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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Psalms 15




The occasion and time of composing this Psalm is uncertain; but the scope of it is plain, which is to give the character of a holy and happy man, and to describe the way to true blessedness; wherein this is observable, that he is wholly silent as to the ceremonial or ritual observations of the law; not that he doth disown them, or allow the neglect of them, as is manifest from David’s constant practice, an from many other passages; but that he might undeceive the hypocritical Israelites, who laid too great a stress upon those things, as the diligent performance thereof would excuse their wicked lives, which error almost all the prophets do observe and condemn in them; and that he might inform the church of that and all succeeding ages, that the substance of religion did consist in the practice of true holiness and righteousness.

David describeth a citizen of Zion, Psalms 15:1, i.e. he is pure in heart, Psalms 15:2; governeth his tongue, Psalms 15:3; contemns a vile person, but honours him that fears God, Psalms 15:4. He is no usurer, Psalms 15:5.

Verse 1

O thou who art the sovereign Lord of this holy hill and tabernacle, to whom it belongs to give laws to it, and to admit or reject persons as thou seest fit, I beg of thee the resolution of this important question. And he proposeth this question to God, that the answer coming from him may have the greater authority and influence upon men’s consciences.

Who shall abide, Heb. sojourn, to wit, so as to dwell, as it is explained in the next clause; unless this clause be meant of sojourning in the church here, and the next of dwelling in heaven hereafter. Who shall enter thither and abide there, with thy good leave and liking?

In thy tabernacle, i.e. in thy church; either,

1. Militant. Who is a true and will be a persevering member of this church? Or,

2. Triumphant, or in heaven; which is called the true tabernacle, not made with man’s hands, Hebrews 8:2 Hebrews 8:9:11; Revelation 21:3.

In thy holy hill, to wit, of Zion, so called Psalms 2:6, which is oft put for the church and for heaven. Who shall so dwell in thy church here as to dwell with thee for ever hereafter in heaven?

Verse 2

Uprightly, or perfectly, or sincerely, without guile or hypocrisy, loving, worshipping, and serving God, and loving his neighbour, not in word and show only, but in truth and reality; and this constantly, and in the whole course of his life, as walking implies.

Worketh righteousness; maketh it his work and business to do justly, i.e. to give to every one his due, first to God, and then to men; for the words are general, and not restrained to either.

Speaketh the truth in his heart; his words and professions to God and men agree with and proceed from the thoughts and purposes of his heart.

Verse 3

He doth not take away or diminish his neighbour’s good name, either by denying him his due praises, or by laying any thing to his charge falsely, or without sufficient cause and evidence;

nor doeth evil, i.e. any hurt or injury, to his neighbour, i.e. to any man; as is evident,

1. From the nature of this precept, which reacheth to all, it being plain and certain that, both by laws of nature and of Moses, it was not. lawful to do evil to any man, except where God the Sovereign commanded it, as he did to the Canaanites and Amalekites.

2. From the Scripture usage of this word neighbour, which frequently signifies every man, though a stranger or a heathen, as appears from Genesis 29:4; Exodus 20:10,Exodus 20:17; Leviticus 18:20; Leviticus 19:15, &c.; Proverbs 25:8,Proverbs 25:9; Luke 10:20, &c.; Matthew 5:43,Matthew 5:44. And he useth this word neighbour, because he who is strictly so is most within our reach, and most liable to the injuries which one man doth to another.

Nor taketh up, to wit, into his lips or mouth, which is understood here, as also Exodus 20:7; Job 4:2, and fully expressed Psalms 16:4; Psalms 50:16, i.e. doth not raise it, though that may seem to be included in the first clause, that backbiteth not; or doth not spread and propagate it; which men are too prone and ready to do, and which makes that a public which before was but a private injury and mischief. Or, nor taketh or receiveth, i.e. entertaineth it cheerfully and greedily, as men usually do such things, and easily believeth it without sufficient reason. See Exodus 23:1; Leviticus 19:16. Or, nor beareth or endureth, as this phrase signifies, Psalms 69:7; Ezekiel 36:15. He doth not suffer another to defame him without some rebuke or signification of his dislike, Proverbs 25:23.

Verse 4

In whose eyes, i.e. in whose judgment and estimation,

a vile person, i.e. one, that deserves contempt, an ungodly or wicked man, as appears from the next clause, where he that feareth God is opposed to him,

is contemned or despised, notwithstanding all his wealth, and glory, and greatness. He doth not admire his person, nor envy his condition, nor court him with flatteries, nor value his company and conversation, nor approve of or comply with his courses; but he thinks meanly of him; he judgeth him a most miserable man, and a great object of pity; he abhors his wicked practices, and labours to make such ways contemptible and hateful to all men as far as it lies in his power. But this contempt of wicked men must be so managed as not to cause a contempt of just authority, which if it be lodged in a wicked hand, doth challenge not only obedience, but also honour and reverence; as is manifest from the precepts and examples of Christ and of his apostles, who charge this upon the Christians every where, although the magistrates of those times were unquestionably vile and wicked men. See Acts 23:5; Romans 13:0; 1 Peter 5:13, &c. He honoureth, i.e. he highly esteemeth and heartily loveth them, and showeth great respect and kindness to them, though they be mean and obscure as to their worldly condition, and though they may differ from him in some opinions or practices of lesser moment. He that sweareth, to wit, a promissory oath, engaging himself by solemn oath to do something which may be beneficial to his neighbour.

To his own hurt, i.e. to his own damage or prejudice. As if a man solemnly swear by the name of the great God, that he will sell him such an estate at a price below the full worth, or that he will give a poor man such a sum of money, which when afterwards he comes to review and consider, he finds it very inconvenient and burdensome to him, where he is tempted to break his oath.

Changeth not, to wit, his purpose or course, but continues firm and resolved to perform his promise, and sacrificeth his interest and profit to his conscience, and the reverence of God and of an oath. See Ezekiel 17:18,Ezekiel 17:19.

Verse 5

He that putteth not out his money to usury, in such manner as is contrary to God’s law; of which see in Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36,Leviticus 25:37.

Nor taketh reward, or a bribe, from him who hath a bad cause; that he may either condemn the innocent, or acquit the guilty; both which God abhorreth.

He that doth these things here enumerated, and such things as naturally and necessarily flow from them, or are akin to them, and joined with them, he shall constantly persevere in God’s church here; and though he may be shaken, and stagger and fall, yet he shall never wholly and finally be removed or fall away from it, nor from that happiness which was proposed and promised to him, but shall abide with God here, and go to him when he dies, and be for ever with the Lord.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 15". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.