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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Psalms 94

Verses 1-23

Psalms 94:0

1          O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth;

O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself.

2     Lift up thyself, thou Judge of the earth:

Render a reward to the proud.

3     Lord, how long shall the wicked,

How long shall the wicked triumph?

4     How long shall they utter and speak hard things?

And all the workers of iniquity boast themselves?

5     They break in pieces thy people, O Lord,

And afflict thine heritage.

6     They slay the widow and the stranger,

And murder the fatherless.

7     Yet they say, The Lord shall not see,

Neither shall the God of Jacob regard it.

8     Understand, ye brutish among the people:

And ye fools, when will ye be wise?

9     He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?

He that formed the eye, shall he not see?

10     He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct?

He that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?

11     The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man,

That they are vanity.

12     Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord,

And teachest him out of thy law:

13     That thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity,

Until the pit be digged for the wicked.

14     For the Lord will not cast off his people,

Neither will he forsake his inheritance.

15     But judgment shall return unto righteousness:

And all the upright in heart shall follow it.

16     Who will rise up for me against the evil doers?

Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?

17     Unless the Lord had been my help,

My soul had almost dwelt in silence.

18     When I said, My foot slippeth:

Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.

19     In the multitude of my thoughts within me

Thy comforts delight my soul.

20     Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee,

Which frameth mischief by a law?

21     They gather themselves together against the soul of the righteous,

And condemn the innocent blood.

22     But the Lord is my defence;

And my God is the rock of my refuge.

23     And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity,

And shall cut them off in their own wickedness;

Yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off.


Contents and Composition. The psalmist at first invokes the retribution of God as the Avenger (Deuteronomy 32:35) upon insolent transgressors (Psalms 94:1-3); he then describes their bloody, violent and impious acts, by which they were destroying the people of God, and, at the same time, showing despite to God Himself (Psalms 94:4-7); he next turns with warning and rebuke to the foolish of the people, who had begun to doubt even God Himself, (Psalms 94:8-11); he pronounces the pious man happy, who submits to the chastening of God and thereby trusts to God’s compensating righteousness (Psalms 94:12-15), praises, for his own part the Lord as his only but sure help, (Psalms 94:16-18), and announces his assurance of the certain infliction of the retribution which he implores (Psalms 94:19-23).

The intermingling of personal with general experiences is of such a kind that the former appears conditioned by the latter, which, again, are not occasioned by distractions within, but by the influence of enemies from without. From them, the people had learned many things that were reprehensible. David therefore, (Sept. and other versions), is not to be thought of as the author. Within the period of the exile also, (De Wette, Hupfeld) no suitable place can be found for this psalm, since nothing is said of the departure of the captives or of the return, of the desolation of the city or of the destruction of the temple. We hesitate, too, to descend to the Maccabæan period (Venema, Rosenmüller, Hesse, Olsh., Hitzig), though 1Ma 7:1 f., or 1Ma 9:23 f., contain similar descriptions. There remain, therefore, only the Assyrian or the Chaldean oppressions in their commencement (Hengst.), or those after the exile in general (Köster, Del.), According to Talmudic tradition, the Levites were singing this Psalm during the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldees, and had just come to the last verse, when the enemy burst into the temple, so that they could not sing the concluding lines. To the objection that that day was the Sabbath, while this was a Psalm for the fourth day of the week in the temple liturgy, it is replied, that it was a song of lamentation, and sung on account of their situation (Erachin 11. a, in Delitzsch). The Sept. has, along with the statement, “Song of praise of David” the remark: “for the fourth day of the week.” [Alexander: “There is nothing to determine the precise date of the composition, much less to restrict it to any particular historical occasion. Though some things in it seem peculiarly appropriate to the state of Judah on the eve of the Babylonian, conquest, it is so constructed as to be a vehicle of pious feeling to the Church in various emergencies.”

Psalms 94:1, f. Show thyself or shine forth, does not necessarily refer to a theophany in the strict sense. The construction of the form as a præt. (Sept. et al., Hengst.) would accord with the regular rule after Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 1:2, but does not suit the context. A rarer form of the imperative הוֹפִיעַ instead of הוֹפֵעַ (Ges. § 53, remark 2) is therefore to be assumed, without needing to point הוֹפֵיעַ (Ewald), unless we prefer to hold that the final consonant has fallen away from the original form הוֹפּיעָה (Psalms 80:2) on account of its similarity in sound to the first letter of the following word (Olshausen, Hitzig, Hupfeld, Del.). The plural, avengings, may denote not only the plurality of avenging deeds (Ezekiel 25:17), but also the severity of the retribution (Judges 11:36; 2 Samuel 4:8). The designation of God as the “God of retributions” is related to this.

Psalms 94:8-10. The expression: foolish among the people [E. V. literally: brutish], is not another way of conveying the idea of the highest degree of stupidity (Geier, De Wette). It is not men in general or the heathen nations (most) who are addressed, but that part of Israel who had become accessible to seduction and suggestions of doubt (Olshausen and the recent expositors). But it is doubtful whether we ought to render in Psalms 94:10 : the Instructor of the nations (Jerome, Clericus, Ewald, Köster, Maurer, Hengst., Hupfeld, Hitzig) or: He who hath chastised the heathen (Calvin, Geier, J. H. Michaelis, Rosenmüller, Delitzsch). But the contrast is not between the Gentiles without and Israel with the revealed Law; or between Israel’s former punishment at the hands of oppressors, and that which is to be expected now, so that the one can be inferred from the other. An inference is rather made from one course of action on the part of God to another of similar character, and not to the same course of action with reference to distinct objects, or at different times. [Perowne: “In the English Bible this is broken up into two questions, and a clause is supplied in the second member which does not exist in the Hebrew: ‘Shall not He know?’ But this is incorrect. There is a change in the argument. Before it was from the physical constitution of man; now it is from the moral government of the world. He who is the great Educator of the race, who gives them all the knowledge they possess, has He not the right which even human teachers possess, of chastening, correcting, and improving? On this Divine education see Romans 1:20; Romans 2:15-16.”—J. F. M.].

Psalms 94:11 b. Since the pronoun is in the masculine, it is natural to refer it to “men,” and translate: for they are breath, that is, nothingness, finitude, transitoriness (Geier, J. H. Mich., Hengst., Hupfeld). The metaphysical ground of God’s perfect knowledge of His creatures, which are formed by Him and absolutely dependent upon Him, would then be presented. But the context favors rather the interpretation that God who gives men knowledge, is the Omniscient One, to whom their thoughts, in their natural nothingness, lie fully disclosed. The Sept. also has so understood the sentence, and is followed by Paul (1 Corinthians 3:20) and Jerome. The position of the pronoun, moreover, justifies this view. If the first idea had been intended, the pronoun would have been placed before the noun (Jeremiah 10:15). In a dependent sentence, however, corresponding to the accusative of the object, it may precede, contrary to the usual rule (Isaiah 61:9; Jeremiah 46:5); also, when emphasis is required Ps. 9:21), like the accusative in a relative clause (Psalms 99:4; Proverbs 2:16; Hosea 7:2). The masculine would then be loosely employed instead of the feminine, as in Psalms 34:20 (Hitzig, Del.).

Psalms 94:13, etc.That Thou mayst give him rest.—This is usually referred to the inward repose of the righteous man, who receives instruction from God’s law (Deuteronomy 8. f.) as to the design of the sufferings impending over him (Jeremiah 49:23 compared with Isaiah 30:15), and strength for the trials of evil days, so that such a man, tried and purified as he is by sufferings, is even to be counted happy (Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:11 f.; Psalms 34:9; Psalms 40:5). But Psalms 94:13 b. directs the view of the chastened to the end of the transgressor, and Psalms 94:14 to God’s abiding with His people. This is the reason why the evil days will come to an end. God will afford the sufferer outward rest or deliverance from them (Job 3:13; Job 3:17 f.; Job 34:29; Proverbs 15:18). The ל in Psalms 94:13 a. indicates, not the design of the teaching, but its contents (Calvin, Clericus, Hupfeld). The evil days are not called days of misfortune, nor days of the evil man, that is, of the wicked, but days of harm, in which bad men abuse their power to work mischief (Psalms 49:6). From this cause sufferings arise for the righteous, which the latter regard as Divine chastisements, and make to contribute to their salvation. The throne of destruction, Psalms 94:20 [E. V., throne of iniquity], is either the throne of the enemy, from which destruction threatens Israel, but to which Jehovah grants no duration and no fellowship with Him; or the chair of the judge, who causes distress [Heb., עָסָל, E. V., mischief] by using the written law of God as an occasion for illegalities and the perversion of justice. The latter view agrees better with the mode of expression in Psalms 94:20 b. For that sentence does not simply allude to a course of action disastrous in its results and opposed to the law, but to an ingenious forming of something burdensome and oppressive, the expression being suggested by and applied from the fashioning of statuets. [This idea is expressed in the rendering: who formest misery by law (rule).—J. F. M.]


1. The presumption of the ungodly is apt to increase, when they are allowed for a long period to employ with impunity their position in the world, their influence, and their resources, for the oppression of the weak and defenceless, and especially of the righteous. Their course of action often reaches to cruelty and reckless violence, and becomes criminality and wickedness, when, to the relentless ill-treatment of those, who, through God’s precepts, are made the special objects of His watchful love and compassionate help, are united the denial of His omniscience, the delusion of complete impunity, and derision of the belief in His government of the world and in His retributive righteousness.
2. Such conduct is indeed that of heathen, but yet it is not only displayed among heathen nations, but appears also among those who have received the law of God, but who either transgress it openly, insolently, and defiantly, or, while holding fast to the letter, practice injustice under the appearance and garb of righteousness, and in both cases oppress those who are weak, or offend them, or cause them to err in their faith, or seduce them from their allegiance to God.

3. A cry of prayer, therefore, sounds forth at times from the midst of the Church, invoking the judicial intervention of God against her destroyers, when they would, by violence or by perversion of justice, oppress the righteous and persecute them even to death. For God’s people hold fast to the belief which is oppugned and derided, that God is the supreme and faithful Judge and Avenger, who will bring to their due results the laws according to which He regulates the course of the world, and will reconcile the occasional contradictions between the actual state or administration of justice, and the principle and norm of righteousness. The premature rejoicings of the wicked and their scorn will then be stilled, when they fall into the abyss prepared for them; while the soul of the righteous will dwell no longer in the land of silence, for God is their help.
4. But God is not merely the Judge of the whole world and the righteous Avenger; He is also the Teacher of men, and has left Himself at no time and in no place without a witness. All understanding and knowledge, even of the heathen, spring from Him who is the Creator of men, and has given them reason and all their senses. Blessed are they who not only are acquainted with His Law, revealed in Israel, but come under its instruction and guidance. To give testimony to this is the duty assigned to the Church, in order that the ignorant be instructed, the erring set right, the tried comforted, the secure and presumptuous warned, sinners convicted in conscience, the doubting and weak strengthened, and all together confirmed in the certain assurance that God is both able and willing to execute judgment for the complete deliverance of the righteous and punishment of the impiety of the wicked, in accordance with the promises and commands of His Law.


It is not enough to hold a general belief that a God exists; the question is: (1) what kind of God He is; (2) whether we adhere faithfully to Him.—We cannot apply the promises of God’s law to ourselves, unless we value His commandments.—God is not only the Creator and Ruler of the world. He is also the trustworthy Teacher and Educator of men, and their infallible Judge.—How the wickedness of men often makes them fools, and how the folly of men often urges them deeper still into ruin.—In order not to be obliged to forsake their sins, the wicked presume that they will remain unpunished, and in order not to be disturbed in their delusion, they deny the only true and living God.—God is the righteous Avenger, but before He punishes He warns, and those who would be delivered must yield to His rule.—He who would be freed from anxiety must listen to the words of God.—If our souls are to be revived by the consolations of God, we must listen to His warnings and believe His promises.

Luther: He who so believes and is taught of God, can be patient, and let the wicked rage, while he looks to the end, and bides the time.

Starke: Thou dost arrogate to thyself God’s royal prerogative, whenever thou dost seek to avenge thyself on those who injure thee.—Believers under oppression often cannot be reconciled to God’s great patience and long-suffering towards the wicked, and therefore sigh: Lord, how long? and yet God has not forgotten.—The true Church has ever had her persecutors, but she has at all times employed prayer as the best means of overcoming them, and has found it a sure one.—Whither can men’s sins not beguile them? In order to quiet their consciences they seek to persuade themselves that God is not omniscient. Vain imagination.—The joyful issue of a Christian’s troubles serves to strengthen the faith and patience of all fellow-Christians.—The world forms an altogether wrong judgment as to God’s chastisements. It says: ill for him whom God chastens. But the judgment of the Holy Spirit is a different one. It is precious and consoling: blessed is he whom God chastens. Should not this serve to increase our patience?—Nothing can revive the soul so sweetly, or penetrate therein so deeply, as the honey of the gospel. O gather a good supply when it abounds; it will soothe thee in time of need.—When affliction is greatest, then does faith display itself in its true and fullest strength, and is at the same time purified in that fire.—The righteous hand of God is often so clearly revealed in the destruction of the wicked, that even the least inexperienced in His ways must recognize it and say: The Lord hath done this!

Frisch: Thou hast here a mirror of an afflicted and yet believing heart. What dost thou see therein? (1) Many heart-griefs; (2) manifold consolations of God; (3) powerful and true reviving of soul.—Rieger: Even in justifiable zeal, we are easily led to take too much upon ourselves, unless we keep within the bounds prescribed by God’s Spirit and word. A fire is useful in a house, but it must be used carefully.—Richter (Hausbibel): The judgment of chastisement begins with believers; they are thus preserved from the destruction and fearful judgment of damnation, which is inflicted upon those who oppose Christ.—Vaihinger: The education which God gives by daily experiences and sufferings, as well as His instruction by the written law, is, in the futility of human projects, a special privilege of believers, benefiting them in severe sufferings.

[Matt. Henry: When the teachings of the word and Spirit go along with the rebukes of Providence, they then both speak men blessed and help to make them so; for then they are the marks of adoption and means of sanctification. When we are chastened we must pray to be taught, and look into the law as the best expositor of Providence. It is not the chastening itself that does good, but the teaching that goes along with, and is the expositor of it.—J. F. M.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 94". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.