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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 14


To the chief Musician. A Psalm of David.

The historic occasion of this psalm seems clearly indicated. The class of men bearing rule, and giving character to the age, is atheistic. Hebrew and heathen have alike sunk into godlessness and corruption. The Hebrew people are in great reproach and oppression. Their enemies are rampant and pitiless, (Psalms 14:4;) but salvation is still looked for from Zion, from which they are in distant captivity, (Psalms 14:7.) These are not the indications of an internal struggle of a faithful few against a majority party of apostates. No state of the nation could meet all the conditions of the case but one of foreign captivity, with arrogant oppressors, as in the time of Belshazzar. It seems against this view that the authorship is assigned to David; but this is obviated by supposing the body of the psalm to have been written by him, and revised and altered by a later hand, especially inserting Psalms 14:4; Psalms 14:7 to suit it to the captivity. It is evident, from its insertion twice in the Psalter, with variations, (see Psalms 53:0,) that it has been altered from an original, perhaps fragmentary, copy. (See further in the notes.) So far as the psalm approaches a strophical arrangement, it falls into seven verses Psalms 14:1-4; Psalms 14:7, of three lines, and Psalms 14:5-6, of two lines, each. Psalms 14:1, a general declaration of the corruption and atheism of the times; Psalms 14:2, the divine inspection into the extent of the degeneracy, Psalms 14:3, the divine decision upon the universal depravity of the nations; Psalms 14:4, the divine expostulation and warning; Psalms 14:5, the terror of the people at the apprehended judgment of God; Psalms 14:6, the cause of the hatred of his people shown to be on account of their religion; Psalms 14:7, the faith and prayer of the psalmist for the redemption of his people.

Verse 1

1. Fool The word never means idiot, or one deficient in natural ability, but always one who has cast off the fear of God, and acts from pride, selfish passions, and self-conceit.

Said in his heart “Heart,” here, as often in the Scriptures, denotes the centre of the sympathetic system, the seat of the desires and affections, as distinct from the cerebral or intellective faculty. This atheism, hence, was not founded in reason, but in impure and selfish desires.

Corrupt… abominable This gives the moral cause and fruit of atheism, and defines nabal, or fool.

Verses 2-3

2, 3. The Lord looked down… to see An anthropomorphism, simply denoting that he made special judicial inquiry; that is, that he took accurate judicial knowledge of men’s acts, such as we arrive at only by a process of close investigation.

Understand, and seek God This was the test of character, the issue between God and men. The quotation of this by the apostle applies to the universal race, “both Jews and Gentiles.” Romans 3:9-12. They are all reckoned in sin, and as the argument is addressed to the Jews, it shows that this was the sense in which they understood the text. The same universality is expressed in the text by children of men, (Hebrews sons of Adam,) and in Psalms 14:3 by the terms all, together, none, no, not one. The bearing of this upon the historical occasion of the psalm shows that it was such as could not be limited to the dominance of a corrupt Jewish party, but included the Gentile nations as well, who now held sway. As a proof of universal, and hence hereditary, depravity, it is decisive.

Verse 4

4. Who eat up my people God is introduced as speaking. “Who devour the righteous with the same unconsciousness with which they would take their accustomed meal.” Perowne. The spirit that “calls not upon the Lord,” that says, “There is no God,” has been in all ages a spirit of persecution of God’s people and of inhumanity to man. “My people” must be understood of the covenant people, specially of those who adhered to the spirit of the covenant.

Verse 5

5. There were they in great fear Literally, afraid with fear. The form is intensive. It would seem that the allusion is to some interposition of Jehovah, which had checked the heathen and wrought consternation, as in Daniel 3:24-27. Several such instances occurred during the captivity. But the adverb may denote time instead of place, and read, then were they in fear, etc.; that is, when God arose to judgment.

Generation… righteous “Generation,” here, means not only the people living at any one time, but, as a moral designation, as in this place, all people of a given sort or quality in any age. See note on Psalms 12:7

Verse 6

6. Shamed Not only frustrated, but, by treating with derision, caused it to become reproachful.

Counsel of the poor God’s afflicted ones. Their counsel, like that of the pious in all ages, was to fear Jehovah, to obey and trust him. It is the counsel of the suffering, witnessing Church to the proud and atheistic world, and it is a warning as well. The verse is regarded as elliptical, and should be read: “Ye may shame the counsel of the poor, [but in vain,] because the Lord is his refuge.”

Verse 7

7. Oh that the salvation of Israel Or, who will give the salvation of Israel. It is a form of ardent wish that by some one deliverance might be given, as Psalms 55:6.

Out of Zion Here meaning the Jewish Church, as the depositary of God’s truth. The true Hebrew looked for national blessings only from this source, as the New Testament saint expects all public prosperity through the Church. Even during the exile, when Jerusalem, of which Zion was a part, was in ruins, prayer was made with the face thitherward, (1 Kings 8:44; 1 Kings 8:48; Daniel 6:10,) and all hope of the nation was associated with its restoration. Psalms 102:13; Psalms 102:16; Psalms 129:5. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah abundantly show this. The passage in question has also been considered Messianic, a reference to the salvation of spiritual Israel by Christ. See Isaiah 59:20; Romans 11:26.

When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his people To bring back the captivity is to return the captives to their own country and national rights, and is the standing formula for the returning of the Babylonian exiles, as in Psalms 126:1; Jeremiah 30:3; Joel 3:1; Zephaniah 3:20. It is a political, implying a moral, restitution. The force and transitive form of the verb, with שׁבות , ( shebooth,) captivity, admits no other sense.

Jacob shall rejoice See Psalms 126:0 and Hosea 6:11. So shall the Church of Christ rejoice in the gathering of her converts and her full restoration. Isaiah 12:0; Isaiah 35:8-10.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 14". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.