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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 15

Verse 1

LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? The Lord's abode is represented by the "tabernacle," wherein His worshippers had communion with Him. In it they only 'sojourned' [as the Hebrew literally means - guwr (H1481)], as guests for a time with Him, the gracious Host. Men are not by birth the rightful inmates of it, but become so through grace. The regenerate 'abide in the Lord's tabernacle;' i:e., they dwelt with God in intimate communion (Ephesians 2:19), and as the blessed result, enjoy God's sure protection (cf. Psalms 15:5, "He shall never be moved"). The very name, "the tabernacle of the congregation" (Exodus 33:7), implies the place where God held communion with His people. Here the tabernacle meant is not the Mosaic one, which was then at Gibeon without the ark of the covenant (1 Chronicles 16:39), but the tabernacle prepared by David for the ark on Zion (2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 15:1; 1 Chronicles 16:1; 2 Chronicles 1:4). In heaven His people shall dwell with Him forever. In the visible Church we have glimpses of His glory, and, by His gracious invitation, sojourn in it as in a temporary refuge. In the perfect Church above we shall abide permanently, and see Him face to face. Purity of heart is the necessary qualification that God requires for admission to both. Compare Psalms 5:4; Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:5; Psalms 61:4; and the parallel, 24:3.

Dwell in. As 'sojourn' (margin) points to temporary and imperfect communion with God in this earthly "tabernacle," so "dwell" expresses the perfect and abiding communion with Him in the heavenly hill.

Thy holy hill. The fact that it is God's hill, and therefore a holy hill, implies that "without holiness" no man can dwell in it (Hebrews 12:14).

Verse 2

He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

He that walketh uprightly, [ taamiym (H8549)] - sincerely, without guile or hypocrisy, in worshipping God, and loving one's neighbour: the opposite of a "double heart" (Psalms 12:2).

And worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. As "walketh uprightly" referred to the general character, so this clause refers to uprightness in one's works and one's speech. The grace of God is presupposed, as it is the only source whence a holy walk can flow. The duties of the second table-namely, those which relate to one's neighbour-are specified, because men have many ways of feigning to discharge the duties of the first-namely, those which relate to God. Hypocrites, by ritual services, may feign faith, but their temper, works, and words toward their fellow-men, betray their hypocrisy. The righteousness toward man which this psalm requires is shown to be such as flows from faith working by love, by the expression, "speaketh the truth in his heart." Where the heart speaks the language of love, there the grace of the Spirit must have regenerated the man; because the natural man does not have within himself purity, spirituality, and truth, however kindly he is in many of his words and acts.

Verse 3

He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

He that backbiteth not with his tongue. The former verse described what the godly man is, this verse describes what he is not.

Backbiteth - the Hebrew [ raagal (H7270), from regel (H7272), the foot] is literally to go here and there as tale-bearers. The Psalmist has Leviticus 19:16 in view, "Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer" (see Hebrew).

Nor doeth evil to his neighhour - `to his friend' (Hengstenberg). The idea is of our being all bound together in a common spiritual and natural brotherhood, which renders any violation of that neighourly relation peculiarly heinous. The same thought is marked in the Hebrew by the play on similar sounds [ lªree`eehuw (H7453) raa`aah (H7451)]: 'doeth what is the reverse of friendly to a friend.'

Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour - a distinct Hebrew word from the former "neighbour" [ qªrowb (H7138)]. It is translated "kin," Leviticus 21:2, and implies propinquity, as the former [ reea` (H7453)] implies association.

Nor taketh up a reproach. Reproach is a burden which, if the slandered had not taken up and laid upon his neighbour, would have lain harmless.

Verse 4

In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

In whose eyes a vile person is contemned - "a vile person;" literally, 'one rejected (by God)' [ nim'aac (H3988)], in contrast to "them that fear the Lord." So the same Hebrew is translated, Jeremiah 6:30, "Reprobate (rather, rejected) silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them."

But he honoureth them that fear the Lord - and that are therefore honoured by the Lord, in contrast to 'the rejected' by God in the first clause. A man's disposition is easily seen by his associates. The righteous man instinctively shrinks from the unrighteousness. Not all the wealth, learning, or power in the world can recommend their possessor if unrighteous.

On the other hand, he is drawn toward those of a congenial mind, in spite of every external disadvantage.

He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not - not as the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac, 'He that sweareth to his neighbour' (by a different Hebrew pointing). Thus the manifest reference to Leviticus 5:4 would be broken, where also the discourse is of an hasty oath. Hengstenberg translates for "changeth not" [ yaamir (H4171)], 'exchanges not' (the usual meaning of the Hebrew): 'does not substitute' something else in place of what he had sworn, but keeps to his word, though to his loss (Ecclesiastes 8:2; Ecclesiastes 8:4; Judges 11:35). A vow to God of what was in itself sinful is better broken than kept, which would be adding a second sin to the original sin. But in all that is not sinful, even though entailing hurt to one's self, an oath, if freely taken, must be faithfully kept.

Verse 5

He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

He that putteth not out his money to usury - Hebrew, 'He that giveth not,' etc. The contrast is to "nor taketh reward." The wrong giving and the wrong taking stand opposed. The allusion is to Leviticus 25:37, "Thou shall not give him (thy brother) thy money upon usury." The Mosaic rule referred to money given on loan to help a needy brother Israelite: to makes a gain of his misery would have been a violation of the law of love. This law has no reference to our modern lending of money on interest, where this is done in no spirit of greediness and oppression. The Hebrew for usury [ neshek (H5392)] comes from a root to bite [ naashak (H5391)], so that the usury meant can only be such as grinds the poor. Opposed to giving for usury is the giving gratis, Proverbs 28:8. The believer is to be more disposed to seek the benefit of his neighbour than selfish aggrandizement (Proverbs 3:27; Matthew 5:42).

Nor taketh reward against the innocent - doth not let his judgment as an umpire be warped by a bribe from the rich against the innocent poor man (Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 27:25).

He that doeth these things shall never be moved - he 'shall abide in the Lord's tabernacle and holy hill' (Ps He that doeth these things shall never be moved - he 'shall abide in the Lord's tabernacle and holy hill' (Psalms 15:1; 2 Peter 1:10; Psalms 55:22).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 15". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.