“Because as servants of his kingdom,
You did not rule rightly.
You did not keep the law.
You did not walk
According to the purpose of God.
He will come upon you terribly.
He will come upon you swiftly.
Because severe judgment falls
On those in high places.
The lowliest may be pardoned in mercy.
But the mighty will be mightily tested.
The Lord of all
Will not stand in awe of any one.
He will not show deference to greatness.
Because he himself made
Both small and great.
He takes thought for all alike.
But a strict inquiry is in store for the mighty.”
Severe judgment will come upon those who are in high places that did not rule rightly. They did not keep the law (νόμον) or walk according to God’s purposes (κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐπορεύθητε). God will come upon them terribly and swiftly. God might pardon the lowly with mercy, but the mighty are tested mightily. The Lord of all will not be awed by anyone. He does not show deference, whether they are small or great. He does a strict inquiry into all, especially the mighty ones.
“The souls of the righteous
Are in the hand of God.
No torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish
They seemed to have died.
Their departure was thought
To be an affliction.
Their going from us was thought
To be their destruction.
But they are at peace.
Though in the sight of others,
They were punished.
Their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little,
They will receive great good.
God tested them.
God found them worthy of himself.
Like gold in the furnace
He tried them.
Like a sacrificial burnt offering
He accepted them.”
The souls of the righteous (δίκαιον δὲ ψυχαι) or just ones are in the hands of God (ἐν χειρὶ Θεοῦ). What a great thought! They have no more torments. In the eyes of the foolish, they seem to have died. The fools thought that it was a disaster and destruction, but they are at peace (εἰρήνῃ). They seem to have been punished, but their hope is in full immortality (ἡ ἐλπὶς αὐτῶν ἀθανασίας πλήρης), the opposite of dead, fully non-dead. Once again, we have the idea that the just do not die. They were disciplined a little, but they received a great good. They were tested but found worthy. They were like gold in a furnace or an accepted sacrificial offering.
“All this I have tested by wisdom.
‘I will be wise.’
But it was far from me.
It is far off.
It is deep.
It is very deep.
Who can find it out?
I turned my mind to know it.
I turned my mind to search it out.
I turned to seek wisdom.
I turned to seek the sum of things.
I know that wickedness is folly.
I know that foolishness is madness.”
Qoheleth was tested by wisdom. He wanted to be wise, but it was far away and too deep for him. He wanted to know who was able to find wisdom. Unlike the psalms, where the beginning of wisdom was simply fear of Yahweh, Qoheleth has a hard time finding wisdom, since he does not make the connection here with the fear of God. He wanted to know about wisdom and calculations. He knew that wickedness and foolishness were folly and madness.
“When he summoned a famine against the land,
He broke every staff of bread.
He had sent a man ahead of them,
He was sold as a slave.
His feet were hurt with fetters.
His neck was put in a collar of iron.
His oracle came to pass.
As the word of Yahweh tested him.
The king then sent for him.
The king released him.
The ruler of the peoples
Set him free.
He made him
Lord of his house.
The king made him
Ruler of all his possessions.
Jospeh was to instruct
His officials at his pleasure.
He was to teach his elders wisdom.”
Here we find the story of Joseph as told in Genesis, chapters 37-50, but without the details of how he was betrayed by his brothers. Yahweh brought the famine that led Jacob and his sons to go to Egypt. Joseph hd gone ahead, but not voluntarily. He was sold as a slave or more precisely turned over by his brothers into slavery. While in Egypt, he was in jail. His dreams came through so he was released when they were found to be true. He was tested by Yahweh. Finally the king or pharaoh released him and put him in charge of his household and all his possessions. Jospeh then instructed the other officials in Egypt as he taught them wisdom. He made the correct preparations for the famine to come.
“O that today you would listen to his voice!
Do not harden your hearts,
As at Meribah,
As on the day at Massah
In the wilderness.
Your ancestors tested me.
They put me to the proof,
Even though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation.
‘They are a people whose hearts go astray.
They do not regard my ways.’
Therefore in my anger
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
This psalm concludes with an oracle from God, via the Temple prophet. Yahweh warns them against disobedience. The example of disobedience is from the time in the wilderness at Meribah and Massah in Exodus, chapter 17, when they complained about no water in the desert. The same story can be found in Numbers, chapter 20. Their ancestors had tested him even though they had seen his work in Egypt. Yahweh then said to them that their hearts had gone astray. Therefore they would not enter into the place of rest, the Promised Land.
“I hear a voice I had not known.
‘I relieved your shoulder of the burden.
Your hands were freed from the basket.
In distress you called.
Then I rescued you.
I answered you in the secret place of thunder.
I tested you at the waters of Meribah.’”
The psalmist noted that he heard an unknown voice. This voice said that he relieved them of their burdens. He freed their hands from the basket in their distress. He had rescued them. He had answered them with thunder. He had tested them at the waters of Meribah. These are references to the activities found in Exodus, chapters 17-19. This section ends with the musical meditative interlude pause of Selah.
“Yet Isreal tested the Most High God.
They rebelled against him.
They did not observe his decrees.
They turned away.
They were faithless,
Like their ancestors.
They twisted like a treacherous bow.
They provoked him to anger,
With their high places.
They moved him to jealousy,
With their idols.
When God heard,
He was full of wrath.
He utterly rejected Israel.”
When the Israelites got to the holy land, they tested God. They rebelled against him. They did not keep his commandments. They were faithless like their ancestors in the desert. They provoked God to anger when they established the high places dedicated to idols in the countryside. When God heard this he was angry. He then utterly rejected Israel.
Forgave their iniquity.
He did not destroy them.
Often he restrained his anger.
He did not stir up all his wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh.
They were a wind that passes
And does not come again.
How often they rebelled against him
In the wilderness.
They grieved him in the desert!
They tested God again and again.
They provoked the Holy One of Israel.”
Instead of destroying them all, the compassionate God forgave them. He restrained his anger as he remembered that they were only human. They were like the wind that passes away never to return. They continued to rebel in the wilderness as they grieved him in the desert. Thus the wilderness time lasted longer than they had expected. They continually tested and provoked the God of Israel.
“Bless our God!
Let the sound of his praise be heard!
He has kept us among the living.
He has not let our feet slip.
You have tested us!
You have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net.
You laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads.
We went through fire.
We went through water.
You have brought us out to a spacious place.”
God has been good to the Israelites. They should bless God. The sounds of praise should be heard because he kept them among the living. He did not let their feet slip. They were tested like silver is tested in minting it. They fell into nets. They had burdens on their backs. People ran over them. They went through fire and water. However, in the end, they settled into a spacious place, the Promised Land.
“A psalm of David
I have walked in my integrity.
I have trusted in Yahweh
I have not wavered.
Test my heart!
Test my mind!
Your steadfast love is before my eyes.
I walk in faithfulness to you.”
Psalm 26 is another lament or prayer for deliverance from personal enemies like the preceding Psalm 25. It is more like Psalm 7 and Psalm 17 in that it is a cry of the innocent like Job. Once again the notation is simply that of a psalm of David. David maintained that he was innocent. He wanted to be vindicated. He walked in integrity. He had trusted in Yahweh, never wavering. He wanted both his heart and mind tested. He always had the steadfast love of Yahweh before his eyes. He was always faithful.