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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 19

 

 

Verse 1

1. The heavens declare—Publish, with the adsignification of praise; they celebrate, as the word often denotes.

Glory of God—The moral excellence of his nature. Numbers 14:20-21; John 11:40.

Firmament—The Hebrew רקיע, (rakeea,) firmament, comes from רקע, (raka,) to spread out. In the Old Testament the noun has the sense of expanse, and also of firmness, steadfastness. The latter idea comes to us through the Septuagint, στερεωμα, and the Vulgate firmamentum. It occurs once in New Testament, Colossians 2:5, and is rendered steadfastness. The idea of firmness is phenomenal, because the sky, as an arch, appears to support the celestial bodies. Job 37:18. The Hebrews had no accurate knowledge of celestial distances, and the firmament, with them, sometimes meant atmosphere, (Genesis 1:6-7,) and at others, as in the text, the region of the planets and stars. Genesis 1:14; Daniel 12:3. The Hebrew idea of rakeea embraces the notions of extension and regularity, and as Girdlestone says, (Hebrew Synonymes, page 424,) “It is clear that the ideas of heaven presented to the Jew by the Bible are singularly in accordance with the views entertained by students of modern astronomy.”


Verse 2

2. Day unto day—That is, perpetually; day and night, responding to each other in their alternations.


Verse 3

3. There is no speech nor language—Literally, no speech and no words; not heard is their voice. The words translated speech, language, and voice, apply only to the human voice and to articulate speech. These the heavenly bodies have not, yet they are said to declare, publish, show, utter forth, great truths of God. They speak to the reason. See Romans 1:19; Acts 14:17


Verse 4

4. Their line—The word generally means a measuring line, but here seems to take the sense of rule, law, as in Isaiah 28:10-17. The Septuagint has sound, ( φθογγος,) which Paul quotes, Romans 10:18, and applies to the universal spread of the gospel.

Words—Used generally, and here figuratively, for any mode of conveying ideas or wishes, whether by words proper or other signs. Thus Proverbs 6:13, “He speaketh with his feet.”

In them—In the midst of them; and the figure of his tent being pitched there is in allusion to the oriental custom of putting the tent of the emir in the centre of the encampment.


Verse 5

5. As a bridegroom—The figure denotes joy and festivity. The rising sun is like the coming forth of the bridegroom from the nuptial chamber, or canopy, to receive gratulations and diffuse gladness. The figure is wholly oriental. See Matthew 25:1, etc.


Verse 6

6. From the end of the heaven… unto the ends of it—The description is in the language of common life. But as the natural sun appears to sweep the circuit of the heavens, flooding the celestial spaces with his light and heat, so spiritually does the “Sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2,) who also is the “Bridegroom.” John 3:29


Verse 7

7. The law… testimony—Here begins the second strophe. The transition from material nature to the written law is abrupt, and scarcely to be accounted for by poetic license. “Law,” here, (torah,) is specifically the law of Moses, the whole body of written law, as Psalms 78:5; Isaiah 51:7. “Testimony” is used as a synonyme of law, and is so called because it is God’s witness of himself, of what is fit and right for man, of his hatred of sin and his eternal purpose to punish it unless atoned for and repented of. Exodus 25:16; Exodus 25:21.

Perfect—Not as containing every possible detail of duty, but as defining the only moral state which is acceptable to God supreme lovewhich is ethically the essence of all pure law.

Converting the soul—Restoring, or bringing back the soul. See on Psalms 23:3.The idea is that of moral restoration to the favour of God. It is the office of the law to present to the mind that standard of purity which God will accept, and by reproving sin to turn back the soul to Godthe New Testament idea of conversion. The Septuagint and New Testament, have the word, ‘ επιστρεφω, to turn again, or turn back. Acts 3:19 : “Repent and be turned back.” Matthew 13:15; 1 Corinthians 3:6. The torah, or law of Moses, embraced every means for the restoration of the soul to God.

Sure—Faithful, true, steadfast. Its derivative, amen, (a word of confirmation.) brings out the idea. It is parallel to 2 Corinthians 1:20.

Simple—Credulous: the opposite of wise. Those who, from want of experience or judgment, are easily persuaded to a wrong course. Proverbs 1:32; Proverbs 14:15. Comp. 2 Timothy 3:15 : “Wise unto salvation.”


Verse 8

8. Statutes—Precepts, mandates.

Right—Straight, even; as a path, opposed to crooked, perverse, froward. Deuteronomy 32:5; Psalms 125:5.

Rejoicing the heart—This is their effect on the obedient. The highest joy of men and angels is conscious conformity to the law of God.

Commandment—The singular put collectively for the whole code. The fundamental idea of the word is authority of law, as a matter established, appointed.

Pure—In the sense of clear, lustrous, glittering, as in Job 33:3; Isaiah 49:2. So, also, the Septuagint, τηλαυγης, (far-shining;) the figure is explained by enlightening the eyes. The idea is that of a polished mirror, reflecting light. Compare 2 Corinthians 3:18


Verse 9

9. The fear of the Lord—We must accept this as another title of “the law,” Psalms 19:8, by metonomy of the effect, that is, taking the effect, “fear,” for the cause, “law,” because it is the office of the latter to create fear, or reverence, in the mind, as Deuteronomy 17:19. יראת, (yeerath,) translated “fear,” seems to take the signification of instruction, doctrine, from its verbal root ירה, (yahrah,) which in Hippil has the sense of to instruct, teach. From the same root comes תורה, law. The connexion the parallel word “judgments” in the next lineand the predicates pure and enduring forever—require the sense we have given.

Clean—Pure, unmixed. The word is often applied to the purity of metals. Exodus 25:11; Exodus 25:17, Psalms 12:6; the purity of water, etc., Ezekiel 36:25. There is no alloy of error in God’s word.

Enduring for ever—For the reason just givenits purityit will never change or pass away. Unlike human laws, which often contain mixtures of good and evil, the divine law is essential holiness, justice, and love; the living word, which abideth for ever.

Judgments—So called because God’s laws are the rule and measure of his judicial decisions on moral conduct.

Are true—Truth, faithfulness, the abstract for the concrete.

Altogether—Wholly and harmoniously. Whether viewed separately or as a collective body, the divine laws are perfect in themselves and in their harmony. The poetic measure of Psalms 19:7-9 is very regular. Each verse is of two lines, each line having five words, making ten words in each verse, the number of commandments in the decalogue.


Verse 10

10. More to be desired—An expression of the excellence and sweetness of God’s law to those who love it, above all that is desirable of earth.


Verse 11

11. Moreover—Besides the excellence of the law as experienced by the obedient soul, it is the only truthful guard and warning of the soul against sin.

Reward—The Hebrew word denotes the end, or last stage, of a thing; hence wages, “reward,” because these come when the labor is ended. So obedience to God’s law has not all its blessed effects in present experience, but in the end of life will receive its full recompense.


Verse 12

12. Errors—The radical idea of the word is, to wander, go astray, rove; used often of unconscious sins, (sins of ignorance,) as Leviticus 4:2. These are difficult to detect. The Hebrew is very emphatic: As to his wanderings, who can know them?

Secret faults—Sins of ignorance. The law of Moses prescribed atonement for such, after they should come to the knowledge of the person. Leviticus 4; Leviticus 5:15-19; Numbers 15:25. They belonged to the lowest class of offences; yet, if persisted in after knowledge, they became wilful transgressions.


Verse 13

13. Presumptuous sins—Literally, proudnesses: sins committed with knowledge and passion, such as hinted at Psalms 119:21 : the extreme opposite of the “secret faults,” of Psalms 19:12.

Dominion—This again marks the danger of these haughty sins; they are such as rule the man where they exist. The psalmist deprecates their existence and dominion.


Verse 14

14. Let the words—A comprehensive prayer that both the inner man and the outgoings of the heart may be acceptable to God.

Meditation of my heart—Its devices and secret counsels. What higher standard of holiness does the New Testament set for us than is contained in these last two verses?

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 19:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/psalms-19.html. 1874-1909.

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