Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Psalmist has learned the spirit of child-like humility in the school of suffering. His is not a naturally unambitious soul, but he has disciplined all worldly ambitions, and calmly and contentedly resigned himself to the Will of God.
Many commentators think that Israel is the speaker; but it is more natural to regard the Psalm as the utterance of a pious Israelite, representing the best spirit of the community of the Restoration, and renouncing on behalf of himself and those like-minded all thoughts of worldly aggrandisement for Israel. The Psalm belongs in all probability to the same period as the preceding Psalm. The prophets had seemed to promise great and wonderful triumphs for Israel in the Restoration, and what was the actual condition of Israel? Did it not demand the sternest self-discipline alike for the individual and for the community to enable them to fling away ambition, and accept, with cheerful faith, the lowly, despised position, which was so different from the glowing pictures of Jeremiah and the later Isaiah? It is “a humility not natural to Israel, but born of penitence,” and so the Psalm is a fitting sequel to Psalms 130. It is one element which this period had to contribute to the formation of the Christian character. Cp. Matthew 18:3; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5.
The title of David is found not only in the Massoretic text, but in the LXX (אAR), Aq., Symm., Syr., though wanting in some MSS of the LXX, and in the Targ. Probably it was added because the Psalm was thought to illustrate the spirit of David’s life (see especially 2 Samuel 6:21 f.), but there can be little doubt that the Psalm belongs to the same period as the Psalms among which it stands.
A Song of degrees of David. LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me.1. A proud mind finds expression in haughty looks and ambitious schemes. Cp. Psalm 18:27; Psalm 101:5; Proverbs 16:5.
neither &c.] Neither do I busy myself (lit. go to and fro) in great things, or in things too arduous for me. Cp. the warning to Baruch in Jeremiah 45:5, and for the word rendered wonderful or arduous cp. Genesis 18:14; Deuteronomy 30:11. The Psalmist has schooled himself to renounce ambitious schemes which are impracticable, and to accept the rôle of insignificance. This appears to be the primary meaning here, rather than ‘mysteries too deep for my comprehension’ (Job 42:3). Sir 3:18 ff. is an expansion of this verse.
Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.2. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul:
Like a weaned child on its mother’s breast,
Like a weaned child is my soul upon me.
He has calmed (lit. levelled, Isaiah 28:25, of levelling ground for sowing) his soul, and silenced it (Psalm 62:1; Psalm 62:5; Lamentations 3:26). It is no longer disturbed by the storms of passion and the clamours of ambition. As the child that has gone through the troublesome process of weaning can lie happily and contentedly in its mother’s arms without fretting or craving for the breast, so the Psalmist’s soul, weaned from worldly ambition, can lie still without murmuring or repining. It is not the helplessness of the child—children in the East were sometimes not weaned till the age of three, 2Ma 7:27, cp. note on 1 Samuel 1:23-24—but its contentment in spite of the loss of what once seemed indispensable, that is the point of the comparison.
The same preposition which is used of the child in its mother’s arms, lit. upon its mother, is used of the soul’s relation to the Psalmist, upon me. The soul in Hebrew psychology was sometimes distinguished from a man’s whole ‘self,’ and regarded as acting upon it or related to it from without. Cp. Psalm 42:4-6; Psalm 42:11; Psalm 142:3; &c. See Delitzsch, Biblical Psychology (E.T.) pp. 179 ff.
Let Israel hope in the LORD from henceforth and for ever.3. Hope, Israel, in Jehovah,
From this time forth and for evermore.
In this spirit of resignation and contentment let Israel patiently wait for the development of God’s purposes. Cp. Psalm 130:7.