Psalm 4:4
Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart on your bed, and be still. Selah.
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(4) Stand in awe.—Literally, tremble, whether with fear or anger. But the rendering of the LXX., “be angry,” quoted in Ephesians 4:26, though etymologically correct, is plainly inadmissible here. “(See New Testament Commentary.)

Communei.e., reflect on your conduct, let the still hours of the night bring calmer and wiser thoughts with them. The LXX. and Vulg. translate “repent” instead of “be still.” This supposes the words to be addressed to the enemies. But the next verse makes this doubtful. Probably the clause is a general reflection on the proper conduct of Israelites when in trouble.

Psalm 4:4. Stand in awe — Hebrew, רגזו, rigzu, Tremble, therefore, and be afraid, if not of me, yet, at least, of God, who hath engaged himself in my cause, and will be an adversary to my adversaries. So said David, and so says the Messiah. Or, Be angry, as the word is here rendered by all the ancient, and by some modern translators, and even by St. Paul, as it is thought, Ephesians 4:26. Or, Are you angry? for it may be understood interrogatively: as if he had said, Admit you be angry, or displeased, that God hath preferred me, an obscure person, and of mean family, before so many noble and mighty men; yet, or but, (as it follows,) sin not; that is, 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 ruin. But we must observe further, this Hebrew word signifies, in general, a vehement commotion of the mind or heart, whether through fear, or grief, or anger; many instances of all which significations of it occur in the Old Testament. The clause may, therefore, be here properly rendered, Be moved, (namely, in opposition to carelessness and carnal security,) and sin not. And so it is an important and instructive advice or exhortation to all. For one principal mean of preserving us from sin is to have our hearts properly affected with divine things, especially with the fear and love of God, with a holy reverence of his glory, and awe of his majesty, and dread of his justice and wrath. Let but our hearts he deeply and constantly influenced with these affections; and let our love be truly set on God, and we shall not easily provoke him by the commission of any known sin. 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 cares and business, and free from the company of carnal and worldly men; and be still — Compose your tumultuous minds, and suppress your disorderly affections and passions; and, having examined yourselves, and inquired into the state of your hearts and lives, silently expect the answer of your consciences. “The enemies of Christ,” says Dr. Horne, “as well as those of David, are here called to repentance; and the process of conversion is described. The above-mentioned consideration of the divine counsel, and the certainty of its being carried into execution, by the salvation of the righteous, and the confusion of their enemies, makes the wicked ‘tremble.’ It arrests the sinner in his course, and he goes on no further in the way of sin, but stops and reflects upon what he has been doing; he ‘communes with his own heart upon his bed, and is still;’ his conscience suffers him not to rest in the night, but takes the advantage of solitude and silence to set before him his transgressions, with all the terrors of death and judgment; stirring him up to confess the former and deprecate the latter, with unfeigned compunction and sorrow of heart; to turn unto the Lord, and do works meet for repentance.”4:1-5 Hear me for thy mercy-sake, is our best plea. He who will not ask such blessings as pardon, and justifying righteousness, and eternal life, must perish for the want of them. Alas! that so many should make so fearful a choice. The psalmist warns against sin. Keep up holy reverence of the glory and majesty of God. You have a great deal to say to your hearts, they may be spoken with, let it not be unsaid. Examine them by serious self-reflection; let your thoughts fasten upon that which is good, and keep close to it. Consider your ways, and before you turn to sleep at night, examine your consciences with respect to what you have done in the day; particularly what you have done amiss, that you may repent of it. when you awake in the night, meditate upon God, and the things that belong to your peace. Upon a sick-bed, particularly, we should consider our ways. Be still. when you have asked conscience a question, be serious, be silent, wait for an answer. Open not the mouth to excuse sin. All confidence must be pan answer. Open not the mouth to excuse sin. All confidence only: therefore, after commanding the sacrifices of righteousness, the psalmist says, Put your trust in the Lord.Stand in awe - Still addressed to those who in Psalm 4:2 are called "sons of men;" that is, to his enemies. This is rendered by Prof. Alexander, "Rage and sin not." The Aramaic Paraphrase renders it, "Tremble before him, and sin not." The Latin Vulgate, "Irascimini" - "be angry." The Septuagint ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε orgizesthe kai mē hamartanete, "Be ye angry, and sin not" - a rendering which Paul seems to have had in his eye in Ephesians 4:26, where the same language is found. It is not necessary, however, to suppose that, in this case, or by so quoting this language, Paul meant to give his sanction to the Septuagint translation of the passage. The truth doubtless is, that he found this language in that version, and that he quoted it, not as a correct translation, but as exactly expressing an idea which he wished to convey - in the same way as he would have quoted an expression from a Greek classic.

It was made to convey an inspired sentiment by his use of it; whether it was a fair translation of the original Hebrew was another question. For the meaning of the sentiment, see the notes at Ephesians 4:26. The original word here - רגז râgaz - means to be moved, disturbed, disquieted, thrown into commotion; and as this may be by anger, fear, or grief, so the word comes to be used with reference to any one of these things. - Gesenius, Lexicon. The connection here would seem to require that it should be understood with reference to "fear" - since we cannot suppose that the writer would counsel them to be moved or agitated by wrath or anger, and since there was no ground for exhorting them to be moved by grief. The true idea is, doubtless, that which is conveyed in our translation - that they were to fear; to stand in awe; to reflect on the course which they were pursuing, and on the consequences of that course, and by so doing to cease from their plans, and to sin no further. God had determined to protect him whom they were engaged in persecuting, and, in prosecuting their plans, they must come into conflict with His power, and be overcome. The counsel, therefore, is just such as may properly be given to all men who are engaged in executing plans of evil.

And sin not - That is, by continuing to prosecute these plans. Your course is one of rebellion against Yahweh, since he has determined to protect him whom you are endeavoring to drive from his throne, and any further prosecution of your schemes must be regarded as additional guilt. They had indeed sinned by what they had already done; they would only sin the more unless they abandoned their undertaking.

Commune with your own heart - Hebrew: "Speak with your own heart;" that is, consult your own "heart" on the subject, and be guided by the result of such a deliberation. The language is similar to what we often use when we say, "Consult your better judgment," or "Consult your feelings," or "Take counsel of your own good sense;" as if a man were divided against himself, and his passions, his ambition, or his avarice, were contrary to his own better judgment. The word "heart" here is used in the sense in which we now use it as denoting the seat of the affections, and especially of right affections; and the meaning is, "Do not take counsel of, or be influenced by, your head, your will, your passions, your evil advisers and counselors; but consult your own better feelings, your generous emotions, your sense of right, and act accordingly." People would frequently be much more likely to do right if they would consult their "hearts" as to what should be done than they are in following the counsels which actually influence them. The secret, silent teachings of the "heart" - the heart when unbiased and uninfluenced by bad counselors - is often our best and safest guide.

Upon your bed - Admirable advice to those who are engaged in plans of wickedness. In the silence of night; in solitary musings on our bed; when withdrawn from the world, and from all the promptings of passion and ambition, and when, if at any time, we cannot but feel that the eye of God is upon us, the mind is most likely to be in a proper state to review its plans, and to inquire whether those plans can be expected to meet the divine approbation.

And be still - When you are thus quiet, reflect on your doings. For a most beautiful description of the effect of night and silence in recalling wicked men from their schemes, see Job 33:14-17. Compare the notes at that passage.

Selah - This, as explained in the notes at Psalm 3:2, marks a musical pause. The pause here would well accord with the sense, and would most happily occur after the allusion to the quiet communion on the bed, and the exhortation to be still.

4. Stand in awe—(Eph 4:26), from Septuagint, "be angry." Both clauses are qualified by "not."4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

"Tremble and sin not." How many reverse this counsel and sin but tremble not. O that men would take the advice of this verse and commune with their own hearts. Surely a want, of thought must be one reason why men are so mad as to despite Christ and hate their own mercies. O that for once their passions would be quiet and let them be still, that so in solemn silence they might review the past, and meditate upon their inevitable doom. Surely a thinking man might have enough sense to discover the vanity of sin and the worthlessness of the world. Stay, rash sinner, stay ere thou take the last leap. Go to thy bed and think-upon thy ways. Ask counsel of thy pillow, and let the quietude of night instruct thee! Throw not away thy soul for nought! Let reason speak! Let the clamorous world be still awhile, and let thy poor soul plead with thee to bethink thyself before thou seal its fate, and ruin it for ever! Selah. O sinner! pause while I question thee awhile in the words of a sacred poet, -

"Sinner, is thy heart at rest?

Is thy bosom void of fear?

Art thou not by guilt oppress'd?

Speaks hot conscience in thine ear?

Can this world afford thee bliss?

Can it chase away thy gloom?

Flattering, false, and vain it is;

Tremble at the worldling's doom!

Think, O sinner, on thy end,

See the judgment-day appear,

Thither must thy spirit wend,

There thy righteous sentence hear.


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. Stand in awe, and sin not,.... That is, stand in awe of God, and his righteous, judgments; be afraid of him, and tremble before him; make him your fear and your dread, and go on no longer and proceed no further in sinning against him. The Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, render it, "be ye angry, and sin not": which are the words of the apostle, Ephesians 4:26; referring to this place; and which doubtless is the reason of these versions. There is an anger that is sinful, when it is without a cause, or exceeds due bounds, and is not directed to a good end, and is productive of bad effects, by words or deeds; and when it is soon raised, or long continued; and there is an anger that is not sinful; when it arises from a true zeal for God and religion; when it is kindled, not against the persons, but sins, of men; and when it is continued to answer good purposes; as the good of those with whom we are angry, and the glory of God, and the promoting of the kingdom and interest of Christ;

commune with your own heart upon your bed: when retired from men and business, and you are at leisure to think and meditate then reflect upon your actions, seriously consider them; ask your heart some proper and close questions; examine narrowly and thoroughly the principles on which, and the views with which, you act;

and be still; cease from all your rage and fury against me, against the Lord, and against his people; or "say in your own hearts" (q), as follows.

Selah; on this word; see Gill on Psalm 3:2.

(q) "dicite in corde vestro", Montanus, Cocceius, Gussetius; "loquimini", Pagninus, Piscator.

{g} Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be {h} still. Selah.

(g) For fear of God's judgment.

(h) Cease your rage.

4. Let wholesome fear, continues David, deter you from persisting in this course of action, which is nothing less than sinful. R.V. marg. gives the rendering of the LXX, “Be ye angry,” i.e. If you must needs be angry and discontented with my government, do not be carried away by passion into open rebellion. The rendering is possible, for the word is used of the perturbation of wrath as well as of fear. But it gives a less obvious and suitable sense. The words are adopted (but not as an express quotation) by St Paul in his warning against resentment, Ephesians 4:26.

commune &c.] Lit. speak in your heart. The voice of conscience, unheeded in the turmoil and excitement of the day, or silenced by fear of men and evil example, may make itself heard in the calm solitude of the night, and convince you of the truth. Comp., though the turn of thought is different, Psalm 63:6; Psalm 149:5.

be still] Desist from your mad endeavour.Verse 4. - Stand in awe, and sin not. The LXX. render, Ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἀμαρτάνετε, "Be ye angry, and sin not;" and this meaning is preferred by Dr. Kay, Hengstenberg, and ethers. It may also seem to have the sanction of St. Paul in Ephesians 4:26. If we adopt it, we must suppose the exhortation to be addressed mainly to David's own followers, who are warned against excessive anger and its natural result, undue violence (comp. 2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 18:11, 14; 2 Samuel 19:21, etc.). Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still (compare St. Paul's injunction, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath"). Anger cools if a little time be suffered to pass - if a night be allowed for reflection, and no action be taken till the morrow, Παύει γὰρ ὀργὴγ ὁ χρόνος (Aristotle). Selah. The second strophe being ended, another "pause" is to take place, during which the psalmist's exhortation may be made the subject of consideration. (Heb.: 3:6-7) That this God will protect him, His protection during the past night is now a pledge to him in the early morning. It is a violation of the rules of grammar to translate ואישׁנה: I shall go to sleep, or: I am going to sleep. The 1 pers. fut. consec. which is indicated by the ו, is fond of taking an ah of direction, which gives subjective intensity to the idea of sequence: "and thus I then fell asleep," cf. Psalm 7:5; Psalm 119:55, and frequently, Genesis 32:6, and more especially so in the later style, Ezra 9:3; Nehemiah 13:21, vid., Ges. 49, 2, Bttcher, Neue Aehrenlese, No. 412. It is a retrospective glance at the past night. Awaking in health and safety, he feels grateful to Him to whom he owes it: יהוה יסמכני. It is the result of the fact that Jahve supports him, and that God's hand is his pillow.

(Note: Referred to the other David, Psalm 3:6 has become an Easter-morning call, vid., Val. Herberger's Paradies-Blmlein aus dem Lustgarten der Psalmen (Neue Ausg. 1857) S. 25.)

Because this loving, almighty hand is beneath his head (Sol 2:6) he is inaccessible and therefore also devoid of fear. שׁית (שׁוּת) carries its object in itself: to take up one's position, as in Isaiah 22:7, synon. חנה Psalm 28:3 and שׂים 1 Kings 20:12, cf. ἐπιτιθέναι τινί. David does not put a merely possible case. All Israel, that is to say ten thousands, myriads, were gone over to Absolom. Here, at the close of the third strophe, סלה is wanting because the לא אירא (I will not fear) is not uttered in a tone of triumph, but is only a quiet, meek expression of believing confidence. If the instruments struck up boldly and suddenly here, then a cry for help, urged forth by the difficulties that still continually surrounded him, would not be able to follow.

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