4. Light ariseth 1 in darkness to the righteous: he is gracious, merciful, and just. 5. A good man 2 showeth pity, and lendeth: he manages his affairs uprightly. 6. Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the just shall be held in perpetual remembrance. 7. He shall not be afraid when he hears evil tidings: his heart is fixed, because he confides in Jehovah. 8. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until3 he see his desire 4 upon his enemies.
4. Light ariseth. The Hebrew verb xrz, zarach, may be taken intransitively, as I have inserted it in the text, or transitively, as in the marginal reading; in either way the signification is the same. Whichsoever of these translations you adopt, the words are susceptible of a twofold interpretation; either, that as the sun shines on one part of the earth, and all the other parts of it are enveloped in darkness, so God exempts the righteous from the common calamities of human life; or, as day succeeds night, so God, though he permit the hearts of his servants to be in heaviness for a season, will cause a time of calmness and clearness to return to them. If the latter exposition is adopted, then, by darkness, or by the cloudy, and rainy, or stormy season, the prophet means the afflictions to which God subjects his servants for the trial of their patience. The former interpretation appears to be more appropriate, That, when the whole world is overwhelmed with troubles, God's grace shines upon the faithful, who feel comfortable and happy, because he is propitious towards them. It is thus that their condition is properly distinguished from that which forms the common lot of other men. For the ungodly, however they may exult in prosperity, are, nevertheless, blind in the midst of light, because they are strangers to God's paternal kindness; and, in adversity, they are plunged into the darkness of death; and, consequently, they never enjoy a season of calm repose. On the contrary, the godly, upon whom the favor of God constantly shines, though liable to the ills incident to humanity, are never overwhelmed with darkness, and hence the propriety of what is here stated, light ariseth to them in darkness. If we give to the Hebrew verb an active signification, then, in one respect, the construction of the words will be preferable. For I have no doubt that the prophet intends, as applicable to God, the epithets, gracious, merciful, and just. Therefore, if we read it as a neuter verb, light ariseth, then the latter clause of the verse will be the reason for the statement made in the former clause. As to the exposition, that the righteous and humane do not diffuse darkness over the world, as the unrighteous and wicked do; that they do not extract smoke from light, but light from smoke; it must be viewed as nothing else than a perversion of the prophet's language.
5. A good man. This is the commonly received interpretation of the passage. I am disposed, however, to prefer another, That it shall be well with those who are gracious and communicative; because this is more in accordance with the purport of the prophet's language. It is his intention to show how greatly the ungodly are deceived, when they aspire after happiness by nefarious and unlawful practices; seeing that the favor of God is the source and cause of all good things. Hence it becomes necessary to supply the relative who. He proceeds, therefore, to put us on our guard as to the deception which those practice upon themselves, who hasten to enrich themselves by sordid parsimony and oppressive extortion; inasmuch as the faithful, by their clemency and kindness, open up a channel, through which the favor of God flows to them: for the term bwj, tob, though in the masculine gender, signifying good, is often taken as if it were neuter, to denote that which is good. He puts lending as if it were the fruit of mercy; for the usurer also lends, but it is that, under the false pretense of assisting the distressed, he may plunder them. It is, then, the truly liberal, who, from compassion, and not with the design of ensnaring the poor, grant relief to them, that God makes prosperous. The term Mybd, debarim, in the end of the verse, signifies words; but, along with David Kimchi, the most correct expositor among the Rabbins, I take it to mean affairs. Words is a very tame translation, 5 not to say, that, if this had been the prophet's intention, he would have expressed himself in more simple terms. The translation which I have given is the proper one, that the righteous will manage their affairs with prudence and discernment; so that, in their domestic affairs, they will neither be too lavish nor sordidly parsimonious; but, in every thing, they will study to combine frugality with economy, without giving way to luxury. And, in all their mercantile transactions; they will always be guided by the principles of equity and morality.
6. Surely he shall not be moved. The Hebrew particle yk, ki, may here be taken in its natural or causal meaning, and thus be rendered for, especially if in the preceding verse we adopt the marginal reading, It shall be well with the man. For he refers in more explicit terms to that happiness of which he spake, that God sustains the compassionate and humane, so that amid all the vicissitudes of life they remain unmoved; that he makes their innocence appear, and protects them from unjust calumny. It is said they are never moved. They are indeed liable to the incidents common to humanity, and even may often appear as if they were about to sink under the weight of their calamities; but their confidence remains unshaken, and by invincible patience they surmount all their adversities. With God as the defender of their righteousness, they yet do not escape from being assailed by the slanders of the ungodly, but it is enough for them that their name is blessed before God, the angels, and the whole assembly of the godly.
7. He shall not be afraid when he hears evil tidings. This may appear to be a confirmation of the statement contained in the preceding verse, being as much as to say, That the righteous are exempted from the infamous name which the reprobate secure to themselves by their vicious conduct. I rather take the meaning to be, that the righteous, unlike unbelievers, who tremble at every even the slightest rumor, calmly and peacefully confide in God's paternal care, amid all the evil tidings which may reach them. Whence is it that unbelievers are in constant agitation, but that they imagine they are the sport of fortune on the earth, while God remains at ease in heaven? No wonder, then, that the rustling of the falling leaf troubles and alarms them. From such uneasiness the faithful are freed, because they neither give heed to rumors, nor does the fear of them prevent them from constantly invoking God. The children of God may also manifest symptoms of fear at the prospect of impending danger; for were they altogether regardless of calamities, such indifference would be the result, not of confidence in God, but of insensibility. But should they not be able to lay aside all fear and anxiety, yet, acknowledging God as the guardian of their life, and pursuing the tenor of their way, they intrust themselves to his preserving care, and cheerfully resign themselves to his disposal. This is that magnanimity of the righteous, under the influence of which the prophet declares they can disregard those rumors of evil which strike others with alarm. Wisely, too, do they rely upon God for support; because, encompassed on all sides with deaths innumerable, we would sink into despair were we not borne up by the confidence that we are secure under God's protection. Genuine stability, then, is that which the prophet here describes, and which consists in reposing with unshaken confidence in God. On the other hand, that presumptuous confidence with which the ungodly are intoxicated exposes them the more, to the indignation of God, inasmuch as they overlook the frailty of human life, and in their pride of heart madly set themselves in opposition to him. Therefore, when "they shall say, Peace and safety, then shall sudden destruction come upon them," (1 Thessalonians 5:3.) But a sense of calamities, while it alarms and disconcerts the faithful, does not make them faint-hearted, because it does not shake their faith, by which they are rendered bold and steadfast. In a word, they are not insensible to their trials, 6 but the confidence which they place in God enables them to rise above all the cares of the present life. Thus they preserve calmness and composedness of mind, and wait patiently till the fit season arrives for taking vengeance upon the reprobate.