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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 15


A Psalm of David.

A question of profoundest import, asked of Jehovah, with the answer, comprehend the matter of the psalm. Tabernacle and holy hill, refer us at once to Zion, and the question (Psalms 15:1) naturally suggests the occasion of pitching the sacred tent, with the ark, there. 2 Samuel 6:17. Compare Psalms 24:0, to which it bears a striking resemblance. It is remarkable that nothing is said in the supposed answer of Jehovah of sacrifices or ritualistic worship, but duties of the moral law are insisted on as being higher and more essential. The same superior excellence of the moral to the ceremonial law often appears in the Old Testament as an anticipation of New Testament times. 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalms 50:15-16; Hosea 6:6

Verse 1

1. Abide This is the emphatic word in the inquiry, and stands opposed to a formal and occasional visit to Zion. It is the stable and immovable character, that shall “stand in the judgment,” to whom citizenship in the spiritual Zion shall be awarded.

Tabernacle Either the tabernacle proper, which in David’s time was in Gibeon, or the sacred tent, at this time on Zion, which contained the ark of the covenant.

Holy hill Or, mountain of thy holiness, namely, Zion, (Psalms 2:6,) so called because the ark abode there. The terms are to be taken spiritually, and the question is equal to, “Lord, who shall dwell for ever in thy presence? What character shall continue without end in thy true Church?”

Verse 2

2. Walketh uprightly Whose daily life is blameless, pure.

Worketh righteousness Whose works are conformed to the law of God, in obedience to his will. “Righteousness” is obedience to the law of God.

Speaketh the truth in his heart Whose thoughts and intentions are truthful and sincere, and whose words represent his meaning.

Verse 3

3. The remaining verses of the psalm describe the character inquired after (Psalms 15:1) in its conduct toward others.

Backbiteth not The word rendered “backbiteth,” radically means to go about, walk, wander, for whatever purpose, and hence as talebearer, slanderer. By the law of God, and the judgment of mankind, a most cowardly, despicable, and pernicious practice, and yet how common! Exodus 23:1; Leviticus 19:16. Our English version of the latter passage brings out the full idea: “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer.”

Evil The term is generic any thing that works injury.

Neighbour That is, another, whoever he may be, any member of the human family. The word also denotes friend, companion, fellow.

Taketh up a reproach To “take up a reproach” is to repeat it.

Against his neighbour The word here rendered “neighbour” is different from that in the previous line, and means one who is nigh, either by residence, friendship, or blood relationship. Talebearing and slanderous gossip are proverbially neighbourhood nuisances and Church scandals.

Verse 4

4. A vile person is contemned This clause relates to the moral estimate given of a worthless character. The true, or ideal, man described in the text despises a “vile” person. He hates the hateful because he loves the lovely. He esteems as reprobate that which ought to be rejected, because his own moral sensibilities and perceptions are just and holy.

Honoureth them that fear the Lord Here is the rule by which his judgments and conduct are governed. Because his own aim is to honour God, he honoureth them that fear God.

Sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not Not that a promise to do a wrong thing is binding either in equity or conscience, of which character is Herod’s oath, (Matthew 14:9;) but that a vow or engagement to do that which in itself is lawful and right must be kept, though the performance should involve pecuniary loss or personal suffering. Fidelity to just contracts is fundamental justice. See Numbers 30:2; Judges 11:35

Verse 5

5. Usury The law of Moses forbade a Hebrew taking usury or interest from a brother Hebrew. A pledge might be taken in security of payment, but nothing further. The noncommercial habits of the Hebrews did not require interest on capital, and the general law of equal distribution which pervaded their economy, forbade it, as oppressive to the poor. Deuteronomy 23:19-20. To further shield the poor, the creditor was required to release the debtor every seventh year. Deuteronomy 15:1-2.

Nor taketh reward against the innocent The practice of which is the immemorial blight and curse of oriental governments, and is still watching at all human courts, and threatening the peace and integrity of all nations.

For the law on this point, see Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19, and 2 Chronicles 19:6-7.

Never be moved This last clause concludes the answer to the question of Psalms 15:1: “Lord, who shall abide?” The Hebrew לעולם , ( leolam,) for ever, gives the measure of duration suitable to the subject to which it applies “He shall not be moved to eternity.” To confine these rewards of the perfect man to this life, or to deny to the language a direct reference to the unending future life, is simply to demolish all just rules of interpretation, and trifle with all serious reasoning.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 15". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.