Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.The design of this Psalm is to describe and bewail the terrible wickedness and corruption of mankind, and especially of ungodly men, and of his own enemies.
David showeth the atheism and corruption of men, Psalm 14:1-3. He convinceth the wicked by the light of conscience, Psalm 14:4-6; and longeth for the salvation of God, Psalm 14:7.
The fool, i.e. the wicked man; for such are commonly and justly called fools every where in Scripture, and that purposely to meet with their false, yet, common, conceit of themselves, as if they were the only wise men, and all others were fools.
In his heart, i.e. in his secret thoughts, or within himself, being afraid and ashamed to utter it with his mouth. Not that it was his fixed and constant opinion and judgment, but this he saith by construction, because he heartily wisheth there were no God, and lives as if there were none. So this text may be explained by comparing it with Psalm 36:1 Titus 1:16. There is no God: he denies not God’s being or existence, but only his providence. He saith not, There is no Jehovah, which name of God notes his being; but no Elohim, which expresseth God as the Judge and Governor of the world, who observes and recompenseth all the actions of all men according to their several qualities.
They are corrupt, Heb. they have corrupted, to wit, themselves, or their ways, as this word commonly signifies. Their great and wilful wickedness is alleged as a ground of their atheism or infidelity.
There is none, to wit, of the fools here described,
that doeth good; none of their actions are really and thoroughly good or pleasing to God; for if some of them be materially good, as when they do an act of justice or charity, yet they are poisoned with bad principles or ends, not being performed by them out of a good conscience, and serious care to please God, for then they would do one good action as well as another, but in hypocrisy, or with vain-glory, or some 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.The Lord looked down from heaven, to search out the truth. God knoweth all things without any inquiry; but this is a figure called anthropopathia, whereby Scripture oft speaks of God after the manner of men.
Upon the children of men; upon the whole body of the Israelitish nation, and upon the generality of mankind under heaven; for he speaks of all except his people, and the righteous ones, who are here opposed to these, Psalm 14:4,5.
That did understand, and seek God; that did truly know God, to wit, so as to love, and fear, and trust, and obey him, (for all these are frequently signified in Scripture by this expression of knowing God) and that did diligently seek him, i.e. study his mind and will, that they might do it, and 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.Gone aside, to wit, from God, whom they should have sought, Psalm 14:2, and from the rule which he hath given them, and by which they sometimes professed and seemed to govern themselves. Or, are grown sour, as this word signifies, Hosea 4:18. And so this is a metaphor from corrupted drinks, as the next is taken from rotten meat.
Filthy, Heb. stinking i.e. loathsome and abominable to God, and to all wise and sober men.
Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.Have the workers of iniquity lost their wits? have they neither religion nor common discretion? either of which would teach them not to make themselves so hateful to the all-seeing and almighty God, and to all men. The words may be rendered thus, Do not all the workers of iniquity know it? So it is only an ellipsis of the pronoun, which is frequent, as I have showed before. Are they not conscious to themselves of the truth of what I say? I dare appeal to their own consciences. But this I propound with submission.
Who eat up; or, they eat up, i.e. devour and destroy, as this word signifies, Deu 7:16 Proverbs 30:14 Jeremiah 1:17 Nahum 3:15.
My people, i.e. the poor and godly Israelites, of whom he principally speaks; whom he calleth my people. Either,
1. God’s people, as they were in many respects; or rather,
2. David’s people; for David speaks both these words, and all the rest of this Psalm, in his own name and person. And David might well call them his people, either because they were his friends and favourers; or because he being anointed their king, they were consequently his people; or because he was now actually their king, and so they were actually his people; for some conceive that this Psalm was made in the time and upon the occasion of Absalom’s rebellion.
As they eat bread, i.e. with as little regret or remorse, and with as much greediness, and delight, and constancy too, as they use to eat their meat. The particle as is here understood, as it is Psalm 125:2 Proverbs 26:9, and in many other places.
Call not upon the Lord; they are guilty not only of gross injustice, and oppression towards men, but also of horrid impiety and contempt of God, whose providence they deny, and whose worship they wholly neglect and despise.
There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.There, i.e. in the place, or upon the spot, where they practised these insolences, God struck them with a panic fear. Or, then, i.e. in the height of their tyranny and prosperous impiety, when they seemed to have no cause for it. An adverb of place for an adverb of time, of which there want not examples in Scripture and other authors, as hath been noted before. Or, thence, as this particle is rendered, Genesis 2:10 49:24 Isaiah 65:20; i.e. from that time; or for that cause, as some take it, and it may be taken, Job 35:12 Psalm 36:12, i.e. for this their contempt of God and manifest injury to men.
In great fear, from their own guilty consciences, and the just expectation of Divine vengeance. Heb. they feared with fear, i.e. vehemently, where there was no cause of fear, as is here implied, (for they are now supposed to be in a state of power and tyranny,) as is expressed in the parallel place, Psalm 53:5. Or, they shall be greatly afraid, the past tense being put for the future prophetically.
For; for they remembered what a potent adversary they had, and therefore had cause enough to fear. Or, but, as this particle is taken, Genesis 45:8 Psalm 37:20 Ecclesiastes 2:10 6:2. So he describes the contrary and safe condition of the righteous. Or, when, as it oft signifies, and so it answers to the then in the beginning of the verse, when God shall once appear for his people, a dreadful horror shall seize upon their wicked enemies.
In the generation of the righteous, i.e. among them, with his gracious and powerful presence to defend them, and to fight against their enemies. Or, God is for, &c., as the Hebrew beth oft 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.Shamed, i.e. desired and endeavoured to bring it to shame, or disappoint it. Compare Psalm 6:10. Or, ye have reproached or derided it, as a foolish thing.
The counsel of the poor, i.e. the cause which he hath taken to defend himself, which is not by lying, and, flattery, and violence, and all manner of wickedness, which is your counsel and usual practice, but by trusting in God, and keeping his way, and calling upon his name.
Because; this was the ground of their contempt and scorn, that he lived by faith in God’s promise and providence. Or, but, as in the foregoing verse. So there seems to be an elegant and fit opposition. 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.Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! These words directly and immediately concern the deliverance of the people of Israel out of that sinful and deplorable estate in which they now were; which having described in the body of the Psalm, he concludes, after his manner, with a prayer to God to hear and help them out of Zion, where the ark then was, whence God used to hear and answer his people’s prayers. But ultimately and principally they design a further, even the spiritual, redemption and salvation of all God’s Israel by the Messias, as may appear by divers considerations:
1. That the ancient Jews did thus understand it, and among others Jonathan’s Targum or Paraphrase on the Bible expound it thus; I do not expect Gideon’s salvation, which was but corporeal, nor that of Samson—but the salvation of the Messias. With whom agrees the Targum of Jerusalem.
2. That the doctrine of Israel’s redemption or salvation by Christ was very well known, as to other ancient patriarchs, John 8:56 1 Peter 1:10-12, so particularly to David, of whom it is expressly said that he knew and foresaw this mystery, Acts 2:30,31, in whose Book of Psalms there are divers and very distinct and clear prophecies of it, as we have in part seen upon Psalm 2 Psa 8, and shall see more fully and evidently hereafter.
3. That David and other holy prophets, in the midst of their sad thoughts, and fears, and troubles, did usually comfort themselves with the promise and expectation of the Messias, by whom, and by whom alone, they should receive that plenary salvation for which they groaned; of which it is thought we have one instance, Genesis 49:18; but we have many unquestionable instances in the prophecy of Isaiah, as Isaiah 7:14 9:6, &c. And this course might be the more seasonable for David, because he speaks here of his troubles after he was settled in his kingdom, (as may be gathered from the mention of Zion, where the ark was not till that time,) and possibly of the sad and sinful state of his kingdom during Absalom’s rebellion; and therefore finding himself so strangely disappointed of that peace and happiness which he confidently expected when once he came to the kingdom, and wisely and justly presaging that his children and the following generations of Israelites for the same causes were likely to meet with the same or greater calamities than this, he wearieth himself with the expression of his belief and desire of the coming of the Messias to save his people.
4. To this also suits the mention of Zion, because the prophets knew and foretold that the Messias 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 2:6 110:2 Isaiah 2:3 59:20, compared with Romans 11:26, and in many other places.
5. The following words agree only to this time, wherein he speaks of bringing back the captivity of his people with the universal joy of all 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 Israel’s return from Babylon, when there was no such return of all Israel, but only of Judah and Benjamin, and some few of the other tribes, and the joy which the returning Israelites 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 they must belong to the times of the Messias, by whom this promise was fulfilled to the true Israel of God, who were brought back from that most real and dreadful, though spiritual, captivity of sin and Satan, as is declared, Luke 4:18 Ephesians 4:8, and 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 captivity of his people, i.e. his captive people; captivity being oft put for captives, as Deu 21:10 30:3 Psalm 126:1,4. Or, his people from captivity, of which see the former note. Jacob, i.e. the seed or children of Jacob, as Aaron is named for his sons, 1 Chronicles 12:27 27:17, and David for his sons, and the like.