Psalms 14

PSALM XIV

The sentiments of atheists and deists, who deny the doctrine

of a Divine providence. Their character: they are corrupt,

foolish, abominable, and cruel, 1-4.

God fills them with terror, 5;

reproaches them for their oppression of the poor, 6.

The psalmist prays for the restoration of Israel, 7.

NOTES ON PSALM XIV

There is nothing particular in the title; only it is probable

that the word ledavid, of David, is improperly prefixed, as

it is sufficiently evident, from the construction of the Psalm,

that it speaks of the Babylonish captivity. The author, whoever he

was, (some say Haggai, others Daniel, &c.,) probably lived beyond

the Euphrates. He describes here, in fervid colours, the iniquity

of the Chaldeans. He predicts their terror and destruction; he

consoles himself with the prospect of a speedy return from his

exile; and hopes soon to witness the reunion of the tribes of

Israel and Judah. It may be applied to unbelievers in general.

Verse 1. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.]

nabal, which we render fool, signifies an empty fellow, a

contemptible person, a villain. One who has a muddy head and an

unclean heart; and, in his darkness and folly, says in his heart,

"There is no God." "And none," says one, "but a fool would say

so." The word is not to be taken in the strict sense in which we

use the term atheist, that is, one who denies the being of a God,

or confounds him with matter. 1. There have been some, not many,

who have denied the existence of God. 2. There are others who,

without absolutely denying the Divine existence, deny his

providence; that is, they acknowledge a Being of infinite power,

&c., but give him nothing to do, and no world to govern. 3. There

are others, and they are very numerous, who, while they profess to

acknowledge both, deny them in their heart, and live as if they

were persuaded there was no God either to punish or reward.

They are corrupt] They are in a state of putrescency; and they

have done abominable works-the corruption of their hearts extends

itself through all the actions of their lives. They are a plague

of the most deadly kind; propagate nothing but destruction; and,

like their father the devil, spread far and wide the contagion of

sin and death. Not one of them does good. He cannot, for he has no

Divine influence, and he denies that such can be received.

Verse 2. The Lord looked down from heaven] Words spoken after

the manner of men. From this glorious eminence God is represented

as looking down upon the habitable globe, to see if there were any

that did understand that there was a Supreme Being, the governor

and judge of men; and, in consequence, seek God for his mercy,

support, and defence.

Verse 3. They are all gone aside] They will not walk in the

straight path. They seek crooked ways; and they have departed

from truth, and the God of truth.

They are all together become filthy] neelachu. They

are become sour and rancid; a metaphor taken from milk that has

fermented and turned sour, rancid, and worthless.

There is none that doeth good, no, not one.] This is not only

the state of heathen Babylon! but the state of the whole

inhabitants of the earth, till the grace of God changes their

heart. By nature, and from nature, by practice, every man is

sinful and corrupt. He feels no good; he is disposed to no good;

he does no good. And even God himself, who cannot be deceived,

cannot find a single exception to this! Lord, what is man?

The Vulgate, the Roman copy of the Septuagint, the AEthiopic,

and the Arabic, add those six verses here which are quoted by St.

Paul, Ro 3:13-18. See the notes on those passages, and see the

observations at the end of this Psalm. See Clarke on Ps 14:7.

Verse 4. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge?] Is

there not one of them who takes this dreadful subject into

consideration? To their deeply fallen state they add cruelty; they

oppress and destroy the poor, without either interest or reason.

Who eat up my people as they eat bread] Ye make them an easy and

unresisting prey. They have no power to oppose you, and therefore

you destroy them. That this is the meaning of the expression, is

plain from the speech of Joshua and Caleb relative to the

Canaanites. Nu 14:9: "Neither fear ye the people or the land; for

they are bread for us."

And call not upon the Lord.] They have no defence, for they

invoke not the Lord. They are all either atheists or idolaters.

Verse 5. There were they in great fear] This is a manifest

allusion to the history of the Canaanitish nations; they were

struck with terror at the sight of the Israelites, and by this

allusion the psalmist shows that a destruction similar to that

which fell upon them, should fall on the Babylonians. Several of

the versions add, from Ps 53:5, "Where no fear was." They were

struck with terror, where no real cause of terror existed. Their

fears had magnified their danger.

For God is in the generation] They feared the Israelites,

because they knew that the Almighty God was among them.

Verse 6. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor] Instead of

tabishu, "Ye have shamed," Bishop Horsley proposes to read

tabishem, and translates the clause thus: "The counsel of

the helpless man shall put them to shame." But this is not

authorized by MS. or version. There is no need for any change: the

psalmist refers to the confidence which the afflicted people

professed to have in God for their deliverance, which confidence

the Babylonians turned into ridicule. The poor people took counsel

together to expect help from God, and to wait patiently for it;

and this counsel ye derided, because ye did not know-did not

consider, that God was in the congregation of the righteous.

Verse 7. O that the salvation] Or, more literally, Who will give

from Zion salvation to Israel? From Zion the deliverance must

come; for God alone can deliver them; but whom will he make his

instruments?

When the Lord bringeth back] For it is Jehovah alone who can do

it. Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. That is,

according to Calmet, the remains of the kingdom of Israel, and

those of Judah, shall be rejoined, to their mutual satisfaction,

and become one people, worshipping the same God; and he has

endeavoured to prove, in a dissertation on the subject, that this

actually took place after the return from the Babylonish

captivity.

Many of the fathers have understood this verse as referring to

the salvation of mankind by Jesus Christ; and so it is understood

by my old MS. Psalter, as the following paraphrase will show: Qwa

sal gyf of Syon hele til Israel? qwen Lord has turned a way the

captyfte of his folk, glad sal Jacob, and fayne be Israel. Qwa bot

Crist that ge despyse, qwen ge wit nout do his counsaile of Syon

fra heven, sal gyf hele til Israel? that es, sal saf al trew

cristen men, noght als ge er that lufs noght God. And qwen our

Lord has turned o way the captyfte of his folk: that es, qwen he

has dampned the devel, and al his Servaundes, the qwilk tourmentes

gude men, and makes tham captyfs in pyne. Then glade sal Jacob;

that es, al that wirstils o gayns vices and actyf: and fayne sal

be Israel: that es, al that with the clene egh of thair hert, sees

God in contemplatyf lyf. For Jacob es als mikil at say als,

Wrestler, or suplanter of Syn. Israel es, man seand God.

Of the two chief opinions relative to the design of this Psalm:

1. That it refers to Absalom's rebellion. 2. That it is a

complaint of the captives in Babylon; I incline to the latter, as

by far the most probable.

I have referred, in the note on Ps 14:3, to that remarkable

addition of no less than six verses, which is found here in the

Vulgate, the Vatican copy of the Septuagint, the AEthiopic, and

the Arabic, and also in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans,

Ro 3:13-18, which he is supposed to have quoted from this Psalm

as it then stood in the Hebrew text; or in the version of the

Seventy, from which it has been generally thought he borrowed

them. That they are not interpolations in the New Testament is

evident from this, that they are not wanting in any MS. yet

discovered; and they exist in all the ancient versions, the

Vulgate, Syriac, AEthiopic, and Arabic. Yet it has been

contended, particularly by St. Jerome, that St. Paul did not quote

them from this Psalm; but, being intent on showing the corruption

and misery of man, he collected from different parts several

passages that bore upon the subject, and united them here, with

his quotation from Ps 14:3, as if they had all belonged to that

place: and that succeeding copyists, finding them in Romans, as

quoted from that Psalm, inserted them into the Septuagint, from

which it was presumed they had been lost. It does not appear that

they made a part of this Psalm in Origen's Hexapla. In the

portions that still exist of this Psalm there is not a word of

these additional verses referred to in that collection, neither

here nor in the parallel Psalm liii.

The places from which Jerome and others say St. Paul borrowed

them are the following:-

Ro 3:13: "Their mouth is an open sepulchre; with their tongues

they have used deceit." Borrowed from Ps 5:10.

"The poison of asps is under their lips." From Ps 140:3.

Ro 3:14: "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." From

Ps 10:7.

Ro 3:15: "Their feet are swift to shed blood." From Pr 1:16,

or Isa 59:7.

Ro 3:16-18: "Destruction and misery are in their ways, the way

of peace they have not known, and there is no fear of God before

their eyes." From Isa 59:7, 8.

When the reader has collated all these passages in the original,

he will probably feel little satisfaction relative to the

probability of the hypothesis they are summoned to support.

These verses are not found in the best copies of the Vulgate,

though it appears they were in the old Itala or Antehieronymain

version. They are not in the Codex Alexandrinus of the Septuagint;

nor are they in either the Greek or Latin text of the

Complutensian Polyglot. They are wanting also in the Antwerp and

Parisian Polyglots. They are neither in the Chaldee nor Syriac

versions. They are not acknowledged as a part of this Psalm by

Theodoret, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Arnobius, Apollinaris, the

Greek Catena, Eusebius, of Caesarea, nor Jerome. The latter,

however, acknowledges that they were in his time read in the

churches. I have seen no Latin MS. without them; and they are

quoted by Justin Martyr and Augustine. They are also in the Editio

Princeps of the Vulgate, and in all the ancient Psalters known.

They are in that Psalter which I have frequently quoted, both in

the Latino-Scotico-English version and paraphrase.

Of this version the following is a faithful copy, beginning with

the third verse of the fourteenth Psalm:-

Al tha helddid togyher; thai er made unprofytable:

Thar es none that dos gude; thar es none til one.

A grave opynnand, es the throte of tham.

With thaire tunges trycherusly thai wroght

Venym of snakes undir the lippis of tham.

Qwhas mouth es ful of werying and bitternes:

Swyft thaire fete to spil blode.

Brekyng and wikednes in thair waies:

And the way of pees thai knew noght:

The drede of God es noght byfore the eghen of thaim.

There is a good deal of difference between this, and that version

attributed to Wiclif, as it stands in my large MS. Bible, quoted

in different parts of the New Testament, particularly in

1Co 13:1, &c. I shall give it here line for line with the

above.

Alle boweden aweye to gydre: thei ben maad unprofitable:

There is not that doith good thing, ther is not to oon.

A Sepulcre opnyng is the throote of hem:

With her tungis thei diden gylinly; or trecherously:

The venym of eddris, that is clepid Aspis, under her lippis:

The mouth of whom is ful of cursing, or worrying and bittrenesse:

The feet of hem ben swift to schede out blood:

Contricion or defouling to God, and infelicite or cursidnesse,

the wayes of hem;

And thei knewen not the weyes of pees;

The dreed of God is not bifore her ygen.

The words underlined in the above are added by the translator as

explanatory of the preceding terms. It is worthy of remark that

Coverdale inserts the whole of the addition in this Psalm, and

Cardmarden has inserted it in his Bible, but in a letter different

from the text.

It is now time to state what has been deemed of considerable

importance to the authenticity of these verses; viz., that they

are found in a Hebrew MS., numbered by Kennicott in his catalogue

649. It is in the public library at Leyden; contains the Psalms

with a Latin version and Scholia; and appears to have been written

about the end of the fourteenth century, and probably by some

Christian. I shall give the text with a literal translation, as

it stands in this MS., line for line with the preceding:-

An open sepulchre is their throat;

With their tongues they flatter;

The venom of the asp is under their tongue;

Whose mouth of cursing and bitterness is full;

Swift are their feet to shed blood;

An evil aspect, and an evil event, in their ways:

And the way of peace they know not.

No fear of God before their eyes.

It would be easy to criticise upon the Hebrew in this long

quotation. I shall content myself with what Calmet, who received

his information from others that had inspected the Leyden MS.,

says of this addition: "Les seavans, qui ont examine ce manuscrit,

y ont remarque un Hebreu barbare en cet endroit; et des facons de

parler, qui ne sentent point les siecles ou la langue Hebraique

etoit en usage." "Learned men, who have examined this MS., have

remarked a barbarous Hebraism in this place, and modes of speech

which savour not of those ages in which the Hebrew language was in

use."

If this be an interpolation in the Psalm, it is very ancient; as

we have the testimony of Jerome, who was prejudiced against it,

that it was read in all the churches in his time, and how long

before we cannot tell. And that these verses are a valuable

portion of Divine revelation, as they stand in Ro 3:13-18, none

can successfully deny. See Rosenmuller, Kennicott, and De Rossi.

ANALYSIS OF THE FOURTEENTH PSALM

This Psalm is the practical atheist's character, and has TWO

parts:-

I. The description of the practical atheist, Ps 14:1-7.

II. A petition for the Church, Ps 14:7.

I. 1. The atheist is here noted to us by different characters:-

1. From his name, nabal, a fool, or rather a churl;

no natural fool, but a sinful: a fool in that in which he should

be wise.

2. His hypocrisy or cunning; he saith, but he will not have it

known, it is to himself, "He saith in his heart." He is a close,

politic fool.

3. His saying, or his chief and prime principle: "There is no

God."

4. From his practice; confessing God in his words for some

political advantages, yet in his works denying him. For, 1. His

heart is wicked and unregenerate: "They are corrupt." 2. He is a

sinner in a high practical degree: "They have done abominable

works." 3. He performs no duty: "There is none that doeth good."

He commits sin; he omits duty.

2. The psalmist demonstrates what he said three ways; and

convinces them:-

1. By the testimony of God himself; he is a witness against

them. He is, 1. An eyewitness: he looks on. 2. He is in heaven,

and they are continually under his notice: "He looked down from

heaven." 3. He sees the children of men, their hearts and their

works. 4. And the object of his looking is to inquire after

their religion: "To see if there were any that did understand and

seek God."

2. And then he gives his testimony in these general terms: "They

are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is

none that doeth good, no, not one."

3. Next he accuses them of two sins of which they were

especially guilty. 1. Injustice: "They eat up my people as bread."

2. Impiety: "They call not upon the Lord."

4. And that his testimony is true, he convinces them, 1. By the

light of their own conscience: "Have all the workers of iniquity

no knowledge?" Does not their own conscience tell them that all

this is true? Do they not know this? 2. By fear and terror, the

effects of an evil conscience: "There were they in great fear."

They said, There is no God; but their conscience told them that

God was in the congregation of the righteous, and that they

should grievously answer for their injustice and impiety. 3. By

the hardness of their heart, and contempt of the good counsels of

the godly. If he reproved, they mocked. If he said God was his

refuge, they laughed him to scorn. "Ye have shamed the counsel of

the poor, because the Lord is his refuge."

II. The second part of the Psalm contains a petition for the

Church:-

1. He prays that God would send salvation to his people.

2. That it might be out of Zion; because Christ was anointed and

set a King upon the holy hill of Zion: "O that the salvation of

Israel were come out of Zion!"

3. For then the consequence would be the great joy and happiness

of all his people for their deliverance from captivity, spiritual

and temporal: "When the Lord bringeth back the captivity of his

people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad."

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