Introductions to Psalms 1 - 59
from
Calvin's Commentaries


Psalm 1

He who collected the Psalms into one volume, whether Ezra or some other person, appears to have placed this Psalm at the beginning, by way of preface, in which he inculcates upon all the godly the duty of meditating upon the law of God. The sum and substance of the whole is, that they are blessed who apply their hearts to the pursuit of heavenly wisdom; whereas the profane despisers of God, although for a time they may reckon themselves happy, shall at length have a most miserable end.


Psalm 2

David boasts that his kingdom, though assailed by a vast multitude of powerful enemies, would, notwithstanding, be perpetual, because it was upheld by the hand and power of God. He adds, that in spite of his enemies it would be extended even to the uttermost ends of the earth. And, therefore, he exhorts kings and other rulers to lay aside their pride, and receive with submissive minds the yoke laid upon them by God; as it would be vain for them to attempt to shake it off. All this was typical, and contains a prophecy concerning the future kingdom of Christ.


Psalm 3

David, although driven from his kingdom and pressed down with utter despair of relief from every earthly quarter, ceases not to call upon God, and supports himself from his promise against the greatest terrors, against the mockery and cruel assaults of his enemies; and, finally, against death itself, which then forced itself upon his consideration. In the end of the psalm, he congratulates himself and the whole Church on the happy issue of all.


Psalm 4

After David in the beginning of the psalm has prayed to God to help him, he immediately turns his discourse to his enemies, and depending on the promise of God, triumphs over them as a conqueror. He, therefore, teaches us by his example, that as often as we are weighed down by adversity, or involved in very great distress, we ought to meditate upon the promises of God, in which the hope of salvation is held forth to us, so that defending ourselves by this shield we may break through all the temptations which assail us.


Psalm 5

David being grievously oppressed by the cruelty of his enemies, and apprehending still more mischief, earnestly beseeches God for help. And the more easily to obtain what he asks, after having by the earnestness of his prayers manifested the greatness of his grief, he first brings forward the intolerable malice of his enemies, showing how inconsistent it would be with the character of God were they to be left unpunished. He next speaks of his own faith and patience, and even comfort; having no doubt whatever of a happy issue. Finally, he concludes that when he shall be delivered, the benefits resulting from his deliverance would not be limited to himself but would extend to all the godly.


Psalm 6

David, being afflicted by the hand of God, acknowledges that he had provoked the Divine wrath by his sins, and, therefore, in order to obtain relief, he prays for forgiveness. At the same time, he regrets, that by being taken out of the world he would be deprived of an opportunity of praising God. Then, having obtained confidence, he celebrates the grace of God and directs his discourse to his enemies, who triumphed over his calamities.


Psalm 7

David, loaded with unjust calumny, calls upon God to be his advocate and defender, and commits his innocence to the Divine protection. In the first place, he protests that his conscience did not accuse him of the wickedness laid to his charge. Secondly, he shows how greatly it concerns the glory of God that he should execute judgment against the ungodly. Thirdly, to inspire his mind with confidence, he seriously reflects upon the goodness and righteousness of God, and sets before him the divine promises. Lastly, as if he had obtained the desire of his heart, he derides the folly and the vain attempts of his enemies; or rather, depending upon the aid of God, he assures himself that all their endeavors against him shall turn to their own destruction.


Psalm 8

David, reflecting upon God's fatherly beneficence towards mankind, is not content with simply giving thanks for it, but is enraptured by the contemplation of it.


Psalm 9

David, after having recounted the former victories which he had gained, and exalted in lofty strains the grace and power of God in their happy issue, now again, when he sees new enemies and dangers rising up, implores the protection of the same God by whom he had before been delivered, and beseeches him to overthrow the pride of his enemies.


Psalm 10

David here complains, in his own name and in the name of all the godly, that fraud, extortion, cruelty, violence, and all kind of injustice prevailed everywhere in the world; and the cause which he assigns for this is that ungodly and wicked men, being intoxicated with their prosperity, have shaken off all fear of God, and think they may do whatever they please with impunity. Accordingly, he earnestly beseeches God to help him and to remedy his desperate calamities. In the close, he comforts himself and the rest of the faithful with the hope of obtaining deliverance in due time. This description represents, as in a mirror, a lively image of a widely corrupt and disorganized state of society. When, therefore, we see iniquity breaking out like a flood, [in order] that the strangeness of such a temptation may not shake the faith of the children of God and cause them to fall into despair, let them learn to look into this mirror. It tends greatly to lighten grief to consider that nothing befalls us at this day which the Church of God has not experienced in the days of old; yea, rather that we are just called to engage in the same conflicts with which David and the other holy patriarchs were exercised. Farther, the faithful are admonished to have recourse to God in such a confused state of things; for unless they are convinced that it belongs to God to succour them and to remedy such a state of matters, they will gain nothing by indulging in confused murmurings and rending the air with their cries and complaints.


Psalm 11

This psalm consists of two parts. In the first part, David recounts the severe assaults of temptation which he had encountered, and the state of distressing anxiety to which he had been reduced during the time of his persecution by Saul. In the second, he congratulates himself on the deliverance which God had granted him, and magnifies the righteousness of God in the government of the world.


Psalm 12

David, deploring the wretched and forlorn condition of his people, and the utter overthrow of good order, beseeches God to afford them speedy relief. Then, in order to comfort both himself and all the godly, after having mentioned God's promise of assisting his people, he magnifies his faithfulness and constancy in performing his promises. From this he concludes, that at length God will deliver the godly, even when the world may be in a state of the greatest corruption.


Psalm 13

The subject of this psalm is almost the same as that of the preceding. David, being afflicted not only with the deepest distress but also feeling himself, as it were, overwhelmed by a long succession of calamities and multiplied afflictions, implores the aid and succour of God, the only remedy which remained for him; and, in the close, taking courage he entertains the assured hope of life from the promise of God, even amidst the terrors of death.


Psalm 14

In the beginning the Psalmist describes the wicked contempt of God into which almost the whole people had broken forth. To give the greater weight to his complaint, he represents God himself as uttering it. Afterwards he comforts himself and others with the hope of a remedy, which he assures himself God will very soon provide, although in the meantime he groans and feels deep distress at the disorder which he beholds.


Psalm 15

This psalm teaches us upon what condition God made choice of the Jews to be his people and placed his sanctuary in the midst of them. This condition was, that they should show themselves to be a peculiar and holy people by leading a just and upright life.


Psalm 16

In the beginning David commends himself to the protection of God. He then meditates upon the benefits which he received from God, and thereby stirs himself up to thanksgiving. By his service, it is true, he could in no respect be profitable to God, but he, notwithstanding, surrenders and devotes himself entirely to him, protesting that he will have nothing to do with superstitions. He also states the reason of this to be, that full and substantial happiness consists in resting in God alone, who never suffers his own people to want [lack] any good thing.


Psalm 17

This psalm contains a mournful complaint against the cruel pride of David's enemies. He protests that he did not deserve to be persecuted with such inhumanity, inasmuch as he had given them no cause for exercising their cruelty against him. At the same time, he beseeches God, as his protector, to put forth his power for his deliverance. The inscription of the psalm does not refer to any particular time, but it is probable that David here complains of Saul and his associates.


Psalm 18

We all know through what difficulties and almost insurmountable obstacles David came to the kingdom. Even to the time of Saul's death he was a fugitive, and, as it were, an outlaw, and wearily passed his life in fear amidst many threatenings and dangers of death. After God had, with his own hand, placed him on the royal throne, he was immediately harassed with the tumults and insurrections of his own subjects, and the hostile faction being superior to him in power he was often at the point of being completely overthrown. Foreign enemies, on the other hand, severely tried him even to his old age. These calamities he would never have surmounted had he not been aided by the power of God. Having therefore obtained many and signal victories, he does not, as irreligious men are accustomed to do, sing a song of triumph in honor of himself, but exalts and magnifies God, the author of these victories, by a train of striking and appropriate epithets and in a style of surpassing grandeur and sublimity. This psalm, therefore, is the first of those psalms in which David celebrates in lofty strains the wonderful grace which God had shown towards him, both in putting him in possession of the kingdom and in afterwards maintaining him in it. He also shows that his reign was an image and type of the kingdom of Christ, to teach and assure the faithful that Christ, in spite of the whole world and of all the resistance which it can make, will by the stupendous and incomprehensible power of the Father be always victorious.


Psalm 19

David, with the view of encouraging the faithful to contemplate the glory of God, sets before them, in the first place, a mirror of it in the fabric of the heavens and in the exquisite order of their workmanship which we behold; and, in the second place, he recalls our thoughts to the Law, in which God made himself more familiarly known to his chosen people. Taking occasion from this, he continues to discourse at considerable length on this peculiar gift of Heaven, commending and exalting the use of the Law. Finally, he concludes the psalm with a prayer.


Psalm 20

This psalm contains a common prayer of the Church in behalf of the King of Israel, that God would succour him in danger; and in behalf of his kingdom, that God would maintain it in safety and cause it to prosper: for in the person of David the safety and well-being of the whole community centered. To this there is added a promise, that God will preside over that kingdom of which he was the founder, and so effectually watch over it as to secure its continual preservation.


Psalm 21

This psalm contains a public and solemn thanksgiving for the prosperous and happy condition of the king. Its subject is almost the same with that of the preceding. In the former there was set forth a common form of prayer, which was designed to excite in the whole people earnest concern for the preservation of their head. In this it is shown that the safety and prosperity of the king ought to produce public and general rejoicing through the whole realm, inasmuch as God by this means intended to preserve the whole body in safety. But, above all, it was the design of the Holy Spirit here to direct the minds of the faithful to Christ, who was the end and perfection of this kingdom, and to teach them that they could not be saved except under the head which God himself had appointed over them.


Psalm 22

David complains in this psalm that he is reduced to such circumstances of distress that he is like a man in despair. But after having recounted the calamities with which he was so severely afflicted, he emerges from the abyss of temptations, and gathering courage, comforts himself with the assurance of deliverance. At the same time, he sets before us, in his own person, a type of Christ, who he knew by the Spirit of prophecy behooved to be abased in marvellous and unusual ways previous to his exaltation by the Father. Thus the psalm, in the two parts of which it consists, explains that prophecy of Isaiah, (chap. 53:8,) "He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation?"


Psalm 23

This psalm is neither intermingled with prayers, not does it complain of miseries for the purpose of obtaining relief; but it contains simply a thanksgiving, from which it appears that it was composed when David had obtained peaceable possession of the kingdom, and lived in prosperity and in the enjoyment of all he could desire. That he might not, therefore, in the time of his great prosperity, be like worldly men, who, when they seem to themselves to be fortunate bury God in forgetfulness and luxuriously plunge themselves into their pleasures, he delights himself in God, the author of all the blessings which he enjoyed. And he not only acknowledges that the state of tranquility in which he now lives, and his exemption from all inconveniences and troubles, is owing to the goodness of God; but he also trusts that through his providence he will continue happy even to the close of his life, and for this end that he may employ himself in his pure worship.


Psalm 24

As God stands related to all mankind as their Creator and Governor, David, from this consideration, magnifies the special favor which God manifested towards the children of Abraham in choosing them to be his peculiar people, in preference to the rest of mankind, and in erecting his sanctuary as his house that he might dwell among them. He shows, at the same time, that although the sanctuary was open to all the Jews, God was not near to all of them, but only to those who feared and served him in sincerity, and who had cleansed themselves from the pollutions of the world, in order to devote themselves to holiness and righteousness. Moreover, as the grace of God was more clearly manifested after the temple was built, he celebrates that grace in a strain of splendid poetry, to encourage true believers with the more alacrity to persevere in the exercise of serving and honoring him.


Psalm 25

This psalm consists of meditations mingled with prayers. Being rudely treated and grievously distressed by the cruelty of his enemies, David, in order to obtain assistance from God, first acknowledges that God had justly made use of this as a means of chastising and punishing him for his sins; and, therefore, he prays for their forgiveness that he may at once enjoy assurance of the divine favor and obtain deliverance. He then implores the aid of the Holy Spirit, that sustained by it he might, even in the midst of so many temptations, continue in the fear of God. And in various places he intermingles meditation as the means of stirring up himself to increased confidence in God, and of withdrawing his thoughts from the allurements of the world.


Psalm 26

This psalm, for the most part, is similar to the preceding. The prophet, oppressed with numerous wrongs and finding no succour in the world, implores the aid of God, entreating him to undertake the cause of a man unrighteously afflicted, and to assert his innocence. And as his contest was with hypocrites, he appeals to the judgment of God, sharply reproving them for making a false profession of God's name. In the conclusion, as if he had obtained his wish, he promises a sacrifice of praise to God for his deliverance.


Psalm 27

In this psalm David rehearses the desires and meditations with which he had exercised himself in the midst of his great dangers. The thanksgivings which he mingles with them show that it was composed after his deliverance. It is also probable that he repeats at once the prayers which had exercised his thoughts in his different meditations. Hence it is to be seen here with what invincible fortitude of soul the holy man was endued, that he might overcome the most grievous assaults of his enemies. His wonderful piety shines forth in this, that he wished to live for no other purpose than to serve God: nor could he be turned aside from this purpose by any anxiety or trouble.


Psalm 28

After being delivered by God's help from great dangers, David, in this psalm, according to his custom, first records the vows that he had made in the midst of his difficulties, and then his thanksgivings and praises to God, to induce others to follow his example. It is probable that he speaks of his persecutions by Saul.


Psalm 29

David, that he may humble all men before God, from the highest to the lowest, celebrates his terrible power in the various wonders of nature, which he affirms are not less fitted to arouse us to give glory to God than if he were to assert his empire and majesty with his own voice. After he has struck fear into the proud, who are reluctant to yield, and addressed an exhortation to them accompanied by a gentle reproof, he sweetly invites the faithful voluntarily to fear the Lord.


Psalm 30

David having been delivered from great danger, not only renders thanks to God apart by himself, but at the same time invites and exhorts all the pious to perform the same duty. He then confesses that he had flattered himself too confidently in his prosperity, and that his security had justly been chastised. In the third place, having briefly expressed his sorrow, he returns again to thanksgiving.


Psalm 31

David, having been delivered from some great danger, or rather from many dangers, first relates the prayers which he had offered up to God amidst the terrors of death. He then subjoins his thanksgiving, which is no ordinary one; for he celebrates his deliverance at great length, and exhorts all the saints to be of good hope, as they had in him a most excellent and memorable example of God's goodness.


Psalm 32

David having largely and painfully experienced what a miserable thing it is to feel God's hand heavy on account of sin, exclaims that the highest and best part of a happy life consists in this, that God forgives a man's guilt and receives him graciously into his favor. After giving thanks for pardon obtained, he invites others to fellowship with him in his happiness, showing by his own example the means by which this may be obtained.


Psalm 33

David, or whoever was the author of this psalm, in order to excite believers to praise God, founds his argument upon the general providence of God, by which he sustains, protects, and governs the whole world. Afterwards he celebrates God's paternal kindness towards his chosen people, showing at the same time how necessary it is that the godly should be cherished by his special care.


Psalm 34

David gives thanks to God for a signal deliverance, and takes occasion from it to celebrate his perpetual grace towards all the saints, and to exhort them both to trust in him and to the study of godliness; affirming that the only way to pass through life happily is to walk holily and harmlessly in the world, in the service and fear of God. It is obvious from the title what particular instance of God's favor he here celebrates. When he was driven to King Achish, as recorded in 1 Sam. 27:2, whom, with the exception of Saul, he accounted the deadliest of all his enemies, it was not probable that he would ever be able to make his escape from him. The only means, therefore, he had of saving his life was to feign himself mad by frothing at the mouth, looking fiercely, and disfiguring his countenance. Nor is this to be wondered at; for Achish, being disappointed of the confident hope of victory which he had, and attributing to David alone both the loss which he had sustained and the dishonor which he had received, burned with implacable hatred against him. In allowing him to escape, therefore, contrary to his own expectation, and the expectation of all other men, David acknowledges that there had been exhibited a memorable instance of God's favor towards him, which may be serviceable for the general instruction of the whole Church. Instead of Achish, Abimelech is here employed; and it is probable that the latter name had been the common designation of the monarchs of the Philistines, as Pharaoh was the common name of the monarchs of Egypt, and Caesar that of the Roman Emperors, which was borrowed from the name of Julius Caesar, who had first seized the imperial power among the Romans. We know that many ages before David was born the kings who reigned in Gerar in the time of Abraham were called Abimelech. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at that this name should be handed down from age to age among their posterity and become the common name of all the kings of Palestine. The Hebrew word taam which I have translated countenance, signifies also tasting, understanding, and therefore might be pertinently interpreted in this manner, that he appeared foolish and without taste. The verb from which it is derived properly signifies to taste, and therefore is often transferred to reason, understanding, and all the senses. Accordingly, David having feigned himself mad, the term understanding is very appropriate. Now, although he escaped by this subtle device, he doubts not that he was delivered by the hand of God; nor does he ascribe the praise of his safety to the pretence of madness, but rather acknowledges that the cruelty of his enemy had been softened by the secret influence of God, so that he who formerly burned with rage against him had been pacified by an artifice. Certainly it was not to be expected that Achish would have driven away in contempt from him so brave a man whom he had found a dangerous enemy to his whole kingdom, and from whom he had suffered such severe losses. This gives rise to the question, Whether David feigned himself mad under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? For by his appearing to connect together these two things,--the pretence of madness and the happy result of this pretence, it might be inferred that the same Spirit by whom this psalm was dictated suggested this stratagem to the mind of David and directed him in deceiving King Achish. I answer, that although God sometimes delivers his people, while at the same time they err in choosing the means or even fall into sin in adopting them, yet there is nothing inconsistent in this. The deliverance, therefore, was the work of God, but the intermediate sin, which is on no account to be excused, ought to be ascribed to David. In this way Jacob obtained the blessing by the favor and good pleasure of God; and yet the subtlety of the mother, with which the obtaining of it was mixed up, was, we know, sinful on her part. It may then sometimes happen that the event shall be brought to pass by the Spirit of God, and yet the saints whom he may employ as instruments shall swerve from the path of duty. It would therefore be a superfluous task to endeavor to exculpate David, who is rather to be blamed, because by not committing his life entirely to God he exposed himself and the grace of the Spirit, by whom he was governed, to the derision of the ungodly. I would not positively assert it, but there appears in this deception some token of infirmity. If it should be said that David here magnifies the grace of God, because by changing his countenance and his speech he escaped death, I again reply, that David expressly mentions this circumstance in order to render the grace of God still more illustrious in that his fault was not laid to his charge.


Psalm 35

So long as Saul was the enemy of David, the nobles and such as at that time bore any authority had (according to the subservient spirit which always prevails in the courts of kings) eagerly conspired to destroy an innocent man. They had also succeeded in inducing the common people to participate with them in their hatred and cruelty, so that all of them, from the highest to the lowest, burned with implacable hatred against him. But as he knew that the greatest part of them were thoughtlessly impelled to this by error and folly, and ignorance of the true state of affairs, he accounts those only his enemies who, from deliberate malice and wickedness, endeavored in this way to please Saul in order to obtain his favor. Against them he calls upon God for vengeance. And, first, as he was conscious of no crime, he alleges his innocence before God; and, secondly, as they sought to inflict unmerited punishment upon him, he implores God for deliverance. After he has complained of their impious cruelty, he calls down upon them the punishment which they deserved. Moreover, as in confident reliance upon the oracle of God, which had been spoken by Samuel, and the holy anointing, he hoped for a better issue, he intersperses throughout the psalm testimonies of his thankfulness. Finally, he concludes the psalm by saying that after he has been delivered he will celebrate the praises of God all his life.


Psalm 36

Almost all interpreters agree in supposing that in this psalm David in general expresses his wonder and amazement at the goodness of God, because, in the exercise of his favor and mercy, he bears with the wicked, who, notwithstanding, basely contemn him. The opinion which I have formed is somewhat different. I think that the holy prophet, being grievously troubled and harassed by wicked and ungodly men, first complains of their depravity, and then seeks refuge in the infinite goodness of God, which extends not only to all men in general, but in a particular and special manner to his own children; and this he does in order to console and, so to speak, take his breath in the assurance that he shall at length be delivered since God is favorable to him. This is evident from the conclusion of the psalm, in which he arms and fortifies himself against all the assaults of the ungodly by reflecting that he is safe under the protection of God.


Psalm 37

This psalm, the title of which shows it to have been composed by David, contains most profitable instruction. Since the faithful, so long as they pursue their earthly pilgrimage through life, see things strangely confused in the world, unless they assuaged their grief with the hope of a better issue their courage would soon fail them. The more boldly any man despises God, and runs to every excess in wickedness, so much the more happily he seems to live. And since prosperity appears to be a token of God's favor towards the ungodly, what conclusion, it may be said, can be drawn from this but either that the world is governed by chance, and that fortune bears the sovereignty, or else that God makes no difference between the good and the bad? The Spirit of God accordingly confirms and strengthens us in this psalm against the assaults of such a temptation. However great the prosperity which the wicked enjoy for a time, he declares their felicity to be transient and evanescent, and that, therefore, they are miserable, while the happiness of which they boast is cursed; whereas the pious and devoted servants of God never cease to be happy, even in the midst of their greatest calamities, because God takes care of them and at length comes to their aid in due season. This, indeed, is paradoxical and wholly repugnant to human reason. For as good men often suffer extreme poverty, and languish long under many troubles, and are loaded with reproaches and wrongs, while the wicked and profligate triumph and are regaled with pleasures, might we not suppose that God cares not for the things that are done on earth? It is on this account that, as I have already said, the doctrine of this psalm is so much the more profitable; because, withdrawing our thoughts from the present aspect of things, it enjoins us to confide in the providence of God until he stretch forth his hand to help those who are his servants, and demand of the ungodly a strict account of their lives as of thieves and robbers who have foully abused his bounty and paternal goodness.


Psalm 38

David, suffering under some severe and dangerous malady, as may be conjectured, acknowledges that he is chastened by the Lord, and entreats him to turn away his anger from him. In order the more effectually to induce God to have mercy upon him, he bewails before him the severity of his afflictions in a variety of particulars. These we shall consider separately, and in order.


Psalm 39

In the beginning of the psalm, David intimates that his heart had been seized with extreme bitterness of grief, which forced him to give utterance to complaints with too much vehemence and ardor. He confesses that whilst he was disposed to be silent and to exercise patience, he was nevertheless compelled, by the vehemence of his sorrow, to break out into an excess which he by no means intended. Then he relates the complaints which he had made mingled with prayers, which indicate great trouble of mind; so that from this it appears that he had wrestled with no ordinary effort in resisting temptation, lest he should fall into despair.


Psalm 40

David, being delivered from some great danger, and it may be not from one only but from many, extols very highly the grace of God, and by means of this his soul is filled with admiration of the providence of God, which extends itself to the whole human race. Then he protests that he will give himself wholly to the service of God, and defines briefly in what manner God is to be served and honored. Afterwards, he again returns to the exercise of thanksgiving, and celebrates the praises of the Eternal by rehearsing many of his glorious and powerful deeds. Last, when he has complained of his enemies, he concludes the psalm with a new prayer.


Psalm 41

David, while he was severely afflicted by the hand of God, perceived that he was unjustly blamed by men who regarded him as one who had already been condemned and devoted to eternal destruction. Under this trial he fortifies himself by the consolation of hope. At the same time, he complains partly of the cruelty, and partly of the treachery, of his enemies. And although he recognizes the affliction with which he is visited as a just punishment of his sins, yet he charges his enemies with cruelty and malice, inasmuch as they troubled and afflicted one who had always endeavored to do them good. Finally, he records an expression of his gratitude and joy, because he had been preserved by the grace of God.


Psalm 42

In the first place, David shows that when he was forced to flee by reason of the cruelty of Saul, and was living in a state of exile, what most of all grieved him was that he was deprived of the opportunity of access to the sanctuary; for he preferred the service of God to every earthly advantage. In the second place, he shows that being tempted with despair, he had in this respect a very difficult contest to sustain. In order to strengthen his hope, he also introduces prayer and meditation on the grace of God. Last of all, he again makes mention of the inward conflict which he had with the sorrow which he experienced.


Psalm 43

This psalm is very similar to the preceding. David, who probably was the author of it, being chased and driven out of his country by the unjust violence and tyranny of his enemies, calls upon God for vengeance, and encourages himself to hope for restoration.


Psalm 44

This psalm is divided into three principal parts. In the beginning of it the faithful record the infinite mercy of God towards his people, and the many tokens by which he had testified his fatherly love towards them. Then they complain that they do not now find that God is favorable towards them, as he had formerly been towards their fathers. In the third place, they refer to the covenant which God had made with Abraham and declare that they have kept it with all faithfulness, notwithstanding the sore afflictions to which they had been subjected. At the same time they complain that they are cruelly persecuted for no other cause but for having continued steadfastly in the pure worship of God. In the end a prayer is added, that God would not forget the wrongful oppression of his servants, which especially tends to bring dishonor and reproach upon religion.


Psalm 45

In this psalm the grace and beauty of Solomon, his virtues in ruling the kingdom, and also his power and riches, are illustrated and described in terms of high commendation. More especially, as he had taken to wife a stranger out of Egypt, the blessing of God is promised to him in this relationship provided the newly espoused bride, bidding adieu to her own nation and renouncing all attachment to it, devote herself wholly to her husband. At the same time, there can be no doubt that under this figure the majesty, wealth, and extent of Christ's kingdom are described and illustrated by appropriate terms, to teach the faithful that there is no felicity greater or more desirable than to live under the reign of this king, and to be subject to his government.


Psalm 46

This psalm seems to be an expression of thanksgiving rather for some particular deliverance than for the constant aid by which God has always protected and preserved his Church. It may be inferred from it that the city of Jerusalem, when stricken with great terror and placed in extreme danger, was preserved, contrary to all expectation, by the unlooked-for and miraculous power of God. The prophet, therefore, whoever composed the psalm, commending a deliverance so singularly vouchsafed by God, exhorts the faithful to commit themselves confidently to his protection and not to doubt that, relying fearlessly upon him as their guardian and the protector of their welfare, they shall be continually preserved in safety from all the assaults of their enemies, because it is his peculiar office to quell all commotions.


Psalm 47

Some think that this psalm was composed at the time when the temple was dedicated and the ark of the covenant placed in the sanctuary. But as this is a conjecture which has little to support it, it is better, if I am not mistaken, instead of detaining ourselves with this, to consider the subject-matter of the psalm and the use to which it ought especially to be applied. It was no doubt appointed for the stated holy assemblies, as may be easily gathered from the whole tenor of the poem; and perhaps it was composed by David and delivered by him to the Levites to be sung by them before the temple was built, and when the ark as yet abode in the tabernacle. But whoever was its author, he exhorts not only the Israelites, but also all nations, to worship the only true God. It chiefly magnifies the favor which, according to the state of things at that time, God had graciously vouchsafed to the offspring of Abraham; and salvation to the whole world was to proceed from this source. It however contains, at the same time, a prophecy of the future kingdom of Christ. It teaches that the glory which then shone under the figure of the material sanctuary will diffuse its splendor far and wide; when God himself will cause the beams of his grace to shine into distant lands, that kings and nations may be united into fellowship with the children of Abraham.


Psalm 48

In this psalm there is celebrated some notable deliverance of the city of Jerusalem at a time when many kings had conspired to destroy it. The prophet, (whoever was the author of the psalm,) after having given thanks to God for this deliverance, takes occasion from thence to extol in magnificent terms the happy state of that city, seeing it had God for its continual guardian and protector. It would not have been enough for the people of God to have felt and acknowledged that they were once preserved and defended by the power of God, had they not at the same time been assured of being also preserved and protected by the same God in the time to come, because he had adopted them for his peculiar people. The prophet, therefore, chiefly insists upon this point, that it was not in vain that the sanctuary of God was erected upon mount Zion, but that his name was there called upon in order that his power might be conspicuously manifested for the salvation of his people. It is easy to gather from the subject-matter of the psalm that it was composed after the death of David. I indeed admit that among David's enemies there were some foreign kings, and that it was not for want of will on their part that the city of Jerusalem was not utterly destroyed; but we do not read that they ever proceeded the length of besieging it, and reducing it to such extremity as to render it necessary that their efforts should be repressed by a wonderful manifestation of the power of God. It is more probable that the psalm is to be referred to the time of king Ahaz, when the city was besieged and the inhabitants brought to the point of utter despair, and when, nevertheless, the siege was suddenly raised, (2 Kings 16:5;) or else to the time of Jehoshaphat and Asa, (2 Chron. 14:9; and 20:2;) for we know that under their reigns Jerusalem was preserved from utter destruction only by miraculous aid from heaven. This we are to regard as certain, that the Psalmist here exhibited to true believers an example of the favor of God towards them, from which they had reason to acknowledge that their condition was happy, seeing God had chosen for himself a dwelling-place upon mount Zion, that from thence he might preside over them for their good and safety.


Psalm 49

The wicked and the votaries of worldly pleasure often enjoy prosperity, while such as fear the Lord are exposed to affliction, and disposed to faint under the pressure of it. To moderate that pride which the one class is apt to feel in the midst of their success, and administer a check to the despondency of the other, the Psalmist shows what little reason we have to envy the supposed happiness of the ungodly, which, even when at its height, is vain and evanescent; and he teaches us that good men, however great their trials may be, are objects of the divine regard, and will be eventually delivered from their enemies.


Psalm 50

There have always been hypocrites in the Church, men who have placed religion in a mere observance of outward ceremonies, and among the Jews there were many who turned their attention entirely to the figures of the Law without regarding the truth which was represented under them. They conceived that nothing more was demanded of them but their sacrifices and other rites. The following psalm is occupied with the reprehension of this gross error, and the prophet exposes in severe terms the dishonor which is cast upon the name of God by confounding ceremony with religion, showing that the worship of God is spiritual and consists of two parts, prayer and thanksgiving.


Psalm 51

We learn the cause which led to the composition of this psalm from the title appended to it, and which will immediately come under our consideration. For a long period after his melancholy fall, David would seem to have sunk into a spiritual lethargy; but when roused from it by the expostulation of Nathan, he was filled with self-loathing and humiliation in the sight of God, and was anxious both to testify his repentance to all around him, and leave some lasting proof of it to posterity. In the commencement of the psalm, having his eyes directed to the heinousness of his guilt, he encourages himself to hope for pardon by considering the infinite mercy of God. This he extols in high terms, and with a variety of expressions, as one who felt that he deserved multiplied condemnation. In the after part of the psalm, he prays for restoration to the favor of God, being conscious that he deserved to have been cast off forever, and deprived of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. He promises, should forgiveness be bestowed upon him, to retain a deep and grateful sense of it. Towards the conclusion, he declares it to be for the good of the Church that God should grant his request; and, indeed, when the peculiar manner in which God had deposited his covenant of grace with David is considered, it could not but be felt that the common hope of the salvation of all must have been shaken on the supposition of his final rejection.


Psalm 52

This psalm was composed by David at the time when the death of Abimelech and the other priests had spread universal terror among the people, indisposing them for lending any countenance to his cause, and when Doeg was triumphing in the successful issue of his information. Supported, even in these circumstances, by the elevating influence of faith, he inveighs against the cruel treachery of that unprincipled informer, and encourages himself by the reflection that God, who is judge in heaven, will vindicate the interests of such as fear him, and punish the pride of the ungodly.


Psalm 53

This psalm being almost identical with the fourteenth, it has not been considered necessary to subjoin any distinct commentary.


Psalm 54

David has recorded in this psalm the prayers which he offered up to God when he heard of his having been betrayed by the Ziphites, and was reduced to a situation of extreme danger. It cannot fail to impress us with a high idea of his indomitable faith, thus to find him calling upon the name of God in the immediate prospect of death.


Psalm 55

Many interpreters have thought that this psalm refers to the conspiracy of Absalom, by which David was driven from the throne and forced to take refuge under circumstances of great distress in the wilderness. But it seems rather to have been written at a period when he was reduced to extreme danger by the persecutions of Saul. It is a prayer, expressive of the deepest distress, and full of fervor, urging every consideration which could be supposed to solicit the compassion of God. After having disburdened his sorrows and given utterance to his requests, the Psalmist contemplates the prospect of deliverance, and offers thanksgivings to God as if he had already obtained it.


Psalm 56

In this psalm David mixes complaint with prayer, and assuages the distress of his mind by meditation upon the mercy of God. He prays that he may experience the divine help under the persecutions to which he was subjected by Saul and his other enemies, and expresses his confidence of success. It is possible, however, that the psalm may have been written after the dangers to which he alludes were past, and in thanksgiving for a deliverance which he had already received.


Psalm 57

This psalm consists of two parts. In the first, David gives expression to the anxiety which he felt, imploring Divine assistance against Saul and his other enemies. In the second, he proceeds upon the confident expectation of deliverance, and stirs up his soul to the exercise of praise.


Psalm 58

The following psalm consists of two parts. In the commencement, David vindicates his personal integrity from the calumnies cast upon him by his enemies. Having expressed his sense of the grievous injuries which they had inflicted, their cruelty and their treachery, he concludes by an appeal to the judgment of God, and by praying that they might be visited with deserved destruction.


Psalm 59

The title, which immediately follows, informs us upon what occasion this psalm was written, which bears a considerable resemblance to the preceding. He begins by insisting upon the injustice of that cruel hostility which his enemies showed to him, and which he had done nothing to deserve. His complaint is followed up by prayer to God for help; and afterwards, as his hopes revive in the exercise of devout meditation, he proceeds to prophesy their calamitous destruction. At the close, he engages to preserve a grateful remembrance of his deliverance, and to praise the goodness of God.


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