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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 4

Verse 1

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

Title. - To the chief Musician, [ mªnatseeach (H5329)] - literally, overseer (1 Chronicles 15:21, margin; 2 Chronicles 2:2; 2 Chronicles 34:13): hence, the precentor of the singing, who either sang alone or bore the chief part in singing, the chorus chiming in with him (cf. Habakkuk 3:19, margin: on imitation of the superscription of the Psalms). The psalm, according to the title, was assigned by David to him before the musical performance, in order that he might be prepared to sing it publicly with the accompaniment of sacred music in the temple-service. The same holds good of the other 52 psalms in which this title occurs. This temple-music constitutes the national music of Israel. Aquila and Jerome translate, less probably, 'To the Conqueror,' or 'Giver of victory;' namely, Messiah.

Neginoth - the general name for all stringed instruments [from naagan (H5059), 'performed music'] Compare Isaiah 38:20, Hebrew. For "on" [bª-] translate '(to be sung) accompanied with stringed instruments.'

The occasion was (as in Psalms 3:1-8) when David fled from Absalom. Psalms 4:1-8. Prayer (Psalms 4:1); warning to the ungodly foe (Psalms 4:2-5); God's favour gives gladness even amidst trials (Psalms 4:6-7); hence, flows calm repose (Psalms 4:8).

Hear - `answer' (cf. Psalms 3:4, note).

God of my righteousness - God, who, as being righteousness itself, will support my righteous cause. The "my" refers to the compound idea, my righteousness-God. This furnishes a rule as to how far we can look for God's aid in answer to prayer. To ask God for help in any but a righteous cause would be to insult God's righteousness, and to wish Him to become unrighteous like ourselves. The Antitype could, in the fullest sense, claim for His righteous cause the God of righteousness to be His Vindicator.

Thou hast enlarged me ... in distress - `In straits thou hast made wide room for me.' David had just been set free from imminent peril, in Jerusalem, with which he was threatened by Absalom, (2 Samuel 15:14, etc.) 'Narrowness' in Scripture means adversity, as enlarging means prosperity.

Have mercy upon me - margin, 'Be gracious unto me' [ chaaneeniy (H2603)]. Mercy relates more to sin: grace [ cheen (H2580)] relates to God's favour in general.

Verse 2

O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.

(Will ye turn) my glory into shame? - literally, 'How long (shall) my glory (be) for shame?' 'When will ye at length cease wantonly to attack my dignity?-to make my glory a matter of reproach' (Hengstenberg). [The Hebrew for "sons of men" is bªneey (H1121) 'iysh (H376) - literally, 'sons of man,' the honourable appellation, not the less distinguished term, `beneey (H1121) 'aadaam (H120);' still less 'Enoch.' 'Iysh (H376) (Latin, vir, Greek, aneer (G435), as distinguished from homo, anthroopos (G444) implies strength and greatness as man-model men, normal men.] He ironically gives them this title of honour, in reference to their own high opinion of themselves. Great and wise as you think yourselves, "ye love vanity;"

i.e., ye pursue eagerly a scheme which shall end in your disappointment. So Psalms 2:1, "the people imagine a vain thing:" a correspondence which shows the designed arrangement of the pair of Psalms 3:1-8; Psalms 4:1-8 after 1 and 2. Both pairs have relation to a revolt against the Lord's Anointed: Psalms 2:1-12 against the Antitype, Christ; and Psalms 3:1-8; Psalms 4:1-8 against the type, David. The distinction between bªneey (H1121) 'aadaam (H120) and bªneey (H1121) 'iysh (H376) appears in Psalms 62:9, where the former is translated "men of low degree;" the latter, "men of high degree." The revolters against the Antitype similarly tried to bring "the King of glory" to shame, in mockery crowning Him with thorns, and robing Him in royal purple.

Seek after leasing - i:e., lies (cf. Psalms 62:4; Isaiah 28:15, end). 'The revolt is truly called a lie, because the revolters deluded themselves as to the real nature of their attempt, which they decked out in splendid colours' (Calvin). The rebels sought by 'lies' to help, forward their bad cause: for instance, Absalom's hypocritical lie, making religion the mask of treason (2 Samuel 15:7-8).

Verse 3

But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.

Hath set apart, [ hiplaah (H6395)] - cf. Exodus 33:16, "separated ... from all the people." Many manuscripts read [h-p-l-'], 'acted wonderfully toward.' The English version reading, " set apart," accords best with the following "for Himself." Compare also the parallel, Ps. 68:70-71 , "He chose David also His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds ... to feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance." In fighting against me, ye are fighting against the king of God's choice: God will therefore sustain my cause. Your enterprise will prove "vanity."

Him that is godly - the royal Psalmist himself: chosen out of the midst of the people for the throne, not by mere caprice, but as one that should represent godliness in the nation. Compare 1 Samuel 15:28. Samuel says to Saul concerning David, "The Lord hath rent the kingdom from thee, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine that is better than thou." also 1 Samuel 16:7. The Hebrew for "godly" [checiyd] means 'one loving toward God and toward his brethren.' Love and mercy ever in the Old Testament are made characteristic of the godly. The Psalms reflect the law, of which the essence is love to God and love to our neighbour (Leviticus 19:18; Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 11:13). In Psalms 16:10 the same Hebrew is applied to Christ, the Father's "Holy One;" whence it appears that God's choice of the godly David typifies His choice of the Holy One, the antitypical Son of David.

The Lord will hear when I call. Beautifully corresponding to Psalms 4:1. David's reflection that he had not taken the royal honour to himself without God's choice (Psalms 4:3), is the ground of his confidence that 'Yahweh will hear him now that he calls.'

Verse 4

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

Stand in awe, and sin not. Septuagint and Ephesians 4:26 translate "Be ye angry, and sin not." [ Rigzuw (H7264)] usually means 'tremble' (cf. Psalms 18:7), or else "be wroth" (Isaiah 28:21). The former accords with the English version, "Stand in (trembling) awe of God as the Avenger of my cause, "and sin not" by persisting in your revolt. Compare Psalms 2:10-12, exactly parallel as to the Antitype, Christ. Henystenberg takes it as Septuagint, and as Ephesians 4:26 quotes it - i:e., 'Sin not through anger:' I would indeed permit your anger, if the only effect were the injury which might thereby alight upon me; but since in this revolt you cannot be angry without sinning,. I warn you to abstain from it. The blustering passion of the enemy stands in contrast to "be still:" this antithesis confirms the rendering, "Be ye angry," etc. In Ephesians 4:26, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath" answers to "commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still" (the opposite of 'wrath'): see my note there. David forbids "anger" in the case of the revolt altogether; but in such a way as to imply (as Paul uses the text) that cases might occur where "anger" has legitimate scope. Paul takes that particular application of the verse which the Spirit suggested as there needed, though a distinct aspect from that which it bears here: for Scripture has many-sided aspects. David exhorts the revolters to that which he experienced the blessedness of himself-namely, meditation on one's ways before God in the stillness of night, upon one's bed. It is this which gives him such composure and holy confidence. Without the least bitterness, he urges them to "commune with their own heart," in the retirement of the bedchamber, alone with God, when conscience may put their bad enterprise in its true light; and to "be still" or 'silent,' apart from the tumultuous passions which their communings with their fellow-rebels excited.

Verse 5

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness - not hypocritical sacrifices, such as Absalom offered (2 Samuel 15:7-9), but sacrifices in expiation of your wicked undertaking; on a principle of righteousness (Deuteronomy 33:19), with a hearty renunciation of all sin, and of anger against God's chosen king (Psalms 66:18; cf. Proverbs 15:8). [ zibcheey (H2077), sacrifices by blood-shedding. The minchaah (H4503) is unbloody (Psalms 20:3). `Owlaah (H5930), a burnt offering, wherein all the victim was consumed, and ascended (Hebrew root meaning) as smoke: whereas in the zebach (H2077), 'sacrifice,' was not all consumed, e.g., the sin offering, Exodus 10:25 ] put your trust in the Lord-not in fleshly confidences such as ye rely on. The rebels had the capital in their possession, and all Israel on their aide; whereas David seemed helpless. But he warns them, all earthly powers are vain while the Lord is not with them: whereas he having on his side the Lord, who had "set him apart for himself," is secure against all their hosts (cf. Psalms 4:3; Psalms 4:8).

Verse 6

There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

Many ... say, Who will show us any good? Many, admist overwhelming troubles, such as the present ones, give way to despair, as they look not beyond outward appearances, which are all against them: their cry is, "Who will show us any good?" we cannot see any one able and willing to help us. The sentiment is general, though perhaps with allusion to some of his companions in exile, who had not the faith of David. In contrast to these, he expresses his own confidence, derived from Yahweh - "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us." One glance of thy presence shining on me, and those with me ("us"), is enough instantly to dispel the gloom. David lays hold, by faith, on the promise implied in Yahweh's command to the Levites to pronounce the triple blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), "Yahweh bless thee, and keep thee: Yahweh make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: Yahweh lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace (cf. Psalms 4:8, "peace"). Another idea may be-The revolters had been restlessly seeking their "good" from earthly sources (Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:5-8), and hence, had lent a ready ear to the lying promises (leasing, Psalms 4:2) of the ringleaders. In contrast, David expresses his trust in the Lord, as the only satisfying good (Psalms 2:12, end).

Verse 7

Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

Thou hast put gladness in my heart. Scarcely has he prayed, (Psalms 4:6), "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us," than he feels it to be granted. Heartfelt gladness is already his, greater than is the joy of harvest" (Isaiah 9:3).

More than in the time - i:e., 'more than their joy in the time that their grain and their wine increased.' David's joy in the prospect of salvation, on the ground of God's favour abiding with him, is greater than their joy in the present possession of earthly goods without God's favour. The "their" is twice repeated, as if grain and wine were THERE ALL (Luke 16:25, "THY good things;" Hosea 2:5, end). The Lord, on the contrary, is David's chief good, in and from whom he looked for all things (Psalms 16:5; Habakkuk 3:17-18). David doubtless remembers Absalom's former feastings (2 Samuel 13:23-28). and their sad end, as well as the abundance which the revolters have now, as contrasted with his own state, dependent on Ziba and others (2 Samuel 16:1; cf. 2 Samuel 17:27-29). Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac add to "their grain and their wine" and their oil. So the Church of England Prayer-book version (cf. Deuteronomy 28:51; Hosea 2:8).

Verse 8

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

Both, [ yachad (H3162)] - rather, 'at once' So soon as I lie down I shall go to sleep.

Sleep, [ 'iyshaan (H3462)] 'go to sleep' (cf. the parallel, Psalms 3:5).

Thou, Lord, only - thou canst afford me such security as hosts around me could not. THOU ALONE art all I need. Rather, translate, from Deuteronomy 33:28, "Israel shall dwell in safety alone." there is a reference also there, as here, to grain and wine." 'Thou, Yahweh, makest me to dwell alone,' - i:e., separated from my foes, and "in safety." In Deuteronomy 33:28. as here there is a play of similar sounds-lebadad labetach, "in safety alone;" Psalms 4:8, baadaad (H910) beTach (H983), 'safety alone:' which proves that David had the passage in his mind.

Makest me dwell in safety - (Leviticus 25:18-19.)

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/psalms-4.html. 1871-8.