Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Temptation to Apostasy Overcome
After the one Asaph Psalm of the Second Book, Ps 50, follow eleven more of them from Psalms 73-83. They are all Elohimic, whereas the Korah Psalms divide into an Elohimic and a Jehovic group. Psa 84:1-12 forms the transition from the one to the other. The Elohim-Psalms extend from Psalms 42-84, and are fenced in on both sides by Jahve-Psalms.
In contents Psalms 73 is the counterpart of pendant of Ps 50. As in that Psalm the semblance of a sanctity based upon works is traced back to its nothingness, so here the seeming good fortune of the ungodly, by which the poet felt himself tempted to fall away, not into heathenism (Hitzig), but into that free-thinking which in the heathen world does not less cast off the deisidaimoni'a than it does the belief in Jahve within the pale of Israel. Nowhere does there come to light in the national history any back ground that should contradict the לאסף, and the doubts respecting the moral order of the world are set at rest in exactly the same way as in Ps 37; Ps 49, and in the Book of Job. Theodicy, or the vindication of God's ways, does not as yet rise from the indication of the retribution in this present time which the ungodly do not escape, to a future solution of all the contradictions of this present world; and the transcendent glory which infinitely outweighs the suffering of this present time, still remains outside the range of vision. The stedfast faith which, gladly renouncing everything, holds fast to God, and the pure love to which this possession is more than heaven and earth, is all the more worthy of admiration in connection with such defective knowledge.
The strophe schema of the Psalm is predominantly octastichic: 4. 8. 8. 8; 8. 8. 5. Its two halves are Psa 73:1, Psa 73:15.
אך, belonging to the favourite words of the faith that bids defiance to assault, signifies originally "thus = not otherwise," and therefore combines an affirmative and restrictive, or, according to circumstances, even an adversative signification (vid., on Psa 39:6). It may therefore be rendered: yea good, assuredly good, or: only good, nothing but good; both renderings are an assertion of a sure, infallible relation of things. God appears to be angry with the godly, but in reality He is kindly disposed towards them, though He send affliction after affliction upon them (Lam 3:25). The words ישראל אלהים are not to be taken together, after Gal 6:16 (τὸν Ἰσραήλ τοῦ Θεοῦ); not, "only good is it with the Israel of Elohim," but "only good to Israel is Elohim," is the right apprehension of the truth or reality that is opposed to what seems to be the case. The Israel which in every relationship has a good and loving God is limited in Psa 73:1 to the pure in heart (Psa 24:4; Mat 5:8). Israel in truth are not all those who are descended from Jacob, but those who have put away all impurity of disposition and all uncleanness of sin out of their heart, i.e., out of their innermost life, and by a constant striving after sanctification (Psa 73:13) maintain themselves in such purity. In relation to this, which is the real church of God, God is pure love, nothing but love. This it is that has been confirmed to the poet as he passed through the conflict of temptation, but it was through conflict, for he almost fell by reason of the semblance of the opposite. The Chethξb נטוּי רגלי (cf. Num 24:4) or נטוּי (cf. Sa2 15:32) is erroneous. The narration of that which is past cannot begin with a participial clause like this, and כּמעט, in such a sense (non multum abfuit quin, like כּאין, nihil abfuit quin), always has the perfect after it, e.g., Psa 94:17; Psa 119:87. It is therefore to be read נטיוּ (according to the fuller form for נטוּ, which is used not merely with great distinctives, as in Psa 36:8; Psa 122:6; Num 24:6, but also with conjunctives out of pause, e.g., Psa 57:2, cf. Psa 36:9, Deu 32:37; Job 12:6): my feet had almost inclined towards, had almost slipped backwards and towards the side. On the other hand the Chethb שׁפּכה is unassailable; the feminine singular is frequently found as predicate both of a plural subject that has preceded (Psa 18:35, cf. Deu 21:7; Job 16:16) and also more especially of one that is placed after it, e.g., Psa 37:31; Job 14:19. The footsteps are said to be poured out when one "flies out or slips" and falls to the ground.
Now follows the occasion of the conflict of temptation: the good fortune of those who are estranged from God. In accordance with the gloominess of the theme, the style is also gloomy, and piles up the full-toned suffixes amo and emo (vid., Psa 78:66; Psa 80:7; Psa 83:12, Psa 83:14); both are after the example set by David. קנּא with Beth of the object ion which the zeal or warmth of feeling is kindled (Psa 37:1; Pro 3:31) here refers to the warmth of envious ill-feeling. Concerning הולל vid., Psa 5:6. Psa 73:3 tells under what circumsntaces the envy was excited; cf. so far as the syntax is concerned, Psa 49:6; Psa 76:11. In Psa 73:4 חרצצבּות (from חרצב = חצּב from חצב, cognate עצב, whence עצב, pain, Arabic ‛aṣâbe, a snare, cf. חבל, ὠδίς, and חבל σχοινίον), in the same sense as the Latin tormenta (from torquere), is intended of pains that produce convulsive contractions. But in order to give the meaning "they have no pangs (to suffer) till their death," להם (למו) could not be omitted (that is, assuming also that ל, which is sometimes used for עד, vid., Psa 59:14, could in such an exclusive sense signify the terminus ad quem). Also "there are no pangs for their death, i.e., that bring death to them," ought to be expressed by להם למּות. The clause as it stands affirms that their dying has no pangs, i.e., it is a painless death; but not merely does this assertion not harmonize with Psa 73:18., but it is also introduced too early here, since the poet cannot surely begin the description of the good fortune of the ungodly with the painlessness of their death, and then for the first time come to speak of their healthy condition. We may therefore read, with Ewald, Hitzig, Bttcher, and Olshausen:
כי אין חרצבות למו
תּם ובריא אולם
i.e., they have (suffer) no pangs, vigorous (תּם like תּם, Job 21:23, תמים, Pro 1:12) and well-nourished is their belly; by which means the difficult למותם is got rid of, and the gloomy picture is enriched by another form ending with mo. אוּל, here in a derisive sense, signifies the body, like the Arabic allun, âlun (from âl, coaluit, cohaesit, to condense inwardly, to gain consistency).
(Note: Hitzig calls to mind οὖλος, "corporeal;" but this word is Ionic and equivalent to ὅλος, solidus, the ground-word of which is the Sanscrit sarvas, whole, complete.)
The observation of Psa 73:4 is pursued further in Psa 73:5 : whilst one would have thought that the godly formed an exception to the common wretchedness of mankind, it is just the wicked who are exempt from all trouble and calamity. It is also here to be written אינמו, as in Psa 59:14, not אינימו. Therefore is haughtiness their neck-chain, and brutishness their mantle. ענק is a denominative from ענק = αὐχήν: to hang round the neck; the neck is the seat of pride (αὐχεῖν): haughtiness hangs around their neck (like ענק, a neck-ornament). Accordingly in Psa 73:6 המס is the subject, although the interpunction construes it differently, viz., "they wrap round as a garment the injustice belonging to them," in order, that is, to avoid the construction of יעטף (vid., Ps 65:14) with למו; but active verbs can take a dative of the object (e.g., אהב ל ,, רפא ל) in the sense: to be or to grant to any one that which the primary notion of the verb asserts. It may therefore be rendered: they put on the garment of violence (שׁית חמס like בּגדי נקם, Isa 59:17), or even by avoiding every enallage numeri: violence covers them as a garment; so that שׁית is an apposition which is put forth in advance.
The reading עונמו, ἡ ἀδικία αὐτῶν (lxx (cf. in Zac 5:6 the עינם, which is rendered by the lxx in exactly the same way), in favour of which Hitzig, Bצttcher, and Olshausen decide, "their iniquity presses forth out of a fat heart, out of a fat inward part," is favoured by Psa 17:10, where חלב obtains just this signification by combination with סגר, which it would obtain here as being the place whence sin issues; cf. ἐξέρχεσθαι ἐκ τῆς καρδίας, Mat 15:18.; and the parallelism decides its superiority. Nevertheless the traditional reading also gives a suitable sense; not (since the fat tends to make the eyes appear to be deeper in) "their eyes come forward prae adipe," but, "they stare forth ex adipe, out of the fat of their bloated visage," מחלב being equivalent to מחלב פּניהם, Job 15:27. This is a feature of the character faithfully drawn after nature. Further, just as in general τὸ περίσσευμα τῆς καρδίας wells over in the gestures and language (Mat 12:34), so is it also with their "views or images of the heart" (from שׂכה, like שׂכוי, the cock with its gift of divination as speculator): the illusions of their unbounded self-confidence come forth outwardly, they overflow after the manner of a river,
(Note: On the other hand, Redslob (Deutsch. Morgenlהnd. Zeitschr. 1860, S. 675) interprets it thus: they run over the fencings of the heart, from שׂכה in the signification to put or stick through, to stick into (infigere), by comparing קירות לבּי, Jer 4:19, and ἕρκος ὀδόντων. He regards משׂכית sdrag and mosaic as one word, just as the Italian ricamare (to stitch) and רקם is one word. Certainly the root זך, Arab. zk, ḏk, has the primary notion of piercing (cf. זכר), and also the notion of purity, which it obtains, proceeds from the idea of the brilliance which pierces into the eye; but the primary notion of שׂכה is that of cutting through (whence שׂכּין, like מחלף, a knife, from חלף, Jdg 5:26).)
viz., as Psa 73:8 says, in words that are proud beyond measure (Jer 5:28). Luther: "they destroy everything" (synon. they make it as or into rottenness, from מקק). But חמיק is here equivalent to the Aramaic מיּק (μωκᾶσθαι): they mock and openly speak ברע (with ā in connection with Munach transformed from Dech), with evil disposition (cf. Exo 32:12), oppression; i.e., they openly express their resolve which aims at oppression. Their fellow-man is the sport of their caprice; they speak or dictate ממּרום, down from an eminence, upon which they imagine themselves to be raised high above others. Even in the heavens above do they set (שׁתּוּ as in Psa 49:15 instead of שׁתוּ, - there, in accordance with tradition, Milel; here at the commencement of the verse Milra) their mouth; even these do not remain untouched by their scandalous language (cf. Jde 1:16); the Most High and Holy One, too, is blasphemed by them, and their tongue runs officiously and imperiously through the earth below, everywhere disparaging that which exists and giving new laws. תּהלך, as in Exo 9:23, a Kal sounding much like Hithpa., in the signification grassari. In Psa 73:10 the Chethb ישׁיב (therefore he, this class of man, turns a people subject to him hither, i.e., to himself) is to be rejected, because הלם is not appropriate to it. עמּו is the subject, and the suffix refers not to God (Stier), whose name has not been previously mentioned, but to the kind of men hitherto described: what is meant is the people which, in order that it may turn itself hither (שׁוּב, not: to turn back, but to turn one's self towards, as e.g., in Jer 15:19)
(Note: In general שׁוּב does not necessarily signify to turn back, but, like the Arabic ‛âda, Persic gashten, to enter into a new (active or passive) state.))
becomes his, i.e., this class's people (cf. for this sense of the suffix as describing the issue or event, Psa 18:24; Psa 49:6; Psa 65:12). They gain adherents (Psa 49:14) from those who leave the fear of God and turn to them; and מי מלא, water of fulness, i.e., of full measure (cf. Psa 74:15, streams of duration = that do not dry up), which is here an emblem of their corrupt principles (cf. Job 15:16), is quaffed or sucked in (מצה, root מץ, whence first of all מצץ, Arab. mṣṣ, to suck) by these befooled ones (למו, αὐτοῖς = ὑπ ̓ αὐτῶν). This is what is meant to be further said, and not that this band of servile followers is in fulness absorbed by them (Sachs). Around the proud free-thinkers there gathers a rabble submissive to them, which eagerly drinks in everything that proceeds from them as though it were the true water of life. Even in David's time (Psa 10:4; Psa 14:1; Psa 36:2) there were already such stout spirits (Isa 46:12) with a servûm imitatorum pecus. A still far more favourable soil for these לצים was the worldly age of Solomon.
The persons speaking are now those apostates who, deluded by the good fortune and free-thinking of the ungodly, give themselves up to them as slaves. concerning the modal sense of ידע, quomodo sciverit, vid., Psa 11:3, cf. Job 22:13. With וישׁ the doubting question is continued. Bצttcher renders thus: nevertheless knowledge is in the Most High (a circumstantial clause like Pro 3:28; Mal 1:14; Jdg 6:13); but first of all they deny God's actual knowledge, and then His attributive omniscience. It is not to be interpreted: behold, such are (according to their moral nature) the ungodly (אלּה, tales, like זה, Ps 48:15, Deu 5:26, cf. המּה, Isa 56:11); nor, as is more in accordance with the parallel member Psa 73:12 and the drift of the Psalm: behold, thus it befalleth the ungodly (such as they according to their lot, as in Job 18:21, cf. Isa 20:6); but, what forms a better connection as a statement of the ground of the scepticism in Psa 73:11, either, in harmony with the accentuation: behold, the ungodly, etc., or, since it is not הרשׁעים: behold, these are ungodly, and, ever reckless (Jer 12:1), they have acquired great power. With the bitter הנּה, as Stier correctly observes, they bring forward the obvious proof to the contrary. How can God be said to be the omniscient Ruler of the world? - the ungodly in their carnal security become very powerful and mighty, but piety, very far from being rewarded, is joined with nothing but misfortune. My striving after sanctity (cf. Pro 20:9), my abstinence from all moral pollution (cf. Pro 26:6), says he who has been led astray, has been absolutely (אך as in Sa1 25:21) in vain; I was notwithstanding (Ew. 345, a) incessantly tormented (cf. Psa 73:5), and with every morning's dawn (לבּקרים, as in Psa 101:8, cf. לבקרים in Job 7:18) my chastitive suffering was renewed. We may now supply the conclusion in thought in accordance with Psa 73:10 : Therefore have I joined myself to those who never concern themselves about God and at the same time get on better.
To such, doubt is become the transition to apostasy. The poet has resolved the riddle of such an unequal distribution of the fortunes of men in a totally different way. Instead of כּמו in Psa 73:15, to read כּמוהם (Bצttcher), or better, by taking up the following הנה, which even Saadia allows himself to do, contrary to the accents (Arab. mṯl hḏâ), כּמו הנּה (Ewald), is unnecessary, since prepositions are sometimes used elliptically (כּעל, Isa 59:18), or even without anything further (Hos 7:16; Hos 11:7) as adverbs, which must therefore be regarded as possible also in the case of כּמו (Aramaic, Arabic כּמא, Aethiopic kem). The poet means to say, If I had made up my mind to the same course of reasoning, I should have faithlessly forsaken the fellowship of the children of God, and should consequently also have forfeited their blessings. The subjunctive signification of the perfects in the hypothetical protasis and apodosis, Psa 73:15 (cf. Jer 23:22), follows solely from the context; futures instead of perfects would signify si dicerem...perfide agerem. דּור בּניך is the totality of those, in whom the filial relationship in which God has placed Isreal in relation to Himself is become an inward or spiritual reality, the true Israel, Psa 73:1, the "righteous generation," Psa 14:5. It is an appellative, as in Deu 14:1; Hos 2:1. For on the point of the uhiothesi'a the New Testament differs from the Old Testament in this way, viz., that in the Old Testament it is always only as a people that Israel is called בן, or as a whole בנים, but that the individual, and that in his direct relationship to God, dared not as yet call himself "child of God." The individual character is not as yet freed from its absorption in the species, it is not as yet independent; it is the time of the minor's νηπιότης, and the adoption is as yet only effected nationally, salvation is as yet within the limits of the nationality, its common human form has not as yet appeared. The verb בּגד with בּ signifies to deal faithlessly with any one, and more especially (whether God, a friend, or a spouse) faithlessly to forsake him; here, in this sense of malicious desertion, it contents itself with the simple accusative.
On the one side, by joining in the speech of the free-thinkers he would have placed himself outside the circle of the children of God, of the truly pious; on the other side, however, when by meditation he sought to penetrate it (לדעת), the doubt-provoking phenomenon (זאת) still continued to be to him עמל, trouble, i.e., something that troubled him without any result, an unsolvable riddle (cf. Ecc 8:17). Whether we read הוּא or היא, the sense remains the same; the Ker הוּא prefers, as in Job 31:11, the attractional gender. Neither here nor in Job 30:26 and elsewhere is it to be supposed that ואחשׁבה is equivalent to ואחשׁבה (Ewald, Hupfeld). The cohortative from of the future here, as frequently (Ges. 128, 1), with or without a conditional particle (Psa 139:8; Sa2 22:38; Job 16:6; Job 11:17; Job 19:18; Job 30:26), forms a hypothetical protasis: and (yet) when I meditated; Symmachus (according to Montfaucon), ει ̓ ἐλογιζόμην. As Vaihinger aptly observes, "thinking alone will give neither the right light nor true happiness." Both are found only in faith. The poet at last struck upon the way of faith, and there he found light and peace. The future after עד frequently has the signification of the imperfect subjunctive, Job 32:11; Ecc 2:3, cf. Pro 12:19 (donec nutem = only a moment); also in an historical connection like Jos 10:13; Ch2 29:34, it is conceived of as subjunctive (donec ulciseretur, se sanctificarent), sometimes, however, as indicative, as in Exo 15:16 (donec transibat) and in our passage, where אד introduces the objective goal at which the riddle found its solution: until I went into the sanctuary of God, (purposely) attended to (ל as in the primary passage Deu 32:29, cf. Job 14:21) their life's end. The cohortative is used here exactly as in ואבינה, but with the collateral notion of that which is intentional, which here fully accords with the connection. He went into God's dread sanctuary (plural as in Ps 68:36, cf. מקדּשׁ in the Psalms of Asaph, Psa 67:7; Psa 78:69); here he prayed for light in the darkness of his conflict, here were his eyes opened to the holy plans and ways of God (Psa 77:14), here the sight of the sad end of the evil-doers was presented to him. By "God's sanctuaries" Ewald and Hitzig understand His secrets; but this meaning is without support in the usage of the language. And is it not a thought perfectly in harmony with the context and with experience, that a light arose upon him when he withdrew from the bustle of the world into the quiet of God's dwelling - place, and there devoutly gave his mind to the matter?
The strophe closes with a summary confession of the explanation received there. שׁית is construed with Lamed inasmuch as collocare is equivalent to locum assignare (vid., Psa 73:6). God makes the evil-doers to stand on smooth, slippery places, where one may easily lose one's footing (cf. Psa 35:6; Jer 23:12). There, then, they also inevitably fall; God casts them down למשּׁוּאות, into ruins, fragores = ruinae, from שׁוא = שׁאה, to be confused, desolate, to rumble. The word only has the appearance of being from נשׁא: ensnarings, sudden attacks (Hitzig), which is still more ill suited to Psa 74:3 than to this passage; desolation and ruin can be said even of persons, as הרס, Psa 28:5, ונשׁבּרוּ, Isa 8:15, נפּץ, Jer 51:21-23. The poet knows no other theodicy but this, nor was any other known generally in the pre-exilic literature of Israel (vid., Ps 37; Psa 39:1-13, Jer. 12, and the Job 1:1). The later prophecy and the Chokma were much in advance of this, inasmuch as they point to a last universal judgment (vid., more particularly Mal 3:13.), but not one that breaks off this present state; the present state and the future state, time and eternity, are even there not as yet thoroughly separated.
The poet calms himself with the solution of the riddle that has come to him; and it would be beneath his dignity as a man to allow himself any further to be tempted by doubting thoughts. Placing himself upon the standpoint of the end, he sees how the ungodly come to terrible destruction in a moment: they come to an end (ספוּ from סוּף, not ספה), it is all over with them (תּמּוּ) in consequence of (מן as in Psa 76:7, and unconnected as in Psa 18:4; Psa 30:4; Psa 22:14) frightful occurrences (בּלּהות, a favourite word, especially in the Book of Job), which clear them out of the way. It is with them as with a dream, after (מן as in Ch1 8:8) one is awoke. One forgets the vision on account of its nothingness (Job 20:8). So the evil-doers who boast themselves μετὰ πολλῆς φαντασίας (Act 25:23) are before God a צלם, a phantom or unsubstantial shadow. When He, the sovereign Lord, shall awake, i.e., arouse Himself to judgment after He has looked on with forbearance, then He will despise their shadowy image, will cast it contemptuously from Him. Luther renders, So machstu Herr jr Bilde in der Stad verschmecht (So dost Thou, Lord, make their image despised in the city). But neither has the Kal בּזה this double transitive signification, "to give over to contempt," nor is the mention of the city in place here. In Hos 11:9 also בּעיר in the signification in urbem gives no right sense; it signifies heat of anger or fury, as in Jer 15:8, heat of anguish, and Schrder maintains the former signification (vid., on Psa 139:20), in fervore (irae), here also; but the pointing בּעיר is against it. Therefore בּעיר is to be regarded, with the Targum, as syncopated from בּהעיר (cf. לביא, Jer 39:7; Ch2 31:10; בּכּשׁלו, Pro 24:17, and the like); not, however, to be explained, "when they awake," viz., from the sleep of death (Targum),
(Note: The Targum version is, "As the dream of a drunken man, who awakes out of his sleep, wilt Thou, O Lord, on the day of the great judgment, when they awake out of their graves, in wrath abandon their image to contempt." The text of our editions is to be thus corrected according to Bechai (on Deu 33:29) and Nachmani (in his treatise שׁער הגמול).)
or after Psa 78:38, "when Thou awakest them," viz., out of their sleep of security (De Wette, Kurtz), but after Psa 35:23, "when Thou awakest," viz., to sit in judgment.
Thus far we have the divine answer, which is reproduced by the poet after the manner of prayer. Hengstenberg now goes on by rendering it, "for my heart was incensed;" but we cannot take יתחמּץ according to the sequence of tenses as an imperfect, nor understand כּי as a particle expression the reason. On the contrary, the poet, from the standpoint of the explanation he has received, speaks of a possible return (כּי seq. fut. = ἐάν) of his temptation, and condemns it beforehand: si exacerbaretur animus meus atque in renibus meis pungerer. התחמּץ, to become sour, bitter, passionate; השׁתּונן, with the more exactly defining accusative כּליותי, to be pricked, piqued, irritated. With ואני begins the apodosis: then should I be... I should have become (perfect as in Psa 73:15, according to Ges. 126, 5). Concerning לא ידע, non sapere, vid., Psa 14:4. בּהמות can be taken as compar. decurtata for כּבהמות; nevertheless, as apparently follows from Job 40:15, the poet surely has the p-ehe-mou, the water ox, i.e., the hippopotamus, in his mind, which being Hebraized is בּהמות,
(Note: The Egyptian p frequently passes over into the Hebrew b, and vice vers, as in the name Aperiu = עברים; p, however, is retained in פרעה = phar-aa, grand-house (οἶκος μέγας in Horapollo), the name of the Egyptian rulers, which begins with the sign of the plan of a house = p.)
and, as a plump colossus of flesh, is at once an emblem of colossal stupidity (Maurer, Hitzig). The meaning of the poet is, that he would not be a man in relation to God, over against God (עם, as in Psa 78:37; Job 9:2, cf. Arab. ma‛a, in comparison with), if he should again give way to the same doubts, but would be like the most stupid animal, which stands before God incapable of such knowledge as He willingly imparts to earnestly inquiring man.
But he does not thus deeply degrade himself: after God has once taken him by the right hand and rescued him from the danger of falling (Psa 73:2), he clings all the more firmly to Him, and will not suffer his perpetual fellowship with Him to be again broken through by such seizures which estrange him from God. confidently does he yield up himself to the divine guidance, though he may not see through the mystery of the plan (עצה) of this guidance. He knows that afterwards (אחר with Mugrash: adverb as in Psa 68:26), i.e., after this dark way of faith, God will כבוד receive him, i.e., take him to Himself, and take him from all suffering (לקח as in Psa 49:16, and of Enoch, Gen 5:24). The comparison of Zac 2:12  is misleading; there אחר is rightly accented as a preposition: after glory hath He sent me forth (vid., Kצhler), and here as an adverb; for although the adverbial sense of אחר would more readily lead one to look for the arrangement of the words ואחר תקחני כבוד, still "to receive after glory" (cf. the reverse Isa 58:8) is an awkward thought. כבוד, which as an adjective "glorious" (Hofmann) is alien to the language, is either accusative of the goal (Hupfeld), or, which yields a form of expression that is more like the style of the Old Testament, accusative of the manner (Luther, "with honour"). In אחר the poet comprehends in one summary view what he looks for at the goal of the present divine guidance. The future is dark to him, but lighted up by the one hope that the end of his earthly existence will be a glorious solution of the riddle. Here, as elsewhere, it is faith which breaks through not only the darkness of this present life, but also the night of Hades. At that time there was as yet no divine utterance concerning any heavenly triumph of the church, militant in the present world, but to faith the Jahve-Name had already a transparent depth which penetrated beyond Hades into an eternal life. The heaven of blessedness and glory also is nothing without God; but he who can in love call God his, possesses heaven upon earth, and he who cannot in love call God his, would possess not heaven, but hell, in the midst of heaven. In this sense the poet says in Psa 73:25 : whom have I in heaven? i.e., who there without Thee would be the object of my desire, the stilling of my longing? without Thee heaven with all its glory is a vast waste and void, which makes me indifferent to everything, and with Thee, i.e., possessing Thee, I have no delight in the earth, because to call Thee mine infinitely surpasses every possession and every desire of earth. If we take בּארץ still more exactly as parallel to בּשּׁמים, without making it dependent upon חפצתּי: and possessing Thee I have no desire upon the earth, then the sense remains essentially the same; but if we allow בארץ to be governed by חפצתי in accordance with the general usage of the language, we arrive at this meaning by the most natural way. Heaven and earth, together with angels and men, afford him no satisfaction - his only friend, his sole desire and love, is God. The love for God which David expresses in Psa 16:2 in the brief utterance, "Thou art my Lord, Thou art my highest good," is here expanded with incomparable mystical profoundness and beauty. Luther's version shows his master-hand. The church follows it in its "Herzlich lieb hab' ich dich" when it sings -
"The whole wide world delights me not,
For heaven and earth, Lord, care I not,
If I may but have Thee;"
and following it, goes on in perfect harmony with the text of our Psalm -
"Yea, though my heart be like to break,
Thou art my trust that nought can shake;"
(Note: Miss Winkworth's translation.)
or with Paul Gerhard, [in his Passion-hymn "Ein Lmmlein geht und trgt die Schuld der Welt und ihrer Kinder,"
"Light of my heart, that shalt Thou be;
And when my heart in pieces breaks,
Thou shalt my heart remain."
For the hypothetical perfect כּלה expresses something in spite of which he upon whom it may come calls God his God: licet defecerit. Though his outward and inward man perish, nevertheless God remains ever the rock of his heart as the firm ground upon which he, with his ego, remains standing when everything else totters; He remains his portion, i.e., the possession that cannot be taken from him, if he loses all, even his spirit-life pertaining to the body, - and God remains to him this portion לעולם, he survives with the life which he has in God the death of the old life. The poet supposes an extreme case, - one, that is, it is true, impossible, but yet conceivable, - that his outward and inward being should sink away; even then with the merus actus of his ego he will continue to cling to God. In the midst of the natural life of perishableness and of sin, a new, individual life which is resigned to God has begun within him, and in this he has the pledge that he cannot perish, so truly as God, with whom it is closely united, cannot perish. It is just this that is also the nerve of the proof of the resurrection of the dead which Jesus advances in opposition to the Sadducees (Mat 22:32).
The poet here once more gives expression to the great opposites into which good fortune and misfortune are seemingly, but only seemingly, divided in a manner so contradictory to the divine justice. The central point of the confirmation that is introduced with כּי lies in Psa 73:28. "Thy far removing ones" was to be expressed with רחק, which is distinct from רחוק. זנה has מן instead of מתּחת or מאחרי after it. Those who remove themselves far from the primary fountain of life fall a prey to ruin; those who faithlessly abandon God, and choose the world with its idols rather than His love, fall a prey to destruction. Not so the poet; the nearness of God, i.e., a state of union with God, is good to him, i.e., (cf. Psa 119:71.) he regards as his good fortune. קרבה is nom. act. after the form יקהה, Arab. waqhat, obedience, and נצּרה, a watch, Psa 141:3, and of essentially the same signification with ḳurba (קרבה), the Arabic designation of the unio mystica; cf. Jam 4:8, ἐγγίσατε τῷ Θεῷ καὶ ἐγγιεῖ ὑμῖν. Just as קרבת אלהים stands in antithesis to רחקיך, so לי טּוב stands in antithesis to יאבדו and הצמתה. To the former their alienation from God brings destruction; he finds in fellowship with God that which is good to him for the present time and for the future. Putting his confidence (מחסּי, not מחסי) in Him, he will declare, and will one day be able to declare, all His מלאכות, i.e., the manifestations or achievements of His righteous, gracious, and wise government. The language of assertion is quickly changed into that of address. The Psalm closes with an upward look of grateful adoration to God beforehand, who leads His own people, ofttimes wondrously indeed, but always happily, viz., through suffering to glory.