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

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



“The Hebrew and all the versions attribute this psalm to David”;(F1) and there being nothing in the psalm which is in any manner inconsistent with Davidic authorship, we shall accept this as authentic. Only this and Psalms 103 are by David in all of Book IV. “This psalm gives us the resolutions David 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.”(F2)

Kidner observed that these noble resolutions to avoid all association with evil men, “Did not spring from pharisaic pride, but from a king’s concern for a clean administration, honest from the top down.”(F3)

The psalm naturally falls into two divisions: (1) “The king lays down the rules of his own conduct; and (2) he declares war on the vermin that especially infested Eastern courts.”(F4) These divisions are Psalms 101:1-4 and Psalms 101:5-8.

The horde of evil traffickers usually found in Oriental capitals seeking access to the king included all kinds of arrogant self-seekers, deceivers, liars, slanderers and opportunists interested in one thing alone, namely, their own advantage.

The exact time of David’s writing this psalm is not known, but most scholars place it very early in his reign, at a time shortly after he came to the throne. See Psalms 101:2, below.

Verses 1-4


“I will sing of lovingkindness and justice: Unto thee, O Jehovah, will I sing praises. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way: Oh when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no base thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; It shall not cleave unto me. A perverse heart shall depart from me: I will know no evil thing.”

“Lovingkindness and justice” The motto of David’s reign would be God’s lovingkindness and justice, principles which the king here resolved to establish in his kingdom. There would be lovingkindness to the widows, the fatherless, the poor and oppressed; and justice would be meted out to evil-doers.

“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way” An alternative reading of this is, “I will give heed unto the perfect way.” The idea seems to be that David would do his best to live perfectly in God’s sight.

“Oh when wilt thou come unto me?” Maclaren interpreted this as, “David’s longing to see the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem.”(F5) He applied this as an indication of the early date of the psalm in David’s reign. However, we believe a better view of this expression was that of Adam Clarke, “I can neither walk in this perfect way, nor grow wise unto salvation, unless thou come unto me by the grace of thy Spirit; for without thee I can do nothing.”(F6)

“I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” This is the truly revealing test of human character. An interview with any personal counselor will confirm the fact that many men whose public behavior is above reproach exhibit the qualities of a wasp or a tiger in the presence of their own families. Abused and tyrannized wives or children are common social consequences of this.

A Christian man should walk before his own family with the utmost care to treat them with lovingkindness, consideration, understanding, and toleration of their mistakes, loving them, as an apostle said, “even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up to death for her.” Such a person adorns the doctrine of God.

“I will set no base thing before mine eyes” “He will not allow any proposition or purpose that is morally worthless or vile to be brought before him for consideration.”(F7)

“I hate the work of them that turn aside” The “turning aside” here is a reference to sin, “missing the mark.” The alternative reading renders it, “I hate the doing of unfaithfulness.”

“A perverse heart shall depart from me” A king especially needed a resolution of this kind, because pride and stubbornness have led to the ruin of many a monarch. A perverse heart is the opposite of a heart that consents to be corrected by the Word of God. David indeed manifested the quality extolled here in his humbly accepting the reproof of Nathan the prophet following his shameful conduct with Bathsheba.

“I will know no evil thing” The alternative reading is, “I will know no evil person.” The resolution is that no evil person, or evil thing, shall be accepted and tolerated as an adviser, an associate, or a deputy authority under him.

Verses 5-8


“Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I destroy: Him that hath a high look and a proud heart will I not suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: He that walketh in a perfect way, he shall minister unto me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: He that speaketh falsehood shall not be established before mine eyes. Morning by morning will I destroy all the wicked of the land; To cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of Jehovah.”

No king ever entered upon his reign with any better intentions than those which were evidently of David when he penned this psalm. It should also be noted that, “In the earlier years of David’s reign, his life is well known to have been irreproachable; during that period, he practiced what he preached.”(F8)

“Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor” “This may refer to a person hailed into court because he had falsely accused his neighbor.”(F9)

“A high look and a proud heart” In Proverbs 6:18 ff, Solomon is reputed to have listed the seven things God hates; and it is “the proud look” that leads the whole shameful list. From this, it is not too much to say that, at least some of the famed wisdom of Solomon was derived from his father David.

“Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful… he that walketh in a perfect way” The meaning here is that only the faithful, only the persons who are doing right, only the honorable and the truthful, “Shall be promoted to office under my government.”(F10) Scheming, underhanded scoundrels shall be excluded from public office; and only men of known honor and integrity shall have responsible places in the king’s court.

“He that worketh deceit… he that speaketh falsehood” This passage states negatively what is affirmed in the preceding verse.

“Morning by morning” The meaning of this is “continually,” “constantly,” “all the time,” “every day.” “The king here promises that he will be no dilatory judge whose citizens despair of a hearing.”(F11)

Apparently, in the latter days of David’s kingship he failed to keep this resolution. This enabled Absalom to steal away the hearts of the people. 2 Samuel 15:1-6 tells how Absalom met people every day on the way to see the king; he would interrupt them, declaring that no court was in session, openly expressing the allegation (which might or might not have been true) that the king had not deputed anyone to hear the plaintiff’s case, also exclaiming, “Oh that I were made judge in the land.” It was by such devices as these that Absalom was able to steal the hearts of the men of Israel.

Regardless of the truth or falsity of Absalom’s allegations, there must have been some slackening of the king’s diligence that allowed such a situation to develop.

“To cut off the workers of iniquity from the city of Jehovah” It was a noble purpose indeed to strive for a clean city, where crime and wickedness would be suppressed, and where righteousness and truth would be honored. Human nature being what it is, we must allow that David’s hopes along this line were never completely achieved. Nevertheless, he did a far better job as king than the vast majority of the Davidic dynasty that followed him, whose lives, in the aggregate, appear to have been no better than that of other Oriental despots of that historical era.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 101". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/psalms-101.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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