Psalm 24:4
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
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(4) His soul.—The Hebrew margin is “my soul,” a reading confirmed by the Alexandrian Codex of the LXX. The Rabbis defend it by saying soul here = name (comp. Amos 6:8; Jeremiah 51:14), and to lift up to vanity = to take in vain.

Vanity.—Evidently, from the parallelism, in the sense of falsehood, as in Job 31:5.

Deceitfully.—Literally, to fraud, from a root meaning to trip up. The LXX. and Vulg. add (from Psalms 15) “to his neighbour.”

Psalm 24:4. He that hath clean hands — Whose actions and conversation are holy and unblameable. It is here very observable that the character of a right and acceptable worshipper of God is not taken from his nation and relation to Abraham; nor from any or all of those costly and laborious rites and ceremonies of the law in which the generality of the Israelites placed their confidence, but from moral and spiritual duties, which most of them grossly neglected. And a pure heart — Purged from hypocrisy, and corrupt desires and designs, and careful to approve itself to God, as well as men, ordering a man’s very thoughts, intentions, and affections, according to God’s word. This is fitly added, because a man may keep his hands clean, in a good measure, from mere worldly motives, and without any respect to God, and even with an evil design. Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity — Who doth not worship idols, often called vanities in Scripture, and who doth not value or desire the vain things of this life, such as honour, riches, pleasures; but who makes God his portion. And this, also, is very fitly mentioned as essential to the character of a truly good man, because, hereby he is distinguished from all carnal and ungodly men whatsoever, whose inseparable property it is, according to both the Old and New Testament, to love vanity, and to set their hearts chiefly upon the things of this world. Whereas good men are everywhere described to be such as seek their happiness in God, and prize and desire his favour and service infinitely more than all the enjoyments or this life; yea, even than life itself. Nor sworn deceitfully — Hebrew, למרמה, lemirmah, unto, or with deceit, that is, falsely, or with a purpose of deceiving others thereby. Under this negative the contrary affirmative is included, namely, that he is one who, when he is called to swear, doth swear in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, Jeremiah 4:2.

24:1-6 We ourselves are not our own; our bodies, our souls, are not. Even those of the children of men are God's, who know him not, nor own their relation to him. A soul that knows and considers its own nature, and that it must live for ever, when it has viewed the earth and the fulness thereof, will sit down unsatisfied. It will think of ascending toward God, and will ask, What shall I do, that I may abide in that happy, holy place, where he makes his people holy and happy? We make nothing of religion, if we do not make heart-work of it. We can only be cleansed from our sins, and renewed unto holiness, by the blood of Christ and the washing of the Holy Ghost. Thus we become his people; thus we receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of our salvation. God's peculiar people shall be made truly and for ever happy. Where God gives righteousness, he designs salvation. Those that are made meet for heaven, shall be brought safe to heaven, and will find what they have been seeking.He that hath clean hands - In the parallel passage in Psalm 15:2, the answer to the question is, "He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness." The sentiment is substantially the same there as in the passage before us. The meaning is, that he who would be recognized as a friend and worshipper of Yahweh must be an upright man; a person not living in the practice of iniquity, but striving always to do that which is right. The "hands" are the instruments by which we accomplish anything; and hence, to have clean hands is equivalent to being upright. See Job 17:9; Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 59:3; Acts 2:23; Psalm 26:10. The margin here, as the Hebrew, is "the clean of hands."

And a pure heart - Not merely the one whose external conduct is upright, but whose heart is pure. The great principle is here stated which enters always into true religion, that it does not consist in outward conformity to law, or to the mere performance of rites and ceremonies, or to external morality, but that it controls the heart, and produces purity of motive and of thought.

Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity - Unto that which is "vain," or which is "false." This expression might refer to one who had not devoted himself to the worship of an idol - regarded as vain, or as nothing 1 Corinthians 8:6; Isaiah 41:24; Psalm 115:4-8; or to one who had not embraced that which is false and vain in opinion; or to one who had not sworn falsely, or taken the name of God in vain, Exodus 20:7. The probable meaning is, that he has not set his heart on vain things, or that which is false. He has sought after substantial truth, alike in the object of worship, in that which he professes to believe, and in the statements and promises which he makes to others. He aims to secure that which is true and real. He is in no sense "carried away" with that which is unreal and false.

Nor sworn deceitfully - This is one form of that which had been just specified - his love of truth. The idea here is, that he has not affirmed under the solemnities of an oath, that which was false; and that he has not, under similar solemnities, promised what he has not performed. He is a sincere man; a man seeking after the true and the real, and not running after shadows and falsehood; a man true to God and to his fellow-creatures; a man whose statements are in accordance with facts, and whose promises may be always relied on. In the parallel passage, in Psalm 15:2, the statement is, "he that speaketh the truth in his heart." See the notes at that passage.

4. lifted up his soul—is to set the affections (Ps 25:1) on an object; here,

vanity—or, any false thing, of which swearing falsely, or to falsehood, is a specification.

Whose actions and conversations are holy and unblamable. It is here very observable, that the character of a right and acceptable worshipper of God is not taken from his nation and relation to Abraham, nor from all those costly and laborious rites and ceremonies of the law, in which the generality of the Israelites pleased themselves, but in moral and spiritual duties, which most of them grossly neglected.

A pure heart; purged from hypocrisy and inward filthiness, and careful to approve itself to God as well as to men, ordering a man’s very thoughts and affections according to God’s word. This is fitly added, because a man may keep his hands clean in good measure upon mere worldly motives, or with an evil design, or without any respect to God.

Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity; either,

1. Who doth not worship idols, which are oft called vanities in Scripture. Or,

2. Who doth not swear vainly or falsely, the phrase here being much the same with that in the third commandment, of taking God’s name in vain. But that seems to be a quite differing phrase, and the name of God there mentioned determines the sense of that general phrase to oaths, which without that addition, or something equivalent, is never to my knowledge used in Scripture in that sense. Nor do all those learned men who so expound this place give one instance of that signification of this phrase. And for their other argument for that sense, that this clause is conjoined with the next by the conjunction vau, and therefore is to be explained by it, it seems to have no weight, because thesameconjunctionjoinsthetwofirstcharacterstogether, and yet it is confessedthat cleanhands and a pureheart are two distinct and very differingthings. Orrather,

3. Who doth not immoderately value and affect, or ardently desire, (as this very phrase of lifting up the soul doth oft signify, as Deu 24:15 Psalm 25:1 Jeremiah 22:27 44:14 Ezekiel 24:25 Hosea 4:8) the vain things of this present life and world, such as honours, riches, pleasures, and the like, which are oft called vain things or vanities in Scripture, as Psalm 4:2 119:37 Ecclesiastes 1:2 12:8. And this is very fitly mentioned as a character of a truly goodman, because hereby he is distinguished from all ungodly men whatsoever, whose inseparable property this is, both in the Old and New Testament, noted to be, to love vanity, and to set their hearts chiefly upon the good things of this life, such as corn and wine, Psalm 4:2,6,7; and to have their portion in this life, Psalm 17:14; and to mind earthly things, Philippians 3:19; and to be friends of the world, Jam 4:4; and to love the world, and the things of the world, 1Jo 2:15. Whereas good men are every where described to be such as make God their portion, Psalm 16:5; and prize and desire his favour and service infinitely more than all the enjoyments of this life, yea, even than life itself, Job 23:12 Psalm 4:6,7 63:3 119:72; and such as are weaned from earthly things, Psalm 131:1,2; and have their affections set on things above, not on things of the earth, Colossians 3:2; and lay not uptheir treasure in earth, but in heaven, Matthew 6:19,20; all which is directly opposite to this lifting up the soul to vanity. Deceitfully, Heb. unto or with deceit, i.e. falsely, or with a purpose of deceiving or injuring others thereby. Under this negative the contrary affirmative is included, that he is one who, when he is called to swear, doth swear in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, Jeremiah 4:2.

He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart,.... Though "clean hands" are mentioned first, as being more obvious to view, and better known, and more subject to the cognizance and observation of others; yet a "pure heart" is first in being and in order; from whence cleanness of hands, when right and truth springs: no man has a pure heart naturally and of himself: the heart is desperately wicked; the imagination of the thoughts of it is evil continually; the mind and conscience are defiled with sin; nor can any man make his heart clean, or say he is pure from sin; but it is God that creates a clean heart, and renews a right spirit within men, and purifies the heart by faith, which is led to the blood of sprinkling, which purges the conscience, and cleanseth it from all sin; and from this purity of heart flows purity of life and conversation, signified by "clean hands"; the hand being the instrument of action, holy actions, or good works, performed from a principle of grace, are meant; the phrase is expressive of a holy, harmless, and innocent conversation, washing the hands being used to denote innocence, Matthew 27:24; not a conversation entirely free from sin, nor by which a man is justified before God; for though he wash his hands ever so clean, they will not be pure in his sight, and will need washing in the blood of the Lamb; but it denotes a conversation upright in general, and declares a man righteous in the sight of men, and distinguishes him from one of a dissolute life, whose hands are full of blood, and defiled with sin;

who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity; or "set his heart upon" (g), and desired vain things, as the phrase is sometimes used, Deuteronomy 24:15; that is, the vain things of this world; as the riches, honours, pleasures, and profits of it; or has not served other gods, the idols of the Gentiles, which are lying vanities, but has lifted up his soul to God, and served him only: or "who hath not received his soul in vain" (h); from the hands of God, but loves him with all his soul, believes with the heart in Christ for righteousness, being sanctified by the Spirit of God; and so the desire of his soul is to his name, and the remembrance of him. The "Keri", or marginal reading, according to the points, is, "who hath not lifted up my soul to vanity" (i); that is, has not taken the name of God in vain, or swore falsely by his name; his soul being put for his name or himself; and by which he is said sometimes to swear, Jeremiah 51:14; and this sense the Jewish interpreters (k) generally give into. The Targum seems to take in both the writing of the text and the marginal reading, as it often does, and renders the words, "who hath not sworn in vain, to the condemnation of his soul"; though sometimes to his own disadvantage, yet not to the hurt of others; see Psalm 15:4; it follows,

nor sworn deceitfully; by bearing false witness against any man; or by cheating him out of his substance through a false oath.

(g) "non inhiat, aut intentus est", Vatablus, Amama; so Gejerus, Michaelis. (h) So Pagninus. (i) "Animam meam", Montanus, Vatablus, Hillerus. (k) Jarchi, Aben Ezra, Kimchi, & Ben Melech in loc.

He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.
4. He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart] He who is innocent of violence and wrong-doing (Psalm 18:20; Psalm 18:24); nay, innocent even in thought and purpose as well as in deed. Cp. Psalm 73:1; Matthew 5:8.

Who hath not lift up his soul unto vanity] i.e. who is true and faithful to Jehovah. ‘To lift up the soul’ means to direct the mind towards (Psalm 25:1), to set the heart upon (Deuteronomy 24:15), to desire (Hosea 4:8). ‘Vanity’ denotes what is transitory (Job 15:31), false and unreal (Psalm 12:2), or sinful (Isaiah 5:18), and may even designate false gods (Psalm 31:6). It includes all that is unlike or opposed to the nature of God. The traditional reading (Qrç) however is, my soul (so too Cod. Alex. of the LXX.). This reading must be rendered, Who hath not taken me in vain. God speaks; and the words are an echo of Exodus 20:7, with my soul (= my being) substituted for my name. But this explanation is forced, and cannot be defended even by Amos 6:8, and Jeremiah 51:14, where God is said to swear ‘by His soul’ = by Himself.

nor sworn deceitfully] R.V., and hath not sworn deceitfully. The paraphrase of P.B.V., ‘nor sworn to deceive his neighbour,’ which follows the LXX and Vulg., gives the sense rightly. He has been true to his neighbour, as well as to God. Cp. Psalm 15:4.

Verse 4. - He that hath clean hands. He whose hands are free from acts of sin (comp. Psalm 15:2-5), and not only so, but he who hath also a pure heart, since the heart is the source of all evil (Matthew 15:19, 20), and wrongful words and wicked acts are the necessary results of the heart being impure. "God's demands upon his people," as Hengstenberg observes, "go beyond the domain of action. Those only see him - those only are fit to ascend into his hill - who have a pure heart." Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity; i.e. who has not lusted after vain and worthless things, whose desires are subdued, brought into captivity to the Law of God, and kept under strict control. This is really implied in purity of heart. Nor sworn deceitfully. False swearing is the worst - or, at any rate, one of the worst - sins of the tongue. The psalmist means to say that a man is not fit to draw near to God unless he is righteous in act, in thought, and in word. Psalm 24:4Jahve, whose throne of grace is now set upon Zion, has not a limited dominion, like the heathen deities: His right to sovereignty embraces the earth and its fulness (Psalm 50:12; Psalm 89:12), i.e., everything that is to be found upon it and in it.

(Note: In 1 Corinthians 10:26, Paul founds on this verse (cf. Psalm 50:12) the doctrine that a Christian (apart from a charitable regard for the weak) may eat whatever is sold in the shambles, without troubling himself to enquire whether it has been offered to idols or not. A Talmudic teacher, B. Berachoth 35a, infers from this passage the duty of prayer before meat: He who eats without giving thanks is like one who lays hands upon קדשׁי שׁמים (the sacred things of God); the right to eat is only obtained by prayer.)

For He, הוא, is the owner of the world, because its Creator. He has founded it upon seas, i.e., the ocean and its streams, נהרות, ῥέεθρα (Jonah 2:4); for the waters existed before the dry land, and this has been cast up out of them at God's word, so that consequently the solid land, - which indeed also conceals in its interior a תּהום רבּה (Genesis 7:11), - rising above the surface of the sea, has the waters, as it were, for its foundation (Psalm 136:6), although it would more readily sink down into them than keep itself above them, if it were not in itself upheld by the creative power of God. Hereupon arises the question, who may ascend the mountain of Jahve, and stand above in His holy place? The futures have a potential signification: who can have courage to do it? what, therefore, must he be, whom Jahve receives into His fellowship, and with whose worship He is well-pleased? Answer: he must be one innocent in his actions and pure in mind, one who does not lift up his soul to that which is vain (לשּׁוא, according to the Masora with Waw minusculum). (ל) נשׂא נפשׁ אל, to direct one's soul, Psalm 25:1, or longing and striving, towards anything, Deuteronomy 24:15; Proverbs 19:18; Hosea 4:8. The Ker נפשׁי is old and acknowledged by the oldest authorities.

(Note: The reading נפשׁי is adopted by Saadia (in Enumoth ii., where נפשׁי is equivalent to שׁמי), Juda ha-Levi (Cuzari iii. 27), Abulwalid (Rikma p. 180), Rashi, Kimchi, the Sohar, the Codices (and among others by that of the year 1294) and most editions (among which, the Complutensis has נפשׁי in the text). Nor does Aben-Ezra, whom Norzi has misunderstood, by any means reverse the relation of the Chethb and Ker; to him נפשׁי is the Ker, and he explains it as a metaphor (an anthropomorphism): וכתוב נפשי דוך כנוי. Elias Levita is the only one who rejects the Ker נפשׁי; but he does so though misunderstanding a Masora (vid., Baer's Psalterium p. 130) and not without admitting Masoretic testimony in favour of it (וכן ראיתי ברוב נוסחאות המסורת). He is the only textual critic who rejects it. For Jacob b. Chajim is merely astonished that נפשׁו is not to be found in the Masoreth register of words written with Waw and to be read with Jod. And even Norzi does not reject this Ker, which he is obliged to admit has greatly preponderating testimony in its favour, and he would only too gladly get rid of it.)

Even the lxx Cod. Alex. translates: τὴν ψυχὴν μου; whereas Cod. Vat. (Eus., Apollin., Theodor., et al.): τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ. Critically it is just as intangible, as it is exegetically incomprehensible; נפשׁי might then be equivalent to שׁמי. Exodus 20:7, an explanation, however, which does not seem possible even from Amos 6:8; Jeremiah 51:14. We let this Kerמ alone to its undisturbed critical rights. But that the poet did actually write thus, is incredible.

In Psalm 24:5 (just as at the close of Psalm 15:1-5), in continued predicates, we are told the character of the man, who is worthy of this privilege, to whom the question in Psalm 24:3 refers. Such an one shall bear away, or acquire (נשׁא, as e.g., Esther 2:17) blessing from Jahve and righteousness from the God of his salvation (Psalm 25:5; Psalm 27:9). Righteousness, i.e., conformity to God and that which is well-pleasing to God, appears here as a gift, and in this sense it is used interchangeably with ישׁע (e.g., Psalm 132:9, Psalm 132:16). It is the righteousness of God after which the righteous, but not the self-righteous, man hungers and thirsts; that moral perfection which is the likeness of God restored to him and at the same time brought about by his own endeavours; it is the being changed, or transfigured, into the image of the Holy One Himself. With Psalm 24:5 the answer to the question of Psalm 24:3 is at an end; Psalm 24:6 adds that those thus qualified, who may accordingly expect to receive God's gifts of salvation, are the true church of Jahve, the Israel of God. דּור (lit., a revolution, Arabic dahr, root דר, to turn, revolve) is used here, as in Psalm 14:5; Psalm 73:15; Psalm 112:2, of a collective whole, whose bond of union is not contemporaneousness, but similarity of disposition; and it is an alliteration with the דּרשׁיו (Chethb דרשו, without the Jod plur.) which follows. מבקשׁי פּניך is a second genitive depending on דּור, as in Psalm 27:8. Here at the close the predication passes into the form of invocation (Thy face). And יעקב is a summarising predicate: in short, these are Jacob, not merely after the flesh, but after the spirit, and thus in truth (Isaiah 44:2, cf. Romans 9:6; Galatians 6:16). By interpolating אלהי, as is done in the lxx and Peshto, and adopted by Ewald, Olshausen, Hupfeld, and Bttcher, the nerve, as it were, of the assertion is cut through. The predicate, which has been expressed in different ways, is concentrated intelligibly enough in the one word יעקב, towards which it all along tends. And here the music becomes forte. The first part of this double Psalm dies away amidst the playing of the instruments of the Levitical priests; for the Ark was brought in בּכל־עז וּבשׁירים, as 2 Samuel 6:5 (cf. 2 Samuel 6:14) is to be read.

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