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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Psalms 131

Verses 1-3

Psalms 131:0

A Song of degrees of David

          Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor mine eyes lofty:
Neither do I exercise myself in great matters,
Or in things too high for me.

2     Surely I have behaved and quieted myself,

As a child that is weaned of his mother:
My soul is even as a weaned child.

3     Let Israel hope in the Lord

From henceforth and for ever.


Contents and Composition.—The Psalmist asseverates that in humility of heart he has kept himself from occasions of and temptations to the indulgence of pride and over-ambitious schemes, (Psalms 131:1), and has quieted his soul (Psalms 131:2), and then exhorts all Israel to wait unceasingly upon Jehovah (Psalms 131:3).

The tone of feeling is so personally ardent, that the supposition that the Psalmist in the first two verses speaks for Israel (De Wette) is altogether unjustifiable. But it can hardly be denied that there is a close reference to Israel. If it must be admitted, that in 1 Samuel 18:18; 1 Samuel 18:23, and still more in 2 Samuel 6:22, are found expressions resembling those of this Psalm, and that, in general, the history, disposition, and religious posture of David agree fully with the professions here made of personal character, and with the anxiety here manifested for Israel’s true religious relations to God, the adherence to the Davidic authorship (Hengstenberg) is not so unjustifiable as to permit us to say, that such an assumption requires no contradiction (Hupfeld). This situation, as furnishing an historical explanation, has much better ground of support than what is related of Simon Maccabæus (1 Maccabees 14), to which Hitzig refers. All the efforts to discover a composition in any intermediate period only manœuvre in the field of boundless conjecture.

[When there is absolutely nothing in the Psalm which bears against a composition by David, those critics who refer it to some occasion subsequent to the exile ought surely not shut their eyes to the force of the argument advanced by Hengstenberg, that a protestation addressed to Israel against cherishing high-minded thoughts and undertakings would be utterly meaningless in times of trouble, such as those succeeding that event. The thought naturally suggests itself that modern criticism would surely have assigned a larger number of Psalms to David than it has conceded to him, if the superscriptions had not been affixed.—J. F. M.]

Psalms 131:1.—Haughty, &c. “Arrogance has its seat in the heart; it finds expression chiefly in the eyes, and great matters are the objects in which it is studiously displayed” (Delitzsch). The perfects express past time reaching into the present: “Hitherto I have not been haughty, nor am I so now” (Hitzig). Older expositors frequently present the idea of the past too prominently. It is not till the following clause that the great matters (Jeremiah 33:3) are denoted as wonderful to the speaker (Genesis 18:14), i.e., out of his reach.

Psalms 131:2 does not begin with a question; for אִם לֹא is not הֲלֹא Nor is it correct to suppose, that it is a conditioning protasis: if not (Luther), for there is no apodosis, though it is sometimes arbitrarily assumed. And it does not introduce a contrast to the foregoing negation (Gesenius, Stier), but an asseveration, as frequently employed elsewhere after words of swearing The weaned child is not referred to as being helpless (Flaminius), or humble (Rudinger, Hengst.), or as being quieted slowly (Rosenmüller), or in allusion to its distress and crying while being weaned (Geier, J. H. Michaelis), but as being already weaned and clinging with perfect satis faction and contentment to its mother (Isaiah 28:9). [Translate Psalms 131:2 : Surely I have soothed and stilled my soul, like a weaned child upon its mother: my soul is to me like a weaned child. Perowne: “The figure is beautifully expressive of the humility of a soul chastened by disappointment. As the weaned child no longer cries, frets and longs for the breast, but lies still and is content, because it is with its mother, so my soul is weaned from all discontented thoughts, from all fretful desires for earthly good, waiting in stillness upon God, finding its satisfaction in His presence, resting peacefully in His arms.”—J. F. M.].


Our desires disquiet the heart. Resignation to God’s will makes the soul still.—Pride separates men from fellowship with God. Humility strengthens that bond. The one makes the heart restless; the other imparts quietness and peace.—A childlike disposition, humble, patient and satisfied in God, as the fruit of severe conflict.

Starke: Pride defiles the best endowments and actions, and makes them, as it were, wormeaten.—He who aims to build higher than God has ordained for him loses thereby the gift which he has received.—All who seek heaven must seek the humility of Christ.—Quiet the tumult of the thoughts and the desires of the heart. But what thou wouldst do, do soon. If thou waitest until lust has taken possession, thou only invitest sin to enter.—Out of fellowship with God there is nothing but disquietude.—True hope serves, so to speak, as a telescope to faith, by which it sees from time into eternity; nor does it put to shame.

Frisch: If thou art wise, choose the path of humility. If David’s example cannot influence thee, contemplate the pattern of thy humble Saviour: before that the heart will melt into self-abasement.—Rieger: An humble abiding by a life of faith in mercy found.—Guenther: We all desire to be at rest. We have unrest enough, weeping now from hunger, now from pain, and now from ill temper. The Lord grant that we may cling to the right mother; not to the world, which, though giving rest sometimes, urges to ever-renewed hunger, but to the love of God, which grants the most blessed stillness, and that in fasting.—Taube: The sign, victory, and blessing of true humility.

[Matt. Henry: The love of God reigning in the heart will subdue all inordinate self-love.—Barnes: Whatever suggestions one in early life may be disposed to make, they should be connected with a spirit that is humble, gentle and retiring. Religion produces self-control, and is inconsistent with a proud, arrogant, or ambitious spirit.—J. F. M.]

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 131". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.