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A Song of degrees of David.
Hengstenberg well suggests that this psalm must have been written in the full tide of prosperity, for the danger of high minded thoughts could then only arise; in times of trouble they vanish of themselves. But this should not preclude the thought of the temporary chastisement which underlies the psalm. The spirit of David, in whom childlike humility blends with royalty more than in any other of the Hebrew monarchs, pervades this brief and beautiful poem, and confirms the title which ascribes it to him. The psalm is to be taken as illustrative of its author’s personal experience, and at the same time concede its national character, according to Psalms 131:3, and consider that the author speaks in his representative character, not only as the political head of the nation, but as their model and exemplar. This was according to the common law of Providence in selecting individual holy men to become the instructors of the people: their experiences became illustrations of what the people should be, and they spake at once from the heart of the nation and from the secret mind of God. Many suppose the psalm was written during Saul’s persecutions of David, yet no time in history better suits its spirit and professions than after the judgments following the numbering of the people. 2 Samuel 24:0; 1 Chronicles 21:0. David was then the chief monarch of western Asia, and if he had been influenced by a temptation to a “lofty” mind in numbering the people, he was now restored, and weaned from the pride of power. As well does the psalm suit the humbled exiles of a once haughty nation, now returning to rebuild their city, and by them aptly classed with the national “Pilgrim Songs.”
1. Heart… haughty… eyes lofty The words rendered “haughty” and “lofty” are of similar meaning, and both denote pride. The “heart” and the “eyes” are mentioned as being, the one the chief natural lodgment, and the other the expression, of such a spirit. Strongly does the psalmist repudiate what is so offensive to God, and presents his heart and the expression of his countenance before his Maker, as inward and external proof of his sincerity. Striking at once, as he does, into this characteristic sin of monarchs, and keeping in mind that in prosperity only could there be any danger of it, (see introduction,) the presumption naturally forces itself upon us, that on this point David had been recently and sorely tried.
Exercise myself Literally, I have not walked in the pathway of great things, etc. He had appealed to his “heart” and “eyes” as offering no testimony against him; now he appeals to his general course of conduct, or tenor of life.
Things too high for me I have not aspired to things above my reach or out of my sphere, either in my foreign wars or my policy of home administration. He had not ventured in his own strength, as a mere matter of kingly ambition, or aside from the will and mind of God, upon any great enterprise. He has now reached the climax of his description. Pride and personal ambition are everywhere disavowed.
2. The conditional Hebrew particle אם , ( eem,) here joined with the negative, לא , ( loh,) takes the sense of solemn asseveration, as in the formula of swearing: “ Certainly, verily, I have behaved myself,” etc. See on Psalms 132:3. From negative disavowals he rises to affirmations.
Behaved and quieted Literally, Smoothed, or levelled and stilled; that is, he had composed and hushed his soul as a weaned child. On this comparison to childhood see Matthew 18:3. The comparison is not to an infant, but to a child of three years, the Hebrew period of weaning, ( 2Ma 7:27 ,) the earliest age of choice and rudimental development. The discipline of weaning is very notable. It effected a total alienation from its earliest nature and habits. As a weaned child David had learned not only to deny himself of prohibited indulgence in the common pride of monarchs, but was cured of the desire. He had no craving for that which God had denied, and from which he was now completely separated. There can be no more natural and beautiful description of a humble, subdued, and submissive spirit than in these artless professions.
3. Let Israel hope in the Lord Same as Psalms 130:7, which is copied from this. Israel, no less than the psalmist, had been chastened and weaned. The discipline was effective, and should reassure the national hope in Jehovah.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 131". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20