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Thursday, September 28th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 19

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Psalms 19:1-14.-The book of nature (Psalms 19:1-6), and that of Revelation (Psalms 19:7-10), alike have as their theme the glory of God. From Revelation come the warning and reward, with which in view David prays to be cleansed from secret faults, and kept from presumptuous sins, and that this psalm of the mouth, and of the heart too, may be accepted by his Redeemer (Psalms 19:11-14). God's name is 'Eel (H410), the Creator in the first part (Psalms 19:1-6); Yahweh (H3068) in the second (Psalms 19:7-14). His glory as Creator is but the stepping-stone to introduce His still more lovely perfections in Revelation, and so to lead us to pray for acceptance with Him.

The heavens declare the glory of God. David might have drawn his illustration of God's glorious power from His works on earth; but he prefers the heavens, because these are unsullied by the sin which defiles this lower world; also, because the light that shines from them-the sun especially-enables us to see all the other visible works of God.

And the firmament showeth his handywork. The Hebrew for "firmament" [ haaraaqiya` (H7549)] is only found once again in the Psalms, and points back to the history of creation. In Genesis 1:6 the word is first found, not meaning as the Septuagint translate it, and as the word "firmament" itself expresses, a solid vault, in accordance with the false philosophy of the Greeks of Alexandria in that day, but an 'expanse' [from raaqa` (H7554), to expand].

Verse 2

Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

Day unto day uttereth speech. The testimony of the heavenly luminaries is an unceasing one, and is transmitted by each one day and each one night to its successor continually. The speech of the day is the echo of the speech or testimony of the heavens. The Hebrew for "uttereth" [ naaba` (H5042)] means to sputter forth, implying the rich fullness of the testimony of every day.

And night unto night showeth knowledge - i:e., the knowledge of God's glory.

Verse 3

There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

(There is) no speech nor language (where) their voice is not heard - i:e., although the nations are very different in language, yet the heavens have a common speech for instructing all alike. So Calvin. But thus the Hebrew for "speech" [ 'omer (H562)] is taken in another sense from that which it has in Psalms 19:2; and it is not used elsewhere in the sense 'dialect' or "language;" and it, destroys the parallelism. Therefore translate, 'There is not speech, and there are not words: their voice is not heard' (Hengstenberg). This, in a negative form, expresses the powerfulness of the testimony which the heavens give to the glory of God. They need no speech; because without it, in silent eloquence, they proclaim His power and Godhead.

Verse 4

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

Their line is gone out through all the earth. "Their line" is the measuring line of the heavens, which determines the limits and compass of the earth so far as they shall reach (Isaiah 34:17; Zechariah 1:16). The whole earth, then, is their compass, and throughout it "all" they proclaim the divine glory. Thus, as Psalms 19:2-3 express the unceasing praise of God which, with silent eloquence, the heavens declare, so Psalms 19:4-6 express the universality of their praises. Paul follows the free rendering of the Septuagint (fthongos). 'Their sound went into all the earth.' In this he, by the Holy Spirit, gives the virtual meaning of the Hebrew [ qaaw (H6957), a line].

And their words to the end of the world - `the habitable orb' [ teebeel (H8398)] "Words" is literally 'concise speech;' the language of signs; significant language [Proverbs 6:13, the same Hebrew, mileel (H4448)]: very appropriate here as to the silent voices of the heavens.

In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun - not as though the Psalmist's conception was that the sun has a "tabernacle" in which he reposes at night while he is unseen: Psalms 19:6 negatives this idea. Rather, 'the tabernacle' of the sun means the place assigned to him in the heavens; as Venema remarks, 'To the several luminaries are assigned tents, which are stretched out when the luminaries are visible; taken down when they are invisible. These tents designate their station in the heavenly plains.' The sun is singled out from the other luminaries as being the best analogue in the natural world to the illuminator of the spiritual world, the law, in its vivifying, purifying, gladdening, and enlightening power; and also a type of Him who is the perfect embodiment of the law-Christ, "the Sun of righteousness" (Malachi 4:2), for whom God 'prepared a body' (Hebrews 10:5) as His tabernacle, when He, "the Word, was made flesh, and dwelt [literally, tabernacled, eskeenoosen (G4637)] among us" (John 1:14). 'The heavens are a great hieroglyphic of the Gospel ... the same work, but written in different characters' (DeBurgh). Romans 10:18 does not imply that Psalms 19:4 of this psalm is a direct prophecy of Christ and the Gospel; but the ground of the apostle's reference is this-The universality of God's manifestation of Himself in nature is a covert prophecy of the universality of His manifestation in the Gospel.

Verse 5

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

Which is as a bridegroom ... and rejoiceth as a strong man - Hebrew, a hero. The point of comparison is his vigour and conscious power.

Verse 6

His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

And there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. "Heat" here includes light, which is its accompaniment; because the word "hid" must primarily refer to light. There is nothing hid from its all-warming light, which is the handmaid to life (cf. John 1:4; John 1:8-9), as to the antitypical light.

The all-penetrating power of the sun (Psalms 19:6) forms the natural transition to the spiritual Sun. The section Psalms 19:7-10 sets forth the glories of the law, which emanates from the same God whose praises the heavens declare (Psalms 19:1-6). In the Psalms 19:7-9 twelve marks of praise are ascribed to the law, forming six pairs, in which the second mark of praise in each pair is related to the first as effect to cause; accordingly, no copula precedes the second, and the name of Yahweh occurs in the first member alone. Thus, in Psalms 19:7, "The law of the Lord is perfect, (and hence) it converts the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, (and hence) it makes wise the simple." In Psalms 19:7-8 the effects are those which the law produces on the soul and heart of man. In Psalms 19:10 the preciousness and sweetness of the words of God are indicated generally.

Verse 7

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. How is this to be reconciled with Paul's denial that spiritual life is to be had by the law? (Galatians 3:21.) For the law [ towrat (H8451)] cannot be explained as meaning the Gospel. The solution is, The law is viewed as in itself "holy, and just, and good" (Romans 7:12); not in contrast to the Gospel of grace, as Paul regards it, but as fulfilled in the Gospel, which realizes its spirit in the converted man. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (Romans 10:4). The ideal of the perfect law is realized in the God-man, Christ Jesus; then, through Him, in His believing members (Romans 8:4). For, "converting" [ mªshiybat (H7725)], the margin has 'restoring.' This is better, as the law is regarded here in relation to believers, whereas Paul regards it in relation to unbelievers, to whom it has in itself no converting power. The law of God is a reviving cordial to believers; because it is the reflection of the comforting attributes of Yahweh Himself, of whom the believer saith, He restoreth my soul (Psalms 23:3). The expression "thy servant" (Psalms 19:11) implies that the Psalmist was at the time in a state of grace. The same appears from Psalms 19:14, "O Lord my strength, and my Redeemer." The law, which seems grievous and hard to those who have not the Spirit, is in the eyes of the spiritually-minded "perfect" - i:e., the perfect expression of God's will, in contrast to the imperfect rules of morality suggested by human reasonings, and therefore it restores their soul. It is perfect itself, and also makes those perfect who are guided by it. The Hebrew for law means a 'directory'. So Luther says, 'The law does nothing of this sort by itself; but it becomes such through the sun's heat, which breaks forth through faith on the Word.'

The testimony of the Lord is sure. "Testimony" is a term applied to the two tables of the testimony (Exodus 25:16), the Decalogue. They were a testimony to the Israelites, that they had taken them as obligatory upon themselves (Kimchi). They are also God's testimony concerning man's duty. The term points to the covenant relation of God to His people, and to His promises, whereby He is pledged to them. Castalio thus distinguishes the different terms (Psalms 19:7-9): The "law," the preceptive part of Revelation; "the testimony" [ `eeduwt (H5715)], the doctrinal; the "statutes" [ piquwdiym (H6490)], charges given on particular occasions; the "commandment" [ mitswat (H4687)], the general body of the divine law; the "fear" of the Lord, religious reverence; the "judgments" of the Lord [ mishpªTiym (H4941)], the civil statutes, rules for deciding questions of property, and penal sanctions. All these have an enlarged application under the Gospel. "Sure" implies the certainty of the doctrine of God, as contrasted with the shifting character of man's reasonings about moral and divine truth.

Making wise the simple. The same characteristic is assigned to "all Scripture" in 2 Timothy 3:15, "able to make wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." The ungodly are altogether simpletons: even believers are in themselves "simple" - i:e., spiritually inexperienced; easily misled-until 'the entrance of God's words giveth lights,' yea, 'understanding to the simple' (Psalms 119:130).

Verse 8

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. For statutes translate 'charges' (see note, Psalms 19:7). Because they are "right" they fill the believer with "rejoicing;" for he feels that he has in them a sure guide and a "right" path, instead of being left to the wrong workings of his own heart.

The commandment of the Lord is pure, [ baaraah (H1249)] - either lucid (Song of Solomon 6:10), or else free from admixture of error; so it 'enlightens the eyes:' it gives spiritual light (Ephesians 1:18); or it is in the sense of 1 Samuel 14:27; Psalms 13:3: it gives life and joy, reviving the fainting spirit.

Verse 9

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever. "The fear of the Lord" is shown by the parallelism to mean the parts of God's law which inspire reverential fear (as, for instance, those which set forth the awful majesty of God, His justice, and wrath against sin). Compare Deuteronomy 17:18-19; Exodus 20:18; Deuteronomy 5:23-24. The law, in this point of view, is "the fear of the Lord" just as God Himself is called "the fear of Isaac" (Genesis 31:42; Genesis 31:53; Isaiah 8:13). The law is clean - i:e., pure, hallowed; requiring holy separation from all uncleanness (2 Corinthians 7:1); requiring purity and sincerity in the worshippers (John 4:24; 1 Timothy 2:8); admitting of no alloy of hypocrisy or impurity [ Tªhowraah (H2889)]. The whole Old Testament law, in its substance and spirit, is enduring for ever. Christ "came not to destroy, but to fulfil" it. The enduring character of the law is the result of its purity.

Judgments of the Lord are true - i:e., the ordinances of the law concerning the relative duties of man and man (Exodus 21:1). These are based on the eternal principles of truth.

Verse 10

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

More to be desired ... fine gold. The law understood in its spiritual, reviving, and joy-bestowing power (Psalms 19:7-8) through Christ, our Law-fulfiller, is thus precious. The spiritual man has more pleasure in the precepts of the Lord than the carnal have in gain, or the appetite.

The honeycomb - Hebrew, 'the dropping of honeycombs;' the choicest distillings from the honeycomb (Proverbs 16:24).

Verse 11

Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

Warned - literally, enlightened [ nizhaar (H2094)]; i:e., illuminated in the right way, in cases of doubt, danger, ignorance, or sin.

In keeping of them - in the very act of keeping them there is a present great reward-not merely one in prospect: God Himself is even now the believer's "exceeding great reward" (Genesis 15:1). Love to God, not a hireling spirit, is the believer's animating principle. The promise of reward from God refers to such a kind of reward as no self-righteous hireling would desire, and is at the same time such as cheers the believer in his efforts, by the Spirits to please God and to keep His law.

Reward - [ `eeqeb (H6118)] - literally, the end: hence, the reward which at last shall come (Hebrews 10:35).

Verse 12

Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

His errors, [ shªgiy'owt (H7691), from shaagah (H7686), to wander] - all failings and infirmities of the believer. The Hebrew is used in Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:13; Leviticus 4:22; Leviticus 4:27, as to sins of ignorance; not sins in general, or gross sins, but sins which, by their unobserved fineness, escape notice. "Errors" is further explained by the parallel term "secret (faults)." Who can understand them all? None except God. To Him the believer cries.

Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Faults not discernible by the eye of man, as existing in the sphere of the spirit and the thoughts, are clearly patent to the all-seeing eye of our Judge. Hengstenberg translates, instead of "cleanse," Acquit thou me. The Hebrew [ naqeeniy (H5352)] is properly a judicial term, 'to pronounce innocent:' to clear of guilt by justification. Perhaps both pardon or acquittal and purification are intended (cf. Psalms 19:13).

Verse 13

Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

Presumptuous (sins). He does not say, Cleanse me from presumptuous sins, but keep me back from them. These were not sins to which he was readily prone, but he felt that the "errors" and "secret faults," if not checked and 'cleansed,' would lead on to the "presumptuous" or deliberate sins, from which he therefore prays to be 'kept back.' Others translate the Hebrew [ mizeediym (H2086), not mizaariym as the Septuagint ap' allotrioon], 'from the proud,' as in Psalms 86:14; Malachi 4:1. But the anti-thesis to the parallel words, "errors" and "secret faults" - i:e., sins of infirmity-requires the English version, "presumptuous sins" - i:e., sins of deliberation (Deuteronomy 17:12; margin, Daniel 5:20). An analogous distinction appears in the New Testament between sins of negligence and sins of willful resistance of light, for which there remaineth no more sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26-31), Translate, 'presumptuous ones,' referring still to sins.

Dominion over me. Presumptuous sins are personified as tyrants striving to enslave God's servants. How beautifully the promise of God's Word answers to the prayer here (Romans 6:14), "Sin shall not have dominion over you"! So God did keep back from evil Abimelech; also David himself from taking vengeance on Nabal. If David had prayed so in the case of Uriah and Bathsheba, he would have been kept from the great sin of his life.

From the great transgression - even though I still have "errors" and "secret faults" cleaving to me; "the great transgression" is the climax of the "presumptuous sins" (Psalms 19:13) [ pesha` (H6588)] - namely, entire falling away from God; 'rebellion' (as the Hebrew is translated, Job 34:37), apostasy. The Hebrew for "innocent" [ niqeeytiy (H5352)] is a form of the same word as in Psalms 19:12 [ naqeeniy (H5352)], "Cleanse thou me," or 'clear thou me;' 'then shall I be clear of the great transgression.'

Then - i:e., if thou keepest me from presumptuous sins, which are the forerunners of "the great transgression."

Verse 14

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Let the words of my mouth - Let the prayer which is the main object of this psalm, as well as the praises which form the introduction to the prayer, find acceptance with thee. The Hebrew [ lªraatsown (H7522)] for "be acceptable" is literally, 'be for pleasure' to thee. Hengstenberg suggests that David uses a sacrificial term; perhaps the very words which were spoken by the priests at the presentation of the sacrifice (cf. Leviticus 19:5; Leviticus 19:7; Isaiah 56:7). Sacrifice itself is the embodiment of prayer. Hence, the metaphor is natural (Romans 12:1).

O Lord, my strength - literally, my rock (Psalms 18:2), denoting His immovable faithfulness to His promises.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/psalms-19.html. 1871-8.
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