Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The author of this psalm, as of the preceding, is unknown, and equally with that it is impossible now to ascertain the time or the occasion of its composition. It is a psalm of the same structure as that, with the same number of verses; like that, it is alphabetical in its form, and composed in the same manner - the first eight verses with two clauses each, beginning with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet - and the last two verses with "three" clauses, beginning, in like manner, with three letters of the alphabet in succession. This peculiarity of structure makes it highly probable that it was composed by the same author.
It is further to be noticed that this psalm "begins" where the other "ends," with the happiness or blessedness of "fearing God," and is designed to set forth that blessedness, or to show what are the advantages of true religion. This fact makes it further probable that the two psalms were composed by the same author.
This psalm is very simple in its structure. It sets forth the advantages or benefits of the fear of the Lord, or of religion in respect
(a) to the posterity of the man, Psa 112:2;
(b) in securing wealth, Psa 112:3;
(c) in the light which springs up in darkness, Psa 112:4;
(d) in the discretion with which such a man is enabled to manage his affairs, Psa 112:5;
(e) in the firmness and composure of his mind in times of danger and trouble, Psa 112:6-8;
(f) in his being so prosperous, and so exalted, that he will become an object of envy to the wicked, Psa 112:9-10.
Praise ye the Lord - Margin, as in Hebrew, "Hallelujah." See the notes at Psa 106:1.
Blessed is the man - Hebrew, "The blessings of the man." See the notes at Psa 1:1. That is, Blessed, or happy, is such a one.
That feareth the Lord - In Psa 111:10, the psalmist had referred to "the fear of the Lord" as "the beginning of wisdom," and had "alluded" to the success, prosperity, or happiness which attends the fear of the Lord, or true religion. This psalm is designed more fully "to illustrate" that thought.
That delighteth greatly in his commandments - See the notes at Psa 1:2. It is a characteristic of true piety to find pleasure in the commands of God; in the commandments themselves, and in obedience to them.
His seed shall be mighty upon earth - His children; his posterity. That is, they shall be prospered; honored; distinguished among people: distinguished for their virtues, for their influence, for their success in life. This refers to what was regarded among the Hebrews as an object of great desire, and is in accordance with the promises everywhere found in their Scriptures. See Psa 25:13, note; Psa 37:25-26, notes. Compare Gen 12:2; Gen 17:6; Exo 20:6. It is in accordance, also, with a general fact in the course of events. The best security for the virtue and success of children is the virtue and the piety of parents; the surest inheritance as pertaining to happiness, respectability, and usefulness in life, is that which is derived from the example, the prayers, the counsel of a pious father and mother.
The generation of the upright shall be blessed - The family; the children. Such promises are to be expected to be fulfilled in general; it is not required by any proper rules of interpreting language that this should be universally and always true.
Wealth and riches shall be in his house - The Septuagint and the Vulgate render this, "glory and riches shall be in his house." The word, however, properly means riches or wealth, and the two terms are used apparently to convey the idea that wealth or property in "varied forms" would be in his house; that is, not merely gold and silver, but all that was understood to constitute wealth - variety of garments, articles of furniture, etc. This promise is of the same nature as that of the previous verse. It pertains to a general truth in regard to the influence of religion in promoting prosperity. Compare the notes at Ti1 4:8.
And his righteousness endureth for ever - That is, The effects of it shall be transmitted from age to age in the prosperity, the respectability, the wealth, the happiness of his descendants. It travels on from age to age, and blesses distant generations.
Unto the upright - The just; the pious; the man who fears God.
There ariseth light in the darkness - This is a new form of the blessing which follows the fear of the Lord, or another of the benefits which spring from true religion, and by which the pious man is distinguished from other people. The distinction is not that days of darkness will not come upon him as well as upon others, for he may be sick as others are, he may be bereaved as others are, he may lose his property as others do - since there are general laws that affect mankind in these respects. God has not promised that he will interpose to save his people from these things, but that he will save them in them. The peculiarity in regard to those who fear God is, that these things will not always continue; that they shall not be overwhelmed by them; that it will not be uninterrupted and unmitigated gloom; that the sky shall not be always overcast. Compare Psa 97:11, note; Job 11:17, note.
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous - These words are designed to be applied to the "upright" man, and are intended more fully to designate his character, and to show "why" light shall spring up to him when he is in darkness. It is because his character is "really" pure and holy, so that whatever cloud may come over it for a time, however it may be temporarily obscured, however he may be calumniated by men, or however God may for a time seem to forsake him and to treat him as if he were a bad man, yet ultimately his character will appear as it really is. Light will come in upon the darkness. The clouds will break away. The prejudices against him will be dispersed. Full justice will be done to his character both by man and by God, and the world will see that he is a just and pious man. See the notes at Psa 37:5-6. Every man will ultimately be seen as he is; every man will attain the position, and have the reputation which he "ought" to have.
A good man showeth favor - He has the means to show favor to others, or to promote their welfare, and he is disposed to do this. It is the characteristic of a good man - of a heart that is truly pious - to do good to others; to promote their welfare here, and to assist them in their endeavor to secure happiness in the world to come.
And lendeth - The original word here - לוה lâvâh - means to join oneself to anyone; to cleave to him; then, to form the union which is constituted between debtor and creditor, borrower and lender. Here it is used in the latter sense, and it means that a good man will accommodate another - a neighbor - with money, or with articles to be used temporarily and returned again. A man who always "borrows" is not a desirable neighbor; but a man who never lends - who is never willing to accommodate - is a neighbor that no one would wish to live near - a crooked, perverse, bad man. True religion will always dispose a man to do acts of kindness in any and every way possible.
He will guide his affairs - The word used here means literally to hold, contain; to hold up, or sustain; to nourish, to furnish the means of living. Gen 45:11; Gen 47:12; Gen 50:21. Here it means that he would uphold or manage his business.
With discretion - Margin, "judgment;" so the Hebrew. He would do it prudently, sensibly, economically, wisely. This is, or should be, one of the characteristics of a good man. Religion prompts to this; religion will aid a man in doing this; religion will tend to check everything of a contrary nature. A man who neglects his "affairs," who pays no attention to his business, who is indifferent whether he is successful or fails, is a man who gives "just so evidence" that he is a stranger to true religion.
Surely he shall not be moved for ever - Luther, "For he shall remain always." He shall be fixed, stable, firm, prosperous. He shall not be driven from place to place. He shall have a permanent home. He shall have a steady reputation. He shall have a constant influence. He shall be a firm, establislied, prosperous man. Of course this is to be taken in the general, and should not be pressed to mean that it will be, in the most literal sense, and always, true, for a good man "may" be "unfortunate in business," and suffer with others; he may be sick; he may see reason to change his residence; he will certainly die. But still it is true that religion "tends" to produce this permanency, and that in this respect there is a marked difference between people who are truly pious, and those who are not.
The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance - In Pro 10:7, it is said that "the name of the wicked shall rot;" and the meaning here is, that the way to secure a grateful remembrance among people after we are dead is to be righteous - to do something that shall deserve to be remembered. It cannot mean that a man who is righteous will "never" be forgotten, or that his name and deeds will never pass from the recollection of mankind - for that would not be true; but that people will delight to cherish the memory of the righteous; that they will be disposed to do justice to their character after they are dead; that the benevolent and the upright will be remembered when the names of the wicked shall be forgotten. The world has no interest in keeping up the memory of bad people, and as soon as it can be done hastens to forget them. Wicked people are remembered only when their deeds are enormous, and then their memory is cherished only to admonish and to warn. The world has no interest in keeping up the memory of Benedict Arnold, or Alexander VI, or Caesar Borgia except to warn future generations of the guilt and baseness of treason and profligacy; it "has" an interest in never suffering the names of Howard, of Wilberforce, of Henry Martyn, to die, for those names excite to noble feelings and to noble efforts wherever they are known. Such names are to be had "in everlasting remembrance."
He shall not be afraid of evil tidings - Of bad news; of reverses and losses; of the destruction of his ship at sea, or his property by land; of disaster by flood, by famine, by war. His heart will so fully confide in God that he can commit all calmly into his hands. He will feel assured that all will be well; that nothing occurs but that which the wisest and the best Being in the universe sees it best should occur; and that in all which "does" take place he is able to sustain the sufferer. There is nothing so well suited to make the mind calm as trust in God. What has a man to be afraid of who does trust in him? Compare Psa 27:3; Psa 46:2; Psa 56:3-4; Heb 13:6; Pro 1:33.
His heart is fixed - Is firm; is established. See the notes at Psa 57:7.
Trusting in the Lord - This is the reason "why" his heart is "fixed" or firm. It is not any native courage or resolution; it is not any firmness of his own; it is simply because he has confidence in God, and feels assured that all things will be well.
His heart is established - Sustained; upheld. This is the same idea, though somewhat varied in form. The word means to sustain; to support; and the idea is, that there is some basis of support - some strength - which is not his own.
He shall not be afraid - When he is assailed by enemies.
Until he see his desire upon his enemies - This implies that he had nothing really to fear. He would certainly overcome his foes; and in the meantime he might look calmly on all their efforts to destroy him, for those efforts would be vain. So the believer now looks calmly on all his spiritual foes. He has nothing to fear, for he will overcome them all; he will certainly triumph; he will trample them all under his feet. He may well, therefore, endure these conflicts for a brief period, for the issue is certain, and the conflict will soon come to an end.
He hath dispersed ... - This is another characteristic of a righteous man, and another reason of the permanent honor which will be rendered to him. The meaning is, that he is liberal; he freely scatters what he has; he divides it with those who are needy and unfortunate. One part of mankind have an overplus - have more than they need for themselves and their families - and that overplus is what is designed to meet the needs of the unfortunate, the weak, the aged, the imbecile, the infirm, who have "not" enough. It is the "treasury" of God - the "reservoir" where that is gathered which is to be distributed for the needs of the helpless and the dependent. The righteous man is one who enters fully into this arrangement, and who feels that all this overplus belongs to God, and is to be appropriated as he shall direct.
His righteousness endureth for ever - His acts of charity are constant. His piety is not fitful, spasmodic, uncertain; it is steady principle; it is firm and solid; it may always be relied on. See Psa 112:3.
His horn shall be exalted with honor - See the notes at Psa 75:10.
The wicked shall see it, and be grieved - They shall see his prosperity; shall see the evidence that God approves his character and his conduct. The word rendered "grieved" means rather to be angry or enraged. Perhaps the word "fret" would best express the sense.
He shall gnash with his teeth - As indicative of hatred and wrath. See the notes at Psa 37:12.
And melt away - Disappear - as snow does that melts; or as a snail (see the notes at Psa 58:8); or as waters that run away (see the notes at Psa 58:7); or as wax (see the notes at Psa 68:2). Their wrath shall be of no avail, for they themselves shall soon disappear.
The desire of the wicked shall perish - He shall not be able to accomplish his desire, or to carry out his purposes. He shall be disappointed, and all his cherished plans will come to nought. This is in strong contrast with what is said in the psalm would occur to the righteous. They would be prospered and happy; they would be able to carry out their plans; they would be respected while living, and remembered when dead; they would find God interposing in their behalf in the darkest hours; they would be firm and calm in the day of danger and of trouble; they would put their trust in the Lord, and all would be well. Surely there is an advantage in our world in being a friend of God.