Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
On the phrase in the title to this psalm, "To the chief Musician," see the notes at the title to Psa 4:1-8. On the expression "To Jeduthun," see the notes at the title to Psa 39:1-13. Jeduthun was one of those who were appointed by David to preside over the music of the tabernacle Ch1 25:1-3, but it is impossible now to determine why this psalm, and the others where his name is found in the title Psa 39:1-13; Ps. 77, were dedicated to him, or committed to his special care. The psalm is, in the title, ascribed to David as the author, but we have no certain knowledge on what occasion it was composed. Its contents agree well with the common supposition that it is to be referred to the time of Absalom, and to the troubles which David experienced in his rebellion.
The psalm, apparently for musical purposes only, is divided into three parts, the divisions being indicated by the word Selah, Psa 62:4, Psa 62:8. Another division is indicated in the original by the recurrence of the word אך 'ak - "truly" - at the beginning of Psa 62:1, Psa 62:4-6, Psa 62:9, as if the mind of the author had been greatly impressed with the importance of the particular sentiment introduced by that word.
The general purpose of the psalm is to lead people to trust in God. The contents are as follows:
I. A statement of the humble trust of the author in God - trust in him as his only hope - as his rock and his refuge, Psa 62:1-2.
II. A description of his enemies and of their designs. They devised mischief; they sought to cast down others from their high places; they delighted in falsehood; they made great pretensions of friendship, but they were false in heart, Psa 62:3-4.
III. A renewed expression of the confidence of the psalmist in God - repeating what he had said in Psa 62:1-2 - and reaffirming his entire trust in the divine protection, Psa 62:5-7.
IV. An exhortation to others to trust in God, and not in people; whether people of high or low condition; to trust in nothing else than God: not in power - the power of oppression; not in the robbery of others, or that which was obtained from others by violence; not in riches, in whatever way they might have been acquired, Psa 62:8-10.
V. Reasons for trusting in God, Psa 62:11-12.
(a) All power belongs to him, Psa 62:11,
(b) He is merciful or kind, Psa 62:12,
(c) He is just or equitable, Psa 62:12.
Truly - Indeed; really. The state of mind indicated by this particle is that of one who had been seriously contemplating a subject; who had looked round on his own actual condition; who had taken an estimate of all his resources, and of all his means of reliance, and who had carefully examined his own state of mind to see what was his real trust, and what were his real feelings toward God. Having done all this, he, at last, breaks out with the expression - "My soul does sincerely confide in God; I have no other resource; I have no power to meet my foes, and I am sure - my inmost soul testifies - that my real trust is, where it ought to be, in God; I see nothing in myself on which to rely; I see so much crime, falsehood, treachery in people, that I cannot confide in them; I have had so much painful experience of their insincerity and baseness that I cannot rely on them; but I do see that in God which leads me to trust in him, and I am sure that my heart truly does rely on him."
My soul waiteth upon God - Margin, is silent. Septuagint, "Is not my soul subject to God?" So the Latin Vulgate. Luther, "My soul is still (calm) in God." The Hebrew word - דומיה dûmı̂yâh - means "silence, quiet, rest"; and then, a silent expectation or hope. The idea here is, "Truly toward God is the silent waiting of my soul"; that is, "In him alone do I trust; there is calmness of mind; I have no apprehension as to what can happen. My mind is at peace, for I feel that all is in the hands of God, and that lie is worthy of entire trust and confidence." The feeling is that which exists when we have entrusted all to God; when, having entire confidence in his power, his goodness, his wisdom, his mercy, we commit the whole case to him as if it were no longer our own. Such is the calmness - the peace - the quiet - the silence of the soul - when all is left with God. See the notes at Isa 26:3, and Phi 4:6-7.
From him cometh my salvation - That is, My safety is from him; my security is with him. It is true, also, that all that is ever implied in this word salvation, whether pertaining to this life or the life to come, is derived from God.
He only is my rock ... - See the notes at Psa 18:2.
I shall not be greatly moved - The word greatly here, or much - "I shall not be much moved," implies that he did not anticipate perfect security from danger or calamity; he did not suppose that he would escape all disaster or trouble, but he felt that no great evil would befall him, that his most important interests were safe, and that he would be ultimately secure. He would be restored to his home and his throne, and would be favored with future peace and tranquility. None of us can hope wholly to escape calamity in this life. It is enough if we can be assured that our great interests will be ultimately secured; that we shall be safe at last in the heavenly world. Having that confidence the soul may be, and should be, calm; and we need little apprehend what will occur in this world.
How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? - The original word here rendered "imagine mischief," from התת hâthath, occurs only in this place. It means, according to Gesenius (Lexicon), to break in upon; to set upon; to assail: "How long will ye break in upon a man?" that is, set upon him. So the Septuagint, and the Latin Vulgate. It does not refer to their merely forming purposes of mischief against a man, but to their making assaults upon him; to their endeavoring to take his life or to destroy him. The address here is to the enemies of David, and the language would apply well to the attempts made upon his life by Absalom and his followers. The question here is, "how long" they would continue to do this; how long they would show this determined purpose to take his life; whether they would never cease thus to persecute him. They had already done it long; they had showed great perseverance in this course of wickedness; and he asks whether it would never come to an end? Who these persons were he does not intimate; but there can be no great danger of mistake in referring the description to Absalom and his adherents.
Ye shall be slain all of you - Prof. Alexander renders this entire passage," Will ye murder (that is, seek to murder him) all of you (combined against a single person, who is consequently) like wall inclined (or bent by violence), fence (or hedge) crushed (broken down)." So, substantially, DeWette renders it. Those who thus interpret the passage give it an active signification, meaning that his enemies pressed upon him, like a wall that was bent by violence, or a fence that was likely to fall on one. The original word rendered "ye shall be slain," traatschuw - תרצחוּ terâtsechû, is in the active form (Piel), and cannot without violence be rendered in the passive, as it is in our translation. But the active form may still be retained, and a consistent meaning be given to the whole passage without the forced meaning put on it in the rendering by Prof. Alexander. It is not natural to speak of enemies as so coming on a man as to make him like a falling wall, or a tottering fence. The evident idea is, that they themselves would be as a falling wall; that is, that they would be defeated or disappointed in their purpose, as a wall that has no solid foundation tumbles to the ground. The meaning of the original may be thus expressed: "How long will ye assail a man, that ye may put him to death? All of you shall be as a bowing wall," etc. That is, You will not accomplish your design; you will fail in your enterprise, as a wall without strength falls to the ground.
As a bowing wall - A wall that bows out, or swells out; a wall that may fall at any moment. See the notes at Isa 30:13.
And as a tottering fence - A fence that is ready to fall; that has no firmness. So it would be with them. Their purposes would suddenly give way, as a fence does when the posts are rotted off, and when there is nothing to support it.
They only consult to cast him down from his excellency - This is the object of all their counsels and plans. They aim at one high in rank - and their purpose, their sole purpose, is to bring him down. This would apply well to the case of David in the time of the rebellion of Absalom.
They delight in lies - In false pretences; in secret plans of evil; in hypocritical assurances. This was eminently true of Absalom, who made use of these arts to seduce the people from allegiance to his father. Sa2 15:1-6.
They bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly - They profess true attachment and zeal, but they are traitors at heart. See the notes at Psa 28:3. This, too, would apply well to the conduct of Absalom and those associated with him.
My soul, wait thou only upon God - See the notes at Psa 62:1. There is, in the word used here, and rendered wait, the same idea of rest or repose which occurs in Psa 62:1. The meaning is, that he would commit the whole cause to God, and that his soul would thus be calm and without apprehension.
For my expectation is from him - In Psa 62:1, this is salvation. The idea here is, that all that he expected or hoped for must come from God. He did not rely on his fellow men; he did not rely on himself. God alone could deliver him, and he confidently believed that God would do it. Often are we in such circumstances that we feel that our only "expectation" - our only hope - is in God. All our strength fails; all our resources are exhausted; our fellow-men cannot or will not aid us; our own efforts seem to be vain; our plans are frustrated, and we are shut up to the conclusion that God alone can help us. How often is this felt by a Christian parent in regard to the conversion of his children. All his own efforts seem to be vain; all that he says is powerless; his hopes, long-cherished, are disappointed; his very prayers seem not to be heard; and he is made to feel that his only hope is in God - a sovereign God - and that the whole case must be left in His hands. This state of mind, when it is fully reached, is often all that is needful in order that our desires may be granted. It is desirable that this state of mind should be produced; and when it is produced, the prayer is answered.
He only is my rock ... - See the notes at Psa 62:2. The only difference between this verse and Psa 62:2 is, that in this verse the word "greatly" is omitted. The psalmist declares here in the most absolute manner, that he shall not be "moved" at all. In Psa 62:2, he said that he would not be "greatly moved;" his mind would not be much or materially disturbed. The language here indicates more entire confidence - more certain conviction - showing that the slight apprehension or fear which existed in the beginning of the psalm, had been wholly dissipated, and that his mind had become perfectly calm.
In God is my salvation - See Psa 62:1. That is, his salvation, his safety, his anticipated deliverance, was to come only from God.
And my glory - That in which I glory or boast; the source of all in me that is glorious or honorable. he gloried that there was such a God; he gloried that He was his God.
The rock of my strength - The strong rock; the refuge that cannot be successfully assailed; where I shall feel strong and secure. See the notes at Psa 18:2.
My refuge - That to which I may flee for safety. See the notes at Psa 46:1.
Trust in him at all times - This exhortation, addressed to all persons, in all circumstances, and at all times, is founded on the personal experience of the psalmist, and on the views which he had of the character of God, as worthy of universal confidence. David had found him worthy of such confidence; he now exhorts all others to make the same trial, and to put their trust in God in like manner. What he had found God to be, all others would find him to be. His own experience of God's goodness and mercy - of his gracious interposition in the time of trouble - had been such that he could confidently exhort all others, in similar circumstances, to make the same trial of his love.
Ye people, pour out your heart before him - All people. On the meaning of the phrase "pour out your heart," see the notes at Psa 42:4. The idea is, that the heart becomes tender and soft, so that its feelings and desires flow out as water, and all its emotions, all its wishes, its sorrows, its troubles, are poured out before God. All that is in our hearts may be made known to God. There is not a desire which he cannot gratify; not a trouble in which he cannot relieve us; not a danger in which he cannot defend us. And, in like manner there is not a spiritual want in which he will not feel a deep interest, nor a danger to our souls from which he will not be ready to deliver us. Much more freely than to any earthly parent - to a father, or even to a mother - may we make mention of all our troubles, little or great, before God.
God is a refuge for us - For all. For one as well as another. He is the only refuge; he is all the refuge that we need.
Surely men of low degree are vanity - literally, "vanity are the sons of Adam," but the word Adam here is used evidently to represent men, or the race. The same word is also employed particularly to represent common men, or men of the humbler rank, in contradistinction to the word אישׁ 'ı̂ysh - which is the other word used here, and rendered "men of high degree." Compare, for this use of the word, Hos 6:7. The same antithesis between the two words is found in Isa 2:9; Isa 5:15. The idea here is, that in the great matters which pertain to us, we cannot depend on men, and that our hope - our trust - must be in God. Of men of the humbler or lower classes, it is said that they are "vanity;" that is, they are like a vain, empty, unsubstantial thing. They cannot help us. It is useless to rely on them when we most need aid.
Men of high degree are a lie - Men of exalted rank, kings, princes, nobles. This does not refer to their personal character, as if they were always false, deceitful, treacherous; but the idea is, that any prospect of protection or aid from men of rank and station - front any power which they wield - is unworthy to be relied on. It is not that which we need; it is not that on which we can depend.
To be laid in the balance - literally, "In the scales to go up;" that is, they are seen to go up, or to show how light they are. They have no real weight; no real value. On the scales or balance, see the notes at Dan 5:27.
They are altogether lighter than vanity - They are all vain; single or combined, they have no power to save us. The meaning is not that if these two ranks of persons were weighed against each other they would both be found to be vanity; but that it is true of each and every rank of men - high and low - whether single or combined - that, as weighed against our interests and needs, they are nothing. All the kings of the earth with all their hosts of war, all princes and nobles with all that they can summon from the lower ranks of their people, cannot save one soul from death - cannot deliver us from the consequences of our transgressions. God, and God alone, can do this.
Trust not in oppression - The general meaning here is, that we are not to trust in anything but God. In the previous verse the psalmist had stated reasons why we should not trust in men of any rank. In this verse he enumerates several things on which people are accustomed to rely, or in which they place confidence, and he says that we should put no confidence in them in respect to the help which we need, or the great objects which are to be accomplished by us. The first thing mentioned is oppression; and the idea is, that we must not hope to accomplish our object by oppressing others; extorting their property or their service; making them by force subject to us, and subservient to our wishes. Many do this. Conquerors do it. Tyrants do it. The owners of slaves do it.
And become not vain in robbery - That is, Do not resort to theft or robbery, and depend on that for what is needed in life. Many do. The great robbers of the world - conquerors - have done it. Thieves and burglars do it. People who seek to defraud others of their earnings do it. They who withhold wages from laborers, and they who cheat in trade, do it.
If riches increase, set not your heart upon them - If you become rich without oppression, or without robbery. If your riches seem to grow of themselves - for that is the meaning of the original word (compare Mar 4:2) - do not rely on them as being all that you require. People are prone to do this. The rich man confides in his wealth, and supposes that he has all he needs. The psalmist says that none of these things constitute the true reliance of man. None of them can supply his real needs; none can defend him in the great perils of his existence; hone can save his soul. He needs, over and above all these, a God and Saviour; and it is such a God and Saviour only that can meet the real needs of his nature.
God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this - This repetition, or this declaration that he had heard the thing repeated, is designed to give emphasis to what was said, or to call attention to it as particularly worthy of notice. See the notes at Job 33:14. Compare Job 40:5. The sentiment here is particularly important, or is deserving of special attention, because, as the psalmist had shown, all other resources fail, and confidence is to be placed in nothing else for that which man so much needs; neither in people, whether of low degree or high Psa 62:9; not in oppressive acts - acts of mere power; not in plunder; not in wealth, however acquired, Psa 62:10.
That power belongeth unto God - Margin, strength. The idea is, that the strength which man needs - the ability to defend and to save him - is to be found in God. All else may fail, but the power of God will not fail. The result of all, therefore, should be to lead us to put our trust in God alone.
Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy - Power, indeed, belongs to God Psa 62:11; but this is an attribute to be feared, and while, in one respect, it will inspire confidence, or while it gives us the assurance that God is able to defend us when all else shall fail, yet, unattended by any other attribute, it might produce only apprehension and alarm. What man, weak and sinful man, needs to know is not merely that God has almighty power, but how that power will be wielded, or with what other attributes it is combined; whether it will be put forth to destroy or to save; to kill or to keep alive; to crush or to uphold. Man, therefore, needs the assurance that God is a benevolent Being, as really as that he is a powerful Being; that he is disposed to show mercy; that his power will be put forth in behalf of those who confide in him, and not employed against them. Hence, the attribute of mercy is so essential to a proper conception of God; and hence, the psalm so appropriately closes by a reference to his mercy and compassion.
For thou renderest to every man according to his work - As this stands in our version, it would seem that the psalmist regarded what is here referred to as a manifestation of mercy. Yet the "rendering to every man according to his work" is an act of justice rather than of mercy. It is probable, therefore, that the word rendered "for" - כי kı̂y - does not refer here to either of the attributes mentioned exclusively - either power or mercy - but is to be understood with reference to the general course of argument in the psalm, as adapted to lead to confidence in God. The fact that he is a God who will deal impartially with mankind, or who will regard what is right and proper to be done in view of the characters of mankind, is a reason why they should confide in God - since there could be no just ground of confidence in a Being who is not thus impartial and just. All these combined - power, mercy, equity - constitute a reason why people should confide in God. If either of these were missing in the divine character, man could have no confidence in God. If these things do exist in God, unlimited confidence may be placed in him as having all needful power to save; as being so merciful that sinful people may trust in him; and as being so just and equal in his dealings that all may feel that it is right to repose confidence in a Being by whom all the interests of the universe will be secured. Compare Jo1 1:9.