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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 14

Verse 1

Psalms 14:0.

David describeth the corruption of a natural man: he convinceth the wicked by the light of their conscience: he glorieth in the salvation of God.

To the chief musician. A Psalm of David.

Title. לדוד למנצח lamnatseach ledavid. This Psalm is thought to have been composed by David upon the almost total defection of his people to Absalom. The 5th verse seems strongly to mark this circumstance. See 2Sa 17:8; 2 Samuel 17:29. Mr. Mudge however observes, that it appears from the last verse, that this Psalm was composed during the captivity, and from the 4th and 5th verses, that it arose from a particular incident, where the heathens, in the midst of their carousing, without any sense of God, or acknowledgment of his goodness, were somehow put into a great fright (where there were no human grounds for fear, as the 52nd Psalm adds). This seems to point out the feast of Belshazzar; where the utmost loose was given to impiety; the sacred vessels, purely in defiance, being employed to promote their debauchery; and where they were frightened indeed in a manner wholly supernatural.

Psalms 14:1. The fool By the fool is here meant the pagan: It is thus that Job 30:8 calls the heathenish Cutheans, children of fools; that is, of Gentile extraction. In eminent calamity it was in the early ages a pagan practice, not only to call in question the existence of their deities, but likewise to prosecute them with the most dreadful curses and imprecations. The Jews, fond of imbibing the customs of their pagan neighbours, seem to have enfranchised this among others. In the simplicity of early ages, when men were at their ease, that general opinion, so congenial to the human mind, of a God and his moral government, was so strong as never to be brought into question. It was when they found themselves in distress and misery, whether in public or private life, that they began to complain, to question the justice, or deny the existence of Providence. Thus far Bishop Warburton. Others however imagine, that by the word fool, both here and in Psalms 53:0 libertines, and profane persons in general, are denoted, whose minds were depraved by the viciousness of their hearts. Thus the Platonists styled all wicked men fools, though they seemed to themselves to be very wise. It appears from the 5th verse, in which the Psalmist intimates concerning these fools that they did not call upon God, that their crime was not direct atheism, but an irreligious disposition, proceeding from a fond imagination that God exerted no moral government upon earth.

Verse 2

Psalms 14:2. The Lord looked down, &c.— These, and the following words, as to the sense of them, are taken from Genesis 6:5. They are here used in confutation of the profane and Epicurean ideas of those who denied a Providence.

Verse 3

Psalms 14:3. They are all gone aside, &c.— St. Paul, having cited this verse, Romans 3:10; Rom 3:31 subjoins three others, which are translated in the liturgy version of the church of England, but are not to be found in the modern Hebrew. In order to support the integrity of the Hebrew text, it has been supposed that the apostle, in his quotation, has cited from unconnected places, and different parts of scripture, and that the three verses which are to be met with in the Vatican copy of the LXX were inserted, or rather interpolated, by some Christian, to make it agree with Romans 3:0. But to this it may be replied, that no instance can be given of the apostle's quoting the Old Testament in so vague a manner. It must, indeed, be acknowledged, that these three verses are not to be found in the Alexandrian copies of the LXX. But perhaps those were taken from a Hebrew copy too, wherein the passage was omitted. The Vulgate, the Ethiopic, and some Arabic copies, as Grotius observes, read the passage in question; and it is likewise observable, that the quotations in the New Testament seem to have been taken from the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew; the very words in the Septuagint being made use of by the apostles, and particularly in this passage. This consideration must certainly give no small sanction to that version; and, of consequence, affords us a strong probability, that the verses inserted Romans 3:0 were originally in the Hebrew text. See Dr. Hammond, and Pilkington's Remarks. Mr. Green observes upon this Psalm in general, that it differs so much at present from the 53rd, that learned men are more inclined to impute the variations in the latter to the design of the writer, than to the carelessness of transcribers: but I am persuaded, says he, that upon a collation of the manuscripts that we have, modern as they are, the very reverse will be found to be true.

Verses 4-5

Psalms 14:4-5. Have all the workers &c.— Do they not observe, all the dealers in vanity, devourers of my people? They eat bread, they called not upon the Lord: Psalms 14:5. They were upon the spot, in a great fear: Mudge: who remarks, that these words point at something which had lately happened at an impious entertainment, where God sufficiently discovered his favour to his people, as well as his vengeance to their enemies.

Verse 6

Psalms 14:6. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor Will ye shame the counsel of the afflicted?—"Will ye now shame, or laugh at the poor oppressed people, for making God their refuge? Psalms 14:7. O that I could once see them back again in their own land!" This great event, probably, gave the author spirit to hope; and therefore in the view of it he proceeds exultingly, When the Lord, &c. See Mudge; who begins the 6th verse with the last clause of the 5th, thus: Yes, God is in the generation of the righteous: If the Psalm, however, is to be understood of Absalom, this last verse must refer to David's wish for his restoration to Jerusalem again, after his sad expulsion from thence by his son. See 1 Chronicles 16:35.

REFLECTIONS.—However outward sins may shock the conscience, no man can truly be emptied of himself, or be led to self-despair, till God opens to him the plague of his heart, and makes him see the desperate wickedness of a fallen nature. This is here done to the discerning sinner.

1. The heart of the fool is laid open. The fool, or the sinner, for sin is the foolishness of folly, hath said in his heart, There is no God. Though they are abandoned indeed who avow atheism in principle, yet the hardened sinner feels it his interest that there should be no God, secretly wishes that there may be none, and would fain persuade himself that there is none; no God to judge, no hell to torment. Note; (1.) If the thoughts of multitudes were as open as their countenances, they would startle at each other as monsters. (2.) All sin in practice, proceeds from a measure of atheism in principle.

2. The ways of men correspond to their nature: they are corrupt, or they do corrupt, they are such in themselves, their nature utterly defiled, being conceived and born in sin, and their inward arts very wickedness; and they corrupt others, provoke, stir up, and draw out the corruption which is in the hearts of sinners like themselves. They have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good; their practice corresponds with their principles; for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? And,

3. This is the case by nature universally; not in one place, or one age, but uniformly the same in every place, in every man, in every age; so God testifies on the view of all mankind, when the Lord looked down from heaven. The fool said, There is no God, or he careth not for it; he hideth away his face, and will never see the evil: but God's eyes are upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand the ways of truth and righteousness, and seek God, the knowledge of him and his will. But what a fearful account does the God of truth who cannot lie, the God of omniscience who cannot err, give of the state of man! They are all gone aside with universal apostacy; they have forsaken the path of duty and holiness; they are all together become filthy, or putrid; loathsome and offensive to the Divine purity, as a dead carcase in our nostrils. There is none that doeth good, no not one; not a single exception can be found among all the sons of men: they are one man's children; and, as descendants of a fallen parent, a seed of evil doers. Note; (1.) By nature there is no moral difference between one man and another; though in outward transgression there may be much, in inward apostacy there is none. (2.) If there be any good wrought in us, or done by us, we are indebted for it solely to the saving grace of God.

4. The Psalmist concludes with a devout wish: O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! especially that Redeemer who should turn away ungodliness from Jacob, and bring a cure for the desperate disease of human corruption: when the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people by the powerful agency of his Son, manifested to destroy the works of the devil, and to set the captives of sin free; then Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad; his faithful people shall rejoice in their present salvation begun; and their joy shall by and by be full, when he shall appear to destroy all his enemies and theirs, and complete their final salvation in eternal glory.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 14". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.