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1.In Jehovah do I put my trust. Almost all interpreters think that this is a complaint which David brings against his countrymen, that while seeking in every quarter for hiding-places, he could find nowhere even common humanity. And it is indeed true, that in the whole course of his wanderings, after betaking himself to flight to escape the cruelty of Saul, he could find no secure place of retreat, at least, none where he might continue for any length of time undisturbed. He might, therefore, justly complain of his own countrymen, in that none of them deigned to shelter him when he was a fugitive. But I think he has a respect to something higher. When all men were striving, as it were, with each other, to drive him to despair, he must, according to the weakness of the flesh, have been afflicted with great and almost overwhelming distress of mind; but fortified by faith, he confidently and steadfastly leaned on the promises of God, and was thus preserved from yielding to the temptations to which he was exposed. These spiritual conflicts, with which God exercised him in the midst of his extreme perils, he here recounts. Accordingly, as I have just now observed, the psalm should be divided into two parts. Before celebrating the righteousness of God, which he displays in the preservation of the godly, the Psalmist shows how he had encountered even death itself, and yet, through faith and an upright conscience, had obtained the victory. As all men advised him to leave his country, and retire into some place of exile, where he might be concealed, inasmuch as there remained for him no hope of life, unless he should relinquish the kingdom, which had been promised to him; in the beginning of the psalm, he opposes to this perverse advice the shield of his trust in God.
But before entering farther upon the subject, let us interpret the words. The word
But as he seems to intimate that it would be a sign of distrust were he to place his safety in flight, it may be asked, whether or not it would have been lawful for him to flee; yea, we know that he was often forced to retire into exile, and driven about from place to place, and that he even sometimes hid himself in caves. I answer, it is true he was unsettled like a poor fearful bird, which leaps from branch to branch, (241) and was compelled to seek for different bypaths, and to wander from place to place to avoid the snares of his enemies; yet still his faith continued so steadfast that he never alienated himself from the people of God. Others accounted him a lost man, and one whose affairs were in a hopeless condition, setting no more value upon him than if he had been a rotten limb, (242) yet he never separated himself from the body of the Church. And certainly these words, Flee ye, tended only to make him yield to utter despair. But it would have been wrong for him to have yielded to these fears, and to have betaken himself to flight, as if uncertain of what would be the issue. He therefore says expressly, that this was spoken to his soul, meaning that his heart was deeply pierced by such an ignominious rejection, since he saw (as I have said) that it tended only to shake and to weaken his faith. In short, although he had always lived innocently, as it became a true servant of God, yet these malignant men would have doomed him to remain for ever in a state of exile from his native country. This verse teaches us, that however much the world may hate and persecute us, (243) we ought nevertheless to continue steadfast at our post, that we may not deprive ourselves of a right to lay claim to the promises of God, or that these may not slip away from us; and that, however much and however long we may be harassed, we ought always to continue firm and unwavering in the faith of our having the call of God.
(238) Calvin’s meaning is, that according to the Hebrew letters, the verb is in the plural number; but according to the Hebrew punctuation, which regulates the reading, it is in the singular. Piscator, in his commentary on this passage, observes,
(239) This is the reading adopted by the Chaldee, Septuagint, and Vulgate versions. Hammond observes, that “where the Hebrew now reads,
2.Surely, behold! the ungodly. Some think that this is added as the excuse made by those who desired David to save himself by flight. According to others, David expostulates with his countrymen, who saw death menacing him on all sides, and yet denied him shelter. But, in my judgment, he here continues his account of the trying circumstances in which he was placed. His design is not only to place before our view the dangers with which he was surrounded, but to show us that he was exposed even to death itself. He therefore says, that wherever he might hide himself, it was impossible for him to escape from the hands of his enemies. Now, the description of so miserable a condition illustrates the more strikingly the grace of God in the deliverance which he afterwards granted him. With respect to the words, they have fixed their arrows upon the string, to Shoot Secretly, or in darkness, some understand them metaphorically of the attempts which David’s enemies made to surprise him by craft and snares. I, however, prefer this interpretation, as being more simple, - that there was no place so hidden into which the darts of his enemies did not penetrate, and that, therefore, to whatever caves he could betake himself for concealment and shelter, death would follow him as his inseparable attendant.
3.Truly, the foundations are destroyed. Some translate the word
4.Jehovah is in the palace of his holiness. In what follows, the Psalmist glories in the assurance of the favor of God, of which I have spoken. Being destitute of human aid, he betakes himself to the providence of God. It is a signal proof of faith, as I have observed elsewhere, to take and to borrow, so to speak, (245) light from heaven to guide us to the hope of salvation, when we are surrounded in this world with darkness on every side. All men acknowledge that the world is governed by the providence of God; but when there comes some sad confusion of things, which disturbs their ease, and involves them in difficulty, there are few who retain in their minds the firm persuasion of this truth. But from the example of David, we ought to make such account of the providence of God as to hope for a remedy from his judgment, even when matters are in the most desperate condition. There is in the words an implied contrast between heaven and earth; for if David’s attention had been fixed on the state of things in this world, as they appeared to the eye of sense and reason, he would have seen no prospect of deliverance from his present perilous circumstances. But this was not David’s exercise; on the contrary, when in the world all justice lies trodden under foot, and faithfulness has perished, he reflects that God sits in heaven perfect and unchanged, from whom it became him to look for the restoration of order from this state of miserable confusion. He does not simply say that God dwells in heaven; but that he reigns there, as it were, in a royal palace, and has his throne of judgment there. Nor do we indeed render to him the honor which is his due, unless we are fully persuaded that his judgment-seat is a sacred sanctuary for all who are in affliction and unrighteously oppressed. When, therefore, deceit, craft, treachery, cruelty, violence, and extortion, reign in the world; in short, when all things are thrown into disorder and darkness by injustice and wickedness, let faith serve as a lamp to enable us to behold God’s heavenly throne, and let that sight suffice to make us wait in patience for the restoration of things to a better state. The temple of his holiness, or his holy temple, which is commonly taken for Sion, doubtless here signifies heaven; and that it does so is clearly shown by the repetition in the next clause, Jehovah has his throne in Heaven; for it is certain David expresses the same thing twice.
His eyes behold. Here he infers, from the preceding sentence, that nothing is hidden from God, and that, therefore, men will be obliged to render up to him an account of all that they have done. If God reigns in heaven, and if his throne is erected there, it follows that he must necessarily attend to the affairs of men, in order one day to sit in judgment upon them. Epicurus, and such like him as would persuade themselves that God is idle, and indulges in repose in heaven, may be said rather to spread for him a couch on which to sleep than to erect for him a throne of judgment. But it is the glory of our faith that God, the Creator of the world, does not disregard or abandon the order which he himself at first established. And when he suspends his judgments for a time, it becomes us to lean upon this one truth that he beholds from heaven; just as we now see David contenting himself with this consolatory consideration alone, that God rules over mankind, and observes whatever is transacted in the world, although his knowledge, and the exercise of his jurisdiction, are not at first sight apparent. This truth is still more clearly explained in what is immediately added in the fifth verse, that God distinguishes between the righteous and the unrighteous, and in such a way as shows that he is not an idle spectator; for he is said to approve the righteous, and to hate the wicked The Hebrew word
6.He will rain upon the ungodly. David now, in the last place, lays it down as a certain truth, that although God, for a time, may be still and delay his judgments, yet the hour of vengeance will assuredly come. Thus we see how by degrees he rises up to the hope of a happy issue to his present affliction, and he uses his efforts to attain this, that the social and moral disorder, which he saw prevailing around him, might not weaken his faith. As the tribunal of God remains firm and immovable, he, in the first place, sustains and comforts himself from the consideration, that God from on high beholds all that is done here below. In the next place, he considers what the office of judge requires, from which he concludes, that the actions of men cannot escape the inspection of God’s omniscient eye, and that although he does not immediately punish their evil deeds, he hates all the wicked. Finally, he adds, that since God is armed with power, this hatred will not be in vain or ineffectual. Thus while God defers the infliction of punishment, the knowledge of his justice will have a powerful influence in maintaining our faith, until he actually show that he has never departed from his watch-tower, from which he beholds the actions of men. (248) He appropriately compares the punishments which God inflicts to rain. As rain is not constant, but the Lord sends it forth when he pleases; and, when the weather is calmest and most serene, suddenly raises a storm of hail or violent showers of rain; in like manner, it is here intimated that the vengeance which will be inflicted on the wicked will come suddenly, so that, when they shall be indulging in mirth, and intoxicated with their pleasures, and “when they shall say, Peace and safety, sudden destruction will come upon them.” (249) At the same time, David here evidently alludes to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As the prophets, when they would promise the grace of God to the elect, remind them of the deliverance from Egypt, which God wrought in behalf of his ancient people, so when they would alarm the wicked, they threaten them with a destruction like that which befell Sodom and Gomorrah, and they do so upon good grounds; since Jude, in his Epistle, tells us that these cities “are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire,” (Judges 1:7) The Psalmist, with much beauty and propriety, puts snares (250) before fire and brimstone. We see that the ungodly, while God spares them, fear nothing, but give themselves ample scope in their wayward courses, like horses let loose (251) in an open field; and then, if they see any adversity impending over them, they devise for themselves ways of escape; in short, they continually mock God, as if they could not be caught, unless he first entangle and hold them fast in his snares. God, therefore, begins his vengeance by snares, shutting up against the wicked every way of escape; and when he has them entangled and bound, he thunders upon them dreadfully and horribly, like as he consumed Sodom and the neighboring cities with fire from heaven. The word
The portion of their cup. By this expression he testifies that the judgments of God will certainly take effect, although ungodly men may delude themselves by deceitful flattery. This metaphor is frequently to be met with in the Scriptures. As the carnal mind believes nothing with greater difficulty than that the calamities and miseries which seem to be fortuitous, happen according to a just distribution from God, he represents himself under the character of a householder, who distributes to each member his portion or allowance. David, therefore, here intimates that there is certainly a reward laid up for the ungodly; that it will be in vain for them to resist, when the Lord shall reach to them the cup of his wrath to drink; and that the cup prepared for them is not such as they may sip drop by drop, but a cup, the whole of which they will be compelled to drink, as the prophet threatens,
(Ezekiel 23:34) “Thou shalt drink it off even to the dregs.”
(250) Horsley reads, “glowing embers.” Lowth renders the word “live coals,” and observes, that
(252) Dr Adam Clarke renders the words
7.For the righteous Jehovah loveth righteousness. The Psalmist has just now reasoned from the office of God that he will punish the wicked, and now, from the nature of God, he concludes, that he will be the defender of the good and the upright. As he is righteous, David shows that, as the consequence of this, he must love righteousness, for otherwise he would deny himself. Besides, it would be a cold speculation to conceive of righteousness as inherent in God, unless, at the same time, we could come to the settled conclusion that God graciously owns whatever is his own, and furnishes evidence of this in the government of the world. Some think that the abstract term righteousness is put for righteous persons. But, in my opinion, the literal sense is here more suitable, namely, that righteousness is well pleasing to God, and that, therefore, he favors good causes. From this the Psalmist concludes, that the upright are the objects of his regard: His countenance approveth the upright He had said a little before in a different sense, that God beholds the children of men, meaning that he will judge the life of every man; but here he means that God graciously exercises a special care over the upright and the sincere, takes them under his protection, and keeps them in perfect safety. This conclusion of the psalm sufficiently shows, that the scope of the whole of it was to make it manifest that all those who, depending upon the grace of God, sincerely follow after righteousness, shall be safe under his protection. The Psalmist himself was one of this number and, indeed, the very chief of them. This last clause, His countenance approveth the upright, is, indeed, variously explained; but the true meaning, I have no doubt, is, that God has always a regard for the upright, and never turns away his eyes from them. It is a strained interpretation to view the words as meaning that the upright shall behold the face of God. But I will not stop to refute the opinions of other men.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 11". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent