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Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament
The Longing of the One Who Is Persecuted innocently, to Give Thanks to God in His House
Psalm 25 and Psalm 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, Psalm 25:2; Psalm 26:1); there as here, the cry coming forth from a distressed condition for deliverance (פּדה, Psalm 25:22; Psalm 26:11), and for some manifestation of mercy (חנּני Psalm 26:11; Psalm 25:16); and in the midst of theses, other prominent points of contact (Psalm 26:11; Psalm 25:21; Psalm 26:3; Psalm 25:5). These are grounds sufficient for placing these two Psalms close together. But in Psalm 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 Psalm 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, 2 Samuel 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, 2 Samuel 15:25. The love for the house of God, which is expressed herein, is also the very heart of this Psalm.
1‹‹A Psalm of David.›› Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide.
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 Psalm 7:9; Psalm 35:24, cf. Psalm 43:1. תּם (synon. תמים, which, however, does not take any suffix) is, according to Genesis 20:5., 1 Kings 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. Psalm 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. Psalm 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 (Psalm 139:23.). בּחן is not used in this passage of proving by trouble, but by a penetrating glance into the inmost nature (Psalm 11:5; Psalm 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 (Psalm 12:7; Psalm 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 Isaiah 32:11, cf. Judges 9:8, Judges 9:12; 1 Samuel 28:8. The reins are the seat of the emotions, the heart is the very centre of the life of the mind and soul.
2Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my reins and my heart.
3For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.
Psalm 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 (Psalm 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.
4I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers.
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 Psalm 26:4 compare Jeremiah 15:17. מתי שׁוא (Job 11:11, cf. Psalm 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 ( equals 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 (Psalm 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 Proverbs 22:24, cf. Genesis 23:10. מרע (from רעע) is the name for one who plots that which is evil and puts it into execution. On רשׁע see Psalm 1:1.
5I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.
6I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O LORD:
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 Psalm 3:6 and Psalm 73:16), can only mean, in this passage, et ambiam, and not et ambibam as it does in a different connection (Isaiah 43:26, cf. Judges 6:9); it is the emotional continuation (cf. Psalm 27:6; Sol 7:12; Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 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 (Psalm 59:7) the altar of Jahve. That which is elsewhere a symbolic act (Deuteronomy 21:6, cf. Matthew 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. Psalm 73:13) from the idea of the priest washing his hands preparatory to the service of the altar (Exodus 32:20.) being associated with the idea of the altar. And, in general, the expression of Psalm 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 (Exodus 19:16). For סבב can be used even of half encompassing as it were like a semi-circle (Genesis 2:11; Numbers 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, Isaiah 23:11. Instead of לשׁמע קול תּודה, "to cause the voice of thanksgiving to be heard," since השׁמיע is used absolutely (1 Chronicles 15:19; 2 Chronicles 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 ( equals 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.
7That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.
8LORD, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.
9Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men:
It is now, for the first time, that the petition compressed into the one word שׁפטני (Psalm 26:1) is divided out. He prays (as in Psalm 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 Psalm 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 (Deuteronomy 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.
10In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes.
11But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.
12My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the LORD.
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, Psalm 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.