Human Weakness and Divine Goodness
1 For the director.[b] Of David the servant of the Lord.
2 Sin speaks to the wicked man in his heart;[c]
in his eyes there is no fear of God.
3 He deludes himself with the idea
that his guilt will not be discovered and hated.[d]
4 The words his mouth utters are malicious and deceitful;
he has ceased to be wise and act uprightly.
5 Even when he lies on his bed,[e]
he is hatching evil plots.
He commits himself to a wicked course
and refuses to reject evil.
6 [f]O Lord, your kindness extends to the heavens;
your faithfulness, to the skies.
7 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
your judgments, like the mighty deep;
you sustain both humans and beasts, O Lord.
8 How precious, O God, is your kindness![g]
People seek refuge in the shadow of your wings.
9 They feast on the abundance of your house,[h]
and you give them to drink from your delightful streams.
10 For with you is the fountain of life,[i]
and by your light we see light.
11 Continue to bestow your kindness[j] on those who know you,
and your saving justice on the upright of heart.
12 Let not the foot of the arrogant tread upon me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me out.
13 Behold, the evildoers have fallen;
they are overthrown and unable to rise.
- Psalm 36:1 This psalm combines two contrasting pictures, which were perhaps separated at one time. On the one hand, there is a person destroyed by sin, whose heart holds no sentiment that is not turned to sin (vv. 2-5). On the other, there are creatures dedicated to God, that is, the righteous, who are peaceful and happy (vv. 6ff). These same traditional images of happiness will be found among the Prophets, suggestive of the ideal time for the installment of the future Messiah (Isa 12:2; 25:6; Jer 31:14; Ezek 47).
Christians know better than the psalmist that pride constitutes a maleficent force residing in all humans. In practice, it carries us inevitably along toward evil (see Rom 6:1-11). Through Christ, the Father preserves for us, his faithful, his salvation that shines continually upon us to render us holy and to defend us against outrages on the part of evil and the impious. The New Testament applies images from the second part of this psalm to Christ: light of humankind and inexhaustible wellspring of life (Jn 7:37f; 8:12; Rev 21:6).
- Psalm 36:1 For the director: these words are thought to be a musical or liturgical notation.
- Psalm 36:2 Sin . . . heart: an alternative translation is: “An oracle is within my heart / concerning the sinfulness of the wicked.” Heart: see note on Ps 4:8. Paul cites this verse in Rom 3:18.
- Psalm 36:3 His guilt will . . . be discovered and hated: because it is an offense against God and hence punished by him.
- Psalm 36:5 On his bed: rather than meditating on God’s law both day and night (Pss 1:2; 119:55), the wicked plots evil even on his bed.
- Psalm 36:6 Your kindness . . . mighty deep: God’s influence reaches from one end of the world to the other and into every sphere. Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5.
- Psalm 36:8 Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5. Shadow of your wings: see note on Ps 17:8.
- Psalm 36:9 People rejoice together before the Lord. The image is of the abundance of meat from the sacrifices. This is already a prefiguration of the Messianic Banquet of which Jesus will speak, the “Supper of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9). House: the earth that provides food for all living creatures (see Pss 24:2; 104:14). Streams: the means by which God brings forth the rain out of his “storehouses” (Ps 33:7), which flow into the water sources on earth and give life to creatures.
- Psalm 36:10 Fountain of life: an expression to be taken in the widest possible sense as life implying prosperity, peace, and happiness (see Pss 46:5; 133:3; Isa 12:5; 55:1; Jer 2:13; 17:13; 31:12). In Proverbs this expression designates wisdom (Prov 13:14; 16:22; 18:4) and the fear of the Lord (14:27). The passage is applied to Christ, life and light of human beings (Jn 4:10, 14). Light: through God’s loving kindness (see Pss 4:7; 31:17; 89:16; 97:11; Job 29:3) we enjoy fullness of life and well-being.
- Psalm 36:11 Kindness: see note on Ps 6:5. Heart: see note on Ps 4:8.