Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Longing of the One Who Is Persecuted innocently, to Give Thanks to God in His House
Ps. 25 and Psa 26:1-12 are bound together by similarity of thought and expression. In the former as in this Psalm, we find the writer's testimony to his trust in God (בּטחתּי, Psa 25:2; Psa 26:1); there as here, the cry coming forth from a distressed condition for deliverance (פּדה, Psa 25:22; Psa 26:11), and for some manifestation of mercy (חנּני Psa 26:11; Psa 25:16); and in the midst of theses, other prominent points of contact (Psa 26:11; Psa 25:21; Psa 26:3; Psa 25:5). These are grounds sufficient for placing these two Psalms close together. But in Psa 26:1-12 there is wanting the self-accusation that goes hand in hand with the self-attestation of piety, that confession of sin which so closely corresponds to the New Testament consciousness (vid., supra p. 43), which is thrice repeated in Ps 25. The harshness of the contrast in which the psalmist stands to his enemies, whose character is here more minutely described, does not admit of the introduction of such a lament concerning himself. The description applies well to the Absolomites. They are hypocrites, who, now that they have agreed together in their faithless and bloody counsel, have thrown off their disguise and are won over by bribery to their new master; for Absolom had stolen the hearts of the men of Israel, Sa2 15:6. David at that time would not take the Ark with him in his flight, but said: If I shall find favour in the eyes of Jahve, He will bring me back, and grant me to see both it and His habitation, Sa2 15:25. The love for the house of God, which is expressed herein, is also the very heart of this Psalm.
The poet, as one who is persecuted, prays for the vindication of his rights and for rescue; and bases this petition upon the relation in which he stands to God. שׁפטני, as in Psa 7:9; Psa 35:24, cf. Psa 43:1. תּם (synon. תמים, which, however, does not take any suffix) is, according to Gen 20:5., Kg1 22:34, perfect freedom from all sinful intent, purity of character, pureness, guilelessness (ἀκακία, ἀπλότης). Upon the fact, that he has walked in a harmless mind, without cherishing or provoking enmity, and trusted unwaveringly (לא אמעד, an adverbial circumstantial clause, cf. Psa 21:8) in Jahve, he bases the petition for the proving of his injured right. He does not self-righteously hold himself to be morally perfect, he appeals only to the fundamental tendency of his inmost nature, which is turned towards God and to Him only. Psa 26:2 also is not so much a challenge for God to satisfy Himself of his innocence, as rather a request to prove the state of his mind, and, if it be not as it appears to his consciousness, to make this clear to him (Psa 139:23.). בּחן is not used in this passage of proving by trouble, but by a penetrating glance into the inmost nature (Psa 11:5; Psa 17:3). נסּה, not in the sense of πειράζειν, but of δοκομάζειν. צרף, to melt down, i.e., by the agency of fire, the precious metal, and separate the dross (Psa 12:7; Psa 66:10). The Chethמb is not to be read צרוּפה (which would be in contradiction to the request), but צרופה, as it is out of pause also in Isa 32:11, cf. Jdg 9:8, Jdg 9:12; Sa1 28:8. The reins are the seat of the emotions, the heart is the very centre of the life of the mind and soul.
Psa 26:3 tells how confidently and cheerfully he would set himself in the light of God. God's grace or loving-kindness is the mark on which his eye is fixed, the desire of his eye, and he walks in God's truth. חסד is the divine love, condescending to His creatures, and more especially to sinners (Psa 25:7), in unmerited kindness; אמת is the truth with which God adheres to and carries out the determination of His love and the word of His promise. This lovingkindness of God has been always hitherto the model of his life, this truth of God the determining line and the boundary of his walk.
He still further bases his petition upon his comportment towards the men of this world; how he has always observed a certain line of conduct and continues still to keep to it. With Psa 26:4 compare Jer 15:17. מתי שׁוא (Job 11:11, cf. Psa 31:5, where the parallel word is מרמה) are "not-real," unreal men, but in a deeper stronger sense than we are accustomed to use this word. שׁוא (= שׁוא, from שׁוא) is aridity, hollowness, worthlessness, and therefore badness (Arab. su') of disposition; the chaotic void of alienation from God; untruth white-washed over with the lie of dissimulation (Psa 12:3), and therefore nothingness: it is the very opposite of being filled with the fulness of God and with that which is good, which is the morally real (its synonym is און, e.g., Job 22:15). נעלמים, the veiled, are those who know how to keep their worthlessness and their mischievous designs secret and to mask them by hypocrisy; post-biblical צבוּעים, dyed (cf. ἀνυπόκριτος, Luther "ungefδrbt," undyed). (את) בּוא עם, to go in with any one, is a short expression for: to go in and out with, i.e., to have intercourse with him, as in Pro 22:24, cf. Gen 23:10. מרע (from רעע) is the name for one who plots that which is evil and puts it into execution. On רשׁע see Psa 1:1.
The poet supports his petition by declaring his motive to be his love for the sanctuary of God, from which he is now far removed, without any fault of his own. The coloured future ואסבבה, distinct from ואסבבה (vid., on Psa 3:6 and Psa 73:16), can only mean, in this passage, et ambiam, and not et ambibam as it does in a different connection (Isa 43:26, cf. Jdg 6:9); it is the emotional continuation (cf. Psa 27:6; Sol 7:12; Isa 1:24; Isa 5:19, and frequently) of the plain and uncoloured expression ארחץ. He wishes to wash his hands in innocence (בּ of the state that is meant to be attested by the action), and compass (Psa 59:7) the altar of Jahve. That which is elsewhere a symbolic act (Deu 21:6, cf. Mat 27:24), is in this instance only a rhetorical figure made use of to confess his consciousness of innocence; and it naturally assumes this form (cf. Psa 73:13) from the idea of the priest washing his hands preparatory to the service of the altar (Exo 32:20.) being associated with the idea of the altar. And, in general, the expression of Psa 26:6. takes a priestly form, without exceeding that which the ritual admits of, by virtue of the consciousness of being themselves priests which appertained even to the Israelitish laity (Exo 19:16). For סבב can be used even of half encompassing as it were like a semi-circle (Gen 2:11; Num 21:4), no matter whether it be in the immediate vicinity of, or at a prescribed distance from, the central point. לשׁמע is a syncopated and defectively written Hiph., for להשׁמיע, like לשׁמד, Isa 23:11. Instead of לשׁמע קול תּודה, "to cause the voice of thanksgiving to be heard," since השׁמיע is used absolutely (Ch1 15:19; Ch2 5:13) and the object is conceived of as the instrument of the act (Ges. 138, 1, rem. 3), it is "in order to strike in with the voice of thanksgiving." In the expression "all Thy wondrous works" is included the latest of these, to which the voice of thanksgiving especially refers, viz., the bringing of him home from the exile he had suffered from Absolom. Longing to be back again he longs most of all for the gorgeous services in the house of his God, which are performed around the altar of the outer court; for he loves the habitation of the house of God, the place, where His doxa, - revealed on earth, and in fact revealed in grace, - has taken up its abode. ma`own does not mean refuge, shelter (Hupfeld), - for although it may obtain this meaning from the context, it has nothing whatever to do with Arab. ‛ân, med. Waw, in the signification to help (whence ma‛ûn, ma‛ûne, ma‛âne, help, assistance, succour or support), - but place, dwelling, habitation, like the Arabic ma‛ân, which the Kamus explains by menzil, a place to settle down in, and explains etymologically by Arab. mḥll 'l-‛ı̂n, i.e., "a spot on which the eye rests as an object of sight;" for in the Arabic ma‛ân is traced back to Arab. ‛ân, med. Je, as is seen from the phrase hum minka bi-ma‛ânin, i.e., they are from thee on a point of sight (= on a spot where thou canst see them from the spot on which thou standest). The signification place, sojourn, abode (Targ. מדור) is undoubted; the primary meaning of the root is, however, questionable.
It is now, for the first time, that the petition compressed into the one word שׁפטני (Psa 26:1) is divided out. He prays (as in Psa 28:3), that God may not connect him in one common lot with those whose fellowship of sentiment and conduct he has always shunned. אנשׁי דּמים, as in Psa 5:7, cf. ἄνθρωποι αἱμάτων, Sir. 31:25. Elsewhere זמּה signifies purpose, and more particularly in a bad sense; but in this passage it means infamy, and not unnatural unchastity, to which בּידיהם is inappropriate, but scum of whatever is vicious in general: they are full of cunning and roguery, and their right hand, which ought to uphold the right - David has the lords of his people in his eye - is filled (מלאה, not מלאה) with accursed (Deu 27:25) bribery to the condemnation of the innocent. He, on the contrary, now, as he always has done, walks in his uprightness, so that now he can with all the more joyful conscience intreat God to interpose judicially in his behalf.
The epilogue. The prayer is changed into rejoicing which is certain of the answer that shall be given. Hitherto shut in, as it were, in deep trackless gorges, he even now feels himself to be standing בּמישׁור,
(Note: The first labial of the combination בם, בף, when the preceding word ends with a vowel and the two words are closely connected, receives the Dagesh contrary to the general rule; on this orthophonic Dag. lene, vid., Luth. Zeitschr., 1863, S. 414.)
upon a pleasant plain commanding a wide range of vision (cf. בּמּרחב, Psa 31:9), and now blends his grateful praise of God with the song of the worshipping congregation, קהל (lxx ἐν ἐκκλησίαις), and its full-voiced choirs.