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Thursday, September 28th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 19

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2944. B.C. 1060.

This Psalm sets before us the two great books which God has written and published for the instruction and salvation of mankind, the book of Nature, and the book of Scripture, to the excellence and utility of both of which it bears testimony. As they both proceeded from one and the same perfectly wise and gracious Author, who is the Sovereign of the universe; so they are both perfect in their kind, stand on the same authority, and declare, though in different ways, the will of the same great Lawgiver to his intelligent offspring. Their grand design is to show forth the divine perfections of their author, the former to the whole world, the latter to God’s church and people, that all mankind may adore and serve him, and thereby become holy and happy. The psalmist first opens to our view the book of Nature, and shows us how the glory of God shines forth from the works of creation, particularly from the heavens which surround us, and, above all, from that great luminary, the sun, placed therein, Psalms 19:1-6 . Secondly, He leads us to the book of Scripture, on which he passes still higher encomiums, and shows that it produces still better and more important effects, effects more closely connected with our salvation, Psalms 19:7-11 . Thirdly, He addresses a prayer to God for pardon and restraining grace, and for the acceptance of these and all other his devotions and meditations. “The piety of this Psalm,” says Bishop Sherlock, “is so natural, and yet so exalted; so easy to be understood, so adapted to move the affections, that it is hardly possible to read it with any attention without feeling something of the same spirit by which it was endited.” May the reader find this to be true by experience!

Verse 1

Psalms 19:1. The heavens, &c. To magnify the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator, the psalmist begins with the works of creation, and, amidst the immensity of them, singles out those which are most conspicuous, grand, and striking, and best adapted to impress the mind of his reader with a sense of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, and to beget in him a solemn awe of, and veneration for, his matchless glories. The heavens That is, the visible heavens, so vast and spacious, and richly adorned with stars and planets, so various and admirable in their courses or stations; so useful and powerful in their influences; declare the glory of God His glorious being or existence, his eternal power and Godhead, as it is expressed, Romans 1:20; his infinite wisdom and goodness; all which they demonstrate, and make so visible and evident to all men of reason and consideration, that it is ridiculous to deny or doubt of them, as it is ridiculous to think of far meaner works of art, as suppose of houses, clocks, or watches, that they were made without an artist, or without a hand. The Hebrew, מספרים , mesapperim, is literally, they tell, or, preach, the glory of God. And this language of the heavens is so plain, and their characters are so legible, that all, even the most barbarous nations, that have no skill either in languages or letters, are able to understand and read what they declare. The firmament Or, the expansion, all the vast space extending from the earth to the starry heavens, and especially the atmosphere, comprehending that fluid mixture of light, air, and vapours, which is everywhere diffused about us; and to the influences of which are owing all the beauty and fruitfulness of the earth, and all vegetable and animal life: all these by their manifold and beneficial operations, as well as by their beauty and magnificence, show his handiwork As Creator, Preserver, and Governor. The excellence of the work discovers who was the author of it, that it did not come by chance, nor spring of itself, but was made by a Being of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness.

Verse 2

Psalms 19:2. Day unto day Or rather, day after day, uttereth speech Hebrew, יביע אמר , jabiang omer, poureth forth the word or discourse, (namely, concerning God,) constantly, abundantly, and forcibly, as a fountain doth water, as the word signifies. It hath, as it were, a tongue to speak the praises of its Maker. Night unto night showeth knowledge A clear and certain knowledge, or discovery of God its author, and his infinite perfections. “The labour of these our instructers,” says Dr. Horne, “knows no intermission, but they continue to lecture us incessantly in the science of divine wisdom. There is one glory of the sun, which shines forth by day; and there are other glories of the moon and of the stars, which become visible by night. And because day and night interchangeably divide the world between them, they are therefore represented as transmitting in succession, each to other, the task enjoined them, like the two parts of a choir, chanting forth alternately the praises of God.” Thus the instruction becomes perpetual. Every day and every night renews or repeats these documents and demonstrations of God’s glory: so that he who has neglected them yesterday has an opportunity put into his hands again to- day of profiting by their instruction. And, at the same time, the circumstances of their regular, constant, and beneficial vicissitude, set forth and proclaim aloud the excellence of that wisdom and goodness, which first appointed, and still continues it. How does inanimate nature reproach us with our indolence, inattention, and indevotion!

Verse 3

Psalms 19:3. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard There are divers nations in the world which have different languages, so that one nation cannot discourse with or be understood by another; but the heavens speak in a language which is universal and intelligible to them all. “No nation or people,” says that wise and learned heathen Tully, “is so barbarous and stupid as not to perceive, when they look up to the heavens, that there is a god; or to imagine, that these things, which have been made with such wonderful art and wisdom, are the effect of blind chance.” In short, the works of creation speak in the common voice of reason, and want no interpreter to explain their meaning; but are to be understood by people of all languages on the face of the earth. There is not a word or speech of theirs, (thus the verse may be translated,) the utterance of which is not heard. Dr. Waterland, however, renders it, They have neither speech nor words; that is, utter no articulate sounds; without these is their voice heard. Thus the margin. Others, again, interpret it thus: They have no speech nor word, nor is any voice, or sound, heard from, or among them; yet their line, &c., as in Psalms 19:4. In one of these senses, the elegant author of the Spectator, in his beautiful ode on these verses, seems to have understood the passage:

What, though in solemn silence all

Move round this dark terrestrial ball?

What, though nor real voice nor sound

Amidst their radiant orbs be found?

In Reason’s ear they all rejoice,

And utter forth a glorious voice,

For ever singing as they shine,


Verses 4-5

Psalms 19:4-5. Their line Their admirable structure, made with great exactness, and, as it were, by rule or line, as the word קו , kav, here used, generally signifies. Or, their lines, the singular number being put for the plural, that is, their writing, made up of several lines. In this sense, the very same word is taken, Isaiah 28:10. And thus understood here, the expression is peculiarly proper, because, as has just been intimated, the heavens and other works of God do not teach men with an audible voice, or by speaking to their ears, but visibly, by exhibiting things to their eyes, which is done in lines, or writing, or by draughts or delineations, as the Hebrew word may also be rendered. Their line, in this sense, is gone out Is spread abroad, through all the earth So as to be seen and read by all the inhabitants of it; and their words Their magnificent appearance, their exquisite order, their regular course, and their significant actions and operations, by which they declare their Author no less intelligibly than men make known their minds by their words; to the end of the world To the remotest parts of the globe. “The instruction which they disperse abroad is as universal as their substance, which extends itself over all the earth. And hereby they proclaim to all nations the power and wisdom, the mercy and loving-kindness, of the Lord. The apostle’s commission was the same with that of the heavens; and St. Paul has applied the natural images of this verse to the manifestation of the light of life by the preaching of those who were sent forth for that purpose.” Horne. In them In the heavens, hath he set a tabernacle for the sun Which, being the most illustrious and useful of all the heavenly bodies, is here particularly mentioned. By the Creator’s setting a tabernacle, or fixing a tent, for it, he seems to intend his collecting together, and condensing into one body, the solar light, which, it seems, from Genesis 1:3; Genesis 1:14-18, was at first diffused abroad, in equal portions, over and around the new-made world. Which is as a bridegroom Gloriously adorned with light, as with a beautiful garment, and smiling upon the world with a pleasant countenance; coming out of his chamber In which he is poetically supposed to have rested all night, and thence to break forth, as it were, on a sudden. And rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race Who, conscious of, and confiding in, his own strength, and promising himself victory, and the glory that attends it, starts for the prize with great vigour and alacrity. Dr. Dodd thinks the comparison is taken from the vehemence and force wherewith a warrior runs toward his enemy.

Verse 6

Psalms 19:6. His going forth is from the end of heaven His course is constant from east to west, and thence to the east again. Or, “the light diffused on every side from its fountain, extendeth to the extremities of heaven, filling the whole circle of creation; penetrating even to the inmost substances of grosser bodies, and acting in and through all other matter as the general cause of life and motion.” Horne. And there is nothing hid from the heat thereof There is no part of the earth which doth not, at one time or other, feel the comfort and benefit of its light and heat; and there is no creature which does not, more or less, partake of its influence.

Verse 7

Psalms 19:7 . The law of the Lord The doctrine delivered to his church, whether by Moses, or by other prophets and holy men of God after him: for the title law is not only given to the ten commandments, or the moral law, as Romans 2:23-29; but also to the whole word of God, as Psalms 1:2; Psalms 119:70; Jeremiah 8:8, and elsewhere; and in this general sense it must be here understood, because the effects here mentioned are not produced by, much less are they appropriated to, one part of it merely, but belong to the whole, the doctrines, declarations, narrations, precepts, counsels, exhortations, promises, threatenings, and particularly to that covenant made with man, therein revealed. Having discoursed hitherto of the glory of God, shining forth in, and demonstrated by, the visible heavens, he now proceeds to another demonstration of God’s glory, which he compares with, and prefers before, the former. Is perfect Completely discovering both the nature and will of God, and the whole duty of man, what he is to believe and practise, and whatsoever is necessary to his present and eternal happiness. Whereas the creation, although it did declare so much of God as left all men without excuse, yet did not fully manifest the will of God, nor bring men to eternal salvation. Converting the soul From error to truth, from sin to righteousness, from sickness to health, from death to life; Hebrew, משׁיבת נפשׁ , meshibath nephesh, restoring, or bringing back the soul; namely, to God, from whom it had revolted, 1 Peter 3:18, to his favour, his image, and communion with him. This law, or word, convinces of sin, holds forth a Saviour, is a mean of grace, and rule of conduct. The testimony of the Lord The same word, so called, because it is a witness between God and man, testifying what God requires of man, and what, upon the performance of that condition, he will do for man; is sure Hebrew, נאמנה , neemanah, faithful, or true, a quality most necessary in a witness: it will not mislead or deceive any man that trusts to it, and follows it, but will infallibly bring him to happiness, Making wise Unto salvation, as is expressed 2 Timothy 3:15, which is the only true wisdom; the simple The humble and teachable, who are little in their own eyes; or rather, the weak and foolish, even persons of the lowest capacities, and such as are apt to mistake and are most easily seduced. Even these, if they will hearken to the instructions of God’s word, shall become wise, when those who profess themselves wise shall, by leaning to their own understanding, and despising or neglecting the directions of the divine oracles, become and prove themselves to be fools, Romans 1:22.

Verse 8

Psalms 19:8 . The statutes of the Lord Another word signifying the same thing with law and testimonies, are right Both in themselves, and in their effect, as guiding men in the ready way to eternal happiness. Rejoicing the heart By the discoveries of God’s love to sinful men, in offers and promises of mercy. The commandment of the Lord All his commands; is pure Without the least mixture of error. Enlightening the eyes Of the mind, with a complete manifestation of God’s will and man’s duty; both which the works of nature and all the writings of men discover but darkly and imperfectly.

Verse 9

Psalms 19:9. The fear of the Lord True religion and godliness, prescribed in the word, reigning in the heart and practised in the life; or rather, that word or law itself is intended, and called the fear of the Lord, because it is both the rule and cause of that fear, or of true religion; is clean Sincere, not adulterated with any mixture of vanity, falsehood, or vice; not countenancing or allowing any sin or impurity of any kind, and preservative of the purity and holiness of the soul; enduring for ever Constant and unchangeable, the same for substance in all ages. Which is most true, both of the moral law and of the doctrine of God’s grace and mercy to sinful and miserable man, which two are the principal parts of that law of which he here speaks. For as to the difference between the Old Testament and the New, that lies only in circumstantial and ritual things, which are not here intended. And that alteration also was foretold in the Old Testament, and consequently the accomplishment of it did not destroy, but confirm, the certainty and constancy of God’s word. This also is opposed to human laws, in which there are, and ought to be, manifold changes, according to the difference of times, and people, and circumstances. The judgments of the Lord His laws, frequently called his judgments, because they are the declarations of his righteous will; and, as it were, his judicial sentence, by which he expects that men should govern themselves, and by which he will judge them at the last day; are true Grounded on the most sacred and unquestionable truths; and righteous altogether Without the smallest exception; not like those of men, often wrong and unrighteous, but perfectly and constantly equitable, just, and holy.

Verse 10

Psalms 19:10. More to be desired are they than gold Than the wealth of this world, although so generally preferred before them; yea, than much fine gold Than gold of the best quality, and in the greatest quantity; than all the treasures and precious things which are brought from other countries. Sweeter also Namely, to the soul of the pious believer; than honey and the honeycomb Than the sweetest thing we know of is to the bodily taste: yielding more true, and noble, and lasting satisfaction and happiness than any or all the delights of sense. Observe, reader, the pleasures of sense are the delight of brutes, and therefore debase the soul of man: the pleasures of religion are the delight of angels, and exalt it. The pleasures of sense are deceitful, they soon surfeit, and yet never satisfy; but those of religion are substantial, and satisfying, and there is no danger of exceeding in the pursuit or enjoyment of them.

Verse 11

Psalms 19:11. By them is thy servant warned I say nothing of thy law but what I have proved to be true by experience. The several parts of it have been and still are my great instructers, and the only source of all the knowledge to which thy servant hath attained. I am daily taught and admonished by them. They show me my duty in all conditions, and warn me of the consequences of not complying with it; so that by them I am preserved from falling into sin and danger. In keeping of them there is great reward “I am fully assured that the blessed fruit of them, when they are duly observed, and have their proper effect, is exceeding glorious, even eternal life.” Horne. Those that make conscience of their duty, will not only be no losers, but unspeakable gainers. They will find by experience that there is a reward, not only after keeping, but in keeping God’s commandments; a present great reward of obedience in obedience. Religion is health and honour; it is peace and pleasure: it will make our comforts sweet, and our crosses easy; life truly valuable, and death itself truly desirable.

Verse 12

Psalms 19:12. Who can understand his errors? Upon the consideration of the perfect purity of God’s law, and the comparing of his spirit and conduct with it, he is led to make a penitent reflection upon his sins. Is the commandment thus holy, just, and good? then who can understand his errors? Lord, I am a sinful creature, and fall infinitely short of the demands of thy law, and am condemned by it. Cleanse thou me Both by justification, or the pardon of my sins, through the blood of thy Son, which is in due time to be shed for me; and by sanctification through thy Holy Spirit, working in and with thy word, to the further renovation of my heart and life. For these are the two ways of cleansing sinners most frequently spoken of, both in the Old and New Testament: though the first may seem to be principally, if not only intended, because he speaks of his past sins, from which he could be cleansed no other way but my remission. From secret faults From the guilt of such sins as were secret, either from others, such as none knows but God and my own conscience; or from myself, such as I never observed, or did not discern the evil of. Pardon my unknown sins, of which I never repented particularly, as I should have done.

Verse 13

Psalms 19:13. Keep back thy servant also Hebrew, חשׂךְ , chasoch, cohibe, subtrahe, restrain, or withdraw. The word is emphatical, and implies the natural and great proneness of man to commit even wilful sins, and the necessity of divine grace, as a bridle, to keep men from the commission of them. From presumptuous sins Having begged pardon for his secret faults, including therein, probably, sins of ignorance and infirmity; he now prays for restraining grace, to keep him from sins committed knowingly and deliberately, against the convictions and the remonstrances of conscience and the motions of God’s Holy Spirit. Let them not have dominion over me If at any time I be tempted to any such sins, Lord, let them not prevail over me; and if I do fall into them, let me speedily rise again. Then shall I be upright That will be an evidence of my sincerity, and I shall have this comfort, that though I am still compassed about with many infirmities, yet I am an upright person, and such as thou dost accept. And I shall be innocent Hebrew, נקיתי , nikkeeti, I shall be cleansed, or kept pure, as this word primarily signifies; from the great transgression From the guilt of such presumptuous sins, which are, indeed, very great transgressions, and such as, if followed by impenitence and obstinacy, thou wilt not pardon.

Verse 14

Psalms 19:14. Let the words of my mouth, &c. Having prayed that God would keep him from sinful actions, he now prays that God would govern and sanctify his words and thoughts. And this was necessary in order to his preservation, even from presumptuous sins, which have their first rise in the thoughts, and thence, probably, proceed to expressions before they break forth into actions. Be acceptable in thy sight Be really good and holy, and so well pleasing to thee. O Lord, my strength O thou who hast hitherto strengthened me, both against my temporal and spiritual enemies, and whose gracious and powerful assistance is absolutely necessary to keep me from being overcome by my sinful inclinations and other temptations. And my Redeemer This expression seems to be added emphatically, and with a special respect to Christ, to whom alone this word, גאל , goel, properly belongs. See notes on Job 19:25. Through his blood and Spirit alone did and could David expect the pardon and grace for which he here prays.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 19". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-19.html. 1857.
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