Psalm 73:1
A Psalm of Asaph. Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.
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(1) Truly.—See Note, Psalm 62:2. This particle often, like the Latin at, introduces a rejoinder to some supposed statement.

Dryden’s lines express the feeling of this opening—

“Yet sure the gods are good! I would fain think so,

If they would give me leave!

But virtue in distress, and vice in triumph,

Make atheists of mankind.”

The question arises whether the second clause of the verse limits, or only repeats, the first. No doubt in theory God was understood to be good to Israel generally, but the very subject of the psalm seems to require a limitation here. The poet sees that a moral correspondence with their profession is necessary, even in the chosen people—the truth which St. Paul stated with such insistance, “For they are not all Israel which are of Israel.”

Psalm 73:1. Truly, or nevertheless, &c. — The beginning is abrupt, and sufficiently intimates that he had a great conflict within himself about the matter here spoken of, and that many doubts and objections were raised in his mind concerning it. But, at last, light and satisfaction broke forth upon him, like the sun from under a cloud, and overcame and silenced his scruples, in consequence of which he lays down this conclusion. God is good to Israel — Though he may sometimes seem negligent of, and harsh and severe toward, his people; yet, if all things be considered, it is most certain, and hereafter will be made manifest, that he is really and superlatively good, that is, most kind and bountiful, and a true friend to them, and that they are most happy in possessing his favour, and have no reason to envy sinners their present and seeming felicity. Even to such as are of a clean heart — To all true Israelites, who love God with their whole hearts, and serve him in spirit, in truth, and uprightness: see John 4:23; Romans 2:28-29. So this clause limits the former, and takes off a great part of the force of the objection, indeed the whole of that which was drawn from the calamities which befell the hypocritical and half-hearted Israelites, who were vastly the greater number of that people.

73:1-14 The psalmist was strongly tempted to envy the prosperity of the wicked; a common temptation, which has tried the graces of many saints. But he lays down the great principle by which he resolved to abide. It is the goodness of God. This is a truth which cannot be shaken. Good thoughts of God will fortify against Satan's temptations. The faith even of strong believers may be sorely shaken, and ready to fail. There are storms that will try the firmest anchors. Foolish and wicked people have sometimes a great share of outward prosperity. They seem to have the least share of the troubles of this life; and they seem to have the greatest share of its comforts. They live without the fear of God, yet they prosper, and get on in the world. Wicked men often spend their lives without much sickness, and end them without great pain; while many godly persons scarcely know what health is, and die with great sufferings. Often the wicked are not frightened, either by the remembrance of their sins, or the prospect of their misery, but they die without terror. We cannot judge men's state beyond death, by what passes at their death. He looked abroad, and saw many of God's people greatly at a loss. Because the wicked are so very daring, therefore his people return hither; they know not what to say to it, and the rather, because they drink deep of the bitter cup of affliction. He spoke feelingly when he spoke of his own troubles; there is no disputing against sense, except by faith. From all this arose a strong temptation to cast off religion. But let us learn that the true course of sanctification consists in cleansing a man from all pollution both of soul and body. The heart is cleansed by the blood of Christ laid hold upon by faith; and by the begun works of the Lord's Spirit, manifested in the hearty resolution, purpose, and study of holiness, and a blameless course of life and actions, the hands are cleansed. It is not in vain to serve God and keep his ordinances.Truly God is good to Israel - That is, to his people; to the righteous; to those who serve him. That is, God is the "real" friend of the righteous. He has not forgotten them. He does not abandon them. He is not indifferent to them. He is not the friend of wicked people; and the administration of his government is not in favor of wickedness. After all that seems to indicate this, after all that troubles the mind in regard to his dealings, it is a truth that God is the friend of righteousness, and not of wickedness, and that there is advantage in his service. To see the force of what is said here by the psalmist we must realize that the train of thought in the psalm had passed through his mind, and that his perplexities had been relieved in the manner specified in the psalm. The margin here is "yet;" "yet God is good to Israel." This word "yet" would, in this place, be a happy translation. The psalmist then would be represented as having been engaged in meditating on the subject and in looking at all its perplexities, and then he says, "Yet God is good; notwithstanding all the difficulties in the case, it is nevertheless true that he is the friend of his people - the friend of righteousness."

Even to such as are of a clean heart - Margin, as in Hebrew, "clean of heart." See Psalm 73:13. The reference is to those who are truly righteous, for all true righteousness has its seat in the heart. See Psalm 51:10.


Ps 73:1-28. Of Asaph—(see [609]Introduction). God is good to His people. For although the prosperity of the wicked, and the afflictions of the righteous, tempted the Psalmist to misgivings of God's government, yet the sudden and fearful ruin of the ungodly, seen in the light of God's revelation, reassures his heart; and, chiding himself for his folly, he is led to confide renewedly in God, and celebrate His goodness and love.

1. The abrupt announcement of the theme indicates that it is the conclusion of a perplexing mental conflict, which is then detailed (compare Jer 12:1-4).

Truly—or, "Surely it is so."

clean heart—(Ps 18:26) describes the true Israel.

1 Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

"Truly," or, more correctly, only, "God is good to Israel." He is only good, nothing else but good to his own covenanted ones. He cannot act unjustly or unkindly to them; his goodness to them is beyond dispute, and without mixture. "Even to such as are of a clean heart." These are the true Israel, not the ceremonially clean but the really so; those who are clean in the inward parts, pure in the vital mainspring of action. To such he is, and must be, goodness itself. The writer does not doubt this, but lays it down as his firm conviction. It is well to make sure of what we do know, for this will be good anchor-hold for us when we are molested by those mysterious storms which arise from things which we do not understand. Whatever may or may not be the truth about mysterious and inscrutable things, there are certainties somewhere; experience has placed some tangible facts within our grasp; let us, then, cling to these, and they will prevent our being carried away by those hurricanes of infidelity which still come from the wilderness, and, like whirlwinds, smite the four corners of our house and threaten to overthrow it. O my God, however perplexed I may be, let me never think ill of thee. If I cannot understand thee, let me never cease to believe in thee. It must be so, it cannot be otherwise, thou art good to those whom thou hast made good; and where thou hast renewed the heart thou wilt not leave it to its enemies. THE ARGUMENT

The subject of this Psalm is the same with Psalm 77, concerning the promiscuous carriage of God’s providence towards good and bad men

Or, for Asaph, the famous musician, to whom divers of David’s Psalms were committed, as Psalm 1, &c. But because Asaph was not only a skilfull musician, but also was divinely inspired, and the author of some Psalms, as is manifest from 2 Chronicles 29:30, and the style of this Psalm may seem to be something differing from that of David, it may be thought not improbable that Asaph was the author or penman of it.

The prophet under temptation by reason of wicked men’s prosperity, Psalm 73:1-12. His diffidence thereupon, Psalm 73:13-16. His way to overcome such temptations, i.e. the knowledge of God’s purpose in destroying the wicked, Psalm 73:17-20, and that the faithful might be contented alone with God, and communion with him, Psalm 73:21-28.

Truly; or, nevertheless. The beginning is abrupt and sufficiently intimates that he had a great conflict within himself about this matter, and that many doubts and objections were raised in his mind concerning it. But at last he breaks forth like the sun out of a cloud, and having by God’s grace silenced and conquered his scruples, he lays down this following conclusion.

God is good to Israel; though he may sometimes seem negligent of, and harsh and severe to, his people, yet, if all things be considered, it is most certain, and another day will be made manifest, that God is really and superlatively good, i.e. most kind and bountiful, and a true friend to them, and that they are most happy in him, and have no reason to envy sinners their present and seeming felicity.

To such as are of a clean heart; to all true Israelites, who love God with their whole heart, and serve him in spirit, and truth, and uprightness. See John 4:23 Romans 2:28,29. So this clause limits the former, and takes off a great part of the force of the objection, even all that concerns the calamities which befell the profane or false-hearted Israelites, which were vastly the greatest number of that people.

Truly God is good to Israel,.... To Israel, literally understood; in choosing them to be his people above all people on earth; in bringing them into a good land; in favouring them with many external privileges, civil and religious; in giving them his word, statutes, and ordinances, as he did not to other nations: or, spiritually understood, the Israel whom God has chosen, redeemed, and called by his special grace; verily of a truth, God is good to these; there is abundant proof and evidence of it; See Gill on Psalm 34:8,

or "only" God is good to such; though he is good to all in a providential way, yet only to his chosen and redeemed ones in a way of special favour; the goodness others share is but a shadow of goodness, in comparison of what they do and shall partake of; they are blessed with blessings indeed, and are only blessed; so this particle is rendered in Psalm 62:2, or "but", or "notwithstanding" (b), God is good, &c. that is, though he suffers the wicked to prosper, and his own people much afflicted, yet he is good to them; he supports them under their afflictions, and makes all to work for their good; gives them grace here, and glory hereafter;

even to such as are of a clean heart; this character excludes the carnal Israelites, who were pure in their own eyes, but not cleansed from their filthiness, and describes the true Israel of God, and explains who are meant by them, such as are pure in heart, inwardly Jews, Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile; this is not natural to men, their hearts are by nature unclean, nor is it in their power to make them clean: this is God's work, he only can create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit; which is done by the sanctifying influences of his grace, and by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, and thus purifying their heart's by faith; yet so as not to be free from all impurity of spirit, but as to have a conscience purged from the guilt of sin, and to have the heart sincere and upright towards God.

(a) Sept. "Asaph ipsi", Pagninus, Montanus; "Asapho", Gejerus; so Ainsworth. (b) "attamen", Tigurine version, Piscator, Gussetius, Michaelis.

<> Truly {a} God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

(a) As it were between hope and despair he bursts forth into this affection, being assured that God would continue his favour toward such as were godly indeed, and not hypocrites.

1. Truly] It is possible to render with R.V. marg., Only good is God. Though He permits His people to suffer, He is wholly loving-kindness toward them. Cp. Lamentations 3:25. But it is preferable to render with R.V. text, Surely. The particle ak in this connexion expresses the idea Nay but after all.

such as are of a clean heart] R.V., such as are pure in heart. ‘Israel’ is thus defined as the true Israel of God. To them, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, He manifests His goodness (Exodus 33:19). Purity of heart and life is the condition of admission to His presence (Psalm 24:4 ff.), of ‘seeing God’ (Matthew 5:8).

1, 2. The Psalmist begins by stating the conclusion to which he had been led through the trial of his faith.

1–14. Faith tried by the sight of the prosperity of the wicked.

Verse 1. - Truly God is good to Israel; i.e. verily, in spite of appearances to the contrary, which had for a time made the writer doubt. It is suggested that the triumph of Absalom may have been the circumstance that shook Asaph's faith. Even to such as are of a clean heart; i.e. to the pious in Israel, who are the true Israel. God is really on their side, though he may seem for a time to favour the wicked. (On the need of a pure heart, see Psalm 24:4.) Psalm 73:1אך, belonging to the favourite words of the faith that bids defiance to assault, signifies originally "thus equals not otherwise," and therefore combines an affirmative and restrictive, or, according to circumstances, even an adversative signification (vid., on Psalm 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 (Lamentations 3:25). The words ישראל אלהים are not to be taken together, after Galatians 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 Psalm 73:1 to the pure in heart (Psalm 24:4; Matthew 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 (Psalm 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. Numbers 24:4) or נטוּי (cf. 2 Samuel 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., Psalm 94:17; Psalm 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 Psalm 36:8; Psalm 122:6; Numbers 24:6, but also with conjunctives out of pause, e.g., Psalm 57:2, cf. Psalm 36:9, Deuteronomy 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 (Psalm 18:35, cf. Deuteronomy 21:7; Job 16:16) and also more especially of one that is placed after it, e.g., Psalm 37:31; Job 14:19. The footsteps are said to be poured out when one "flies out or slips" and falls to the ground.
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