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Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 101

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


The subject proposed, mercy and judgment, 1.

The psalmist's resolution in respect to his private conduct, 2.

He will put away evil, inward and outward, 3.

No evil person shall stand in his presence, 4;

nor any slanderer of his neighbour, 4, 5.

He will encourage the faithful and upright, 6;

but the deceitful, the liars, and the profligate, he will cast

out of the city of God, 7, 8.


The Hebrew and all the Versions attribute this Psalm to David. It shows us the resolutions he formed when he came to the throne; and it is a perfect model according to which a wise prince should regulate his conduct and his government.

Verse Psalms 101:1. I will sing of mercy and judgment — David might say, Adverse and prosperous providences have been of the utmost use to my soul; therefore, I will thank God for both. Or, as he was probably now called to the government of all the tribes, he might make a resolution that he would show חסד chesed, incessant benevolence, to the upright; and משפט mishpat, the execution of judgment, to the wicked; and would make the conduct of God the model of his own.

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 101:2. I will behave myself wisely — God's law prescribes a perfect way of life; in this perfect way I have professed to walk, and I must act wisely in order to walk in it.

When wilt thou come unto me? — I can neither walk in this way, nor grow wise unto salvation, unless thou come unto me by thy grace and Spirit; for without thee I can do nothing.

I will walk within my house — It is easier for most men to walk with a perfect heart in the Church, or even in the world, than in their own families. How many are as meek as lambs among others, when at home they are wasps or tigers! The man who, in the midst of family provocations, maintains a Christian character, being meek, gentle, and long-suffering to his wife, his children, and his servants, has got a perfect heart, and adorns the doctrine of God his Saviour in all things.

The original is very emphatic; אתהלך ethhallech, "I will set myself to walk," I will make it a determined point thus to walk. I will bear and forbear with children, servants, c., not speaking rashly, nor giving way to bad tempers. Through various motives a man will behave with propriety and decorum among others but none of these motives operate in his own house, where he feels himself master, and consequently under no restraint.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 101:3. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes — I will undertake no unjust wars; will enter into no sinful alliances; will not oppress my subjects by excessive taxation, to support extravagance in my court. I will not look favourably on things or words of Belial. What is good for nothing or evil in its operation, what is wicked in its principle, and what would lead me away from righteousness and truth, I will never set before my eyes.

Them that turn aside — I shall particularly abominate the conduct of those who apostatize from the true religion, and those who deny its Divine authority, and who live without having their conduct governed by its influence, such shall never he put in a place of political trust or confidence by me.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 101:4. A froward heart — Rash and headstrong men shall not be employed by me.

I will not know a wicked person. — I will give no countenance to sinners of any kind; and whatever is evil shall be an object of my abhorrence.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 101:5. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour — All flatterers and time-servers, and those who by insinuations and false accusations endeavour to supplant the upright, that they may obtain their offices for themselves or their dependants, will I consider as enemies to the state, I will abominate, and expel them from my court.

The Chaldee gives a remarkable meaning to the Hebrew, מלשני בסתר רעהו melasheni bassether reehu, which we translate, Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, and which it renders thus, דמשתעי לישן תליתי על חבריה demishtaey lishan telitai al chabreyah: "He who speaks with the triple tongue against his neighbour." That is, the tongue by which he slays three persons, viz.,

1. The man whom he slanders;

2. Him to whom he communicates the slander; and,

3. Himself, the slanderer.

Every slanderer has his triple tongue, and by every slander inflicts those three deadly wounds. Such a person deserves to be cut off. On this subject St. Jerome speaks nearly in the same way: Ille qui detrahit, et se, et illum qui audit, demergit; "He who slanders ruins both himself and him who hears him;" he might have added, and him who is slandered, for this is often the case; the innocent are ruined by detraction.

A high look and a proud heart — One who is seeking preferment; who sticks at nothing to gain it; and one who behaves himself haughtily and insolently in his office.

Will not I suffer. — לא אוכל lo uchal, I cannot away with. These persons especially will I drive from my presence, and from all state employments.

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 101:6. Mine eyes — My approbation.

Upon the faithful — The humble, upright followers of God.

That they may dwell with me — Be my confidants and privy counsellors. No irreligious or wicked man, whatever his abilities may be, shall be countenanced or supported by me. I will purify my court from the base, the irreligious, the avaricious, the venal, the profligate, and the wicked.

He that walketh in a perfect way — He that is truly religious.

He shall serve me. — Shall be my prime minister, and the chief officer in my army, and over my finances.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 101:7. He that worketh deceit - that telleth lies — I will expel from my court all sycophants and flatterers. Tiberius encouraged flatterers; Titus burned some, banished several others, and sold many for slaves.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 101:8. I will early destroy — I will take the first opportunity of destroying all the wicked of the land. I will purify my court, purge Jerusalem, and cleanse the whole land of every abomination and abominable person; so that the city of my God, where holiness alone should dwell, shall indeed become the Holy City; that the state may be made prosperous, and the people happy. Such an administration must have been a good one, where such pious caution was used in choosing all the officers of the state.


There are two parts of this Psalm: -

I. The sum, with the dedication of it, Psalms 101:1.

II. The full explanation of mercy and judgment, and how practiced: -

1. Towards himself, Psalms 101:2-5.

2. Towards ungodly men, Psalms 101:4-5; Psalms 101:7-8.

3. Towards all good men, Psalms 101:6.

I. The sum of the Psalm, mercy and judgment, the two great virtues of a king.

1. Mercy in countenancing, giving audience, judging, and rewarding the good.

2. Judgment in discountenancing, being a terror to and punishing the evil doers.

II. He begins with his own reformation and that of his house, that he may set a godly example to his kingdom.

1. "I will behave myself wisely:" most act foolishly; I shall be guided by Divine wisdom.

2. "I am in a perfect way:" I have professed to believe in the God of Israel, and I must walk suitably to this profession.

3. "When wilt thou come unto me?" I am sincere in my resolves; but without thee I can do nothing. Stand by me, and I will walk uprightly.

In his house he resolves, "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."

1. "I will walk:" it shall be my constant employment.

2. "I will walk in my house:" I will see that my family fear God.

3. "I will walk with a perfect heart:" I shall do nothing for show; all shall be sincere and pious.

In order to walk in this perfect way, he promises, -

1. "I will set no wicked thing before my eyes:" evil desires enter more frequently into the soul by the eye than by any of the other senses.

2. "I hate the work of them that turn aside:" he that would leave sin must hate and abhor it: he that leaves God is an object of abhorrence.

3. "It shall not cleave to me:" it will cleave to him who cleaves to it. He who does not hate it, will cleave to it.

He shows what he will be towards the ungodly.

1. "A froward heart shall depart from me:" the headstrong, stubborn, and refractory.

2. "I will not know the wicked:" I shall not only not approve of such, but I will cultivate no acquaintance with them.

These wicked persons he particularizes. They are,

1. Slanderers: "Him that slandereth his neighbour I will cut off."

2. The ambitious: "Him that hath a high look," who wants influence and honour.

3. The proud: the haughty, who thinks all born to be his vassals.

How he will treat the godly.

1. "His eye shall be upon the faithful." Of them he will take especial care; he shall dwell with me.

2. The truly religious, "he that walks in a perfect way," shall be employed by himself. "He shall serve me."

He farther states what he will do in reference to the ungodly.

1. No fraudulent person shall dwell in his house: "He that worketh deceit," c.

2. Liars shall be banished out of his sight.

In this work he tells us how he would proceed.

1. "I will early destroy." I will make despatch, that the land be not polluted.

2. The end, in reference to the Church: "I will cut off the wicked from the city of the Lord." The city, the seat of government, the place of God's altars, must be kept pure. There must be a thorough, a radical reform. No corruption or abuse, either in things political, domestic, or religious, shall be tolerated. All must be holy, as he who has called us is holy. This was a reformation according to God's word not according to the caprice of the multitude.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 101". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-101.html. 1832.
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