World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
He Will Not Forsake His Saints
1Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
3Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.22Or and feed on faithfulness, or and find safe pasture
4Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
7Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
12The wicked plots against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him,
13but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.
14The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
15their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.
16Better is the little that the righteous has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
18The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will remain forever;
19they are not put to shame in evil times;
in the days of famine they have abundance.
20But the wicked will perish;
the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
23The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
24though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.
25I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.
26He is ever lending generously,
and his children become a blessing.
27Turn away from evil and do good;
so shall you dwell forever.
28For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his saints.
They are preserved forever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29The righteous shall inherit the land
and dwell upon it forever.
30The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks justice.
31The law of his God is in his heart;
his steps do not slip.
32The wicked watches for the righteous
and seeks to put him to death.
33The Lord will not abandon him to his power
or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.
34Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
spreading himself like a green laurel tree.44The identity of this tree is uncertain
36But he passed away,55Or But one passed by and behold, he was no more;
though I sought him, he could not be found.
37Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
for there is a future for the man of peace.
38But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
39The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.
1. Fret not thyself because of the wicked. David lays down this as a general principle, that the prosperity of the wicked, in which they greatly rejoice, should on no account vex or disquiet the children of God, because it will soon fade away. On the other hand, although the people of God are afflicted for a time, yet the issue of their afflictions shall be such, that they have every reason to be contented with their lot. Now all this depends upon the providence of God; for unless we are persuaded that the world is governed by him in righteousness and truth, our minds will soon stagger, and at length entirely fail us. David then condemns two sinful affections of the mind, which are indeed closely allied, and the one of which is generated by the other. He first enjoins the faithful not to fret on account of the wicked; and, secondly, that they should not indulge an envious spirit towards them. For, in the first place, when they see the wicked enjoying prosperity, from which it might naturally be supposed that God regards not the affairs of men, there is a danger lest they should shake off the fear of God, and apostatise from the faith. Then another temptation follows, namely, that the influence of the example of the wicked excites in them a desire to involve themselves in the same wickedness with them. This is the natural sense. The Hebrew words, אל-תתחר, al-tithechar, which we have rendered, Fret not thyself, are by some translated, Do not mingle thyself with. 1616 That is, do not enter into fellowship with. But this interpretation is too forced, and may be disproved by the context; for in the eighth verse, where mention is expressly made of wrath and anger, it would surely be absurd to interpret in another sense the same verb which immediately follows these two words, and which is there used in the same sense and for the same end as in this first verse. In the second place, the order which David observes is very natural; for when the prosperity of the wicked has irritated our minds, we very soon begin to envy them their happiness and ease. First, then, he exhorts us to be on our guard, lest a happiness which is only transitory, or rather imaginary, should vex or disquiet us; and, secondly, lest envy should lead us to commit sin. The reason by which he enforces this exhortation is added in the following verse: for if the wicked flourish to-day like the grass of the field, to-morrow they shall be cut down and wither. We need not wonder that this similitude is often to be met with in the sacred writings, since it is so very appropriate; for we see how soon the strength of the grass decays, and that when cast down by a blast of wind, or parched with the heat of the sun, even without being cut by the hand of man, it withers away. 1717 The fitness of this figure to express the transient and short-lived character of the prosperity of the wicked, will appear in a still more striking light when we take into consideration the great heat of the climate of Palestine. In like manner, David tells us that the judgment of God, like a scythe in the hand of man, shall cut down the wicked, so that they shall suddenly perish.
3. Put thy trust in Jehovah, and do good. The inspired writer now goes on, in the second place, to say, that every thing in the end shall be well with the righteous, because they are under the protection of God. But as there is nothing better or more desirable than to enjoy the fostering and protecting care of God, he exhorts them to put their trust in him, and at the same time to follow after goodness and truth. It is not without good reason that he begins with the doctrine of faith, or trust in God; for there is nothing more difficult for men than to preserve their minds in a state of peace and tranquillity, undisturbed by any disquieting fears, whilst they are in this world, which is subject to so many changes. On the other hand, while they see the wicked becoming rich by unjust means, extending their influence, and acquiring power by unrestrained indulgence in sin, it is no less difficult for them steadily to persevere in a life of piety and virtue. Nor is it sufficient merely to disregard those things that are commonly sought after with the greatest eagerness. Some of the philosophers of antiquity were so noble-minded, that they despised riches unjustly acquired, and abstained from fraud and robbery; nay, they held up to ridicule the vain pomp and splendor of the wicked, which the common people look upon with such high admiration. But as they were destitute of faith, they defrauded God of his honor, and so it happened that they never knew what it was to be truly happy. Now, as David places faith first in order, to show that God is the author of all good, and that by his blessing alone prosperity is to be looked for; so it ought to be observed that he connects this with a holy life: for the man who places his whole confidence in God, and gives himself up to be governed by him, will live uprightly and innocently, and will devote himself to doing good.
Dwell in the land This language is much more expressive than if he had promised that the righteous should dwell securely in the land. 1818 Some read, “Thou shalt dwell in the land.” The Hebrew verb is in the imperative mood; but the imperative in Hebrew is sometimes used for the future of the indicative. — Glass. tom. 1, can. 40, p. 285. It is just as if he had led them to the place, and put them in possession of it. Moreover, by these words he declares that they shall long enjoy it. They are, it is true, only strangers or sojourners in this world, yet the hand of the Lord is stretched forth to protect them, so that they live in security and peace. This David again confirms by the following clause, Thou shalt be fed in truth Assured of the protection of God, he exhorts them to place entire and unsuspecting confidence in him. It is surprising to find how interpreters have wrested, and as it were mangled this clause, by the different meanings they have put upon it. Some take the verb to feed in an active signification; and others understand the expression to feed on faith as denoting to cherish within the heart the promises of God. Others are of opinion that David exhorts us to feed our brethren with faith by ministering to them the pure word of God, which is the spiritual food of the soul. Others render the term for faith in the sense of sincerity, so that the expression to feed on faith would signify to behave in an upright and honest manner among men. But the scope and connection of the passage necessarily require, and it is quite in accordance with the nature of the Hebrew language, that the verb רעה, re-eh, should be taken in a passive signification, Be fed This, too, is the opinion of the greater part of commentators, who, notwithstanding, afterwards differ in explaining its meaning. Some of them adopt the interpretation, that we are fed with faith, when the promises of God suffice us, and we are satisfied with them. Others give this explanation, Feed thyself with the fruit of faith, because God will indeed show that we have not believed his word in vain. Others explain it in this way, Let truth be thy food, and let nothing give thee greater pleasure than to converse sincerely and frankly with thy neighbors. There is still another interpretation which, although in some respects different, is similar to the preceding, namely, Live not upon spoil, but be content with lawful sustenance; that is to say, with that which is lawfully acquired. 1919 ”C’est dire, qui te vient loyaument.” — Fr. It is certainly a shameful and disgraceful thing that so many learned men should have erred in a matter so plain and obvious. 2020 Modern critics have varied as much in their interpretations of this clause of the verse as those who preceded Calvin, of whom he complains. For example, Ainsworth reads, “Thou shalt be fed by faith;” Archbishop Secker,” Thou shalt be fed in plenty;” Parkhurst, “Thou shalt be fed in security;” Dathe, “Tunc terram inhabitabis et secure vivas,” assigning the reason for this translation to be, that “pascere securitatem, sive si malis, in securitate, nihil aliud est quam secure vivere;” and Gesenius reads, “Follow after truth,” or, “seek to be faithful,” deriving the verb from a root which signifies to take delight in, or to follow after. Had not every one been led by his own ambition to seek for something new, the true and natural meaning of the prophet would have occurred at once, which is this, Dwell in the land, that thou mayest enjoy it in sure and lasting repose. The Hebrew word אמונה, emunah, not only signifies truth or faith, but also secure continuance for a long period. And who does not see that since the possession of the land was given to the righteous, this latter clause was added by way of exposition?
4. And delight thyself in Jehovah This delight is set in opposition to the vain and deceitful allurements of the world, which so intoxicate the ungodly, that despising the blessing of God, they dream of no other happiness than what presents itself for the time before their eyes. This contrast between the vain and fickle joys with which the world is deluded, and the true repose enjoyed by the godly, ought to be carefully observed; for whether all things smile upon us, or whether the Lord exercise us with adversities, we ought always to hold fast this principle, that as the Lord is the portion of our inheritance, our lot has fallen in pleasant places, 2121 “D’autant que Dieu est la part de nostre heritage, que nostre lot est escheu en lieux plaisan,.” — Fr. as we have seen in Psalm 16:5, 6. We must therefore constantly recall to our minds this truth, that it can never be well with us except in so far as God is gracious to us, so that the joy we derive from his paternal favor towards us may surpass all the pleasures of the world. To this injunction a promise is added, that, if we are satisfied in the enjoyment of God alone, he will liberally bestow upon us all that we shall desire: He will give thee the desires of thy heart. This does not imply that the godly immediately obtain whatever their fancy may suggest to them; nor would it be for their profit that God should grant them all their vain desires. The meaning simply is, that if we stay our minds wholly upon God, instead of allowing our imaginations like others to roam after idle and frivolous fancies, all other things will be bestowed upon us in due season.
5. Roll 2222 Calvin here gives the exact sense of the Hebrew verb גלל, galal. It literally signifies to roll, or to devolve; and in this passage it evidently means, Roll or devolve all thy concerns upon God; “cast thy burden upon him,” as it is in Psalm 55:22; “the metaphor being taken,” says Cresswell, “from a burden put by one who is unequal to it upon a stronger man.” But Dr Adam Clarke thinks that the idea may be taken from the camel who lies down till his load be rolled upon him. thy ways upon Jehovah. Here David illustrates and confirms the doctrine contained in the preceding verse. In order that God may accomplish our desires, it behoves us to cast all our cares upon him in the exercise of hope and patience. Accordingly, we are taught from this passage how to preserve our minds in tranquillity amidst anxieties, dangers, and floods of trouble. There can be no doubt, that by the term ways we are here to understand all affairs or businesses. The man, therefore, who, leaving the issue of all his affairs to the will of God, and who, patiently waiting to receive from his hand whatever he may be pleased to send, whether prosperity or adversity, casts all his cares, and every other burden which he bears, into his bosom; or, in other words, commits to him all his affairs, — such a person rolls his ways upon Jehovah Hence, David again inculcates the duty of hope and confidence in God: And trust in him By this he intimates, that we render to him the honor to which he is entitled only when we intrust to him the government and direction of our lives; and thus he provides a remedy for a disease with which almost all men are infected. Whence is it that the children of God are envious of the wicked, and are often in trouble and perplexity, and yield to excess of sorrow, and sometimes even murmur and repine, but because, by involving themselves immoderately in endless cares, and cherishing too eagerly a desire to provide for themselves irrespective of God, they plunge, as it were, into an abyss, or at least accumulate to themselves such a vast load of cares, that they are forced at last to sink under them? Desirous to provide a remedy for this evil, David warns us, that in presuming to take upon us the government of our own life, and to provide for all our affairs as if we were able to bear so great a burden, we are greatly deceived, and that, therefore, our only remedy is to fix our eyes upon the providence of God, and to draw from it consolation in all our sorrows. Those who obey this counsel shall escape that horrible labyrinth in which all men labor in vain; for when God shall once have taken the management of our affairs into his own hand, there is no reason to fear that prosperity shall ever fail us. Whence is it that he forsakes us and disappoints our expectations, if it is not because we provoke him, by pretending to greater wisdom and understanding than we possess? If, therefore, we would only permit him, he will perform his part, and will not disappoint our expectations, which he sometimes does as a just punishment for our unbelief.
6. And he will bring forth thy righteousness as the light This David says, in order to anticipate the misgivings which often trouble us when we seem to lose our labor in faithfully serving God, and in dealing uprightly with our neighbors; nay, when our integrity is either exposed to the calumnies of the wicked, or is the occasion of injury to us from men; for then it is thought to be of no account in the sight of God. David, therefore, declares, that God will not suffer our righteousness to be always hid in darkness, but that he will maintain it and bring it forth to the light; namely, when he will bestow upon us such a reward as we desire. He alludes to the darkness of the night, which is soon dispelled by the dawning of the day; as if he had said, We may be often grievously oppressed, and God may not seem to approve our innocence, yet this vicissitude should no more disturb our minds than the darkness of the night which covers the earth; for then the expectation of the light of day sustains our hope.
7. Be silent to Jehovah. The Psalmist continues the illustration of the same doctrine, namely, that we should patiently and meekly bear those things that usually disquiet our minds; for amid innumerable sources of disquietude and conflict there is need of no small patience. By the similitude of silence, which often occurs in the sacred writings, he declares most aptly the nature of faith; for as our affections rise in rebellion against the will of God, so faith, restoring us to a state of humble and peaceful submission, appeases all the tumults of our hearts. By this expression, 2525 The Hebrew verb rendered silent is דום, dom, from which the English word dumb appears to be derived. The silence here enjoined is opposed to murmuring or complaining. The word is rendered by the Septuagint, ὑποταγνθι, be subject; which is not an exact translation of the original term: but it well expresses the meaning; for this silence implies the entire subjection of ourselves to the will of God. therefore, David commands us not to yield to the tumultuous passions of the soul, as the unbelieving do, nor fretfully to set ourselves in opposition to the authority of God, but rather to submit peacefully to him, that he may execute his work in silence. Moreover, as the Hebrew word חול, chul, which we have rendered to wait, sometimes signifies to mourn, and sometimes to wait, the word התחולל, hithcholel, in this place is understood by some as meaning to mourn moderately, or to bear sorrow patiently. It might also be rendered more simply to mourn before God, in order that he might be a witness of all our sorrows; for when the unbelieving give way to doubt and suspense, they rather murmur against him than utter their complaints before him. As, however, the other interpretation is more generally received, namely, that David is exhorting us to hope and patience, I adhere to it. The prophet Isaiah also connects hope with silence in the same sense, (Isaiah 30:15.)
David next repeats what he had said in the first verse, Fret not because of the man who prospereth in his way, or who brings his ways to a happy issue; nor against the man who behaveth himself wickedly, or who accomplishes his devices Of these two interpretations of this last clause, the latter is more in accordance with the scope of the psalm. I confess, indeed, that the word מזמות mezimmoth, is commonly taken in a bad sense for fraud and stratagem. But as זמם zamam, sometimes signifies in general to meditate, the nature of the Hebrew language will bear this meaning, that to execute his devices is of the same import as to effect what he has purposed. Now we see that these two things are connected, namely to dispose his ways according to his desires, or to prosper in his way, and to accomplish his devices It is a very great temptation to us and difficult to bear, when we see fortune smiling upon the ungodly, as if God approved of their wickedness; nay, it excites our wrath and indignation. David, therefore, not contented with a short admonition, insists at some length upon this point.
The accumulation of terms which occurs in the next verse, in which he lays a restraint as with a bridle upon anger, allays wrath and assuages passion, it is not superfluous; but, as in necessary, he rather prescribes numerous remedies for a disease which it is difficult to cure. By this means, he reminds us how easily we are provoked, and how ready we are to take offence, unless we lay a powerful restraint upon our tumultuous passions, and keep them under control. And although the faithful are not able to subdue the lusts of the flesh without much trouble and labour, whilst the prosperity of the wicked excites their impatience, yet this repetition teaches us that we ought unceasingly to wrestle against them; for if we steadily persevere, we know that our endeavors shall not be in vain in the end. I differ from other commentators in the exposition of the last clause. They translate it, at least to do evil; as if David meant that we should appease our anger lest it should lead us to do mischief. But as the particle אך, ach, which they translate at least, is often used affirmatively in Hebrew, I have no doubt that David here teaches, that it cannot be otherwise than that the offense which we take at the prosperity of the wicked should lead us to sin, unless we speedily check it; as it is said in another Psalm,
“God will break the cords of the ungodly, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity,” (Psalm 125:3.)
9. For the wicked shall be cut off. It is not without cause that he repeatedly inculcates the same thing, namely, that the happiness and prosperity which the ungodly enjoy is only a mask or phantom; for the first sight of it so dazzles our senses, that we are unable to form a proper estimate of what will be its issue, in the light of which alone we ought to judge of the value of all that has preceded. But the contrast between the two clauses of the verse ought to be observed. First, in saying that the wicked shall be cut off, he intimates that they shall flourish fresh and green till the time of their destruction shall arrive; and, secondly, in allotting the earth to the godly, saying, They shall inherit the earth, he means that they shall live in such a manner as that the blessing of God shall follow them, even to the grave. Now, as I have already said, the present condition of men is to be estimated by the state in which it will terminate. From the epithet by which he distinguishes the children of God, we learn that they are exercised by a severe conflict for the trial of their faith; for he speaks of them, not as righteous or godly, but as those that wait upon the Lord. What purpose would this waiting serve, unless they groaned under the burden of the cross? Moreover, the possession of the earth which he promises to the children of God is not always realised to them; because it is the will of the Lord that they should live as strangers and pilgrims in it; neither does he permit them to have any fixed abode in it, but rather tries them with frequent troubles, that they may desire with greater alacrity the everlasting dwelling-place of heaven. The flesh is always seeking to build its nest for ever here; and were we not tossed hither and thither, and not suffered to rest, we would by and by forget heaven and the everlasting inheritance. Yet, in the midst of this disquietude, the possession of the earth, of which David here speaks, is not taken away from the children of God; for they know most certainly that they are the rightful heirs of the world. Hence it is that they eat their bread with a quiet conscience, and although they suffer want, yet God provides for their necessities in due season. Finally, although the ungodly labor to effect their destruction, and reckon them unworthy to live upon the earth, yet God stretches forth his hand and protects them; nay, he so upholds them by his power, that they live more securely in a state of exile, than the wicked do in their nests to which they are attached. And thus the blessing, of which David speaks, is in part secret and hidden, because our reason is so dull, that we cannot comprehend what it is to possess the earth; and yet the faithful truly feel and understand that this promise is not made to them in vain, since, having fixed the anchor of their faith in God, they pass their life every day in peace, while God makes it manifest in their experience, that the shadow of his hand is sufficient to protect them.
10 Yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be. This is a confirmation of the preceding verse. It might well have been objected, that the actual state of things in the world is very different from what David here represents it, since the ungodly riot in their pleasures, and the people of God pine away in sickness and poverty. David, therefore, wishing to guard us against a rash and hasty judgment, exhorts us to be quiet for a little while, till the Lord cut off the wicked entirely, and show the efficacy of his grace towards his own people. What he requires then on the part of the true believers is, that in the exercise of their wisdom they should suspend their judgment for a time, and not stop at every trifle, but exercise their thoughts in meditation upon divine providence, until God show out of heaven that the full time is come. Instead, however, of describing them as those who wait upon the Lord, he now speaks of them as the meek; and this he does not without good reason: for unless a man believe that God preserves his own people in a wonderful manner, as if they were like sheep among wolves, he will be always endeavoring to repel force by force. 2626 “De se venger, et de rendre mal pour mal.” — Fr. “To take revenge, and to render evil for evil.” It is hope alone, therefore, which of itself produces meekness; for, by restraining the impetuosity of the flesh, and allaying its vehemence, it trains to equanimity and patience those who submit themselves to God. From this passage it would seem, that Christ has taken that which is written in Matthew 5:5. The word peace is generally employed in the Hebrew to denote the prosperous and happy issue of things; yet another sense will agree better with this place, namely, that while the ungodly shall be agitated with inward trouble, and God shall encompass them on every side with terror, the faithful shall rejoice in the abundance of peace. It is not meant that they are exempted from trouble, but they are sustained by the tranquillity of their minds; so that accounting all the trials which they endure to be only temporary, they now rejoice in hope of the promised rest.
12. The wicked plotteth against the righteous. David here anticipates an objection which might have been taken to the preceding verse. Where, it might be said, can tranquillity and joy be found when the wicked are mad with rage, and plot every kind of mischief against the children of God? And how shall they cherish good hope for the future who see themselves surrounded with innumerable sources of death? David therefore replies, That although the life of the godly should be assailed by many dangers, yet they are secure in the aid and protection of God; and that however much the wicked should plot against them, they shall be continually preserved. Thus, the design of David is to obviate our fears, lest the malice of the ungodly should terrify us above measure, as if they had the power of doing with us according to their pleasure. 2828 “Comme s’ils avoyent puissance de faire de nous a leur plaisir.” — Fr. He indeed confesses that they are not only full of fraud, and expert in deceiving, but also that they burn with anger, and a raging desire of doing mischief, when he says, that they plot mischief deceitfully against the righteous, and gnash upon them with their teeth But after making this statement, he immediately adds, that their endeavors shall be vain. Yet he seems to provide very coldly for our consolation under sorrow, for he represents God as merely laughing But if God values highly our salvation, why does he not set himself to resist the fury of our enemies, and vigorously oppose them? We know that this, as has been said in Psalm 2:4, is a proper trial of our patience, when God does not come forth at once, armed for the discomfiture of the ungodly, but connives for a time and withholds his hand. But as the eye of sense in such circumstances reckons that he delays his coming too long, and from that delay concludes that he indulges in ease, and feels no interest in the affairs of men, it is no small consolation to be able by the eye of faith to behold him laughing; for then we are assured that he is not seated idly in heaven, nor closes his eyes, resigning to chance the government of the world, but purposely delays and keeps silence because he despises their vanity and folly.
And lest the flesh should still murmur and complain, demanding why God should only laugh at the wicked, and not rather take vengeance upon them, the reason is added, that he sees the day of their destruction at hand: For he seeth that his day 2929 “Day is often used," says Ainsworth, “for the time of punishment; as, ‘the posterity shall be astonied at his day,’ Job 18:20; ‘Woe unto them, for their day is come!’ Jeremiah 50:27. So ‘the day of Midian,’ Isaiah 9:4; ‘the day of Jezreel,’ Hosea 1:11; ‘the day of Jerusalem,’ Psalm 137: 7.” is coming. Whence is it that the injuries we sustain from the wickedness of man so trouble us, if it be not that, when not obtaining a speedy redress, we begin to despair of ever seeing a better state of things? But he who sees the executioner standing behind the aggressor with drawn sword no longer desires revenge, but rather exults in the prospect of speedy retribution. David, therefore, teaches us that it is not meet that God, who sees the destruction of the wicked to be at hand, should rage and fret after the manner of men. There is then a tacit distinction here made between God and men, who, amidst the troubles and confusions of the world, do not see the day of the wicked coming, and who, oppressed by cares and fears, cannot laugh, but because vengeance is delayed, rather become so impatient that they murmur and fret. It is not, however, enough for us to know that God acts in a manner altogether different from us, unless we learn to weep patiently whilst he laughs, so that our tears may be a sacrifice of obedience. In the meantime, let us pray that he would enlighten us by his light, for by this means alone will we, by beholding with the eye of faith his laughter, become partakers thereof, even in the midst of sorrow. Some, indeed, explain these two verses in another sense; as if David meant to say, that the faithful live so happily that the wicked envy them. But the reader will now perceive that this is far from the design of the prophet.
14. The wicked draw their sword, and bend their bow. David now goes on to say, that the ungodly, being armed with sword and bow, threaten with death the children of God; and this he does in order to meet the temptation which would otherwise overwhelm them. The promises of God do not have place in a time of quietness and peace, but in the midst of severe and terrible conflicts. And, therefore, David now teaches us that the righteous are not deprived of that peace of which he had spoken a little before, although the wicked should threaten them with instant death. The sentence ought to be explained in this way: Although the wicked draw their swords and bend their bows to destroy the righteous, yet all their efforts shall return upon their own heads, and shall tend to their own destruction. But it is necessary to notice the particular terms in which the miserable condition of the righteous is here described, until God at length vouchsafe to help them. First, they are called poor and needy; and, secondly, they are compared to sheep devoted to destruction, 3030 “De brebis destinees au sacrifice.” — Fr. because they have no power to withstand the violence of their enemies, but rather lie oppressed under their feet. Whence it follows, that a uniform state of enjoyment here is not promised to them in this psalm, but there is only set before them the hope of a blessed issue to their miseries and afflictions, in order to console them under them. But as it often happens that the wicked are hated and treated with severity for their iniquity, the Psalmist adds, that those who thus suffered were those who were of upright ways; meaning by this, that they were afflicted without cause. Formerly he described them as the upright in heart, by which he commended the inward purity of the heart; but now he commends uprightness in the conduct, and in fulfilling every duty towards our neighbor; and thus he shows not only that they are unjustly persecuted, because they have done no evil to their enemies, and have given them no cause of offense, but also, that though provoked by injuries, they nevertheless do not turn aside from the path of duty.
In the 15th verse, David is not speaking of the laughter of God, but is denouncing vengeance against the ungodly, just as we have already seen in the second psalm, at the fourth verse, that although God, by conniving at the wicked, has often suffered them for a time to run to every excess in mirth and rioting, yet he at length speaks to them in his anger to overthrow them. The amount of what is stated is, that the ungodly should prevail so little, that the sword which they had drawn should return into their own bowels, and that their bow should be broken in pieces.
16. Better is the little of the righteous, etc This verse, without any sufficient reason, has been variously rendered. The word המון, hamon,
Ainsworth renders this word, “plenteous mammon,” which, he remarks, “signifieth multitude, plenty, or store of riches, or any other thing.” The Septuagint renders it riches. The English word mammon is derived from this Hebrew word.
which is rendered abundance, indeed, sometimes signifies a great multitude of men, and sometimes abundance of things; sometimes, too, an adjective of the plural number is joined to a substantive of the singular number. But those who wrest David’s words to this sense, that a few righteous persons are better than a great multitude of the
This is the view taken by Fry, who renders the words,
“Better are the few of the Just one,
Than the great multitude of the wicked.”
By the Just One, he understands Christ. plainly destroy their import, and pervert the meaning of the whole sentence. Nor can I receive the explanation which others have given, that the little which the just man possesses is better than the great abundance of the wicked; for I see no necessity for connecting, contrary to the rules of grammar, the word המון, hamon, which denotes abundance, with the word רבים, rabbim. which signifies many or great, and not with the word רשעים, reshaim, which means wicked I have therefore no doubt; that David here contrasts the limited possessions of one righteous man with the riches and wealth of many wicked men. The Hebrew word רבים, rabbim, however, which I have rendered many, may also be properly taken to denote persons of great authority and power. Certainly, it is not difficult to understand that David means to say, that although the wicked excel in this world, and are enriched with its possessions in great abundance and trust in their riches, yet the little which the just man possesses is far better than all their treasures. From this we learn, that David is here speaking, not so much of external grandeur and wealth, as of the secret blessing of God which truly enriches the righteous; for although they live from hand to mouth, yet are they fed from heaven as it were with manna; while the ungodly are always hungry, or else waste away in the very midst of their abundance.
To this also belongs the reason which is added in the next verse, namely, that there is nothing stable in the world except it be sustained by the power of God; but we are plainly told that the righteous only are upheld by him, and that the power of the ungodly shall be broken Here again we see, that in order to form a right and proper estimate of true felicity, we must look forward to the future, or contemplate by the eye of faith the secret grace of God, and his hidden judgments. Unless we are persuaded by faith that God cherishes us in his bosom as a father does his children, our poverty will always be a source of trouble to us; and, on the other hand, unless we bear in mind what is here said concerning the wicked, that their arms shall be broken, we will make too great account of their present condition. But if this doctrine be deeply fixed in the hearts of the faithful, as soon as they shall have learned to rely upon the divine blessing, the delight and joy which they will experience from their little store shall be equal to the magnanimity with which they shall look down, as it were from an eminence, upon the vast treasures in which the ungodly glory. At the same time, we are here admonished, that whilst the ungodly rely upon their own strength, and proudly boast of it, we ought to wait patiently till God arise and break their arms in pieces. As for us, the best consolation which we could have in our infirmity is, that God himself upholds and strengthens us.
18 Jehovah knoweth the days of the upright 3434 “‘Depositeth the days of the upright,” — lays them up in safety for them: for such is the original idea of ירע.” — Fry It is not without good reason that David so frequently inculcates this doctrine, that the righteous are blessed because God provides for their necessities. We see how prone the minds of men are to distrust, and how much they are vexed by an excess of cares and anxieties from which they are unable to extricate themselves, while, on the other hand, they fall into another error in being more anxious regarding the future than there is any reason for; and yet, however active and industrious in the formation of their plans, they are often disappointed in their expectations, and not unfrequently fail altogether of success. Nothing, therefore, is more profitable for us than to have our eyes continually set upon the providence of God, which alone can best provide for us every thing we need. On this account, David now says, that God knoweth the days of the righteous; that is to say, he is not ignorant of the dangers to which they are exposed, and the help which they need. This doctrine we ought to improve as a source of consolation under every vicissitude which may seem to threaten us with destruction. We may be harassed in various ways, and distracted by many dangers, which every moment threaten us with death, but this consideration ought to prove to us a sufficient ground of comfort, that not only are our days numbered by God, but that he also knows all the vicissitudes of our lot on earth. Since God then so carefully watches over us for the maintenance of our welfare, we ought to enjoy, in this our pilgrimage on earth, as much peace and satisfaction as if we were put in full possession of our paternal inheritance and home. Because we are regarded by God, David from this concludes, that our inheritance is everlasting. Moreover, in declaring that those who are upright are thus carefully protected by God, he exhorts us to the sincere pursuit of truth and uprightness; and if we desire to be placed in safety under the protection of God, let us cultivate meekness, and reject with detestation this hellish proverb, “We must howl among wolves.”
19 They shall not be ashamed in the season of adversity This verse also shows us, that the faithful have no right to expect such exemption as the flesh would desire from affliction and trial, but they are assured of deliverance in the end; which, though it be indeed obtained, yet it is of such a nature as can be realised only by faith. We must regard these two things as inseparably connected, namely, that as the faithful are mingled among the wicked in this world, so hunger and adversity are common to both. The only difference betwixt them is, that God stretches forth his hand towards his own people in the time of their need, while he abandons the ungodly, and takes no care of them. If it should be objected, that the wicked often fare sumptuously in the time of famine, and gratify all their desires, whilst the faithful are oppressed with poverty and want, I answer, that the fullness of which mention is here made consists chiefly in this, that the faithful, though they live sparingly, and often labor hard to acquire the means of subsistence, are nevertheless fed by God as truly as if they had a greater abundance of this world’s goods than the ungodly, who greedily devour the good things of this life in all their variety and abundance, and yet are never satisfied. Besides, as I have elsewhere said, these temporal blessings are not always seen flowing in one uniform course. The hand of God is indeed always open, but we are straitened and limited in our desires, so that our own unbelief is no small hinderance to his liberality. Moreover, as our corrupt nature would soon break forth into excess, God deals with us more sparingly; and lest he might corrupt us by too great indulgence, he trains us to frugality by bestowing with a sparing hand what he was ready otherwise to lavish upon us in full abundance. And, indeed, whoever shall consider how much addicted we are to sensuality and pleasure, will not be surprised that God should exercise his own people with poverty and want. But although God may not bestow upon us what is necessary for our gratification, yet, unless our own ingratitude prevent us, we shall experience, even in famine and want, that be nourishes us graciously and liberally.
20 For the wicked shall perish. The causal particle כי, ki, which is here translated for, might also be rendered as if used adversatively by but or although, unless, perhaps, some would prefer to expound the sentence as of much higher import. But the preferable interpretation is, that there is here a contrast between the subjects spoken of, namely, that the righteous are satisfied in the time of famine, whereas the ungodly shall perish in the midst of their affluence; for, while they trust in their abundance, God brings them to nought by the use of means that are secret and hidden. In calling them the enemies of Jehovah, he teaches us, that they are justly overwhelmed by his vengeance, which they bring upon themselves by their own wickedness. When he says, that they shall be consumed as the excellency of lambs, this is understood by some to refer to the fat of them. But as יכר, yakar, signifies excellency, as I have said elsewhere, I have no doubt that this expression denotes the very best of lambs, and such as are of extraordinary fatness: and this is very suitable to the contrast here stated. We learn from this what another prophet likewise teaches, that the ungodly are fattened for the day of slaughter; so that the more sumptuously they shall have lived, the more suddenly shall their destruction come upon them. To be consumed into smoke is of the same import as to vanish away quickly; as if it had been said, There is no stability or substance in them. Those who understand the term יקר, yakar, to mean fat, explain this latter clause in this sense: that the wicked are consumed into smoke as fat melts or wastes away. 3737 It is generally supposed that there is here an allusion to the sacrificial services of the former dispensation. Lambs were then offered in large numbers as burnt-offerings; and if the allusion is to these sacrifices, as is highly probable, the doctrine taught is, that as the fat of them melted away, and was wholly and rapidly consumed by the fire of the altar of burnt-offering, so the wicked shall melt away and be quickly consumed in the fire of Jehovah’s wrath. The Chaldee paraphrases the last clause thus: — “They shall be consumed in the smoke of Gehenna,” or of hell. But the reader will see that the first interpretation is better.