Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not on the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge?—i.e., are they so senseless as not to perceive the consequences of their wrong-doing? or if we point the verb as the LXX. and Vulg., “shall they not know?” i.e., they are sure to find out to what their wickedness is leading them.
Who eat up.—Literally, eating my people, they have eaten bread; on Jehovah they have not called, which is usually explained, as in Authorised Version, “to devour God’s people has been as usual and as regular as the daily meal.” Another rendering is “whilst eating my people they have eaten bread, regardless of Jehovah,” i.e., they have gone on in their security eating and drinking, with no thought of the vengeance preparing for them by the God of the oppressed race. Some, however, prefer to divide the two clauses, “Ah, they shall see—all the workers of iniquity who eat my people—they eat bread (i.e., live) regardless of Jehovah.” This makes a better parallelism. A comparison with Micah 3:3-4, suggests that this verse of the psalm was a proverbial saying. (For the image, comp. Jeremiah 10:25; and Homer’s “people-devouring kings.”)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!
(a) that they have no knowledge of God;
(b) that they find pleasure in the errors and imperfections of the people of God - sustaining themselves in their own wickedness by the fact that the professed friends of God are inconsistent in their lives; and
(c) that they do not call on the name of the Lord, or that they offer no worship to him.
The whole verse might have been, and should have been put in the form of a question. The first statement implied in the question is, that they have "no knowledge." This can be regarded as a proof of guilt only
(1) as they have opportunities of obtaining knowledge;
(2) as they neglect to improve those opportunities, and remain in voluntary ignorance; and
(3) as they do this from a design to practice wickedness.
See this argument stated at length by the apostle Paul in Romans 1:19-28. Compare the note at that passage. This proof of human depravity is everywhere manifested still in the world - in the fact that men have the opportunities of gaining the knowledge of God if they chose to do it; in the fact that they voluntarily neglect those opportunities; and in the fact that the reason of this is that they love iniquity.
Who eat up my people as they eat bread - They sustain themselves in their own course of life by the imperfections of the people of God. That is, they make use of their inconsistencies to confirm themselves in the belief that there is no God. They argue that a religion which produces no better fruits than what is seen in the lives of its professed friends can be of no value, or cannot be genuine; that if a professed belief in God produces no happier results than are found in their lives, it could be of no advantage to worship God; that they are themselves as good as those are who profess to be religious, and that, therefore, there can be no evidence from the lives of the professed friends of God that religion is either true or of any value. No inconsiderable part of the evidence in favor of religion, it is intended, shall be derived from the lives of its friends; and when that evidence is not furnished, of course no small part of the proof of its reality and value is lost. Hence, so much importance is attached everywhere in the Bible to the necessity of a consistent life on the part of the professed friends of religion. Compare Isaiah 43:10. The words "my people" here are properly to be regarded as the words of the psalmist, identifying himself with the people of God, and speaking of them thus as "his own people." Thus one speaks of his own family or his own friends. Compare Ruth 1:16. Or this may be spoken by David, considered as the head or ruler of the nation, and he may thus speak of the people of God as his people. The connection does not allow of the construction which would refer the words to God.
And call not upon the Lord - They do not worship Yahweh. They give this evidence of wickedness that they do not pray; that they do not invoke the blessing of their Maker; that they do not publicly acknowledge him as God. It is remarkable that this is placed as the last or the crowning thing in the evidence of their depravity; and if rightly considered, it is so. To one who should look at things as they are; to one who sees all the claims and obligations which rest upon mankind; to one who appreciates his own guilt, his dependance, and his exposure to death and woe; to one who understands aright why man was made - there can be no more striking proof of human depravity than in the fact that a man in no way acknowledges his Maker - that he renders him no homage - that he never supplicates his favor - never deprecates his wrath - that, amidst the trials, the temptations, the perils of life, he endeavors to make his way through the world "as if there were no God." The highest crime that Gabriel could commit would be to renounce all allegiance to his Maker, and henceforward to live as if there were no God. All other iniquities that he might commit would spring out of that, and would be secondary to that. The great sin of man consists in renouncing God, and attempting to live as if there were no Supreme Being to whom he owes allegiance. All other sins spring out of that, and are subordinate to it.
Hatred of God and corruptness of life are the motive forces which produce persecution. Men who having no saving knowledge of divine things, enslave themselves to become workers of iniquity, have no heart to cry to the Lord for deliverance, but seek to amuse themselves with devouring the poor and despised people of God. It is hard bondage to be a "worker of iniquity;" a worker at the galleys, or in the mines of Siberia, is not more truly degraded and wretched; the toil is hard and the reward dreadful; those who have no knowledge choose such slavery, but those who are taught of God cry to be rescued from it. The same ignorance which keeps men bondsmen to evil, makes them hate the freeborn sons of God; hence they seek to eat them up "as they eat bread," - daily, ravenously, as though it were an ordinary, usual, every day matter to oppress the saints of God. As pikes in a pond eat up little fish, as eagles prey on smaller birds, as wolves rend the sheep of the pasture, so sinners naturally and as a matter of course persecute, malign, and mock the followers of the Lord Jesus. While thus preying, they forswear all praying, and in this act consistently, for how could they hope to be heard while their hands are full of blood?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. Romans 9:21. Do not they know that there is a God? and that they are accountable to him for their actions? Verily they do: for this is said, not of sinners of the Gentiles; though even they, by the light of nature, know there is a God, and show the work of the law written in their hearts; and have a consciousness in them of good and evil; but of sinners in Zion, of the profligate part of mankind among the Jews, who had a divine revelation, by which they knew the one God of Israel; and a law, by which was the knowledge of sin, and whose sanctions were rewards and punishments. And it seems to design the chief among them, who had power over others, to eat them up and devour them; even their political and ecclesiastical governors see Micah 3:1, who, though they had no spiritual understanding, nor experimental knowledge of things, yet had a theoretical and speculative one; so that their sins were attended with this aggravation, that they were against light and knowledge, particularly what follows:
who eat up my people as they eat bread: not David's people, but the Lord's people: see Psalm 14:2; whom he chose for his people, who were his covenant people, and who professed his name, and were called by it; these the workers of iniquity ate up, devoured, and consumed; see Jeremiah 10:25; by reproaching and persecuting them, doing injury to their persons, property, and character: they devoured their persons, by using them cruelly and putting them to death; they devoured their substance, by spoiling them of it, and converting it to their own use, as the Pharisees are said to devour widows' houses and they destroyed their good names and characters with their devouring words: and this they did with as much ease, delight, and pleasure, and without any remorse of conscience, and as constantly, as a man eats his bread. Or the words may be rendered, "they eat up my people, they eat bread"; that is, though they act such a wicked and cruel part, yet they have bread to eat, and fulness of it; they are not in straits, nor afflicted and punished; and because they are not, they are hardened in their impiety and iniquity: or "they eat bread", after they have persecuted and devoured the Lord's people, with peace of mind, without remorse of conscience, as if they had done no iniquity, like the adulterous woman in Proverbs 30:20;
and call not upon the Lord; or pray to him, or serve and worship him; for invocation includes the whole worship of God; and this they do not, though they know him, and are daily supplied by him, and eat his bread. Some read this clause with the former, "they eat bread, and call not on the Lord"; as if their sin was, that when they eat bread, they did not ask a blessing upon it, nor return thanks to God for it, which ought to be done; but the accent "athnach" under "bread", will not admit of this sense, though it seems to be countenanced by the Targum.Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. Jehovah Himself speaks. The first clause may be taken as in A.V., ‘Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge?’ Are they so ignorant that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong? Cp. Psalm 14:2 and Psalm 82:5. But a much better connexion with Psalm 14:5 is gained by rendering, Were not all the workers of iniquity made to know? (or, following the ancient versions in a change of the vocalisation, shall not … be made to know?) i.e. taught by sharp experience to know their error. Then Psalm 14:5 follows as the answer to the question. ‘Yes, indeed! there &c.’ For this pregnant sense of know, cp. Hosea 9:7; Jdg 8:16 (taught, lit. made to know).
who eat up &c.] Lit. eating my people they eat bread. The A.V. follows the ancient versions in understanding this to mean, ‘they devour my people as naturally as they take their daily food.’ But the words seem rather to mean, ‘they live by devouring my people.’ Cp. Micah 3:1-3; Isaiah 3:14 f. And this they do without regard to Jehovah.
But who are meant by my people and the workers of iniquity? Possibly the godly few who alone deserve the name of Jehovah’s people (Micah 2:9; Micah 3:3; Micah 3:5; and often in the prophets), and the nobles who oppress them. But it is more natural to explain ‘my people’ of the nation of Israel; and in this case ‘the workers of iniquity’ must be foreign oppressors, or, if we assume a reference to past history as in Psalm 14:1-3, the Egyptians. In favour of this view it should be noted that Israel is constantly called ‘my people’ in Exodus 3-10; and the last clause of the verse is illustrated by Exodus 5:2. Cp. also Jeremiah 2:3.
4–6. The corruption of men exemplified in their oppression of Jehovah’s people. Its condign punishment.Verse 4. - Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? The exclamation is put in the mouth of God. Can it be possible that none of these evil-doers is aware of the results of evil-doing? Do they think to escape Divine retribution? The "wonder expresses the magnitude of their folly" (Hengstenberg). Who eat up my people as they eat bread. Reducing men to poverty, robbing them, and devouring their substance, is called, in Scripture, devouring the men themselves (see Proverbs 30:14; Isaiah 3:14; Micah 3:3). Those who are plundered and despoiled are compared to "bread" in Numbers 14:2. The Homeric δημοβόρος βασιλεὺς, adduced by Dr. Kay, is an instance of the same metaphor. And call not upon the Lord. This might have seemed scarcely to need mention, since "how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?" (Romans 10:14). But it connects them definitely with the atheists of ver. 1. Isaiah 63:15). In contrast to his being in perplexity what course to take and unable to help himself, he prays: ענני, answer me, who cry for help, viz., by the fulfilment of my prayer as a real, actual answer. In contrast to the triumphing of his foe: האירה עיני, in order that the triumph of his enemy may not be made complete by his dying. To lighten the eyes that are dimmed with sorrow and ready to break, is equivalent to, to impart new life (Ezra 9:8), which is reflected in the fresh clear brightness of the eye (1 Samuel 14:27, 1 Samuel 14:29). The lightening light, to which האיר points, is the light of love beaming from the divine countenance, Psalm 31:17. Light, love, and life are closely allied notions in the Scriptures. He, upon whom God looks down in love, continues in life, new powers of life are imparted to him, it is not his lot to sleep the death, i.e., the sleep of death, Jeremiah 51:39, Jeremiah 51:57, cf. Psalm 76:6. המּות is the accusative of effect or sequence: to sleep so that the sleep becomes death (lxx εἰς θάνατον), Ew. 281, e. Such is the light of life for which he prays, in order that his foe may not be able at last to say יכלתּיו (with accusative object, as in Jeremiah 38:5) equals יכלתּי לו, Psalm 129:2, Genesis 32:26, I am able for him, a match for him, I am superior to him, have gained the mastery over him. כּי, on account of the future which follows, had better be taken as temporal (quum) than as expressing the reason (quod), cf. בּמוט רגלי, Psalm 38:17.
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