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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Psalms 15

Verse 1

1. David’s question 15:1

In his prayer, the psalmist asked Yahweh who could have fellowship with Him, namely, what kind of person. "Abiding in the Lord’s tent" or sanctuary (i.e., the tabernacle David had pitched) and "dwelling on His holy hill" (i.e., Mt. Zion) picture a person who is the guest of God. Guests in the ancient Near East were those who had an intimate relationship with their host, who had extended his protection and provisions to them (cf. Psalms 5:4).

Verses 1-5

Psalms 15

In this psalm, David reflected on the importance of a pure character for those who would worship God and have an intimate relationship with Him. Stylistically, it begins with a question and ends with a promise (cf. Isaiah 33:14-16). This style marks the wisdom literature, and many scholars consider this a wisdom psalm. [Note: E.g., Dahood, 1:83; and VanGemeren, pp. 147-48.] Brueggemann classified it as a Torah psalm. [Note: Brueggemann, p. 42.] The wise person in this psalm contrasts with the fool in the previous one.

"The pattern of question and answer here may possibly be modelled [sic] on what took place at certain sanctuaries in the ancient world, with the worshipper asking the conditions of admittance, and the priest making his reply. But while the expected answer might have been a list of ritual requirements (cf. Exodus 19:10-15; 1 Samuel 21:4 f.), here, strikingly, the Lord’s reply searches the conscience." [Note: Kidner, pp. 80-81.]

"The ascent to Mount Zion is a question of increasing ethical perfection as well as geography." [Note: Jon D. Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry Into the Jewish Bible, p. 173.]

Verse 2

Eight characteristics describe this kind of person in more detail. Together they picture a person of integrity.

1. He speaks the truth sincerely, rather than being double-tongued, i.e., not saying what is true some of the time and lying at other times (Psa_ 15:2 c).

2. He does not slander other people by saying things that are untrue and destructive about them (Psa_ 15:3 a).

3. He does not do evil to his neighbor (i.e., anyone with whom he comes in contact, Psa_ 15:3 b; cf. Proverbs 14:17-24).

4. He does not initiate or propagate information that would discredit others (Psa_ 15:3 c).

5. He does not approve of those who turn away from the Lord but honors others when they choose to follow God’s ways (Psa_ 15:4 a-b).

6. He keeps his promises even when it costs him to do so (Psa_ 15:4 c).

"His honor is more important than his wallet." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 152.]

7. He does not charge interest on money he loans to his brethren, thus taking advantage of their weakness (Psa_ 15:5 a; cf. Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36).

8. He does not pervert justice for his own advantage and so bring hardship on others (Psa_ 15:5 b; cf. Deuteronomy 27:25).

Verses 2-5

2. David’s answer 15:2-5

Verse 5

In conclusion, David observed that such a person will experience stability in his life, as well as enjoying intimate fellowship with God.

The fact that David listed a total of 10 moral qualities in this psalm may indicate that he wanted to suggest a comparison with the Ten Commandments. Though the contents of these lists are not the same, they both identify traits that mark a person who is walking in the will of God. The rabbis identified 613 commands in the Mosaic Law. Isaiah mentioned six that are very important (Isaiah 33:15-16), Micah listed three (Micah 6:8), and Habakkuk boiled them down to one, namely, faith (Habakkuk 2:4).

A believer needs to make sure he is walking in the will of God consistently to enjoy fellowship with God and stability in his life. [Note: See Swindoll, pp. 47-55.]

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 15". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-15.html. 2012.