The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 36

Psa 36:1

SUPERSCRIPTION: "OF DAVID THE SERVANT OF THE LORD". Coincides with the title of Psa 18. The Heb phrase could also read: "A psalm of David, concerning the Servant of the Lord". Psa 36 suitably follows a psalm in which v 27 says that the Lord "hath pleasure in the prosperity (ie rest, safety) of his servant (sw)". If the wicked adversary is Saul, this psalm is appropriate to any part of David's "outlaw" days. No hint to make the psalm more specific than this.

The Day of Atonement? Vv 1,2,7,8,9 may have suggested Psa 36 for use at this great holy day.

"The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes" (AV): This word "saith" is the normal word for a divine inspiration. It comes, for example, at least 150 times in "saith the Lord" and is used of the inspired utterances of David (2Sa 23:1,2) and Balaam (Num 24:3,15). Here then is a difficulty: Why should there be a special oracle (vv 1-4) to declare what is plain and obvious -- ie the wickedness of the wicked? Perhaps this should read, as RSV and NEB, "within his heart" (a common confusion between two very similar Heb letters). Read thus, the authoritative "inspiration" conceived in the heart (mind) of the wicked is: 'There is no need to fear God; He will not call me to account' (as Psa 14:1 / Psa 53:1).

"The wicked act in a way different from what they might profess with their mouth. The 'wicked' are not the sinners of the Gentiles, but the unrighteous within the community of the faithful. They do not openly confess a policy of atheism, but act in conformity with the policy 'within the heart.' Cp this statement with that in Psa 14:1. Such a person lacks responsibility of the Truth to act sincerely and faithfully. Eventually such a policy is expressed in voice (v 3a), and manifested in action (v 3b). In CT, the righteous base their lives on identification with Yahweh (v 7). They are rescued from the folly that is bound up in the heart of man, and continue in the lovingkindness of the divine Father" (GEM).

"Transgression is personified, and an oracular utterance is attributed to him" (KD). The sin-principle of the flesh speaks directly to the wicked man, as a guide and inspiration.

THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE HIS EYES: Cited by Paul in Rom 3:18 as part of his proof that Jews (Saul) and Gentiles (Doeg?) are alike under sin.

Psa 36:2

HE FLATTERS HIMSELF: In the spirit of Psa 10:4,11,13; cp Isa 28:15.

Psa 36:3

HE HAS CEASED TO BE WISE: Is there anyone worse than the man who has known the way of wisdom and has chosen to forsake it (2Pe 3:21,22; Pro 26:11)? Ct Rom 16:19b.

Psa 36:4

EVEN ON HIS BED HE PLOTS EVIL: Constantly and without tiring, desiring it above even his own sleep (Psa 38:12; Pro 4:16). Ct Psa 1:2; 16:7; 42:8; 63:6.

Psa 36:5

Vv 5,6: How eloquently David now reaches out to the most impressive features of God's creation for adequate similes of the mercy and goodness of God: "the heavens... the skies... the mountains"... the ocean ("a great deep").

YOUR LOVE: "Mercy" (AV). A frequent word for God's promises, the true oracle for the man of faith, in sharp ct with v 1.

YOUR FAITHFULNESS TO THE SKIES: The clouds sym the promised mercy of God. "The clouds of the millennial expanse are the sparkling dew drops of Yahweh exalted by His energy to place and power" (JT). Christ as the "Sun" (Mal 4:1) draws forth moisture as dew from the earth and condensation from the seas, which form at last the "clouds" of the resurrected and glorified saints. An elaborate but beautiful allegory: Eur 1:140-142.

Psa 36:6

YOUR JUSTICE LIKE THE GREAT DEEP: Cp Rom 11:33; God's wisdom is the "great deep" which is truly "unsearchable" by man.

O LORD, YOU PRESERVE BOTH MAN AND BEAST: This detail suggests that vv 5,6 be read as allusions to the Deluge; note the emphatic covenant language of Gen 9:9-13.

Psa 36:7

Vv 7-10: Vv 5,6 notwithstanding, the surpassing greatness of God is in His Covenants of grace: "unfailing love, righteousness". The Creation figure of the previous two verses continues here as well: ie the shadow of thy wings (Gen 1:2, the "brooding" Spirit); the river of thy pleasures (sw "Eden"!); life; and light.

Also, phrase after phrase here also alludes to the sanctuary of the Lord: the shadow of Your wings again (the cherubim in the Holy of Holies: Psa 17:8; 57:1; 61:4; 63:7; Mat 23:37); "in Your light (of the menorah, or lampstand) shall we see (typified) (a Greater) Light" (ie the Shekinah Glory: 1Pe 2:9).

Perhaps the later influence of godly Hezekiah and Isaiah, for in their time not only these phrases were specially meaningful, but also "the river of thy pleasures... the fountain of life" suggest the conduit of Hezekiah (Psa 46:4) which became the lifeline of Jerusalem when the Assyrian was at the gate. (Alternatively again, Eze 47:1-12 and Rev 22:1,2?)

THE SHADOW OF YOUR WINGS: Also in Psa 17:8; 57:1; 63:7.

Psa 36:8

ABUNDANCE: Or "fatness" (AV). Prosperity or richness or fruitfulness (Psa 63:5; 92:14; cp Isa 25:6-8).

THEY FEAST ON THE ABUNDANCE OF YOUR HOUSE: "Sheba's queen was amazed at the sumptuousness of Solomon's table. She lost all heart when she saw the provision of a single day; and she marvelled equally at the company of servants who were feasted at the royal board. But what is this to the hospitalities of the God of grace? Ten thousand thousand of his people are daily fed; hungry and thirsty, they bring large appetites with them to the banquet, but not one of them returns unsatisfied; there is enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore. Though the host that feed at Jehovah's table is countless as the stars of heaven, yet each one has his portion of meat. Think how much grace one saint requires, so much that nothing but the Infinite could supply him for one day; and yet the Lord spreads His table, not for one, but many saints, not for one day, but for many years; not for many years only, but for generation after generation... the woman said, 'The dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the master's table'; but no child of God is ever served with scraps and leavings; like Mephibosheth, they all eat from the king's own table. In matters of grace, we all have Benjamin's portion -- we all have ten times more than we could have expected, and though our necessities are great, yet are we often amazed at the marvellous plenty of grace which God gives us experimentally to enjoy" (CHS).

RIVER OF DELIGHTS: "Delights" = "eden" in Heb (Gen 2:9; Rev 22:1,2).

Psa 36:9

WITH YOU IS THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE: "There are times in our spiritual experience when human counsel or sympathy, or religious ordinances, fail to comfort or help us. Why does our gracious God permit this? Perhaps it is because we have been living too much without Him, and He therefore takes away everything upon which we have been in the habit of depending, that He may drive us to Himself. It is a blessed thing to live at the fountain head. While our skin-bottles are full, we are content, like Hagar and Ishmael, to go into the wilderness; but when those are dry, nothing will serve us but 'Thou God seest me.' We are like the prodigal, we love the swine-troughs and forget our Father's house. Remember, we can make swine-troughs and husks even out of the forms of religion; they are blessed things, but we may put them in God's place, and then they are of no value. Anything becomes an idol when it keeps us away from God: even the brazen serpent is to be despised as 'Nehushtan,' if we worship it instead of God. The prodigal was never safer than when he was driven to his father's bosom, because he could find sustenance nowhere else. Our Lord favours us with a famine in the land that it may make us seek after Himself the more" (CHS).

LIFE... LIGHT: Eloquently joined in Joh 1:4: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (cp Joh 8:12). The "(New) Creation" symbolism of the entire prologue of John's gospel draws heavily upon this Psa 36. The life that was first with the Father then became the property of the Son (Joh 5:26,27), to dispense as he sees fit (cp Rev 21:22,23).

Psa 36:11

THE FOOT OF THE PROUD: The tramping of the tyrant's (Sennacherib's) army, soon to be reduced to a vast field of corpses (v 12; Isa 37:36).

Psa 36:12

SEE HOW THE EVILDOERS LIE FALLEN: Jesus describes the end of those termed as "workers of iniquity" in Mat 24:48-51. Though the world is full of such creatures, sadly the Brotherhood has its fair share of them too -- as the words just quoted by Jesus prove. The one who receives His reprobation there is described initially as "a good and faithful servant" in the previous verses -- but sadly, with the apparent delay in his Master's return, his attitude changed -- and so too does his destiny.

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