Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David
1 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.
2 The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there were any that did understand,
And seek God.
3 They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy:
There is none that doeth good,
No, not one.
4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge?
Who eat up my people as they eat bread,
And call not upon the LORD.
5 There were they in great fear:
For God is in the generation of the righteous.
6 Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor,
Because the LORD is his refuge.
7 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.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ITS CHARACTER AND COMPOSITION.—The previous Psalm gave expression to a vow of thankful, heartfelt joy on account of the deliverance from the danger to his life which he had entreated. In Psalm 14:7 of this Psalm all the people are summoned, with the assurance of compliance (the future is used as a jussive), to rejoice over future deliverance from threatening ruin, anxiously longed for; and this springs from a description of the religious decline and moral corruption prevailing among men. In this respect this Psalm has a similar subject to Psalm 12.9 Of course we cannot derive from this fact, that these Psalms were surely composed by the same author, and Psalm 14:7 might seem to imply a later time. Most recent interpreters since Venema actually refer to the captivity at Babylon, Hitzig, at the same time, to the prophet Jeremiah as the author; Olsh. descends to the Maccabean period, whilst Paulus (Clavis) refers Psalm 14:5 to Sennacherib, and with Theodoret regards Isaiah as the author. The interpretation will show that Psalm 14:7b is not decisive against David, but rather in connection with other statements in the Psalm, confirms its prophetic and didactic character, which in the wider sense may be called Messianic. Psalm 53 is likewise in favor of a more ancient time, as it deviates from this Psalm in a few, yet very significant, turns of thought.10
It is uncertain whether all of the seven strophes were originally of three members (Delitzsch) and Psalm 14:5 and 6 have been mutilated; yet this is probable. [Perowne: “In form the ode is dramatic, or quasi-dramatic. A great tragedy is enacting before the eyes of the poet. Sin is lifting itself up in Titanic madness against God, and God looks down upon its doings as once upon the builders of Babel. He sees utter apostasy (Psalm 14:3); He speaks from heaven (Psalm 14:4), and the evil-doers are confounded at the word of His mouth (Psalm 14:5). ‘It would scarcely be possible,’ says Ewald, ‘for a great truth to be sketched in fewer or more striking outlines.’ ”—C. A. B.]
Str. I. Psalm 14:1. Fool.—The etymology of nabal leads to the idea of withered and without sap; usage, to spiritual dullness, barrenness and worthlessness (Isa. 32:5, 6) in contrast with the religious freshness and moral ability of the truly wise man. The expression does not refer to intellectual weakness.11 The perfects in the first five verses do not force us to a purely historical interpretation (Baur, Hitzig, et al.), whether we leave the person undetermined or think of Nebuchadnezzar, Sennacherib and the Assyrians, or find here the proper name Nabal (the husband of Abigail). They are clauses expressing experience, which present the thoughts of the fool, how he manifests himself constantly and everywhere. [The A. V. needs correction here, it should read not; the fool hath said; but the fool saith in his heart. Hupf., “It is the secret thought and delusion of his heart.—It is likewise not exactly a fixed theory or an understood and conscious opinion, but a disposition which put itself in practice and is inferred therefrom, even if it does not say any thing: an Atheism of heart and life.”—C. A. B.]—Corrupt, abominable, they make their doings.—The two verbs placed alongside of one another, without a connecting particle, intensify the idea of badness which is not necessarily contained in the noun. The plural shows that the author, from the beginning, had in mind, not an individual fool, who was to be regarded as an exception; but he first gives the characteristics of the class, then describes the conduct of individuals belonging to it. The first verb awakens a sad remembrance to those acquainted with the Scriptures; for the same word appears first in Gen. 6:5, 12, in the description of the corruption which preceded the flood, and is frequently used in the Scriptures to designate the apostasies of the Israelites from the living God and the sacred ordinances of His covenant which so frequently occur (Ex. 32:7; Deut. 31:29; 32:5; Judges 2:19). The transition is thus prepared in the soul for that which follows.
Str. II. Psalm 14:2. Looked down.—Literally bowed Himself over; indicating zealous and intense looking in order to a closer examination, 2 Kings 9:10; often used of God, for the first time Gen. 11:5, 18:21, in the history of the tower of Babel. These as well as the references to early history previously mentioned, which Grotius already observed, need not mislead us to limit the expressions used here to these particular events. But they turn our thoughts in this direction: that we need not trouble ourselves with the refutation of fools, for God has practically provided for this long ago. This retrospect of history with its disclosure of human corruption and Divine judgments sets before our eyes the follies of the present, partly in their connection with universal sin, partly with the assurance of Divine condemnation. The former point of view is not properly estimated, if with Delitzsch we merely accept the perfect sense in so far as the result of God’s looking about recognizes this looking about itself as an act which has already transpired; the latter point of view is obscured, if this looking about is regarded as a poetical figure, by which the Psalmist impresses upon his own judgment the seal of Divine approval; both points of view vanish together, if the contents of the judgment passed in consequence of this Divine examination which is mentioned, are essentially weakened as well with reference to their meaning as their credibility by accepting a hyperbolic form of expression (Hupf., following Gataker).
Children of men.—Literally, sons of Adam. This expression does not designate the ungodly as such (Knapp et al. with reference to Gen. 6:2), or the heathen (De Wette), or the fools previously mentioned, as a specially profligate class of men (Gataker), or the same in their general character as men and subject to the consideration of God (Hupf.); but men as a body, as the posterity of Adam, yet not as fools (Geier), but in their character as members of a fallen race (Calv., J. H. Mich., Stier).
Str. III. Psalm 14:3. All.—The totality as well as the universality of human corruption is stated in the strongest language, and first of all, as having gone aside from the right way, and then it is defined by a word which originally was used for physical corruption, especially of the souring of milk in the Arabic, but likewise of moral corruption, Job 15:16.—If with Maurer we regard the ה which begins the clause as a particle of interrogation, as Psalm 14:2 and 4, to which likewise G. Baur is inclined, then it would be advisable, with Ewald, to have the words of Jehovah begin here, which Hitzig, Delitzsch, et al. regard as beginning with Psalm 14:4. But without regard to the fact that it is not at all necessary to regard Jehovah as speaking, this supposition would not give us an expression of the judgment of the Omniscient God, but would merely continue the figure of speech, in accordance with which He has made an investigation. The ה is therefore to be regarded as an article=the all, the totality, as Ps. 49:17; Dan. 11:2; comp. Ewald (Lehrbuch, § 286 a).
It is noteworthy that there is not here a statement of a doctrine, but the mention of a fact, that this moreover makes the moral condemnation of the entire world as an actual result of God’s looking about. The Sept. has already regarded this result not as a solitary fact, limited to a certain period, but has taken up into the text passages with similar subjects from Pss. 5:9; 10:7; 36:1; 140:4; Isa. 59:7, 8 (in the margin of the Cod. Vatic.), which reappear in the citation Rom. 3:10–12, and have found their way into the Arab. and Vulg. translations of our Psalm. [Likewise in the English Prayer-book version.—C. A. B.]. In the Hebrew this addition is found only in codd. 649, apparently as a translation back into Hebrew by a Christian who would justify the citation of the Apostle (De Rossi and Rosenm. against Kimchi, who maintains its authenticity). The Church has sufficient biblical support for its doctrine of human corruption by connecting several other passages of the Bible with this. However, the interpreters of former times have not sufficiently distinguished from the facts mentioned here, the conclusions drawn therefrom and their dogmatic use.
Str. IV. Psalm 14:4. Have all the workers of iniquity no experience? [A. V., “knowledge”].—Hitzig, who previously translated it: “are they out of their wits?” now advocates the translation of the Sept., Vulg., Jerome, as future. This presupposes the pointing of the imperf., which is found in some codd., and gives an admissible sense, if it is regarded as the threatening of the judgment in which the workers of iniquity are to be actually assured of the reality and of the activity of the God whom they have denied and disregarded. But the perfect of the present text is much more suitable to the connection of the discourse (Hupf.), as it refers back to the judgment which God has already constantly and impartially executed in history upon the persons of all evil-doers. But the character of the question as threatening and warning, is weakened into a tone of involuntary astonishment at the blindness and security of evil-doers, if, with Geier, Hengst., et al. [A. V.], we explain: know=do not reflect upon it. Moreover the all does not agree with this. The reference cannot be at all to correct knowledge (Clauss). However, it is admissible to connect the verb with the negative into one idea=are then without understanding? (Ewald), unreasonable? (Delitzsch). But with our interpretation the advance in thought is clearer. For after mentioning that God looks about and examines critically we would expect a reference to the Divine judgment, and indeed not to human opinions or feelings respecting this judgment, but to what it had already accomplished in history. The context, moreover, leads to a statement of Divine acts and not of human actions. Since now the form of the question with הלא does not show any uncertainty at all, or lead to something that is yet to be inquired after, but on the contrary expresses in the strongest terms the utmost certainty, the question thus gains together with its threatening and warning character at the same time a triumphant tone, and then forms a suitable transition to that which follows.
Eat up my people.—It follows from Mic. 3:3; Isa. 3:12, that the mention of My does not necessarily imply the words of Jehovah. [However, it is more natural and better, with Ewald, Delitzsch, et al., to regard Jehovah as speaking. It is more in keeping with the dramatic character of the entire Psalm.—C. A. B.]. There has been no previous reference to foreign enemies, or to wars in which the Israelites were consumed, or to any external events at all, but to moral and religious relations, yet such as occur in history and in Israel. The ancient translations and most interpreters find stated here by the comparison, the manner of eating up the people, as they eat bread. The ungodly regard it as their natural business to eat up the people. This interpretation is not without grammatical objections, so that Hitzig takes refuge in the supposition of a transposition of letters, which is recommended indeed by analogies, and reads אכוֹל instead of אכלוּ. But the figure is favored by the frequency of its use in the prophets, where it is still further carried out, and by the difficulty of finding any other acceptable sense. For the interpretation of Luther which has been revived by Clauss, does not at all suit the construction of the clause, in accordance with which the devouring of the people affords the means of support for the ungodly. Moreover, to eat bread cannot mean to live well (J. H. Mich.); also not to live unpunished (Cocc.); but generally to support themselves. Now if this is in contrast with what follows, the reference might be to a neglect of prayer at the table (Chald., L. de Dieu). This, however, is not suitable here. So, likewise, hardly the idea of living securely therein, as an animal (Hupf.) in which the physical life would be nourished, but the spiritual life remain without nourishment. Though this thought is appropriate it has very little support in the words as such.
Str. V. Psalm 14:5. There.—This does not mean the same place where the crime is committed and the condemnation is received (Aben Ezra, Kimchi), or where they should recognize God and call upon Him (Clauss), so also not the place of future judgment (Flamin., Calvin, Hengst., Stier), although שׁם is properly a designation of place, for it can likewise be used for a space of time (Ps. 66:6; Prov. 6:27), and even of the future (Zeph. 1:14; Job 23:7), with which reference the prophetic perfects would then show the certainty of punishment (Pss. 36:12; 132:17, Hos. 2:17). Still less are we to think of a place of judgment within man, of the conscience (Geier), although פחד means as well the anxiety before possible disaster, as terror on account of real disaster, and indeed both, in so far as they are made by God to impend over them as punishment for sin. The context demands the latter interpretation. The juxtaposition of the same word as noun and verb (so also Isa. 24:7)=frighten a fright, is so much the more picturesque as this word, Prov. 2:26, 3:25; comp. 6:15, has the secondary idea of suddenly and unexpectedly. The Psalmist refers to the Divine punishment historically fulfilled (Hupf., only too narrowly to the occurrence at the Exodus from Egypt) in the closest connection with the description Psalm 14:2 sq., especially Psalm 14:4. שׁם is used with a similar general reference Job 35:12. Delitzsch translates: “There they shudder shuddering,” and explains: then when God will speak to them in His wrath, as Psalm 14:4 is adduced as from His mouth, then His word, which never fails of effect, thunders down upon that inhuman person who is without knowledge and conscience.
For God is in the generation of the righteous.—This gives the reason of the terrors of judgment which break in upon those who oppress and devour the people of God The contrast, that God is not with the ungodly (Clauss), is a matter of course, yet it is not here expressed. Moreover, the clause does not, as is generally supposed, make the historical fact prominent, that Jehovah dwelleth in the midst of His people, protects and governs them and brings about their complete victory over their enemies. In contrast with the thoughts of the fool, ver 1, he expresses the religious truth, that Elohim declares Himself on earth, in the generation of the righteous. The latter is likewise not a historical but an ethical idea, and does not coincide entirely with that of the people of Israel, among whom the righteous were present only as individuals (Gen. 7:1) by their generations (Gen. 6:9), yet who hinder the ruin of the whole and are the means of saving the people.
Str. VI. Psalm 14:6. You may shame the counsel of the oppressed; [in vain]—For Jehovah is his refuge.—The counsel, that is all the counsel which he had agreed upon with himself. Most interpreters think particularly of the plan proposed by him to deliver himself from his oppressors. The contents of his counsel might be given in the following members of the verse with “that” [A. V because] (Aben Ezra, Calvin, Stier, Hitzig). However, the translation “but” (Luther et al.) is inadmissible. But the preceding verb does not agree with this, whether we regard the imperfect as present or future, or, as is often the case, imperative. For כוֹש does not mean in the Hiphil, “to scoff” (the ancient interpreters), but “to cause to blush,” or actively “to disgrace.” If, therefore, we must translate “for,” it is necessary at the same time to suppose that the clause which states the cause has fallen out, and thus the former tristich has been shortened, or we must supply a short clause something like: to no purpose; or, in vain (Hupf., De Wette, Hengst., Delitzsch). Ewald translates: the design against the afflicted you will see to be in vain; previously he translated in your design with reference to the afflicted will you blush because, etc.
Str. VII. Psalm 14:7. Who will give out of Zion [A. V., O that—were come out of Zion]—What a contrast this expression makes with Psalm 14:2! And how clearly he shows that he does not refer to help against external violence of foreign enemies, by the Divine power, but to deliverance by demonstrations of grace in connection with the historical institutions of salvation. The question in the anxious prayer of the oppressed, containing the desire for redemption, presupposes that Jehovah dwells in Zion, and that His sanctuary is standing in Jerusalem, but at the same time it explains its approach with reference to a hindrance which is still to be set aside. Such a hindrance is not the external distance of the Psalmist from Jerusalem, say, during the rebellion of Absalom (Grotius), but his sins which were not yet entirely expiated. The shining forth of the Messianic thought in this passage is overlooked, for this reason especially, that, in the usual form of resolving the question in the optative: “O that He were come,” which is certainly possible (Ps. 55:7, Jer. 9:1), the person acting retires to the background before the deliverance which is desired and the time when it is longed for This is in direct contradiction to the text.
The universality and partial indefiniteness and breadth of the Messianic hope which is active here, leads to that former time, to which the other expression of the verse likewise refers. For Zion was indeed for all periods the consecrated place for the hope of Israel, whither believers, wherever they might be, turned their faces in prayer, according to 2 Kings 8:29, 44 This is likewise mentioned with emphasis Dan. 6:10, as a characteristic of the true faith of this prophet residing at Babylon. But no prophet ever expected or prayed for help from destroyed Zion. The prophets describe rather the gracious turning again of Jehovah to His penitent people in exile, His going with them and before them in leading them back to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the city and temple under His protection. The question before us, however, does not in the least resemble this. And what is there that compels us to think of the return from the captivity at Babylon? At least not the expression שׁוּב שְׁבוּת in itself or because it became afterwards the standing expression for this deliverance? This would be a pure petitio principii. For the same expression occurs already in Joel 3:1; Amos 9:14; Hos. 6:11 (7:1).12 Then it were much more natural to think of the time of the Assyrian calamity which fell upon the kingdom of Israel, on account of the deliverance out of Zion which is prayed for But this is prevented by the closing clause, in which Jacob=Israel is called upon to rejoice, but not Judah and Israel. But this expression does not at all mean merely: turning back from captivity in war, which then leads to the meaning of: bringing back prisoners of war, but it is used figuratively for the turning of an unhappy condition into a restoration to former prosperity in general, Ezek. 16:53, even in private affairs, Job 42:10. With the frequent use in the New Testament of the expressions: bonds, imprisonment, etc., in a figurative sense, the assertion that the figurative use of the above formula leads necessarily to a later origin, is so much the more arbitrary and unreasonable, as the abode in Egypt with its experience fell under the same point of view, Deut. 30:3 (Clauss, Stier). Already the more ancient interpreters have therefore, after the Rabbins, partly explained this passage as Messianic, partly understood it directly of the spiritual deliverance of the people of God, which then was applied to the deliverance of the Church from its Babylon or from its servitude in Egypt (Calv.). Even Hitzig refers the expression, which occurs likewise figuratively Jer. 30:18, at least to the turning away of misfortune. Hengst. finds expressed by the language, God’s gracious turning to the distress of His people, whilst he maintains the intransitive meaning of שׁוּב, as being the only allowable meaning (Beitr. II. 104). But the transitive meaning is made certain by Ps. 85:5; Neh. 2:2; beyond question by Ezek. 47:7. Hengst. has very properly taken back his previous view (Beitr. I. 142), that the closing verse is a later liturgical addition (Rosenm.). [Alexander: “The whole may be paraphrased as follows: ‘O that Jehovah, from His throne in Zion, would grant salvation to His people, by revisiting them in their captive, forsaken state, and that occasion of rejoicing might be thus afforded to the Church!’ ”—C. A. B.]
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The doctrine of the corruption of the human race and the help for it. This is the title given by Meyer after Luther, who gives it an appropriate periphrase in the song: Es spricht der Unweisen mund wohl. The denial of God does not always come upon the lips; yet it declares itself as an irreligious disposition in the corruption and worthlessness of a conduct which is worthy of abhorrence. It is not merely an idle or harmless play of thought, or a scientific investigation of the evidences proposed by scholars for the being of God. It is indeed a movement of thought, but that of a heart which has become foolish by turning away from God, Rom. 1:21; and it has to do not so much with the theoretical as with the practical reason. Therefore it makes the entire man unfit for good, and it is least of all an evidence of a sound and strong spirit.
2. Men of this kind may indeed regard themselves as wise, praise one another, and feel strong and safe in the world; but God knows, condemns, and rejects them and their doings, and He has long since declared to those who wait upon Him, how it stands with them, Rom. 1:22.They are condemned already, before they are cast out as reprobates.
3. Moreover God troubles Himself with those who do not trouble themselves about Him; He inquires after those who make no inquiry for Him; He is the invisible witness (Gen. 31:50) and the Judge, who cannot be bribed, of all their doings as well as the sins and thoughts of their hearts. But He brings forward the evidence of His being and His work, not theoretically, but practically as Judge, Avenger, and Saviour. His speaking is likewise an act; His revelation is history.
4. No man, however, should feel secure or raised above others. For by the history of revelation, that light has come into the world, which condemns the world (John 3:19), and discloses the individual as well as the whole race according to the Divine judgment, as lying in common corruption in consequence of their nature as children of Adam, in accordance with which that which is born of the flesh, bears in itself all the characters of the σάρξ (John 3:6).
5. The same light shows likewise that there is a righteous generation on earth. The recognition of this fact does not contradict the statement of the total corruption of the children of Adam, embracing all without exception. For the righteous generation consists not of a little band of men who have remained exempt from sin and its corruption, whom God somehow has overlooked, when He looked about, because they stood in a corner, or because they are not brought into consideration on account of their small number in comparison with the awful corruption of the masses. To this class belong rather those men in the midst of the generation of the children of Adam, who have been born again as children of God of incorruptible seed, who by this change of their inborn nature form a peculiar class in the midst of the generation of men, and afford the seed of regeneration for the entire people.
6. It is one and the same God, the holy God of revelation, who has made known from heaven, by the mouth of His prophets, the actual result of His investigation of the children of men, as a warning, and has called our attention by them, with so much earnestness to the actual answer which He gives by His life and work, in the generation of the righteous on earth, to the ungodly, who as fools do not trouble themselves with His works and deny His being and life.
7. There is moreover no reason here to diminish by any limitation the weight of the declaration respecting the extent, depth, and punishableness of human corruption. “He says at first all, then together, thirdly, there is likewise ‘not a single’ one.” Luther. The judgment respecting the condition of man is not an exaggeration, which easily escapes from the bitterness of the lamentation and feelings; and as a poetical figure to be reckoned to the account of the poet. The poet, who speaks here, is not fanciful, he is not so much a poet as a prophet. Therefore his description is not the gloomy reflection of a gloomy disposition, the night idea of a darkened contemplation of the world, but it has the value of a declaration of revelation, whether it bases itself on previous testimonies of Scripture, or is to be directly referred to the enlightenment by the Spirit of God.
8. All fools are indeed sinners, but all sinners are not such fools that they deny the being of God. His judgment and revelation, or regard them as of no account. And many who previously did this, have repented when they experienced what this all meant. They have first been terrified when they have not expected it. There is however not only a terror unto death under the storms of Divine wrath, so also not only the impending terror of the last judgment; there is likewise a terror unto repentance, by which the sinner is awakened unto life. This happens particularly, when the ungodly, who previously have not cared for the Divine agency, are surprised by the victorious word, and the overpowering act coming forth from the generation of the righteous.
9. The ungodly as such eat up the people of God. They use them as far as they can to make room for themselves in the world. Whatever does not readily applaud them, is regarded as a booty given over to them. For they do not inquire after God, and the destruction of His people is as natural to them, as much in accordance with their wishes, and as much a matter of course, as the eating of their daily bread. It is true that there is in history a provision for the people of God; but where does such an one exist, which is able to realize its Divine destiny of being a holy people? Therefore evil doers think that they are justified and entitled to carry on their work of destruction. But so long as the members of the “generation of the righteous,” be they few or many, are in one people, the Lord does not suffer it to be destroyed, but brings His terror over the enemies of Himself and His children.
10. But all those who are oppressed must take refuge with the Lord if they would attain salvation. For the resolutions, projects, plans, and devices of the individual, even the best of them, may be brought to shame by the violence of evil doers; not so God’s resolutions and undertakings. He who trusts, hopes, and waits on these will not be ashamed. The world moreover can no more prevent the prayer from pressing up into the heart of God, than it can prevent the flow of Divine consolations and refreshment into the soul of the oppressed, if these truly turn from the world to God.
11. But the relation between God and the soul may be very different from this. And the last to forget it is the prayerful sufferer, whose lips have testified respecting the universal corruption of the children of men, and have confessed the communion of God with the generation of the righteous. He is able to rejoice that his people before all others has received the historical call to be the people of God, and that there are sanctuaries and Divine services in the congregation; but his soul is troubled, because even among his people no generation has ever fulfilled its destiny so as to be a righteous generation; and that the history of His people is rather a constant witness of its apostasy from God, who turned towards them ever with new revelations, and that this repeated itself in every generation. And although he may sigh, that his people have fallen into afflictions and trouble through Divine judgment, yet he experiences the severest affliction in the burden of guilt, and the worst servitude under the dominion of sin.
12. Moreover true deliverance cannot consist in a change of external relations. Therefore a turning to the institutions of salvation established by God, and the desire for the means of grace ordained by God is the sign of the beginning of a turning towards salvation. But salvation itself comes only when the Saviour comes, who brings the acceptable time of the gracious turning of God to redemption. Before His coming there is nothing but inquiry, sighing, longing, and among believers, hope in the gospel and its joys.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Denial of God is a folly, but of a dangerous character.—Whatever fills the heart expresses itself in the life even without words.—God Himself conducts the actual proof of His own being by acts of judgment and demonstrations of grace which run through the whole of history to warn and to comfort.—Inborn corruption and inherited guilt do not excuse the sinner, but rather set in a dreadful light the consequences of apostasy from God.—He who does not believe in God cares not for men.—In the corrupt world there are many people who are lost, yet there is likewise a righteous generation, in which God lives, works, and condemns the workers of iniquity.—At times those who deny God and the workers of iniquity are greatly frightened when they perceive the revelations of the Divine life in the generation of the righteous, but they seldom change their disposition or improve their conduct, no more than they do after the experience of the mighty deeds and judgments of the Almighty.—There is a salutary and a wicked terror on account of the Divine revelations of judgment; the former leads to desire for deliverance from the servitude of sin; the latter begets stubbornness towards Divine and human justice.—The deliverance of the race of man, fallen in Adam, from universal and entire ruin, is prepared by the institutions of grace which God has established in Israel, but even in the people of Israel it is expected in the future.
STARKE: Human corruption is so deep and unfathomable that many believe in no God or deny His providence and government.—He who does not inquire after God from the heart, as the only source of all good, still remains in the old nature, and lies under the curse and wrath of God. For to be wise and to inquire after God are here together.—Behold thyself in this mirror, O man, as often as pharisaical pride attacks thee; but what does it matter, the proud peacock’s feathers will soon bend to the earth.—The blessed fruit of redemption is spiritual, heavenly, and eternal joy; here in foretaste, there in perfection.
OSIANDER: This is the difference among men that although we are all sinners by nature, yet some are justified by faith and endowed with the Holy Spirit, and serve God in faith, whilst others remain ungodly.—FRANKE: We must observe principally two things: firstly, our misery, in which we all lie by nature; secondly, the grace which is bestowed upon us in Christ Jesus our Saviour.—FRISCH: The reason of all evil is natural blindness and folly; thence arises doubt of the Divine government and providence; and then man falls into security, so that he lives therein, as if there were no God in heaven.—God must be sought as the highest good which has been lost by sin.—If the heart has departed from God it has departed from blessing, and lies under the curse; it has departed from light and lies in darkness; it has departed from life and lies in death; it has departed from heaven and belongs in hell.—STILLER: Sin not only passes upon all men, but likewise passes through the entire man.—DIEDRICH: If we live in God, we look upon all things from God’s point of view, and, looking from Him, regard this world as entirely different from what it usually appears.
[MATTH. HENRY: If we apply our hearts as Solomon did, Ecc. 7:26, “to search out the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness,” these verses will assist us in the search, and will show us sin exceeding sinful. Sin is the disease of mankind, and it appears here to be malignant and epidemical.—Those that banter religion and religious people, will find to their cost, it is ill jesting with edged tools, and dangerous persecuting those that make God their refuge.—BARNES: As a matter of fact, the belief that there is no God is commonly founded on the desire to lead a wicked life; or, the opinion that there is no God is embraced by those who in fact lead such a life, with a desire to sustain themselves in their depravity, and to avoid the fear of future retribution,—SPURGEON: The Atheist is the fool pre-eminently, and a fool universally. He would not deny God if he were not a fool by nature, and having denied God it is no marvel that he becomes a fool in practice. Sin is always folly, and as it is the height of sin to attack the very existence of the Most High, so is it also the greatest imaginable folly. To say there is no God is to belie the plainest evidence, which is obstinacy; to oppose the common consent of mankind, which is stupidity; to stifle consciousness, which is wickedness.—C. A. B.]
[Perowne: “The singer, keenly alive to the evils of his time, sees everything in the blackest colors. The apostasy is so wide-spread that all are involved in it, except the small remnant (implied in Psalm 14:4); and the world seems again ripe for judgment as in the days of Noah (Psalm 14:2). Both in this Psalm and in Psalm 12 the complaint is made that the wicked oppress and devour the righteous. In both, corruption has risen to its most gigantic height, but here the doings of bad men, there their words, form the chief subject of complaint.”—C. A. B.]
[That there should be two Psalms in the collection so similar as Psalms 14 and 53 is in itself remarkable. The deviations, few though they are, are likewise remarkable. Were it not for Psalm 14:7 of Ps. 14 the Davidic authorship would be unquestionable. And it seems more natural to apply this expression to the longing of the exiles at Babylon (Ewald, De Wette, Hupf., et al.). It might be a later liturgical addition, so far as Ps. 14 is concerned, or rather the original Ps. 14:1–6 was, by a few alterations and additions, adapted to the circumstances of the exile, and given as Ps. 53, and very naturally at a later period, Ps. 14 was assimilated by the addition of Psalm 14:7. The Psalm is complete in itself certainly without Psalm 14:7. This would account for the title of both Psalms, ascribed to David, and used in the temple worship; and at the same time for the occurrence of the same Psalm twice in the collection.”—C. A. B.]
[Perowne: “They are those whose understanding is darkened; who, professing themselves to be wise, became fools. Such men, who make a boast of their reason, and would fain walk by the light of their reason, prove how little their reason is worth. The epithet is the more cutting, because persons of this kind generally lay claim to more than ordinary discernment.” Barnes: “It is designed to convey the idea that wickedness or impiety is essentially folly, or to use a term in describing the wicked which will, perhaps more than any other, make the mind averse to the sin—for there is many a man who would see more in the word fool to be hated than in the word wicked; who would rather be called a sinner than a fool.”—C. A. B.]
[In each of these passages, however, the reference is to the exile foretold by these prophets, a return from which was conditioned on repentance.—C. A. B.]
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.