Matthew Poole's Commentary
To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David. Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.The chief musician; the master or director of the sacred musicians and music of the temple; of whom see 1 Chronicles 6:31 15:16,17 25:1,2 2 Chronicles 20:21 34:12,13. Heb. To him that overcometh, or excelleth, or triumpheth, to wit, in his profession of music.
On Neginoth; or, on stringed instruments, as this word is translated, Habakkuk 3:19; for the Hebrew verb niggen, whence this is derived, signifies to play with the hand upon an instrument, 1 Samuel 16:23 18:10. This Psalm is, for the matter or substance of it, much like the former, and seems to have been made upon the same or some other like occasion, when he was distressed either by Absalom, or by Saul, or by some other great and powerful enemies.
David prayeth for audience, Psalm 4:1. He reproves the wicked, Psalm 4:2. The privilege of the godly, and his faith in God, Psalm 4:3. An exhortation to duty, Psalm 4:4,5. The ungodly satisfied with earthly blessings, but the godly cannot be at rest without the favour of God, Psalm 4:6-8.
O God of my righteousness; either the witness and defender of my righteous cause; or from whom I expect that righteous judgment and decision of my cause which I cannot obtain from mine enemies, who load me and my cause with manifold injuries and calumnies. Or, O my righteous God. Or, O God of my mercy; which title is given to God elsewhere, as Psalm 59:10,17; whereas this title, O God of my righteousness, is not given to God in any other place of Scripture. O God, to whose mercy I owe all that I have or hope for: which was a very fit and powerful argument in prayer, and very agreeable to the following words, in which there is an acknowledgment of God’s former mercies, and a petition for mercy. And so this and other words in Hebrew and Greek, which properly signify righteousness, are oft used for mercy or kindness, as Isaiah 58:8 Psalm 31:1 36:10 2 Corinthians 9:9, and in many other places.
Thou hast enlarged me, i.e. freed me from my former straits and troubles. So he urgeth God and strengtheneth his own faith with his former experiences.
Have mercy upon me; thou mayst justly destroy me for my many and great sins, and therefore I flee from thy justice to thy mercy, on which all my hopes are grounded.
O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.O ye sons of men, i.e. princes and potentates, as this Hebrew phrase seems and is thought to signify, who are engaged with Saul or Absalom against me.
Will ye turn my glory into shame? or, shall my glory be for a shame, i.e. be made by you matter of reproach and scorn? By his glory probably he means that high honour and royal majesty which God had either promised to him, or conferred upon him; wherein, when he was in great straits and dangers, they might possibly reproach him in some sort as this: Is this the man, whom God so highly loves, and honours, and will exalt, who now flees from one mountain or cave to another, who runs away to the Philistines, whom his own son hath banished out of the land? Is this the effect of his glorying and boasting of God’s favour and promises?
Love vanity, i.e. affect and pursue these courses and designs of opposing me and my kingdom, which you will certainly find to be vain, and to no purpose.
Leasing or, lying; the same thing with vanity; these two words being promiscuously used, as Psalm 62:9. Only this seems to add some emphasis, and to intimate the fair hopes and promising probabilities of success which they had, and which aggravate their disappointment. Or by lying he may design those horrid calumnies, which the partisans either of Saul or Absalom had raised against him, and which they joined with their other endeavours to make him odious to all the people, and so the better to effect his ruin.
But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.But know that you fight not against me, but against the Lord.
Hath set apart; or, hath wonderfully separated me; hath rejected the other royal person and family, and hath called me by name, and chosen me out of all the tribes and families of Israel, and out of my father’s family, though I was the youngest of them, and thought by Samuel and by my father to be most remote from this honour.
Him that is godly, i.e. me, whom though you traduce and censure, as if I were an egregious hypocrite and impostor, who only pretended religion for my own ambitious ends, God hath pronounced to be a man after his own heart, 1 Samuel 13:14; and that I am such in some good measure both my own conscience and the general course of my life bear me witness: which testimony David gives to himself, not out of a vain-glorious humour, but merely because he was constrained to it by the calumnies of his enemies, for his own just and necessary vindication. Or, his favourite, as this word oft signifies; him, whom he hath been pleased to choose and advance, not for any worth or merit of mine, but out of his free grace and kindness to me; who therefore will maintain the work of his own hands and grace, although I cannot deny that I have been guilty of divers frailties and miscarriages, for which God might justly reject me, if he should deal with me according to the rigours of his justice.
For himself; either,
1. In his stead, or to be his vicegerent, as all kings are, and especially the kings of God’s own people. Or rather,
2. For his own service and glory, to fulfil all his will, as it is expressed, Acts 13:22; which may be spoken by way of opposition to Saul, who had no regard to God, nor to his will and glory, but minded only his own honour and advantage.
The Lord will hear when I call unto him; therefore I am assured that God will hear my prayers, and save me out of your hands.
Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.Tremble therefore and be afraid, if not of me, yet at least of God, who hath engaged himself in my cause or quarrel, and will be an adversary to my adversaries. Or, be angry, as this word is here rendered by all the ancient and some modern translators, and, as it is thought, by the apostle, Ephesians 4:26. Or, are you angry? for it may be taken interrogatively. Admit you be angry or displeased that God hath preferred me, an obscure person, and of a mean family, before so many noble and mighty men; yet, or but, (as it follows,)
sin not, i.e. do not so far indulge your anger as to break forth into murmuring against God, or rebellion against me; but seasonably suppress and mortify your unadvised and sinful passion, lest it break forth to your own ruin. This Hebrew word signifies in general a vehement commotion of the mind or heart, whether through grief, as 2 Samuel 18:33; or fear, as Exodus 15:14 Deu 2:25; or anger, as Genesis 45:24 2 Kings 19:27,28 Pr 29:9 Ezekiel 16:42.
And sin not, by cherishing and prosecuting your anger and malice against me, and your rebellion against God’s authority.
Commune with your own heart upon your bed; calmly and deeply consider these things in your own breasts in the silent night, when you are at leisure from the crowd of distracting business, and free from the company of crafty and daubing parasites.
And be still; either,
1. As to your outward actions; for this verb oft signifies a cessation of actions, as Joshua 10:13 Job 20:27. Proceed no further in your wicked speeches and contrivances against me. Or rather,
2. As to your inward passions. Compose your tumultuous minds; as this verb is used, Psalm 37:7 62:2 137:2. Suppress your anger and rage, which though directed against me only, yet is indeed against God, and against his counsel and providence.
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.Offer, to wit, unto God, that he may be reconciled to you, and may pardon all your murmurings and insurrections against him and against me. For it seems plain that this, as well as the former verse, is spoken not to David’s friends and favourers, as some think, but to his enemies, even to those sons of men, Psalm 4:2, to whom he directeth his speech, Psalm 4:3, but know, and, Psalm 4:4, stand in awe and here offer: The sacrifices of righteousness, i.e. righteous sacrifices; which requires that the persons offering them be righteous, and do righteous things, and offer them with an honest mind, and with faith (as it follows) and true repentance; without which he intimates that all their sacrifices were of no esteem with God, and would be wholly unprofitable to them. And withal, it is probable that he reflects upon the followers of Saul or of Absalom, who had the only place of sacrifice in their possession, whilst David was debarred of the opportunity of sacrificing, as he complains, 1 Samuel 26:19; and accordingly they gloried in their sacrifices, and upon that account promised themselves success against David, who was by God’s providence deprived of the opportunities of reconciling and engaging God by sacrifices.
And put your trust in the Lord; and then, i.e. so doing, you may rely upon God, and confidently expect his assistance, which otherwise it is in vain for you to hope for. Withal, he seems to reflect upon his enemies, who trusted to an arm of flesh, to their own great numbers and power, and to intimate what his course was, to wit, to trust in the Lord.
There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.There be many; either,
1. Of my own followers, who are weary of waiting upon God, and ready to despair. Or rather,
2. Of mine enemies, and of the body of the people, who were either engaged against him, or at least unconcerned for him, and sought only their own case and advantage.
Who will show us, Heb. make or give us to see, i.e. to enjoy, as this phrase is frequently used, as Psalm 27:13 34:12 Ecclesiastes 2:1 3:13.
Any good, i.e. worldly good, as appears by the opposition of
the light of God’s countenance to it in the next words, and by the explication of it of corn and wine in the next verse. i.e. Who will put an end to our present broils and troubles, and give us that tranquillity and outward happiness which is the only thing that we desire. Withal, he may seem to intimate the reason and motive which induced so many persons to take part against him, which was their eager desire of honour or worldly advantage, which they promised to themselves by appearing against David: see 1 Samuel 22:7.
Upon us, i.e. upon me and my friends. Give us assurance of thy love and favour to us, and evidence it to us by thy powerful and gracious assistance.
Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.Whatsoever thou shalt do with me for the future, as to my outward distresses and concernments, I have at present unspeakable pleasure and full satisfaction in the impressions and testimonies of thy love in and to my soul; whereby also I am encouraged with confidence to expect good success to my righteous cause.
Than in the time that their corn and their wine increased; than worldly persons have in the time of a plentiful harvest, which is a time of great rejoicing, Judges 9:27 Isaiah 9:3 Jeremiah 48:33.
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.Both: this word relates to the two following verbs; as soon as I am laid down, I will quietly compose myself to sleep; whereas many lie down upon their beds, and cannot sleep through distracting cares or troubles. Or, in like manner, i.e. as they do who have abundance of corn and wine, of whom he last spoke, Luke 12:19. In peace; either,
1. In outward peace or safety, as the next clause explains it. Or,
2. In inward peace or tranquillity of mind, as Luke 2:29, resting securely upon God’s promises, and the conduct of his wise and gracious providence.
Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety; I owe not my safety to my own valour or wisdom, nor to the courage of my followers, but to thee only. Or, thou, Lord, makest me to dwell alone in safety; either,
1. Alone, or apart from mine enemies: compare Deu 33:28. Or rather,
2. Though I be in a manner alone, i.e. forsaken and destitute of friends or helpers, as that word is used, Psalm 112:7 Lamentations 1:1.