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Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
and do not swear deceitfully.
4. He who is clean of hands, and pure of heart. Under the purity of the hands and of the heart, and the reverence of God’s name, he comprehends all religion, and denotes a well ordered life. True purity, no doubt, has its seat in the heart, but it manifests its fruits in the works of the hands. The Psalmist, therefore, very properly joins to a pure heart the purity of the whole life; for that man acts a ridiculous part who boasts of having a sound heart, if he does not show by his fruits that the root is good. On the other hand, it will not suffice to frame the hands, feet, and eyes, according to the rule of righteousness, unless purity of heart precede outward continence. If any man should think it absurd that the first place is given to the hands, we answer without hesitation, that effects are often named before their causes, not that they precede them in order, but because it is sometimes advantageous to begin with things which are best known. David, then, would have the Jews to bring into the presence of God pure hands, and these along with an unfeigned heart. To lift up, or to take his soul, I have no doubt is here put for to swear. It is, therefore, here required of the servants of God, that when they swear, they do it with reverence and in good conscience, 545545 “Par ainsi il est yci requis des serviteurs de Dieu, que quand ils jurent, ce soit avec reverence et en bonne conscience.” — Fr. and, under one particular, by synecdoche, is denoted the duty of observing fidelity and integrity in all the affairs of life. That mention is here made of oaths, appears from the words which immediately follow, And hath not sworn deceitfully, which are added as explanatory of what goes before. As, however, there is a twofold reading of the Hebrew word for soul, that is to say, as it may be read, my soul, or his soul, on account of the point hirek, some Jewish commentators read, Who hath not lifted up my soul to vanity, 546546 The textual reading is נפשו, naphshiv, his soul; the marginal reading is נפשו, naphshi, my soul. But the textual reading, from its clearness and simplicity, is, without doubt, the correct one. “The points,” says Hammond, “direct to render נפשת my soul, and so the interlinear reads anilmain roeare, my soul or life, as if it were making God the speaker of this verse, and then it is God’s life or soul. But the text writing וnot י, and the context agreeing with it, the punctuation must, in reason, give place; and, accordingly, all the ancient interpreters appear to have read it נפשו, his soul, meaning by that his own soul, or the soul of the swearer.” and understand the word my as spoken of God, an exposition which I reject as harsh and strained. It is a manner of speaking which carries in it great emphasis, for it means, that those who swear offer their souls as pledges to God. Some, however, may perhaps prefer the opinion, that to lift up the soul, is put for to apply it to lying, an interpretation to the adoption of which I have no great objection, for it makes little difference as to the sense. A question may here be raised — it may be asked, why David does not say so much as one word concerning faith and calling upon God. The reason of this is easily explained. As it seldom happens that a man behaves himself uprightly and innocently towards his brethren, unless he is so endued with the true fear of God as to walk circumspectly before him, David very justly forms his estimate of the piety of men towards God by the character of their conduct towards their fellow-men. For the same reason, Christ (Matthew 23:23) represents judgment, mercy, and faith, as the principal points of the law; and Paul calls “charity” at one time “the end of the law,” (1 Timothy 1:5) and at another “the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:14.)