World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
1. Praise Jehovah. The five last Psalms close with the same word with which they begin. 286286 That is, with the word “Hallelujah,” the Hebrew for “Praise Jehovah.” Hence they have been called, “Hallelujah Psalms.” But having in general called upon all to praise God, he addresses himself, or, which is the same thing, his soul, only that under the name of soul he addresses his inward self more emphatically. We may infer from this, that the influence which moved him was not volatile and superficial, (as many will blame themselves with remissness on this point, and then immediately lapse into it again,) but a staid and constant affection, followed up by activity, and proved by its effects not to be feigned. As David felt, that good endeavors are frustrated or hindered through the craft of Satan, he thinks it proper to apply a stimulus for exciting his own zeal, in the first place, before professing to be a leader or teacher to others. Although his heart was truly and seriously in the work, he would not rest in this, until he had acquired still greater ardor. And if it was necessary for David to stir himself up to the praises of God, how powerful a stimulant must we require for a more difficult matter when we aim at the divine life with self-denial. As to the religious exercise here mentioned, let us feel that we will never be sufficiently active in it, unless we strenuously exact it from ourselves. As God supports and maintains his people in the world with this view, that they may employ their whole life in praising him, David very properly declares, that he will do this to the end of his course.
3. Trust not in princes This admonition is appropriately inserted, for one means by which men blind themselves is that of involving their minds through a number of inventions, and being thus prevented from engaging in the praises of God. That God may have the whole praise due to him, David exposes and overthrows those false stays on which we would otherwise be too much disposed to trust. His meaning is, that we should withdraw ourselves from man in general, but he names princes, from whom more is to be feared than common men. For what promise could poor people hold out, or such as need the help of others? The great and wealthy, again, have a dangerous attraction through the splendor attaching to them, suggesting to us the step of taking shelter under their patronage. As the simple are fascinated by looking to their grandeur, he adds, that the most powerful of the world’s princes is but a son of man This should be enough to rebuke our folly in worshipping them as a kind of demigods, as Isaiah says, (Isaiah 31:3,) “The Egyptian is man, and not God; flesh, and not spirit.” Although princes then are furnished with power, money, troops of men, and other resources, David reminds us, that it is wrong to place our trust in frail mortal man, and vain to seek safety where it cannot be found.
This he explains more fully in the verse, which follows, where he tells us how short and fleeting the life of man is. Though God throw loose the reins, and suffer princes even to invade heaven in the wildest enterprises, the passing of the spirit, like a breath, suddenly overthrows all their counsels and plans. The body being the dwelling-place of the soul, what is here said may very well be so understood; for at death God recalls the spirit. We may understand it more simply, however, of the vital breath; and this will answer better with the context — that as soon as man has ceased to breathe, his corpse is subject to putrefaction. It follows, that those who put their trust in men, depend upon a fleeting breath. When he says that in that day all his thoughts perish, or flow away, perhaps under this expression he censures the madness of princes in setting no bounds to their hopes and desires, and scaling the very heavens in their ambition, like the insane Alexander of Macedon, who, upon hearing that there were other worlds, wept that he had not yet conquered one, although soon after the funeral urn sufficed him. Observation itself proves that the schemes of princes are deep and complicated. That we may not fall, therefore, into the error of connecting our hopes with them, David says that the life of princes also passes away swiftly and in a moment, and that with it all their plans vanish.