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vrith favour. The signification of crowning does not belong to
the Kal, but only to the Piel.


Surrounded by enemies, the Psalmist cries to God for help,
vers. 1-7. He receives from God the assurance that He will
hear him, and calls upon his enemies to desist from their pro-
jects, since the Lord has vouchsafed to him support, vers. 8-10.
The two main divisions here marked, are very obvious. Koester
divides the first into three strophes, 1-3, 5 and 6, 7 and 8 ; so
that the measure would be 3. 2. 2. 3. But it is better to divide
the Psalm into clear strophes of two verses, with a beginning
and concluding verse. Then the strophical arrangement ex-
actly agrees with the divisions in sense. In vers. 2 and 3 the
Psalmist grounds his prayer for deliverance on the fact, tliat
through suffering he had become quite exhausted, faint in body
and soul. In 4 and 5 he goes so far as to declare, that he had
come nigh to death, and was consequently in danger of losing
liis highest good, that of being able to praise God, which God
in His mercy ought not to take from him. In vers. 6 and 7, he
justifies his affirmation, that he had reached the precincts of
the dead : consuming grief at the malice of his enemies had ex-
liausted the springs of his life. Vers. 8 and 9 form the strophe
of his acceptance and confidence. The first and last verses con-
tain the quintessence of the whole; vers. 2-7 being simply a
further expansion of ver. 1, and \'er. 10 drawing the conclusion
from vers. 8 and 9. If we bring vers. 1 and 10 together, we
have the Psalm in mice.

Traces of a formal arrangement, apart from the division into



strophes, may be perceived. The Psalm has its course in the
number ten; it contains, as it were, a decalogue for those who
are sadly oppressed by their enemies. Further, we cannot look
upon It as accidental, that, in accordance with the superscrip-
tion according to the eight, the name of God occurs in it precisely
eight times. The fact, also, that in the first part the name of
God IS found just five times, cannot be overiooked, when viewed
in connection with the whole number of verses, ten. It would
seem that the author wished in this way to mark the first part
as the one half of his decalogue. See on the five, as the broken,
half-completed number, Baehr Symbolik Th. I. p. 183. The
repetition thrice of the name of God, in the second part, makes
one just the more inclined to perceive a reference to the thrice
repeated name of God in the Mosaic blessing, the fulfilment of
which in himself the Psalmist here triumphantly announces,
especially as in Ps. iv. 7, and elsewhere frequently in the
T'salms, there are distinct verbal allusions to the same.

The superscription ascribes tlie Psalm to David, and tlicre
is certainly notliing to throw a doubt upon its accm-acy. What
makes David so great — the deep feeling of his sins, and his un-
worthiness before God, united with firm confidence that God
will not withdraw His favour from those who implore it with a
broken heart— is all uttered here. Hitzig, indeed, maintains
that the Psalmist exhibits a different character from that of
David,— a desponding spirit, which permits itself to be^easily
dismayed,— a weak, languishing heart, certainly not that of a
warrior ; David did not behave so unmanfully when in danger
of death, but always discovered a lively confidence in God,
which is awanting here. To begin with the last point, that the
Psalmist does not abandon himself to a comfortless despair, but
has a lively confidence in God, is evident from his addressing a
prayer full of expectation for help from the Lord. But if i\ny
one might overlook this in the prayer, he cannot fail to perceive
it in the second part, which breathes nothing but triumphant
confidence. That in David, however, when heavily oppressed
with suffering, the natural man sunk not less tlian with the
Psalmist here, is capable of abundant proof from liis histoiy.
According to 1 Sam. xxx. G, " David was greatly distressed, but
he encouraged himself in the Lord his God." According to 2
Sam. xii. 16 sq., he fasted and wept for seven long days, after
the prophet announced to him the death of his child. In 2 Sam.






xv. 30, he is said to "have gone up !Mount Olivet weeping,
iind with his liead covered," — traits wliich ill agree with the ideal
of a great man formed by the world. The whole argument
rests upon the transference of this ideal to a sphere to which it
does not belong. That supposed greatness of soul which con-
siders suffering as a plaj'thing, above which one should rise
with manlj' courage, is not to be met with in Scripture : there
we find constantly faint, weak and dissolving hearts, whose
strength and consolation are in God alone. This circumstance
arises from more than one cause. 1. Suffering has quite
another aspect to the members of God's Church than to the
world. While the latter regard it only as the effect of acci-
■ dent, which one should meet with manly courage, the pious
man recognises in everj"^ trial the visitation of an angry God, a
chastisement for his sins. This is to Iiim the real sting of the
sufferuig, from which it derives its power to pierce into the
marrow and bone. " Rightly to feel sin," says Luther, " is the
torture of all tortures." He who considers sufferings in that
light cannot without impiety attempt to cast it to the winds.
He must regard it as his duty to allow it to go to his heart ; and
if this is not the case, even that must become again the object
of his pungent sorrow. To make light of tribulations is equiva-
lent, in the view of Scripture, to making light of God. 2. " The
tenderer the heart, the deeper the pain." Living piety makes
the heart soft and tender, refines all its sensibilities, and,
consequently, takes away the power of resistance, which the
world possesses, from the roughness of its heart. Many sources
of pain are opened up in the Christian, which are closed in
the ungodly. Love is much more deeply Avounded by hatred,
than hatred itself ; righteousness sees wickedness in a quite dif-
ferent light from what wickedness itself does ; a soft heart has
goods to lose, of which a hard one knows nothing. 3. The
pious man has a friend in heaven, and on that account has no
reason to be violently overcome by his sorrow. He permits the
floods thereof quietly to pass over him ; lets nature take its free,
spontaneous course, knowing well, that besides tlie natural prin-
ciple, another also exists within him, and that the latter develops
power in the proportion in which the former gains its rights
— that accf)rding to the depths of the pain, is the height of the
joy derived from God — that every one is consoled according to
the nieasiue of the sufferings which he has borne — that the


meat never comes but from the eater, and honey from the ter-
. nble. On the contrary, whosoever lives in the worid without
God, he perceives that, having lost himself, he has lost all. He
girds himself up, gnashes at his pain, does violence to nature,
seeks distractions, endeavours to supply to natm-e on the one
side what it lacks on the other; and thus he succeeds in obtain-
ing the mastery over his pain, so long as God pleases. 4. The
pious man has no reason to prevent himself and others from
seeing into his heart. His strength is in God, and so he can
lay open his weakness. The ungodly, on the other hand, con-
sider it as a reproach to look upon themselves in their weakness,
and to be looked upon by others in it. Even when inwardly
dissolved with pain, he feigns freedom from it, so long as he can.
What relation to sufferings is the right one, may be seen
from tlie consequences to both classes. The pious man, regard-
ing all suffering as a punishment, suffers it to lead him to repent-
- ance, and derives from it the fruit of righteousness. He, on the
other hand, who looks upon suffering merely as the sport of
accident, thereby deprives himself of all blessing from it. And
while, in this respect, he is not the better for his suffering, he is
decidedly the worse in another. He only gathers himself too-e-
ther, only raises himself above his suffering, in such a way as to
strengthen as much as possible the fancy of his own worth,
dignity, and excellence ; and in proportion as pride grows, love
decays ; hardness becomes his inseparable companion. So tliat
he in reality feeds upon his own fat, and quenches his thirst
with his own heart's blood ; and those words apply here, " What
shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose
his own soul?" But suffering, when endured in faith, serves
to free the heart of its natural hardness, to make it softer, and
to open it to love. Finally, only the ligliter sufferings can find
consolation apart from God, even at this dear rate. Whereas
no misfortune can crush the righteous, however great it may be
— for he strengthens himself in God, whose power is infinite
— on the contrary, the man who trusts in himself bears up only
so long as " fate," or in truth, He who sends the affliction, per-
mits. Every moment lie may be precipitated into the abyss of
despair. He who never fainted, who mocked at the faintino-g
of believers, and spake in a contemptuous tone of the " plain-
tive Psalms," must then feel utterly undone. Human strength,
even though everything be done to increase it, is still but a



Hniited resource : it needs only find its proper antagonist to be
■wounded in the heel ; then it gives way, and, along with the
steadiness gained by force, vanishes also that which was feigned.
Nothing is better fitted to show the insufficiency of all human
power in the struggle against suffering, than the confession of
King Frederick II., who spared no cost to elevate this power,
and whose great and mighty soul certainly accomplished all that
can be accomplished in that field. He says, among other places
in the Ep. to D'Alembert, sec. 12, p. 9 : " It is unfortunate,
that all who suffer are forced flatly to contradict Zeno ; for there
is none but will confess pain to be a gi-eat evil." P. 12 : "It
is a noble thing to rise above the disagreeable accidents to which
we are exposed, and a moderate stoicism is the only means of
consolation for the unfortunate. But whenever the stone, the
gout, or the bull of Phalaris mix in the scene, the frightful
shrieks which escape from the sufferers, leave no doubt that pain
is a very real evil." Again, p. 16 : " When a misfortune presses
us, which merely affects our person, self-love makes it a point
of honour to withstand vigorously this misfortune ; but the
moment we suffer an injury which is for ever irreparable, there
is nothing left in Pandora's box which can bring us consolation,
besides, perhaps, for a man of my advanced years, the strong
conviction that I must soon be with those who have gone before
me (i.c. in the land of nothingness). The heart is conscious of
a wound, the Stoic says indeed to himself, ' thou shouldst feel
no pain ;' but I do feel it against my will ; it consumes, it lace-
rates me ; an internal feeling overcomes my strength, and extorts
from me complaints and fruitless groans."

We have not extended our remarks further than the subject
demanded ; for what Hitzig tirges against this Psalm is but a
particular shoot of that modern cast of thought, which finds a
stumblingblock in the tone of deep lamentation that pervades
the Psalms. Hence it appeared proper to employ this oppor-
tunity, in order, once for all, to cut up such objections by the root.

It is of importance for the exposition, to detennine some-
what closely from the Psalm itself the situation in which the
speaker was placed. From ver. 7,. and vers. 8-10, it appears
that he was sorely pressed with enemies. This serves of itself
sufficiently to manifest the objectionableness of that view which
represents the distress as consisting in a mere corporeal illness.
There are certainly passages, such as ver. 2, which could not.



psAlm vt.


without the greatest violence, be understood of anything but of
exhaustion of all bodily powers. But the whole becomes plain,
when we represent to ourselves the position of the speaker thus :
His distress proceeded at first from external enemies. But upon
this arose another of a far heavier kind. He saw in that out-
ward distress a punishment of his past sins, which now returned
upon his soul with the weight of an oppressive load. He fell
into a severe conflict, which left even his body weak and im-
poverished. At length he gives vent to his oppressed soul in
this supplication ; and then to his deep notes of lamentation,
succeeds the most triumphant tone of joy. Now he mocks at
outward distress, and in spirit sees his enemies already van-
quished. De Wette and Hitzig, without the least ground, give
the Psalm a national reference, and suppose, that under the
image of a suffering individual, is represented the Israelitish
people in exile. Not the slightest trace is to be found of such
a reference. When De Wette appeals to the great resemblance
this has to public songs of a plaintive nature, as chap. iii. of
Lam., he overlooks the fact, that these poems, descriptive of a
nation's grief, were imitations of personal poems of a like na-
ture. Ewald remarks, in opposition to De Wette, of this and
similar Psalms : * " No exposition of such poems can be more
erroneous than that which considers the representation of a
severe illness as figurative, or which connects therewith the idea
of a whole people's lamentation being contained in it, instead of
that of a single individual." But we must not, on the other
hand, attribute too much importance to the disease, — must not
take it as something independent. The second part speaks
decidedly against this. Inasmuch as the Psalmist here only
expresses his triumphant confidence, that the Lord will deliver
him from his enemies, and never mentions bodily sickness, such
sickness can only have been the result of hostile attacks, the con-
sequence of the anxiety which they occasioned him ; hence, wlien
the cause ceased, the effect ceased. The considerations which
oppose the reference to mere bodily trouble, also oppose tlie
exposition of Luther and others, who regard the Psalm as relat-
ing to a high spiritual conflict in the hour of death. " It is not
to be supposed," says Luther, " that all Christians are afflicted
with the vexation and painful trials of which this Psalm speaks ;
for all are not exercised with the same kind of tribulation,
although God tries all with many tribulations and hardsiiips.



— He contends here with death and hell, a battle which is not
waged with men, nor concerning temporal or spiritual tempta-
tions, but in the spirit within, nay, without and above the spirit
in that last struggle, when no one either sees, or hears, or feels,
save alone that Spirit, who with unutterable groans prays and
intercedes for the saints." The words, " because of all mine
enemies," in ver. 7, and " depart from me, all ye workers of
iniquity," in ver. 8, are quite inexplicable on this view.

As the Psalm does not contain a single feature of a per-
sonal kind, it is highly probable that David here expresses the
feelings of those who are vexed to death with the long-con-
tinued assaults of malicious enemies. For this view, perhaps,
vers. 6 and 7 may be adduced, where the profound grief is de-
scribed in a manner which seems to indicate a supposed, rather
than an actual position. David's desire is to impress on the
minds of his companions in tribulation that even at the worst they
ought not to despair : the desolation itself should be converted
into a source of comfort, in that, on the ground thereof, we may
implore God for help, who is ever ready to assist His own, when
things are at the worst, — so that the lowest depth of sorrow is
a sure harbinger of salvation, the approach of death a pledge of
life. Tliis general characteristic of the Psalm was perceived by
Luther : " I conceive that we have here a common lesson and
instruction, which is suited to eveiy Christian who is plunged
in such distress."

It is of course plain, that what is here said primarily of the
oppression of enemies, may be, substantially, equally applied to
eveiy other sort of trouble. The particular is the accident — wliat
is true of the species is true of the kind, and of every other species
of the kind. The remarks of the Berlebiu-g Bible on, " Depart
from me, all ye workers of iniquity :" " Depart from me, ye false
tormenting accusations, ye rage and fury of menacing spirits and
powers, that terrify me to death, and have shut up my blessed life
as in the abyss of hell ; j'e are the real evil-doers, whom my
external foes merely represent," — are perfectly connect, when
considered as a theological exposition, but not as a grammatical
historical one. That the special kind of affliction with which the
Psalm is occupied does not so prominently appear under the
New Testament dispensation, so that many cannot understand
these incessant complaints regarding the malice of enemies, is a
Kiighty proof of the world-transforming power of Christianity.



In regard to the principle which forms the basis of the Psalm,
viz. that outward suffering is a chastisement for sin, nothing can
be more superficial than to maintain, that tliis view is peculiar
to the lower stage of the Old Testament. The same precisely
IS found in the New Testament ; for example, in the declarations
of our Lord Himself ; John v. 14 ; and Luke v. 20, xiii. 1, etc.
In the first passage, sickness is threatened as a punishment for
sm ; in the second, taken away as such ; in the third, the Lord
, threatens, on occasion of a heavy calamity, a similar calamity to
all, if they repented not,— implying, therefore, that the evil al-
ready inflicted was to be regarded as a punishment for sin. If
the suffering be not viewed as a punislmient, it cannot be re-
conciled with the Divine righteousness, it loses all its influence
for good, and it is no longer a call to repentance. The only
error is to refer the suffering to some special sin, to some coarse
offence, instead of to sin in general,— an error characterized as
such by our Lord in John ix. 2, 3. Far, therefore, from turn-
ing up the nose at the religions standpoint of the old covenant,
we should rather follow the admonition of Muis : " As often as
we are visited with sickness, or any other suffering, we should,
after the example of David, call our sins to remembrance, and
flee to God's couqjassion ; not like the ungodly, who ascribe
their evil, as well as their good, to any cause rather than God,
and hence are never led, either by the one to repentance, or by
the other to gratitude. Sickness or calamity is not to be esti-
mated according to the mind of the flesh, but of the spirit ; and
we must reflect, that if God afflicts us, He deals with us as sons,
that He may chasten and improve us."

n'J''DC is taken by many expositors for a musical instrument,
and because ^yoc signifies eight, the kind of instrument is gener-
ally considered as a guitar with eight strings. It is impossible,
however, that " the eight" can denote an instrument of eight
cords. Besides, both here and in Ps. xii., tiie nuisical instru-
ment is mentioned in addition, as also in 1 Chron. xv. 21. The
correct explanation is given by those who take it for an indica-
tion of the time. The hv is then put to mark the relation of the
particular to the general ; that which forms its substratum, upon
which it is laid, and according to which it is measured and regu-
lated. But our ignorance of Heb. music renders all more minute
explanations impossible.

Ver. 1. Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, neither chasten



7K« in Thy hot displeasure. Calvin : " I acknowledge, Lord,
that I am indeed worthy of being destroyed by Thee ; but as I
am not in a condition to sustain Thy power, deal wth me, not
according to my desert, but rather pardon the sins, through
which I have drawn Thine indignation upon me." Most ex-
positors remark with De Wette : " The sixfferer prays not for a
removal, but only for an alleviation of the calamity." So also
Luther : " This he regards not, nay, he will readily yield to be
punished and chastened ; but he begs that it may be done in

mercy and goodness, not in anger and fury Therefore

the propliet teaches us here, that there are two rods of God,
one of mercy and goodness, another of anger and fury. Hence
Jeremiah prays, chap. x. 24, ' O Lord, correct me, but with
judgment, not in Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.'"
But that this exposition, flowing from an unseasonable compa-
rison of the above passage in Jeremiah, is unsound, is evident
from this, that the Psalmist, in what follows, always begs that
chastisement in general may be taken away ; but especially from
the assurance in the second part, where he still experiences
nothing but what he had prayed for (comp. " The Lord hath
heard my supplication, the Lord will receive my prayer"), not
merely of an alleviation of his suffering, but of an entire re-
moval of it. The contrast is, therefore, not between a chastise-
ment in love and a chastisement in anger, but between a loving
deliverance and a chastisement, wliich always proceeds from a
principle of anger. The sufferer prays that, as matters had come
to an extremity with him, and his powers of endurance were now
completely exhausted, the sun of grace might shine through the
cloud of indignation, by which it had been so long obscured.
Whereas the ungodly is subject to Divine wrath alone, the
righteous, though always at the same time a sinner, is an object
of Divine love, even in the midst of wrath ; which love must
manifest itself as soon as the expression of anger has fulfilled
its purpose, and the sufferer is brought to the verge of destruc-
tion, which can alight only on the wicked. God does not deal
in a soft way with His own : He consumes what remains in them
of sin by hard sufferings, but He always orders it so that they are
able to bear it ; when it has proceeded to a certain point, then
He turns, and, instead of concealed grace (for even the exhibi-
tion of anger has a part to serve in the work of grace), there is
now given an open manifestation of it. But that the sufferer




belongs to the number of the righteous, for whom the exchange
from anger into grace is certain, he makes to appear by this, that
though he feels nothing but anger, he still sees the hght of grace
shmmg through the midst of thick darkness. This he alone
can do, who is closely related to God, and has a Hving faith. In
the midst of distress, to pray for gi-ace, to hope for grace, is a
sure sign of being in the state of grace, a clear pledge that grace
may be looked for. Luther : « This Psalm then teaches us, that
when one is plied with such assaults, he must have recomse to
no other refuge than to the angiy Lord Himself ; but that is a
matter of difficulty and labour, and is always to believe against
hope, Rom. iv. 18, and to strive against impossibilities.— But it
is carefully to be borne in mind, that they who experience such
distress should adhere with their whole heart to the doctrine
of tliis Psalm, viz. that they should not let their feelings carry
them too far, should not howl and cry, nor seek for human con-
solation ; but should stand out against the heaviest trials, and
suffer the hand of God, and, with the prophet here, apply no-
where but to the Lord, and say, Ah ! Lord, rebuke me not in
Thine anger, and chasten me not in Thy hot displeasure. When
men do not conduct themselves in this prudent way, they fall,
to their great hm-t, out of the hand of God, who in this manner
heals and purifies them ; especially if they seek consolation in a
worldly way, and have recom-se to some poor creature, the issue
cannot be otherwise with them. If the clay, while being turned,
falls out of the hand of the potter, it becomes more completely
shattered than before, insomuch that it is useless, and the potter
throws it away as good for nothing." — n^ain to reprove. But
the discourse here is of a sermo realis. God reproves the sinner's
guilt through the sufferings which He lays upon him. It is in-
correct to say, that the verb here signifies precisely " to punish
by deeds," but elsewhere, " to punish with words." non prop.
heat, glow, then " the glow of anger."

Online LibraryErnst Wilhelm HengstenbergCommentary on the Psalms → online text (page 10 of 56)