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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 1
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Psalm 14:5-6

5. There did they tremble with fear, 287287     It is the general opinion that this psalm was composed during the alarm and danger which were occasioned by Absalom’s rebellion, and that this is a prediction of the failure of the conspiracy. But Calmet and Mudge refer the psalm to the captivity in Babylon, and the latter supposes that in this and the preceding verse there is an allusion to the great terror into which the heathen were thrown, in the midst of their impious carousals; which some refer to the scene which took place at Belshazzar’s feast, when the hand was seen writing on the wall. There is, however, great uncertainty as to the occasions on which most of the psalms were composed; and those who have examined the different opinions of interpreters on this subject must be convinced of the difficulty of arriving at any thing like certainty in regard to it. for God is in [or with, or for 288288     “Avec ou pour.” — Fr. marg. ] the generation of the righteous. 6. Ye deride the counsel of the poor, because Jehovah is his hope.

 

5. There did they tremble with fear, The prophet now encourages himself and all the faithful with the best of all consolations, namely, that God will not forsake his people even to the end, but will at length show himself to be their defender. Some explain the adverb of place there, as meaning that God will take vengeance on the wicked in the presence of his saints, because they exercised their tyranny upon them. But I rather think that by this word there is expressed the certainty of their punishment, 289289     Though punishment had not as yet been actually inflicted on the oppressors of the people of God, of whom the Psalmist had spoken in the preceding verse, he speaks of their punishment as if it had taken place. The reason of this manner of speaking concerning things future in prophetic poetry, Horsley explains to be this, “That a scene typical of futurity is presented to the prophet’s imagination, and what he sees in that scene he speaks of as done.” as if the Psalmist pointed to it with the finger. 290290     The particle שם, is used demonstratively, in reference to the scene which lies before the inspired poet’s fancy. “See there!” — Horsley. It may also intimate what we may gather from Psalm 53, that the judgment of God would come upon them suddenly, and when they were not thinking about it; for it is there added, where no fear is, or, where no fear was. 291291     In the Septuagint version, to the words, there were they in great fear, there is added the words οὑ ουκ ἠν ὁ φόβος, Where there was no fear, the transcribers, perhaps, transferring it by memory from Psalm 53:6, or the translators adding the words by way of paraphrase. Expositors, I am aware, differ in their interpretation of these words. Some supply the word equal or like, and read, There is no fear equal to it. Others refer them to those secret alarms with which the ungodly are tormented, even when there may be no ground for apprehension. God threatens the transgressors of his law with such mental torment that they “shall flee when none pursueth them,” (Leviticus 26:17, and Proverbs 28:1) and that “the sound of a shaking leaf shall chase them,” (Leviticus 26:36) just as we see that they are themselves their own tormentors, and are agitated with mental trouble even when there is no external cause to create it. But I think the meaning of the prophet is different, namely, that when their affairs are in a state of the greatest tranquillity and prosperity, God will suddenly launch against them the bolts of his vengeance.

“For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them,” (1 Thessalonians 5:3.)

The prophet, therefore, encourages and supports the faithful with this prospect, that the ungodly, when they think themselves free from all danger, and are securely celebrating their own triumphs, shall be overwhelmed with sudden destruction.

The reason of this is added in the last clause of the verse, namely, because God is determined to defend the righteous, and to take in hand their cause: For God is in the generation of the righteous Now, in order to preserve them safe, he must necessarily thunder in his wrath from heaven against their enemies, who unjustly oppress and waste them by violence and extortion. 292292     “Qui les foullent injustement et usent de violence et extorsion.” — Fr. There is, however, some ambiguity in the word דור, dor, which we have translated generation. As this noun in Hebrew sometimes signifies an age, or, the course of human life, the sentence might be explained as follows: Although God for a time may seem to take no notice of the wrongs inflicted upon his servants by the wicked, yet he is ever present with them, and exercises his grace towards them during their whole life. But it seems to me a more simple and natural exposition to interpret the clause thus: That God is on the side of the righteous, and takes their part, as we say, 293293     “Et tient leur parte, comme on dit.” — Fr. so that דור, dor, will have the same signification here which the word natio, [nation,] sometimes has among the Latins.

In Psalm 53:5, the Psalmist adds a sentence which does not occur in this psalm, For God hath scattered the bones of him that besiegeth thee, thou shalt put them to shame; because God hath rejected them. By these words the prophet explains more clearly how God protects the righteous, that it is by delivering them from the jaws of death, just as if one were to put to flight those who had laid siege to a town, and were to set at liberty its inhabitants, who before were in great extremity and quite shut up. 294294     “Ne plus ne morns que si quelqu’un mettoit en fuite ceux qui auroyent dress, le siege derant une ville, et mettoit en liber, les habitans d’icelle qui estoyent auparavant en grande extremit, et bien enserrez.” — Fr. Whence it follows, that we must patiently bear oppression, if we desire to be protected and preserved by the hand of God, at the time of our greatest danger. The expression, bones, is used metaphorically for strength or power. The prophet particularly speaks of their power; for if the wicked were not possessed of riches, ammunition, and troops, which render them formidable, it would not appear, with sufficient evidence, that it is the hand of God which at length crushes them. The Psalmist next exhorts the faithful to a holy boasting, and bids them rest assured that an ignominious destruction hangs over the heads of the wicked. The reason of this is, because God hath rejected them; and if he is opposed to them, all things must ultimately go ill with them. As מאס, maäs, which we have translated to reject, sometimes signifies to despise, some render it thus, Because God hath despised them; but this, I think, does not suit the passage. It would be more appropriate to read, — He hath rendered them contemptible, or, subjected them to disgrace and ignominy. Whence it follows, that they only draw down upon themselves dishonor and infamy while they strive to elevate themselves, as it were, in despite of God.

6. Ye deride the counsel of the poor. He inveighs against those giants who mock at the faithful for their simplicity, in calmly expecting, in their distresses, that God will show himself to be their deliverer. And, certainly, nothing seems more irrational to the flesh than to betake ourselves to God when yet he does not relieve us from our calamities; and the reason is, because the flesh judges of God only according to what it presently beholds of his grace. Whenever, therefore, unbelievers see the children of God overwhelmed with calamities, they reproach them for their groundless confidence, as it appears to them to be, and with sarcastic jeers laugh at the assured hope with which they rely upon God, from whom, notwithstanding, they receive no sensible aid. David, therefore, defies and derides this insolence of the wicked, and threatens that their mockery of the poor and the wretched, and their charging them with folly in depending upon the protection of God, and not sinking under their calamities, will be the cause of their destruction. At the same time, he teaches them that there is no resolution to which we can come which is better advised than the resolution to depend upon God, and that to repose on his salvation, and on the assistance which he hath promised us, even although we may be surrounded with calamities, is the highest wisdom.


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