New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

Psa 36:1 For the Chief Musician. By David, the servant of Yahweh.
An oracle is within my heart about the disobedience of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes-
Saul was characterized by disobedience, and it was specifically for this that he was rejected by God and replaced with David. But David seems overly focused upon the disobedience of others, when he himself was also a sinner. Therefore Rom. 3:18 quotes these words about all men, including those like David who are saved by grace through faith. Paul is applying the descriptions of the very worst of humanity and admitting that in essence, this is what is going on within his heart and within the heart of every man. Truly, bad man only do what good mean dream of. We may well enquire how David thought he knew the state of heart [AV "inward part"] of his enemies (Ps. 5:9; 36:1; 49:11; 62:4; 64:6). Perhaps it was a result of his reflection upon how he had only had a right spirit or heart given by God "within" him as a result of his repentance (Ps. 51:10 s.w.). His enemies were impenitent, and so perhaps on that basis he knew what was in their hearts.

Psa 36:2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes, too much to detect and hate his sin-
As discussed on :1, we may wonder how David can be confident he knows so much about the state of Saul's heart. He had been summoned to play the harp for Saul so that the "evil spirit" or depressed attitude of mind would leave Saul. He was therefore working as an amateur psychologist; his work was not merely to play a harp, but to lift Saul's depression. And this Psalm is as it were his case report on Saul's heart. Self flattery is indeed the reason why personal sin cannot be detected in self examination. And depression, such as Saul suffered, is not of itself humility; it can be, as with Saul, self flattery.

Psa 36:3 The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good-
Saul initially wisely refused to go after those who opposed his kingship, and is presented as thoughtful for his father's feelings (1 Sam. 9:5). But from there he embarked upon a downward spiral of self deception which resulted in being deceitful to others, not least to his servant David. Solomon may allude here in saying that we are to cease (s.w.) from our own wisdom (Prov. 23:4). Saul went the other way; he ceased from God's wisdom and turned to his own wisdom. His access to Divine wisdom was surely through Samuel's prophetic words to him.

Psa 36:4 He plots iniquity on his bed-
David rightly perceived that what a man thinks alone on his bed is a litmus indicator of his essential spirituality  (Ps. 4:4; 149:5), and he condemns Saul for plotting sin on his bed (Ps. 36:4). And yet the same phrase "on his bed" is used for how David plotted the sin with Bathsheba on his bed (2 Sam. 11:2). David was surely taught by his sin that he had been too quick to condemn others for their wicked thoughts upon their beds.


He sets himself up in a way that is not good. He doesn’t hate evil- To omit to hate evil is the same as to commit it. The Messianic king was to "hate evil" (s.w. Is. 7:15,16), just as Job did. But Saul precluded all the possibilities to be the anointed / Messianic king by loving evil.  


Psa 36:5 Your grace, Yahweh, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies-
This understanding of "mercy and truth", a phrase often used about the promises to Abraham, was what sustained David when he realized he had sinned with Bathsheba and Uriah. He perceived God's grace was infinite, and this faith was put to the test by his sin. It's amazing how God works even through human failure to lead us further along the path of knowing His grace.

Psa 36:6 Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are like a great deep. Yahweh, You preserve man and animal-
The infinite height of God's grace (:6) is compared to the height and depth of His rightness and justice. His grace isn't cheap, neither does it infringe His holiness and righteousness. This is the infinite wonder of it all. Some reverence God's physical power and majesty rather than His moral majesty. David got the balance right when he reflected that God's righteousness "is like the great mountains". He saw God's moral strength reflected in the massive physicality of God's creation. Job had to be taught this lesson.  

Psa 36:7 How precious is Your grace, O God!-
Even before his sin with Bathsheba, David talks much about God's grace. But clearly he never appreciated it fully until after he was personally thrown upon it in moral terms; and the same can be true of us. For who can say they have fathomed God's grace. There are rungs up the ladder in appreciating it.

The children of men take refuge under the shadow of Your wings- David often says that this is where he personally feels located, under the cherubic wings overshadowing the mercy seat, with the shekinah glory above him and the blood of atonement beneath him. But he invites all God's people to share his experience; that is the purpose of his Psalms.


Psa 36:8 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the abundance of Your house-
Although exiled from the sanctuary whilst persecuted by Saul, David knew that finally he would return to it. And he saw himself as representative of all God's people; which made his Psalms so relevant to the exiles. Perhaps "house" was inserted when the psalms were rewritten for the exiles; for there was no "house" of God in David's time.

You will make them drink of the river of Your pleasures- God will "make us" partake of the blessings of the Kingdom of God. It reminds us of how the Lord Jesus said that in His Kingdom, He will "make us" sit down at a table, and He will come and serve us (Lk. 12:37), knowing full well that he who sits at meat is greater than he who serves (Lk. 22:27). It isn't so difficult to imagine this scene: the Lord of glory wanting us to sit down to a meal, and then He comes and serves us. He will have to "make us" sit down and let ourselves be served. Perhaps "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom" (Mt. 25:34) likewise suggests a hesitancy of the faithful to enter the Kingdom, seeing they have had such doubt about salvation. Perhaps this is typified by Joseph's revelation to his brethren; they slink away from him, and he has to encourage them: "Come near to me, I pray you" (Gen. 45:4).

"River" can as well mean "spring" (see :9), and may refer to the Gihon spring near mount Zion; David understood this as representative of God's eternal blessings which the righteous will partake of. "Pleasures" is related to the word for Eden; David envisaged Eden restored, based around the sanctuary in Zion. He was looking very much ahead; for at that time, Zion was not under Israelite control nor had David yet moved the sanctuary there.

Psa 36:9 For with You is the spring of life; in Your light shall we see light-
David saw the spring in Zion (see on :8) as a symbol of eternal life, and the day when God's light would be the light of all His people. No longer would the shekinah glory be just over the ark, but would be global. And perhaps he looks ahead to the Lord Jesus, who was to be God's light (Jn. 1:4,9). In that light do we understand all things.


Psa 36:10 Oh continue Your grace to those who know You, Your righteousness to the upright in heart-
David is seeing himself and the righteous as Job, and he here continues that connection, seeing that Job is described likewise as "upright in heart" (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). 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 36:11 Don’t let the foot of pride come against me; don’t let the hand of the wicked drive me away-
Foot and hand are paralleled, as are "pride" and "the wicked". David rightly saw pride as the epitome of wickedness. "Drive away" is s.w. "vagabond" (Gen. 4:12,14). He didn't want to permanently be like Cain, exiled from the sanctuary. His love of the sanctuary is repeated throughout the Psalms, and came to full term in his plans to build the temple; his exile from it was perhaps to teach him that God really doesn't live in structures, and is equally present in human hearts wherever they are. Perhaps we all too have David's tension between his love of the structure on one hand, and his personal spirituality on the other.

Psa 36:12 There the workers of iniquity are fallen, they are thrust down, and shall not be able to rise
- "There" appears to refer to David's imagination of the outcome of the day of judgment. He sees the punishment of the wicked as being put down permanently into the grave, suffering "the second death"- and not eternal torment.