaries
Psalms 14

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Psalms 14:1 « To the chief Musician, [A Psalm] of David. » The fool hath said in his heart, [There is] no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, [there is] none that doeth good.

Ver. 1. The fool ] That sapless fellow, that carcase of a man, that walking sepulchre of himself, in whom all religion and right reason is withered and wasted, dried up and decayed. Nabal, a fool or a churl; Nebalah, a carcase, Leviticus 11:40 . That apostate, in whom natural principles are extinct, and from whom God is departed; as when the prince is removing hangings are taken down. That mere animal, that hath no more than a reasonable soul, and for little other purpose than as salt, to keep his body from putrefying, φυχικος , 1 Corinthians 2:14 . That wicked man, hereafter described, that studieth atheism,

Hath said in his heart ] As David proves afterward by his practice; for there are practical atheists as well as dogmatic. See a like passage, Psalms 36:1 , "The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart" (that is, my mind gives me, and I am strongly persuaded) "that there is no fear of God before his eyes." This is the charge; but what proof is there? proof good enough, Psalms 14:2-4 , "For he flattereth himself," &c. So here; he is a flat atheist; for corrupt he is, and become abominable, &c. That which Cicero (De Nat. Deor.) saith of Epicurus, that lest he should offend the Athenians, verbis reliquit deos, re sustulit, in words he affirmed there were Gods, but in deed he denied a Deity, is found true in many even to this day; for all places are full of them, and so is hell too. Lucian is their Old Testament, and Machiavel their New. Worse they are than Agrippa, who was almost a Christian; worse than Protagoras with his De diis utrum sint, non ausim affirmare. For in their hearts and lives there is heard this hellish language,

There is no God ] Oh horrible! Not that atheism can ever find a perfect and continual assent in man’s heart; for there is no nation under heaven so barbarous but yields that there is a God. When man fell from God this truth stood; as when cities and great buildings are overthrown by war some towers, some pinnacles, survive the violence. They lie, saith Seneca, who say that they hold there is no God; for though to thee they say so by day, yet to themselves and by night they doubt it, at least. And when they come to die they sometimes cry out they are damned; as did Thomas Blaverus, chief counsellor sometime to the king of Scots; and one Arthur Miller, a professed atheist; and, before them both, a certain desperate dean of Paul’s (Sword against Swearers).

Corrupt are they, and become abominable ] Or loathsome; how should they be better, that have laid hands upon all the principles in their heads, and made a clean riddance of them, that they may run riot in sin without restraint or control? which, while others see, they also are ready to say, with that poet,

Sollicitor nullos esse putare Deus.

I have read of a woman who, living in professed doubt of the Godhead, after better illumination and repentance, did often protest that the vicious life of a great scholar in that town did conjure up those damnable doubtings in her soul (Mr Ward’s Happ. of Parad.).

There is none that doeth good ] i.e. None to speak of, no considerable number,

Apparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto.

Verse 2

Psa 14:2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, [and] seek God.

Ver. 2. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men ] As opposed to the children of God, so some take it, as Genesis 4:26 ; Genesis 6:2 . As a judge he looketh down, he vieweth, he taketh cognizance, ere he proceedeth to sentence. Thus he dealt with the old world, with Sodom, with Egypt, &c., to teach us not to be too hasty. No more haste than good speed, saith one. The celestial spheres, the higher they are in situation the slower in their proper motion; and the supreme judge of all useth much forbearance.

And that did understand and seek God ] These only are they whom God looketh after; not the rich, but the righteous. And because knowledge is the ground of all goodness, as folly is of wickedness, Psalms 14:1 , therefore is it here said, "any that did understand and seek God." Lo, these are these precious ones whom God regarded; such as are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, Romans 15:14 . "The Father seeketh such to worship him," John 4:23 .

Verse 3

Psa 14:3 They are all gone aside, they are [all] together become filthy: [there is] none that doeth good, no, not one.

Ver. 3. They are all gone aside, &c. ] This is God’s own report of the matter, fully answering to that before given in by David, Psalms 14:1 . Good men have the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:16 , and do fully concur with him in judgment and affection. David was a man after God’s own heart; and the heart of Paul is the heart of Christ, saith Chrysostom. But why, then, doth not David except himself out of this universitas declinantium, community of stragglers that are gone aside? and why doth St Paul argue from this text that all, both Jews and Gentiles, are stark naught? Romans 3:10-12 . I answer, because by nature there is never a better of us; but κακοι μεν θριπες κακοι ηδε και ιπες , as the Greek proverb hath it. "All we like sheep have gone astray," saith the whole Church, Isaiah 53:6 Homo est inversus decalogus, we naturally all stand across to all goodness. The word here rendered gone aside signifieth to give back sturdily, as a stubborn heifer, that refuseth to receive the yoke.

They are altogether become filthy ] Heb. stinking, yielding a worse smell than carrion doth, or than the filthy fox doth, of whom Oppianus reporteth (and experience showeth it to be true), that when he is beset on all sides by the dogs that hunt him, he bewrayeth his tail with urine and dung, of a most loathsome smell, and besmearing therewith the dogs’ noses, driveth them away therewith many times (Bodin. Theat. Nat. 352). But all this is nothing to the filth and stench of sin, which made their very incense an abomination, Isaiah 1:13 ; and rendereth them most like the devil, that foul spirit, that ever goeth out with a stench, as they say of him. The Hebrews have the same word for sin and a dead carcase; and again the same word for sin and stench. פנר מחר God’s vineyard brought forth stinking grapes, באשׁים Isaiah 5:5 , and the wicked utter rotten language, Dογος σαπρος , Eph 5:4 Hence Longinquus est Iehovah ab impiis, The Lord stands aloof off from the wicked, Pro 15:29 Psalms 5:5 , that is, from all for whom Christ hath not given himself "an offering, and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour," Ephesians 5:2 . The apostle rendereth it, they are useless, ηχρειωθησον , or, as he elsewhere phraseth it, "to every good work reprobate," Titus 1:16 .

There is none that doeth good ] Spiritually good, and unto divine acceptation. There is many times malum opus in bona materia. How can you that are evil do good works? Good they may be materially, but not formally and eventually; such were the good parts and practices of Socrates, Aristides, Scipio, Atticus, Cato, and other honest heathens; they were no better than splendida peccata, glistering sins, because they failed,

1. Quoad fontem, they did not out of the good treasure of their hearts bring forth those good things; they were strangers to the life of God, to the new nature.

2. Quoad finem, they brought forth fruit to themselves, Hosea 10:1 , they had not good aims in their good actions. Now, Bonum non sit nisi ex integra causa; malum ex quolibet defectu, say the schools.

No, not one ] Usque ad unum, i.e. ad Christum, saith Austin, not considering the force of the Hebrew phrase, which importeth an utter denial of any mere man that of himself doeth good.

Verse 4

Psa 14:4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people [as] they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.

Ver. 4. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? ] No, not so much as Pilate’s wife had in a dream; for else they would take heed of having anything to do with those just men. But they are workers of iniquity, habituated and hardened in cruelty, fleshed in blood; and having a hoof upon their hearts, so that they are masters of their consciences, and have taken a course with them. In this question here asked the psalmist doth not so much quaerere as queri, ask as chide and complain.

Who eat up my people as they eat bread ] That is, quotidie, daily, saith Austin; as duly as they eat bread; or, with the same eagerness and voracity. These man eaters, these Dαοβοροι , cruel cannibals, make no more conscience to undo a poor man than to eat a good meal when they are hungry. Like pickerels in a pond, or sharks in the sea, they devour the poorer, as those do the lesser fishes; and that many times with a plausible invisible consumption; as the usurer, who, like the ostrich, can digest any metal, but especially money.

They call not upon the Lord ] viz. For a blessing upon that their bread, as some sense it; how should they, since God abhorreth them? Psalms 10:3 . But better take it for neglect of the duty of prayer; they rob God of his inward and outward worship, and so deal worse with him than idolaters do with their dunghill deities, whom they cease not to call upon. These will commit no impropriety in God’s service; and be sure that their prayer (like that of Haman’s, Est 7:7 ) shall never be turned into sin. If they pray in extremity (as then a Joab will lay hold on the horns of the altar), it is but as blind beggars are forced to ask, though they know not of whom.

Verse 5

Psa 14:5 There were they in great fear: for God [is] in the generation of the righteous.

Ver. 5. There were they in great fear ] There? and they? and in great fear? where? and who? and what kind of fear was it they were in? For answer: There, that is, in the generation of the righteous, in the assemblies of the saints, according to that, Psalms 76:3 , "There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and battle. Selah." There, that is, in Salem, where is God’s tabernacle; and in Zion, where is his dwelling place, Psalms 14:2 , in the congregation, where the saints were praying. Or, there, that is, in the very place where they oppressed and devoured the poor, they were surprised with a sudden horror, In loco ubi opprimunt (R. David), even there where they had said, Peace and safety, &c., and where no fear was, Psalms 53:5 , no apparent cause of such an amazement, Isaiah 13:8 . A panic terror fell upon them; they feared a fear, as the Hebrew hath it, but could not tell why; the hornet within stings them, and they have many a secret twinge that the world is never aware off Saul was afraid of David, and Catiline trembled upon the least noise made.

For God is in the generation of the righteous ] And natural conscience cannot but do homage to the image of God, stamped upon the natures and works of the godly. See it in the carriage of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius toward Daniel, sticking stoutly to his principles. The piety, patience, mercy, goodness, expressed by the righteous when oppressed, makes the hearts of wicked men ache within them; and they are sore afraid of the name of God called upon by them, Deuteronomy 28:10 . Or, God is in the generation of the righteous, sc. Ad iuvandum eum, saith Aben Ezra, to support and succour them; and that strangely many times, the enemies themselves being judges, to their great astonishment.

Verse 6

Psa 14:6 Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD [is] his refuge.

Ver. 6. You have shamed the counsel of the poor ] And thought to mock him out of his confidence, as Sennacherib did by Hezekiah, and the Jews by our Saviour. Religion was long since grown, as it is also at this day among many, not more a matter of form than of scorn. In our wretched days, as the Turks count all fools to be saints, so many with us account all saints to be fools. He is a fool, we say, that would be laughed out of his coat; but he were a double fool that would be laughed out of his skin, that would hazard his soul because loth to be laughed at.

Because the Lord is his refuge ] Sed Iehovah Protector eius, because he runs to God by prayer, and commits himself wholly to him for direction and success in all his enterprises; Pudefacitis, id est, facitis ut videatur putidum, you jeer, and hold it an egregious silliness. You reject his confidence, and rely on the arm of flesh; which yet was never true to those that trusted unto it.

Verse 7

Psa 14:7 Oh that the salvation of Israel [were come] out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, [and] Israel shall be glad.

Ver. 7. Oh that the salvation of Israel, &c. ] This is the second part of the psalm, wherein David prayeth to God to deliver his Israel out of the hands of those atheists and oppressors. The whole Church must be remembered in our prayers, and that ancient people of God, the Jews, not forgotten (Sanhed. c. 11). Many of their Rabbis make this whole psalm a prophecy of their dispersion among the Gentiles, their oppressors; and this a prayer for their restoration. For our sins, say they, which are many, the coming of the Messiah (that salvation of Israel) is deferred, the time of his coming is sealed up, Daniel 12:4 . Verum enimvero Dens nos dignabitur clarissima visione cum reducer Zionem; tunc intelligemus res ipsas prout sunt, saith Jachiades on that text; but God shall give us a clear sight of all things when he shall bring back Zion, &c. This is truth, and we must hasten that time by our heartiest wishes for that obdurate people, that a redeemer would come to them out of Zion, Romans 11:26 , that the covering cast over that people might be destroyed, Isaiah 25:7 , and a general joy conceived throughout all the Churches for their happy readmission.

Out of Zion ] i.e. Out of the Church, whence all good cometh; and such blessings as are better than all else that heaven or earth affordeth, Psalms 134:3 .

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 14". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.