This whole psalm has reference to David's enemies,
persecutors, and slanderers; many such there were, and a great deal of trouble
they gave him, almost all his days, so that we need not guess at any particular
occasion of penning this psalm. I. He prays to God to preserve him from their
malicious designs against him (v. 1, 2). II. He gives a very bad character of
them, as men marked for ruin by their own wickedness (v. 3-6). III. By the
spirit of prophecy he foretels their destruction, which would redound to the
glory of God and the encouragement of his people (v. 7-10). In singing this
psalm we must observe the effect of the old enmity that is in the seed of the
woman against the seed of the serpent, and assure ourselves that the serpent's
head will be broken, at last, to the honour and joy of the holy seed.
To the chief musician. A psalm of David.
David, in these verses, puts in before God a representation of
his own danger and of his enemies' character, to enforce his petition that God
would protect him and punish them.
I. He earnestly begs of God to preserve him (v. 1, 2): Hear
my voice, O God! in my prayer; that is, grant me the thing I pray for, and
this is it, Lord, preserve my life from fear of the enemy, that is, fro
the enemy that I am in fear of. He makes request for his life, which is, in a
particular manner, dear to him, because he knows it is designed to be very
serviceable to God and his generation. When his life is struck at it cannot be
thought he should altogether hold his peace, Est. 7:2, 4. And, if he plead his
fear of the enemy, it is no disparagement to his courage; his father Jacob, that
prince with God, did so before him. Gen. 32:11, Deliver me from the hand of
Esau, for I fear him. Preserve my life from fear, not only from the thing
itself which I fear, but from the disquieting fear of it; this is, in effect,
the preservation of the life, for fear has torment, particularly the fear of
death, by reason of which some are all their life-time subject to bondage. He
prays, "Hide me from the secret counsel of the wicked, from the
mischief which they secretly consult among themselves to do against me, and from
the insurrection of the workers of iniquity, who join forces, as they join
counsels, to do me a mischief." Observe, The secret counsel ends in an
insurrection; treasonable practices begin in treasonable confederacies and
conspiracies. "Hide me from them, that they may not find me, that they may
not reach me. Let me be safe under thy protection."
II. He complains of the great malice and wickedness of his
enemies: "Lord, hide me from them, for they are the worst of men, not fit
to be connived at; they are dangerous men, that will stick at nothing; so that I
am undone if thou do not take my part."
1. They are very spiteful in their calumnies and reproaches, v.
3, 4. They are described as military men, with their sword and bow, archers that
take aim exactly, secretly, and suddenly, and shoot at the harmless bird that
apprehends not herself in any danger. But, (1.) Their tongues are their swords,
flaming swords, two-edged swords, drawn swords, drawn in anger, with which they
cut, and wound, and kill, the good name of their neighbours. The tongue is a
little member, but, like the sword, it boasts great things, Jam. 3:5. It
is a dangerous weapon. (2.) Bitter words are their arrowsscurrilous
reflections, opprobrious nicknames, false representations, slanders, and
calumnies, the fiery darts of the wicked one, set on fire to hell. For these
their malice bends their bows, to send out these arrows with so much the
more force. (3.) The upright man is their mark; against him their spleen is, and
they cannot speak peaceably either of him or to him. The better any man is the
more he is envied by those that are themselves bad, and the more ill is said of
him. (4.) They manage it with a great deal of art and subtlety. They shoot in
secret, that those they shoot at may not discover them and avoid the danger,
for in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird. And suddenly
do they shoot, without giving a man lawful warning or any opportunity to
defend himself. Cursed be he that thus smites his neighbour secretly in
his reputation, Deu. 27:24. There is no guard against a pass made by a false
tongue. (5.) Herein they fear not, that is, they are confident of their
success, and doubt not but by these methods they shall gain the point which
their malice aims at. Or, rather, they fear not the wrath of God, which they
will be the portion of a false tongue. They are impudent and daring in the
mischief they do to good people, as if they must never be called to an account
2. They are very close and very resolute in their malicious
projects, v. 5. (1.) They strengthen and corroborate themselves and one another
in this evil matter, and by joining together in it they make one another the
more bitter and the more bold. Fortiter calumniari, aliquid adhaerebitLay
on an abundance of reproach; part will be sure to stick. It is bad to do a
wrong thing, but worse to encourage ourselves and one another in doing it; this
is doing the devil's work for him. It is a sign that the heart is hardened to
the highest degree when it is thus fully set to do evil and fears no colours. It
is the office of conscience to discourage men in an evil matter, but, when that
is baffled, the case is desperate. (2.) They consult with themselves and one
another how to do the most mischief and most effectually: They commune of
laying snares privily. All their communion is in sin and all their
communication is how to sin securely. They hold councils of war for finding out
the most effectual expedients to do mischief; every snare they lay was talked of
before, and was laid with all the contrivance of their wicked wits combined.
(3.) They please themselves with an atheistical conceit that God himself takes
no notice of their wicked practices: They say, Who shall see them? A
practical disbelief of God's omniscience is at the bottom of all the
wickedness of the wicked.
3. They are very industrious in putting their projects in
execution (v. 6): "They search out iniquity; they take a great deal
of pains to find out some iniquity or other to lay to my charge; they dig deep,
and look far back, and put things to the utmost stretch, that they may have
something to accuse me of;" or, "They are industrious to find out new
arts of doing mischief to me; in this they accomplish a diligent search; they go
through with it, and spare neither cost nor labour." Evil men dig up
mischief. Half the pains that many take to damn their souls would serve to
save them. They are masters of all the arts of mischief and destruction, for the
inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, are keep, deep as hell,
desperately wicked, who can know it? By the unaccountable wickedness of their
wit and of their will, they show themselves to be, both in subtlety and
malignity, the genuine offspring of the old serpent.
We may observe here,
I. The judgments of God which should certainly come upon these
malicious persecutors of David. Though they encouraged themselves in their
wickedness, here is that which, if they would believe and consider it, was
enough to discourage them. And it is observable how the punishment answers the
sin. 1. They shot at David secretly and suddenly, to wound him; but God shall
shoot at them, for the ordains his arrows against the persecutors (Ps.
7:13), against the face of them, Ps. 21:12. And God's arrows will hit
surer, and fly swifter, and pierce deeper, than theirs do or can. They have many
arrows, but they are only bitter words, and words are but wind: the curse
causeless shall not come. But God has one arrow that will be their death, his
curse which is never causeless, and therefore shall come; with it they shall be
suddenly wounded, that is, their wound by it will be a surprise upon them,
because they were secure and not apprehensive of any danger. 2. Their tongues
fell upon him, but God shall make their tongues to fall upon themselves.
They do it by the desert of their sin; God does it by the justice of his wrath,
v. 8. When God deals with men according to the desert of their tongue-sins, and
brings those mischiefs upon them which they have passionately and maliciously
imprecated upon others, then he makes their own tongues to fall upon them; and
it is weight enough to sink a man to the lowest hell, like a talent of lead.
Many have cut their own throats, and many more have damned their own souls, with
their tongues, and it will be an aggravation of their condemnation. O Israel!
thou hast destroyed thyself, art snared in the words of thy mouth. If
thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it. Those that love cursing, it shall
come unto them. Sometimes men's secret wickedness is brought to light by their
own confession, and then their own tongue falls upon them.
II. The influence which these judgments should have upon others;
for it is done in the open sight of all, Job 34:26.
1. Their neighbours shall shun them and shift for their own
safety. They shall flee away, as the men of Israel did from the tents of
Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Num. 16:27. Some think this was fulfilled in the
death of Saul, when not only his army was dispersed, but the inhabitants of the
neighbouring country were so terrified with the fall, not only of their king but
of his three sons, that they quitted their cities and fled, 1 Sa. 31:7.
2. Spectators shall reverence the providence of God therein, v.
9. (1.) They shall understand and observe God's hand in all (and, unless we do
so, we are not likely to profit by the dispensations of Providence, Hos. 14:9): They
shall wisely consider his doing. There is need of consideration and serious
thought rightly to apprehend the matter of fact, and need of wisdom to put a
true interpretation upon it. God's doing is well worth our considering (Eccl.
7:13), but it must be considered wisely, that we put not a corrupt gloss upon a
pure text. (2.) They shall be affected with a holy awe of God upon the
consideration of it. All men (all that have any thing of the reason of a man in
them) shall fear and tremble because of God's judgments, Ps. 119:120. They
shall fear to do the like, fear being found persecutors of God's people. Smite
the scorner and the simple shall beware. (3.) They shall declare the work of
God. They shall speak to one another and to all about them of the justice of God
in punishing persecutors. What we wisely consider ourselves we should wisely
declare to others, for their edification and the glory of God. This is the
finger of God.
3. Good people shall in a special manner take notice of it, and
it shall affect them with a holy pleasure, v. 10. (1.) It shall increase their
joy: The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, not glad of the misery and
ruin of their fellow-creatures, but glad that God is glorified, and his word
fulfilled, and the cause of injured innocency pleaded effectually. (2.) It shall
encourage their faith. They shall commit themselves to him in the way of duty
and be willing to venture for him with an entire confidence in him. (3.) Their
joy and faith shall both express themselves in a holy boasting: All the
upright in heart, that keep a good conscience and approve themselves to God,
shall glory, not in themselves, but in the favour of God, in his
righteousness and goodness, their relation to him and interest in him. Let
him that glories glory in the Lord.