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Monday, October 2nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 63

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


A.M. 2956. B.C. 1048.

Few if any of David’s Psalms manifest more of the warmth and spirit of lively devotion than this. He was in the wilderness, or desert country, belonging to Judah, probably in the forest of Hareth or Ziph, and at a distance from the sanctuary, when he wrote it. And “as the sweetest of St. Paul’s epistles,” says Henry, “were those that bore date out of prison; so some of the sweetest of David’s Psalms were those that were penned as this was, in a wilderness. That which grieved him most in his banishment was the want of public ordinances: to the enjoyment of these he here longs to be restored: and his present want of them did but increase his desire. Yet it is not the ordinances, but the God of the ordinances, that his heart is chiefly set upon.” We have here his desire and esteem of God, Psalms 63:1-4 . His satisfaction in, and communion with God, Psalms 63:5 , Psalms 63:6 . His joyful dependance upon God, Psalms 63:7 , Psalms 63:8 . His holy triumph in him, Psalms 63:9-11 .

Verse 1

Psalms 63:1. O God O thou who art God, and the only living and true God, the author and end of all things, the Governor and Judge of men and angels, and the sole object of their worship; thou art my God Mine by creation, and therefore my rightful owner and ruler; mine by covenant and my own consent, and therefore the object of my highest esteem, most fervent desire, and most entire trust and confidence. Early will I seek thee Which clause is all expressed in one word in the Hebrew, אשׁחרךְ , ashacherecha, (a most significant term, from שׁחר , shachar, aurora, vel diluculum, the dawn of day, or morning twilight,) a phrase which no translation can very happily express. Buxtorf interprets it thus, Quasi aurorare, vel diluculare dicas, words which will not admit of being rendered into our language. The sense of them, however, is, I will prevent, or be as early as the first approach of light in seeking thee. Perhaps no version can better express the precise meaning and force of the original term than that of the Seventy, namely, προς σε ορθριζω , but it is equally difficult, if not impossible, to be literally translated into English. We find the same Hebrew phrase Isaiah 26:9, which our translators interpret in the same manner, namely, “With my spirit within me will I seek thee early.” The primary meaning of the word early, in both passages, is early in the morning, or before, or with the dawn of day; which implies the doing it (namely, seeking God) with the greatest speed and diligence, taking the first and best time for it. And to seek him, the reader will observe, is to covet his favour as our chief good, and to consult his glory as our highest end: it is to seek an acquaintance with him by his word, and mercy from him by prayer: it is to seek union with him, and a conformity to him by his Spirit. My soul thirsteth for thee Eagerly desires to approach thee, to have access to thee, and to enjoy communion with thee. Thirsting, in all languages, is frequently used for earnestly longing after, or passionately desiring any thing. My flesh longeth for thee Or, languisheth, or pineth away, as כמה , chamah, the word here used, seems properly to signify. R. Sal. renders it, arescit, it is dried up, withered, or wasted. In some approved lexicons it is interpreted of the eye growing dim, the colour changing, and the mind being weakened. As used here by the psalmist, the word implies the utmost intenseness and fervency of desire; as though it impaired his sight, altered the very hue of his body, and even injured his understanding; effects oftentimes produced by eager and unsatisfied desires. In a dry and thirsty land where no water is Where I have not the refreshing waters of the sanctuary, and where I thirst not so much for water to refresh my body, although I also greatly want that, as for thy presence, and the communications of thy grace to refresh my soul. He experienced the vehemence of natural thirst in a wilderness, where he could get no supply of water; and by that sensation he expresses the vehemence of his spiritual thirst, of his desire after God, and the ordinances of his worship.

Verse 2

Psalms 63:2. To see To enjoy, as seeing often means; thy power and glory The powerful and glorious effects and evidences of thy gracious presence: to see them here in this wilderness, as I have seen them in the tabernacle; to see them in secret, as I have seen them in the solemn assembly: or, to see them again in the sanctuary, as I have formerly seen them there. He longs to be brought out of this wilderness, not that he might see his friends again, and be restored to the pleasures and gayeties of the court, but that he might have access to the sanctuary; not to see the priests there, and the ceremonies of the worship, but to see the power and glory, that is, the glorious power, or powerful glory, of God, which is put for all his attributes and perfections: that he might increase in his acquaintance with them, and have the suitable impressions of them made upon his heart: in other words, so to behold the glory of the Lord as to be changed into the same image, 2 Corinthians 3:18. The phraseology of the psalmist should be observed here; he does not say, to see thy power and glory as I have seen them, but as I have seen thee. We cannot, indeed, see the essence of God, but we see him, in the sense meant by the psalmist, in seeing by faith his gracious and glorious perfections. With the remembrance of these sights David here pleaseth himself: those were precious minutes which he spent in communion with God: he loved to recollect and dwell upon them: of these he lamented the loss, and to these he longed to be restored. Reader, are thy views and feelings of this kind? Dost thou thus esteem, desire, and delight in God’s ordinances? Art thou thus pained when deprived of them, and thus delighted when privileged with the enjoyment of them? And dost thou thus desire, and expect, and seek, and find the presence of God in them? “The true Christian,” says Dr. Horne, “dedicates to God ‘the sweet hour of prime,’ he opens the eyes of his understanding, together with those of his body, and awakes each morning to righteousness. He arises with an inextinguishable thirst after those comforts which the world cannot give, and has immediate recourse, by prayer, to the fountain of the water of life; ever longing to behold the divine power and glory in the sanctuary above, of which he has been favoured with some glimpse in the services of the church below.”

Verse 3

Psalms 63:3. Because, &c. Here we see the reason of the psalmist’s thirst after God, as is expressed in the two preceding verses; thy loving-kindness is better than life That is, the discoveries and influences of thy grace and favour, which thou usually impartest to thy people in thy sanctuary, are more durable, and comfortable, and satisfactory than the present life, with all the imaginary advantages belonging to it. Mark well this declaration of the psalmist, reader. God’s loving-kindness is in itself, and in the account of all the saints, better than life, and all the comforts of life; life in its best estate; long life and prosperity. It is our spiritual and eternal life, and that is better than our natural and temporal life. It is better, a thousand times, to die in God’s favour, than to live under his wrath, under which we should of course be if we were deprived of his loving-kindness. My lips shall praise thee Both for my former tastes and experiences of this truth, which I have just expressed, and for the assurance I have of being restored to the same blessed enjoyments which I have formerly had. Observe again, reader, those that have their hearts refreshed with the tokens of God’s favour, ought to have them enlarged in his praises. Great reason indeed have such to bless God, for they have better provisions and better possessions than the wealth of this world could afford them; and in the service of God, and in communion with him, have better employments and better enjoyments than they could have in the business and converse of this life.

Verse 4

Psalms 63:4. Thus will I bless thee That is, so as I have done, and have now said. As I have begun, I will go on: the present devout affections shall not pass away like the morning cloud, but shine more and more like the morning sun. Or, for this reason, being so sensible of the sweetness of thy favour; or, certainly, as the particle כן , cheen, is sometimes used. While I live I will persevere in this work of blessing and praising thee: it shall be an important part of the business of my whole life. Through thy grace I will retain a sense of thy former favours, and repeat my thanksgivings for them; and every day give thanks for the benefits with which I am daily loaded. I will lift up my hands Toward thee, in heaven, in prayers and praises, to my duty, and against my enemies; in thy name According to thy command, with confidence in thy name, or thy nature and attributes, and in the strength of thy Spirit and grace.

Verses 5-6

Psalms 63:5-6. My soul shall be satisfied Not only as with bread, which is nourishing; but as with marrow and fatness Which are pleasant and delicious; namely, when thou shalt fulfil my desire, and bring me to enjoy thee in the sanctuary; though now in my exile I groan and pine away for want of that mercy; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips I will praise thee openly: I will confess with my mouth as well as believe in my heart: and I will praise thee cheerfully, from a principle of gratitude and holy joy. When I remember thee upon my bed During the solitude and stillness of the night; a fit season for meditation on the daily repeated and long-continued mercies of God. David was so full of business all day, shifting for his own safety, that he had scarcely leisure to apply himself solemnly to religious exercises; and therefore rather than want time for them he denied himself his necessary sleep. Hebrew, upon my beds, implying that he was frequently obliged to change his bed and lodging, being driven from place to place. In the night watches In the several seasons of the night, which were divided into three or four watches. When others sleep securely, my sleep is interrupted by perplexity and grief, but my thoughts are fixed on thee. David was now in continual peril of his life, so that we may suppose care and fear often held his eyes waking, and gave him wearisome nights; but then he entertained and comforted himself with thoughts of God and things divine. So ought we to do when sleep departs from our eyes, through pain or sickness of body, or any disturbance of mind.

Verse 7

Psalms 63:7 . Because thou hast been my help When other helps and helpers failed me; because I have known by experience both thy power and will to save those that trust in thee; therefore, in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice Hebrew, ארנן , aranneen, will I sing: I will confide in thee for the future, and will do it with delight and comfort: I will rest securely and joyfully, and will sing thy praises under thy protection. He alludes either to the wings of the cherubim stretched out over the mercy-seat, between which God was said to dwell; or to the wings of a fowl, under which her helpless young ones have shelter. Thus the recollection of past mercies inclines the true believer still to have recourse, in all his dangers and difficulties, to his strong helper, and to put himself and all his affairs under the wings of an overshadowing providence.

Verse 8

Psalms 63:8. My soul followeth hard after thee Pursues communion with thee, and a conformity to thee, with earnest, increasing, and restless desire, lively expectation, and unwearied diligence: follows thee resolvedly, and, as it were, step by step, when thou seemest to depart, and withdraw thyself from me, as the Hebrew phrase here used implies. My soul and spirit cleave, or adhere to thee, (as the word דבקה , dabekah, is rendered, Genesis 2:24; Jeremiah 13:11, and elsewhere,) even when my body is absent from thy sanctuary. Thy right hand upholdeth me Supports and preserves me from sinking under the many trials and troubles which have lain, and still lie, heavy upon me; and upholds me in my devotions, maintaining holy desires in my heart, and preventing my being weary in thy service: so that I do not lose my labour in following hard after thee. Let us always remember we should fail and be weary of following the Lord, and certainly should not follow him fully, if his right hand did not uphold us. It is he that strengthens us in the pursuit of himself, that raises and supports good affections in us, and encourages and comforts us, while we are labouring after what we have not yet attained. It is by his power that we are kept from falling, and enabled to persevere in his ways. Let him therefore have the praise and glory!

Verses 9-10

Psalms 63:9-10. But those that seek my soul, &c. That seek to take away my life; shall go into the lower parts of the earth Into the grave; and, if they repent not, into hell. God shall cut them off, and send them to their own place. Their enmity to David, and opposition to the counsel of God respecting him, he foresaw would be their death and their damnation, their ruin and their eternal ruin. They shall fall by the sword Shall die in battle, as he foretold 1 Samuel 26:10, and as was accomplished in Saul and his followers, who were David’s greatest enemies. They shall be a portion for foxes The carcasses of some of them shall lie unburied upon the earth, and thereby shall become a prey to wild and ravenous beasts, and especially to foxes, which abounded in those parts.

Verse 11

Psalms 63:11. But the king shall rejoice in God I, who am anointed to be king, and who shall actually be king when these my enemies are fallen by the sword. Every one that sweareth by him By the name of God, namely, in truth, and judgment, and righteousness, as it is expressed Jeremiah 4:2, that is, every sincere servant and worshipper of God that invokes his name, and makes him the object of his religious reverence and fear: all which is implied in swearing by him, as an oath taken, as in the presence of God, is an immediate appeal and solemn act of worship to him. Accordingly, swearing is often put for the whole worship of God, and swearers by him, for worshippers of him. See Isaiah 45:23, compared with Romans 14:16; Isaiah 65:16. Shall glory Shall rejoice in my deliverance and exaltation, both for their respect for the honour and service of God, which I shall advance, and for the benefits which all good men and the whole kingdom shall receive by my government: whereas, in Saul’s time, the vilest men were exalted, good men oppressed and persecuted, and the whole kingdom groaned under his tyranny. But the mouth of them that speak lies That now make it their business to invent or spread slanderous reports concerning me and others of God’s people; shall be stopped They shall be so silenced that they shall not have a word to say for themselves. He may mean also, that when he should be in power, he would severely restrain and punish such wicked practices. Apply this to Christ’s enemies. Those that speak lies against him, who pervert the right ways of the Lord, and speak ill of his holy religion, their mouths will be stopped too, when the Lord shall come to reckon for all the hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Christ’s second coming will be the everlasting triumph of all his faithful friends and followers, who may therefore now triumph in the believing hopes of it.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 63". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-63.html. 1857.
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