Psalms 27


The righteous man's confidence in God, 1-3;

his ardent desire to have the spiritual privilege of worshipping

God in his temple, because of the spiritual blessings which he

expects to enjoy there, 4-6;

his prayer to God for continual light and salvation, 7-9;

has confidence that, though even has own parents might forsake

him, yet God would not, 10.

Therefore he begs to be taught the right way to be delivered

from all his enemies, and to see the goodness of the Lord in

the land of the living, 11-13;

he exhorts others to trust in God; to be of good courage; and

to expect strength for their hearts, 14.


In the Hebrew and Chaldee this Psalm has no other title than

simply ledavid: To or For David. In the Syriac:

"For David; on account of an infirmity which fell upon him." In

the Vulgate, Septuagint, Arabic, and AEthiopic, it has this title:

"A Psalm of David, before he was anointed." The Anglo-Saxon omits

all the titles. For this title there is no authority in fact.

However, it may be just necessary to state that David appears to

have received the royal unction three times: 1. In Bethlehem from

the hand of Samuel, in the house of his father Jesse; 1Sa 16:13.

2. At Hebron after the death of Saul, by the men of Judah;

2Sa 2:4. 3. By the elders of Israel, at Hebron, after the death

of Ishbosheth, when he was acknowledged king over all the tribes;

2Sa 5:3. At which of these anointings the Psalm was written, or

whether before any of them, we know not; nor is the question to be

decided. Some commentators say that it is a Psalm belonging to the

captivity, and upon that system it may be well interpreted. And

lastly, it has been contended that it was written by David after

he had been in danger of losing his life by the hand of a gigantic

Philistine, and must have perished had he not been succoured by

Abishai; see the account 2Sa 21:17; and was counselled by his

subjects not to go out to battle any more, lest he should

extinguish the light of Israel. To these advisers he is supposed

to make the following reply:-

Verse 1. The Lord is my light and my salvation] This light can

never be extinguished by man; the Lord is my salvation, my

safeguard, my shield, and my defence; of whom then should I be


Verse 2. When the wicked-came upon me] Near as I appeared to you

to be in danger of losing my life, I was safe enough in the hands

of the Lord; and those who thought to have eaten me up, stumbled,

failed of their purpose, and fell; the Philistine lost his own


Verse 3. Though a host should encamp against me] I am so

confident of the Almighty's protection, that were I alone, and

encompassed by a host, I would not fear. I am in the hand of God;

and while in that hand, I am safe.

Verse 4. One thing have I desired] If I am grown too old, and

from that circumstance unable to serve my country, I shall then

prefer a retirement to the tabernacle, there to serve God the rest

of my days. There I shall behold his glory, and there I may

inquire and get important answers respecting Israel.

But though these words may be thus interpreted, on the above

supposition, that David penned the Psalm on the occasion of his

escape from the Philistine, and the desire expressed by his

subjects that he should go no more out to war; yet it appears that

they more naturally belong to the captivity, and that this verse

especially shows the earnest longing of the captives to return to

their own land, that they might enjoy the benefit of Divine


Verse 5. He shall hide me in his pavilion] besuccoh, in his

tabernacle. I would make his temple my residence; I would dwell

with God, and be in continual safety. Pavilion comes from papilio

and παπιλιων, a butterfly. It signifies a tent made of cloth

stretched out on poles, which in form resembles in some measure

the insect above named.

In the secret of his tabernacle] Were there no other place, he

would put me in the holy of holies, so that an enemy would not

dare to approach me.

He shall set me upon a rock.] He shall so strengthen and

establish me, that my enemies shall not be able to prevail

against me. He shall hide me where they cannot find me, or put me

out of the reach of the fiery darts of the wicked. He who lives

nearest to God suffers least from temptation. "Draw nigh to God,

and he will draw nigh to thee: resist the devil and he will flee

from thee."

Verse 6. Now shall mine head be lifted up] We shall most

assuredly be redeemed from this captivity, and restored to our own

land, and to the worship of our God in his own temple. There shall

we offer sacrifices of joy; we will sing praises unto the Lord,

and acknowledge that it is by his might and mercy alone that we

have been delivered.

Verse 7. Hear, O Lord, when I cry] This is the utmost that any

man of common sense can expect-to be heard when he cries. But

there are multitudes who suppose God will bless them whether they

cry or not; and there are others, and not a few, who although

they listlessly pray and cry not, yet imagine God must and will

hear them! God will answer them that pray and cry; those who do

not are most likely to be without the blessings which they so much


Verse 8. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face] How much labour and

skill have been employed to make sense of this verse as it stands

in our translation! The original words are the following, from

which our Version has been forcibly extracted:-

lecha amar libbi bakkeshu

panai; eth paneycha, Yehovah, abakkesh; of which I believe the

true rendering to be as follows: "Unto thee, my heart, he hath

said, Seek ye my face. Thy face, O Jehovah, I will seek. O my

heart, God hath commanded thee to seek his face." Then, his face I

will seek. Which may be paraphrased thus: Unto thee, his Church,

God hath said, Seek ye, all who compose it, my face. To which I,

his Church, have answered, Thy face, O Jehovah, I will seek. On

referring to Archbishop Secker, I find that he, and indeed Bishop

Horsley, are of the same mind.

I had formerly proposed another method of reading this difficult

verse. Suspecting that some error had got into the text, for

bakkeshu panay, "seek ye my face," I had substituted

abakkesh paneycha, "I will seek thy face;" or with the

Vulgate and Septuagint, bakkesti paneycha, "I

have sought thy face," exquisivit te facies mea, εξεζητησατο

προσωπονσου. And this small alteration seemed to make a good

sense: "My heart said unto thee, I have sought thy face, (or, I

will seek thy face,) and thy face, O Lord, I will seek." I have

not only done what it was my duty and interest to do, but I will

continue to do it. Some have proposed to mend the text thus:

lech lecha, amar libbi, "Go to, saith my heart,"

nebakkesh peney Jehovah, "Let us seek the face of

Jehovah." This is rather a violent emendation, and is supported by

neither MSS. nor Versions. The whole verse is wanting in one of

Dr. Kennicott's MSS. On the whole I prefer what is first proposed,

and which requires no alteration in the text; next, that of the

Vulgate and Septuagint.

The old Psalter paraphrases thus: Til the saide my hert, the my

face soght: thy face, lord, I sal seke. "The gernyng of my hert

that spekes til god, and he anely heres: saide til the my face,

that es my presence soght the and na nother thyng. And fra now I

sal seke thy face lastandly, til my dede; and that I fynd my

sekyng:" i.e., To thee, said my heart; thee my face sought: thy

face, O Lord, I shall seek. "The gerning of my hert, that spekes

til God, and he anely heres, til the my face; that es, my presence

soght the and no nother thyng: and fra now I sal seke thy face

lastandly, til my dede, and that I fynd my sekyng:" i.e., The

yearning strong desire of my heart, which speaks to God, and he

alone hears; my face is to thee; that is, myself sought thee, and

none other thing, and from now I shall seek thee lastingly till my

death, and till that I find what I seek.

Verse 9. Hide not thy face-from me] As my face is towards thee

wheresoever I am, so let thy face be turned towards me. In a

Persian MS. poem entitled [Persic] Shah we Gudda, "The King and

the Beggar," I have found a remarkable couplet, most strangely and

artificially involved, which expresses exactly the same




One meaning of which is:-

OUR face is towards THEE in all our ways;

THY face is towards US in all our intentions.

Something similar, though not the same sentiment is in Hafiz,

lib. i., gaz. v., cap. 2:-



How can we with the disciples turn our face towards

the kaaba,

When our spiritual instructer turns his face towards

the wine-cellar?

I shall subjoin a higher authority than either:-




1Pe 3:12.

For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous;

And his ears to their supplication:

And the face of the Lord is upon the workers of evil.

Verse 10. When my father and my mother forsake me] Or, more

literally, "For my father and my mother have forsaken me; but the

Lord hath gathered me up." My parents were my protectors for a

time; but the Lord has been my Protector always. There is no time

in which I do not fall under his merciful regards.

Verse 11. Teach me thy way] Let me know the gracious designs of

thy providence towards me, that my heart may submit to thy will.

And lead me in a plain path] In the path of righteousness,

because of mine enemies, who watch for my halting.

Verse 12. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies] To

their soul benephesh; their whole soul thirsts for my

destruction. Let them not be gratified. They have suborned

witnesses against me, but they are false witnesses: unmask their

wickedness, and confound their counsels.

Verse 13. I had fainted, unless I had believed] The words in

italics are supplied by our translators; but, far from being

necessary, they injure the sense. Throw out the words I had

fainted, and leave a break after the verse, and the elegant figure

of the psalmist will be preserved: "Unless I had believed to see

the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" ----What!

what, alas! should have become of me!

Dr. Hammond has observed that there is a remarkable elegance in

the original, which, by the use of the beautiful figure

aposiopesis, makes an abrupt breaking off in the midst of a

speech. He compares it to the speech of Neptune to the winds that

had raised the tempest to drown the fleet of AEneas.-AEneid. lib.

i., ver. 131.

Eurum ad se zephyrumque vocat: dehinc talia fatur;

Tantane vos generis tenuit fiducia vestri?

Jam coelum terramque, meo sine numine, venti,

Miscere, et tantas audetis tollere moles?

Quos ego-sed motos praestat componere fluctus.

To Eurus and the western blast he cried,

Does your high birth inspire this boundless pride?

Audacious winds! without a power from me,

To raise at will such mountains on the sea?

Thus to confound heaven, earth, the air, and main;

Whom I------but, first, I'll calm the waves again.


Verse 14. Wait on the Lord] All ye who are in distress, wait on

the Lord. Take me for an example. I waited on him, and he

strengthened my heart; wait ye on him, and he will strengthen your

heart. You cannot be unsuccessful; fear not. Wait, I say, on the

Lord; wait for his succour in doing his will. Age viriliter, says

the Vulgate; act like a man, hope, believe, work, and fear not.


There are four general parts in this Psalm. David shows,

I. How free he is from fear in any danger; and he shows also the

cause of his confidence, Ps 27:1-3.

II. He expresses his love to God's house and his religion,

Ps 27:4-6.

III. He prays for succour and support Ps 27:7, &c.

IV. He exhorts others to dependence on the Lord, Ps 27:14.

I. It is possible (independently of the reason given in the

notes) that some person, friend or foe, might ask David how he

felt during the persecutions raised against him by Saul? To whom

he may be supposed to return this answer: "I was never

disheartened, never in despair; and the reason was, God was my

Light to guide me, my Rock to save me, and my Strength to

sustain and support me: 'The Lord is my light,' &c." And this he

amplifies in the next two verses: 1. By experience: he had already

found this true: "When the wicked, even mine enemies, came upon me

to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell." 2. He puts a case:

"Though a host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;

though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident."

The arguments for his confidence were, 1. God's goodness,

Ps 27:1. 2. His own

experience, Ps 27:2. To which he adds, 3. What

God would do for him.

1. He would hide him in his tabernacle, Ps 27:5.

2. That though his father and mother should forsake him, God

would take him up, Ps 27:10.

3. That he should see the goodness of God in the land of the

living, Ps 27:13.

II. He expresses his great love and affection to the house of

God: "One thing I have desired," and in this he was constant.

"THAT (emphatically) I will seek after; that I may dwell in the

house of the Lord all the days of my life." For three ends:-

1. "To behold the beauty of the Lord." To taste how good and

gracious he is.

2. "To inquire in his temple." There to search the mind of God.

3. "To offer in his temple sacrifices of joy, and to sing

praises to the Lord."

And this was another argument of his security: "For in the time

of trouble he will hide me in his pavilion-he shall set me upon a

rock, and my head shall be lifted up." And-

III. He prays for succour and support.

1. For audience, and an answer: "Hear, O Lord, when I cry; have

mercy upon me, and answer me."

2. The ground of his prayer; his having willingly received the

commandment of God: "He hath said, Seek ye my face. Thy face, O

Lord, will I seek."

3. The matter of his prayer in general: "Hide not thy face from

me; put not thy servant away in anger." In which he had good hope

of success from former experience. "Thou hast been my help;" be to

me now as thou hast been: "Leave me not, nor forsake me, O God of

my salvation," &c.

4. The matter of his prayer in particular: "Teach me thy way, O

God; lead me in a plain path." That is, teach me what to do that I

may please thee, and "lead me in a plain path," that I may escape

the snares of my enemies. "Deliver me not over to their will," for

they seek my ruin. 1. They are perjured men: "False witnesses have

risen up again me." 2. They are mischievously bent: "They breathe

out cruelty."

5. And their cruelty and falsehood are so great that "unless I

had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the

living," what would have become of me!

IV. He concludes with an exhortation that all others would

consider his example, and in their greatest extremities be

courageous, and put their trust in God as he did: "Wait on the

Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart; wait,

I say, on the Lord." Be an expectant; for he that has promised to

come will come, and will not tarry. But wait actively; be not

idle. Use the means of grace; read, hear, pray, believe, work.

Acknowledge him in all thy ways, and he will direct thy steps.

They that wait upon the Lord shall never be confounded.

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