Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The psalmist, in great distress, calls upon God frequently, Psa 25:1-5; prays for pardon with the strong confidence of being heard, Psa 25:6-11; shows the blessedness of the righteous, Psa 25:12-14; again earnestly implores the Divine mercy; and prays for the restoration of Israel, Psa 25:15-22.
This Psalm seems to refer to the case of the captives in Babylon, who complain of oppression from their enemies, and earnestly beg the help and mercy of God.
It is the first of those called acrostic Psalms, i.e., Psalms each line of which begins with a several letter of the Hebrew alphabet in their common order. Of acrostic Psalms there are seven, viz., 25, 34, 37, Psa 111:1-10, Psa 112:1-10, 119, and 145. It is fashionable to be violent in encomiums on the Jews for the very faithful manner in which they have preserved the Hebrew Scriptures; but these encomiums are, in general, ill placed. Even this Psalm is a proof with what carelessness they have watched over the sacred deposit committed to their trust. The letter ו vau is wanting in the fifth verse, and ק koph in the eighteenth; the letter ר resh being twice inserted, once instead of ק koph, and a whole line added at the end, entirely out of the alphabetical series.
Do I lift up my soul - His soul was cast down, and by prayer and faith he endeavours to lift it up to God.
I trust in thee - I depend upon thy infinite goodness and mercy for my support and salvation.
Let me not be ashamed - Hide my iniquity, and forgive my guilt.
Let none that wait on thee be ashamed - Though he had burden enough of his own, he felt for others in similar circumstances, and became an intercessor in their behalf.
Transgress without cause - Perhaps בוגדים bogedim may here mean idolatrous persons. "Let not them that wait upon and worship thee be ashamed: but they shall be ashamed who vainly worship, or trust in false gods." See Mal 2:11-16. The Chaldeans have evil entreated us, and oppressed us: they trust in their idols, let them see the vanity of their idolatry.
Show me thy ways - The psalmist wishes to know God's way, to be taught his path, and to be led into his truth. He cannot discern this way unless God show it; he cannot learn the path unless God teach it; and he cannot walk in God's truth unless God lead him: and even then, unless God continue to teach, he shall never fully learn the lessons of his salvation; therefore he adds, "Lead me in thy truth, and teach me;" Psa 25:5.
That he may get this showing, teaching, and leading, he comes to God, as the "God of his salvation;" and that he may not lose his labor, he "waits on him all the day." Many lose the benefit of their earnest prayers, because they do not persevere in them. They pray for a time; get remiss or discouraged; restrain prayer; and thus lose all that was already wrought for and in them.
On thee do I wait - This is the line in which ו vau, the sixth letter in the order of the alphabet, is lost; for the line begins with א aleph, אותך othecha, "on thee." But four of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS. have ואותך veothecha, "And upon thee." This restores the lost ו vau, which signifies "and." The Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Anglo-Saxon, preserve it.
Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies, and thy loving-kindness - The word רחמים rachamim, means the commiseration that a man feels in his bowels at the sight of distress. The second word, חסדים chasadim, signifies those kindnesses which are the offspring of a profusion of benevolence.
They have been ever of old - Thou wert ever wont to display thyself as a ceaseless fountain of good to all thy creatures.
Remember not the sins of my youth - Those which I have committed through inconsiderateness, and heat of passion.
According to thy mercy - As it is worthy of thy mercy to act according to the measure, the greatness, and general practice of thy mercy; so give me an abundant pardon, a plentiful salvation.
For thy goodness' sake - Goodness is the nature of God; mercy flows from that goodness.
Good and upright is the Lord - He is good in his nature, and righteous in his conduct.
Therefore will he teach sinners - Because he is good, he will teach sinners, though they deserve nothing but destruction: and because he is right, he will teach them the true way.
The meek will he guide - ענוים anavim, the poor, the distressed; he will lead in judgment - he will direct them in their cause, and bring it to a happy issue, for he will show them the way in which they should go.
All the paths of the Lord - ארחות orchoth signifies the tracks or ruts made by the wheels of wagons by often passing over the same ground. Mercy and truth are the paths in which God constantly walks in reference to the children of men; and so frequently does he show them mercy, and so frequently does he fulfill his truth that his paths are earnestly discerned. How frequent, how deeply indented, and how multiplied are those tracks to every family and individual! Wherever we go, we see that God's mercy and truth have been there by the deep tracks they have left behind them. But he is more abundantly merciful to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies; i.e. those who are conformed, not only to the letter, but to the spirit of his pure religion.
For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon - I have sinned; I need mercy; there is no reason why thou shouldst show it, but what thou drawest from the goodness of thy own nature.
That feareth the Lord - Who has a proper apprehension of his holiness, justice, and truth; and who, at the same time, sees himself a fallen spirit, and a transgressor of God's holy law, and consequently under the curse. That is the person that truly and reverently fears God.
Him shall he teach - Such a person has a teachable spirit.
The way that he shall choose - The way that in the course of Providence he has chosen, as the way in which he is to gain things honest in the sight of all men; God will bless him in it, and give him as much earthly prosperity as may be useful to his soul in his secular vocation.
His soul shall dwell at ease - בטוב תלין betob talin, "shall lodge in goodness;" this is the marginal reading in our version; and is preferable to that in the text.
His seed shall inherit - His posterity shall be blessed. For them many prayers have been sent up to God by their pious fathers; and God has registered these prayers in their behalf.
The secret of the Lord is with them - טוד sod, the secret assembly of the Lord is with them that fear him; many of them have a Church in their own house.
He will show them his covenant - He will let them see how great blessings he has provided for them that love him. Some refer this to the covenant of redemption by Christ Jesus.
Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord - All my expectation is from him alone. If I get at any time entangled, he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn thee unto me - Probably the prayer of the poor captives in Bablyon, which is continued through this and the remaining verses.
The troubles of may heart are enlarged - The evils of our captive state, instead of lessening, seem to multiply, and each to be extended.
Look upon mine affliction - See my distressed condition, and thy eye will affect thy heart.
Forgive all my sins - My sins are the cause of all my sufferings; forgive these.
This is the verse which should begin with the letter ק koph; but, instead of it, we have ר resh both here, where it should not be, and in the next verse where it should be. Dr. Kennicott reads קומה kumah, "arise," and Houbigant, קצר ketsar, "cut short." The word which began with ק koph has been long lost out of the verse, as every version seems to have read that which now stands in the Hebrew text.
Consider mine enemies - Look upon them, and thou wilt see how impossible it is that I should be able to resist and overcome them. They are many, they hate me, and their hatred drives them to acts of cruelty against me.
O keep my soul - Save me from sin, and keep me alive.
Let me not be ashamed - He ends as he began; see Psa 25:2 : "Let me not be confounded, for I put my trust in thee."
Let integrity and uprightness - I wish to have a perfect heart, and an upright life. This seems to be the meaning of these two words.
Redeems Israel, O God - The people are prayed for in the preceding verses as if one person; now he includes the whole, lest his own personal necessities should narrow his heart. and cause him to forget his fellow sufferers.
This verse stands out of the order of the Psalm; and does not appear to have formed a part of the alphabetical arrangement. It is a general prayer for the redemption of Israel from captivity; and may well be applied to those of the true Israel who are seeking for complete redemption from the power, the guilt, and the pollution of sin; and from all the troubles that spring from it. And let it be ever known, that God alone can redeem Israel.