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Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 26

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary


It should be considered that this Psalm could never have been written unless it had been preceded by Psalms 25:0. It was only once the question of forgiveness had been settled that the Psalmist could speak like this. For in this Psalm he approaches God with the confidence of a forgiven sinner.


‘A Psalm of David.’

In this Psalm the Psalmist testifies to YHWH that he has responded to YHWH’s covenant love and trustworthiness with a life of integrity and obedience, and he brings his life openly to God and calls on God to give him a religious check up. He is not afraid of this because he has already prepared himself by putting right all that was wrong in his life and seeking forgiveness (‘washing his hands in innocency’). He can also declare that he has not kept bad company, whether it be religiously devious, or openly sinful, and can therefore approach God to worship Him in innocency, which he does joyously because he loves His house and the place where His glory dwells. It is on these grounds that he looks to YHWH for long life so that he might continue to worship Him.

Verse 1

Judge me, O YHWH, for I have walked in my integrity,

I have trusted also in YHWH without wavering.

He is confident that having received the forgiveness that he had pleaded for in Psalms 25:0 he can now call on YHWH to judge him in the present as one who has been faithful, and has walked in integrity (compare Psalms 25:21). He is ready to open his whole life to YHWH’s scrutiny. And he is not afraid, because he knows that he has trusted YHWH with an unwavering trust (compare Psalms 25:2), a trust that does not slide about in constant changeableness, ‘none of his steps will slide’ (Psalms 37:31). He has turned neither to left nor right (compare Isaiah 30:21). In all this he wants YHWH to shine His light on him so that he may ‘walk in the light’ before Him (compare 1 John 1:7).

The request to be judged is also a prayer that God will stand on his side against his adversaries (Psalms 43:1). He is aware that unless YHWH is satisfied with what he is he has no right to such protection and help.

Verse 2

Examine me, O YHWH, and prove me,

Try my heart and my mind.

He is so confident of his current faithfulness to YHWH that he is ready to open himself for a thorough examination. ‘Examine me.’ He wants Him to test his integrity like an assayer tests the purity of metal. Compare Jeremiah 6:27 where Jeremiah was to act as such an assayer, ‘I have made you an assayer and a tester among my people that you may know and try their way’. See also Psalms 66:10. ‘Prove me.’ By weighing him up, measuring him against the Law, and coming to a fair conclusion. ‘Try my heart and my mind.’ By assessing all his inner thoughts. The word for ‘heart’ is often translated kidneys, which were seen as the seat of the emotions, or as ‘reins’, that which controlled those emotions (compare Psalms 7:9). The word for ‘mind’ signifies that which controls the thought and will.

We should note that he is not asking God to send him trials in order to test him. He has had enough of those. Rather he wants Him now to examine the results of those trials in order to discover that they have accomplished their purpose (compare Psalms 11:4-5). We should never pray for trials to come on us, for as Jesus stressed, our prayer should be, ‘do not bring us into trials but deliver us from evil’ (Matthew 6:13).

A prayer like this in public would rightly have been dismissed as showmanship (compare Luke 18:11-12). But in private it is the sign of a genuine desire to be pleasing to God. We should all be making such a prayer on a regular basis so that God can carry out His regular ‘service’ on our lives.

Verse 3

For your lovingkindness is before my eyes,

And I have walked in your truth.

His confidence lies in the fact that he has kept God’s covenant love firmly before his eyes, responding to it and walking in the light of His trustworthiness as the God of truth, believing wholeheartedly that He is the God Who is true and faithful.

Verses 4-5

I have not sat with men of falsehood (vanity),

Nor will I go in with dissemblers.

I hate the assembly of evil-doers,

And will not sit with the wicked.

And because his eyes are on YHWH he has avoided contact with all those who would seek to lead him astray. He has not sat with men whose thoughts were on what is vain and useless, on what is false rather than what is true. Compare Psalms 1:1 ‘sat in the seat of the scornful’. Nor has he gone into the houses of (or possibly ‘gone in and out with’) those who hide the truth about themselves and pretend to be what they really are not (‘dissemblers’). He is straight and open and has avoided all that is doubtful and has an appearance of evil.

He hates the company of evil-doers, (but not the evil-doers themselves), for their ways bring dishonour on YHWH, and he will not sit with the wicked. While the first two mentioned were subtle and devious in their ways, these are openly and downright sinful. With ‘I hate the assembly of evil-doers’ compare ‘I love the dwellingplace of your house’ (Psalms 26:8). It was his contemplation of YHWH that made him turn from all who did evil. Also compare ‘in the assemblies I will bless YHWH’. The company that he preferred was that of righteous men whose hearts were fixed on YHWH.

Verse 6

I will wash my hands in innocency,

So will I compass your altar, O YHWH.

Furthermore when he comes to stand around the altar with those who offer sacrifices, he prepares himself by making himself ‘innocent’ as a result of having had his sin dealt with by seeking God and putting it away from him. He has heeded the words of Isaiah, ‘Wash yourselves, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes’ (Isaiah 1:16). Now therefore he only has to ‘wash his hands’ that is deal with current sins. (We can compare Jesus’ words, ‘he who has been bathed needs only to was his feet’ - John 13:10). The washing of the hands has in mind the fact that the priests had to wash their hands and feet regularly as they operated between the altar and the holy place lest they die (Exodus 30:17-21), because of the defilement of earth contacted during that short walk, but the lack of mention of the feet here makes clear that this is intended to be seen as metaphorical. Compare Psalms 73:13 where washing the hands in innocency parallels the cleansing of the heart. Before coming into God’s presence in this way he has prepared his heart.

Verse 7

That I may make the voice of thanksgiving to be heard,

And tell of all your wondrous works.

And the result of his coming before YHWH fully clean will be that his voice will ring out in thanksgiving, and he will proclaim all that the Lord has done for him.

Connecting with the previous verse this verse may suggest that he sees himself as there because of a fervent desire to offer a thanksgiving offering which would then be partaken of in his home or palace where he would tell his guests the reason for his gratitude to YHWH, recounting the wonderful things that He had done for him. But whether that is so or not, it is a reminder that all our worship should finally result in thanksgiving and testimony.

Verse 8

YHWH, I love the habitation of your house,

And the place where your glory dwells.’

He wants YHWH to be aware of how much he loves His dwellingplace, the Tabernacle, the place in which is the Ark of the covenant of YHWH, the symbolic representation of God’s glorious presence. (When the Ark was captured by the Philistines, the ‘glory’ was said to have departed - 1 Samuel 4:22). He loves it because it is where YHWH reveals Himself among His people (compare Exodus 29:43; Exodus 40:34), and where they can meet with Him.

Verses 9-10

Gather not my soul with sinners,

Nor my life with men of blood,

In whose hands is wickedness,

And their right hand is full of bribes.

He prays that his soul will not be ‘snatched away’ and his life taken from him. Premature death is the lot of men of violence, and men who propagate violence, those whose ways are wicked, who constantly use underhand methods to get their way. It may be that a pestilence was raging, which would explain why he felt that some of the evil-doers might in the near future reap their deserts, and from which he himself was anticipating protection because he was under YHWH’s eye.

‘In whose hands is wickedness,’ They were guilty of corruption and defrauding the people, and if it seemed as though they might be caught they prevented it by the payment of bribes.

Verse 11

But as for me, I will walk in my integrity,

Redeem me, and be merciful to me.

But the Psalmist is not like that. His back is turned on corruption, and he intends to continue walking in integrity. And so he prays that YHWH will deliver him by an exertion of power at a cost to Himself, and will be merciful to him, so that he may prevail against those who are against him.

Verse 12

My foot stands in an even place,

In the congregations will I bless YHWH.

And having the assurance of Psalms 26:11 he can declare that his foot now stands in a level place. No longer for him the valley of darkness, where danger ever lurks (Psalms 23:4), or the rough paths along which it is easy to stumble, for YHWH has brought him out into a pleasant place, and among the assemblies of YHWH He will stand in order to bless Him.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 26". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/psalms-26.html. 2013.
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