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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Psalms 5




(In the Hebrew, v.1 is the designation 'To the leader:....A Psalm of David'; from then on v.1-12 in English translation corresponds to v.2-13 in the Hebrew)

Morning Prayer before Going to the House of God

The evening prayer is now followed by a second morning prayer, which like the former draws to a close with כּי־אתּה (Psalms 4:8; Psalms 5:12). The situation is different from that in Psalms 3:1-8. In that Psalm David is fleeing, here he is in Jerusalem and anticipates going up to the Temple service. If this Psalm also belongs to the time of the rebellion of Absolom, it must have been written when the fire which afterwards broke forth was already smouldering in secret.

The inscription אל־הנּחילות is certainly not a motto indicative of its contents (lxx, Vulg., Luther, Hengstenberg). As such it would stand after מזמור . Whatever is connected with למנצח , always has reference to the music. If נחילות came from נחל it might according to the biblical use of this verb signify “inheritances,” or according to its use in the Talmud “swarms,” and in fact swarms of bees (Arab. naḥl ); and נחילות ought then to be the beginning of a popular melody to which the Psalm is adapted. Hai Gaon understands it to denote a melody resembling the hum of bees; Reggio a song that sings of bees. Or is נחילות equivalent to נחלּות ( excavatae ) and this a special name for the flutes ( חלילים )? The use of the flute in the service of the sanctuary is attested by Isaiah 30:29, cf. 1 Samuel 10:5; 1 Kings 1:40.

(Note: On the use of the flute in the second Temple, vid., Introduction p. 19.)

The praep . אל was, then, more appropriate than על ; because, as Redslob has observed, the singer cannot play the flute at the same time, but can only sing to the playing of another.

The Psalm consists of four six line strophes. The lines of the strophes here and there approximate to the caesura-schema. They consist of a rising and a sudden lowering. The German language, which uses so many more words, is not adapted to this caesura-schema [and the same may be said of the English].

Verses 1-3

(Heb.: 5:2-4) The introit : Prayer to be heard. The thoughts are simple but the language is carefully chosen. אמרים is the plur . of אמר ( אמר ), one of the words peculiar to the poetic prophetical style. The denominative האזין (like audire = aus , οὖς dare ) belongs more to poetry than prose. הגיג (like אביב ) or מחיר (like מחיר ) occurs only in two Psalms לדוד , viz., here and Psalms 34:4. It is derived from הגג = הגה (vid., Psalms 1:2) and signifies that which is spoken meditatively, here praying in rapt devotion. Beginning thus the prayer gradually rises to a vox clamoris . שׁועי from שׁוע , to be distinguished from שׁוּעי (inf. Pi.) Psalms 28:2; Psalms 31:23, is one word with the Aram. צוח , Aethiop. צוּע (to call). On הקשׁיב used of intent listening, vid., Psalms 10:17. The invocation מלכּי ואלהי , when it is a king who utters it, is all the more significant. David, and in general the theocratic king, is only the representative of the Invisible One, whom he with all Israel adores as his King. Prayer to Him is his first work as he begins the day. In the morning, בּקר (as in Psalms 65:8 for בּבּקר , Psalms 88:13), shalt Thou hear my cry, is equivalent to my cry which goes forth with the early morn. Hupfeld considers the mention of the morning as only a “poetical expression” and when getting rid of the meaning prima luce , he also gets rid of the beautiful and obvious reference to the daily sacrifice. The verb ערך is the word used of laying the wood in order for the sacrifice, Leviticus 1:7, and the pieces of the sacrifice, Leviticus 1:8, Leviticus 1:12; Leviticus 6:5, of putting the sacred lamps in order, Exodus 27:21; Leviticus 24:3., and of setting the shew-bread in order, Exodus 40:23; Leviticus 24:8. The laying of the wood in order for the morning offering of a lamb (Leviticus 6:5 [Leviticus 6:12], cf. Numbers 28:4) was one of the first duties of the priest, as soon as the day began to dawn; the lamb was slain before sun-rise and when the sun appeared above the horizon laid piece by piece upon the altar. The morning prayer is compared to this morning sacrifice. This is in its way also a sacrifice. The object which David has in his mind in connection with אערך is תּפלּתי . As the priests, with the early morning, lay the wood and pieces of the sacrifices of the Tamı̂d upon the altar, so he brings his prayer before God as a spiritual sacrifice and looks out for an answer ( צפּה speculari as in Habakkuk 2:1), perhaps as the priest looks out for fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice, or looks to the smoke to see that it rises up straight towards heaven.

Verses 4-6

(Heb.: 5:5-7) The basing of the prayer on God's holiness. The verbal adjective חפץ (coming from the primitive signification of adhering firmly which is still preserved in Arab. chfd, fut. i .) is in the sing . always (Psalms 34:13; Psalms 35:27) joined with the accusative. רע is conceived as a person, for although גּוּר may have a material object, it cannot well have a material subject. יגרך is used for brevity of expression instead of יגוּר עמּך (Ges. §121, 4). The verb גּוּר (to turn in, to take up one's abode with or near any one) frequently has an accusative object, Psalms 120:5, Judges 5:17, and Isaiah 33:14 according to which the light of the divine holiness is to sinners a consuming fire, which they cannot endure. Now there follow specific designations of the wicked. הוללים part . Kal = hōlalim , or even Poal = hôlalim (= מהוללים ),

(Note: On the rule, according to which here, as in שׁוררי Psalms 5:9 and the like, a simple Shebâ mobile goes over into Chateph pathach with Gaja preceding it, vid., the observations on giving a faithful representation of the O.T. text according to the Masora in the Luther Zeitschr . 1863. S. 411. The Babylonian Ben-Naphtali (about 940) prefers the simple Shebâ in such cases, as also in others; Ben-Asher of the school of Tiberias, whom the Masora follows, and whom consequently our Masoretic text ought to follow, prefers the Chateph , vid., Psalter ii. 460-467.)

are the foolish, and more especially foolish boasters; the primary notion of the verb is not that of being hollow, but that of sounding, then of loud boisterous, non-sensical behaviour. Of such it is said, that they are not able to maintain their position when they become manifest before the eye of God ( לנגד as in Psalms 101:7 manifest before any one, from נגד to come forward, be visible far off, be distinctly visible). פעלי און are those who work ( οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι Matthew 7:23) iniquity; און breath ( ἄνεμος ) is sometimes trouble, in connection with which one pants, sometimes wickedness, in which there is not even a trace of any thing noble, true, or pure. Such men Jahve hates; for if He did not hate evil (Psalms 11:5), His love would not be a holy love. In דּברי כזב , דּברי is the usual form in combination when the plur . is used, instead of מדבּרי . It is the same in Psalms 58:4. The style of expression is also Davidic in other respects, viz., אישׁ דּמים וּמרמה as in Ps 55:24, and אבּד as in Psalms 9:6, cf. Psalms 21:11. תּעב (in Amos, Amos 6:8 תּאב ) appears to be a secondary formation from עוּב , like תּאב to desire, from אבה , and therefore to be of a cognate root with the Aram. עיּב to despise, treat with indignity, and the Arabic ‛aib a stain (cf. on Lamentations 2:1). The fact that, as Hengstenberg has observed, wickedness and the wicked are described in a sevenfold manner is perhaps merely accidental.

Verses 7-9

(Heb.: 5:8-10) Since the Psalm is a morning hymn, the futt . in Psalms 5:8 state what he, on the contrary, may and will do (Psalms 66:13). By the greatness and fulness of divine favour (Psalms 116:14) he has access ( εἴσοδον , for בּוא means, according to its root, “to enter”) to the sanctuary, and he will accordingly repair thither to-day. It is the tabernacle on Zion in which was the ark of the covenant that is meant here. That daily liturgical service was celebrated there must be assumed, since the ark of the covenant is the sign and pledge of Jahve's presence; and it is, moreover, attested by 1 Chronicles 16:37. It is also to be supposed that sacrifice was offered daily before the tabernacle. For it is not to be inferred from 1 Chronicles 16:39. that sacrifice was only offered regularly on the Bama (high place) in Gibeon before the Mosaic tabernacle.

(Note: Thus, in particular, Stähelin, Zur Kritik der Psalmen in the Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitschr. vi. (1852) S. 108 and Zur Einleitung in die Psalmen . An academical programme, 1859. 4to.)

It is true sacrifice was offered in Gibeon, where the old tabernacle and the old altars (or at least the altar of burnt-offering) were, and also that after the removal of the ark to Zion both David (1 Chronicles 21:29.) and Solomon (1 Kings 3:4; 2 Chronicles 1:2-6) worshipped and sacrificed in Gibeon. But it is self-evident sacrifices might have been offered where the ark was, and that even with greater right than in Gibeon; and since both David, upon its arrival (2 Samuel 6:17.), and Solomon after his accession (1 Kings 3:15), offered sacrifices through the priests who were placed there, it is probable-and by a comparison of the Davidic Psalms not to be doubted-that there was a daily service, in conjunction with sacrifices, before the ark on Zion.

But, moreover, is it really the אהל in Zion which is meant here in v. 8 by the house of God? It is still maintained by renowned critics that the tabernacle pitched by David over the sacred ark is never called בית ה or היכל or משׁכן ה or מקדשׁ or קדשׁ . But why could it not have all these names? We will not appeal to the fact that the house of God at Shilo (1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 3:3) is called בית and היכל ה , since it may be objected that it was really more of a temple than a tabernacle,

(Note: Vid., C. H. Graf, Commentation de templo Silonensi ad illustrandum locum Jud . xviii. 30, 31, (1855, 4to.), in which he seeks to prove that the sanctuary in Shilo was a temple to Jahve that lasted until the dissolution of the kingdom of Israel.)

although in the same book, 1 Samuel 2:22 it is called אהל מועד , and in connection with the other appellations the poetic colouring of the historical style of 1 Sam 1-3 is to be taken into consideration. Moreover, we put aside passages like Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26, since it may be said that the future Temple was present to the mind of the Lawgiver. But in Joshua 6:24; 2 Samuel 12:20, the sanctuary is called בית ה without being conceived of as a temple. Why then cannot the tabernacle, which David pitched for the ark of the covenant when removed to Zion (2 Samuel 6:17), be called בית ה ? It is only when אהל and בּית are placed in opposition to one another that the latter has the notion of a dwelling built of more solid materials; but in itself beit (bêt) in Semitic is the generic term for housing of every kind whether it be made of wool, felt, and hair-cloth, or of earth, stone, and wood; consequently it is just as much a tent as a house (in the stricter sense of the word), whether the latter be a hut built of wood and clay or a palace.

(Note: The Turkish Kamus says: “Arab. byt is a house (Turk. ew ) in the signification of châne (Persic the same), whether it be made of hair, therefore a tent, or built of stone and tiles.” And further on: “ Beit originally signified a place specially designed for persons to retire to at night from Arab. bâta he has passed the night, if it does not perhaps come from the בוא , Arab. bayya , which stands next to it in this passage, vid., Job at Job 29:15-17]; but later on the meaning was extended and the special reference to the night time was lost.” Even at the present day the Beduin does not call his tent ahl , but always bêt and in fact bêt sha'r ( בית שׂער ), the modern expression for the older bêt wabar (hair-house).)

If a dwelling-house is frequently called אהל , then a tent that any one dwells in may the more naturally be called his בּית . And this we find is actually the case with the dwellings of the patriarchs, which, although they were not generally solid houses (Genesis 33:17), are called בית (Genesis 27:15). Moreover, היכל (from יכל = כּוּל to hold, capacem esse ), although it signifies a palace does not necessarily signify one of stone, for the heavens are also called Jahve's היכל , e.g., Psalms 18:7, and not necessarily one of gigantic proportions, for even the Holy of holies of Solomon's Temple, and this par excellence , is called היכל , and once, 1 Kings 6:3, היכל הבּית . Of the spaciousness and general character of the Davidic tabernacle we know indeed nothing: it certainly had its splendour, and was not so much a substitute for the original tabernacle, which according to the testimony of the chronicler remained in Gibeon, as a substitute for the Temple that was still to be built. But, however insignificant it may have been, Jahve had His throne there, and it was therefore the היבל of a great king, just as the wall-less place in the open field where God manifested Himself with His angels to the homeless Jacob was בּית אלהים (Genesis 28:17).

Into this tabernacle of God, i.e., into its front court, will David enter ( בּוא with acc . as in Psalms 66:13) this morning, there will he prostrate himself in worship, προσκυνεῖν ( השׁתּחוה ) reflexive of the Pilel שׁחוה , Ges. §75, rem. 18), towards ( אל as in Psalms 28:2, 1 Kings 8:29, 1 Kings 8:35, cf. ל Psalms 99:5, Psalms 99:9) Jahve's היכל קדשׁ , i.e., the דּביר , the Holy of holies Psalms 28:2, and that “in Thy fear,” i.e., in reverence before Thee ( genit. objectivus ). The going into the Temple which David purposes, leads his thoughts on to his way through life, and the special de'eesis, which only begins here, moulds itself accordingly: he prays for God's gracious guidance as in Psalms 27:11; Psalms 86:11, and frequently. The direction of God, by which he wishes to be guided he calls צדקה . Such is the general expression for the determination of conduct by an ethical rule. The rule, acting in accordance with which, God is called par excellence צדיק , is the order of salvation which opens up the way of mercy to sinners. When God forgives those who walk in this way their sins, and stands near to bless and protect them, He shows Himself not less צדיק (just), than when He destroys those who despise Him, in the heat of His rejected love. By this righteousness, which accords with the counsel and order of mercy, David prays to be led למען שׁוררי , in order that the malicious desire of those who lie in wait for him may not be fulfilled, but put to shame, and that the honour of God may not be sullied by him. שׁורר is equivalent to משׁורר (Aquila ἐφοδεύων , Jerome insidiator ) from the Pilel שׁורר to fix one's eyes sharply upon, especially of hostile observation. David further prays that God will make his way (i.e., the way in which a man must walk according to God's will) even and straight before him, the prayer one, in order that he may walk therein without going astray and unimpeded. The adj. ישׂר signifies both the straightness of a line and the evenness of a surface. The fut . of the Hiph . הישׁיר is יישׁיר in Proverbs 4:25, and accordingly the Kerî substitutes for the imper . הושׁר the corresponding form הישׁר , just as in Isaiah 45:2 it removes the Hiphil form אושׁר (cf. Genesis 8:17 הוצא Keri היצא ), without any grammatical, but certainly not without some traditional ground.

כּי in Psalms 5:10 is closely connected with למען שׁוררי : on account of my way-layers, for the following are their characteristics. אין is separated by בּפיהוּ (= בּפיו Psalms 62:5) from נכונה the word it governs; this was the more easily possible as the usage of the language almost entirely lost sight of the fact that אין is the construct of אין , Ges. §152, 1. In his mouth is nothing that should stand firm, keep its ground, remain the same (cf. Job 42:7.). The singular suffix of בפיהו has a distributive meaning: in ore unuiscujusque eorum . Hence the sing . at once passes over into the plur .: קרבּם הוּות their inward part, i.e., that towards which it goes forth and in which it has its rise (vid., Psalms 49:12) is הוות corruption, from הוּה which comes from הוה = Arab. hawâ , to yawn, gape, χαίνειν , hiare , a yawning abyss and a gaping vacuum, and then, inasmuch as, starting from the primary idea of an empty space, the verbal significations libere ferri (especially from below upwards) and more particularly animo ad or in aliquid ferri are developed, it obtains the pathological sense of strong desire, passion, just as it does also the intellectual sense of a loose way of thinking proceeding from a self-willed tendency (vid., Fleischer on Job 37:6). In Hebrew the prevalent meaning of the word is corruption, Psalms 57:2, which is a metaphor for the abyss, barathrum , (so far, but only so far Schultens on Proverbs 10:3 is right), and proceeding from this meaning it denotes both that which is physically corruptible (Job 6:30) and, as in the present passage and frequently, that which is corruptible from an ethical point of view. The meaning strong desire, in which הוּה looks as though it only differed from אוּה in one letter, occurs only in Psalms 52:9; Proverbs 10:3; Micah 7:3. The substance of their inward part is that which is corruptible in every way, and their throat, as the organ of speech, as in Psalms 115:7; Psalms 149:6, cf. Psalms 69:4, is (perhaps a figure connected with the primary meaning of הוות ) a grave, which yawns like jaws, which open and snatch and swallow down whatever comes in their way. To this “they make smooth their tongue” is added as a circumstantial clause. Their throat is thus formed and adapted, while they make smooth their tongue (cf. Proverbs 2:16), in order to conceal their real design beneath flattering language. From this meaning, החליק directly signifies to flatter in Psalms 36:3; Proverbs 29:5. The last two lines of the strophe are formed according to the caesura schema. This schema is also continued in the concluding strophe.

Verses 10-12

(Heb.: 5:11-13) The verb אשׁם or אשׁם unites in itself the three closely allied meanings of becoming guilty (e.g., Leviticus 5:19), of a feeling of guilt (Leviticus 5:4.), and of expiation (Psalms 34:22.); just as the verbal adj. אשׁם also signifies both liable to punishment and expiating, and the substantive אשׁם both the guilt to be expiated and the expiation. The Hiph . האשׁים signifies to cause any one to render the expiation due to his fault, to make him do penance. As an exception God is here, in the midst of the Jehovic Psalms, called אלהים , perhaps not altogether unintentionally as being God the Judge. The מן of ממּעצותיהם (with Gaja by the מן and a transition of the counter-tone Metheg into Galgal , as in Hosea 11:6 into Meajla , vid., Psalter ii. 526) is certainly that of the cause in Hosea 11:6, but here it is to be explained with Olsh. and Hitz. according to Sir. 14:2, Judith 11:6 (cf. Hosea 10:6): may they fall from their own counsels, i.e., founder in the execution of them. Therefore מן in the sense of “down from, away,” a sense which the parallel הדּיחמו thrust them away (cf. דּחוּ from דּחה Ps 36:13), presupposes. The ב of בּרב is to be understood according to John 8:21, John 8:24 “ye shall die ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν ." The multitude of their transgressions shall remain unforgiven and in this state God is to cast them into hades. The ground of this terrible prayer is set forth by כּי מרוּ בך . The tone of מרוּ , for a well-known reason (cf. e.g., Psalms 37:40; 64:11; Psalms 72:17) has retreated to the penult . מרה , root מר , prop. to be or hold one's self stiff towards any one, compare Arab. mârr , tmârr , to press and stiffen against one another in wrestling, Arab. mârâ , tmârâ , to struggle against anything, whether with outward or mental and moral opposition. Their obstinacy is not obstinacy against a man, but against God Himself; their sin is, therefore, Satanic and on that account unpardonable. All the prayers of this character are based upon the assumption expressed in Psalms 7:13, that those against whom they are directed do not wish for mercy. Accordingly their removal is prayed for. Their removal will make the ecclesia pressa free and therefore joyous. From this point of view the prayer in Psalms 5:12 is inspired by the prospect of the result of their removal. The futt . do not express a wish, but a consequence. The division of the verse is, however, incorrect. The rise of the first half of the verse closes with בך (the pausal form by Pazer ), its fall is לעולם ירנּנוּ ; then the rise begins anew in the second half, extending to בך which ought likewise to be pointed בך , and אהבי שׁמך is its fall. ותסך עלימו (from הסך Hiph . of סכך Psalms 91:4) is awkward in this sequence of thoughts. Hupfeld and Hitzig render it: “they shall rejoice for ever whom Thou defendest;” but then it ought not only to be pointed ירנּנוּ , but the ו must also be removed, and yet there is nothing to characterise תסך עלימו as being virtually a subject. On the other hand it does not harmonise with the other consecutive futures. It must therefore, like יפּלוּ , be the optative: “And do Thou defend them, then shall those who love Thy name rejoice in Thee.” And then upon this this joy of those who love the name of Jahve (i.e., God in His revelation of Himself in redemption) Ps 69:37; Psalms 119:132, is based by כּי־אתּה from a fact of universal experience which is the sum of all His historical self-attestations. עלימו is used instead of עליהם as a graver form of expression, just like הדּיחמו for הדּיחם as an indignant one. The form ויעלצוּ (Ges. §§63, 3) is chosen instead of the יעלצוּ found in Psalms 25:2; Psalms 68:4, in order to assist the rhythm. The futt . are continuative. תּעטרנּוּ , cinges eum , is not a contracted Hiph . according to 1 Samuel 17:25, but Kal as in 1 Samuel 23:26; here it is used like the Piel in Psalms 8:6 with a double accusative. The צנּה (from צנן Arab. tsân , med. Waw , Aethiop. צון to hedge round, guard) is a shield of a largest dimensions; larger than מגן 1 Kings 10:16. (cf. 1 Samuel 17:7, where Goliath has his צנּה borne by a shield-bearer). כּצּנּה “like a shield” is equivalent to: as with a shield (Ges. §118, 3, rem.). The name of God, יהוה , is correctly drawn to the second member of the verse by the accentuation, in order to balance it with the first; and for this reason the first clause does not begin with כי־אתה יהוה here as it does elsewhere (Ps 4:9; Psalms 12:8). רצון delight, goodwill, is also a synonym for the divine blessing in Deuteronomy 33:23.


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Psalms 5:4". 1854-1889.

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Saturday, December 5th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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