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A.M. 2987. B.C. 1017.
This Psalm is supposed to have been written by David, under the reign of Saul, in which he was frequently persecuted, but in which also he had some quiet intervals, (see Psalms 119:54 ,) when he had leisure to write so long a composition, and one laboured with so much art. For it is not only divided into as many parts as there are letters in the Hebrew alphabet, but likewise each of these parts is divided into eight verses, and every one of these verses begins with that letter of the alphabet which forms the title of the part. Thus each of the eight verses in the first, termed Aleph, begins with an aleph, as those do in the second part, named Beth, with a beth. For this reason, in the Masora, this Psalm is styled, “The great alphabet.” It is further remarkable, that the word of God is here called by the names of law, statutes, precepts, or commandments, judgments, ordinances, righteousness, testimonies, way, and word. By which variety he designed to express the nature and perfection of God’s word. It is called his word, as revealed by him to us; his way, as prescribed by him for us to walk in; his law, as binding us to obedience; his statutes, as declaring his authority to give us laws; his precepts, as directing our duty; his ordinances, as ordained by him; his righteousness, as exactly agreeable to God’s righteous nature and will; his judgments, as proceeding from the great Judge of the world, being his judicial sentence, to which all men must submit; and his testimonies, as it contains the witnesses of God’s will and of man’s duty. And there is but one or two of these hundred and seventy-six verses in which one or other of these titles is not found. The Psalm contains a great many pious reflections and excellent rules, without any great connection, or dependance on each other: and this want of connection, probably, was the reason why the Psalm was written in this alphabetical method: that the initial letters might be a help to the memory of those who were to learn it in the original Hebrew. The general scope of the Psalm is to magnify the law and make it honourable; to show the excellence and usefulness of divine revelation, and recommend it to us by the psalmist’s own example, who speaks by experience of the benefits of it, for which he praises God, and earnestly prays for the continuance of God’s grace to direct and quicken him in his way.
Psalms 119:1-3. Blessed are the undefiled Hebrew, תמימי , temimee, the perfect, or sincere, as the word properly and most frequently signifies; namely, those whose hearts and lives agree with their profession; in the way The way of the Lord, as it is explained by the next clause; who walk in the law of the Lord Who order their lives according to the rule of God’s word. That keep his testimonies Who, in mind and heart, carefully and diligently observe his precepts. And that seek him Namely, the Lord: that seek his presence and favour, with the whole heart Sincerely, diligently, and earnestly, above all other things. They also do no iniquity That is, knowingly: they make it their constant care to shun every known sin. They walk in his ways In the paths which God hath prescribed to them.
Psalms 119:4-6. Thou hast commanded us, &c. Nor is it strange that thy people do so exactly and diligently observe thy precepts, because they are commanded so to do by thee, their sovereign Lord. O that my ways were directed Hebrew, יכנו , established, namely, by thy grace and Holy Spirit, for the direction of God’s word he had already. Then shall I not be ashamed Either of my actions, or of my hope and confidence in thy favour, but shall lift up my head with courage and boldness, both before men, when they accuse or persecute me, and even before God in the day of judgment, as is said 1 John 4:17. When I have respect A due respect, which implies hearty affection, diligent study, and constant practice; unto all thy commandments So as not to be partial in my obedience, nor to allow myself in the commission of any known sin, nor in the neglect of any known duty.
Psalms 119:7-8. I will praise thee That is, worship and serve thee; with uprightness of heart With a single eye to thy glory, and with a sincere desire to know and do thy will; when I shall have learned, &c. When, by thy good Spirit, I shall be more fully instructed in the meaning of thy word. I will keep thy statutes It is my full purpose so to do, whatsoever it may cost me. O forsake me not utterly For then I should fall into the foulest sins. Not that he was contented to be forsaken in the least degree, but this he more especially deprecates, as he had great reason to do.
Psalms 119:9. Wherewith shall a young man Or, any man. But he names the young man, because such are commonly void of wisdom and experience, and exposed to many and great temptations. Cleanse his way Reform his life, or purge himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. By taking heed thereto By diligently and circumspectly watching over himself, and examining and regulating all his dispositions and actions by the rule of thy word.
Psalms 119:10-11 . With my whole heart have I sought thee Deny me not that aid of thy grace which I have so sincerely and earnestly desired and laboured to obtain. O let me not wander Hebrew, אל תשׁגני , do not make me to wander, namely, by leading me into temptation, or by withdrawing thy grace, which is necessary to keep me from wandering. Thy word have I hid in my heart I have not contented myself with merely hearing or reading thy word, but have received it in the love of it, have diligently considered it, and have laid it up in my mind, like a choice treasure, to be ready upon all occasions to counsel, quicken, or caution me, as need may require. That I might not sin against thee That by a diligent and affectionate consideration of thy precepts, promises, and threatenings, I might be kept from all sinful practices.
Psalms 119:13-15. With my lips have I declared, &c. If thou wilt teach me, I will teach others, as I have already done. I have rejoiced in thy testimonies In the study and practice of them. I will meditate, &c. Will seriously consider the nature, and design, and extent of thy precepts, and especially so far as they concern my own duty; and have respect Hebrew, ואבשׂה , I will look unto thy ways As workmen constantly and carefully look to their rule to guide themselves by it.
Psalms 119:17-18. Deal bountifully with thy servant I plead no merit, but only thy free grace and rich mercy; that I may live Safely and comfortably; and keep thy word For I do not desire life that I may satisfy my own lusts, but that I may spend it in thy service. Open thou mine eyes Enlighten my mind by thy Holy Spirit, and dispel all ignorance and error. That I may behold wondrous things out of thy law Those great and marvellous depths of divine wisdom and goodness, and those profound mysteries of Christ, and of God’s grace to mankind, and that everlasting state, which are not to be known but by divine illumination.
Psalms 119:19-20. I am a stranger in the earth Or, a sojourner. I am not here as in my home, but as a pilgrim travelling homeward in a strange land: a condition which calls for thy pity and help: see note on Psalms 39:12. Hide not thy commandments from me Which are my chief support and guide in my pilgrimage, My soul breaketh, &c. Fainteth, as the soul frequently does, when a thing vehemently desired is denied or delayed. Or, as גרסה נפשׁי is rendered by some, my soul is taken up, or wholly employed, in longing for, or in love to, thy judgments. The whole stream of its desires runs in this channel. I shall think myself quite broken and undone, if I want the word of God to conduct and comfort me.
Psalms 119:21. Thou hast rebuked Or, dost rebuke, that is, reprove and punish, the proud Obstinate and presumptuous sinners, who sin with a high hand; that are cursed That are under the wrath and curse of God, and have his curse upon them in all that they do or possess, Deuteronomy 28:16-19. Which, do err Hebrew, השׁגים , hashogim, wander, or stray, from thy commandments Namely, knowingly, or wilfully, as proud sinners are wont to do.
Psalms 119:22-24. Remove from me reproach Which I suffer, and that unjustly, for thy sake; for I have kept thy testimonies And therefore I am innocent of those things for which they censure and reproach me: or, and therefore thou wilt maintain mine honour and interest, according to thy promise made to such as keep thy testimonies. Princes also did sit and speak, &c. Did continually speak against me; for sitting denotes continuance. When they sat upon their seats of judicature, or sat together in companies, they entertained one another with discourses to my prejudice. But thy servant did meditate, &c. All their contumelies and reproaches did not discourage, nor divert me from the study, belief, and practice of thy word. Thy testimonies also are my delight My chief comfort under all their censures and persecutions; and my counsellors To teach me how to conduct myself under them.
Psalms 119:25. My soul cleaveth unto the dust That is, as some understand it, I am in danger of present death: I am like one laid in the grave; so this phrase is used Psalms 22:15. Quicken thou me Preserve my life, or raise me out of the dust; according to thy word According to thy promise. But the psalmist, probably, rather complains in these words of his affections being apt to cleave to worldly objects, which are but dust, and prays for quickening and purifying grace to render him more spiritually minded. And every one whose affections are set on things below has reason to make a similar confession, and to pray, as he did, for quickening and regenerating grace, to raise him to those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.
Psalms 119:26-27 . I have declared my ways My manner of life, my sins, my temptations, my sorrows, my wants, dangers, fears, cares, and concerns; my designs, undertakings, and pursuits: I have spread them all before thee, by way of sincere confession, humble supplication, or solemn appeal. And thou heardest me Heardest patiently all I had to say, tookest cognizance of my case, and didst grant my petitions and accept my praises. Make me to understand, &c. Namely, more thoroughly and practically, the meaning of thy precepts Which are exceeding broad; and how I may walk according to them. Or, how I may demean myself in all the varieties of my condition, and in all my affairs and actions, so as is most agreeable to thy precepts. So shall I talk of thy wondrous works Of the wonders of thy law, mentioned Psalms 119:18.
Psalms 119:28. My soul melteth Like wax before the fire, through godly sorrow for sin; or sinks under the weight of my affliction. Strengthen thou me That so I may bear my burdens patiently and cheerfully, and may vanquish all temptations, and may not bring fresh trouble and distress upon myself by relapsing into sin.
Psalms 119:29-30. Remove from me the way of lying Hebrew, דרךְ שׁקר , dereech sheker, the way of falsehood or deceit, of guile or dissimulation. Let me neither practise it myself, nor countenance, nor be deceived by it in others. The LXX. render it, οδον αδικιας , the way of unrighteousness. “It is plain,” says Dr. Horne, “that the way of truth, in the latter of these two verses, is opposed to the way of lying, or of falsehood, in the former. The one comprehends every thing in doctrine and practice that is right, and therefore true; the other denotes every thing which is wrong, and therefore false. Of these two ways man hath his choice. God points out to him the former by his word, and offers to conduct him in it by his Spirit. Satan shows him the latter, and endeavours to seduce him into it by his temptations. The psalmist declares himself to have chosen God’s way, and to have laid the Scriptures before him, as the chart by which to direct his course. He therefore prays that the other way may be far removed from him; and that God would vouchsafe him such thorough acquaintance with the way of truth as might prevent him from ever wandering into the path of error. How much depends upon the road we choose! How difficult is it, in a divided and distracted world, to choose aright! Yet this choice, so important, so difficult, frequently remains to be made by us, when we have neither judgment to choose, nor strength to travel!”
Psalms 119:31 . I have stuck, &c. I have resolutely persisted in the practice of thy precepts, in spite of all temptations to the contrary, whether from prosperity or adversity, from honour or dishonour, from health or sickness, from pleasure or pain; whether from visible or invisible foes. “The psalmist does not say only, I have followed, but, I have stuck unto thy testimonies That is, I have adhered so closely and firmly to them, that temptation has in vain essayed to allure, and persecution as vainly attempted to force me from them.” In this the psalmist is an example for our imitation. “Having once chosen our road, we must persevere in it; since better had it been for us never to have known the way of truth, than to forsake it when known.” We must therefore pray with him, O Lord, put me not to shame By giving me over to apostacy or transgression, which would bring shame: but so continue thy grace and favour to me, that I may never, by falling from my steadfastness, disgrace my heavenly Master, his cause, my brethren, myself, nor be put to shame at the last day.
Psalms 119:32. I will run the way of thy commandments I will obey thy precepts with all readiness, fervency, and diligence; when thou shalt enlarge my heart When thou shalt replenish my heart with more knowledge of, love to, and delight in, thy law: when thou shalt knock off those fetters of remaining corruption, and give me a more noble and generous disposition toward thee, and establish me with thy free Spirit, Psalms 51:12. Thus David both owns his duty, and asserts the absolute necessity of divine grace to enable him to perform it.
Psalms 119:33-35. Teach me, &c., and I will keep it Or, that I may keep it; that I may persevere; for apostacy proceeds from the want of wisdom and understanding; unto the end Hebrew, עקב , to the heel, that is, quite through, from head to foot. Make me to go, &c., in thy commandments By directing my mind into the right way, by inclining my will, and strengthening my resolution. For therein do I delight Forsake not him who delighteth in thee, and in thy service; and as thou hast wrought in me to will, do thou also work in me to do.
Psalms 119:36. Incline my heart, &c. As the wisdom of man may conceive, and his tongue utter, great things of God and holiness, while his heart is averse from both; therefore David saith, not only, Give me understanding, but, incline my heart unto thy testimonies To the love and practice of them; and not to covetousness He mentions this in particular, because it is most opposite to God’s testimonies, and does most commonly hinder men from receiving his word, and from profiting by it; and because it is most pernicious, as being the root of all evil.
Psalms 119:37-38. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity The vain things of this world, such as riches, honours, pleasures; from beholding them with desire or affection. Quicken thou me in thy way Make me lively, vigorous, and fervent in thy service. Establish thy word Confirm and perform thy promises; unto thy servant Who is subject to thy authority, obedient to thy laws, and devoted to thy fear Those are indeed God’s servants who, though they have infirmities and defects, yet are sincerely devoted to his fear, and have all their affections and motions governed thereby.
Psalms 119:39-40. Turn away my reproach which I fear For my instability in thy ways; which, in respect to my own weakness, I have great cause to fear; I have longed after thy precepts After a more solid knowledge and constant performance of them. Quicken me Do thou preserve and maintain both my natural and spiritual life; in thy righteousness According to thy faithfulness, which obligeth thee to make good thy promises.
Psalms 119:41-44. Let thy mercies, &c. Let thy promised mercies be performed to me. So shall I answer him that reproacheth me That chargeth me with folly for my piety and trust in thy promises. And take not the truth, &c. Deal not so with me, that I shall be altogether ashamed to mention thy word, which I have so often affirmed to be a word of truth, and infallible certainty. “The judgments of God,” says Mudge, “were that word of truth in which he trusted; to pray God, therefore, not to take them out of his mouth, is the same as to pray that God would act agreeably to his word, for otherwise he could no longer, with any grace, make use of it, or derive any consolation from it.” Or, he may mean, Let the word of truth be always in my mouth; let me have that wisdom and courage which are necessary to enable me both to use my knowledge for the instruction of others, and to make profession of my faith, whenever I am called to it. We have indeed need to pray that we may never be afraid or ashamed to own God’s truths and ways, nor deny him before men. So shall I keep thy law So shall I be encouraged, as well as obliged, to the constant study and observation of thy laws.
Psalms 119:45-48 . And I will walk at liberty Having then no such encumbrances upon me as I now have in these straits and difficulties which beset and burden me, I shall enjoy great freedom and comfort in thy ways, and will do my duty with cheerfulness and joy. I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings Who commonly entertain all godly discourses with scorn and contempt. I will delight myself, &c. Whereas other princes place their delight in the glories and vanities of this world, and the study and practice of religion are generally irksome and disagreeable to them, thy law shall be my chief delight and pleasure. My hands also will I lift up To receive and embrace thy precepts and promises, by faith and love, and cheerfully and vigorously to put them in practice.
Psalms 119:49-50. Remember the word That is, thy promises; upon which thou hast caused me to hope By thy command requiring it of me, and by thy grace working it in me. This Namely, thy word, as is evident both from the foregoing and following words; is my comfort in my affliction Being the ground of my confidence and hope. “A comfort divine, strong, lasting; a comfort that will not, like all others, fail us when we most want it, in the day of sickness, and at the hour of death, but will always keep pace with our necessities, increasing in proportion as the pleasures of the world and the flesh decrease, and then becoming complete, when they are no more. So powerful is the word of God to revive us when dead, either in sins or in sorrows!”
Psalms 119:51-52. The proud have had me in derision For my fear of thee and trust in thy word; yet have I not declined from thy law From faith in, or obedience to, thy revealed will, in order to avoid that derision. I remembered thy judgments of old Thy former and ancient dispensations to the children of men, in punishing the ungodly, and protecting and delivering thy faithful servants, and this has been my support and encouragement. Here then we have the great remedy against that temptation which arises from the reproaches of the ungodly and unbelieving, namely, a remembrance of God’s judgments of old; “whether we understand thereby the judgments of his mouth, or those of his hand; his righteous decrees for the punishment of bad and reward of good men, or the many and wonderful instances of his executing those decrees, from the beginning of the world, recorded in the sacred history. These are sources of real comfort upon such occasions; because nothing can happen to us which hath not happened to God’s people of old; no case of which there is not a precedent in Scripture, where we may read the process of similar trials, their issue, and the final sentence of the Judge, who is still the same, and whose rule of procedure and determination is invariable.” Horne.
Psalms 119:53. Horror hath taken hold upon me A mixed passion, made up of abhorrence of their sins, and dread and sorrow at the consideration of the judgments of God coming upon them; because of the wicked, &c. For the dishonour which they bring to God, the scandal and mischief to others, and their own certain ruin.
Psalms 119:54-56. Thy statutes have been my songs The matter of my songs, my delight and recreation; in the house of my pilgrimage In this present world, wherein I am a pilgrim, as all my fathers were. I have remembered thy name Thy holy nature and attributes; thy blessed word and thy wonderful works; in the night When darkness causeth fear to others, I took pleasure in remembering thee; and when others gave themselves up to sleeps my thoughts and affections were working toward thee; and have kept thy law This was the fruit of my serious remembrance of thee. This I had This comfortable and profitable remembrance of thy name and statutes; because I kept thy precepts Which if I had wilfully and wickedly broken, the remembrance of these would have been a cause of grief and terror to me, as now it is a source of peace and comfort.
Psalms 119:57-58. Thou art my portion, O Lord Whereas other men place their portion and happiness in worldly things, I have chosen thee for my portion and chief treasure: and thou art an all-sufficient and excellent portion for me: see notes on Psalms 16:5; Psalms 73:26. I have said that I would keep thy words I have not only purposed it in my own heart, but have professed it before others, and I do not repent of it. I entreated thy favour, &c. Thy gracious presence and merciful assistance.
Psalms 119:59-61. I thought on my ways I seriously considered both my former conduct, and my duty in all my future actions; and turned my feet unto thy testimonies And finding my feet had too often swerved from the rule thou hast given us to walk by, I turned them to it. And although the ways of sinful pleasure and advantage were presented to my mind, yet I rejected them, and turned myself wholly to thy ways. I made haste, &c. Being fully convinced of the necessity and excellence of obedience, I immediately resolved upon it, and began to execute my resolution. The bands of the wicked have robbed me Or, made a prey of me; done me many injuries for my respect to thy law. The LXX. render it, σχοινια αμαρτωλων περιεπλακησαν μοι , the cords, or snares of sinners have entangled me; with which the Vulgate and Houbigant agree.
Psalms 119:62-64. At midnight I will rise To praise thee in a solemn manner; not being contented with those short ejaculations he might have used lying in his bed; because of thy righteous judgments That is, thy laws, which are so useful to direct and comfort me. I am a companion of all that fear thee Not excepting the poorest and meanest, the society of whom other princes disdain. The earth is full of thy mercy Thou satisfiest the just desires and necessities of all men, and of all creatures, with the fruits of thy goodness. Teach me thy statutes But spiritual blessings, and not the good things of this life, are what I chiefly esteem and desire; and therefore I pray that thou wouldst teach me to know, and incline and enable me to love and practise thy law.
Psalms 119:66. Teach me good judgment Whereby I may rightly discern between truth and falsehood, good and evil; that so I may be kept from those errors in which many are involved, and may clearly understand what thy law requires or permits, and what it forbids. The Hebrew, שׂוב שׂעם , properly signifies goodness of taste, referring to the palate; and it is only figuratively and by way of analogy that it signifies goodness of judgment, or the good sense and discernment of the mind. And knowledge A spiritual and experimental knowledge, added to that sense of, and relish for, divine things, implied in the former clause. For I have believed thy commandments I have believed the divine authority of them, and the truth and certainty of those promises and threatenings wherewith thou hast enforced them.
Psalms 119:67-68. Before I was afflicted I went astray As men too generally do in their prosperity. Thou art good Gracious and bountiful in thy nature; and dost good To all men, both good and bad, (Matthew 5:45,) and in all things, yea, even when thou afflictest. Teach me thy statutes Which is the good I chiefly desire.
Psalms 119:69-70 . The proud have forged a lie against me A slander, charging me with hypocrisy toward God, and other sins. But I will keep thy precepts My practice shall confute their calumnies. “Every disciple of Christ, who, like his Master, goeth contrary to the ways of the world, and condemneth them, must expect to be, like that Master, slandered and calumniated by the world. To such slanders and calumnies, a good life is the best answer.” Horne. Their heart is as fat as grease Hebrew, שׂפשׁ כחלב , tapash chacheleb, which Dr. Waterland renders, is gross, as with fat: and Houbigant, gross as fat. The sense is, either, 1st, They are dull, stupid, insensible, and past feeling, neither affected with the terrors nor comforts of God’s word: so a similar phrase signifies, Isaiah 6:10, compared with John 12:40. Or, 2d, They prosper exceedingly, and are even glutted with the wealth and comforts of this life. But I delight in thy law I do not envy them their prosperity and pleasure: for I have as much delight in God’s law as they have in worldly things.
Psalms 119:71-72. It is good for me Necessary and very beneficial; that I have been afflicted He repeats what, in effect, he said before, (Psalms 119:67,) partly to intimate the certainty and importance of this truth, and partly because it is a great paradox to worldly men, who generally esteem afflictions to be evils, yea, the worst of evils. The law of thy mouth Not only thy promises, but even thy precepts, which are so unpleasant and disagreeable to ungodly men; are better unto me More needful and profitable, and therefore more desirable; than thousands of gold and silver Because they not only give me abundant satisfaction and comfort in this life, but also conduct me with safety and delight unto that eternal and most blessed life, where gold and silver bear no price.
Psalms 119:73. Thy hands have made me, &c. Desert not then thy own workmanship, that neither has nor hopes for any thing but from thy almighty power. Being thy creature, I know that, as such, I am obliged to serve and obey thee with all my might: which that I may do aright, give me the understanding and aid of which I stand in need.
Psalms 119:74. They that fear thee will be glad, &c. This verse is thus paraphrased by Bishop Patrick: “It will be a very great comfort and encouragement to all good men, when they see me delivered out of all these troubles; for thereby they will be confirmed in their belief of thy faithfulness to thy promises, on which it will appear I have not vainly depended.” Certainly, as they who fear God, that is, who are truly pious, are naturally glad when they see one like themselves, so they are more especially so “when it is one whose faith and patience have carried him through troubles, and rendered him victorious over temptations; one who hath hoped in God’s word, and hath not been disappointed. Every such instance affords fresh encouragement to all those who, in the course of their warfare, are to undergo like troubles, and to encounter like temptations.” Horne.
Psalms 119:75-77. I know, O Lord By the convictions of my own conscience, and by experience; that thy judgments are right That thy corrections, as the next clause explains this, are just and proper, and that thou, in faithfulness, hast afflicted me That is, in order to the accomplishment of thy faithful promises, and for my present and eternal good. Let thy merciful kindness, &c. Yet, in judgment, remember mercy, and give me that support in, and deliverance out of my troubles which thou hast promised. Let thy tender mercies Thy tender compassion, and pardoning grace; come unto me Let me have the evidence that I indeed possess them, and experience their blessed efficacy in my own heart; that I may live That, being passed from death unto life, I may live a life of faith, hope, and love, of joy and gladness, of holiness and happiness; for thy law is my delight And while I rely on its promises, I make it my care to obey its precepts, and thus manifest the truth of my repentance. Observe, reader, a good man cannot be satisfied or happy without evident tokens of God’s favour to him; but those that delight in God’s law shall not be left destitute of those tokens.
Psalms 119:78-79. Let the proud be ashamed Confound all the proud contemners of thy law; let them be brought either to repentance or to shame; for they have dealt perversely with me, either by their calumnies, putting false and perverse constructions on my words and actions, or endeavouring to overthrow and destroy me, by turning me out of the way of my duty; but I will meditate in thy precepts All their wicked attempts shall never drive me from the study, and love, and practice of thy precepts. Let those that fear thee, &c. Let all pious men, who have a due regard for thy testimonies, be convinced of this, and turn their hearts and affections to me, which have been alienated from me, either by the artifices and calumnies of my adversaries, or by my sore and long distresses, causing them to think that I had deceived them with false pretences, or that God, for my sins, had utterly forsaken me. And those that have known thy testimonies That is, that have loved and practised them. The sense of this verse is much the same with that of the seventy-fourth; that good men, seeing what God had done for him, should turn themselves to him, take encouragement from him, and recognise the righteousness of God in protecting his friends.
Psalms 119:80. Let my heart be sound in thy statutes Hebrew, perfect, or entire; that I may love and obey them sincerely, constantly, and universally. That I be not ashamed Namely, for my sins, which are the only just causes of shame, and for the disappointment of my hopes following upon them. “This is a prayer necessary for all men to use at all times, but more particularly in seasons of persecution and temptation.” When there are solidity and steadfastness in grace and virtue, as opposed to the mere form of godliness, or the fair show of the hypocrite; “when internal holiness accompanies and actuates that which is external; when the word is thoroughly rooted, and faith,” working by love, “hath acquired the sovereignty over our desires, then our hearts are sound in God’s statutes, and there is hope that, in the day of trial, we shall not give our brethren cause to be ashamed of us, nor be ourselves ashamed before God.” Horne.
Psalms 119:81-84. My soul fainteth for thy salvation With longing desire, earnest expectation, and hope deferred. Mine eyes fail With looking hither and thither, and to thee for help. I am become like a bottle in the smoke A bottle of skin or leather, (the only ones then in use,) which, being hung up in the smoke, and by that means parched and dry, aptly represents a person worn out and dried up with long suspense and expectation, The sense is, My natural moisture is dried up; I am withered, deformed, and despised, and my case grows worse and worse every day. How many are the days of thy servant? Either, 1st, The days of my life; I have but a little while to live in the world; give me some respite before I die; or the days of my misery. How long, Lord, shall my misery last? For ever?
Psalms 119:85-88. The proud have digged pits for me Have sought to destroy me by deceit and treachery, as well as by violence; which are not after thy law Which pits, that is, which insidious designs against an innocent person, are not agreeable to thy law, but directly contrary to it. Or the meaning may be, Which men are not after thy law, that is, act and behave without any regard to it, nay, in direct opposition to its injunctions. For all thy commandments are faithful Are in themselves most just and true, and require righteousness from men, promising many blessings to those that practise it, and severely forbid all fraud or falseness, threatening grievous punishments to those that use them; and such promises and threatenings are true, and shall certainly be executed. They had almost consumed me As to my present life and all my happiness; upon earth Whereby be implies that his immortal soul and eternal happiness in heaven were safe and out of their reach. Quicken me after thy loving-kindness Revive, support, and comfort me by the Spirit of life, which proceeds from thy loving-kindness; so shall I keep the testimony. &c. Making it the rule of my conduct, and the ground of my confidence and hope, for time and for eternity.
Psalms 119:89-91. For ever, O Lord, thy word, &c. The Hebrew may be rendered, thou art for ever, O Lord, thy word, &c. Or, thy word, O Lord, is for ever; firmly fixed in heaven. God’s truth or faithfulness, upon which his laws are founded, is as fixed as the heaven and the earth; for they owe their durableness to the same truth. Thy faithfulness is unto all generations Every age affords fresh proofs of the truth of thy word. Thou hast established the earth, and it abideth In that place and state in which thou didst establish it, Ecclesiastes 1:4. They The heaven and the earth last mentioned; continue according to thine ordinance As thou didst appoint, and by virtue of thine appointment. For all are thy servants All things are subject to thy power and pleasure.
Psalms 119:92-95. Unless thy law had been my delight Unless I had known, believed, and delighted in it, as the subject of my meditation; I should then At the very instant; have perished in mine affliction My heart would have failed me, and I should have been undone; I could not have outlived one stroke of thine afflicting hand. I will never forget thy precepts I will always retain a remembrance of, and a regard to, thy word, as my rule; for with them thou hast quickened me Revived and cheered me when my heart was ready to sink and die within me. I am thine By creation, redemption, and manifold obligations; as also by my own choice and designation. I have devoted myself to thy service, and committed myself to thy care. Save me Both from sin and ruin. Those that in sincerity give up themselves to God, to be his subjects and servants, obeying his will and living to his glory, may be sure that he will protect them and preserve them to his heavenly kingdom, Malachi 3:17. The wicked have waited to destroy me Watching for an opportunity so to do; but I will consider thy testimonies As my best counsellors and comforters, and also my defenders against the designs and assaults of mine enemies.
Psalms 119:96. I have seen an end of all perfection I have observed that all human things, how complete soever they may seem, such as wisdom and power, glory and riches, and the greatest and most perfect accomplishments and enjoyments in this world, are exceeding frail, and soon come to an end. But thy commandment Thy word, (one part being put for the whole,) is exceeding broad Or large, both for extent and for continuance; it is useful to all persons, in all times and conditions, and for all purposes, to inform, direct, quicken, comfort, sanctify, and save me; it is of everlasting truth and efficacy; it will never deceive those who trust to it, as all worldly things will, but will make men happy both here and for ever.
Psalms 119:97-100. O how I love thy law! O Lord, thou knowest my love to it is inexpressible: to then I appeal herein against all the censures and calumnies of my enemies to the contrary. It is my meditation all the day Because I desire to know and do thy will, which it declares in all things. Thou, through thy commandments Which direct me into, and preserve me in, the way of righteousness; hast made me wiser than my enemies Who pursue a different course, and take their own will or fancy, and not thy word, for the rule of their actions. I have more understanding More true wisdom; than all my teachers All those priests and Levites, or doctors of the law, of whom I have formerly learned; for, pursuing other knowledge, and secular objects, they neglect to make themselves acquainted with thy law: but thy testimonies are my meditation The matter of my constant and most diligent study. I understand more than the ancients Those elders and grave counsellors, who rely more on their own wisdom and sagacity than on that wisdom which springs from a meditation on thy truth; because I keep thy precepts By which he intimates, that to practise religion is the best way to understand it, and that the corruption of men’s hearts and lives is the greatest hinderance of all true and solid knowledge of it. Thus our Lord, If any man will do his
(God’s) will, he shall known of the doctrine whether it be of God.
Psalms 119:101-102 . I have refrained, &c., from every evil way Every way which either is evil, or leads to evil; sin, and the temptations or occasions of sin; that I might keep thy word Not for any worldly or carnal reasons, as some men abstain from divers sins for their credit or advantage: but out of pure respect to thy word; for thou hast taught me Namely, by thy blessed Spirit illuminating my mind, and working in my heart, which other teachers cannot do.
Psalms 119:103-104. How sweet are thy words to my taste! Observe, reader, there is such a thing as a spiritual taste, an inward savour and relish of divine things; such an evidence of them to ourselves, by experience, as we cannot give to others. To this taste the word of God is sweet; yea, sweeter than any of the gratifications of sense, even those that are most delicious. David here speaks as if he wanted words to express the satisfaction he took in the discoveries of the divine will and grace: he judged no pleasure to be comparable to it. Through thy precepts I get understanding True, useful, and saving knowledge; therefore Because that discovers to me, as the wickedness, so the folly and mischief of such practices; I hate every false way Every thing which is contrary to that rule of truth and right, all false doctrine and worship, and all sinful courses.
Psalms 119:105-108. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet To direct me in all my doubts and difficulties, and to comfort me in all my fears and distresses. I have sworn, and will perform it I have solemnly vowed, and, by God’s grace, will fulfil my vow; that I will keep thy righteous judgments Thy commands, which are consonant to the eternal rules of equity, and which it is our duty to observe carefully. Accept the free-will-offerings of my mouth The sacrifices of prayer and praise, which I do freely and frequently offer unto thee.
Psalms 119:109-110. My soul is continually in my hand Exposed to perpetual and extreme danger, as any precious and frail thing is which a man carries openly in his hand, and which he may easily let fall, or be deprived of by violence. This is true of us all: we stand in jeopardy every hour, and there is but a step between us and death. But David considered himself as being peculiarly in danger, because, as he says in the next verse, the wicked had laid a snare for him Intending, probably, Saul and his courtiers, who were unwearied in their endeavours to get him into their power, that they might take away his life.
Psalms 119:111-112 . Thy testimonies have I taken, &c. I have chosen them for my portion, a portion which I will never relinquish. I have inclined my heart That is, I have complied with the motions of thy Spirit, inclining my heart to perform thy statutes Though “the inclination of the heart to good, is the work of God, yet man is said to perform it when he listens to the call, and obeys the motions of his grace.”
Psalms 119:113-115. I hate vain thoughts Or, wild imaginations, as some render סעפים , a word which signifies the shootings, or branchings of the mind; namely, all wild, roving fancies, in opposition to the truth and solidity of God’s word. Thou art my hiding-place See on Psalms 32:7. Depart from me, ye evil-doers I will have no society, friendship, or conversation with you; for I will keep the commandments of my God
Which your evil counsel or example might hinder me from keeping.
Psalms 119:116. Uphold me according to thy word Or hold me up, as he says in the next verse, seeing himself to be not only unable to go on in his duty, by his own strength, but in danger of falling into sin, unless he were prevented by divine grace; that I may live May be preserved in spiritual life, and retain my title to eternal life. And let me not be ashamed of my hope Or confidence in thy promises; of the certainty of which I have often made my boast before others.
Psalms 119:118-120. Thou hast trodden down all them that err, &c. Thou hast brought them to ruin, utter and shameful ruin; thou hast made them thy footstool. He seems to speak of those proud persecutors who trampled upon God’s people, and on whom he saw that sooner or later God would trample ; for their deceit is falsehood All their crafty and deceitful devices, by which they design to insnare and ruin good men, shall deceive their expectations, and bring that destruction upon themselves which they designed for others. Thou puttest away all the wicked Thou removest them from thy presence, from the society of thy people, and from the land of the living; like dross Which, though for a season it be mixed with gold or silver, is not only separated from it, as a useless and contemptible thing, but also is utterly consumed by fire; therefore I love thy testimonies Because they are the best preservatives against wickedness, and against those dreadful punishments attending upon it. Of these he professes his fear, adding, in the next verse, My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, &c. As if he had said, The observation of thy terrible judgments against ungodly men, and the consciousness which I have of my own manifold sins and great weakness, make me fear lest thou shouldest punish me also, as thou justly mightest, if thou shouldest be so strict as to mark what is amiss in me; or lest I should partake with them in their sins, and consequently in their plagues.
Psalms 119:121-124. I have done judgment and justice That is, just judgment, Ecclesiastes 5:7, namely, toward mine oppressors, whom I have no way injured. Be surety for thy servant for good For my safety and comfort. Do thou undertake and plead my cause against all my enemies, as a surety rescues the poor persecuted debtor from the hands of a severe creditor. Mine eyes fail, &c., for the word of thy righteousness For the performance of thy righteous, or faithful, or merciful word, or promise. Deal, &c., according to thy mercy Not according to strict justice, nor according to my sins.
Psalms 119:126-127. It is time It is high time, or a fit season; for thee, Lord, to work To put forth thy power for the vindication of thy own name and cause, and for the restraint and punishment of evildoers. For they Namely, mine oppressors, or the wicked; have made void thy law Have abrogated it as far as was in their power, by not only transgressing, but also rejecting it, as if they could wholly lay aside, not only the duties, but also the penalties annexed to the breach of it. Therefore I love thy commandments Both because it is one evidence of their excellence that they are disliked by wicked men, and because the great and general apostacy of others makes the duty of loving and obeying them the more necessary.
Psalms 119:129. Thy testimonies are wonderful In regard of the deep mysteries, the most excellent counsels and directions, and the exceeding great and precious promises contained in them; the manner in which they are written, and the effects which they produce. “They contain the sublimest spiritual truths, veiled under external ceremonies and sacraments, figurative descriptions, typical histories, parables, similitudes, &c. When properly opened and enforced, they terrify and humble, they convert and transform, they console and strengthen.” Therefore doth my soul keep them Hebrew, נצרתם , netzaratam, guard, preserve, and watch over them as a precious treasure, therefore I attend to them and make them the rule of my faith and practice, of my principles and actions, of my tempers, words, and works, and of my whole conduct toward God and man. And “who but must delight to study and observe these testimonies of the will and wisdom, the love and power of God most high! While we have these holy writings, let us not waste our time, misemploy our thoughts, and prostitute our admiration, by doting on human follies, and wondering at human trifles.” Horne.
Psalms 119:130. The entrance of thy words Into the heart of man; that is, the receiving of them in faith, and love, and meekness; giveth light To those that were before in darkness, even the light of true and saving knowledge. Hereby we learn our origin and our end, what we are by nature, and what we must be made by grace, in order to our final salvation; what God hath done for us, and the returns he expects from us; the enemies we have to encounter, and how we may be enabled to prevail against them; the mercy and justice, the love and wrath, the goodness and holiness of Jehovah, the joys of heaven, and the pains of hell. But the words פתח דבריךְ , are rendered by many ancient and modern interpreters, the opening of thy words; that is, the unfolding and explaining of them, opening the true sense, and showing thy mind and will therein. “Thy words are no sooner opened than there streams a light from them.” It giveth understanding to the simple To the most ignorant and unlearned persons, who are but willing to learn.
Psalms 119:131. I opened my mouth, and panted, &c. I thirst after the truths and precepts of thy word, and pursue them eagerly, and, as it were, with open mouth, ready and greedy to receive them. “An eastern traveller, fatigued through toil and parched by heat, doth not with more vehement desire gasp for the cooling breeze, than the servant of God, in time of temptation and trouble, panteth after that spirit of refreshment and consolation which breathes in the Scriptures of truth.” Horne.
Psalms 119:132-133. Look thou upon me Favourably, as the next clause explains it; and be merciful unto me Let me taste the sweetness, and receive the gifts of thy mercy; let me have thy smiles, and the light of thy countenance; as thou usest to do, &c. As thou hast been wont to do unto thy people in all former ages. Do not deny me the common privilege of all the faithful. Order my steps in thy word By thy grace direct and govern all my affections and actions in the way prescribed in thy word. Let thy Spirit accompany thy word, and ingraft it in me, so that I may be guided and ruled by it. And let not any iniquity have dominion over me: let not the law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, lead me captive to the law of sin: but, though the flesh may lust against the spirit, let the spirit oppose the desires of the flesh, and overcome and subdue them. The dominion of sin is to be dreaded and deprecated by every one of us; and if in sincerity we pray against it, we shall receive, as an answer of our prayers, the accomplishment of that promise, Romans 6:14, Sin shall not have dominion over you.
Psalms 119:136. Rivers of water run down mine eyes, &c. Plentiful and perpetual tears, witnesses of the deep sorrow I feel on account of the dishonour which sinners do to thee, thy displeasure against them, and the miseries which they bring on themselves and others by their sins. “Thus David, who, through this whole Psalm, so often and so ardently beseeches God to teach him his statutes, declares in this verse his continual grief of heart, occasioned by seeing others break those statutes. Thus Lot, among the Sodomites, was vexed from day to day, not so much at their usage of himself as at seeing and hearing their unlawful deeds, 2 Peter 2:8. Thus Jeremiah tells the ungodly of his time, If ye will not hear, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eyes shall weep sore and run down with tears, Jeremiah 13:17. Thus the holy Jesus looked round about on the Pharisees, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, Mark 3:5; and wept over a city which had always persecuted, and was then about to crucify him, because it knew not the things which belonged to its peace.”
Psalms 119:137-138. Righteous art thou, O Lord In thy nature and attributes, and therefore it is impossible that thou shouldest be unjust in any of thy laws or providences. Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded Hebrew, צוית צדק עדתיךְ , Thou hast commanded righteousness, even thy testimonies, or, by thy testimonies, or, the righteousness of thy testimonies, and truth, very much, or, earnestly. The sense is, Thou hast strictly and severely, under the highest obligations and penalties, commanded in thy word. that men should be just and true in all their actions.
Psalms 119:139-141. My zeal hath consumed me My zeal toward thy law, which my enemies violate and contemn. “Zeal is a high degree of love; and when the object of that love is ill treated, it vents itself in a mixture of grief and indignation, which are sufficient to wear and consume the heart. This will be the case when men rightly conceive of that dishonour which is continually done to God by creatures whom he hath made and redeemed. But never could the verse be uttered with such fulness of truth and propriety by any one, as by the Son of God, who had such a sense of his Father’s glory, and of man’s sin, as no person else ever had. And, accordingly, when his zeal had exerted itself in purging the temple, St. John tells us, his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.” Horne. Thy word is very pure Without the least mixture of any falsehood or sin; therefore thy servant loveth it Because of that exact purity and holiness of it; although, for that very reason, ungodly men either despise or hate it. I am small Hebrew, צעיר , a little one; not for age, but, in respect of my condition in the world, mean and obscure; yet do I not forget thy precepts As my conscience bears me witness. If we are small and despised, we have the more need to remember God’s precepts, that we may have them to support us under the pressures of a low condition.
Psalms 119:142-144. Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness Constant and unchangeable, the same in all ages and places, and to all persons; of eternal truth and justice never to be dispensed with, nor to be made void. And thy law is truth Nothing but truth, or as true as truth itself. Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me Outward trouble and anguish of spirit; or great anguish and distress. Yet thy commandments are my delights My trouble and anguish do not take away my taste for the comforts of thy word: but I can still relish them, and find that peace and pleasure in them, which all the calamities of this present life cannot deprive me of. Indeed, the saints have frequently the sweetest enjoyment of the delights which there are in God’s word, when they are in a state of trouble and distress. Give me understanding, and I shall live I shall be kept from those sins which bring spiritual death, and expose to eternal death: I shall live a life of grace here, and glory hereafter.
Psalms 119:147-148. I prevented the dawning of the morning Hebrew, בנשׁ Š, the twilight, namely, of the morning. In this sense this word is used 1 Samuel 30:17. Mine eyes prevent the night-watches In the Hebrew it is only the watches, there being nothing for night. “The Jews,” the reader will observe, “anciently divided the night into three watches, which began at what we now call six o’clock in the evening, and consisted each of four hours. The Romans afterward introduced among them the custom of dividing it into four watches, consisting of three hours each, as well as of dividing the day and the night into twelve hours each. David intimates that he meditated on God, not only in the day-time, but also in the several divisions of the night, wherein different soldiers, or different parties of soldiers, were appointed to watch, or keep guard. In all these, or at least during a considerable part of each of them, he was thus wakeful, and employed in meditation and prayer.”
Psalms 119:149-150. O Lord, quicken me Stir me up to love and serve thee, and make me vigorous, lively, and cheerful in thy work; according to thy judgment According to thy word, which is often called God’s judgment; or, according to thy manner of dealing with thy people. They draw nigh To me. They are at hand, and ready to seize upon me; that follow after mischief Or rather, as רדפי זמה may, perhaps, be more properly rendered, that pursue me with malicious subtlety. They are far from thy law They cast away from them all thoughts of, and respect to, thy law, which forbids such wicked practices.
Psalms 119:151-152. Thou art near, O Lord Namely, to me. Thou art as ready and present to succour me, as they are to molest me. And all thy commandments are truth Considered with the promises and threatenings which belong to them, and are always either expressed or implied. Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old By my own long experience, ever since I arrived at any knowledge in those matters; that thou hast founded them for ever Thou hast established them upon everlasting foundations. They are as unalterable as the attributes of their great Author, and can never fail those who rely upon them, in time or in eternity.
Psalms 119:155. Salvation Which is nigh to the faithful, because they diligently and earnestly seek to know and do the will of God, revealed to them in his word; is far from the wicked They cannot, upon any good grounds, promise themselves even temporal deliverance, when they are in any adversity or trouble, but certainly eternal salvation is far from them. They may, indeed, flatter themselves that it is near, or that they are in the way to it; but they are dreadfully mistaken. It is at a great distance, for they thrust it from them, by thrusting the Saviour from them, and his statutes, to know, and much more, to practise which, they give themselves no concern; and the longer they persist in sin, at the greater distance it is. But, while salvation is far from them, damnation is near; it slumbers not: for, behold, the Judge standeth before the door.
Psalms 119:157-160. Many are my persecutors David, being a public person, had many enemies. In this he was a type both of Christ and of his church. The enemies, the persecutors of both, are many, implacable and unwearied in their endeavours against them. Yet do I not decline from thy testimonies Though they tempt me so to do, and persecute me because I will not do it: for I know while I adhere to them God is for me, and then I need not regard who is against me. A man that is steady in the way of his duty, though he may have many enemies, he needs to fear none. I beheld transgressors I observed and considered their ungodly courses; and was grieved Commiserating their sin and folly, and distressed to think of the misery they were bringing on themselves; because they kept not thy word And thereby exposed themselves to thy wrath and indignation. Consider how I love thy precepts My love to which is the cause of my grief for the violation of them. Thy word is true from the beginning From the beginning of the world. “God’s word, and every article of his law, was, and ever will be, truth, first and last; what he spoke first was truth, and so will be every determination of his to the end of the world.” Waterland.
Psalms 119:161-164. Princes The rulers and prime ministers of thy kingdom; have persecuted me Whom they ought to have used their authority to protect, knowing me to be innocent and injured; but my heart standeth in awe, &c. I fear thy displeasure more than their wrath, and therefore do nothing contrary to thy word in my own vindication. I hate and abhor lying Or falsehood, in my speech and actions; all hypocrisy, deceit, and fraud; even to the degree of abhorrence and abomination; but thy law do I love I most heartily love those honest courses to which thy law directs me. Seven times a day do I praise thee That is, many times, a certain number being put for an uncertain. Because of thy righteous judgments Because I have the happiness to be acquainted with the justice and goodness of those laws whereby thou governest us.
Psalms 119:165. Great peace have they which love thy law Hebrew, great peace is, or shall be, to the lovers of thy law, that is, great inward peace, satisfaction, and tranquillity of mind, arising from the sense of thy love to them, and of thy watchful care over them. In other words: “amidst the storms and tempests of the world, there is a perfect calm in the breasts of those who not only do the will of God, but love to do it. They are at peace with God by the blood of reconciliation; at peace with themselves by the answer of a good conscience and the subjection of those desires which war against the soul; at peace with all men by the spirit of charity; and the whole creation is so at peace with them, that all things work together for their good.” And nothing shall offend them Hebrew, ואין למו מכשׁול , to them is no stumbling-block, namely, such as they shall stumble at, and fall by, into sin and misery. “No external troubles can rob them of this great peace, no offences or stumbling-blocks, which are thrown in their way by persecution or temptation, by the malice of enemies, or the apostacy of friends, by any thing which they see, hear of, or feel, can detain or divert them from their course. Heavenly love surmounts every obstacle, and runs with delight the way of God’s commandments.” Horne.
Psalms 119:167-168. My soul hath kept thy testimonies I have not only obeyed thy commands outwardly, which a hypocrite may do for worldly ends, but I have done it from my very soul, and from a hearty love to them. For all my ways are before thee I knew I was always in thy presence, and that all my tempers, words, and works were observed by thee. For this clause seems to be added as a principal reason or motive of his obedience, which was the consideration of God’s omnipresence and omniscience, and his desire to approve himself and his ways to God.
Psalms 119:172-175. My tongue shall speak of Shall freely and abundantly, like a fountain, pour forth, as תען signifies; thy word The truths, precepts, and other contents of it. For all thy commandments are righteousness Even those which, to men of corrupt minds, seem severe and unjust. Let thy hand help me Let thy divine power, therefore, succour me in this weak and distressed condition wherein I am. For I have chosen, &c. For I rely on it alone, having resolved to be guided wholly by thy precepts. I have longed for thy salvation That thou wouldest save me completely, not only from my troubles, but also from my sins, and from all inclination to decline from thy ways, and that at last thou wouldest crown me with eternal salvation in thy kingdom. Let my soul live That is, let my natural life be prolonged, that I may live to thy glory. Or, let my soul possess spiritual life in union and communion with thee; and it shall praise thee Shall have both inclination and power so to do, with fervency and delight. Let thy judgments help me Thy providential dispensations, whereby thou rulest and judgest the world, punishing the wicked, and protecting and delivering the godly: or rather, thy ordinances and testimonies, (as the word judgments commonly signifies in this Psalm,) which are the only ground of my confiding in thee for help.
Psalms 119:176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep I have too often swerved from the path of thy precepts, through my own infirmity, or the power of temptation. Seek thy servant As the shepherd doth his wandering sheep, and bring me back into thy fold. Or, as some interpret the psalmist’s meaning, I have wandered like a sheep which is lost, driven from place to place during these tedious persecutions; but be thou pleased, like a careful shepherd, to look after me, and to put me in the right way of escaping all the dangers to which I am exposed, and of recovering my liberty, rest, and peace.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 119". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany