Psalms 94

PSALM XCIV

An appeal to God against oppressors, 1-7.

Expostulations with the workers of iniquity, 8-11.

God's merciful dealings with his followers, 12-15;

and their confidence in him, 16-19.

The punishment of the wicked foretold, 20-23.

NOTES ON PSALM XCIV

This Psalm has no title either in the Hebrew or Chaldee. The

Vulgate, Septuagint, AEthiopic, and Arabic, have "A Psalm of

David, for the fourth day of the week;" but this gives us no

information on which we can rely. In three of Kennicott's MSS. it

is written as a part of the preceding. It is probably a prayer of

the captives in Babylon for deliverance; and was written by the

descendants of Moses, to whom some of the preceding Psalms have

been attributed. It contains a description of an iniquitous and

oppressive government, such as that under which the Israelites

lived in Babylon.

Verse 1. O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth] God is the

author of retributive justice, as well as of mercy. This

retributive justice is what we often term vengeance, but perhaps

improperly; for vengeance with us signifies an excitement of angry

passions, in order to gratify a vindictive spirit, which supposes

itself to have received some real injury; whereas what is here

referred to is that simple act of justice which gives to all their

due.

Verse 2. Lift up thyself] Exert thy power.

Render a reward to the proud.] To the Babylonians, who oppress

and insult us.

Verse 3. How long shall the wicked triumph?] The wicked are

often in prosperity; and this only shows us of how little worth

riches are in the sight of God, when he bestows them on the most

contemptible of mortals. But their time and prosperity have their

bounds.

Verse 4. They utter and speak] yabbiu, their hearts

get full of pride and insolence; and then, from the abundance of

such vile hearts, the mouth speaks; and the speech is of hard

things, threatenings which they are determined to execute,

boastings of their power, authority, &c.

Verse 5. They break in pieces thy people] This was true of the

Babylonians. Nehuchadnezzar slew many; carried the rest into

captivity; ruined Jerusalem; overturned the temple; sacked,

pillaged, and destroyed all the country.

Verse 6. They slay the widow] Nebuchadnezzar carried on his wars

with great cruelty. He carried fire and sword every where; spared

neither age, sex, nor condition. The widow, the orphan, and

the stranger, persons in the most desolate condition of life, were

not distinguished from others by his ruthless sword.

Verse 7. The Lord shall not see] This was either the language of

infidelity or insult. Indeed, what could the Babylonians know of

the true God? They might consider him as the God of a district or

province, who knew nothing and did nothing out of his own

territories.

Verse 8. Understand, ye brutish] These are the same expressions

as in Ps 92:6, on which see the note. See Clarke on Ps 92:6.

Verse 9. He that planted the ear, shall he not hear?] This is

allowed to be an unanswerable mode of argumentation. Whatever is

found of excellence in the creature, must be derived from the

Creator, and exist in him in the plenitude of infinite

excellence. God, says St. Jerome, is all eye, because he sees all;

he is all hand, because he does all things; he is all foot, for he

is every where present. The psalmist does not say, He that planted

the ear, hath he not an ear? He that formed the eye, hath he not

eyes? No; but, Shall he not hear? Shall he not see! And why does

he say so? To prevent the error of humanizing God, of attributing

members or corporeal parts to the infinite Spirit. See Calmet.

Verse 10. He that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct?]

YOU, who are heathens, and heathens of the most abandoned kind.

He that teacheth man knowledge] We here supply shall not he

know? But this is not acknowledged by the original, nor by any

of the Versions. Indeed it is not necessary; for either the words

contain a simple proposition, "It is he who teacheth man

knowledge," or this clause should be read in connexion with

Ps 94:11: "Jehovah, who teacheth man knowledge, knoweth the

devices of man, that they are vanity." As he teaches knowledge to

man, must he not know all the reasonings and devices of the human

heart?

Verse 12. Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest]

teyasserennu, whom thou instructest; and teachest him out of thy

law. Two points here are worthy of our most serious regard: 1. God

gives knowledge to man: gives him understanding and reason. 2.

He gives him a revelation of himself; he places before that reason

and understanding his Divine law. This is God's system of

teaching; and the human intellect is his gift, which enables man

to understand this teaching. We perhaps may add a third thing

here; that as by sin the understanding is darkened, he gives the

Holy Spirit to dispel this darkness from the intellect, in order

that his word may be properly apprehended and understood. But he

gives no new faculty; he removes the impediments from the old, and

invigorates it by his Divine energy.

Verse 13. That thou mayest give him rest] He whom God instructs

is made wise unto salvation; and he who is thus taught has rest in

his soul, and peace and confidence in adversity.

Verse 14. The Lord will not cast off his people] Though they are

now suffering under a grievous and oppressive captivity, yet the

Lord hath not utterly cast them off. They are his inheritance, and

he will again restore them to their own land.

Verse 15. But judgment shall return unto righteousness] If we

read yosheb, shall sit, for yashub, shall return,

which is only placing the vau before the shin instead of

after it, we have the following sense: Until the just one shall

sit in judgment, and after him all the upright in heart. Cyrus has

the epithet tsedek, the just one, in different places in the

Prophet Isaiah. See Isa 41:2, 10; 45:8; 51:5. It was Cyrus who

gave liberty to the Jews, who appeared as their deliverer and

conductor to their own land, and they are all represented as

following in his train.

Verse 16. Who will rise up for me] Who is he that shall be the

deliverer of thy people? Who will come to our assistance against

these wicked Babylonians?

Verse 17. Unless the Lord had been my help] Had not God in a

strange manner supported us while under his chastising hand, we

had been utterly cut off.

My soul had almost dwelt in silence.] The Vulgate has in

inferno, in hell or the infernal world; the Septuagint, τω

αδη, in the invisible world.

Verse 18. When I said, My foot slippeth] When I found myself so

weak and my enemy so strong, that I got first off my guard, and

then off my centre of gravity, and my fall appeared inevitable,-

Thy mercy, O Lord, held me up.] yisadeni, propped me.

It is a metaphor taken from any thing falling, that is propped,

shored up, or buttressed. How often does the mercy of God thus

prevent the ruin of weak believers, and of those who have been

unfaithful!

Verse 19. In the multitude of my thoughts] Of my griefs,

(dolorum, Vulgate;) my sorrows, (οδυνων, Septuagint.) According

to the multitude of my trials and distresses, have been the

consolations which thou hast afforded me. Or, While I have been

deeply meditating on thy wondrous grace and mercy, Divine light

has broken in upon my soul, and I have been filled with delight.

Verse 20. Shall the throne of iniquity] No wicked king, judge,

or magistrate shall ever stand in thy presence. No countenance

shall such have from thy grace or providence.

Which frameth mischief] Devise, plan, and execute, as if they

acted by a positive law, and were strictly enjoined to do what

they so much delighted in.

Verse 21. They gather themselves together] In every thing that

is evil, they are in unity. The devil, his angels, and his

children, all join and draw together when they have for their

object the destruction of the works of the Lord. But this was

particularly the case with respect to the poor Jews among the

Babylonians: they were objects of their continual hatred, and they

laboured for their destruction.

This and the following verses have been applied to our Lord, and

the treatment he met with both from his own countrymen and from

the Romans. They pretended to "judge him according to the law, and

framed mischief against him;" they "assembled together against the

life of the righteous one," and "condemned innocent blood;" but

God evidently interposed, and "brought upon them their own

iniquity," according to their horrible imprecation: "His blood be

upon us and upon our children!" God "cut them off in their own

iniquity." All this had, in reference to him, a most literal

fulfilment.

Verse 22. The rock of my refuge.] Alluding to those natural

fortifications among rocks, which are frequent in the land of

Judea.

Verse 23. Shall cut them off] This is repeated, to show that the

destruction of the Babylonians was fixed and indubitable: and in

reference to the Jews, the persecutors and murderers of our Lord

and his apostles, it was not less so. Babylon is totally

destroyed; not even a vestige of it remains. The Jews are no

longer a nation; they are scattered throughout the world, and have

no certain place of abode. They do not possess even one village on

the face of the earth.

The last verse is thus translated and paraphrased in the old

Psalter:-

Trans. And he sal yelde to thaim thair wickednes, and in thair

malice he sall skater thaim: skater thaim sal Lorde oure God.

Par. Alswa say efter thair il entent, that thai wil do gude men

harme; he sall yelde thaim pyne, and in thair malice thai sal be

sundred fra the hali courte of hevene, and skatred emang the wiked

fendes of hell.

For different views of several parts of this Psalm, see the

Analysis.

ANALYSIS OF THE NINETY-FOURTH PSALM

In this Psalm the parts are,-

I. A petition for vengeance upon the wicked, Ps 94:1, 2.

II. A pitiful complaint, with the causes of it, which were two:-

1. The delay of God's judgments on them, Ps 94:3, 4.

2. Their insolence, oppression of the poor, and blasphemy

against God, Ps 94:4-7.

III. A sharp reprehension of their blasphemy and atheism, and

the refutation of it.

IV. A consolation to all good men, that God will punish the

wicked and defend the righteous, Ps 94:12-23. Which is

confirmed,-

1. From God's faithfulness, who hath promised, and will perform

it, Ps 94:14.

2. From David's own experience, Ps 94:16-20.

3. From God's hatred of injustice, tyranny, and oppression,

Ps 94:20, 21. 1. Which will cause him to be a rock and defence

to his people, Ps 94:22. 2. A severe revenger to the oppressors,

Ps 94:23.

1. He begins with a petition that God would take vengeance of

the oppressors of his people: "O Lord God, to whom vengeance

belongs, to whom vengeance belongs;" as if he had said, Thou art

the most powerful Lord, a God of justice and power, and hast

vengeance in thine own hand. Therefore now-

1. "Show thyself." Appear, shine forth evidently, and apparently

show thy justice, Ps 94:1.

2. "Lift up thyself, thou Judge of the earth." Do thy office of

judicature; ascend thy throne and tribunal, as judges use to do

when they give judgment.

3. "Render a reward unto the proud." For the proud humble

themselves not unto thee; they repent not.

II. And now the prophet begins to complain that, by the delay of

God's judgment, wicked men were hardened in their impiety, and

gloried in their villany.

1. "How long? how long?" This thy forbearance seems tedious;

especially since the wicked grow worse and worse by it, and insult

over us the more.

2. "For they triumph in their strength." They glory in their

prosperity, and in their wickedness.

3. "They utter and speak hard things." Boldly, rashly, proudly,

they threaten ruin to thy Church.

4. "They are workers of iniquity, and they boast themselves." It

is not sufficient for them to do ill, but they boast of it.

Now to what end do they make use of all these? The consequence

is lamentable-the event sad. The effects are lamentable, for in

their fury and injustice-

1. "They break in pieces thy people, O Lord." The people

dedicated to thee.

2. "They afflict thine heritage." The people that thou hast

chosen for thy possession.

3. "They slay the widow," destitute of the comfort of a

husband-1. "And the stranger." A man far from his friends and

country. 2. "And murder the fatherless." All which thou hast taken

into thy protection, and commanded that they be not wronged.

Ex 22:21, 22; De 24:14, 17-22. Yet such is their fury, that

they spare neither sex, nor age, nor any condition of men.

"Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of

Jacob regard it." This is their impiety; this is their blasphemy;

this is the true cause of all their injustice, tyranny, cruelty,

and oppression.

III. Now our prophet sets himself seriously to reprehend and

confute this. By an apostrophe he turns to them, and calls them

fools; and proves by a manifest argument that they are fools;

demonstrating, from the cause to the effect, that God is neither

deaf nor blind, as they presumed and conceived: and urgeth them

emphatically,-

1. "Understand, ye brutish among the people. O ye fools, when

will ye be wise?" What! will ye be brutish always? will ye never

have common sense in your heads?

2. "He planted the ear," caused you to hear; "and shall he not

then hear?"

3. He formed the eye with all the tunicles, and put into it the

faculty of vision by which you see; "and shall he not see?" To say

the contrary, is as if you should affirm that the fountain that

sends forth the stream had no water in it; or the sun that

enlightens the world had no light; or the fire that warms, no

heat. Are these affirmations fit for wise men? Neither is it, that

the God of Jacob doth not hear nor see.

4. "He chastiseth the heathen," as Sodom, Gomorrah, &c., or he

chastises them by the checks of their own conscience; "and shall

not he then correct you," who go under the name of his people, and

yet so impiously blaspheme?

5. "He that teacheth man knowledge"-hath endued him with a

reasonable soul, and made him capable of all arts and sciences; is

he stupid? is he without understanding? "Shall not he know?" He

looks into your hearts, and knows your thoughts and counsels, and

findeth them all vain: "The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that

they are but vanity." With which he concludes his reprehension.

IV. And so from them he comes to the good man, and shows his

happiness, whom he labours to comfort in his extremities,

pronouncing him blessed: "Blessed is the man." And his blessedness

lies in three things:-

1. In his sufferings; because when he is punished, he is but

chastised, and his chastisements are from the Lord: "Blessed is

the man whom thou chastenest."

2. In his teaching, for when he is chastised, he is but taught

obedience to the law of God, taught out of thy law.

3. In consideration of the end; that he feel not, but bear more

moderately, the injuries of the wicked; for the end why God

chastiseth and teacheth thee out of his law is: That he may give

thee rest-a quiet and even soul, from the days of adversity; and

that thou shouldst expect with patience, till the pit be digged up

for the ungodly. Such a day there is, and the day will come. Hell

is as ready to receive the sinner, as a grave digged up for a dead

body. Expect therefore, their punishment and thy deliverance with

a quiet mind. For which he gives three reasons:-

The first reason is, that though God for a time seem to be

angry, and suffer his people to be afflicted, yet he will not

utterly neglect and forsake them:-

1. "For the Lord will not cast off his people, neither will he

forsake his inheritance."

2. A day of judgment and execution of justice shall come, "when

judgment shall return unto righteousness."

A second confirmation of the comfort he gave to the Church in

affliction is drawn from his own experience, Ps 94:16-20.

1. Object. Yea, but this time of judgment may be long; in the

meanwhile it is necessary to have some helper and help against the

persecutions and injuries of cruel men. Who will arise for me, and

labour to protect me in so great a concourse of devils or

mischievous men? "Who will stand up for me, and defend me against

the workers of iniquity?"

Resp. Even he that then stood up for me. No man, but God alone.

He did it; and "unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had

almost dwelt in silence;" I had been laid in the grave among the

dead, saith David, Ps 94:17.

2. If I said, and complained to him, that I was in any danger,

my foot slips-I was tempted and ready to fall, thy mercy, O

Lord. held me up; in mercy he lent me his hand, and sustained me.

3. "In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts

delight my soul:"-

(1) The thoughts within me were sorrows of heart, and many they

were, occasioned from within, from without; a multitude of them.

(2) "Thy comforts delight my soul." As were the troubles in the

flesh, so were comforts in my soul.

His third reason, to comfort the Church in affliction, is drawn

from the nature of God, to whom all iniquity is hateful.

1. "Shall the throne of iniquity have fellowship with thee?"

Thou art a just God, and wilt thou have any thing to do, any

society, with those that sit upon thrones and seats of justice,

and execute injustice?

2. "Which frame mischief by a law," i.e. frame wicked laws; or,

under the colour of law and justice, oppress the innocent. With

those who do injustice by the sword of justice, God will have no

fellowship.

3. And yet there is a third pretense of wicked men to colour

their proceedings against innocent men. The first was their

throne, the second was the law, and the third is their

council, and consultations in them. These they call to that

end. They meet by troops as thieves; they assemble, they convene

in synods; "they gather themselves together," and that to a most

wicked end:-

1. "Against the soul of the righteous." θηρευσαι, To

hunt.-Septuagint.

2. "To condemn the innocent blood." Their laws are Draco's laws.

Now what shall the poor innocent do in such a case? How shall he

be comforted? Help he must not expect from man; from man it cannot

come; it must come from heaven; and therefore let him say with

David, Though my enemies rage as they list, and exercise all

cruelties towards me, under a pretence of zeal, piety, and legal

justice; yet

1. "The Lord is my defence," so that their treachery and plots

shall not hurt me.

2. "My God is the rock of my refuge," on whom my hope shall

safely rely.

3. "I am fully assured, for I have his word and his promise

engaged for it."

1. "That he shall bring upon them their own iniquity;" that is,

that the iniquity of the wicked man shall return upon his own

head.

2. "And shall cut them off in their own wickedness;" not so much

for their sin as for the malice of it.

3. Which for assurance of it he repeats, and explains who it is

that shall do it: "Yea, the Lord our God shall cut them off;" the

Lord, whose providence they derided; "our God," the God of Jacob,

whom they contemned, Ps 94:7, he "shall cut them off;" they shall

have no part with his people.

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