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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Psalms 19

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 19.

The creatures shew God's glory; the word, his grace. David prayeth for grace.

To the chief musician, A Psalm of David.

Title. לדוד מזמור למנצח lamnatseach mizmor ledavid. The author in this Psalm, as in many other places, considers the works of nature, and the words of revelation, as both of them laws of the same hand, and standing firm by the same authority; both highly perfect in their kind, and containing great matter of instruction; one for the whole world, the other for God's people, and himself particularly. Mudge. The piety of this Psalm, says Bishop Sherlock, is so natural, and yet so exalted, so easy to be understood, and so adapted to move the affections, that it is hardly possible to read it with any attention, without feeling something of the same spirit by which it was indited. The holy king begins with the works of the creation, to magnify the power and wisdom of the Creator: they are a perpetual instruction to mankind; every day and every night speak his goodness, and by their regular and constant vicissitude set forth the excellency of wisdom by which they are ordered. This book of nature is written in every language, and lies open to all the world: The works of the creation speak in the common voice of reason, and want no interpreter to explain their meaning; but are to be understood by people of all languages upon the face of the earth. From these works in general, he singles out one, to stand as a testimony of the power of his Maker: The sun is the great spirit of the world, the life which animates these lower parts: How constant and unwearied in his course! how large his circuit, to impart light and genial heat to every dark corner of the earth! He is as a bridegroom, &c.

Psalms 19:1. The heavens declare Tell, or preach, according to the force of the Hebrew. This language of the heavens is so plain, and their characters are so legible, that all, even the most barbarous nations, who have no skill either in languages or letters, are able to understand and read what they proclaim. What can be so plain and so clear, says Tully, as when we behold the heavens, and view the heavenly bodies, that we should conclude there is some deity, of a most excellent mind, by whom these things are governed? A present and Almighty God? which he who doubts of, I do not understand why he should not as well doubt whether or no there be a sun that shines. See De Nat. Deor. lib. 2: cap. 2 and Derham's Astro-Theology, at the beginning.


Verse 3

Psalms 19:3. There is no speech, &c.— They have neither speech nor words: without these is their voice heard. Or, There is not a word or speech of theirs, the utterance of which is not heard.—See Green, and Vitring. Observ. Sac. p. 841.


Verse 4

Psalms 19:4. Their line is gone out, &c.— Their sound is gone out into all the earth, and their report, &c. Nold. 881. 926. Carpzov. Crit. S. Vitring. Obs. Sac. 841. See Romans 10:18. The meaning is, "They are legible all the world over." He considers the sun, and other luminaries, as letters or characters placed in the expanded volume of the heavens, to be read by all the world.

A tabernacle for the sun The nuptials of the Jews, and other eastern nations, were celebrated with great magnificence and splendor. They were held under a tent, or canopy, erected for that purpose, to which custom David here alludes; as he does in the next verse to the custom of the bridegroom's going out at midnight with lamps and torches. The passage will receive great light from our Saviour's parable of the wise and foolish Virgins.


Verse 5

Psalms 19:5. Rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race This is another comparison taken from the vehemence and force with which a warrior runs toward his enemy; and is not, as some expositors fancy, an allusion to the races so famous among the Greeks and Romans; for those sports were of a much later date than the time of David.


Verse 7

Psalms 19:7. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul {Restoring / Refreshing} the soul. The connection seems to be this: From the mighty scene and prospect of nature in the former verses, the Psalmist turns his thoughts to the consideration of the still greater works of grace. The rational world, as in itself the noblest, so has it been the more peculiar care of Providence to preserve and adorn it. The sun knows its course, and has always trod the path marked out by its Creator. The sea keeps its old channel, and in its utmost fury remembers the first law of its Maker, hitherto shalt thou go, and no further. But freedom and reason, subject to no such restraint, have produced infinite variety in the rational world. Of all the creatures, man only could forget his Maker and himself, and prostitute the honour of both by robbing God of the obedience due to him, and by submitting himself a slave to the elements of the world. When he looked up to the heavens, and saw the glory of the sun and stars, instead of praising the Lord of all, he foolishly said, "These are thy gods, O man!" When man was thus lost in ignorance and superstition, God manifested himself again, gave him a law to direct his will and inform his reason, and to teach him in all things how to pursue his happiness [and grace to fulfil that law, and obtain that happiness]. This was a kind of second creation; a work which calls as much both for our wonder and our praise as any or all the works of nature [and much more]; and thus the holy Psalmist sings the triumphs of grace, and extols the mercy and power of God, in restoring mankind from the bondage of ignorance and idolatry. The law of the Lord is perfect, &c. To this divine law the sinner owes the conversion of his soul; to the light of God's word the simple owes his wisdom; nay, even the pleasures of life and all the solid comforts we enjoy flow from the same living stream: The statutes of the Lord do rejoice the heart, as well as enlighten the eyes; and not only shew us the dangers and miseries of iniquity, and, by shewing, teach us to avoid them, but do lead us likewise to certain happiness and joy for evermore: for in keeping them there is great reward. Bishop Sherlock.


Verse 10

Psalms 19:10. Sweeter also than honey and the honey-comb There is no great difference made among us between the delicacy of honey in the comb, and after its separation from it. We may therefore be at a loss to enter into the energy of this expression; or to express it with the same emphasis as our translation does the preceding clause. Sweeter than honey, yea, than the honey-comb; which last, it should seem from the turn of thought of the Psalmist, is as much to be preferred to honey, as the finest gold is to that of a more impure nature. But this will appear in a clearer light, if the diet and relish of the present Moors of West Barbary be thought to resemble that of the times of the Psalmist; for they esteem honey a wholesome breakfast, and "the more delicious that which is in the comb, with the young bees in it, before they come out of their cases, whilst they still look milk white." See Halley's Miscell. Curios. vol. 3: p. 382. The author of the Observations, however, thinks this can hardly be all. He remarks, that there are three very different words translated by us honey-comb, one of which he supposes to mean the honey-comb, properly speaking: The second ףּצו zuph, used here, and Proverbs 16:24 he supposes to be the name given to the plant which produces one of the other kinds of honey; and when I consider, says he, that only David and Solomon speak of this; that the Psalmist supposes its drippings are as much preferable to honey, as refined gold to unrefined; and compare the words of the other sacred writer—Pleasant words are as an honey-comb; or as the honey-zuph, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones,—with the expressions of William, Archbishop of Tyro; "It produces canes from whence sugar is made, one of the most precious things in the world for the use of men, and extremely necessary for their health;"—I am very much inclined to think these two passages speak, the one of the sugar or syrup, the other of the cane. The honey of dates (which, though inferior to that of bees, is, it seems, very pleasant) is left to answer the third Hebrew word, which occurs Proverbs 5:3; Proverbs 24:13. Song of Solomon 4:11. See more in the Observations, p. 162, and Dr. Shaw's Travels, p. 339 in the note.


Verse 12

Psalms 19:12. Who can understand his errors? While we praise and adore God for his mercies, it seems impossible to forget one great circumstance which affects both them and ourselves; I mean, how undeserved they are: It is a reflection which, like the pillar of the cloud that waited on the Israelites, casts light and beauty upon the mercies of God, and darkness and confusion of face upon ourselves. Can we help thinking, that, notwithstanding God has thus secured and hedged us about with a law which is perfect, with commandments that are pure, yet still our own weakness is perpetually betraying us into error; our folly or our wickedness driving us into sins more in number than either we can or, too often, care to remember? The royal Psalmist saw the justness of this reflection; and, while his heart glowed with the sense of God's unbounded mercies, he turned short upon himself with this complaint, Who can understand his errors? This complaint is followed by a fervent prayer to God for pardon and protection: From the prospect of the power and goodness of God, and our own weakness and misery, the soul

[through divine grace] easily melts into sorrow and devotion; lamenting what it feels, and deploring what it wants, from the hand which only is able to save and to redeem. Cleanse thou me from secret faults. He calls his faults secret, not with design to extenuate his crimes, or as if he thought the actions he had now in view of so doubtful a nature, that it was not easily to be judged whether they should be placed among the sinful or the indifferent circumstances of his life; and therefore, if they were faults, they were secret ones, such as stole from him without the consent and approbation of his mind; but secret he calls them, with respect to their number. So often had he offended, that his memory was too frail to keep an exact register of all his errors. But though they were secret to him, yet well he knew that God had placed them in the light of his countenance; and therefore, though he could neither number nor confess them, he begs that they might not be imputed to, or rise up in judgment against his soul. This sense is well expressed in our old translation: Who can tell how oft he offendeth? Oh cleanse thou me from my secret faults! Bishop Sherlock.


Verse 13

Psalms 19:13. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins Though our sins are more in number than the hairs of our head; yet some there are which stand distinguished by an uncommon guilt, and will always be present to our minds, whenever we approach the throne of grace for pardon. These we should particularly lament; against these we should particularly pray, when we seek to God for strength and assistance. In this strain the holy Psalmist continues his devotions. Keep back thy servant also, &c. Bishop Sherlock. Mudge renders the last clause, And clean from great defection: and Fenwick, And be pure from great offences.


Verse 14

Psalms 19:14. Let the words of my mouth, &c.— Having thus extolled his Maker for the greatness of his power and mercy, and humbled himself for the number and heinousness of his iniquities, he closes this scene of praise and devotion; Let the words of my mouth, &c. be acceptable—My strength and my redeemer; words which seem prophetically to relate to Christ; as if he had said, "Thou wilt redeem me from the power of the devil, through the merits of Christ;" or rather, "Thou, who hast already redeemed me by the sacrifice of Christ, who was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Revelation 13:8.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, All things are full of God; and, to a mind disposed to contemplate, every object around him proclaims the glory of the great Creator.

1. The visible heavens, and the ethereal sky spread over us, declare the power, and display the wisdom, of the hand which made them. The regular successions of night and day speak to every people and language the voice of instruction. The glorious sun that shines, proclaims the brighter glory of him who made it, and daily causes it to go forth as a bridegroom from his chamber in the morning to run as a giant to its meridian height, and then at even to appear as if retiring to his rests in ruddy clouds, the tabernacle pitched for his reception. Note; Atheists are without excuse. If even there were no bibles, the eternal Power and Godhead are sufficiently visible in the works of creation and providence.

2. Spiritual things appear concealed under these visible emblems. The bright heavens represent the true and devoted preachers and apostles of the glorious gospel, raised up by divine power, and qualified for their blessed work. Faithful to the talk assigned, their word is gone out into all lands, and their preaching has reached the ends of the earth. The glorious sun in this firmament is Jesus Christ, the sun of righteousness, arisen a light to lighten the Gentiles, whose warm, invigorating, and cheering beams believers happily experience; and he will continue to enlighten and enliven the faithful, till they shall be brought to that heaven of heavens, where their sun shall never go down, but with meridian beams of glory shine upon them for ever and ever.

2nd, However legible the glory of God might be in the works of creation to man in innocence, fallen man must have other means to teach him, or he will be brutish in his knowledge, and his understanding darkened. The book of God is now become more essential than the volume of nature.

This blessed word is here described under various properties: [1.] It is perfect, converting the soul: it contains a perfect discovery of the will of God; of that salvation wrought out by the Redeemer: it is the instrument that the Spirit makes use of to convert the sinner's heart, and makes those holy and happy who truly by faith trust upon it. [2.] It is sure, making wise the simple: being the word of the faithful God, it cannot deceive us; and they who, however simple in the eyes of men, are enabled firmly to trust upon it, are truly wise, wise unto salvation. [3.] The statutes of the Lord are right; in themselves direct us in the right way to life and glory, and therefore rejoice the heart, which being found in Christ the way, and walking in holiness, rejoices in hope of the glory of God. [4.] The commandment of the Lord is pure, from all mixture and adulteration, and tending to produce purity of heart and life; enlightening the eyes, which, without this divine teaching, are closed in darkness. [5.] The fear of the Lord, the doctrine contained in that word which teaches this holy fear of God, is clean, and endureth for ever; cleanses and keeps us clean; so that those who have fully experienced the washing of water in the word, are without spot, and undefiled. [6.] The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether: his decisions in his word are not only true, and what will infallibly come to pass; but also most equitable, and no exception can be made to any of them. [7.] More to be desired are they, than gold, yea, than much fine gold: all the gold which the mines of Peru produce, is not to be compared with one great and precious promise of God's word: the one can only make us appear great before men; by the other, we become partakers of a divine nature. [8.] Sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb. None of the delights of sense can at all compare with the consolations which arise from God's word: the one too frequently debases men into brutes, the other exalts them to partake of angelic joys. [9.] Moreover, by them is thy servant warned against the snares and temptations of sin and Satan, and directed in the discharge of every duty and relation towards God or man. [10.] And in keeping of them there is great reward; not of the law, as a covenant of life, for none then would obtain the reward; but of the gospel, by holding fast its doctrines, being influenced by its principles, and reaching after the accomplishment of its promises: in this way the reward of eternal life may be expected.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 19:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-19.html. 1801-1803.

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