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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 62

Psalms 62

THE Psalmist begins immediately with an expression of his unlimited confidence in God: it is in God only that his soul finds rest, because God only is his Saviour, ( Psalms 62:1-2). Then he turns his eye towards the occasion which had led him to seek refuge under the wings of God;—the diversified wickedness of his numerous enemies, who had aimed at robbing him of his dignity, and at the same time of his life, ( Psalms 62:3 and Psalms 62:4). The consideration of this leads him to exhort his soul to seek rest only in God as his only helper, ( Psalms 62:5-7), and to invite all men to trust in him, ( Psalms 62:8). The exhortation to trust in God is followed by a warning against trusting in any thing else except God,—the help of man, the power of oppression, unrighteous wealth and uncertain riches, ( Psalms 62:9 and Psalms 62:10),—and, as the basis of this exhortation, he points ( Psalms 62:11-12), to the infinite power and love of God.

The Psalm consists exactly of twelve verses. It is divided into three strophes, which contain each four verses. In favour of this we have the Selah at the end of Psalms 62:4 and Psalms 62:8, and each strophe beginning with “ only,” which is unquestionably the characteristic mark of the Psalm. We might at first sight feel inclined to suppose, that one strophe must necessarily end with Psalms 62:7, where the Psalmist finishes having to do with the state of his own heart, and that Psalms 62:8, where he turns his attention outward, and begins to exhort and to teach others, must necessarily begin a new one. But a closer inspection is sufficient to satisfy us that this is not the case. The difference is one of form merely between the direct and the indirect exhortation. Even in Psalms 62:1-7. the Psalmist addresses the church he lays before them, for their imitation, what is passing in his own soul: My soul rests in God,” contains in its back ground, “let your soul rest in God.” This is evident even from “To the Chief Musician” of the title. No Psalm could have been set apart for public use if it were not of general application.

In favour of the Davidic authorship of the Psalm asserted in the title, we have one of the characteristic peculiarities of David’s compositions occurring throughout, viz. the inseparable blending together of what is individual with what is general: comp. for example, Psalms 32, Psalms 51. The assertion of Ewald, that the writer, according to Psalms 62:11, must have been a prophet, is founded on a mistake. The divine revelation, of which the Psalmist there speaks, belongs to the same class as that mentioned in Job 33:13, and as those which are common to all believers.

In favour of the supposition that the Psalm was composed during the time of Absalom’s rebellion, or at least that the circumstances of that period are primarily referred to, we have the ( Psalms 62:4) 4th verse, where it is said, that the whole object of the enemies is to deprive him of his dignity, the ( Psalms 62:5) 5th verse, where the Psalmist calls God his honour, and the resemblance to Psalms 3 and Psalms 4. Ewald, in his remarks on these Psalms, shows how exactly analogous the circumstances of the Psalmist were to those of David at that time: “The enemies by whom he is distressed appear, according to Psalms 62:3 d, to be a set of thoughtless, slanderous citizens, elated with their newly acquired importance, and endeavouring to bring the Psalmist to the dust, and to annihilate him, because they cannot bear his spiritual eminence and superiority.”

The remarks of Amyraldus relative to the peculiar nature and characteristic features of the Psalm, are worthy of notice: “There is in it throughout not one single word (and this is a rare occurrence), in which the prophet expresses fear or dejection, and there is also no prayer in it, although, on other occasions; when in danger, he never omits to pray…. The Prophet found himself remarkably well furnished in reference to that part of piety which consists in πληροφορί?α , the full assurance and perfection of faith, and therefore he designed to rear a monument of this his state of mind, for the purpose of stimulating the reader to the same attainment.”

The particle אךְ? is of great importance in reference to the determination of the peculiar nature of the Psalm: it occurs no less than six times; and this frequent repetition is of itself sufficient to point it out as the soul of the Psalm. The “yea,” by which most translators render it, is far too insignificant to bear this frequent repetition. If we adhere to the usual rendering, “only,” we find, what indeed was requisite, that all the positions which are introduced by the “only,” are arranged in a continuous series: only in God does my soul find rest, because it is only God who is my helper, at a time when my enemies are only considering how they may destroy me. The lesson taught is this, that when we are exposed to relentless hatred on the part of powerful enemies, and when generally in extreme necessity and danger, it is only by going decidedly and directly to cast ourselves without reserve on God, that we obtain quiet and peace to our soul. If we apply to the contest against sin, what in the Psalm before us is said, in the first instance, and directly, of our relation to outward enemies, we obtain “by faith alone.”

The title. To the Chief Musician over Jeduthun, a Psalm of David. The president of the choir of Jeduthun was, according to 1 Chronicles 25:1, 1 Chronicles 25:3, under David, Jeduthun himself:—the choir consisted of his Sons. It is therefore manifest, that the difference is not great between the title and that of Psalms 39.—”To the chief musician, Jeduthun “ As the נצח stands connected with על , the existence of a Jeduthunic choir in the time of David, and indeed in later times, is sufficiently ascertained, (see Psalms 87:1), and as the title thus interpreted is in entire accordance with that of Psalms 39, there is no reason whatever for adopting, in preference to this translation, one less satisfactory, viz. “according to Jeduthun,” that is, “in the way invented by him.”

Verses 1-4

The first strophe is Psalms 62:1-4. The Psalmist finds rest only in God, because it is only from him that there can be salvation, in the face of powerful and determined wickedness.

Ver. 1, Only to God is my soul silent, from him comes my salvation. Ver. 2. Only he is my rock and my salvation, my strong hold, I shall not be much shaken. Ver. 3. How long do you rage all of you like a storm let loose against a man, (do you) murder (him) all of you, like a bending partition, a wall which is violently struck at. Ver. 4. Only from his dignity do they think to thrust him down, they have pleasure in lies, they bless with the mouths and in the heart they curse.

The first clause of Psalms 62:2 is literally, “Only to God is silence my soul,” that is, “Only the direct turning of my soul to God gives it quiet and peace.” The “silence” דומה (is always a substantive, it occurs nowhere else except in the Psalms of David, and was probably a word of his own formation), is not patient trust, quiet resignation, so as to be considered as parallel to Isaiah 30:15: it denotes the opposite of that state of tumultuous agitation which prevails in the soul as long as it looks anywhere else, when in great trouble, than to God: comp. Psalms 42:5, especially “thou art disquieted in me,” and Psalms 22:2. Jo. Arnd: “When we put God out of view, and have not recourse to prayer, the sea is not more agitated in a storm than is the heart and soul of man. For there come in succession, pain, fear, terror, concern, impatience, and so forth, until despair follows, which sinks the poor ship of the soul to the bottom.” In reference to the “only,” the same author thus writes, “When in affliction, turn whithersoever you like, if you turn not to God you will find no rest.” The “to God” is “ ad Deum directa.” Several translators give the first clause as an exhortation with reference to Psalms 62:5. But in such repetitions, there is generally a slight change, and that the “is” ought to be supplied here, is evident from the analogy of the second clause. The “for,” in Psalms 62:5, shows that this second clause contains the basis of the first: for from him is my salvation: only in God my soul finds rest, for he only can help me.

The basis is continued in Psalms 62:2. There is a progression of thought here: the “only” is emphatic:—he and he only is my Saviour. The accumulation of names of God is as characteristic of David, (comp. for example, Psalms 18) among the writers of the Psalms, as it is of Paul Gerhardt among Christian poets. Calvin: “The reason why he heaps together so many names of God is, that he may meet and throw back the assaults of Satan, by, as it were, so many shields.” It is only raw inexperience that can find in such passages “clattering talkativeness.” In reference to “my rock,” and “my stronghold,” see Psalms 18:2. The רבה is used adverbially: “much,” “greatly.” A small misfortune, a transitory sorrow may assail me, (for David sang the Psalm in affliction), but not entire ruin: comp. Psalms 37:24. In Psalms 62:6, “I shall not be moved,” stands alone: the mere stumble not being considered worth speaking of, is left out of sight. The reason why “Elohim” is used throughout the Psalm, becomes evident from the verse before us, and from the preceding one. It is, because the Psalmist is speaking of God, in opposition to every thing of an earthly and human nature: comp. Psalms 62:9 and Psalms 62:10. When such a contrast is drawn, the most general name of God is the most suitable.

In Psalms 62:3 and Psalms 62:4, the Psalmist, first in the form of an address to his enemies, and then in the form of remarks made of them, points at what it was that compelled him to complain to God his only Saviour, We come to learn what we have in God, and to know that he is our only Saviour when we are brought to a state of distress, which, humanly speaking, is irremediable, in contending against determined wickedness. It is only in this school that we learn effectually the “only” of both verses, so that it never again disappears from the mind. The הותת is the Po: of the ἁ?παξ λεγ . התת , in Arabic, “to break,” here with על , manifestly “to break in upon.” “All of you” stands in contrast to “a man.” All appeared to have conspired against the one man David: comp. Psalms 3:2-3. In תרצחו there is combined a double reading: viz. תְ רָ צְ חוּ? , the rare Pihel form, in which the Dagesh is wanting and compensated by the long vowel; and the usual form תְ רַ צּ חוּ? : comp. Ewald’s Small Grammar, p. 277. The first is evidently the original. רצח has always the sense of “to murder,” (comp. at Psalms 42:10), and this sense is very suitable here, and not to be given up for the sense of “to shatter in pieces.” The whole attempt of David’s enemies was a murderous one; his death was the end of all their efforts. In “a bending partition,” the comparison is, according to the usual practice of poets, merely indicated:—so that it is with me as with a partition which is beginning to fall, a wall, which cannot any longer stand against the continually repeated thrusts which are made against it. It is evident from the clause in the ( Psalms 62:4) 4th verse, “they think to thrust him down,” that it is not the enemies but David who is referred to in this figure. There is a similar figure in Isaiah 30:13.

The “only” in Psalms 62:4, indicates that the design of the enemies of David was utterly to destroy him. When this is the case with any one, it is only in God that rest and deliverance are to be found. The שאת is “dignity,” high station, as in Genesis 49:3, and all other passages. Corresponding to this is הדיח , “to push down,” a phrase which was in David’s mouth at the time referred to, 2 Samuel 15:14. In what follows, the Psalmist points out the shameful means which the enemies employed to gain their shameful object, and by which they made his condition so desperate. A chief weapon which the world has always employed in its bitter contest with the church, has been that of lies: compare with, “they have pleasure in lies,” (in opposition to the abhorrence which they should have exhibited rather than pleasure), Psalms 4:2, “ye sons of men (here ver. 9), how long will ye turn my glory to shame, how long will ye love vanity and seek lies. On, “with the mouth,” &c. comp. Psalms 5:9. By hypocritical deceit the he rebels had secured David and gained success for their enterprise. The singular suffix in פיו refers to the ungodly; and, as its position here is in accordance with a practice, which is common in the Psalms, of passing from actual plurality to ideal unity, and conversely, there is no ground for maintaining with Ewald, that the singular affix is admissable only because the language is indefinite: compare a similar expression at Psalms 63:10.

Verses 5-8

In the second strophe, which comprehends Psalms 62:5-8, the Psalmist has no longer to do with enemies. He turns with renewed zeal from them to God, exhorts his soul to seek rest only in him, because he only can and will help, and exhorts all to give themselves into his hands unreservedly as their only Saviour.

Ver. 5. Only to God, O my soul, be thou silent, for from him comes my hope. Ver. 6. Only he is my rock and my salvation, my place of defence, I shall not be moved. Ver. 7. In God is my glory, my strong rock and confidence is God. Ver. 8. Trust in him at all times, ye people, pour out your heart before him, God is our confidence.

The almost verbal repetition of Psalms 62:1 and Psalms 62:2, in Psalms 62:5 and Psalms 62:11, shows us, that the Psalmist, after having gone forth among his enemies, returns back to the point from which he had set out, for the purpose of teaching us, that the consideration of our sufferings and dangers should only serve to bring us anew to God. “Be silent to God,” (comp. at Psalms 37:7), because to be silent refers to him: only in him, in whom alone it is to be found, and not in the world, ( Psalms 62:9 and Psalms 62:10), seek rest, the allaying of thy agitation. “Be thou silent, O my soul,” in contradistinction to “my soul is silent,” of Psalms 62:1, announces human weakness. Calvin: “Our souls are never so completely quieted that they do not experience some secret agitation, as in the sea when a gentle breeze blows, there are no great waves, but there is always some agitation. Then we see how Satan often raises, into new agitation, those who seemed to have been brought to complete rest.” “My hope,”=“the thing for which I hope,” “my salvation:” comp, Psalms 62:1.

I shall not be moved, Psalms 62:6, however much my enemies strive to thrust me down, Psalms 62:4.

On Psalms 62:7, Calvin: “The epithets which David applies to God, in reference to his power to uphold, are like so many pillars, by which he supports his steadfastness, like so many bridles, by which be restrains the levity of his flesh, so that he seeks no part of his salvation any where except in God.” “My help is over (על ) God” is, “it rests upon him,” “it has him for its foundation.” באלהים in or on God, so that he is it: comp. Psalms 62:8.

The expression, “at all times,” implies not only in prosperity, or in troubles of a comparatively easy character, but even in the severest affliction, when every other support seems to threaten. עם , ye people, is used as at Psalms 45:12. In reference to “pour out,” (Arnd: “as when a vessel is completely emptied, that nothing whatever remains in it,”) “your hearts before him,” Calvin: “David exhorts us to lay aside the fault natural to us, which leads us to conceal our pain, and rather to give way to murmuring and despair, than to ease ourselves, by pouring out pious complaints and prayers before God.” The heart comes into view in connection with the cares and sorrows with which it is filled; so that 1 Peter 5:7 is parallel as to sense, “Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you;” comp. Psalms 142:2, “I will pour out my complaint before him,” 1 Samuel 1:15, and Lamentations 2:19. “God is our confidence,” here, in relation to “ my confidence is God,” at Psalms 62:7, shows how easy and natural is the transition from the I to the you.

Verses 9-12

In the third strophe, Psalms 62:9-12, the Psalmist first rejects all other objects of confidence, and then turns, in the conclusion, towards God, as the only steadfast ground of hope.

Ver. 9. The children of men are only vanity, the sons of man are lies, they mount up in the scale of a balance, they are altogether vain. Ver. 10. Trust not in oppression, and be not proud on the spoils of robbery: if wealth springs up around you, set not your heart upon it. Ver. 11. God has spoken one word, yea there are two which I heard, that “might is God’s.” Ver. 12. And thine, O Lord, is loving-kindness, for thou rewardest every one according to his work.

It is evident from verse 10th, that “the children of men are only vanity” in Psalms 62:9 implies “trust not in men, for they are only vanity.” Arnd: “If there were any one among men, immortal, not liable to sin, or to change, whom it were impossible for any one to overcome, but who was strong as an angel, such a one might be something, but inasmuch as every one is a man, a sinner, mortal, weak, liable to sickness and death, exposed to pain and terror, like Pharaoh, even from the most insignificant animals, and liable to so many miseries, that it is impossible to count them, the conclusion must be a valid one: “man is nothing.” Compare Psalms 146:3-4. “The sons of man,” in relation to “the sons of men,” forms a climax: comp. on Psalms 4:2. Lies;—because they cannot fulfil the promises which they make, but entertain with false hopes: comp. at Psalms 40:4. לעלות ;—”they are for going up,”—they must go up, they are so light: compare Ewald, 544. They are of nothing;—they belong to it: comp. Isaiah 40:17. Isaiah 41:24.

After the human help of Psalms 62:10, there is named, as the second object of false confidence, oppression, by which the ungodly world so often endeavours to prop up its might and dominion. The third object is property, of which others have been robbed, property acquired by unrighteous means. Both of these objects, by a relation common to each, stand opposed to the fourth, inasmuch as in their case, the insecurity which attaches to all earthly things, is aggravated by their lying under the curse of God. The second clause is literally, “be not nothing on what has been stolen;”—whoever puts his trust on what is, nothing will become nothing, himself, compare 2 Kings 17:15. The נוב “to sprout,” “to grow up of its own accord,” depicts the opposite of what has been acquired by violent means. חיל is not might, but substance: comp. Deuteronomy 8:11, ss. The heart should not be set even on riches which have been obtained by lawful means, because they are insecure, ( 1 Timothy 6:17), and not permanent. Arnd: “Riches are like a stream, which soon flows to a person, and may also soon flow away, so that where one had first to pass, with a boat, he may in a short while be able to cross by a step and by and by to walk over with dry feet.”

Pointing to the warning contained in Psalms 62:9 and Psalms 62:10, and at the same time, laying the basis of the exhortation of Psalms 62:8, the Psalmist says that God is mighty, in opposition to every thing of an earthly character, and intimates that this is a truth which God had again and again impressed deeply upon his heart. The parallel passages, Job 33:14, and Job 40:5, show beyond a doubt that the “one,” “two” mean more than once, and set aside all other expositions: “God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.” Calvin: “He wishes to say, let this lesson be thoroughly learned,” as what is frequently announced to us remains more firmly with us.”

In the ( Psalms 62:12) 12th verse, the Psalmist adds to this word of God, a second, which serves to supplement it. For that the words, “and thine, O Lord, is loving-kindness,” do not form part of what God uttered, is evident from the succeeding clause, in which a reason is assigned for the affirmation there made, and in which the Psalmist addresses God, Next to power, according to which God, and God alone, can help, he has loving-kindness or love, according to which he will help his own people, who alone are the objects of his love; and, moreover, he must have loving-kindness, inasmuch as it is involved in the very idea of God, as the Righteous One, that he recompense every one according to his work, and therefore manifest himself as compassionate to the righteous, while he destroys the wicked. Romans 2:6; and Revelation 22:12, refer to the second half. These two positions, that God is mighty, and that God is gracious, form the strong pillars on which the confidence of the righteous in God depends,—their cry, “my soul is silent only to God.”

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 62". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-62.html.