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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 14

Verse 1

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.

This psalm is probably altered by David from his 53rd Psalm, to fit it for the liturgy of the sanctuary. Hence, he omits whatever in Psalms 53:1-6 was more fitted for private than for public use. Instead of the general name 'Elohiym (H430), the Creator, he substitutes the special name Yahweh (H3068), the Fulfiller of His covenant with His people. The "Maschil" instruction in the title of Psalms 53:1-6 is omitted in Psalms 14:1-7; Psalms 53:1-6, is an instructive warning to the wicked. Psalms 14:1-7 is to comfort the righteous amidst abounding wickedness.

Psalms 14:1-7.-The universality of man's apostasy (Psalms 14:1-3); suicidal blindness of the workers of iniquity; great fear overtakes them; Yahweh, His poor people's refuge (Psalms 14:4-6); prayer for Israel's joyful deliverance (Psalms 14:7).

The fool hath said - not merely, he is a fool who saith there is no God, but, the whole world is full of the FOOLS who say so. [ naabaal (H5036), from a root to wither: one of withered intellect. Contrast Psalms 1:3, the leaf of the godly "shall not wither," the same Hebrew root].

Hath said in his heart. From the fountain-head of evil, the heart, the evil passes to the understanding. Then comes its manifestation in deeds. Scripture calls things by their right names. Sin, however gilded over with seeming sagacity and success, is according to the Word of God "folly," and the worldly-wise sinner a "fool."

There is no God. Not many say this in so many words; but it is the secret thought (because it is the wish) of their "heart."

They are corrupt, they have done abominable works. Corruption of life flows necessarily from atheism of the heart. Man is the same "corrupt" being in all ages as he was before the flood (Genesis 6:12).

There is none that doeth good. The Septuagint and Vulgate add, "No, not one;" so Paul quotes it, Romans 3:10; Romans 3:12.

Verse 2

The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.

The Lord looked (looks, Hengstenberg and Chaldaic) down from heaven ... to see if there were any that did understand. Yahweh is not, as unbelievers think, indifferent about man's conduct. Nay, He is continually taking strict note of all the thoughts, words, and acts of His creatures. Appropriately God (Hebrew, 'Elohiym (H430)), whose existence the worldly ignore, changes His name into " Yahweh" (H3068) (the English version "the Lord"), the personal God, faithful to His promises and to His threats. So far from corrupt fools being, as man's self-love supposes, an exceptional few, they constitute the masses of the world, and even of the professing church. Those few who "understand" - i:e., act on true wisdom, which is piety (Psalms 111:10; Daniel 12:10), form the exception; the multitudes who are "fools" and "corrupt," the rule.

The children of men. The Psalmist has in view Genesis 11:5, where similarly "The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the children of men builded:" cf. also Genesis 18:21.

And seek God - 'Elohiym (H430). Compare Deuteronomy 4:29; Jeremiah 29:13; 2 Chronicles 15:2. 'Elohiym is from an old Hebrew root to worship ['aalah] (Arabic, alaha), akin to a root [ 'uwl (H193)] to be strong. The primary idea is that of strength, so that 'Elohiym expresses the Deity in His manifold power, without reference to His personality and moral attributes. The plural form indicates the fullness and richness of the divine powers, as comprehending in Himself all those several perfections of might which the pagan afterward attributed to their numerous deities respectively. 'Elohiym expresses the Deity in the abstract. It is more the philosophical, than the devotional term. YAHWEH is the revealed 'Elohiym, the manifest, only, personal, one. The name may be read rather as [ Yahweh (H3068)], 'the Existing One.' 'Elohiym indicates the Creator; Yahweh indicates the Redeemer. In the Pentateuch Moses accurately observes the theological difference of idea, in his use of the names Yahweh and 'Elohiym respectively (Havernick).

Verse 3

They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

They are all gone aside - the condition by nature of all without exception: "children of men" (Psalms 14:2). "The generation of the righteous" (Psalms 14:5) also "were by nature the children of wrath, even as others" (Ephesians 2:3). Grace makes the difference between them and the general mass. The children of grace are comparatively few (Matthew 7:14). He accumulates words to express the wide prevalence of the corruption, "all (literally, 'the all:' the whole of humanity) ... together ... there is none that doeth good, no not one." Their 'going aside' or "away" (from God) stands in contrast to 'seeking the Lord.'

They are all together become filthy - literally, 'become rancid' [ 'aalach (H444), Job 15:16 ]. Paul adds to his quotation from this psalm, verses quoted from various other parts of Scripture (Romans 3:13-18). Hence, transcribers have added the same words as parts of this 14th Psalm in the margin of the Vatican, the Septuagint, and in some of the Latin versions, not perceiving that the apostle's quotation was not limited to this psalm.

Suicidal blindness of the workers of iniquity in assailing the Lord's people, and so bringing destruction on themselves from the Lord.

Verse 4

Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.

Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? - expressing wonder at the monstrous folly of the evil-doers. They are awfully blind to their own interest. They are criminally, because willfully, without "knowledge" of God, of themselves, of the fatal results of their perversity, and of the blessedness which follows righteousness.

Who eat up my people as they eat bread. The Psalmist speaks in the person of God, calling the people of the covenant "my people" (Ezekiel 34:2-3; Micah 3:3; Jeremiah 10:25). Both the pagan enemies and the treacherous rulers of God's people are stigmatized; their only care is their own selfish, worldly interest. As one eating bread never thinks he does any wrong thereby; so these who prey upon the people of God are utterly without compunction, reckless of the honour of God or the welfare of His people (Proverbs 30:14).

And call not upon the Lord - answering to their saying in their heart, "There is no God" (Psalms 14:1), and not 'seeking God' (Psalms 14:2), and having "gone aside" from Him (Psalms 14:3). Heartless conduct toward man, and disregard of God, go hand in hand.

Verse 5

There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.

There - in the very place of their sin, their punishment overtakes them. He points to them as though present.

Were they in great fear - the prophetical past for the future: implying the certainty of the coming event-literally, 'they feared a fear.' Psalms 53:5 adds, "where no fear was." In the midst of their prosperity, when nothing shall be further from their thoughts than calamity, overwhelming fear shall surprise them.

For God is in the generation of the righteous. The "for" expresses that God's favour toward 'the righteous generation in' which 'He dwells,' is the ground of the terrible destruction wherewith He shall overwhelm their oppressors. This verse and Psalms 53:5 do not refer to the groundless alarms to which the guilty are given through conscience, as many explain, quoting Leviticus 26:17; Leviticus 26:36; and Proverbs 28:1; but to the real terrors of judgment which shall suddenly overtake them (Job 15:21; and 1 Thessalonians 5:3). Psalms 53:5 proves this by substituting for "God is in the generation of the righteous," "God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee."

Verse 6

Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.

Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor - understand, to accord with the first clause of Psalms 14:5, to which this clause is parallel, therefore ye shall be put to shame yourselves. This is elegantly left to be supplied: so certain is the connection between the sin (which is expressed) and its retribution in kind (which is to be understood). Thus the clause tallies with Psalms 53:5, "thou hast put them to shame." Also thus, the "because" follows naturally, ye shall be put to shame for shaming the God-relying counsel of the poor in their trials.

Because the Lord (is) his refuge - parallel to (Psalms 14:5) "God is in the generation of the righteous." As "God" ( 'Elohiym (H430), the mighty, Deity) is "among the righteous," therefore "the Lord ( Yahweh (H3068), in covenant relation with His people) is his (the godly poor man's) refuge."

Closing prayer for Israel's salvation and consequent thanksgiving.

Verse 7

Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion - literally, 'Who will give from Zion (the Lord's sanctuary) the salvation of Israel?' (namely, that promised in Psalms 14:4-7, through the destruction of Israel's foes). The mention of "Zion" is a covert plea before God, that, as reigning there the Theocratic Head of the kingdom, He cannot permit the enemy to triumph against the covenant people.

When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people - not that this psalm was written after the captivity. The phrase, 'bring back the captivity,' is a Hebrew idiom for restoring from depression, which is a figurative captivity (Psalms 142:7; Isaiah 42:7; Isaiah 49:9). So Job 42:10, "The Lord turned the captivity of Job." Job was never literally a captive (Ezekiel 16:53). The source of the phrase is Deuteronomy 30:3. Had the psalm been written during the captivity, the Psalmist could not have looked for salvation out of Zion, because the Shekinah symbol of God's presence had then left Zion (Ezekiel 11:22). Nor can Psalms 14:7 be a late addition, because it is found in Psalms 53:1-6; and the intentional seven-fold use of the name of "God" ("Lord") requires it. Hengstenberg translates [ bªshuwb (H7725) ... shªbuwt (H7622)] 'And (oh that) the Lord returned to the captivity of his people.' The Hebrew [ shuwb (H7725)] is ordinarily not transitive, 'bring back,' but intransitive, 'return.' The Chaldaic, Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic, support the English version.

Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. The joyful thanksgiving which shall redound to God when He shall be pleased to save His people, is made a plea that He should do so.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 14". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.