New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 14:1 For the Chief Musician. By David- A comparison of Psalms 14 and 53 illustrate the process of re-writing at Hezekiah's time. These Psalms are both "A Psalm of David", and are virtually identical apart from Ps. 53:5 adding: "There were they in great fear, where no fear was; For God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee: Thou hast put them to shame, because God hath rejected them". This surely alludes to the Assyrian army encamped against Jerusalem (2 Chron. 32:1), put into fear by the Angels, and returning "with shame of face to his own land" (2 Chron. 32:21). Yet both Psalms conclude with a verse which connects with the exiles in Babylonian captivity: "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When God bringeth back the captivity of his people, Then shall Jacob rejoice, and Israel shall be glad". So it would appear that the initial Psalm was indeed written by David; the version of Ps. 14 which is now Ps. 53 was added to and adapted in Hezekiah's time (Prov. 25:1), and both versions had a final verse added to them during the exile.

The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt. They have done abominable works. There is none who does good-
It should be noted that Rom. 3:13-18 are quoting from the Septuagint of Psalm 14- but those verses aren’t found in the Hebrew text. Time and again the inspired New Testament writers quote from the LXX rather than the Hebrew Masoretic text, often preferring the LXX over the MT, and in this case accepting the LXX addition of verses which the MT omits. It’s hard to gauge the wider significance of this. The LXX versions of the genealogies in Genesis would, e.g., not support the contention that the Genesis 1 creation occurred 4000 years before the birth of Christ. The quotation in Rom. 3:10 from Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3 is about the fools who say in their heart that there is no God. Yet Paul applies this to every one of us, himself included. What he’s doing here is similar to what he does at the end of Romans 1- he speaks of the grossest sins such as lesbianism and reasons that we are all in essence guilty and condemned as serious sinners before God. Here he quotes passages which speak of effective atheism and applies them to us all, himself included- even though atheism was abhorrent to the Jews, and Paul may have seemed the last person to be an atheist. But the ‘atheism’ of Ps. 14:1 occurs within the psychological thought processes of the human mind- the fool says in his heart that there is no God. In the context of Romans, Paul is arguing that we call God a liar when we disbelieve His offer of justification and salvation. To deny this is to effectively say in our hearts that there is no God. If God is, then He is a Saviour God. To deny that He will save me is effectively to say He doesn’t exist; for a God who won’t save me may as well not exist. Far too many people claim some level of belief in God’s existence, but in their hearts deny Him, in that they personally doubt whether His promised salvation is really true for me.

Psa 14:2 Yahweh looked down from heaven on the children of men, to see if there were any who understood, who sought after God-
David felt that no one else understood (Ps. 14:2, a wilderness psalm) or was really seeking towards God as he was doing (Ps. 27:4,8). The Hebrew for "understand" here is that translated "wise" concerning David in 1 Sam. 18. But there appears an allusion to God's coming down to view Sodom and investigate, as it were, whether they had done according to the cry which came to Him. David was expecting God's intervention in judgment to be similar to that of His judgment upon Sodom- through direct, supernatural involvement. Effectively, David was looking ahead to the day of final judgment at the Lord's return.


Psa 14:3 They have all gone aside. They have together become corrupt. There is none who does good, no, not one-
David is very critical of all his enemies, especially Saul. He sets up a contrast between the righteous and the unrighteous. But his attitude changed somewhat after his sin with Bathsheba, in connection with which he did much of what he accused Saul of, not least willfully exposing Uriah to an ambush so he would be murdered. Therefore Rom. 3:10-14 alludes to Ps. 14 (from the LXX) and applies it to all men, the righteous included; leading to the conclusion that we are only made righteous by grace through faith.


David often describes himself as "upright in heart" just as Job was (s.w. Job 1:8; 2:3). David sees this as characteristic of all God's people (s.w. Ps. 11:2; 19:8; 32:11; 36:10; 64:10; 94:15; 97:11). But he sees the wicked as those who are not upright (Ps. 14:3; 51:1,3). But these words which David writes about the wicked are then reinterpreted as applying to all men, God's people included (Rom. 3:12). Like Job, David had to be taught that actually he was failing to see the seriousness of sin; righteousness and acceptability with God is imputed to men by grace through faith, because actually there are none who are upright in heart, apart from God's representative son.

Psa 14:4 Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and don’t call on Yahweh?-
"Knowledge" is used here in the Hebraic sense of relationship. The sinners had no relationship with God; the idea is not so much that they had the wrong theological knowledge of God, but rather that they lacked relationship with Him, what the New Testament would simply call "the Spirit". The eating up of "my people", Israel, could refer to the eating up / devouring of the men of Saul during the civil war (2 Sam. 18:8). Yet David is mature enough to see Saul's men as all the same "my people", members of the same people of God.

Psa 14:5 There they were in great fear because God is in the generation of the righteous-
The Hebrew is difficult, and may be David looking ahead to the final day of justice: "But then they will be terrified, for God is with those who obey him" (GNB).

Psa 14:6 You frustrate the plan of the poor, because Yahweh is his refuge-
Or, "but the LORD is their protection" (GNB). In this case we see that we "the poor" do have our plans frustrated by bullies and those more powerful than us, in whatever sense. But Yahweh is our refuge, not unaware of the situations, and we shall be finally justified and saved by grace.

Psa 14:7 Oh that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When Yahweh restores the fortunes of His people, then Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad
- Many NT passages mix a number of OT passages in one 'quotation'; e.g. " The deliverer will come from Zion" (Rom. 11:26) is a conflated quotation of Ps. 14:7; 53:6 and Is. 59:20. And Heb. 13:5 combines quotes from Gen. 28:15; Josh. 1:5 and Dt. 31:16. Heb. 13:5 doesn’t quote any of them exactly, but mixes them together. This Psalm which was clearly David's originally is now reapplied, under inspiration, to the desire for the exiles' fortunes to be revived.