To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.Psalm 14:1. The fool hath said in his heart — In his secret thoughts, or within himself, what he is afraid or ashamed to utter with his lips; There is no God — Or none that concerns himself with the affairs of mankind, none that governs the world, and observes and recompenses men’s actions according to their quality. And a fool indeed he must be who says or thinks so, for, in so doing, he speaks or thinks against the clearest light, against his own knowledge and convictions, and the common sentiments of the wise and sober part of mankind. Indeed, no man will say, There is no God, till he is so hardened in sin that it is become his interest there should be none to call him to an account. What St. Paul says of idolaters is equally true of atheists. Their foolish heart is darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they show that they are become fools, utterly destitute of true wisdom, as devoid of reason as of grace. They are corrupt — In practice as well as principle. “Infidelity is the beginning of sin, folly the foundation of infidelity, and the heart the seat of both.” — Horne. There is none — None of the fools here spoken of, and none of mankind by nature, none without supernatural grace; that doeth good — From a right principle, to a right end, and in a right spirit. None of their actions are really and thoroughly good and pleasing to God. For if some of them be good, as to the matter of them, as when they do an act of justice or charity; yet those actions are corrupt in their principles or ends, not being performed out of love to God, and a conscientious desire and care to please him, or with a view to his glory, for then they would do other good actions as well as these: but in hypocrisy, or vain glory, or for some other sinister and unworthy design.
The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.Psalm 14:2. The Lord looked down from heaven — God knows all things without any inquiry: but he speaks after the manner of men. Upon the children of men — Upon the whole Israelitish nation, and upon all mankind; for he speaks of all except his people, and the righteous ones, who are opposed to these, Psalm 14:4-5. If there were any that did understand, &c. — That did truly know God, namely, so as to fear, love, trust in, and obey him, (all which particulars are frequently included in the Scriptures, under the expression of knowing God,) and seek God — Did diligently endeavour to learn his mind and will, that they might do it, and to seek his grace and favour.
They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.Psalm 14:3. They are all gone aside — From God and the rule he hath given them to walk by, from truth into error, and from duty into sin; from the paths of wisdom and righteousness. They are altogether become filthy, loathsome, and abominable before God.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.Psalm 14:4. Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? — Have they lost their senses? Have they neither religion nor common discretion, either of which might teach them not to fight against Omnipotence, not to seek death, everlasting death and destruction, in the error of their life, not to rush voluntarily into the wrath of God, and provoke the vengeance of eternal fire. Who eat up my people — Who devour and destroy them, meaning God’s people, the poor and godly Israelites; as they eat bread — With as little regret or remorse, and with as much greediness, delight, and constancy also, as they use to eat their meat. They call not upon the Lord — They are guilty, not only of gross injustice toward men, but also of horrid impiety and contempt of God, denying his providence, and wholly neglecting, if not despising, his worship. Strange! that they should all be thus senseless, as not only to injure and oppress my poor innocent people, but to be cruel and void of all pity toward them, and to throw off likewise all religion!
There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.Psalm 14:5. There were they in great fear — In the place, or upon the spot where they practised these insolences: or, then, that is, in the height of their tyranny and prosperous impiety, when they seemed to have no cause for it, God struck them with a panic fear. Hebrew, פחדו פחד, pachadu pachad, they feared with fear, that is, vehemently, namely, from their own guilty consciences and the just expectation of divine vengeance. Or, they shall be greatly afraid, the past tense being put for the future prophetically. Thus Bishop Patrick understands it, whose paraphrase on the words is, “What a terror will it be to them to see the divine vengeance seize on them when they think themselves most secure!” For God is in the generation of the righteous — He, who is the righteous Judge, will not desert those that are faithful to him, but will graciously deliver them. Or, God is for the generation, &c., as the Hebrew particle ב, here used, often signifies: that is, God is on their side, and therefore their enemies have great cause to tremble.
Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge.Psalm 14:6. You have shamed the counsel of the poor — Ye have desired and endeavoured to bring to shame, or to disappoint, the course which the godly poor man takes, and the resolution which he adopts, which is to trust in God, call upon his name, and proceed on in his way, which is a course and counsel very different from yours. Or, ye have reproached, or derided his counsel, as a foolish thing. Be cause the Lord is his refuge — This was the ground of their contempt and scorn, that the godly man lived by faith in God’s promise and providence. Or, but the Lord, &c. You reproach them, but God will own and protect them, and justify their counsel, which you deride.
Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.Psalm 14:7. O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion — These words, considered in connection with the context, do not appear to be intended of any mere temporal salvation of Israel, whether from the rebellion of Absalom, or any other calamity brought upon them as a punishment of their sins. They rather seem directly and immediately to refer to the deliverance of that people from those corrupt principles and practices which the psalmist describes and laments in the preceding part of the Psalm. This is evidently the salvation which he has first in his view, and which he prays might come out of Zion, where the ark then was, where God was wont, in an especial manner, to manifest his presence, and whence he was supposed to hear and answer his people’s prayers. The words, however, have certainly a further design: they ultimately and principally respect the spiritual redemption and salvation of all God’s Israel by the Messiah. Thus the ancient Jews understood them, as appears from Jonathan’s Targum, or paraphrase, which expounds the passage in this manner, with which agrees the Targum of Jerusalem. We know the ancient patriarchs and prophets in general, and David in particular, well understood, and firmly believed, the doctrine of Israel’s redemption and salvation by the Messiah; and ardently expected, nay, and comforted themselves under their troubles, with the expectation of this great event, which they termed the consolation of Israel. And thus David seems to have comforted himself now in this dark time of ignorance and vice, of infidelity and sin, which he here deplores. To this also agrees the mention of Zion, because the prophets knew and foretold that the Messiah, or Deliverer, should first come to Zion, and should set up his throne there, and from thence send forth his laws and edicts to the Gentile world; as is positively affirmed, Psalm 2:6; Psalm 110:2; Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 59:20, compared with Romans 11:26, and in many other places. To this may be added, that the following words agree only to this event, in which he speaks of bringing back the captivity of the Lord’s people, with the universal joy of Jacob and Israel; which cannot agree to David’s time, wherein there was no such captivity of the people, but only a civil war and mutual slaughter, which is quite another thing, nor to the time of the Jews’ return from Babylon, when there was no such return of all Israel, but only of a part of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and some few of the other tribes; and the joy which the returning Jews then had was but low, and mixed with many fears, and dangers, and reproaches, as we see in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. And therefore these words of the psalmist must belong to the times of the Messiah, by whom this promise was fulfilled to the true Israel of God, who were delivered from that most dreadful of all captivities, the captivity of sin and Satan, as is declared Luke 1:68-75; Luke 4:18; Ephesians 4:8. And they shall be literally accomplished to the natural seed of Jacob, or Israel, according to the expectation and belief of all the Jews in their several ages, and of most Christian writers. The Redeemer shall come to Zion by his Word and Spirit, by his gospel and his grace, as he before came in the flesh, and shall turn away all ungodliness from Jacob. For this time of universal reformation the psalmist longs and prays now in the time of universal corruption; as if he had said, Those will be glorious times, as the present are melancholy ones; for then Jacob, that is, the seed of Jacob, shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. The triumphs of the king of Zion will be the joy of Zion’s children. And at the second coming of Christ, finally to extinguish the dominion of sin and Satan, this salvation will be completed, which, as it is the hope, so will it be the joy, of every true Israelite.