Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher - Works Upon This Psalm
To The Chief Musician. Intended therefore to be sung, and
sung in the temple service! Yet is it by no means easy to imagine the whole
nation singing such dreadful imprecations. We ourselves, at any rate, under the
gospel dispensation, find it very difficult to infuse into the Psalm a gospel
sense, or a sense at all compatible with the Christian spirit; and therefore one
would think the Jews must have found it hard to chant such strong language
without feeling the spirit of revenge excited; and the arousal of that spirit
could never have been the object of divine worship in any period of time--under
law or under gospel. At the very outset this title shows that the Psalm has a
meaning with which it is fitting for men of God to have fellowship before the
throne of the Most High: but what is that meaning? This is a question of no
small difficulty, and only a very childlike spirit will ever be able to answer
A Psalm of David. Not therefore the ravings of a vicious
misanthrope, or the execrations of a hot, revengeful spirit. David would not
smite the man who sought his blood, he frequently forgave those who treated him
shamefully; and therefore these words cannot be read in a bitter, revengeful
sense, for that would be foreign to the character of the son of Jesse. The
imprecatory sentences before us were penned by one who with all his courage in
battle was a man of music and of tender heart, and they were meant to be
addressed to God in the form of a Psalm, and therefore they cannot possibly have
been meant to be mere angry cursing.
Unless it can be proved that the religion of the old
dispensation was altogether hard, morose, and Draconian, and that David was of a
malicious, vindictive spirit, it cannot be conceived that this Psalm contains
what one author has ventured to call "a pitiless hate, a refined and insatiable
malignity." To such a suggestion we cannot give place, no, not for an hour. But
what else can we make of such strong language? Truly this is one of the hard
places of Scripture, a passage which the soul trembles to read; yet as it is a
Psalm unto God, and given by inspiration, it is not ours to sit in judgment upon
it, but to bow our ear to what God the Lord would speak to us therein.
This psalm refers to Judas, for so Peter quoted it; but to
ascribe its bitter denunciations to our Lord in the hour of his sufferings is
more than we dare to do. These are not consistent with the silent Lamb of God,
who opened not his mouth when led to the slaughter. It may seem very pious to
put such words into his mouth; we hope it is our piety which prevents our doing
so. (See our first note from Perowne in the Explanatory Notes and Quaint
DIVISION. In the first five verses (Ps 109:1-5) David
humbly pleads with God that he may be delivered from his remorseless and false
hearted enemies. From Ps 109:6-20, filled with a prophetic fervour, which
carries him entirely beyond himself, he denounces judgment upon his foes, and
then from Ps 109:21-31 he returns to his communion with God in prayer and
praise. The central portion of the Psalm in which the difficulty lies must be
regarded not as the personal wish of the psalmist in cool blood, but as his
prophetic denunciation of such persons as he describes, and emphatically of one
special "son of perdition" whom he sees with prescient eye. We would all pray
for the conversion of our worst enemy, and David would have done the same; but
viewing the adversaries of the Lord, and doers of iniquity, As Such, and as
incorrigible we cannot wish them well; on the contrary, we desire their
overthrow, and destruction. The gentlest hearts burn with indignation when they
hear of barbarities to women and children, of crafty plots for ruining the
innocent, of cruel oppression of helpless orphans, and gratuitous ingratitude to
the good and gentle. A curse upon the perpetrators of the atrocities in Turkey
may not be less virtuous than a blessing upon the righteous. We wish well to all
mankind, and for that very reason we sometimes blaze with indignation against
the inhuman wretches by whom every law which protects our fellow creatures is
trampled down, and every dictate of humanity is set at nought.
Verse 1. Hold not thy peace. Mine enemies speak, be thou
pleased to speak too. Break thy solemn silence, and silence those who slander
me. It is the cry of a man whose confidence in God is deep, and whose communion
with him is very close and bold. Note, that he only asks the Lord to speak: a
word from God is all a believer needs. O God of my praise. Thou whom my whole soul praises, be
pleased to protect my honour and guard my praise. "My heart is fixed", said he
in the former psalm, "I will sing and give praise", and now he appeals to the
God whom he had praised. If we take care of God's honour he will take care of
ours. We may look to him as the guardian of our character if we truly seek his
glory. If we live to God's praise, he will in the long run give us praise among
Verse 2. For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the
deceitful are opened against me. Wicked men must needs say wicked
things, and these we have reason to dread; but in addition they utter false and
deceitful things, and these are worst of all. There is no knowing what may come
out of mouths which are at once lewd and lying. The misery caused to a good man
by slanderous reports no heart can imagine but that which is wounded by them: in
all Satan's armoury there are no worse weapons than deceitful tongues. To have a
reputation, over which we have watched with daily care, suddenly bespattered
with the foulest aspersions, is painful beyond description; but when wicked and
deceitful men get their mouths fully opened we can hardly expect to escape any
more than others. They have spoken against me with a lying tongue. Lying
tongues cannot lie still. Bad tongues are not content to vilify bad men, but
choose the most gracious of saints to be the objects of their attacks. Here is
reason enough for prayer. The heart sinks when assailed with slander, for we
know not what may be said next, what friend may be alienated, what evil may be
threatened, or what misery may be caused to us and others. The air is full of
rumours, and shadows impalpable flit around; the mind is confused with dread of
unseen foes, and invisible arrows. What ill can be worse than to be assailed
"Whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue
Out venoms all the worms of Nile"?
Verse 3. They compassed me about also with words of hatred.
Turn which way he would they hedged him in with falsehood, misrepresentation,
accusation, and scorn. Whispers, sneers, insinuations, satires, and open charges
filled his ear with a perpetual buzz, and all for no reason, but sheer hate.
Each word was as full of venom as an egg is full of meat: they could not speak
without showing their teeth. And fought against me without a cause. He had not provoked
the quarrel or contributed to it, yet in a thousand ways they laboured to
"corrode his comfort, and destroy his ease." All this tended to make the
suppliant feel the more acutely the wrongs which were done to him.
Verse 4. For my love they are my adversaries. They hate me
because I love them. One of our poets says of the Lord Jesus--"Found guilty of
excess of love." Surely it was his only fault. Our Lord might have used all the
language of this complaint most emphatically--they hated him without a cause and
returned him hatred for love. What a smart this is to the soul, to be hated in
proportion to the gratitude which it deserved, hated by those it loved, and
hated because of its love. This was a cruel case, and the sensitive mind of the
psalmist writhed under it. But give myself unto prayer. He did nothing else but pray.
He became prayer as they became malice. This was his answer to his enemies, he
appealed from men and their injustice to the Judge of all the earth, who must do
right. True bravery alone can teach a man to leave his traducers unanswered, and
carry the case unto the Lord.
"Men cannot help but reverence the courage that walketh amid
"He standeth as a gallant chief unheeding shot or shell."
Verse 5. And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for
my love. Evil for good is devil like. This is Satan's line of action,
and his children upon earth follow it greedily; it is cruel, and wounds to the
quick. The revenge which pays a man back in his own coin has a kind of natural
justice in it; but what shall be said of that baseness which returns to goodness
the very opposite of what it has a right to expect? Our Lord endured such base
treatment all his days, and, alas, in his members, endures it still. Thus we see the harmless and innocent man upon his knees
pouring out his lamentation: we are now to observe him rising from the mercy
seat, inspired with prophetic energy, and pouring forth upon his foes the
forewarning of their doom. We shall hear him speak like a judge clothed with
stern severity, or like the angel of doom robed in vengeance, or as the naked
sword of justice when she bares her arm for execution. It is not for himself
that he speaks so much as for all the slandered and the down trodden, of whom he
feels himself to be the representative and mouthpiece. He asks for justice, and
as his soul is stung with cruel wrongs he asks with solemn deliberation, making
no stint in his demands. To pity malice would be malice to mankind; to screen
the crafty seekers of human blood would be cruelty to the oppressed. Nay, love,
and truth, and pity lift their wounds to heaven, and implore vengeance on the
enemies of the innocent and oppressed; those who render goodness itself a crime,
and make innocence a motive for hate, deserve to find no mercy from the great
Preserver of men. Vengeance is the prerogative of God, and as it would be a
boundless calamity if evil were for ever to go unpunished, so it is an
unspeakable blessing that the Lord will recompense the wicked and cruel man, and
there are times and seasons when a good man ought to pray for that blessing.
When the Judge of all threatens to punish tyrannical cruelty and false hearted
treachery, virtue gives her assent and consent. Amen, so let it be, saith every
just man in his inmost soul.
Verse 6. Set thou a wicked man over him. What worse
punishment could a man have? The proud man cannot endure the proud, nor the
oppressor brook the rule of another like himself. The righteous in their
patience find the rule of the wicked a sore bondage; but those who are full of
resentful passions, and haughty aspirations, are slaves indeed when men of their
own class have the whip hand of them. For Herod to be ruled by another Herod
would be wretchedness enough, and yet what retribution could be more just? What
unrighteous man can complain if he finds himself governed by one of like
character? What can the wicked expect but that their rulers should be like
themselves? Who does not admire the justice of God when he sees fierce Romans
ruled by Tiberius and Nero, and Red Republicans governed by Marat and
Robespierre? And let Satan stand at his right hand. Should not like come
to like? Should not the father of lies stand near his children? Who is a better
right hand friend for an adversary of the righteous than the great adversary
himself? The curse is an awful one, but it is most natural that it should come
to pass: those who serve Satan may expect to have his company, his assistance,
his temptations, and at last his doom.
Verse 7. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned. He
judged and condemned others in the vilest manner, he suffered not the innocent
to escape; and it would be a great shame if in his time of trial, being really
guilty, he should be allowed to go free. Who would wish Judge Jeffries to be
acquitted if he were tried for perverting justice? Who would desire Nero or
Caligula to be cleared if set at the bar for cruelty? When Shylock goes into
court, who wishes him to win his suit? And let his prayer become sin. It is sin already, let it be
so treated. To the injured it must seem terrible that the black hearted villain
should nevertheless pretend to pray, and very naturally do they beg that he may
not be heard, but that his pleadings may be regarded as an addition to his
guilt. He has devoured the widow's house, and yet he prays. He has put Naboth to
death by false accusation and taken possession of his vineyard, and then he
presents prayers to the Almighty. He has given up villages to slaughter, and his
hands are red with the blood of babes and maidens, and then he pays his vows
unto Allah! He must surely be accursed himself who does not wish that such
abominable prayers may be loathed of heaven and written down as new sins. He who
makes it a sin for others to pray will find his own praying become sin. When he
at last sees his need of mercy, mercy herself shall resent his appeal as an
insult. "Because that he remembered not to show mercy", he shall himself be
forgotten by the God of grace, and his bitter cries for deliverance shall be
regarded as mockeries of heaven.
Verse 8. Let his days be few. Who would desire a persecuting
tyrant to live long? As well might we wish length of days to a mad dog. If he
will do nothing but mischief the shortening of his life will be the lengthening
of the world's tranquillity. "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half
their days", --this is bare justice to them, and great mercy to the poor and
needy. And let another take his office. Perhaps a better man may
come, at any rate it is time a change were tried. So used were the Jews to look
upon these verses as the doom of traitors, of cruel and deceitful mind, that
Peter saw at once in the speedy death of Judas a fulfilment of this sentence,
and a reason for the appointment of a successor who should take his place of
oversight. A bad man does not make an office bad: another may use with benefit
that which he perverted to ill uses.
Verse 9. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a
widow. This would inevitably be the case when the man died, but the psalmist
uses the words in an emphatic sense, he would have his widow "a widow indeed",
and his children so friendless as to be orphaned in the bitterest sense. He sees
the result of the bad man's decease, and includes it in the punishment. The
tyrant's sword makes many children fatherless, and who can lament when his
barbarities come home to his own family, and they too, weep and lament. Pity is
due to all orphans and widows as such, but a father's atrocious actions may dry
up the springs of pity. Who mourns that Pharaoh's children lost their father, or
that Sennacherib's wife became a widow? As Agag's sword had made women childless
none wept when Samuel's weapon made his mother childless among women. If Herod
had been slain when he had just murdered the innocents at Bethlehem no man would
have lamented it even though Herod's wife would have become a widow. These awful
maledictions are not for common men to use, but for judges, such as David was,
to pronounce over the enemies of God and man. A judge may sentence a man to
death whatever the consequences may be to the criminal's family, and in this
there will be no feeling of private revenge, but simply the doing of justice
because evil must be punished. We are aware that this may not appear to justify
the full force of these expressions, but it should never be forgotten that the
case supposed is a very execrable one, and the character of the culprit is
beyond measure loathsome and not to be met by any common abhorrence. Those who
regard a sort of effeminate benevolence to all creatures alike as the acme of
virtue are very much in favour with this degenerate age; these look for the
salvation of the damned, and even pray for the restoration of the devil. It is
very possible that if they were less in sympathy with evil, and more in harmony
with the thoughts of God, they would be of a far sterner and also of a far
better mind. To us it seems better to agree with God's curses than with the
devil's blessings; and when at any time our heart kicks against the terrors of
the Lord we take it as a proof of our need of greater humbling, and confess our
sin before our God.
Verse 10. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and
beg. May they have neither house nor home, settlement nor substance; and
while they thus wander and beg may it ever be on their memory that their
father's house lies in ruins, --let them seek their bread also out of their desolate
places. It has often been so: a race of tyrants has become a generation of
beggars. Misused power and abused wealth have earned the family name universal
detestation, and secured to the family character an entail of baseness. Justice
herself would award no such doom except upon the supposition that the sin
descended with the blood; but supreme providence which in the end is pure
justice has written many a page of history in which the imprecation of this
verse has been literally verified. We confess that as we read some of these verses we have need of
all our faith and reverence to accept them as the voice of inspiration; but the
exercise is good for the soul, for it educates our sense of ignorance, and tests
our teachability. Yes, Divine Spirit, we can and do believe that even these
dread words from which we shrink have a meaning consistent with the attributes
of the Judge of all the earth, though his name is LOVE. How this may be we shall
Verse 11. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath. A doom
indeed. Those who have once fallen into the hands of the usurer can tell you
what this means: it were better to be a fly in the web of a spider. In the most
subtle, worrying, and sweeping manner the extortioner takes away, piece by
piece, his victim's estate, till not a fraction remains to form a pittance for
old age. Baiting his trap, watching it carefully, and dexterously driving his
victim into it, the extortioner by legal means performs unlawful deeds,
catches his bird, strips him of every feather, and cares not if he die of
starvation. He robs with law to protect him, and steals with the magistrate at
his back: to fall into his clutches is worse than to be beset by professed
thieves. And let the strangers spoil his labour, --so that his
kindred may have none of it. What with hard creditors and pilfering strangers
the estate must soon vanish! Extortion drawing one way, and spoliation the
other, a known moneylender and an unknown robber both at work, the man's
substance would soon disappear, and rightly so, for it was gathered by shameless
means. This too has been frequently seen. Wealth amassed by oppression has
seldom lasted to the third generation: it was gathered by wrong and by wrong it
is scattered, and who would decree that it should be otherwise? Certainly those
who suffer beneath high handed fraud will not wish to stay the retribution of
the Almighty, nor would those who see the poor robbed and trampled on desire to
alter the divine arrangements by which such evils are recompensed even in this
Verse 12. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him. He had
no mercy, but on the contrary, he crushed down all who appealed to him. Loath to
smite him with his own weapon, stern justice can do no otherwise, she lifts her
scales and sees that this, too, must be in the sentence. Neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.
We are staggered to find the children included in the father's sentence, and yet
as a matter of fact children do suffer for their father's sins, and, as long as
the affairs of this life are ordered as they are, it must be so. So involved are
the interests of the race, that it is quite impossible in all respects to view
the father and the child apart. No man among us could desire to see the
fatherless suffer for their deceased father's fault, yet so it happens, and
there is no injustice in the fact. They share the parent's ill gotten gain or
rank, and their aggrandizement is a part of the object at which he aimed in the
perpetration of his crimes; to allow them to prosper would be an encouragement
and reward of his iniquity; therefore, for these and other reasons, a man
perishes not alone in his iniquity. The ban is on his race. If the man were
innocent this would be a crime; if he were but commonly guilty it would be
excessive retribution; but when the offence reeks before high heaven in
unutterable abomination, it is little marvel that men devote the man's whole
house to perpetual infamy, and that so it happeneth.
Verse 13. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the
generation following let their name be blotted out. Both from
existence and from memory let them pass away till none shall know that such a
vile brood ever existed. Who wishes to see the family of Domitian or Julian
continued upon earth? Who would mourn if the race of Tom Paine or of Voltaire
should come to an utter end? It would be undesirable that the sons of the
utterly villainous and bloodthirsty should rise to honour, and if they did they
would only revive the memory of their father's sins.
Verse 14. This verse is, perhaps, the most terrible of all,
but yet as a matter of fact children do procure punishment upon their parents'
sins, and are often themselves the means of such punishment. A bad son brings to
mind his father's bad points of character; people say, "Ah, he is like the old
man. He takes after his father." A mother's sins also will be sure to be called
to mind if her daughter becomes grossly wicked. "Ah", they will say, "there is
little wonder, when you consider what her mother was." These are matters of
everyday occurrence. We cannot, however, pretend to explain the righteousness of
this malediction, though we fully believe in it. We leave it till our heavenly
Father is pleased to give us further instruction. Yet, as a man's faults are
often learned from his parents, it is not unjust that his consequent crimes
should recoil upon him.
Verse 15. Again, he wishes that his father's sins may follow
up the transgressor and assist to fill the measure of his own iniquities, so
that for the whole accumulated load the family may be smitten with utter
extinction. A king might justly wish for such an end to fall upon an
incorrigible brood of rebels; and of persecutors, continuing in the same mind,
the saints might well pray for their extinction; but the passage is dark; and we
must leave it so. It must be right or it would not be here, but how we cannot
see. Why should we expect to understand all things? Perhaps it is more for our
benefit to exercise humility, and reverently worship God over a hard text, than
it would be to comprehend all mysteries.
Verse 16. Because that he remembered not to shew mercy.
Because he had no memory to show mercy the Judge of all will have a strong
memory of his sins. So little mercy had he ever shown that he had forgotten how
to do it, he was without common humanity, devoid of compassion, and therefore
only worthy to be dealt with after the bare rule of justice. But persecuted the poor and needy man. He looked on poor
men as a nuisance upon the earth, he ground their faces, oppressed them in their
wages, and treated them as the mire of the streets. Should he not be punished,
and in his turn laid low? All who know him are indignant at his brutalities, and
will glory to see him overthrown. That he might even slay the broken in heart. He had malice
in his heart towards one who was already sufficiently sorrowful, whom it was a
superfluity of malignity to attack. Yet no grief excited sympathy in him, no
poverty ever moved him to relent. No, he would kill the heart broken and rob
their orphans of their patrimony. To him groans were music, and tears were wine,
and drops of blood precious rubies. Would any man spare such a monster? Will it
not be serving the ends of humanity if we wish him gone, gone to the throne of
God to receive his reward? If he will turn and repent, well: but if not, such a
up as tree ought to be felled and cast into the fire. As men kill mad dogs if
they can, and justly too, so may we lawfully wish that cruel oppressors of the
poor were removed from their place and office, and, as an example to others,
made to smart for their barbarities.
Verse 17. As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him. Deep
down in every man's soul the justice of the lex talionis is established.
Retaliation, not for private revenge, but as a measure of public justice, is
demanded by the psalmist and deserved by the crime. Surely the malicious man
cannot complain if he is judged by his own rule, and has his corn measured with
his own bushel. Let him have what he loved. They are his own chickens, and they
ought to come home to roost. He made the bed, let him lie on it himself. As he
brewed, so let him drink. So all men say as a matter of justice, and though the
higher law of love overrides all personal anger, yet as against the base
characters here described even Christian love would not wish to see the sentence
mitigated. As he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.
He felt no joy in any man's good, nor would he lift a hand to do another a
service, rather did he frown and fret when another prospered or mirth was heard
under his window; what, then, can we wish him? Blessing was wasted on him, he
hated those who gently sought to lead him to a better mind; even the blessings
of providence he received with murmurs and repinings, he wished for famine to
raise the price of his corn, and for war to increase his trade. Evil was good to
him, and good he counted evil. If he could have blasted every field of corn in
the world he would have done so if he could have turned a penny by it, or if he
could thereby have injured the good man whom he hated from his very soul. What can we wish for him? He hunts after evil, he hates good;
he lays himself out to ruin the godly whom God has blessed, he is the devil's
friend, and as fiendish as his patron; should things go well with such a being?
Shall we "wish him good luck in the name of the Lord?" To invoke blessings on
such a man would be to participate in his wickedness, therefore let blessing be
far from him, so long as he continues what he now is.
Verses 18-19. He was so openly in the habit of wishing ill to
others that he seemed to wear robes of cursing, therefore let it be as his
raiment girded and belted about him, yea, let it enter as water into his bowels,
and search the very marrow of his bones like a penetrating oil. It is but common
justice that he should receive a return for his malice, and receive it in kind,
Verse 20. This is the summing up of the entire imprecation,
and fixes it upon the persons who had so maliciously assailed the inoffensive
man of God. David was a man of gentle mould, and remarkably free from the spirit
of revenge, and therefore we may here conceive him to be speaking as a judge or
as a representative man, in whose person great principles needed to be
vindicated and great injuries redressed. Thousands of God's people are perplexed with this psalm, and we
fear we have contributed very little towards their enlightenment, and perhaps
the notes we have gathered from others, since they display such a variety of
view, may only increase the difficulty. What then? Is it not good for us
sometimes to be made to feel that we are not yet able to understand all the word
and mind of God? A thorough bewilderment, so long as it does not stagger our
faith, may be useful to us by confounding our pride, arousing our faculties, and
leading us to cry, "What I know not teach thou me."
Verse 21. But do thou for me, O God the Lord, for thy name's
sake. How eagerly he turns from his enemies to his God! He sets the great
THOU in opposition to all his adversaries, and you see at once that his heart is
at rest. The words are very indistinct and though our version may not precisely
translate them, yet it in a remarkable manner hits upon the sense and upon the
obscurity which hangs over it. "Do thou for me" --what shall he do? Why, do
whatever he thinks fit. He leaves himself in the Lord's hands, dictating
nothing, but quite content so long as his God will but undertake for him. His
plea is not his own merit, but the name. The saints have always felt this
to be their most mighty plea. God himself has performed his grandest deeds of
grace for the honour of his name, and his people know that this is the most
potent argument with him. What the Lord himself has guarded with sacred jealousy
we should reverence with our whole hearts and rely upon without distrust.
"Because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me." Not because I am good, but because
thy mercy is good: see how the saints fetch their pleadings in prayer from the
Lord himself. God's mercy is the star to which the Lord's people turn their eye
when they are tossed with tempest and not comforted, for the peculiar bounty and
goodness of that mercy have a charm for weary hearts. When man has no mercy we
shall still find it in God. When man would devour we may look to God to deliver.
His name and his mercy are two firm grounds for hope, and happy are those who
know how to rest upon them.
Verse 22. For I am poor and needy. When he does plead
anything about himself he urges not his riches or his merits, but his poverty
and his necessities: this is gospel supplication, such as only the Spirit of God
can indite upon the heart. This lowliness does not comport with the supposed
vengeful spirit of the preceding verses: there must therefore be some
interpretation of them which would make them suitable in the lips of a lowly
minded man of God. And my heart is wounded within me. The Lord has always a
tender regard to broken hearted ones, and such the psalmist had become: the
undeserved cruelty, the baseness, the slander of his remorseless enemies had
pierced him to the soul, and this sad condition he pleads as a reason for speedy
help. It is time for a friend to step in when the adversary cuts so deep. The
case has become desperate without divine aid; now, therefore, is the Lord's
Verse 23. I am gone like the shadow when it declineth. I am
a mere shadow, a shadow at the vanishing point, when it stretches far, but is
almost lost in the universal gloom of evening which settles over all, and so
obliterates the shadows cast by the setting sun. Lord, there is next to nothing
left of me, wilt thou not come in before I am quite gone? I am tossed up and down as the locust, which is the sport
of the winds, and must go up or down as the breeze carries it. The psalmist felt
as powerless in his distress as a poor insect, which a child may toss up and
down at its pleasure. He entreats the divine pity, because he had been brought
to this forlorn and feeble condition by the long persecution which his tender
heart had endured. Slander and malice are apt to produce nervous disorders and
to lead on to pining diseases. Those who use these poisoned arrows are not
always aware of the consequences; they scatter fire brands and death and say it
Verse 24. My knees are weak through fasting; either
religious fasting, to which he resorted in the dire extremity of his grief, or
else through loss of appetite occasioned by distress of mind. Who can eat when
every morsel is soured by envy? This is the advantage of the slanderer, that he
feels nothing himself, while his sensitive victim can scarcely eat a morsel of
bread because of his sensitiveness. However, the good God knoweth all this, and
will succour his afflicted. The Lord who bids us confirm the feeble knees
will assuredly do it himself. "And my flesh faileth of fatness." He was wasted
to a skeleton, and as his body was emaciated, so was his soul bereft of comfort:
he was pining away, and all the while his enemies saw it and laughed at his
distress. How pathetically he states his case; this is one of the truest forms
of prayer, the setting forth of our sorrow before the Lord. Weak knees are
strong with God, and failing flesh has great power in pleading.
Verse 25. I became also a reproach unto them. They made him
the theme of ridicule, the butt of their ribald jests: his emaciation by fasting
made him a tempting subject for their caricatures and lampoons. When they looked upon me they shaked their heads. Words
were not a sufficient expression of their scorn, they resorted to gestures which
were meant both to show their derision and to irritate his mind. Though these
things break no bones, yet they do worse, for they break and bruise far tenderer
parts of us. Many a man who could have answered a malicious speech, and so have
relieved his mind, has felt keenly a sneer, a putting out of the tongue, or some
other sign of contempt. Those, too, who are exhausted by such fasting and
wasting, as the last verse describes (Ps 109:31) are generally in a state of
morbid sensibility, and therefore feel more acutely the unkindness of others.
What they would smile at during happier seasons becomes intolerable when they
are in a highly nervous condition.
Verse 26. Help me, O LORD my God. Laying hold of Jehovah by
the appropriating word my, he implores his aid both to help him to bear
his heavy load and to enable him to rise superior to it. He has described his
own weakness, and the strength and fury of his foes, and by these two arguments
he urges his appeal with double force. This is a very rich, short, and suitable
prayer for believers in any situation of peril, difficulty, or sorrow. O save me according to thy mercy. As thy mercy is, so let
thy salvation be. The measure is a great one, for the mercy of God is without
bound. When man has no mercy it is comforting to fall back upon God's mercy.
Justice to the wicked is often mercy to the righteous, and because God is
merciful he will save his people by overthrowing their adversaries.
Verse 27. That they may know that this is thy hand. Dolts as
they are, let the mercy shown to me be so conspicuous that they shall be forced
to see the Lord's agency in it. Ungodly men will not see God's hand in anything
if they can help it, and when they see good men delivered into their power they
become more confirmed than ever in their atheism; but all in good time God will
arise and so effectually punish their malice and rescue the object of their
spite that they will be compelled to say like the Egyptian magicians, "this is
the finger of God." That thou, LORD, hast done it. There will be no mistaking
the author of so thorough a vindication, so complete a turning of the tables.
Verse 28. Let them curse, but bless thou, or, they will
curse and thou wilt bless. Their cursing will then be of such little
consequence that it will not matter a straw. One blessing from the Lord will
take the poison out of ten thousand curses of men. When they arise, let them be ashamed. They lift up
themselves to deal out another blow, to utter another falsehood, and to watch
for its injurious effects upon their victim, but they see their own defeat and
are filled with shame. But let thy servant rejoice. Not merely as a man protected
and rescued, but as God's servant in whom his master's goodness and glory are
displayed when he is saved from his foes. It ought to be our greatest joy that
the Lord is honoured in our experience; the mercy itself ought not so much to
rejoice us as the glory which is thereby brought to him who so graciously
Verse 29. Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame. It is
a prophecy as well as a wish, and may be read both in the indicative and the
imperative. Where sin is the underclothing, shame will soon be the outer
vesture. He who would clothe good men with contempt shall himself be clothed
with dishonour. And let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with
a mantle. Let their confusion be broad enough to wrap them all over
from head to foot, let them bind it about them and hide themselves in it, as
being utterly afraid to be seen. Now they walk abroad unblushingly and reveal
their own wickedness, acting as if they either had nothing to conceal or did not
care whether it was seen or no; but they will be of another mind when the great
Judge deals with them, then will they entreat mountains to hide them and hills
to fall upon them, that they may not be seen: but all in vain, they must be
dragged to the bar with no other covering but their own confusion.
Verse 30. I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth.
Enthusiastically, abundantly, and loudly will he extol the righteous Lord, who
redeemed him from all evil; and that not only in his own chamber or among his
own family, but in the most public manner. Yea, I will praise him among the multitude. Remarkable and
public providence demand public recognition, for otherwise men of the world will
judge us to be ungrateful. We do not praise God to be heard of men, but as a
natural sense of justice leads every one to expect to hear a befriended person
speak well of his benefactor, we therefore have regard to such natural and just
expectations, and endeavour to make our praises as public as the benefit we have
received. The singer in the present case is the man whose heart was wounded
within him because he was the laughing stock of remorseless enemies; yet now he
praises, praises greatly, praises aloud, praises in the teeth of all gainsayers,
and praises with a right joyous spirit. Never let us despair, yea, never let us
cease to praise.
Verse 31. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor.
God will not be absent when his people are on their trial; he will hold a brief
for them and stand in court as their advocate, prepared to plead on their
behalf. How different is this from the doom of the ungodly who has Satan at his
right hand (Ps 109:6). To save him from those that condemn his soul. The court
only met as a matter of form, the malicious had made up their minds to the
verdict, they judged him guilty, for their hate condemned him, yea, they
pronounced sentence of damnation upon the very soul of their victim: but what
mattered it? The great King was in court, and their sentence was turned against
themselves. Nothing can more sweetly sustain the heart of a slandered believer
than the firm conviction that God is near to all who are wronged, and is sure to
work out their salvation. O Lord, save us from the severe trial of slander: deal in thy
righteousness with all those who spitefully assail the characters of holy men,
and cause all who are smarting under calumny and reproach to come forth
unsullied from the affliction, even as did thine only begotten Son. Amen.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. Mysterious was the one word written opposite
this psalm in the pocket Bible of a late devout and popular writer. It
represents the utter perplexity with which it is very generally regarded.
Whole Psalm. In this psalm David is supposed to refer to
Doeg the Edomite, or to Ahithophel. It is the most imprecatory of the psalms,
and may well be termed the Iscariot Psalm. What David here refers to his
mortal enemy, finds its accomplishment in the betrayer of the Son of David. It
is from the 8th verse that Peter infers the necessity of filling up the vacancy
occasioned by the death of Judas: it was, says he, predicted that another should
take his office. --Paton J. Gloag, in "A Commentary on the Acts," 1870.
Whole Psalm. We may consider Judas, at the same time, as
the virtual head of the Jewish nation in their daring attempt to dethrone the
Son of God. The doom pronounced, and the reasons for it, apply to the Jews as a
nation, as well as to the leader of the band who took Jesus. --Andrew A.
Whole Psalm. Is it possible that this perplexing and
distressing Psalm presents us after all, not with David's maledictions upon his
enemies, but with their maledictions upon him? Not only do I hold this
interpretation to be quite legitimate, I hold it to be by far the more natural
and reasonable interpretation. --Joseph Hammond. (In Dr. Cox's Expositor, Vol. 2. pg 225, this theory is
well elaborated by Mr. Hammond, but we cannot for an instant accept it.
The Imprecations of the Psalm. The language has been
justified, not as the language of David, but as the language of Christ,
exercising his office of Judge, or, in so far as he had laid aside that office
during his earthly life, calling upon his Father to accomplish the curse. It has
been alleged that this is the prophetic foreshadowing of the solemn words, "Woe
unto that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It had been good for that man
if he had not been born" (Mt 26:24). The curse in the words of Chrysostom is, "a
prophecy in the form of a curse", (profhteia en
eidei arav). The strain which such a view compels us to put on much of the
language ought to have led long since to its abandonment. Not even the words
denounced by our Lord against the Pharisees can really be compared to the
anathemas which are here strung together. Much less is there any pretence for
saying that those words so full of deep and holy sorrow, addressed to the
traitor in the gospels, are merely another expression of the appalling
denunciations of the psalm. But terrible as these undoubtedly are, to be
accounted for by the spirit of the Old Dispensation, not to be defended by that
of the New, still let us learn to estimate them aright. --J.J. Stewart
The Imprecations. These imprecations are not appropriate in
the mouth of the suffering Saviour. It is not the spirit of Zion but of Sinai
which here speaks out of the mouth of David; the spirit of Elias, which,
according to Lu 9:58, is not the spirit of the New Testament. This wrathful
spirit is overpowered by the spirit of love. But these anathemas are still not
on this account so many beatings of the air. There is in them a divine energy,
as in the blessing and cursing of every man who is united to God, and more
especially of a man whose temper of mind is such as David's. They possess the
same power as the prophetical threatenings, and in this sense they are regarded
in the New Testament as fulfilled in the son of perdition (Joh 17:12). To the
generation of the time of Jesus they were a deterrent warning not to offend
against the Holy One of God, and this Psalmus Ischarioticus (Ac 1:20)
will ever be such a mirror of warning to the enemies and persecutors of Christ
and his church. --Franz Delitzsch.
The Imprecations. Respecting the imprecations contained in
this psalm, it will be proper to keep in mind what I have said elsewhere, that
when David forms such maledictions, or expresses his desire for them, he is not
instigated by any immoderate carnal propensity, nor is he actuated by zeal
without knowledge, nor is he influenced by any private personal considerations.
These three matters must be carefully weighed, for in proportion to the amount
of self esteem which a man possesses, is he so enamoured with his own interests
as to rush headlong upon revenge. Hence it comes to pass that the more a person
is devoted to selfishness, he will be the more immoderately addicted to
advancement of his own individual interests. This desire for the promotion of
personal interest gives birth to another species of vice: for no one wishes to
be avenged upon his enemies because such a thing would be right and equitable,
but because it is the means of gratifying his own spiteful propensity. Some,
indeed, make a pretext of righteousness and equity in the matter; but the spirit
of malignity, by which they are inflamed, effaces every trace of justice, and
blinds their minds. When the two vices, selfishness and carnality, are corrected,
there is still another thing demanding correction: we must repress the ardour of
foolish zeal, in order that we may follow the Spirit of God as our guide. Should
any one, under the influence of perverse zeal, produce David as an example of
it, that would not be an example in point; for to such a person may be very
aptly applied the answer which Christ returned to his disciples, "Ye know not
what spirit ye are of", Lu 9:55. How detestable a piece of sacrilege is it on
the part of the monks, and especially the Franciscan friars, to pervert this
psalm by employing it to countenance the most nefarious purposes! If a man
harbour malice against a neighbour, it is quite a common thing for him to engage
one of these wicked wretches to curse him, which he would do by daily repeating
this psalm. I know a lady in France who hired a parcel of these friars to curse
her own and only son in these words. But I return to David, who, free from all
inordinate passion, breathed forth his prayers under the influence of the Holy
Spirit. --John Calvin.
The imprecations. It is possible, as Tholuck thinks, that in
some of the utterances in what are called the vindictive psalms,
especially the imprecations in Ps 109:1-31, unholy personal zeal may have
been mingled with holy zeal, as was the case seemingly with the two disciples
James and John, when the Lord chided their desire for vengeance (Lu 9:54-56).
But, in reality, the feeling expressed in these psalms may well be considered as
virtuous anger, such as Bishop Butler explains and justifies in his sermons on
"Resentment and the Forgiveness of Injuries", and such as Paul teaches in Eph
4:26, "Be ye angry, and sin not." Anger against sin and a desire that evildoers
may be punished, are not opposed to the spirit of the gospel, or to that love of
enemies which our Lord both enjoined and exemplified. If the emotion or its
utterance were essentially sinful, how could Paul wish the enemy of Christ and
the perverter of the gospel to be accursed (anayema, 1Co 16:22 Ga 1:8); and especially, how could the spirit
of the martyred saints in heaven call on God for vengeance (Re 6:10), and join
to celebrate its final execution (Re 19:1-6)? Yea, resentment against the wicked
is so far from being necessarily sinful, that we find it manifested by the Holy
and Just One himself, when in the days of his flesh he looked around on his
hearers "with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts" (Mr 3:5);
and when in "the great day of his wrath" (Re 6:17), he shall say to "all workers
of iniquity" (Lu 13:27), "Depart from me, ye cursed" (Mt 25:41). --Benjamin
Davies (1814-1875), in Kitto's Cyclopaedia.
Imprecations. It is true that this vengeance is invoked on
the head of the betrayer of Christ: and we may profit by reading even the
severest of the passages when we regard them as dictated by a burning zeal for
the honour of Jehovah, a righteous indignation and a jealousy of love, and
generally, if not universally, as denunciations of just judgment against the
obstinate enemies of Christ, and all who obey not the Gospel of God. At the same
time, these passages cannot be fully accounted for without a frank recognition
of the fact that the Psalter was conceived and written under the Old Covenant.
That dispensation was more stern than ours. God's people had with all other
peoples a conflict with sword and spear. They wanted to tread down their
enemies, to crush the heathen; and thought it a grand religious triumph for a
righteous man to wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. Ps 8:10 68:23. Now
the struggle is without carnal weapons, and the tone of the dispensation is
changed. --Donald Fraser. 1873.
Imprecations. Imprecations of judgment on the wicked
on the hypothesis their continued impenitence are not inconsistent
with simultaneous efforts of to bring them to repentance; and Christian charity
itself can do no more than labour for the sinner's conversion. The law of
holiness requires us to pray for the fires of divine retribution: the law of
love to seek meanwhile to rescue the brand from the burning. The last prayer of
the martyr Stephen was answered not by any general averting of doom from a
guilty nation, but by the conversion of an individual persecutor to the service
of God. --Joseph Francis Thrupp.
Imprecations. That explanation which regards the "enemies"
as spiritual foes has a large measure of truth. It commended itself to a mind so
far removed from mysticism as Arnold's. It is most valuable for devout private
use of the Psalter. For, though we are come to Mount Sion, crested with the
eternal calm, the opened ear can hear the thunder rolling along the peaks of
Sinai. In the Gospel, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness. Sin is utterly hateful to God. The broad gates
are flung wide open of the city that lies foursquare towards all the winds of
heaven; for its ruler is divinely tolerant. But there shall in no wise enter it
anything that defileth, neither whatever worketh abomination; for he is divinely
intolerant too. And thus when, in public or private, we read these Psalms of
imprecation, there is a lesson that comes home to us. We must read them, or
dishonour God's word. Reading them, we must depart from sin, or pronounce
judgment upon ourselves. Drunkenness, impurity, hatred, every known sin of flesh
or spirit--these, and not mistaken men, are the worst enemies of God and of his
Christ. Against these we pray in our Collects for Peace at Morning and Evening
prayer--"Defend us in all assaults of our enemies, that by thee we being defended
from the fear of our enemies, may pass our time in rest and quietness." These
were the dark hosts which swept through the Psalmist's vision when he cried,
"Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed", Ps 6:10. --William
Alexander, in "The Witness of the Psalms to Christ and Christianity",
Imprecations. I cannot forbear the following little
incident that occurred the other morning at family worship. I happened to be
reading one of the imprecatory psalms, and as I paused to remark, my little boy,
a lad of ten years, asked with some earnestness: "Father, do you think it right
for a good man to pray for the destruction of his enemies like that?" and at the
same time referred me to Christ as praying for his enemies. I paused a moment to
know how to shape the reply so as to fully meet and satisfy his enquiry, and
then said, "My son, if an assassin should enter the house by night, and murder
your mother, and then escape, and the sheriff and citizens were all out in
pursuit, trying to catch him, would you not pray to God that they might succeed
and arrest him, and that he might be brought to justice?" "Oh, yes!" said he,
"but I never saw it so before. I did not know that that was the meaning of these
Psalms." "Yes", said I, "my son, the men against whom David plays were bloody
men, men of falsehood and crime, enemies to the peace of society, seeking his
own life, and unless they were arrested and their wicked devices defeated, many
innocent persons must suffer." The explanation perfectly satisfied his mind.
--F.G. Hibbard, in "The Psalms chronologically arranged", 1856.
Title. It is worth noting, that the superscription, to
the chief Musician, to the precentor (xunml), proves it to have been designed, such as it is, for the
Tabernacle or Temple service of song. --Joseph Hammond, in "The Expositor,"
Title. Syriac inscription. The verbs of the Hebrew
text through nearly the whole of the imprecatory part of this Psalm are read in
the singular number, as if some particular subject were signified by the divine
prophet. But our translators always change the verbs into the plural number;
which is not done by the Seventy and the other translators, who adhere more
closely to the Hebrew text. But without doubt this has arisen, because the
Syriac Christians explain this Psalm of the sufferings of Christ, which may be
understood from the Syriac inscription of this Psalm, and which in Polyglottis
Angl. reads thus: --"Of David: when they made Absalom king, be not
knowing: and on account of this he was killed. But to us it sets forth
the sufferings of Christ." For this reason all these imprecations are
transferred to the enemies or murderers of Jesus Christ. --John Augustus
Verse 1. Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise. All
commendation or manifestation of our innocence is to be sought from God when we
are assailed with calumnies on all sides. When God is silent, we should cry all
the more strongly; nor should we because of such delay despair of help, nor
impatiently cease from praying. --Martin Geier.
Verse 1. Hold not thy peace. How appropriately this phrase
is applied to God, with whom to speak is the same as to do; for by
his word he made all things. Rightly, therefore, is he said to be silent when he
seems not to notice the things which are done by the wicked, and patiently bears
with their malice. The Psalmist begs him to rise up and speak with the wicked in
his wrath, and thus take deserved vengeance on them; which is as easy for him to
do as for an angry man to break forth in words of rebuke and blame. This should
be to us a great solace against the wickedness of this last age, which God, our
praise, can restrain with one little word. --Wolfgang Musculus.
Verse 1. O God. As the most innocent and holy servants of
God are subject to heavy slanders and false calumnies raised against them, so
the best remedy and relief in this case is to go to God, as here the Psalmist
doth. --David Dickson.
Verse 1. God of my praise. Thou, who art the constant object
of my praise and thanksgiving, Jer 17:14. --William Keatinge Clay.
Verse 1. O God of my praise. In denominating him the God
of his praise, he intrusts to him the vindication of his innocence,
in the face of the calumnies by which he was all but universally assailed.
Verse 1. The God of MY praise. Give me leave, in order to
expound it the better, to expostulate. What, David, were there no saints but
thyself that gave praise to God? Why dost thou then seem to appropriate and
engross God unto thyself, as the God of thy praise, as if none praised him else
but thee? It is because his soul had devoted all the praise he was able to
bestow on any, unto the Lord alone; as whom he had set himself to praise, and
praise alone. As of a beloved son we use to say, "the son of my love." And
further, it is as if he had said, If I had all the ability of all the spirits of
men and angels wherewith to celebrate him, I would bestow them all on him, he is
the God of my praise. And as he was David's, so he should be ours. --Thomas
Verse 2. For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the
deceitful are opened against me. Speak, says Arnobius, to thine own
conscience, O man of God, thou who art following Christ; and when the mouth of
the wicked and deceitful man is opened concerning thee, rejoice and be secure;
because while the mouth of the wicked is opened for thy slander in the earth,
the mouth of God is opened for thy praise in heaven. --Lorinus.
Verses 2-3. Note, first, the detractor opens his mouth, that
he may pour forth his poison, and that he may devour his victim. Hence, David
says, "the mouth of the wicked is opened against me." Note, secondly, the
detractor is talkative--They have spoken, etc. The mouth of the detractor
is a broken pitcher leaking all over. Note, thirdly, detraction springs from
hatred, "they compassed me about also with words of hatred." In
Greek, ekuklwoan me, ie., as in a
circle they have enclosed me. St. Climacus says, "Detraction is odii partus,
a subtle disease, a fat but hidden leech which sucks the blood of charity
and after destroys it." --Lorinus.
Verse 2-5. The mouth of the wicked, etc.
Itself, and ugly, and of flavour rank--
To rob fair Virtue of so sweet an incense
And with it to anoint and salve its own
Rotten ulcers, and perfume the path that led
To death, strove daily by a thousand means:
And oft succeeded to make Virtue sour
In the world's nostrils, and its loathly self
Smell sweetly. Rumour was the messenger
Of defamation, and so swift that none
Could be the first to tell an evil tale.
It was Slander filled her mouth with lying words;
Slander, the foulest whelp of Sin. The man
In whom this spirit entered was undone.
His tongue was set on fire of hell; his heart
Was black as death; his legs were faint with haste
To propagate the lie his tongue had framed
His pillow was the peace of families
Destroyed, the sigh of innocence reproached,
Broken friendships, and the strife of brotherhoods.
Yet did he spare his sleep, and hear the clock
Number the midnight watches, on bis bed
Devising mischief more; and early rose
And made most hellish meals of good men's names.
Peace fled the neighbourhood in which he made
His haunts; and, like a moral pestilence,
Before his breath the healthy shoots and blooms
Of social joy and happiness decayed.
Fools only in his company were seen,
And those forsaken of God, and to themselves
Given up. The prudent man shunned him and his house
As one who had a deadly moral plague.
Verse 3. Although an individual may be absent, so that he
cannot corporeally be encompassed and fought with; nevertheless, so great is the
force and malice of an envenomed tongue, that an absent man may be none the less
dangerously surrounded and warred against. Thus David, though absent and driven
into exile, was nevertheless surrounded and assailed by the calumnies of Doeg
and the other flatterers of Saul, so that at length he was also corporeally
surrounded; in which contest he would clearly have perished unless he had been
divinely delivered: see 1Sa 23:1-29. And this kind of surrounding and assault is
so much the more deadly as it is so much the less possible to be avoided. For
who can be so innocent as to escape the snares of a back biting and calumnious
tongue? What place can be so remote and obscure as that this evil will not
intrude when David could not be safe in the mountains and caves of the rocks?
Verse 4. (first clause). None prove worse enemies
than those that have received the greatest kindnesses, when once they turn
unkind. As the sharpest vinegar is made of the purest wine, and pleasant meats
turn to the bitterest humours in the stomach; so the highest love bestowed upon
friends, being ill digested or corrupt, turns to the most unfriendly hatred,
proximorum odia sunt acerrima. --Abraham Wright.
Verse 4. For my love they are my adversaries; that's an ill
requital; but how did David requite them? We may take his own word for it; he
tells us how, "But I give myself unto prayer"; yea, he seemed a man
wholly given unto prayer. The elegant conciseness of the Hebrew is, "But I
prayer"; we supply it thus, "But I give myself unto prayer."
They are sinning against me, requiting my love with hatred, "But I give
myself unto prayer." But for whom did he pray? Doubtless he prayed and
prayed much for himself; he prayed also for them. We may understand these words,
"I give myself unto prayer", two ways. First I pray against their
plots and evil dealings with me (prayer was David's best strength always against
his enemies), yet that was not all. But, secondly, "I give myself unto
prayer", that the Lord would pardon their sin, and turn their hearts, when
they are doing me mischief; or, though they have done me mischief, I am wishing
them the best good. David (in another place) showed what a spirit of charity he
was clothed with, when no reproof could hinder him from praying for others, Ps
141:5. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 4. The translator of the Syriac version has inserted
in Ps 109:4 Arabic "and I have prayed for them", as if he had
copied them from the words of our Lord in Mt 5:44, where in the Syriac version
of the New Testament we have exactly the same construction. It is in keeping
with the inscription of the Psalm, which applies it directly to Christ. It would
seem as if the Translator understood this verse of the crucifixion and of the
Redeemer's prayer for his murderers, or as if the only way to understand the
elliptical language of the Psalmist was from the teaching and example of our
Lord. --E.T. Gibson, of Crayford.
Verse 4. I prayer. The Messiah says in this prophetic psalm,
"I am prayer." During his pilgrimage on earth, his whole life was communion with
God; and now in his glory, he is constantly making intercession for us. But this
does not exhaust the idea, "I am prayer." He not merely prayed and is now
praying, he not merely teaches and influences us to pray, but he is prayer, the
fountain and source of all prayer, as well as the foundation and basis of all
answers to our petitions. He is the Word in this sense also. From all eternity
his Father heard him, heard him as interceding for that world which, created
through him, he represented, and in which, through him, divine glory was to be
revealed. In the same sense, therefore, in which he is light and gives light, in
which he is life and resurrection, and therefore quickens, Jesus is
prayer. --Adolph Saphir, in Lectures on the Lord's Prayer, 1870.
Verse 4. Persecuted saints are men of prayer, yea, they are
as it were made up all of prayer. David prayed before; but, oh, when his enemies
fell a persecuting of him, then he gave himself up wholly to prayer. Oh, then he
was more earnest; more fervent, more frequent, more diligent, more constant, and
more abundant in the work of prayer! When Numa, king of the Romans, was told
that his enemies were in arms against him, he did but laugh at it, and answered,
"And I do sacrifice"; so when persecutors arm themselves against the people of
God, they do but divinely smile and laugh at it, and give themselves the more up
to prayer. When men arm against them, then they arm themselves with all their
might to the work of prayer; and woe, woe to them that have armies of prayers
marching against them. --Thomas Brooks.
Verse 4. I give myself unto prayer. The instruction to
ourselves from these words is most comforting and precious. Are we bowed down
with sorrow and distress? "I give myself unto prayer." Are we persecuted,
and reviled, and compassed about with words of hatred? "I give myself unto
prayer." Has death entered our dwellings? And as we gaze in heart-broken
anguish on the no longer answering look of one who was our earthly stay, and we
feel as if all hope as well as all help were gone, still there remains the same
blessed refuge for all the Lord's sorrowing ones, "I give myself unto
prayer." In the allegory of the ancients. Hope was left at the bottom of the
casket, as the sweetener of human life; but God, in far richer mercy, gives
prayer as the balm of human trial. --Barton Bouchier.
Verse 4. A Christian is all over prayer: he prays at rising,
at lying down, and as he walks: like a prime favourite at court, who has the key
to the privy stairs, and can wake his prince by night. --Augustus Montague
Verse 6. Set thou a wicked man over him, etc. Here commences
that terrible series of maledictions, unparalleled in Holy Writ, as directed
against an individual sinner, albeit it is little more than a special
reduplication of the national woes denounced in Le 26:1-46 and De 28:1-68.
--Neale and Littledale.
Verse 6. Set thou a wicked man over him. The first thing
that the Psalmist asks is, that his foe might be subjected to the evil of having
a man placed over him like himself: --a man regardless of justice, truth, and
right; a man who would respect character and propriety no more than he had
himself done. It is, in fact, a prayer that he might be punished in the line
of his offences. It cannot be wrong that a man should be treated as he
treats others; and it cannot be in itself wrong to desire that a man should be
treated according to his character and deserts, for this is the object of all
law, and this is what all magistrates and legislators are endeavouring to
secure. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 6. Over HIM. Consider what would have been the effect
if these denunciations had been made against the sins of men and not, as
they are in these passages, against the sinners. Men would have said, "My
sin is denounced, not me." What a license would have been given to sin!
The depraved nature would have said, "if I am not condemned, but only my
sin, I can do as I like; I shall not be called to account for it. I
love sin and can go on in it." This is what men would have said. There
would have been no effort to get rid of it. Why should there be; if only
sin is condemned and not the sinner? But man's sin is
identified with himself, and this makes him tremble. God's wrath rests on
him because of his sin. Condemnation is awaiting him because of
his sin. This makes him anxious to get rid of it. --Frederick Whitfield.
Verse 6. Let Satan stand at his right hand. It appears to
have been the custom at trials before the Jewish tribunals for a pleader to
stand at the right hand of the accused: See Zec 3:1, where are described Joshua
the High Priest, standing before the Angel of Jehovah, and the adversary
(Njs, Satan, as here) standing at
his right hand to oppose him. See also Ps 109:31. --John Le Clerc,
Verse 6. Let Satan stand at his right hand. Hugo observes
that the Devil is on the left hand of those whom he persecutes in temporal
things: on the right of those whom he rules in spiritual things: before the face
of those who are on their guard against his wiles: behind those who are not
foreseeing and prudent: above those whom he treads down: below, and beneath the
feet of those who tread him down. A recent Spanish author, (Peter Vega. On the
Penitential Psalms.) writing in that language, thinks that there cannot be
anything worse than that man who diligently and of set purpose injures others by
speaking deceitfully, by surrounding with speeches of hatred, by attacking
without cause, by slandering, by returning evil for good, and hatred for love:
therefore, in this place it is desired that a wicked man may be set over such a
one, and the devil at his right hand; as if he should be doomed to take the
lowest place because he is the worst. --Lorinus.
Verse 6. At his right hand. The strength or force of the
body shows itself principally in the right hand. Therefore, he who wishes to
obstruct another, and to hinder his endeavour, stands at his right hand; and
thus easily parries his stroke or attempt. This I consider to be the most simple
meaning of this passage which shows that God represses and restrains the raging
of the enemies of the Church, who withstand each other by their opposing
efforts, either from envy or from other causes. Thus, 2Sa 17:1-29, the counsels
of Ahithophel are broken by Hushai; and in our day we see that the counsels and
attempts of our enemies have been frequently and wonderfully restrained by the
hindrances they have give one to the other: in which matter the goodness of God
is to be discerned. --Mollerus.
Verse 6. He begins to prophesy what they should receive for
their great impiety, detailing their lot in such a manner as if he wished its
realization from a desire of revenge: while he declareth what was to happen with
the most absolute certainty, and what of God's justice would worthily come upon
such. Some not understanding this mode of predicting the future under the
appearance of wishing evil, suppose hatred to be returned for hatred, and an
evil will for an evil will: since in truth it belongeth to few to distinguish in
what way the punishment of the wicked pleaseth the accuser, who longeth to
satiate his enmity; and in how widely different a way it pleaseth the judge, who
with a righteous mind punishes sins. For the former returneth evil for evil, but
the judge when he punishes does not return evil for evil, since he returneth
justice to the unjust; and what is just is surely good. He therefore punishes
not from delight in another's misery, which is evil for evil, but from love of
justice, which is good for evil. Let not then the blind pervert the light of the
Scriptures imagining that God doth not punish sins: nor let the wicked flatter
themselves, as if he rendered evil for evil. Let us therefore hear the sequel of
this divine composition; and in the words of one who seemeth to wish ill, let us
recognise the predictions of a prophet; and let us see God making a just
retribution, raising our mind up to his eternal laws. --Augustine.
Verses 6-19. These terrible curses are repeated with many
words and sentences, that we may know that David has not let these words fall
rashly or from any precipitate impulse of mind; but, the Holy Spirit having
dictated, he employs this form of execration that it may be a perpetual prophecy
or prediction of the bitter pains and destruction of the enemies of the Church
of God. Nor does David imprecate these punishments so much on his own enemies
and Judas the betrayer of Christ; but that similar punishments await all who
fight against the kingdom of Christ. --Mollerus.
Verses 6-20. I had also this consideration, that if I should
now venture all for God, I engaged God to take care of my concerns; but if I
forsook him and his ways for fear of any trouble that should come to me or mine,
then I should not only falsify my profession, but should count also that my
concerns were not so sure, if left at God's feet, while I stood to and for his
name, as they would be if they were under my own tuition (or care) though with
the denial of the way of God. This was a smarting consideration, and was as
spurs unto my flesh. This Scripture (Ps 109:6-20.) also greatly helped it to
fasten the more upon me, where Christ prays against Judas, that God would
disappoint him in all his selfish thoughts, which moved him to sell his master:
pray read it soberly. I had also another consideration, and that was, the dread
of the torments of hell, which I was sure they must partake of, that for fear of
the cross to shrink from their profession of Christ, his words, and laws, before
the sons of men. I thought also of the glory that he had prepared for those
that, in faith, and love, and patience, stood to his ways before them. These
things, I say, have helped me, when the thoughts of the misery that both myself
and mine might for the sake of my profession be exposed to hath lain pinching on
my mind. --John Bunyan.
Verse 7. Let his prayer become sin. As the clamours of a
condemned malefactor, not only find no acceptance, but are looked upon as an
affront to the court. The prayers of the wicked now become sin, because soured
with the leaven of hypocrisy and malice; and so they will in the great day,
because then it will be too late to cry, "Lord, Lord, open unto us." --Matthew
Verse 7. Let his prayer become sin. Evidently his prayer in
reference to his trial for crime; his prayer that he might be acquitted
and discharged. Let it be seen in the result that such a prayer was wrong;
that it was in fact, a prayer for the discharge of a bad man--a man who
ought to be punished. Let it be seen to be what a prayer would be
if offered for a murderer, or violator of the law, --a prayer that he might
escape or not be punished. All must see that such a prayer would be
wrong, or would be a "sin"; and so, in his own case, it would be equally true
that a prayer for his own escape would be "sin." The Psalmist asks
that, by the result of the trial, such a prayer might be seen to be in
fact a prayer for the protection and escape of a bad man. A just sentence
in the case would demonstrate this; and this is what the Psalmist prays for.
Verse 7. Let his prayer become sin. Kimchi in his
annotations thus explains these words: i.e., "let it be without effect,
so that he does not get what he asks for; let him not hit the mark at which he
aims": for ajx sometimes has the meaning
to miss. --Wolfgang Musculus.
Verse 7. Let his prayer become sin. St. Jerome says that
Judas's prayer was turned into sin, by reason of his want of hope when he
prayed: and thus it was that in despair he hanged himself. --Robert
Verse 7. Let his prayer become sin. The prayer of the
hypocrite is sin formally, and it is sin in the effect, that is, instead of
getting any good by it, he gets hurt, and the Lord instead of helping him
because he prays, punishes him because of the sinfulness of his prayers. Thus
his prayer becomes sin to him, because he receives no more respect from God when
he prays than when he sins. And sin doth not only mingle with his prayer (as it
doth with the prayers of the holiest), but his prayer is nothing else but a
mixture or mingle mangle (as we speak) of many sins. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 7. Let his prayer become sin. We should be watchful in
prayer lest the most holy worship of God should become an abomination: Isa 1:15
66:3 Jas 4:3 Ho 7:14 Am 5:23. If the remedy be poisoned, how shall the diseased
be cured? --Martin Geier.
Verses 7-19. These and the following verses, although they
contain terrible imprecations, will become less dreadful if we understand them
as spoken concerning men pertinaciously cleaving to their vices, against whom
only has God threatened punishments; not against those who repent with all their
heart, and become thoroughly changed in life. --John Le Clerc.
Verse 8. Let his days be few. By "his days", he meant
the days of his apostleship, which were few; since before the passion of our
Lord, they were ended by his crime and death. And as if it were asked, What then
shall become of that most sacred number twelve, within which our Lord willed,
not without a meaning, to limit his twelve first apostles? he at once addeth,
and let another take his office. As much as to say, let both himself be
punished according to his desert, and let his number be filled up. And if any
one desire to know how this was done, let him read the Acts of the Apostles.
Verse 8. Let another take his office. So every man acts, and
practically prays, who seeks to remove a bad and corrupt man from office. As
such an office must be filled by some one, all the efforts which he puts forth
to remove a wicked man tend to bring it about that "another should take his
office", and for this it is right to labour and pray. The act does not of
itself imply malignity or bad feeling, but is consistent with the purest
benevolence, the kindest feelings, the strictest integrity, the sternest
patriotism, and the highest form of piety. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 9. Let his children be fatherless. Helpless and
shiftless. A sore vexation to many on their death beds, and just enough upon
graceless persecutors. But happy are they who, when they lie dying, can say as
Luther did, "Domine Deus gratias ago tibi quod velueris me esse
pauperem, et mendicum, & c. Lord God, I thank thee for my present
poverty, but future hopes. I have not an house, lands, possessions, or monies to
leave behind me. Thou hast given me wife and children; behold, I return them
back to thee, and beseech thee to nourish them, teach them, keep them safe, as
hitherto thou hast done, O thou father of the fatherless, and judge of widows."
Verses 9-10, 12-13. "His children; ""his posterity." Though in
matters of a civil or judicial character, we have it upon the highest authority
that the children are not to be made accountable for the fathers, nor the
fathers for the children, but every transgressor is to bear the penalty of his
own sin; yet, in a moral, and in a social and spiritual sense, it is impossible
that the fathers should eat sour grapes, and yet that the children's teeth
should not be set on edge. The offspring of the profligate and the prodigal may,
and often do, avoid the specific vices of the parent; but rarely, if ever, do
they escape the evil consequences of those vices. And this reaction cannot be
prevented, until it shall please God first to unmake and then to remodel his
whole intelligent creation. --T. Dale, in a Sermon to Heads of Families,
Verses 9-13. Under the Old Covenant, calamity, extending from
father to son, was the meed of transgression; prosperity, vice versa, of
obedience: (see Solomon's prayer, 2Ch 6:23): and these prayers of the psalmist
(cf. Ps 10:13, 12:1 58:10, etc.) may express the wish that God's providential
government of his people should be asserted in the chastisement of the enemy of
God and man. --Speaker's Commentary.
Verse 10. Let his children be continually vagabonds. The
word used in the sentence pronounced upon Cain, Ge 4:12. Compare Ps
59:11,15. --William Kay.
Verse 10. Let them seek, etc. Horsley renders this clause,
Let them be driven out from the very ruins of their dwellings, and
remarks that the image is that of "vagabonds seeking a miserable shelter among
the ruins of decayed or demolished buildings, and not suffered to remain even in
such places undisturbed."
Verses 9-10. When we consider of whom this Psalm is used
there will be no difficulty about it. No language could be more awful than that
of Ps 109:6-19. It embraces almost every misery we can think of. But could any
man be in a more wretched condition than Judas was? Could any words be too
severe to express the depth of his misery--of him, who, for three whole years,
had been the constant attendant of the Saviour of mankind; who had witnessed his
miracles, and had shared his miraculous powers; who had enjoyed all the
warnings, all the reproofs of his love, and then had betrayed him for thirty
pieces of silver? Can we conceive a condition more miserable than that of Judas?
And this Psalm is a prophecy of the punishment that should overtake him
for his sin. S. Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles, quotes part of this psalm,
and applies it to Judas: he applies it as a prophecy of the punishment he should
suffer on the betrayal of the Son of God. It is probable that in this psalm, when it uses the word
children, it does not mean those who are his offspring by natural descent, but
those who resemble him, and who partake with him in his
wickedness. This is a common meaning of the word sons, or children, in
Holy Scripture. As where our blessed Lord tells the Jews, Ye are of your
father the devil, he could not mean that the Jews were the natural
descendants of the devil, but that they were his children because they did his
works. Again, when they are called Abraham's children, it means those who do the
works of Abraham. So in this psalm, where it is foretold that fearful punishment
should happen to Judas for the betrayal of his Lord, and should be extended to
his children, it means his associates, his companions, and imitators
in wickedness. --F.H. Dunwell, in "A Tract on the Commination Service,"
Verses 10, 12-13. It is for public ends that the psalmist
prayed that the families of the wicked might be involved in their ruin. These
are very terrible petitions; but it is God, not man, who has appointed these
calamities as the ordinary consequences of persistence in wickedness. It is God,
not man, who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, to the third
and fourth generations. It is because this is the ordinary portion of the
transgressors, and that thus in God's wonted way his abhorrence of the
transgressions of his enemies might be marked, that the psalmist prays for
these calamities. He asks God to do what he had declared he would do, and this
for public ends, for he says: "I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth;
yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the
right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul", Ps
109:30-31. --R.A. Bertram, in "The Imprecatory Psalms," 1867.
Verses 10-13. Many penurious fathers are so scraping for
their children, that they ravish the poor children of God; but the hand of the
Lord shall be against their young lions. Na 2:13. They join house to house, and
field to field, but their children shall be "vagabonds and beg", "seeking
their bread out of their desolate places." How many a covetous mole
is now digging a house in the earth for his posterity, and never dreams of this
sequel, that God should make those children beggars, for whose sake their
fathers had made so many beggars! This is a quittance which the sire will not
believe, but as sure as God is just the son shall feel. Now if he had but leave
to come out of hell for an hour, and see this, how should he curse his folly!
Sure, if possible, it would double the pain of his infernal torture. Be
moderate, then, ye that so insatiately devour, as if you had an infinite
capacity: you overload your stomachs, it is fit they should be disburdened in
shameful spewing. How quickly doth a worldly minded man grow a defrauder, from a
defrauder to a usurer, from a usurer to an oppressor, from an oppressor to an
extortioner! If his eyes do but tell his heart of a booty, his heart will charge
his hand, and he must have it, Mic 2:2. They do but see it, like it, and take
it. Observe their due payment. Let the extortioner catch all that he
hath: they got all by extortion, they shall lose all by extortion. They
spoiled their neighbours, strangers shall spoil them. How often hath the poor
widow and orphan cried, wept, groaned to them for mercy, and found none! They
have taught God how to deal with themselves; let there be none to
extend mercy to them. They have advanced houses for a memorial, and
dedicated lands to their own names, Ps 49:11; all to get them a name; and even
in this they shall be crossed: In the next generation their name shall
be quite put out. --Thomas Adams.
Verse 11. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath. Note:
he is most miserable who falls into the hands of usurers; for they will flay him
alive and drain his blood. The Romans, that they might deter the citizens from
usury, placed a statue of Marsyas in the Forum or law court, by which they
signified that those who came into the hands of usurers would be skinned alive;
and to show that usurers, as the most unjust litigants, deserved hanging, they
placed a rope in the hand of the figure. --Le Blanc.
Verse 11. Catch. This refers to the obligations between
creditors and debtors, and he calls these snares, by which, as it were, the
insolvent debtors are caught, and at last come to servitude. --Mollerus.
Verse 12. Let there be none to extend mercy to him. He does
not say, None who shall shew, but none who shall "extend" kindness to
him. The extending of kindness is, when after a friend's death it is shown to
his children, and true friendship is of this sort, that the kindness which
friends shewed to each other while alive is maintained, not extinguished with
the death of the friend. --Wolfgang Musculus.
Verse 12. Let there be none to extend mercy to him. Let God
in his justice set off all hearts from him that had been so unreasonably
merciless. Thus no man opened his mouth to intercede for Haman; Judas was shaken
off by the priests, and bid see to himself, etc. --John Trapp.
Verse 15. Let them be before the Lord continually. The
fearful punishment of sinners is, to be always under the eye of an angry God:
then the soul of the sinner is dismayed at its own deformity. --Le Blanc.
Verse 15. Let them be before the Lord continually.
Lafayette, the friend and ally of Washington, was in his youth confined in a
French dungeon. In the door of his ceil there was cut a small hole, just big
enough for a man's eye; at that hole a sentinel was placed, whose duty it was to
watch, moment by moment, till he was relieved by a change of guard. All
Lafayette saw was the winking eye, but the eye was always there; look when he
would, it met his gaze. In his dreams, he was conscious it was staring at him.
"Oh", he says, "it was horrible; there was no escape; when he lay down and when
he rose up, when he ate and when he read, that eye searched him." --"New
Cyclopaedia of Illustrative Anecdote", 1875.
Verse 15-19, 29. Strict justice, and nothing more, breathes
in every petition. Cannot you say, Amen! to all these petitions? Are you not
glad when the wicked man falls into the ditch he has made for another's
destruction, and when his mischief returns upon his own head? But you say,
"These petitions are unquestionably just, but why did not the psalmist ask, not
for justice, but for mercy?" The answer is, that in his public capacity,
he was bound to think first about justice. No government could stand upon the basis of forgiveness,
justice must always go before mercy. Suppose that in the course of the next
session Parliament should decree that henceforth, instead of justice being shown
to thieves, by sending them to prison, they should be treated charitably, and
compelled to restore one half of what they stole, what would honest men
say about the government? The thieves would doubtless be very complimentary, but
what would honest men say? Why, they would say the government had altogether
failed of its function, and it would not live to be a week older. And just so,
the psalmists were bound first of all to seek for the vindication and
establishment of justice and truth. Like the magistrates of today, they
considered first the well being of the community. This they had in view in all
the calamities they sought to bring upon wrong doers. --R.A. Bertram.
Verse 16. Because. Why, what is the crime? Because that
he remembered not to shew mercy, etc. See what a long vial full of
the plagues of God is poured out upon the unmerciful man! --Thomas Watson.
Verse 16. But persecuted the poor. If any man will practise
subtraction against the poor, God will use it against him, and take his name out
of the book of life. If he be damned that gives not his own, what shall become
of him that takes away another man's? (Augustine.) If judgment without
mercy shall be to him that shows no mercy (Jas 2:13) where shall subtraction and
rapine appear? Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let
strangers spoil his labour, Ps 109:11: there is one subtraction, his
estate. Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following
let their name be blotted out, Ps 109:13: there is another subtraction, his
memory. Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there
be any to favour his fatherless children, Ps 109:12: there is another
subtraction, a denial of all pity to him and his, Let him be condemned: and
let his prayer become sin, Ps 109:7: there is another subtraction, no
audience from heaven. Let another take his office; there is a subtraction
of his place: let his days be few, Ps 109:8: there is a subtraction of
his life. Let him be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be
written with the righteous, Ps 69:28; there is the last, the subtraction of
his soul. This is a fearful arithmetic: if the wicked add sins, God will add
plagues. If they subtract from others their rights, God shall subtract from them
his mercies. --Thomas Adams.
Verse 17. Cursing is both good and bad. For we read
in the Scriptures that holy men have often cursed. Indeed none can offer the
Lord's Prayer rightly without cursing. For when he prays, "Hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done", etc., he must include in the same
outpouring of his desires all that is opposed to these, and say, cursed and
execrated and dishonoured must all other names be, and all kingdoms which are
opposed to thee must be destroyed and rent in pieces, and all devices and
purposes formed against thee fall to the ground. --Martin Luther.
Verse 17. As he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far
He was a wolf in clothing of the lamb,
That stole into the fold of God, and on
The blood of souls, which he did sell to death,
Grew fat; and yet, when any would have turned
Him out, he cried, "Touch not the priest of God."
And that he was anointed, fools believed;
But knew, that day, he was the devil's priest,
Anointed by the hands of Sin and Death,
And set peculiarly apart to ill--
While on him smoked the vials of perdition,
Poured measureless. Ah, me! What cursing then
Was heaped upon his head by ruined souls,
That charged him with their murder, as he stood
With eye, of all the unredeemed, most sad,
Waiting the coming of the Son of Man!
Verses 17-19. Possibly Ps 109:17-18 describe as fact what Ps
109:19 amplifies in a wish, or prayer. "He loved cursing, and it loved him in
return, and came to him: he delighted not in blessing, and it was far from him.
He clothed himself with cursing as with a garment, and, it permeated his inmost
parts as water, as the refreshing oil with which the body is anointed finds a
way into marrow and bones." The images are familiar; the daily dress, the water
that permeates daily every part of the body, the oil used daily for nourishment
(Ps 104:15) and gladness (Ps 23:5). In the wish that follows (Ps 109:19), the
mantle, or garment, which is always worn, and the girdle or belt with
which the accursed one is always girded, are substituted, apparently, for more
general terms. --Speakers Commentary.
Verses 17-19. As the loss of the soul is a loss peculiar to
itself, and a loss double, so it is a loss most fearful, because it is attended
with the most heavy curse of God. This curse lieth in a deprivation of all good,
and in a being swallowed up of all the most fearful miseries that a holy and
just and eternal God can righteously inflict, or lay upon the soul of a sinful
man. Now let reason here come in and exercise itself in the most exquisite
manner; yea, let him now count up all, and all manner of curses and torments
that a reasonable and an immortal soul is, or can be made capable of, and able
to suffer, and when he has done, he shall come infinitely short of this great
anathema, this master curse which God has reserved amongst his treasuries, and
intends to bring out in that day of battle and war, which he proposes to make
upon damned souls in that day. And this God will do, partly as a retaliation, as
the former, and partly by way of revenge.
1. By way of retaliation: As he
loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing,
so let it be far from him. Again, "As he clothed himself with
cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like
water, and like oil it, to his bones. Let it be unto him as the
garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded
continually." "Let this", saith Christ, "be the reward of wine
adversaries from the Lord," etc.
2. As this curse comes by way of
retaliation, so it cometh by way of revenge. God will right the wrongs that
sinners have done him, will repay vengeance for the despite and reproach
wherewith they have affronted him, and will revenge the quarrel of his covenant.
As the beginnings of revenges are terrible (De 32:41-42); what, then, will the
whole execution be, when he shall come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them
that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ? And, therefore,
this curse is executed in wrath, in jealousy, in anger, in fury; yea, the
heavens and the earth shall be burned up with the fire of that jealousy in which
the great God will come when he cometh to curse the souls of sinners, and when
he cometh to defy the ungodly, 2Th 1:7-9. --John Bunyan.
Verse 18. The three figures in this verse are climatic: he
has clothed himself in cursing, he has drunk it in like water (Job 15:16, 34:7),
it has penetrated to the marrow of his bones, like the oily preparations which
are rubbed in and penetrate to the bones. --Franz Delitzsch.
Verse 18. We must not pass this verse without remarking that
there is an allusion in its tone to Nu 5:21-22,24 the unfaithful wife. Her curse
was to penetrate into her bowels; "the water that causeth the curse shall enter
into her"; and such a curse comes on unfaithful Judas, who violates his
engagement to the Lord, and upon Israel at large also, who have departed from
him "as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband", and have committed
adultery against the Bridegroom. --Andrew A. Bonar.
Verses 18-19. Peter, in Ac 1:20, applies this psalm to Christ
when the Jews cried, "His blood be upon us and upon our children"; then did they
put on the envenomed garment which has tormented them ever since. It is girded
about their loins; the curse has penetrated like water, and entered the very
bones like oil. How awful will be the state of those who crucify him afresh, and
again put him to open shame. --Samuel Horsley.
Verse 21. For thy name's sake. My enemies would soon become
my friends and my protectors, if I would but renounce my allegiance to thee; my
refusal to disobey thee constitutes all my crime in their eyes. My cause,
therefore, becomes thine, it will be to thy glory to declare thyself on my side,
lest the impious should take occasion from my sufferings to blaspheme thy holy
name, as if thou hadst not the power to deliver, or wert utterly indifferent to
those who, renouncing all human help, have put their confidence in thee.
--Jean Baptiste Massillion.
Verse 21. For thy name's sake. It does not say, For
my name, that it may be vindicated from, reproach and shame: but for
Thy name; as if he would say, whatever I may be, O Lord, and whatever may
befall me, have respect to Thy name, have regard to it only. I am not worthy,
that I should seek Thy help, but Thy name is worthy which thou mayest vindicate
from contempt. We learn here with what passion for the glory of the divine name
they ought to be animated, who are peculiarly consecrated to the name of God. He does not say, "Because my case is good", but because
thy mercy is good. Note this also, he does not simply say, Because
thou art good, or because thou art merciful; but because thy mercy is good. He
had experienced a certain special goodness in the Divine mercy; i.e.,
such timeliness, kind readiness in all afflictions, and help for every kind
of affliction prepared and provided. On this he rests hope and confidence, in
this takes refuge. All those are truly happy who have had experience of this
mercy, and can depend on it with firm hope and confidence. --Wolfgang
Verse 21. Unto a truly broken, humbled sinner, the mercies
that are in God, out of which he pardons, should have infinitely more of
goodness and sweetness in them than the pardon itself, or all things else that
are in the promises. This a soul that hath tasted how good the Lord is will
instantly acknowledge. A promise of life to a condemned man is sweet, for life
is sweet, as we say; but "thy lovingkindness", said David, who had tasted how
good the Lord is, "is better than life", and infinitely sweeter, Ps 63:3. And
again says David, Because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me. Deliverance
was good; yea, but the mercy of God apprehended therewith was infinitely more
good to him, which was the greatest inducement to him to seek deliverance. And
indeed God's mercy doth eminently bear the style of goodness. --Thomas
Verse 21-25. The thunder and lightning are now as it were
followed by a shower of tears of deep sorrowful complaint. --Franz
Verse 22. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded
within me. Note here, how beautifully he unites these arguments. He
had said, Because Thy mercy is good; and he adds, "Because I am
poor and needy." He could not have added anything more appropriate: for
this is the nature of goodness and mercy, even in the human heart, much more in
God, the best and most merciful of all beings, that nothing more easily moves it
to give succour, than the affliction, calamity, and misery of those by whom it
is invoked. --Wolfgang Musculus.
Verse 22. My heart is wounded within me. The hearts of the
saints and pious men are not as brass or stone, that the apathy of the Stoics
should have lodging in them, but are susceptible to griefs and passions.
Verse 23. I am gone like the shadow when it declineth.
--Bishop Horsley renders, "I am just gone, like the shadow stretched to
its utmost length"; and remarks: --"The state of the shadows of
terrestrial objects at sunset, lengthening every instant, and growing faint as
they lengthen; and in the instant that they shoot to an immeasurable length
Verse 23. I am tossed up and down as the locust. Although
the locusts have sufficient strength of flight to remain on the wing for a
considerable period, and to pass over great distances, they have little or no
command over the direction of their flight, always travel with the wind, in the
same way as the quail. So entirely are they at the mercy of the wind, that if a
sudden gust arises the locusts are tossed about in the most helpless manner; and
if they should happen to come across one of the circular air currents that are
so frequently found in the countries which they inhabit, they are whirled round
and round without the least power of extricating themselves. --J.G. Wood.
Verse 23. I am tossed up and down as the locust. This
reference is to the flying locust. I have had frequent opportunities to notice
how these squadrons are tossed up and down, and whirled round and round by the
ever varying currents of the mountain winds. --W.M. Thomson.
Verse 28. Let them curse, but bless thou. Fear not thou, who
art a saint, their imprecations; this is but like false fire in the pan of an
uncharged gun, it gives a crack, but hurts not; God's blessings will cover thee
from their curse. --William Gurnall.
Verse 28. (first clause). Men's curses are impotent,
God's blessings are omnipotent. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 30. I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth. In
the celebration of God's praises, there can be no question that these must issue
from the heart ere they can be uttered by the lips; at the same time, it would
be an indication of great coldness, and of want of fervour, did not the tongue
unite with the heart in this exercise. The reason why David makes mention of the
tongue only is, that he takes it for granted that, unless there be a pouring out
of the heart before God, those praises which reach no farther than the ear are
vain and frivolous; and, therefore, from the very bottom of his soul, he pours
forth his heart felt gratitude in fervent strains of praise; and this he does
from the same motives which ought to influence all the faithful--the desire of
mutual edification; for to act otherwise would be to rob God of the honour which
belongs to him. --John Calvin.
Verse 31. He shall stand at the right hated of the poor.
This expression implies, first, that he appears there as a friend. How
cheering, how comforting it is to have a friend to stand by us when we are in
trouble! Such a friend is Jesus. In the hour of necessity he comes as a friend
to stand by the right hand of the poor creature whose soul is condemned by guilt
and accusation. But he stands in a far higher relation than that of a friend; he
stands, too, as surety and a deliverer. He goes, as it were, into
the court; and when the prisoner stands at the bar, he comes forward and stands
at his right hand as his surety and bondsman; he brings out of his bosom the
acquittance of the debt, signed and sealed with his own blood, he produces it to
the eyes of the court, and claims and demands the acquittal and absolution of
the prisoner at whose right hand he stands. He stands there, then, that the
prisoner may be freely pardoned, and completely justified from those accusations
that condemn his soul. O sweet standing! O blessed appearance! --Joseph
C. Philpot (1802-1869).
Verse 31. He shall stand at the right hand of the poor. One
of the oldest Rabbinical commentaries has a very beautiful gloss on this
passage. "Whenever a poor man stands at thy door, the Holy One, blessed be His
Name, stands at his right hand. If thou givest him alms, know that thou shalt
receive a reward from Him who standeth at his right hand." --Alfred Edersheim,
in "Sketches of the Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ," 1876.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
Verse 1. The silence of God. What it may mean: what it
involves: how we may endeavour to break it.
Verse 1. God of my praise. A text which may be expounded in
its double meaning.
1. God is for his people when the wicked are against them (Ps
(a) for his people's sake;
(b) for his own sake.
2. The wicked are against his people when he is for them (Ps
(a) from hatred to God;
(b) from hatred to his people. --G.R.
Verse 2. Slander. Its cause--wickedness and malice. Its
instruments--deceit and lies. Its frequency--Jesus and the saints slandered. Its
punishment. Our resort when tried by it--prayer to God.
Verse 4. On the excellency of prayer. See Expository Notes.
Verse 4. Our Lord's adversaries, and his resort.
1. David's spirit and conduct towards his enemies.
spirit is love--love for hatred; hence his denunciations are against their sins,
rather than against them.
(b) His conduct. He returned good for evil; he
interceded for them.
2. Their spirit and conduct towards him.
(a) Hatred for love.
(b) Evil for good. --G.R.
Verse 5. Evil for good. This is devil like. Have not men
been guilty of this to parents, to those who have warned them, to saints and
ministers, and especially to the Lord himself?
Verse 5. How has the Redeemer been recompensed? Show what he
deserves and what he receives from various individuals. He feels the unkindness
of those who are ungrateful.
Verse 6. It is the law of retribution to punish the wicked
by means of the wicked. --Starke.
Verse 7. When may prayer become sin. From what is sought,
how sought, by whom sought, and wherefore sought.
Verse 8. Let his days be few. Sin the great shortener of
human life. After the flood the whole race lived a shorter time; passion and
avaricious care shorten life, and some sins have a peculiar power to do this,
lust, drunkenness, & c.
1. David leaves his enemies in the hand of God (Ps 109:20).
2. He puts himself into the same hands (Ps 109:21). --G.R.
Verse 21. The plea of a believer must be drawn from his God,
his "name" and "mercy." The opposite habit of searching for arguments in self
very common and very disappointing.
Verse 21. The peculiar goodness of divine mercy.
Verse 22. The inward sorrows of a saint. Their cause,
effects, consolations and cure.
1. The Prayer.
2. The Believing Title: "O Lord my God."
3. The attribute relied upon.
4. The motive for the petition.
Verse 28. The divine cure for human ill will; and the
saint's temper when he trusts therein--"let thy servant rejoice."
1. A prayer for the repentance of David's adversaries.
2. A prophecy for their confusion if they remain impenitent.
Verse 29. The sinner's last mantle.
Verse 30. Vocal praise. Should be personal, resolute,
intelligent, abundant, hearty. It should attract others, join with others,
stimulate others, but never lose its personality.
1. David's will with respect to himself: "I will... yea,
I will" etc. (Ps 109:30).
2. His shall with respect to God: "he shall", etc. (Ps
Verses 30-31. He promises God that he will praise him, Ps
109:30. He promises himself that he shall have cause to praise God, Ps 109:31.
1. The character to whom the promise is made--the poor.
2. The danger to which he is exposed--those that condemn his
3. The deliverance which is promised to him--divine, opportune,
efficient, complete, everlasting.
WORKS UPON THE HUNDRED AND NINTH PSALM
In "The Expositor", vol. 2. (1875), edited by the Rev. Samuel
Cox, there is "An Apology for the Vindictive Psalm" (Ps 109:1-31), by Joseph
Hammond, L.L.B. In volume 3 of the same magazine are four articles from the pen
of the same writer, on "The Vindictive Psalms vindicated." "The Imprecatory
Psalms." Six Lectures. By the Rev. R.A. Bertram. 1867. (12 mo.)
In Dr. Thomas Randolph's Works, entitled "A View of our Blessed
Saviour's Ministry...together with a Charge, Dissertations, Sermons, and
Theological Lectures," 2 vols., 8vo., Oxford, 1784, there is a comment on Ps
109:1-31, vol. 2, p. 315.
The Sermons of Charles Peters, A.M., 8vo., London, 1776,
contain "The Curses of Psalm the 109th explained, with practical instructions,"
W. Keate's Sermon, entitled, "The 109th, commonly called the
Imprecating Psalm, considered, on a principle by which the Psalm explains
itself." 4to., London, 1794.
F.H. Dunwell. A Tract on the Commination Service of the Church
of England. 12 mo. 1853.
In the "Bibliotheca Sacra and Theological Review," vol. 1.,
1844, pp. 97-110, there is an article on "The Imprecations in the Scriptures,"
by B.B. Edwards, Professor in the Theological Seminary, Andover.
There is also an article on "The Imprecatory Psalms", in
"Bibliotheca Sacra and American Biblical Repository," for July, 1856, pp.
551-563, by John J. Owen, D.D., Professor in the Free Academy, New York.