<<A Psalm of David, Maschil.>> Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Verse 1. - Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. There are three aspects under which sin is viewed in Holy Scripture:
1. As an offence against God's Law. This is "transgression" - ἀνομία.
2. As an offence against the eternal and immutable rule of right. This is "sin" - ἁμαρτία.
3. As an internal depravation and defilement of the sinner's soul. This is "iniquity " - ἀδικία (comp. Exodus 34:7). Each aspect of sin has its own especial remedy, or manner of removal. The "transgression" is "lifted up," "taken away,"- αἵρεται ἀφαίρεται - more vaguely ἀφίεται. The "sin" is "covered, .... hidden" - καλύπτετα ἐπικαλύπτεται. The "iniquity" is "not imputed" - οὐ λογίζεται. The union of all three, as here in vers. 1, 2, is complete remission or forgiveness.
Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
Verse 2. - Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity. "Iniquity" - the defilement of the sinner's own soul by sin - is not at once removable; if removable at all, it is only so by long lapse of time, and God's special mercy. But God can, at his own will and at any moment, "not impute" it - not count it against the sinner to his detriment. Then in God's sight the man is clean; it is as though the iniquity were not there. And in whose spirit there is no guile; i.e. no false seeming - no hypocrisy - where repentance has been sincere and real.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
Verse 3. - When I kept silence; i.e. so long as I did not acknowledge my sin - while I remained silent about it, quite aware that I hod sinned grievously, suffering in conscience, but not confessing it even to myself. The time spoken of is that which immediately followed the commission of the adultery, and which continued until Nathan uttered the words, "Thou art the man!" (2 Samuel 12:7). My bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long; i.e. I suffered grievous pain, both bodily and mental. My bones ached (comp. Psalm 6:2; Psalm 31:10); and I "roared," or groaned, in spirit, all the day long." Unconfessed sin rankles in the heart of a man who is not far gone in vice, but has been surprised into a wicked action, no sooner done than regretted. Such a one, in Archbishop Leighton's words, "Vulnus alit venis et caeco carpitur igne."
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
Verse 4. - For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me. David sees now that his sufferings at this time came from God, and were a part of the punishment of his sin. They continued without intermission both by day and by night. His conscience was never wholly at rest. My moisture is turned into the drought of summer; literally, my sap was changed through summer drought; i.e. the vital principle, which had been strong in him, was changed - burnt up and exhausted - by the heat of God's wrath.
I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
Verse 5. - I acknowledged my sin unto thee (comp. 2 Samuel 12:13). Conscience once fully awakened, all reticence was broken down. David confessed his sin fully and freely - confessed it as "sin," as "transgression," and as "iniquity" (compare the comment on ver. 1). And mine iniquity have I not hid; rather, did I not hide. I did not attempt to gloss over or conceal the extent of my guilt, but laid my soul bare before thee. Hengstenberg well remarks that the psalmist is probably not speaking of a "making known by the mouth," but of "an inward confession, such as is accompanied with painful repentance and sorrow, with begging of pardon for sin and for the offence rendered to the Divine Majesty." I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Upon David's confession, whether it were inward or outward, followed without any interval God's forgiveness - forgiveness which, however, did not preclude the exaction of a penalty required for the justification of God's ways to man (2 Samuel 12:14), and also, perhaps, for proper impressing of the offender himself, who would have been less sensible of the heinousness of his sin, if it had gone unpunished.
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
Verse 6. - For this; or, because of this; i.e. on account of this experience of mine - this immediate following of the grant of forgiveness upon confession of sin - shall every one that is godly - i.e., that is sincere and earnest in religion, though he may be overtaken in a fault or surprised into a sin - pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found; literally, in a time of finding, which some understand as a time when God "finds," and visits, some iniquity in his servants, and others, as the Authorized Version, "in a time when thou art gracious, and allowest thyself to be found by those who approach thee." Surely in the floods of great waters they (i.e. the waters) shall not come nigh unto him; i.e. shall not approach such a man to injure him.
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
Verse 7. - Thou art my hiding-place (comp. Psalm 17:8; Psalm 27:5; Psalm 31:20; Psalm 143:9); thou shalt preserve me from trouble. Hidden in God, there can no harm happen to him. Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. "Songs of deliver-ante" are such songs as men sing when they have been delivered from peril. God will make such songs to sound in the psalmist's ears or in his heart.
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
Verses 8, 9. - St. Jerome, and others after him, including Dr. Kay, have regarded this passage as an utterance of God, who first admonishes David, and then passes on to an admonition of the Israelites generally. But such a sudden intrusion of a Divine utterance, without any notice of a change of speaker, is without parallel in the Psalms, and should certainly not be admitted without some plain necessity. Here is no necessity at all. The words are quite suitable in the mouth of David, as an admonition to the Israelites of his time; they accord with the title, which he himself seems to have prefixed to the psalm, and explain it; and they fulfil the promise made in Psalm 51:15. Verse 8. - I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go. We must suppose the "godly man" of ver. 6 addressed, if we regard David as the speaker. Such a man was not beyond the need of instruction and teaching, since he was liable to sins of infirmity, and even to grievous falls, as had been seen by David's example. I will guide thee with mine eye; i.e. "I will keep watch over thee with mine eye, and guide thee as I see to be necessary."
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
Verse 9. - Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding. The singular is exchanged for the plural, since the "instruction" is now intended, not for the godly man only, but for all. Israel had been always stiff-necked (Exodus 32:9; Exodus 33:3, 5; Exodus 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6, 13; Deuteronomy 10:16; 2 Chronicles 30:8; Acts 7:51), like a restive horse or mule. David exhorts them to be so no more. The horse and mule are excusable, since they "have no understanding " - or, "no discernment" - Israel would be inexcusable, since it had the gift of reason. Whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle; rather, whose adornings are with bit and bridle to hold them in (compare the Revised Version). Lest they come near unto thee. This clause is obscure. It may mean, "Lest they come too near to thee," so as to do thee damage, as when a riding horse tosses his head and strikes the rider in the face, or when a chariot horse rears and falls back upon the driver; or it may mean, "Else they will not come near to thee," i.e. until they are trapped with bit and bridle, they will refuse to come near to thee.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
Verse 10. - Many sorrows shall be to the wicked. A further warning to those addressed in the preceding verse. The LXX. emphasize this by substituting for the generic "sorrows" the specific μάστιγες, "lashes," the usual punishment of the horse and mule. But he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about (comp. Deuteronomy 32:10).
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.
Verse 11. - Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous. David's psalms almost always end with a note of joy, or at any rate in a tone that is cheerful and encouraging. The present psalm, though reckoned among the penitential ones, both begins and ends with joyful utterances. In vers. 1, 2 David pours forth the feeling of gladness which fills his own heart. Here he calls upon the "righteous" generally, who yet need forgiveness, to rejoice with him. And shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. All ye, i.e., who are honest and sincere in your endeavours after well-doing. The phrase explains the "righteous" of the preceding hemistich.