Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This psalm is entitled "A Prayer of David." By whom the title was prefixed to it, is not known; but there can be no doubt of its appropriateness. It is, throughout, a prayer - fervent, earnest, believing. It was evidently uttered in the view of danger - danger arising from the number and the designs of his enemies; but on what particular occasion it was composed cannot now be determined. There were many occasions, however, in the life of David for the utterance of such a prayer, and there can be no doubt that in the dangers which so frequently beset him, he often poured out such warm and earnest appeals to God for help. "Who" the enemies referred to were cannot now be ascertained. All that is known of them is that they were "deadly" or bitter foes, that they were prosperous in the world, and that they were proud Psa 17:9-10; that they were fierce and greedy, like a lion hunting its prey Psa 17:12; that they were men whose families were in affluence and men who lived for this world alone, Psa 17:14.
The points which constitute the prayer in the psalm are the following:
1. The prayer itself, as an earnest appeal or supplication to God to do what was equal and right, Psa 17:1-2.
2. A reference of the author of the psalm to himself, and to his own life and character, as not deserving the treatment which he was receiving from others, Psa 17:3-4.
3. An earnest petition on this ground for the divine interposition, Psa 17:5-9.
4. A description of the character of his enemies, and a prayer on the ground of that character, that God would interpose for him, Psa 17:10-14.
5. The expression of a confident hope of deliverance from all enemies; a looking forward to a world where he would be rescued from all troubles, and where, in the presence of God, and entering on a new life, he would awake in the likeness of God and be satisfied, Psa 17:15. The psalm terminates, as the anticipations of all good people do amid the troubles of this life, in the hope of that world where there will be no trouble, and where they will be permitted to dwell forever with God.
Hear the right - Margin, as in Hebrew, "justice." The prayer is, that God would regard that which was "right" in the case, or that he would vindicate the psalmist from that which was wrong. It is the expression of his confident assurance even in the presence of God that his cause was right, and that he was asking only that which it would be consistent for a "just" God to do. We can offer an acceptable prayer only when we are sure that it would be right for God to answer it, or that it would be consistent with perfect and eternal justice to grant our requests. It is to be observed here, however, that the ground of the petition of the psalmist is not that "he" was righteous, that is, he did not base his petition on the ground of his own merits, but that his "cause" was righteous; that he was unjustly oppressed and persecuted by his enemies. We cannot ask God to interpose in our behalf because we have a claim to his favor on the ground of our own merit; we may ask him to interpose because wrong is done, and his glory will be promoted in securing that which is just and right.
Attend unto my cry - The word used here - רנה rinnâh - means either a shout of joy, Psa 30:5; Psa 42:4; Psa 47:1; or a mournful cry, outcry, wailing, Psa 61:1; et soepe. It is expressive, in either case, of deep feeling which vents itself in an audible manner. Here it denotes the earnest "utterance" of prayer.
Give ear unto my prayer - See the notes at Psa 5:1.
That goeth not out of feigned lips - Margin, as in Hebrew, "without lips of deceit." That is, that is sincere, or that proceeds from the heart. The utterance of the lips does not misrepresent the feelings of the heart. True prayer is that in which the lips "do" represent the real feelings of the soul. In hypocritical prayer the one is no proper representation of the other. It is evident that the prayer here was not mere mental prayer, or a mere desire of the heart. It was uttered prayer, or oral prayer; and, though private, it was in the form of uttered words. The feeling was so great that it was expressed in an audible cry to God. Deep emotion usually finds vent in such audible and fervent expressions. Compare the Saviour's earnest prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, Luk 22:41 ff.
Let my sentence - Hebrew, "my judgment." The allusion is to a judgment or sentence as coming from God in regard to the matter referred to in the psalm, to wit, the injuries which he had received from his enemies. He felt that they had done him injustice and wrong; he felt assured that a sentence or judgment from God in the case would be in his favor. So Job often felt that if he could bring his case directly before God, God would decide in his favor. Compare Job 23:1-6.
Come forth from thy presence - From before thee. That is, he asks God to pronounce a sentence in his case.
Let thine eyes behold - He asked God to examine the case with his own eyes, or attentively to consider it, and to see where justice was.
The things that are equal - The things that are just and right. He felt assured that his own cause was right, and he prays here that justice in the case may be done. He felt that, if that were done, he would be delivered from his enemies. As between ourselves and our fellow-men, it is right to pray to God that he would see that exact justice should be done, for we may be able to feel certain that justice is on our side, and that we are injured by them; but as between ourselves and God, we can never offer that prayer, for if justice were done to us we could not but be condemned. Before him our plea must be for mercy, not justice.
Thou hast proved mine heart - In this verse he refers to his own character and life in the matter under consideration, or the consciousness of his own innocence in respect to his fellow-men who are persecuting and opposing him. He appeals to the Great Searcher of hearts in proof that, in this respect, he was innocent; and he refers to different forms of trial on the part of God to show that after the most thorough search he would find, and did find, that in these respects he was an innocent man, and that his enemies had no occasion to treat him as they had done. It is still to be borne in mind here that the trial which the psalmist asks at the hand of God was not to prove that he was innocent toward him, or that he had a claim to His favor on account of his own personal holiness, but it was that he was innocent of any wrong toward those who were persecuting him, or, in other words, that after the most searching trial, even by his Maker, it would be found that he had given them no cause for treating him thus. The word here rendered "proved" means "to try, to prove, to examine," especially metals, to test their genuineness. See Psa 7:9-10, note; Job 12:11, note. The psalmist here says that God had tried or searched "his heart." He knew all his motives. He had examined all his desires and his thoughts. The psalmist felt assured that, after the most thorough trial, even God would not find anything in his heart that would justify the conduct of his enemies toward him.
Thou hast visited me - That is, for the purpose of inspecting my character, or of examining me. The English word "visit," like the Hebrew, is often used to denote a visitation for the purpose of inspection and examination. The idea is, that God had come to him for the very purpose of "examining" his character.
In the night - In solitude. In darkness. When I was alone. In the time when the thoughts are less under restraint than they are when surrounded by others. In a time when it can be seen what we really are; when we do not put on appearances to deceive others.
Thou hast tried me - The word used here - צרף tsâraph - means properly "to melt, to smelt," etc., metals, or separating the pure metal from the dross. The meaning is, that God, in examining into his character, had subjected him to a trial as searching as that employed in purifying metals by casting them into the fire.
And shalt find nothing - Thou wilt find nothing that could give occasion for the conduct of my enemies. The future tense is used here to denote that, even if the investigation were continued, God would find nothing in his heart or in his conduct that would warrant their treatment of him. He had the most full and settled determination not to do wrong to them in any respect whatever. Nothing had been found in him that would justify their treatment of him; he was determined so to live, and he felt assured that he would so live, that nothing of the kind would be found in him in time to come. "I am purposed." I am fully resolved.
My mouth shall not transgress - Transgress the law of God, or go beyond what is right. That is, I will utter nothing which is wrong, or which can give occasion for their harsh and unkind treatment. Much as he had been provoked and injured, he was determined not to retaliate, or to give occasion for their treating him in the manner in which they were now doing. Prof. Alexander renders this "My mouth shall not exceed my thought; "but the common version gives a better idea, and is sanctioned by the Hebrew. Compare Gesenius, Lexicon.
Concerning the works of men - In respect to the works or doings of men. The reference is here probably to the ordinary or common doings of mankind, or to what generally characterizes the conduct of men. As their conduct is so commonly, and so characteristically wicked, wickedness may be spoken of as their "work," and it is to this doubtless that the psalmist refers. In respect to the sinful courses or "paths" to which men are so prone, he says that he had kept himself from them. This is in accordance with what he says in the previous verse, that he had given no occasion by his conduct for the treatment which he had received at the hands of his enemies.
By the word of thy lips - Not by his own strength; not by any power which he himself had, but by the commands and promises of God - by what had proceeded from his mouth. The reference is doubtless to all that God had spoken: to the law which prescribed his duty, and to the promises which God had given to enable him to walk in the path of uprightness. He had relied on the word of God as inculcating duty; he had submitted to it as authority; he had found encouragement in it in endeavoring to do right.
I have kept me - I have preserved myself. I have so guarded my conduct that I have not fallen into the sins which are so common among men.
The paths of the destroyer - The paths which the "destroyer" treads; the course of life which such men lead. The idea is, not that he had been able to save himself from violence at their hands, but that he had been enabled to avoid their mode of life. The word rendered "destroyer" is from a verb which means "to break, to rend, to scatter," and would properly refer to acts of violence and lawlessness. He had kept himself from the modes of life of the violent and the lawless; that is, he had been enabled to lead a peaceful and quiet lift. He had given no occasion to his enemies to treat him as a violent, a lawless, a wicked man.
Hold up my goings in thy paths - He had been enabled before this to keep himself from the ways of the violent by the word of God Psa 17:4; he felt his dependence on God still to enable him, in the circumstances in which he was placed, and under the provocations to which he was exposed, to live a life of peace, and to keep himself from doing wrong. He, therefore, calls on God, and asks him to sustain him, and to keep him still in the right path. The verb used here is in the infinitive form, but used instead of the imperative. DeWette. - Prof. Alexander renders this less correctly, "My steps have laid hold of thy paths;" for he supposes that a prayer here "would be out of place." But prayer can never be more appropriate than when a man realises that he owes the fact of his having been hitherto enabled to lead an upright life only to the "word" of God, and when provoked and injured by others he feels that he might be in danger of doing wrong. In such circumstances nothing can he more proper than to call upon God to keep us from sin.
That my footsteps slip not - Margin, as in Hebrew: "be not moved." The idea is, "that I may be firm; that I may not yield to passion; that, provoked and wronged by others, I may not be allowed to depart from the course of life which I have been hitherto enabled to pursue." No prayer could be more appropriate. When we feel and know that we have been wronged by others; when our lives have given no cause for such treatment as we receive at their hands; when they are still pursuing us, and injuring us in our reputation, our property, or our peace; when all the bad passions of our nature are liable to be aroused, prompting us to seek revenge, and to return evil for evil, then nothing can be more proper than for us to lift our hearts to God, entreating that he will keep us, and save us from falling into sin; that he will enable us to restrain our passions, and to subdue our resentments.
I have called upon thee for thou wilt hear me, O God - The meaning of this is, "I have called on thee heretofore, and will do it still, because I am certain that thou wilt hear me." That is, he was encouraged to call upon God by the conviction that he would hear his prayer, and would grant his request. In other words, he came to God in faith; in the full belief of his readiness to answer prayer, and to bestow needed blessings. Compare Joh 11:42; Heb 11:6.
Incline thine ear unto me - See the notes at Psa 17:1.
My speech - My prayer. The reference here, as in Psa 17:1, is to prayer "uttered" before God; and not mere mental prayer.
Show thy marvelous loving-kindness - The literal translation of the original here would be, "distinguish thy favors." The Hebrew word used means properly "to separate; to distinguish;" then, "to make distinguished or great." The prayer is, that God would separate his mercies on this occasion from his ordinary mercies by the manifestation of greater powers, or by showing him special favor. The ordinary or common mercies which he was receiving at the hand of God would not meet the present case. His dangers were much greater than ordinary, his wants were more pressing than usual; and he asked for an interposition of mercy corresponding with his circumstances and condition. Such a prayer it is obviously proper to present before God; that is, it is right to ask him to suit his mercies to our special necessities; and when special dangers surround us, when we are assailed with especially strong temptations, when we have unusually arduous duties to perform, when we are pressed down with especially severe trials, it is right and proper to ask God to bestow favors upon us which will correspond with our special circumstances. His ability and his willingness to aid us are not measured by our ordinary requirements, but are equal to any of the necessities which can ever occur in our lives.
O thou that savest by thy right hand - Margin, "that savest those that trust in thee from those that rise up against thy right hand." The Hebrew will admit of either construction, though that in the text is the more correct. It is, literally, "Saving those trusting, from those that rise up, with thy right hand. The idea is, that it was a characteristic of God, or that it was what he usually did, to save by his own power those that trusted him from those who rose up against them. That is, God might be appealed to to do this now, on the ground that he was accustomed to do it; and that, so to speak, he would be acting "in character" in doing it. In other words, we may ask God to do what he is accustomed to do; we may go to him in reference to his well-known attributes and character, and ask him to act in a manner which will be but the regular and proper manifestation of his nature. We could not ask him to do what was contrary to his nature; we cannot ask him to act in a way which would be out of character. What he has always done for people, we may ask him to do for us; what is entirely consistent with his perfections, we may ask him to do in our own case.
By thy right hand - By thy power. The right hand is that by which we execute our purposes, or put forth our power; and the psalmist asks God to put forth his power in defending him. See Isa 41:10; Job 40:14; Psa 89:13.
From those that rise up against them - From their enemies.
Keep me as the apple of the eye - Preserve me; guard me; defend me, as one defends that which is to him most precious and valuable. In the original there is a remarkable strength of expression, and at the same time a remarkable confusion of gender in the language. The literal translation would be, "Keep me as the little man - the daughter of the eye." The word "apple" applied to the eye means the pupil, the little aperture in the middle of the eye, through which the rays of light pass to form an image on the retina ("Johnson, Webster"); though "why" it is called the "apple" of the eye the lexicographers fail to tell us. The Hebrew word - אישׁון 'ı̂yshôn - means properly, "a little man," and is given to the apple or pupil of the eye, "in which, as in a mirror, a person sees his own image reflected in miniature." This comparison is found in several languages. The word occurs in the Old Testament only in Deu 32:10; Psa 17:8; Pro 7:2; where it is rendered "apple;" in Pro 7:9, where it is rendered "black;" and in Pro 20:20, where it is rendered "obscure." The other expression in the Hebrew - "the daughter of the eye" - is derived from a usage of the Hebrew word "daughter," as denoting that which is dependent on, or connected with (Gesenius, Lexicon), as the expression "daughters of a city" denotes the small towns or villages lying around a city, and dependent on its jurisdiction, Num 21:25, Num 21:32; Num 32:42; Jos 17:11. So the expression "daughters of song," Ecc 12:4. The idea here is, that the little image is the "child" of the eye; that it has its birth or origin there. The prayer of the psalmist here is, that God would guard him, as one guards his sight - an object so dear and valuable to him.
Hide me under the shadow of thy wings - Another image denoting substantially the same thing. This is taken from the care evinced by fowls in protecting their young, by gathering them under their wings. Compare Mat 23:37. Both of the comparisons used here are found in Deu 32:10-12; and it is probable that the psalmist had that passage in his eye - "He instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye; as an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord alone did lead him." Compare also Psa 36:7; Psa 57:1; Psa 61:4; Psa 63:7; Psa 91:1, Psa 91:4.
From the wicked that oppress me - Margin, "That waste me." The margin expresses the sense of the Hebrew. The idea is that of being wasted, desolated, destroyed, as a city or country is by the ravages of war. The psalmist compares himself in his troubles with such a city or country. The "effect" of the persecutions which he had endured had been like cities and lands thus laid waste by fire and sword.
From my deadly enemies - Margin, "My enemies against the soul." The literal idea is, "enemies against my life." The common translation expresses the idea accurately. The sense is, that his enemies sought his life.
Who compass me about - Who surround me on every side, as enemies do who besiege a city.
They are enclosed in their own fat - The meaning here is, that they were prosperous, and that they were consequently self-confident and proud, and were regardless of others. The phrase occurs several times as descriptive of the wicked in a state of prosperity, and as, therefore, insensible to the rights, the wants, and the sufferings of others. Compare Deu 32:15, "But Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked: thou art waxed fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him," etc. Job 15:27, "because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks." Psa 73:7, "their eyes stand out with fatness." Psa 119:70, "their heart is as fat as grease."
With their mouth they speak proudly - Haughtily; in an arrogant tone; as a consequence of their prosperity.
They have now compassed us - Myself, and those who are associated with me. It would seem from this that the psalmist was not alone. It is to be observed, however, that there is a difference of reading in the Hebrew text. The Masoretic reading is: "us;" the Hebrew text is "me," though in the other expression the plural is used - "our steps." There is no impropriety in supposing that the psalmist refers to his followers, associates, or friends, meaning that the wrong was done not to him alone, but to others connected with him. The meaning of "compassed" is, that they "surrounded" him on every side. Wherever he went, they were there.
In our steps - Wherever we go.
They have set their eyes - As those do who are intent on any thing; as the lion does that is seeking its prey Psa 17:12. They looked keenly and directly at the object. They did not allow their eyes to wander. They were not indifferent to the object of their pursuit.
Bowing down to the earth - That is, as the translators evidently understood this, having their eyes bowed down to the ground, or looking steadily to the ground. The image, according to Dr. Horsley, is borrowed from a hunter taking aim at an animal upon the ground. A more literal translation, however, would be, "They have fixed their eyes to lay me prostrate upon the ground." The Hebrew word - נטה nâṭâh - means properly "to stretch out, to extend;" then, "to incline, to bow, to depress;" and hence, the idea of "prostrating;" thus, to make the shoulder bend downward, Gen 49:15; to bring down the mind to an object, Psa 119:112; to bow the heavens, Psa 18:9. Hence, the idea of prostrating an enemy; and the sense here clearly is, that they had fixed their eyes intently on the psalmist, with a purpose to prostrate him to the ground, or completely to overwhelm him.
Like as a lion - Margin, "The likeness of him" (that is, "of every one of them") is "as a lion that desireth to ravin." The meaning is plain. They were like a lion intent on securing his prey. They watched the object narrowly; they were ready to spring upon it.
That is greedy of his prey - "He is craving to tear." Prof. Alexander. - The Hebrew word rendered "is greedy," means "to pine, to long after, to desire greatly." The Hebrew word rendered "of his prey," is a verb, meaning "to pluck, to tear, to rend in pieces." The reference is to the lion that desires to seize his victim, and to rend it in pieces to devour it.
And, as it were, a young lion - Hebrew, "And like a young lion."
Lurking in secret places - Margin, as in Hebrew, "sitting." The allusion is to the lion crouching, or lying in wait for a favorable opportunity to pounce upon his prey. See the notes at Psa 10:8-10. There is no special emphasis to be affixed to the fact that the "lion" is alluded to in one member of this verse, and the "young lion" in the other. It is in accordance with the custom of parallelism in Hebrew poetry where the same idea, with some little variation, is expressed in both members of the sentence. See the introduction to Job, Section 5.
Arise, O Lord - See the notes at Psa 3:7.
Disappoint him - Margin, "prevent his face." The marginal reading expresses the sense of the Hebrew. The word used in the original means "to anticipate, to go before, to prevent;" and the prayer here is that God would come "before" his enemies; that is, that he would cast himself in their way "before" they should reach him. The enemy is represented as marching upon him with his face intently fixed, seeking his destruction; and he prays that God would interpose, or that He would come to his aid "before" his enemy should come up to him.
Cast him down - That is, as it is in the Hebrew, make him bend or bow, as one who is conquered bows before a conqueror.
Deliver my soul from the wicked - Save my life; save me from the designs of the wicked.
Which is thy sword - The Aramaic Paraphrase renders this, "Deliver my soul from the wicked man, who deserves to be slain with thy sword." The Latin Vulgate: "Deliver my soul from the wicked man; thy spear from the enemies of thy hand." So the Septuagint: "Deliver my soul from the wicked; thy sword from the enemies of thy hand." The Syriac, "Deliver my soul from the wicked, and from the sword." DeWette renders it, "Deliver my soul from the wicked by thy sword." Prof. Alexander, "Save my soul from the wicked (with) thy sword." So Luther, "With thy sword." The Hebrew will undoubtedly admit of this latter construction, as in a similar passage in Psa 17:10; and this construction is found in the margin: "By thy sword." The sentiment that the wicked ARE the "sword" of God, or the instruments, though unconsciously to themselves, of accomplishing his purposes, or that he makes them the executioners of his will, is undoubtedly favored by such passages as Isa 10:5-7 (see the notes at those verses), and should be properly recognized. But such a construction is not necessary in the place before us, and it does not well agree with the connection, for it is not easy to see why the psalmist should make the fact that the wicked were instruments in the hand of God in accomplishing his purposes a "reason" why He should interpose and deliver him from them. It seems to me, therefore, that the construction of DeWette and others, "Save me from the wicked "by" thy sword," is the true one. The psalmist asked that God would interfere by his own hand, and save him from danger. The same construction, if it be the correct one, is required in the following verse.
From men which are thy hand - Margin, "From men by thy hand." Here the rendering in the common version would be still more harsh than in the previous verse, since it is at least unusual to call men "the hand" of God, in the sense that they are his instruments in accomplishing his purposes. The more obvious construction is to regard it as a prayer that God would deliver him by his own hand from "men" - from men that rose up against him. Compare Sa2 24:14.
From men of the world - A better construction of this would be "from men; from the world." The psalmist prays first that he may be delivered from men by the hand of God. He then "repeats" the prayer, "from men, I say," and then adds, "from the world." He desires to be rescued entirely from such worldly plans, devices, purposes; from people among whom nothing but worldly principles prevail.
Which have their portion in this life - Their portion - their lot - is among "the living;" that is, they have nothing to look forward to - to hope for in the world to come. They are, therefore, governed wholly by worldly principles. They have no fear of God; they have no regard to the rights of others further than will be in accordance with their own worldly interest. People whose portion is wholly in this life will make everything subordinate to their worldly interests.
And whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure - The meaning of this portion of the verse is that, in respect to the object for which they lived, they were successful. They lived only for the world, and they obtained what the world had to bestow. They had prosperity in their purposes in life. The word "hid" here - "hid treasure" - means that which is hoarded, secreted, carefully guarded; and the word commonly refers to the practice of secreting from public view valuable treasures, as silver and gold. It is possible, however, that the reference here is to the fact that God has hidden these objects in the depths of the earth, and that it is necessary to "search" for them carefully if men would obtain them. Compare Job 28:1-11. The phrase "whose belly thou hast filled" means that their appetite or cravings in this respect were satisfied. They had what they wanted.
They are full of children - Margin, "their children are full." The margin probably expresses the sense of the Hebrew better than the text. The literal rendering would be, "satisfied are their sons;" that is, they have enough to satisfy the wants of their children. The expression "they are full of children" is harsh and unnatural, and is not demanded by the original, or by the main thought in the passage. The obvious signification is, that they have enough for themselves and for their children.
And leave the rest of their substance to their babes - That is, what remains after their own wants are supplied, they leave to their babes. They not only have enough for the supply of their own wants and the wants of their children during their own lives, but they also leave an inheritance to their children after they are dead. The word rendered "babes" properly means little children, though it seems here to be used as denoting children in general. The meaning is, that they are able to provide for their children after they themselves are dead. Compare the description of worldly prosperity in Job 21:7-11.
As for me - In strong contrast with the aims, the desires, and the condition of worldly individuals. "They" seek their portion in this life, and are satisfied; "I" cherish no such desires, and have no such prosperity. I look to another world as my home, and shall be satisfied only in the everlasting favor and friendship of God.
I will behold thy face - I shall see thee. Compare Mat 5:8; Co1 13:12; Jo1 3:2. This refers naturally, as the closing part of the verse more fully shows, to the future world, and is such language as would be employed by those who believe in a future state, and by no others. This is the highest object before the mind of a truly religious man. The bliss of heaven consists mainly, in his apprehension, in the privilege of seeing God his Saviour; and the hope of being permitted to do this is of infinitely more value to him than would be all the wealth of this world.
In righteousness - Being myself righteous; being delivered from the power, the pollution, the dominion of sin. It is this which makes heavyen so desirable; without this, in the apprehension of a truly good man, no place would be heaven.
I shall be satisfied - While they are satisfied with this world, I shall be satisfied only when I awake in the likeness of my God. Nothing can meet the wants of my nature; nothing can satisfy the aspirings of my soul, until that occurs.
When I awake - This is language which would be employed only by one who believed in the resurrection of the dead, and who was accustomed to speak of death as a "sleep" - a calm repose in the hope of awaking to a new life. Compare the notes at Psa 16:9-11. Some have understood this as meaning "when I awake tomorrow;" and they thence infer that this was an evening song (compare Psa 4:8); others have supposed that it had a more general sense - meaning "whenever I awake;" that is, while men of the world rejoice in their worldly possessions, and while this is the first thought which they have on awaking in the morning, my joy when I awake is in God; in the evidence of his favor and friendship; in the consciousness that I resemble him. I am surprised to find that Prof. Alexander favors this view. Even DeWette admits that it refers to the resurrection of the dead, and that the psalm can be interpreted only on the supposition that it has this reference, and hence, he argues that it could not have been composed by David, but that it must have been written in the time of the exile, when that doctrine had obtained currency among the Hebrews. The interpretation above suggested seems to me to be altogether too low a view to be taken of the sense of the passage.
It does not meet the state of mind described in the psalm. It does not correspond with the deep anxieties which the psalmist expressed as springing from the troubles which surrounded him. He sought repose from those troubles; he looked for consolation when surrounded by bitter and unrelenting enemies. He was oppressed and crushed with these many sorrows. Now it would do little to meet that state of mind, and to impart to him the consolation which he needed, to reflect that he could lie down in the night and awake in the morning with the consciousness that he enjoyed the friendship of God, for he had that already; and besides this, so far as this source of consolation was concerned, he would awake to a renewal of the same troubles tomorrow which he had met on the previous day. He needed some higher, some more enduring and efficient consolation; something which would meet "all" the circumstances of the case; some source of peace, composure, and rest, which was beyond all this; something which would have an existence where there was no trouble or anxiety; and this could be found only in a future world. The obvious interpretation of the passage, therefore, so far as its sense can be determined from the connection, is to refer it to the awaking in the morning of the resurrection; and there is nothing in the language itself, or in the known sentiments of the psalmist, to forbid this interpretation. The word rendered "awake" - קוץ qûts - used only in Hiphil, "means to awake;" to awake from sleep, Psa 3:5; Psa 139:18; or from death, Kg2 4:31; Jer 51:39; Isa 26:19; Job 14:12; Dan 12:2.
With thy likeness - Or, in thy likeness; that is, resembling thee. The resemblance doubtless is in the moral character, for the highest hope of a good man is that he may be, and will be, like God. Compare the notes at Jo1 3:2. I regard this passage, therefore, as one of the incidental proofs scattered through the Old Testament which show that the sacred writers under that dispensation believed in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead; that their language was often based on the knowledge and the belief of that doctrine, even when they did not expressly affirm it; and that in times of trouble, and under the consciousness of sin, they sought their highest consolation, as the people of God do now, from the hope and the expectation that the righteous dead will rise again, and that in a world free from trouble, from sin, and from death, they would live forever in the presence of God, and find their supreme happiness in being made wholly like him.