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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 27

A.M. 2987. B.C. 1017.

This Psalm, says Bishop Patrick, was composed by David when he was, or had lately been, in great distress. It is not easy to determine, whether it was when he was persecuted by Saul, before he was crowned, as the LXX. say, or when he was forced to flee from Absalom; or, as some of the Jews think, (and as seems most probable, because it agrees well with several passages in the Psalm,) when in fight with the Philistines he was in danger of being killed by a giant, if Abishai had not seasonably stepped in and relieved him. On which occasion his men sware unto him, saying, Thou shalt no more go out with us to battle, that thou quench not the light of Israel. David declares his trust and confidence in God, amidst the tumults and dangers of war, Psalms 27:1-3 . His desire to be restored to the city and house of God, Psalms 27:4 , Psalms 27:5 . His assurance of victory and exaltation, Psalms 27:6 . He prays for support and protection, Psalms 27:7-12 . Shows the power and comfort of faith in affliction, and exhorts others to patience, Psalms 27:13 , Psalms 27:14 .

Verse 1

Psalms 27:1. The Lord is my light My counsellor in my difficulties, and my comforter and deliverer in all my distresses. David’s subjects called him the light of Israel; but he owns he shone, as the moon doth, with a borrowed light: the light which God communicated to him reflected upon them. God is our light, as he shows us the state we are in by nature and practice, and that into which we may and must be brought by grace, in order to our salvation. As our light, he shows us the way in which we must walk, and gives us comfort in walking therein: shows us the hinderances that are in our way, the difficulties, and enemies, and oppositions, we have to encounter, and how we may be enabled to overcome them. It is only in his light that we now proceed on in our Christian course, and it is in his light that we hope to see light for ever. And my salvation In whom I am safe, and by whom I am and shall be saved. The Lord is the strength of my life The protector of my exposed life, who keeps me from being slain, and the supporter of my weak and frail life, by whom I am upheld and preserved in being. God, who is a believer’s life, is the strength of his life: not only the person by whom, but in whom he lives.

Verses 2-3

Psalms 27:2-3. When my foes came upon me to eat up my flesh Greedy to devour me: aiming at no less than my utter destruction, and confident they should effect it; they stumbled and fell Not, I smote them and they fell, but they stumbled, namely, of their own accord, without my lifting a hand against them; and fell They were so confounded and weakened that they could not go on with their enterprise. Thus they that came to take Christ were, by a word of his, made to stagger and fall to the ground, John 18:6. The ruin of some of the enemies of God’s people is an earnest of the complete conquest of them all. And, therefore, these being fallen, he is fearless of the rest. Though a host should encamp, &c. Though my enemies be numerous as a host; though they be daring, and their attempts threatening; though they encamp against me, an army against one man; though they wage war upon me, yet my heart shall not fear Hosts cannot hurt us, if the Lord of hosts protect us.

Verse 4

Psalms 27:4. One thing have I desired of the Lord It greatly encouraged David’s confidence in God, that he was conscious to himself of an entire affection to him and his ordinances, and that he was in his element when he was in the way of his duty, and in the way of increasing his acquaintance with God. If our hearts can witness for us, that we delight in God above any creature, we may from thence take encouragement to depend upon him; for it is a proof that we are of those whom he protects as his own. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord That I may have opportunity of duly and constantly attending on God in the public service of his house, with other faithful Israelites, as the duty of every day may require; all the days of my life That I may not hereafter be disturbed in, or driven away from God’s sanctuary and worship, as I have been; to behold the beauty of the Lord That there I may delight myself in the contemplation of his amiable and glorious majesty, and of his infinite wisdom, holiness, justice, truth, grace, and mercy, and other perfections, which, though concealed, in a great measure, from the world, are clearly manifested in his church and ordinances. To inquire in his temple That is, in his tabernacle, which he here and elsewhere calls his temple; because his ordinances were there administered, as they were afterward to be in the temple. The word לבקר , lebakker, here rendered to inquire, properly signifies to search, or seek diligently, namely, to know the mind and will of God and his own duty; or, to behold the Lord’s beauty, last mentioned, and the light of his countenance, which is discovered more or less, as men are more or less diligent or negligent, in seeking or inquiring into it. When, with an eye of faith and holy love, we behold this beauty; when, with fixedness of thought, and a holy flame of devout affections, we contemplate the divine excellences, and entertain ourselves with the tokens of his peculiar favour to us, we observe in a still higher degree how infinitely amiable and admirable they are, till our hearts are ravished therewith, and we are lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Verses 5-6

Psalms 27:5-6. In the time of trouble he shall hide, or, hath hid me Justly do I prize the house and service of God so highly, both because I am under such vast obligations to him for his former protection and favours, and because all my confidence and hope of security depend upon him; in the secret of his tabernacle Into which mine enemies cannot come; or, as it were in the secret of his tabernacle he shall hide me That is, in a place as safe as the holy of holies, termed God’s secret place, (Ezekiel 7:22,) into which none might enter but the high-priest, and he only one day in a year. He alludes to the ancient custom of offenders fleeing to the tabernacles or altars for safety. He shall set me upon a rock Upon a place high and inaccessible, strong and impregnable, where I shall be out of the reach of mine enemies. The temple was thought a safe place for Nehemiah to lie hid in, Nehemiah 6:10; but the safety of believers is not in the walls of the temple, but in the God of the temple, and their comfort in communion with him. My head shall be lifted up above mine enemies

He will advance me above them, and give me a complete victory over them. Therefore will I offer sacrifices of joy Hebrew, תרועה , terugnah, of shouting, or resounding, that is, of thanksgiving and praise, which used to be accompanied with the sound of trumpets and other instruments.

Verse 8

Psalms 27:8. When thou saidst Either by thy word commanding or inviting me so to do; or, by thy Spirit directing and inclining me; Seek ye my face Seek my presence, and favour, and help, by fervent, faithful prayer; my heart said unto thee My heart readily and thankfully complied with the motion; and upon the encouragement of this command, or invitation, I resolved I would do so, and I do so at this time. As the words, when thou saidst, are not in the original, and as the verse is rather obscure, some think that the word Elohim, God, should be inserted, and then it may be rendered, To thee, O my heart, God said, Seek ye my face; thy face, Lord, will I seek. Dr. Waterland and Houbigant render it, To thee, said my heart, Seek ye my face; thy face, Lord, will I seek.

Verse 9

Psalms 27:9. Hide not thy face far from me Which, in obedience to thy command, I am now seeking. Let me never want the reviving sense of thy favour; love me, and give me to know that thou lovest me. Put not thy servant away in anger Namely, from thy face or presence, or from the place of thy worship. Two ways God and he might be parted, either by God’s withdrawing himself from him, which he might do even in the place of his worship; or by God’s putting him away from the place of his worship. Against the first he seems to pray in the first clause, and against the latter in this.

Verse 10

Psalms 27:10. When my father and mother forsake me That is, the nearest and dearest friends I have in the world, from whom I may expect most relief, and with most reason; when they either die, or are at a distance from me, or are unable to help me in the time of need, or are unkind to me, or unmindful of me, and will not help me; when I am as helpless as ever poor orphan was that was left fatherless and motherless, then I know the Lord will take me up, as a poor wandering sheep is taken up, and saved from perishing. His time to help those that trust in him is when all other helpers fail, when it is most for his honour and their comfort: with him the fatherless find mercy. This promise has often been fulfilled in the letter of it. Forsaken orphans have been taken under the special care of Divine Providence, which has raised up relief and friends for them that way that one would not have expected. God is a surer and better friend than our earthly parents are, or can be.

Verses 11-12

Psalms 27:11-12. Teach me thy way What course I shall take to please thee, and to discharge my duty, and to save myself from ruin; and lead me in a plain path Of which see the note on Psalms 26:12; where the Hebrew words are the same; because of mine enemies That I may neither give them cause to open their mouths against me or religion, by my misconduct, nor fall into their hands by my folly, nor afford them any occasion of triumphing over me. Deliver me not over unto the will Hebrew, בנפשׁ , benephesh, to the soul, that is, the lust, or desire, as the word here means; of mine enemies Who watch for my halting, and seek my ruin; such as breathe out cruelty Against me. He presses his request from the consideration of the quality of his enemies, who were both false and cruel, and in both respects hateful to God and men.

Verse 13

Psalms 27:13. I had fainted These words are not in the original, but are added to complete the sense. For the speech is abrupt and imperfect, as is very usual, not only with the inspired penmen, but many other authors, in all vehement passions or commotions of mind, such as David was in at this time. Having declared what perfidious and cruel enemies assaulted and encompassed him, he now subjoins what impression the thoughts thereof made upon him, and speaks like one that wanted words to express how sad and desperate his condition would have been, if he had not been supported by faith in God’s promises. Even the best saints are subject to faint when their troubles become grievous and tedious; their spirits are overwhelmed, and their flesh and heart fail; but then faith is a sovereign cordial: it keeps them from desponding under their burdens; it keeps them hoping, and praying, and waiting; it maintains in them honourable thoughts of God, and an expectation of relief in due time. But what was it, the belief of which kept David from fainting? That he should see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living By which he means, not only a continuance of the mercy and grace of God to his soul which he already possessed, and which supported him under his trials, but that he should outlive his troubles, and see or enjoy in this life that deliverance from them, and from all his enemies, implied in the promise of the kingdom which God had given him. For, by the land of the living, he means this world, which is often so called in Scripture, and is opposed to the grave, which is the place of the dead. And David was thus earnestly desirous of this mercy in this life, not because he placed his portion in these things, but because the truth and glory of God were highly concerned in making good the promise of the kingdom to him. Heaven, however, is still more properly termed the land of the living; where there is no more death; this earth being rather the land of the dying. And nothing is so effectual to keep the soul from fainting under the calamities of this present time as the believing hope of seeing the goodness of the Lord in that world, with foresights of those glories, and foretastes of those pleasures, which are for evermore.

Verse 14

Psalms 27:14. Wait on the Lord O my soul, to which some think he now turns his speech: or rather, O reader, whosoever thou art, wait on God by faith and prayer, and in an humble resignation to his will. Hebrew, יהוה

קוה אל , kavveh eel Jehovah, look to, or hope for, or expect, the Lord. Be of good courage Keep up thy spirits in the midst of thy greatest dangers and difficulties: let thy heart be fixed, trusting in God, and thy mind stayed on him, and then none of these things will move thee; wait, I say, on the Lord Whatever thou doest, grow not remiss or careless in thy attendance upon God, but keep close to him and thy duty. “The psalmist here,” says Dr. Dodd, after Bishop Patrick, “admonishes any person who shall fall into such straits as his, to learn by his example not to be impatient, or to despond presently, much less to despair of relief, if God do not send it just when it is expected. There is no misery so strong and grievous, no devotion so fervent and powerful, as can bring God to article for the time of deliverance; if we will not wait, he will not come. It may be one of the greatest ends for which the affliction we labour under is applied to us, to reform and reduce us, and root out the passion and impatience of our nature; and God is too good a physician to remove the medicine before it hath wrought its effect, or to put us out of his hand before he hath cured us. Indeed, he hath greater reason to teach us this lesson thoroughly, since when he hath given us the deliverance we pray for, and all that we can desire in this life, there is still somewhat more, and of more value than that which he hath given us, which we must wait for:” we must wait “till the few and evil days of our pilgrimage pass away, and we arrive at the mansions prepared for us in the house of our heavenly Father; till our warfare be accomplished, and terminate in the peace of God; till the storms and tempests of wintry time shall give place to the unclouded calm and the ever-blooming pleasures of eternal spring.” Horne.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 27". Benson's Commentary. 1857.