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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 26

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

Verses 1-12

Psalms 26:0

A Psalm of David

1          Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in my integrity:

I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore I shall not slide.

2     Examine me, O Lord, and prove me;

Try my reins and my heart.

3     For thy loving-kindness is before mine eyes:

And I have walked in thy truth.

4     I have not sat with vain persons,

Neither will I go in with dissemblers.

5     I have hated the congregation of evil doers;

And will not sit with the wicked.

6     I will wash mine hands in innocency:

So will I compass thine altar, O Lord:

7     That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving,

And tell of all thy wondrous works.

8     Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house,

And the place where thine honor dwelleth.

9     Gather not my soul with sinners,

Nor my life with bloody men.

10     In whose hands is mischief,

And their right hand is full of bribes.

11     But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity:

Redeem me, and be merciful unto me.

12     My foot standeth in an even place:

In the congregations will I bless the Lord.


Its Contents and Composition.—The Psalmist declares not so much his honesty before God connected with prayer for the actual recognition of it, and that be may be distinguished from the ungodly (Hupf.); but he bases his prayer for help (Psalms 26:1; Psalms 26:11), and for preservation from the fate of the wicked (Psalms 26:9), on the government of God which surely does justice to the righteous. This he claims, because he not only is convinced that he personally belongs to the number of the righteous, but in this respect, with entire confidence, puts himself under the Divine judgment internally and externally (Psalms 26:1-2). Yet he does this, not in the sense of self-righteousness and righteousness of works, but with the express confession, that his dependence on the grace (Psalms 26:3 a) and truth (Psalms 26:3 b) of God, constitutes the basis of the position of his heart and life, whereby he has hitherto separated himself from hypocrites and wicked persons (Psalms 26:4-5), and likewise in the future would, in love to the sanctuary of God (Psalms 26:6; Psalms 26:8) remain separate from them. He concludes with an expression of pious confidence and joy, as well with reference to his lot as his conduct (Psalms 26:9; Psalms 26:11), and therefore embracing both sides of the relation (Psalms 26:12). The priestly expressions in Psalms 26:6 sq., do not compel us to the conclusion that the author was a man of the priestly order (Hitzig); they merely attest his priestly disposition, and likewise his intimate acquaintance with the worship of God in the life of Israel, as well as his longing after renewed participation in it, in the holy place of the sanctuary. This is sufficient to lead us to think of the time of the rebellion of Absalom, in connection with David as the author, which has nothing against it; comp. 2Sa 15:25.1

Str. I. Psa 26:1. Do me justice, for,etc.—According to the mere words we might translate, judge (= prove) me, that. Then Psalms 26:1 would be parallel with Psalms 26:2. But usage decides either for the meaning declare righteous, speak the pious and oppressed free by a judicial sentence; or for the meaning, do justice, in the execution of the sentence, and thus helping, and delivering, and treating the innocent in accordance with justice. The latter meaning is the usual one, when God’s judgment is referred to; here it is made especially appropriate by Psalms 26:11 and the tone of the entire Psalm.—For I have walked in my integrity.—תֹּם (in the full form תָּמִים), here connected with the suffix of the first person, in order to emphasize the habitual and personal characteristic, indicates not the perfection of the walk, but the purity of the heart (Genesis 20:5 sq.; 1 Kings 22:34), the honesty and ἁπλότης of the soul, which characteristic is accompanied by an unwavering trust in God.2And in Jehovah have I trusted without wavering. [“Without wavering” is an adverbial clause according to Moll, Delitzsch, Perowne, et al., and not a dependent clause in the future (A. V., therefore I shall not slide) or a clause in the future, expressing confident anticipation (Alexander).—C. A. B.]

Psalms 26:2. Since the Psalmist is speaking of the inner man, a prayer to God follows for examination, investigation, searching of the heart and reins.—[Try me, Jehovah, and prove me; assay my reins and my heart.—Alexander: “The first verb is supposed by etymologists to signify, originally, trial by touch, the second by smell, and the third by fire. In usage, however, the second is constantly applied to moral trial or temptation, while the other two are frequently applied to the testing of metals by the touchstone of the furnace. This is indeed the predominant usage of the third verb, which may therefore be represented by the technical metallurgic term assay.” Perowne: “The reins, as the seat of the lower animal passions; the heart, as comprising not only the higher affections, but also the will and the conscience. He thus desires to keep nothing back; he will submit himself to the searching flame of the Great Refiner, that all dross of self-deception may be purged away.”—C. A. B.] The reading adopted by Hengst., צְרוּפָה, refined that is, verified, found pure and genuine, is not appropriate to the context. The kethibhצְרוֹפָּה is to be retained, which is an unusual imperative form, the usual צָרְפָה being lengthened by the ו and accordingly receiving the tone. Forms entirely parallel with this are found, Judges 9:8; Judges 9:12; 1 Samuel 28:8; Psalms 38:21; Isaiah 18:4.

[Psalms 26:3. For Thy grace is before my eyes, and I walk in Thy truth.—Delitzsch: “God’s grace is his aim, the delight of his eyes, and he walks in God’s truth. חֶסֶד is the Divine love condescending to His creatures, especially to sinners, in undeserved advances, אֱמֶת the truth with which God maintains the will of His love, and the Word of His promise, and executes them. This kindness of God has been constantly the model of his life, this truth of God the rule and limitation of his walk.”—C. A. B.]

[Str. II. Psa 26:4. Men of falsehood.—So Moll., Hupf., Alexander, et al. Alexander: = “Liars and deceivers, which appears to suit the context better than the wider sense of vain men (A. V.), i.e., destitute of moral goodness, good for nothing, worthless. The same class of persons are described in the last clause as masked, disguised, or hypocritical.”—C. A. B.]

Str. III. Psa 26:6. I wash my hands in innocency.—Originally this was a symbolical action connected with a rite of atonement, to declare innocency of a murder (Deuteronomy 21:6 sq.; Matthew 27:24); then in general a figure of speech to attest innocent conduct and warranted purity (Job 9:30; Psalms 73:13; Ezekiel 36:25); here the more appropriate, as there is directly a reference to an entrance into the sanctuary, which was in ancient times always preceded by lustrations. Comp. the action of the priests who were to wash themselves before performing their service, Exodus 30:20 sq.—And would compass Thine altar.—Olshausen and Delitzsch regard this clause as optative, but it is rather cohortative [Perowne]. This is not to be understood merely of surrounding = being near as an expression of dependence (Luther), in contrast with the assembly of the ungodly (Hengst.), or as a privilege of the pure and pious (Hupf.), but it is in connection with the loud thanksgiving with which the delivered Psalmist would praise the Lord in the house of God, in the congregation of the pious (Psalms 26:12). Thanksgiving is an offering, hence the mention of the altar. The compassing of the altar, like the washing of the hands, is not to be taken literally. Moreover, there is still less reason for a reference to priestly and Levitical functions, since such a solemn procession about the altar is not mentioned in the Old Testament. [Perowne: “I am disposed to think that the whole passage is figurative and amounts to this, ‘I would fain give myself to Thy service even as Thy priests do,’ just as in Psalms 23:6, he utters the wish to dwell in the house of Jehovah forever.”—C. A. B.]

[Psalms 26:8. Alexander: “This verse expresses more directly and literally the idea of Psalms 26:6 above, and shows that his compassing the altar was intended to denote his love for the earthly residence of God, the altar being there put for the whole sanctuary, which is here distinctly mentioned. The habitation of Thy house might be understood to mean a residence in it; but the usage of the first noun and the parallelism show that it rather means the place where Thy house dwells, perhaps in allusion to the migratory movements of the ark before the time of David. So too in the last clause, Hebrew usage would admit of the translation, Thy glorious dwelling-place, as in Psalms 20:7 (6); but the use of כָּבוֹד in the Pentateuch to signify the visible presence of Jehovah (Exodus 24:16; Exodus 40:34-35) seems decisive in favor of explaining it, the place where Thy glory dwells, i.e., where the glorious God is pleased to manifest His presence.” Hupfeld: “This is particularly the Holy of Holies, where the ark of the covenant was the throne of His majesty in its earthly manifestation.”—C. A. B.]

[Str. IV. Psalms 26:9. Gather not my soul with sinners.—Wordsworth: “Bind me not up in the same bundle with them, like tares for the fire (Matthew 13:30). The contrast to this is seen in the following Psalm (Psalms 26:10), ‘When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up;’ literally, will gather me to His fold.”—Men of blood.—Alexander: “Literally bloods, i.e., murderers either in the strict sense or by metonymy for sinners of the worst class,” probably the latter.

Psalms 26:10. In whose hands is crime.—Alexander: “The word זִמָּה is a very strong one, used in the law to denote specifically acts of gross impurity, but signifying really any wicked act or purpose. The common version mischief is too weak. The last word in the verse denotes especially a judicial bribe (Psalms 15:5), and may be intended to suggest that the whole description has reference to unrighteous rulers, or to wicked men in public office.”—C. A. B.]

Str. V. Psalms 26:12. My foot standeth upon the plain, [A. V., even place].—The plain is not a figure of righteousness but of safety. [Perowne: “His prayer has been heard. He is safe. He stands in the open, level table-land, where he has room to move, and where his enemies cannot hem him in, and therefore he fulfils the resolve made before (Psalms 26:7), and publicly pours out his thanksgiving to God.”—C. A. B.]


1.When the walk of a man is the expression of the purity of heart which is his own and inseparable from him, and this purity is accompanied with an unshaken trust in God, then he may confidently make the righteousness of God the foundation of his hope of a favorable turn in his fortunes, and may lay direct claim to it, in order that its holy government may do justice to the innocent in this unrighteous world. In this is expressed not the boldness of self-righteousness, but faith in the righteousness of God, and the confidence of a good conscience. “The righteousness of faith of the Scriptures is not the enemy of righteousness of life, but its mother.” (Hengstenberg).

2. Now he who has no reason to fear the external judgment of God, but rather desires to be protected from his enemies by its operation, must with all the more earnestness let the searching judgment of God execute itself in his own inmost soul, the more emphatically sincere his protestations are, that he has kept himself as far away from false and hypocritical men as from bold and wanton sinners, and that he in future no less than in the past designs to keep, in the congregation of the pious, to the institutions and means of salvation

3. But where piety and righteousness go hand in hand, and the use of the means of grace assists to walk in purity and without punishment, there the prayer may be made with comforted spirit, on the one side for preservation according to God’s righteousness from the fate of those with whom the suppliant has no communion of disposition or walk; on the other side for redemption from all evil by God’s mercy. “It might seem at the first view as an absurd prayer, that God should not involve the righteous in the ruin of the ungodly, but God allows according to His paternal indulgence His own children to make such free expressions of their feelings, in order that their apprehensions may be quieted by the prayer itself. For David, whilst he expresses this wish, places before his eyes the righteous judgment of God, in order to free himself from apprehension and fear, because nothing is more foreign to God than to mix good and evil together” (Calvin).


A good conscience is essentially different from the imagination of self-righteousness, and from the pride of righteousness of works as well in its expressions as in the foundations of the confidence.—He who would walk in the truth of God, must not lose sight of the grace of God.—No one can be better advised than to hold on to God’s people, God’s house, God’s altar.—In the irreproachableness of a walk is shown 1) the purity of piety, and 2) its power.—The righteous may appeal to the righteousness of God, but they can never do without God’s mercy.—True morality and sincere piety condition one another, and are thereby distinguished from legal righteousness.—He who would not share the lot of the ungodly, must not only separate himself from them in disposition; he must also not only remain a stranger to their evil doings; he must not even share their company.—He who allows himself to be judged by God internally, need not fear the punishment of God, and yet daily has to implore redemption and God’s mercy.—It is becoming to no one to have a hierarchical disposition and life.

Starke: How beautiful it is, when man can appeal with certainty to God’s judgment, and when his heart does not condemn him. Let every one strive to attain such innocence.—He who is earnest in avoiding sin, let him avoid likewise all that could give opportunity and inducement to sin.—The true worship of God has this sure fruit, that a soul knows the wonders of grace, and thereby is awakened to heartfelt thanks.—He who despises the assemblage of the congregation, what else is to be seen than that he has very little care for the glory of God and his own salvation (Proverbs 13:13).—Not to be involved in the plagues of the ungodly is a great grace of God, since the pious, especially the faint-hearted, are not without sensible pain, as well on account of the assaults of Satan as on account of the wicked judgments of the world.—The hands which gladly take rewards cannot certainly wash in innocency but are instruments of unrighteousness.—With the greatest application to an innocent walk we are not to boast of it before God, but rather to pray for His grace, for before Him there is no living being righteous in and for himself.

Luther: I should hate what I cannot love with God.—When now they preach anything that is against God, all love and friendship are gone.—God’s house and assembly are where God’s word is and nowhere else; for there God Himself dwells. Therefore David praises the house of God with so much joy on account of the Word of God.—Arndt: The true Church of God looks not at the visible, and depends not upon the temporal, but seeks the future native land, and has its glory, honor, and riches in heavenly possessions.—Frisch: Be not slothful in attending church, appear there with holy reverence; think why you are there; and do what you have come to do.—Von Gerlach: Where the Lord reveals Himself as graciously near, where He exhibits His glory, where He expressly declares that He will be found, where He puts visible pledges in which He may be known, apprehended and possessed, there the heart and inclination of believers love to be.—Tholuck: In circumstances, where among men no justice is to be found, we learn to properly value the consolation that there is a Judge in heaven above all the judges of earth.—Stiller: The Christian houses of God are houses of thanksgiving, in which the praise of God sounds; they are likewise memorial houses to reflect upon the Divine wonders.

[Matth. Henry: It is a comfort to those who are falsely accused that there is a righteous God, who sooner or later will clear up their innocency; and a comfort to all that are sincere in religion that God Himself is a witness to their sincerity:—Great care to avoid bad company is both a good evidence of our integrity, and a good means to preserve us in it.—All who truly love God truly love the ordinances of God, and therefore love them, because in them He manifests His honor, and they have an opportunity of honoring Him.—Barnes: The whole Psalm should lead us carefully to examine the evidences of our piety; to bring before God all that we rely on as proof that we are His friends; and to pray that He will enable us to examine it aright; and when the result is, as it was in the case of the Psalmist—when we can feel that we have reached a level place and found a smooth path, then we should go, as he did, and offer hearty thanks to God that we have reason to believe we are His children, and are heirs of salvation.—Spurgeon: Worried and worn out by the injustice of men, the innocent spirit flies from its false accusers to the throne of the Eternal right.—What a comfort it is to have the approbation of one’s own conscience! If there be peace within the soul, the blustering storms of slander which howl around us are of little consideration. When the little bird in my bosom sings a merry song, it is no matter to me if a thousand owls hoot at me from without.—The doubtful ways of policy are sure sooner or later to give a fall to those who run therein, but the ways of honesty, though often rough, are always safe.—A man who does not hate evil terribly, does not love good heartily.—What God hates we must hate.—Let each reader see well to his company, for such as we keep in this world, we are likely to keep in the next.—Each saint is a witness to Divine faithfulness, and should be ready with his testimony.—C. A. B.]


[1][Perowne: “This Psalm has some points of resemblance, both in thought and expression, to the last. Both open with the same declaration of trust in God (Psalms 25:2; Psalms 26:1); in both there is the same prayer that God would redeem (Psalms 25:22; and Psalms 26:11) and be gracious (Psalms 25:16; Psalms 26:11) to His servants. Other points of contact may be found in Psalms 25:21; Psalms 26:11; and Psalms 25:5; Psalms 26:3. There is, however, this marked difference between the two, that there are wanting, in this Psalm, those touching confessions of sinfulness and pleadings for forgiveness which in the other are thrice repeated.”—C. A. B.]

[2][Delitzsch: “תּם is according to Genesis 20:5 sq.; 1 Kings 22:34, entire freedom from sinful intention, unity of character, purity, simplicity (ἀκακία, ἁπλὄτης).”—C. A. B.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 26". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-26.html. 1857-84.
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