8.Understand, ye stupid among the people. As it was execrable impiety to deny God to be Judge of the earth, the Psalmist severely reprimands their folly in thinking to elude his government, and even succeed by artifices in escaping his view. The expression, stupid among the people, is stronger than had he simply condemned them as foolish. It rendered their folly more inexcusable, that they belonged to the posterity of Abraham, of whom Moses said,
“What people is there so great, who have their gods so near unto them, as the Lord thy God hath this day come down unto thee? For this is your understanding and wisdom before all nations, to have God for your legislator.” (<050407>Deuteronomy 4:7)
fd21 Perhaps, however, he may be considered as addressing the rulers and those who were of higher rank in the community, and styling them degraded among the people, that is, no better than the common herd of the vulgar. Proud men, who are apt to be blinded by a sense of their importance, require to be brought down, and made to see that in God’s estimation they are no better than others. He puts them on a level with the common people, to humble their self-complacency; or we may suppose that he hints with an ironical and sarcastic allusion to their boasted greatness, that they were distinguished above others chiefly for pre-eminent folly — adding, at the same time, as an additional aggravation, that they were obstinate in their adherence to it; for as much is implied in the question, When will ye be wise? We might consider it an unnecessary assertion of Divine Providence to put the question to the wicked, Shall not he who made the ear hear? because there are none so abandoned as openly to deny God’s cognisance of events; but, as I have observed above, the flagrant audacity and self-security which most men display in contradicting his will, is a sufficient proof that they have supplanted God from their imaginations, and substituted a mere dead idol in his place, since, did they really believe him to be cognisant of their actions, they would at least show as much regard to him as to their fellow-creatures, in whose presence they feel some measure of restraint, and are prevented from sinning by fear and respect. To arouse them from this stupidity, the Psalmist draws an argument from the very order of nature, inferring that if men both see and hear, by virtue of faculties which they have received from God the Creator, it is impossible that God himself, who formed the eye and the ear, should not possess the most perfect observation.
10.He that chastiseth the nations, shall not he correct? He would have them argue from the greater to the less, that if God did not spare even whole nations, but visits their iniquity with punishment, they could not imagine that he would suffer a mere handful of individuals to escape with impunity. The comparison intended, however, may possibly be between the Gentiles and the Jews. If God punished the heathen nations, who had not heard his word, with much severity, the Jews might expect that they, who had been familiarised to instruction in his house, would receive still sharper correction, and that he would vindicate his justice most in that nation over which he had chosen to preside. Still the former sense of the passage appears to me preferable, That it is folly in any number of individuals to flatter themselves with impunity, when they see God inflicting public punishment upon collective people. Some think there is an exclusive allusion to the signal and memorable instances of Divine judgment recorded in Scripture, as in the destruction of Sodom with fire from heaven, (Genesis 19.) and of the whole human family by the flood, (Genesis 7.) But the simpler meaning is best, That it were the height of madness in individuals to think that they could escape when nations perish. In adding that God teacheth men knowledge, fd22the Psalmist glances at the overweening confidence of such as despise God, and pride themselves in their acuteness and shrewdness, as we find Isaiah denouncing a woe against those crafty enemies of God who dig deep, that they may hide themselves from his sight, (<232915>Isaiah 29:15.) It is a disease prevalent enough in the world still. We know the refuges under covert of which both courtiers and lawyers take occasion to indulge in shameless mockery of God. fd23 It is as if the Psalmist had said — You think to elude God through the confidence which you have in your acute understandings, and would pretend to dispute the knowledge of the Almighty, when, in truth, all the knowledge which is in the world is but as a drop from his own inexhaustible fullness.