Psalms 4


David prays to be heard, 1;

expostulates with the ungodly, 2;

exhorts them to turn to God, and make their peace with him, 3-5;

shows the vain pursuits of men in search of happiness, which he

asserts exists only in the approbation of God, 6, 7;

commends himself to the Lord, and then quietly takes his repose,



This Psalm seems to have been composed on the same occasion with

the preceding, viz., Absalom's rebellion. It appears to have been

an evening hymn, sung by David and his company previously to their

going to rest. It is inscribed to the chief Musician upon

Neginoth, lamnatstseach binginoth. Probably the

first word comes from natsach, to be over, or preside;

and may refer to the precentor in the choir. Some suppose that it

refers to the Lord Jesus, who is the Supreme Governor, or

victorious Person; the Giver of victory. Neginoth seems to come

from nagan, to strike; and probably may signify some such

instruments as the cymbal, drum, &c., and stringed instruments in

general. But there is no certainty in these things. What they

mean, or what they were, is known to no man.

Verse 1. Hear me when I call] No man has a right to expect God

to hear him if he do not call. Indeed, how shall he be heard if he

speak not? There are multitudes who expect the blessings of God as

confidently as if they had prayed for them most fervently; and yet

such people pray not at all!

God of my righteousness] Whatever pardon, peace, holiness, or

truth I possess, has come entirely from thyself. Thou art the God

of my salvation, as thou art the God of my life.

Thou hast enlarged me] I was in prison; and thou hast brought me

forth abroad. Have mercy on me-continue to act in the same way. I

shall always need thy help; I shall never deserve to have it;

let me have it in the way of mere mercy, as thou hast hitherto


Verse 2. O ye sons of men] beney ish, ye powerful

men-ye who are now at the head of affairs, or who are leaders of

the multitude.

Love vanity] The poor, empty, shallow-brained, pretty-faced

Absalom; whose prospects are all vain, and whose promises are all


Seek after leasing?] This is a Saxon word, from [Anglo-Saxon],

falsehood, from [A.S.], to lie. Cardmarden has adopted this word

in his translation, Rouen, 1566. It is in none of the Bibles

previously to that time, nor in any after, as far as my own

collection affords me evidence; and appears to have been borrowed

by King James's translators from the above.

Selah.] Mark this! See what the end will be!

Verse 3. The Lord hath set apart him that is godly] chasid,

the pious, benevolent man. He has marked such, and put them aside

as his own property. "This merciful man, this feeling,

tender-hearted man, is my own property; touch not a hair of his


Verse 4. Stand in awe, and sin not] The Septuagint, which is

copied by St. Paul, Eph 4:26, translate this clause, οργιζεσθε

καιμηαμαρτανετε; Be ye angry, and sin not. The Vulgate, Syriac,

AEthiopic, and Arabic, give the same reading; and thus the

original rigzu might be translated: If ye be angry, and if ye

think ye have cause to be angry; do not let your disaffection

carry you to acts of rebellion against both God and your king.

Consider the subject deeply before you attempt to act. Do nothing

rashly; do not justify one evil act by another: sleep on the

business; converse with your own heart upon your bed; consult

your pillow.

And be still.] vedommu, "and be dumb." Hold your

peace; fear lest ye be found fighting against God. Selah. Mark


Verse 5. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness] Do not attempt

to offer a sacrifice to God for prosperity in your present

rebellious conduct. Such a sacrifice would be a sin. Turn to God

from whom you have revolted; and offer to him a righteous

sacrifice, such as the law prescribes, and such as he can

receive. Let all hear and consider this saying. No sacrifice-no

performance of religious duty, will avail any man, if his heart be

not right with God. And let all know, that under the Gospel

dispensation no sacrifice of any kind will be received but through

the all-atoning sacrifice made by Christ.

Because of sin, justice has stopped every man's mouth; so that

none can have access to God, but through the Mediator. By him only

can the mouth of a sinner be opened to plead with God. Hear this,

ye who trust in yourselves, and hope for heaven without either

faith or dependence on the vicarious sacrifice of Christ.

Verse 6. Who will show us any good?] This is not a fair

translation. The word any is not in the text, nor any thing

equivalent to it; and not a few have quoted it, and preached upon

the text, placing the principal emphasis on this illegitimate


The place is sufficiently emphatic without this. There are

multitudes who say, Who will show us good? Man wants good; he

hates evil as evil, because he has pain, suffering, and death

through it; and he wishes to find that supreme good which will

content his heart, and save him from evil. But men mistake this

good. They look for a good that is to gratify their passions; they

have no notion of any happiness that does not come to them through

the medium of their senses. Therefore they reject spiritual good,

and they reject the Supreme God, by whom alone all the powers of

the soul of man can be gratified.

Lift thou up the light of thy countenance] This alone, the light

of thy countenance-thy peace and approbation, constitute the

supreme good. This is what we want, wish, and pray for. The

first is the wish of the worldling, the latter the wish of

the godly.

Verse 7. Thou hast put gladness in my heart] Thou hast given my

soul what it wanted and wished for. I find now a happiness which

earthly things could not produce. I have peace of conscience, and

joy in the Holy Ghost; such inward happiness as they cannot boast

who have got the highest increase of corn and wine; those TWO

THINGS in the abundance of which many suppose happiness to be


To corn and wine all the versions, except the Chaldee, add

oil; for corn, wine, and oil, were considered the highest

blessings of a temporal kind that man could possess.

Verse 8. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep] Most men

lie down, and most sleep, daily, for without rest and sleep life

could not be preserved; but alas! how few lie down in peace! peace

with their own consciences, and peace with God! David had then two

great blessings, rest by sleep, and peace in his soul. He

had a happy soul; and when he lay down on his bed, his body soon

enjoyed its repose, as the conscience was in peace. And he had a

third blessing, a confidence that he should sleep in safety. And

it was so. No fearful dreams disturbed his repose, for he had a

mind tranquillized by the peace of God. As to his body, that

enjoyed its due rest, for he had not overloaded nature either with

dainties or superfluities. Reader, are not many of thy sleepless

hours to be attributed to thy disordered soul-to a sense of guilt

on thy conscience, or to a fear of death and hell?

Pray incessantly till thou get the light of God's countenance,

till his Spirit bear witness with thine that thou art a child of

God. Then thy repose will do thee good: and even in thy sleep thy

happy soul will be getting forward to heaven.


There are THREE parts in this Psalm:-

I. An entrance, or petition for audience, Ps 4:1.

II. An apostrophe to his enemies, which is, 1. Reprehensive,

Ps 4:2, 3. 2. Admonitory, Ps 4:4, 5.

III. A petition for himself and God's people, Ps 4:6-8.

I. He proposes his request and suit for audience. "Hear me when

I call;" and this he founds on four arguments: 1. God has promised

to hear me when I call: "Call upon me in trouble, and I will hear

thee." I call; hear me, therefore, when I call. 2. His own

innocence: "Hear me, O God of my righteousness." 3. He requests

no more than what God had done for him at other times: Thou hast

enlarged me in trouble, and why not now? 4. It was mercy and

favour to answer him then; it will be the same to do it again:

"Have mercy on me, and hear."

II. His petition being thus proposed and ended, he proceeds to

the doctrinal part; and, turning himself to his enemies, 1. He

sharply reproves them; 2. Then warns them, and gives them good


1. He turns his speech from God to men; the chief but the worst

of men. beney ish, "ye eminent men." Not plebeians, but

nobles. The charge he lays to them, 1. They "turned his glory into

shame." They endeavoured to dishonour him whom God had called and

anointed to the kingdom. 2. "They loved vanity." A vain attempt

they were in love with. 3. "They sought after falsity." They

pursued that which would deceive them; they would find at last

that treachery and iniquity lied to itself. 4. That this charge

might have the more weight, he figures it with a stinging

interrogation, How long? Their sin had malice and pertinacity in

it; and he asks them how long they intended to act thus.

And that they might, if possible, be drawn from their attempts,

he sends them a noverint, know ye, which has two clauses: 1. Let

them know that God hath set apart him that is godly for himself.

2. That God will hear, when either he or any good man calls upon


2. The reproof being ended, he gives them good counsel:-

1. That though they be angry, they ought not to let the sun go

down upon their wrath.

2. That they commune with their own hearts-their conscience.

That they do this on their beds, when secluded from all company,

when passion and self-interest did not rule; and then they would

be the better able to judge whether they were not in an error,

whether their anger were not causeless, and their persecution


3. That they offer the sacrifice of righteousness-that they

serve and worship God with an honest, sincere, and contrite heart.

4. That they put their trust in the Lord; trusting no more to

their lies, nor loving their vanities, but relying on God's


III. The third part begins with this question, Who will show us

any good? 1. Who will show us that good which will make us happy?

To which David, in effect, returns this answer, that it is not

bona animi, intellectual gifts; nor bona fortunae, earthly

blessings; nor bona corporis, corporeal endowments: but the light

of God's countenance. 2. Therefore he prefers his petition: "Lord,

lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us." God's

countenance is his grace, his favour, his love, and the light

of his countenance, the exhibition and expression of this grace,

favour, and love; in which alone lies all the happiness of man. Of

this David expresses two effects, gladness and security:-

1. Gladness and joy far beyond that which may be had from any

temporal blessings: "Thou hast put gladness in my heart more than

in the time that their corn, and wine, and oil increased; gladness

beyond the joy in harvest; and this joy is from the light of God's

countenance. Thou puttest. THOU, by way of eminence.

2. Security, expressed under the metaphor of sleep: "I will lay

me down in peace, and sleep;" just as in a time of peace, as if

there were no war nor preparation for battle.

3. To which he adds the reason: "For thou Lord, alone makest me

to dwell in safety." I am safe, because I enjoy the light of thy


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