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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 25

A Psalm of David.

This is the third of the alphabetical psalms, of which there are eight besides. (Psalms 9:10, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145.) The peculiarity of these psalms is, that they are didactic, made up of separate and independent apothegms, all bearing on the same general subject. The alphabetical arrangement that is, the beginning of each line, verse, or strophe with a letter of the alphabet in serial order is a mechanical help to the memory in a class of composition professedly devoid of logical connexion. But the alphabetical principle is defective in the psalm before us, both in the number and arrangement of the letters, while it shows a trace of progression of thought, and of strophical arrangement. The theme is prayer for the forgiveness of sin and deliverance from enemies, with expressions of faith in God and the safety of the righteous. Its tone is sorrowful, pathetic, and earnest, and its sentiments and language elevated and beautiful. The style well enough suits David, to whom it is ascribed in the title; but if he wrote any part, a later hand must have revised it. The sufferings of the psalmist are the fruit or his sin, which he now bemoans and deprecates; but he speaks not for himself, but in behalf of the people. “The individual features are not concrete enough to refer them to the life of David,” (Moll,) but suit the nation in the time of the exile. Psalms 25:7 cannot apply to David. No record is anywhere given of “sins of his youth” so flagrant as to awaken dread of penal visitation in his old age; but this agrees perfectly with the youth, or early history, of the nation as given by Moses. No condition of David in his old age, or of his kingdom, answers to Psalms 25:17-19, and the most natural construction of Psalms 25:22, makes it a prayer for the return of Israel from captivity, as in Psalms 130:8

Verse 1

1. Unto thee, O Lord The address is emphatic. To thee only, exclusive of all trust in false gods, or in men.

Lift up my soul A Hebraism for, I direct all my desire to thee.

Verse 2

2. My God The pronoun indicates a still nearer approach the “Abba, Father,” of the Old Testament. Romans 8:15.

Ashamed The word radically signifies to be pale, to change colour, and denotes that state of mind which arises from disappointment, the sudden cutting off of hope. It is opposed to the word triumph, exult, in next line. In Psalms 25:3 the psalmist shows that this prayer is not selfish, but grounded in righteousness. Shame and pale-facedness belong to the wicked; exultation and leaping for joy to the righteous.

Verse 3

3. Without cause Spontaneously, as if they delighted in it.

Verse 4

4. Show me thy ways Thy methods of grace and judgment with man, thy plan of government and salvation. Knowing these, he desired to adjust himself to them, and act in harmony with God.

Verse 5

5. Lead… in thy truth “Truth,” here, may be taken either in the sense of doctrine or of faithfulness. The former gives the sense of Psalms 25:4, the latter the experience of divine faithfulness in keeping covenant and promise, and is the more probable sense, according to the connexion.

Verse 6

6. Tender mercies Literally, bowels, as the supposed seat of the tender emotions of pity and compassion. As this is a psychological term, here occurring for the first time in the psalms, it is proper to note that the passions and feelings of men were named after those internal parts of the human body where the particular phenomena of sensations occasioned by them manifested themselves, and modern physiological science confirms the wonderful agreement of this psychical terminology with the entire ganglionic system. No metaphysical philosophy can avoid this figurative use of language. See on Psalms 16:7.

Ever of old Literally, from everlasting. The argument is, because the tender mercies of God were from old, or from everlasting, therefore it is in harmony with his settled order of government to show compassion in this case. Hence the phrase, “for thy goodness’ sake,” Psalms 25:7

Verse 7

7. Sins of my youth This cannot apply to the early life of David, which was proverbial for its innocence and piety. The psalmist speaks for the nation here. See the introduction. But a law of nature and of providence is here disclosed: the sins of early life will reach over to old age, for corrective chastisement, and, if not forgiven, will reappear in the final judgment.

Verse 9

9. The meek Or, humble. The idea is, that of a teachable, submissive spirit. As God will “teach sinners in the way,” (Psalms 25:8,) it would seem to be spoken for their encouragement.

Verse 10

10. Paths of the Lord His methods or dispensations.

Mercy and truth Thus uniting tenderness with firmness, compassion with immutability, answering to “grace and truth:” John 1:17. “Grace is the alpha and truth the omega.” Delitzsch.

Keep his covenant There is here an undertone of warning to such as break his covenant.

Verse 11

11. For thy name’s sake The name of Jehovah is identical with himself. For thy sake, is a plea for free grace alone, in honour of the righteousness of God.

Verse 12

12. From the greatness of his sin he turns to the blessedness of those who fear God.

What man Whosoever, whatsoever man. God makes no personal distinctions.

The way he shall choose That is, the way God shall choose, as Psalms 25:8

Verse 13

13. His soul shall dwell at ease Literally, his soul shall abide, or dwell, in goodness, or blessedness. If this does not directly relate to immortal blessedness, as many Jewish and Christian interpreters have supposed, it certainly implies it, for, by the connexion and subject, the goodness or blessedness, which is the reward of “fearing God,” must be as enduring as that “fear;” and goodness, ( tobh,) in such connexions as in the text, is the standing word for that blessedness which is the end and design of man’s being. Besides, in the parallelism, “abiding in blessedness” and “inheriting the earth” are in contrast, both as to state and time; while the righteous are in blessedness, their seed shall inherit the earth.

Verse 14

14. Secret of the Lord The secret counsel of the Lord. See Genesis 18:17-19; and compare John 15:15.

Show them his covenant Cause them to understand the wisdom, grace, and excellence of his plan of redemption; the substance of his covenant with men.

Verses 15-21

15-21. The psalmist returns to agonizing prayer, mingled with confession of sin, a special reference to the cruel hatred and violence of his enemies, the depth of his distress, and his sole reliance on God that his hope shall not be disappointed nor his integrity be unavailing for his righteous judgment. Psalms 25:22 appears as if it might have been added by a later hand. It sounds like an echo from the captivity, and is a summing up of the petitions of the psalm. Psalms 130:8.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 25". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.