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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 139

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-24

This psalm is entitled, a psalm of David. All the Versions agree with the Hebrew in this. It must be regarded as one of the sublimest representations of the Divinity, and particularly with regard to omniscience, ever composed. It also represents the moral perfections of God as the searcher of hearts, and the avenger of crime. It represents the divinity under all the grandeur of the Godhead, by the name Jehovah, associated with the enquiry, Whither shall I go from thy Spirit, or flee from thy presence. Here we have JEHOVAH, his SPIRIT, and his PRESENCE. פניךְ panayca, his faces or appearances, viz. the Messiah, of whom Isaiah says, “the Angel of his presence saved them.” The doctrine of an adorable Trinity beams out in the radiance of revelation. Genesis 1:2. Isaiah 63:7.

Psalms 139:19 . Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, and bring to light every evil work. It is therefore the best wisdom and the first duty of man to purge his conscience of all crimes, by the proper fruits of unfeigned repentance; by restitution, by apologies for slander, by self-denial, and charities to the poor.


Here is another psalm which David composed in exile, as appeals from the nineteenth verse, in which he prays to be delivered from bloodthirsty men. It opens with a series of sublime and beautiful thoughts on the omniscience and omnipresence of God. He acknowledges with the highest reverence that the Lord knew what he would think, and how he would act in every possible situation and circumstance of life; and that he compassed his path as a fowler encloses game in his net, or as a general invests a fortress. These ideas of the divine perfections should inspire us with humiliation. We cannot comprehend the heights, we cannot fathom the depths of providence. We cannot attain to a perfect knowledge of the divine perfections; but God is graciously pleased so far to open his ways to those that fear him, as to give the fullest confidence in his power and love.

We cannot hide from God. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? In heaven God reigns on his high throne; in the grave his power is manifest, and he alone can make it a bed of down; or if we are in trouble, and would fain take wing like a dove in the morning, and fly to the uttermost parts of the west, there we should find God exactly as in the place we left. And if we should, being ashamed of our sins, hope for shelter in the darkest recesses of midnight, behold the darkness and the light are both alike to him. Then, Lord, we would run to thee; and not attempt, like the fruitless efforts of guilt, to seek a retreat from thee while corrupting ourselves with thy gifts. But what an argument is here to purity of heart, and rectitude of life. If God is an omnipresent being; if the Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God; if the great head of the church has eyes of flame; if the Holy Trinity, and the angelic hosts surround us; how vain is it for weak mortals to mask their vices in the garb of virtue, or to hide their shameful crimes with the veil of midnight gloom. Do they think that heaven will wink at wickedness? Will God be deaf to the cries of injured innocence; or will he suffer the secrets of hell to be unrevealed? Oh no; no, no. The walls of the house will tell, the whistling of the winds will whisper it abroad, the moon and stars will carry it afar, and the rising sun shall shame the deed. God will commission some angel to unravel all the plots, will embolden the injured, and the sinner’s own conscience, to implead him in open court. Teach us then to revere thy name, oh Lord; to walk as in thy sight; and fearing thee, may we fear none besides.

David founded this doctrine, so full of comfort, on the creative power of God. The Lord possessed his reins, or the interior of his heart, because he had formed him in the lowest parts of the earth; a modest expression for the bosom of his mother. Hence, as a prince delights to preserve and adorn a palace, or a temple he has built, so the everliving God must delight in the preservation and happiness of man.

These most sanctifying thoughts of God, prompted David to hate vice and vicious company; which hatred must be understood in unison with the many prayers he offers up for their conversion. And as a proof of his sincerity, he prays the Lord to search his heart for every latent seed of self- love, of known pride, and wrong desire; and to lead him in the way, so anciently marked by the paths of the patriarchs.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 139". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/psalms-139.html. 1835.
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