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Bible Commentaries

Trapp's Complete Commentary

Psalms 36

Verse 1

Psalms 36:1 « To the chief Musician, [A Psalm] of David the servant of the LORD. » The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, [that there is] no fear of God before his eyes.

A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord ] See Psalms 18:1 , title. Then he had well nigh finished his rule, here he is about to begin it, and therefore assumeth this title. Servus est nomen officii, servant is a name of office or duty. Tertullian saith of Augustus (we may better of David), Gratius ei fuit nomen pietatis, quam potestatis, He took more pleasure in names of duty than of dignity; so those heavenly courtiers rejoice rather to be styled angels, that is, messengers, and ministering spirits, than thrones, principalities, powers, &c.

Ver. 1. The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart ] Some say it is libbi for libbo, Jod for Vau, and render it within (or in the midst of) his own heart; and so make it the same in sense with Psalms 14:1 , but these make too bold with the text (Jerome, Vulgate). David, that zealous servant of God, was fully persuaded of, and deeply affected with, the profligate wickedness of some graceless persons (such as were Saul, and his blood-sucking sycophants malicious accuser ), that they were stark atheists, and had not the least spark of common goodness left in them; that they had neither the fear of God nor shame of the world to rein them in from any outrage. This is mine opinion of them, saith David, I am strongly so conceited, and I will give you my grounds. "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say."

Verse 2

Psa 36:2 For he flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.

Ver. 2. For he flattereth himself in his own eyes ] This is the first proof of the foregoing charge and the fountain of all the foregoing exorbitances. See the like 2 Timothy 3:2 ; there self-love brings all out of order, here self-flattery. Sibi palpum obtrudit, he stroketh himself on the head, and saith, I shall have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst, and rebellion to sin, Deuteronomy 29:19 . Thus he sootheth and smootheth up himself, neither shall any one persuade him but that his penny is as good silver as the best of them all. Thus he calleth evil good and good evil; and, proudly bolstering himself in his sinful practices, he maketh a bridge of his own shadow, and so falleth into the ditch of destruction.

Until his iniquity be found to be hateful ] Till God by his judgments uncase him, and men, out of utter hatred of his execrable practices, tell him his own to his teeth. Thus Stephen Gardiner, being charged of cruelty by Mr Bradford, answered in open court, I, for my part, have been challenged for being too gentle oftentimes; which thing Bonnet confirmed, and so did almost all the audience, that he had ever been too mild and moderate. But Doctor Taylor told him another tale, when he said to him, How dare you for shame look me or any Christian man in the face, seeing you have forsaken the truth, denied our Saviour Christ, done contrary to your oath? &c. So Bonner, They report me, said he to the lord mayor, to seek blood, and call me Bloody Bonner; whereas God knows I never sought any man’s blood in all my life. To whom Mr Smith, the martyr, answered, Why, my lord, do you put on this fair vizor before my lord mayor, to make him believe that you seek not my blood, to cloak your murders through my stoutness, as you call it? Have you not had my brother Tomkins before you, whose hand when you had burnt most cruelly, you burnt his whole body; and not only of him, but of a great many of Christ’s members? &c. So, upon the martyrdom of Master Philpot, a certain unknown good woman in a letter to Bonner wrote thus: Indeed, you are called the common cutthroat and general slaughter slave to all the bishops of England; and therefore it is wisdom for me and all other simple sheep of the Lord to keep us out of your butchery stall as long as we can, especially since you have such store already that you are not able to drink all their blood, lest you should break your belly; and therefore you let them lie still, and die for hunger, &c. And soon after, you have broken a pot indeed (Mr Philpot), but the precious word contained therein is so notably therewithal shed abroad, that the sweet savour thereof hath wonderfully well refreshed all the true household, or congregation of Christ, that they cannot abide any more the stinking savour of your filthy ware, that came from the dunghill of Rome, though your lordship’s Judases set them to sale everywhere to fill up your bags, &c. Thus these blood suckers stunk above ground, and it is probable that the saints shall look upon such in the next world, throughout all eternity, with execrable and everlasting detestation.

Verse 3

Psa 36:3 The words of his mouth [are] iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, [and] to do good.

Ver. 3. The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit ] That is, saith Calvin, he hath something to say to excuse and justify himself, to the hardening of his heart and hastening of his destruction; and there is no wool so coarse but will take some colour. But God will one day wash off his varnish with rivers of brimstone; he can skill of no other language but that of hell; the words of his mouth are, desiderium et dolus; there is no truth, and as little trust to be put in anything that he speaketh. And why? there is no fear of God before his eyes. See a like text, Romans 3:13-15 .

He hath left off to be wise, and to do good ] That little light he once had he hath lost, and cast off such good practices as once in hypocrisy he performed; neither will he learn to do better. Dicit reprobos fugitare rationem bene agendi, ne vitam suam in melius corrigere cogantur, saith Vatablus.

Verse 4

Psa 36:4 He deviseth mischief upon his bed; he setteth himself in a way [that is] not good; he abhorreth not evil.

Ver. 4. He deviseth mischief upon his bed ] He bendeth his wits and beateth his brains, perdius et pernox, breaking his sleep to plot and plough, to contrive and effect mischief. Vanity or villany is his whole study. He is always either weaving spiders’ webs or hatching cockatrices’ eggs.

He setteth himself in a way that is not good ] And there meaneth to keep him, as the word importeth; set he is, and he will not be removed, being every whit as good as ever he meaneth to be. Statuit se; there you left him, and there you may find him, for he is no changeling; and that is a piece of his silly glory.

He abhorreth not evil ] Sed studiosissime amplectitur, but doeth wickedly with hands earnestly, and taketh long strides towards hell, which is but a little before him, as if he feared it would be full ere he came thither (Jun.). If he do abstain from any wickedness, yet he abhorreth it not. It is for the evil consequents of sin (viz. shame, loss, punishment) that he forbeareth it; and not because it is offensivum Dei, et aversivum a Dei, an offence against God, and a turning away from God; that is no argument at all to him, sed fertur laxis habenis in quaevis flagitia, but he is hurried headlong into all wickedncsses, as vultures fly swiftly to the most stinking carcases.

Verse 5

Psa 36:5 Thy mercy, O LORD, [is] in the heavens; [and] thy faithfulness [reacheth] unto the clouds.

Ver. 5. Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens ] Yea, far above them, Psalms 108:4 , and over all thy good and men’s bad works. Otherwise thou couldest never endure such provocations of the profane rout; who yet live upon thee, and share in thy general goodness, admiratur David incredibilem Dei patientiam, &c. (Vat.).

And thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds ] God s mercy goeth usually yoked with his truth, and bounded by it; lest any should presume upon it, considering that God is faithful as well as merciful; faithful, I say, to fulfil both his promises and his menaces too. And as he hath mercy unmeasurable and truth unfailable for his saints, so he hath righteousness and judgments for the wicked, as it followeth.

Verse 6

Psa 36:6 Thy righteousness [is] like the great mountains; thy judgments [are] a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.

Ver. 6. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains ] Heb. mountains of God, pro more linguae, quae quando magnificat aliquid, addit nomen Dei, ut Jon 3:3 Genesis 30:5 Rev 15:2 Psalms 68:16 ; Psalms 80:11 , saith R. David, that is, after the manner of the Hebrew tongue, which, when it would magnify anything, addeth the name of God; because as anything is nearer to God the more excellent it is ( Sic Dιος σταλαγμους , Arat. in Diosem, αντι του μεγαλους ). The like is to be found also in heathen authors. David meaneth that as God’s mercy is matchless, so his justice is unmoveable; and we are to give him the glory of the one as well as the other, since they are both alike in him; for whatsoever is in God is God.

Thy judgments are a great deep ] A fathomless abyss, in quam deiecis impios, et nunquam evadunt, saith Kimchi, wherein the wicked sink irrecoverably. Thy providential dispensations also are past finding out, Romans 11:33 . They are to reason as the sea is to shallows; and therefore we must do by them as the Romans did by a certain lake of unknown depth, they dedicated it to Victory.

O Lord, thou preservest man and beast ] Such is thy beneficence, answerable to thy patience before celebrated. Thou not only bearest with men’s evil manners, even to admiration; but abundantly providest for their being and wellbeing; of such, I mean, as walk about the world with hearts as full as hell of all kind of wickedness. Howbeit, bonitas tua ad atheum est sicut illa ad bestiam, saith Kimchi, here thou dost but for the atheist as thou dost for the beast, and by that course of common preservation and kindness which runneth toward all, that none need doubt a providence.

Verse 7

Psa 36:7 How excellent [is] thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.

Ver. 7. How excellent (Heb. precious) is thy lovingkindness!] That special love and favour that thou vouchsafest to thine own elect only. Oh, this is incomparable and inexpressible! It maketh a vast difference between the righteous and the wicked, though the blind world observeth it not.

Therefore the children of men ] Who are also the children of God, by a better birth, John 1:12-13 , and that is their greatest preferment, 1 John 3:1 . Ludovicus, surnamed the Saint, king of France, would needs be called Ludovicus de Pissiaco rather than take greater titles, because there he became a Christian. He thought no birth to a new birth in Christ, no parentage to that of God to his Father.

Put their trust in the shadow of thy wings ] As chickens in a storm, or when the puttock threateneth, hover and cover under the hen. See Psa 91:4 Matthew 23:37 .

Verse 8

Psa 36:8 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.

Ver. 8. They shall be abundantly satisfied ] Heb. watered, inebriated. They shall be plentifully provided for, as the domestics; they shall have a confluence of all comforts and contentments for this life and a better; for godliness hath the promises of both. Hic locus est consolationis plenissimus, saith one.

And thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasure ] And so utterly quench their thirst after the world and sin.

Clitorio quicunque sitim de fonte levarit,

Vina fugit.

Verse 9

Psa 36:9 For with thee [is] the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light.

Ver. 9. For with thee is the fountain of life ] Vena vitae, verae vitae scaturigo, A fountain communicateth its water, and yet is not exhausted. Fontium perennitas, is one of the wonders in nature: what shall we say of this Divine fountain of life, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, overflowing and ever flowing?

In thy light shall we see light ] viz. Of knowledge and comfort. What is the air without light? or anything else without God? Absque Deo omnis copia est egestas, saith Bernard. In the former comparison, with thee is the fountain (or vein) of lives, the prophet alludeth either to waters, as is aforesaid, or to metals; to show that as the veins of gold, silver, and the like, do lie in bank in the bosom and bowels of the earth; so doth life in God. Or, to the veins of the body, which, as so many rivers or rivulets, derive their blood from that red sea, the liver. Certain it is, that man hath neither life nor light in himself till it be communicated unto him from God.

Verse 10

Psa 36:10 O continue thy lovingkindness unto them that know thee; and thy righteousness to the upright in heart.

Ver. 10. O continue thy lovingkindness ] Heb. Draw it out at full length, extend and exercise it, lengthen and perpetuate it. Thus the godly, greatly taken with the sweetness of God’s house, and rapt in the admiration of his transcendant goodness towards them, pray for a continuance thereof; intimating also by the manner of expression that God’s peculiar mercies to his are a continued series; there is a connection between them, yea, a concatenation. And as in a chain one link draweth on another, so doth one mercy another, unless we break the chain by our unthankfulness.

Unto them that know thee … to the upright in heart] Here we have a just description of the heirs of God’s promises, and of the partakers of his peculiar mercies. First, They must be knowing persons; know they must God and his will, themselves and their duties. Secondly, They must be upright in heart; for knowledge without practice is like Rachel, beautiful, but barren; or like rain in the middle region, where it doth no good. "A good understanding have all they that do his precepts," Psalms 111:10 , and such only are upright in heart.

Verse 11

Psa 36:11 Let not the foot of pride come against me, and let not the hand of the wicked remove me.

Ver. 11. Let not the foot of pride come against me ] The wicked do manibus pedibusque obnixe omnia facere, that they may ruin the righteous (Terent.); but God can divert them, manacle them, shackle them, that they shall neither march against his people nor meddle to unsettle their faith. Nevertheless, he looketh to be sought unto for these things, Eze 36:37 Daniel 10:12 , I came forth for thy word, saith the angel, that is, upon thy prayer.

Verse 12

Psa 36:12 There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise.

Ver. 12. There are the workers of iniquity fallen ] There, where they plotted or practised the downfall of the righteous; as Henry III of France was stabbed in the same chamber where he and others had contrived the Parisian massacre. God taketh notice of the very place where sin is committed, to punish accordingly; as he did Abimelech, Ahab, the Jews, that cried, "Crucify him! crucify him!" &c.

They are cast down ] With a force; the angel of God chasing them, according to my prayer, which now methinks I see to be graciously answered. It must needs go ill with the wicked when the saints shall turn them over to God to be tamed, and taken an order with.

And shall not be able to rise ] Because laid for dead by an almighty hand. The righteous falleth seven times in a day, and riseth again; not so the workers of iniquity.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 36". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.