Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
To the Chief Musician. Although David had his own case in
his mind's eye, yet he wrote not as a private person, but as an inspired
prophet, and therefore his song is presented, for public and perpetual use, to
the appointed guardian of the Temple psalmody. Altaschith. The wicked are
here judged and condemned, but over the godly the sacred "Destroy not" is
solemnly pronounced. Michtam of David. This is the fourth of the Psalms
of the Golden Secret, and the second of the "Destroy nots." These names if they
serve for nothing else may be useful to aid the memory. Men give names to their
horses, jewels, and other valuables, and these names are meant not so much to
describe as to distinguish them, and in some cases to set forth the owner's high
esteem of his treasure; after the same fashion the Oriental poet gave a title to
the song he loved, and so aided his memory, and expressed his estimation of the
strain. We are not always to look for a meaning in these superscriptions, but to
treat them as we would the titles of poems, or the names of tunes.
DIVISION. The ungodly enemy is accused, Ps 58:1-5; judgment
is sought from the judge, Ps 58:6-8; and seen in prophetic vision as already
executed, Ps 58:9-11.
Verse 1. Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation?
The enemies of David were a numerous and united band, and because they so
unanimously condemned the persecuted one, they were apt to take it for granted
that their verdict was a right one. "What everybody says must be true, "is a
lying proverb based upon the presumption which comes of large combinations. Have
we not all agreed to hound the man to the death, and who dare hint that so many
great ones can be mistaken? Yet the persecuted one lays the axe at the root by
requiring his judges to answer the question whether or not they were acting
according to justice. It were well if men would sometimes pause, and candidly
consider this. Some of those who surrounded Saul were rather passive than active
persecutors; they held their tongues when the object of royal hate was
slandered; in the original, this first sentence appears to be addressed to them,
and they are asked to justify their silence. Silence gives consent. He who
refrains from defending the right is himself an accomplice in the wrong. Do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men? Ye too are only
men though dressed in a little brief authority. Your office for men, and your
relation to men both bind you to rectitude; but have ye remembered this? Have ye
not put aside all truth when ye have condemned the godly, and united in seeking
the overthrow of the innocent? Yet in doing this be not too sure of success, or
ye are only the "sons of men, "and there is a God who can and will reverse your
Verse 2. Yea, in heart ye work wickedness. Down deep in your
very souls ye hold a rehearsal of the injustice ye intend to practise, and when
your opportunity arrives, ye wreak vengeance with a gusto; your hearts are in
your wicked work, and your hands are therefore ready enough. Those very men who
sat as judges, and pretended to so much indignation at the faults imputed to
their victim, were in their hearts perpetrating all manner of evil. Ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth. They were
deliberate sinners, cold, calculating villains. As righteous judges ponder the
law, balance the evidence, and weigh the case, so the malicious dispense
injustice with malice aforethought in cold blood. Note in this verse that the
men described sinned with heart and hand; privately in their heart, publicly in
the earth; they worked and they weighed--they were active, and yet deliberate.
See what a generation saints have to deal with! Such were the foes of our Lord,
a generation of vipers, an evil and adulterous generation; they sought to kill
him because he was righteousness itself, yet they masked their hatred to his
goodness by charging him with sin.
Verse 3. The wicked are estranged from the womb. It is small
wonder that some men persecute the righteous seed of the woman, since all of
them are of the serpent's brood, and enmity is set between them. No sooner born
than alienated from God--what a condition to be found in! Do we so early leave
the right track? Do we at the same moment begin to be men and commence to be
sinners? They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
Every observer may see how very soon infants act lies. Before they can speak
they practise little deceptive arts. This is especially the case in those who
grow up to be adept in slander, they begin their evil trade early, and there is
no marvel that they become adept in it. He who starts early in the morning will
go far before night. To be untruthful is one of the surest proofs of a fallen
state, and since falsehood is universal, so also is human depravity.
Verse 4. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent. Is
man also a poisonous reptile? Yes, and his venom is even as that of a serpent.
The viper has but death for the body in his fangs; but unregenerate man carries
poison under his tongue, destructive to the nobler nature. They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear. While
speaking of serpents the psalmist remembers that many of them have been
conquered by the charmer's art, but men such as he had to deal with no art could
tame or restrain; therefore, he likens them to a serpent less susceptible than
others to the charmer's music, and says that they refused to hear reason, even
as the adder shuts her ear to those incantations which fascinate other reptiles.
Man, in his natural corruption, appears to have all the ill points of a serpent
without its excellences. O sin, what hast thou done!
Verse 5. Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers,
charming never so wisely. Ungodly men are not to be won to right by
arguments the most logical, or appeals the most pathetic. Try all your arts, ye
preachers of the word! Lay yourselves out to meet the prejudices and tastes of
sinners, and ye shall yet have to cry, "Who hath believed our report?" It is not
in your music, but in the sinner's ear that the cause of failure lies, and it is
only the power of God that can remove it.
"You can call spirits from the vast deep,
But will they come when you do call for them?"
No, we call and call, and call in vain, till the arm of the
Lord is revealed. This is at once the sinner's guilt and danger. He ought to
hear but will not, and because he will not hear, he cannot escape the damnation
Verse 6. Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth. If they
have no capacity for good, at least deprive them of their ability for evil.
Treat them as the snake charmers do their serpents, extract their fangs, break
their teeth. The Lord can do this, and he will. He will not suffer the malice of
the wicked to triumph, he will deal them such a blow as shall disable them from
mischief. Break out the great teeth of the young lions, O Lord. As if
one brute creature had not enough of evil in it to complete the emblem of
ungodly nature, another specimen of ferae naturae is fetched in. For
fierce cruelty the wicked are likened to young lions, monsters in the prime of
their vigour, and the fury of their lustiness; and it is asked that their
grinders may be smashed in, broken off, or dashed out, that the creatures may
henceforth be harmless. One can well understand how the banished son of Jesse,
while poisoned by the venomous slander of his foes, and worried by their cruel
power, should appeal to heaven for a speedy and complete riddance from his
Verse 7. Let them melt away as waters which run continually.
Like mountain torrents dried up by the summer heats let them disappear; or like
running streams whose waters are swiftly gone, so let them pass away; or like
water spilt which none can find again, so let them vanish out of existence.
Begone, ye foul streams, the sooner ye are forgotten the better for the
universe. When he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut
in pieces. When the Lord goes forth to war, let his judgments so tell
upon these persecutors that they may be utterly cut in pieces as a mark
shattered by many shafts. Or perhaps the meaning is, when the ungodly man
marches to the conflict, let his arrows and his bow drop into fragments, the
string cut, the bow snapped, the arrows headless, the points blunted; so that
the boastful warrior may not have wherewithal to hurt the object of his enmity.
In either sense the prayer of the Psalm has often become fact, and will be again
fulfilled as often as need arises.
Verse 8. As a snail which melteth, let every one of them
pass away. As the snail makes its own way by its slime, and so
dissolves as it goes, or as its shell is often found empty, as though the
inhabitant had melted away, so shall the malicious eat out their own strength
while they proceed upon their malevolent designs, and shall themselves
disappear. To destroy himself by envy and chagrin is the portion of the ill
disposed. Like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see
the sun. Solemn is this curse, but how surely does it fall on many
graceless wretches! They are as if they had never been. Their character is
shapeless, hideous, revolting. They are fitter to be hidden away in an unknown
grave than to be reckoned among men. Their life comes never to ripeness, their
aims are abortive, their only achievement is to have brought misery to others,
and horror to themselves. Such men as Herod, Judas, Alva, Bonner, had it not
been better for them if they had never been born? Better for the mothers who
bore them? Better for the lands they cursed? Better for the earth in which their
putrid carcasses are hidden from the sun? Every unregenerate man is an abortion.
He misses the true form of God made manhood; he corrupts in the darkness of sin;
he never sees or shall see the light of God in purity, in heaven.
Verse 9. Before your pots can feel the thorns. So sudden is
the overthrow of the wicked, so great a failure is their life, that they never
see joy. Their pot is put upon the hook to prepare a feast of joy, and the fuel
is placed beneath, but before the thorns are lit, before any heat can be brought
to bear upon the pot, yea, even as soon as the fuel has touched the cooking
vessel, a storm comes and sweeps all away; the pot is overturned, the fuel is
scattered far and wide. Perhaps the figure may suppose the thorns, which are the
fuel, to be kindled, and then the flame is so rapid that before any heat can be
produced the fire is out, the meat remains raw, the man is disappointed, his
work is altogether a failure. He shall take them away as with a whirlwind. Cook, fire,
pot, meat and all, disappear at once, whirled away to destruction. Both living, and in his wrath. In the very midst of the
man's life, and in the fury of his rage against the righteous, the persecutor is
overwhelmed with a tornado, his designs are baffled, his contrivances defeated,
and himself destroyed. The passage is difficult, but this is probably its
meaning, and a very terrible one it is. The malicious wretch puts on his great
seething pot, he gathers his fuel, he means to play the cannibal with the godly;
but he reckons without his host, or rather without the Lord of hosts, and the
unexpected tempest removes all trace of him, and his fire, and his feast, and
that in a moment.
Verse 10. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the
vengeance. He will have no hand in meting out, neither will he rejoice in
the spirit of revenge, but his righteous soul shall acquiesce in the judgments
of God, and he shall rejoice to see justice triumphant. There is nothing in
Scripture of that sympathy with God's enemies which modern traitors are so fond
of parading as the finest species of benevolence. We shall at the last say,
"Amen, "to the condemnation of the wicked, and feel no disposition to question
the ways of God with the impenitent. Remember how John, the loving disciple,
puts it. "And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven,
saying, Alleluia; Salvation and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our
God: for true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great
whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the
blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke
rose up for ever and ever." He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. He shall
triumph over them, they shall be so utterly vanquished that their overthrow
shall be final and fatal, and his deliverance complete and crowning. The
damnation of sinners shall not mar the happiness of saints.
Verse 11. So that a man shall say. Every man however
ignorant shall be compelled to say, Verily, in very deed, assuredly, there is a reward for the righteous. If nothing else be
true this is. The godly are not after all forsaken and given over to their
enemies; the wicked are not to have the best of it, truth and goodness are
recompensed in the long run. Verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth. All men shall
be forced by the sight of the final judgment to see that there is a God, and
that he is the righteous ruler of the universe. Two things will come out clearly
after all--there is a God and there is a reward for the righteous. Time will
remove doubts, solve difficulties, and reveal secrets; meanwhile faith's
foreseeing eye discerns the truth even now, and is glad thereat.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. The proper meaning of the root of Michtam is
to engrave, or to stamp a metal. It therefore, in
strictness, means, an engraving or sculpture. Hence in the
Septuagint, it is translated sthlografia, an inscription on a column. I
would venture to offer a conjecture in perfect harmony with this view. It
appears by the titles of four out of these six Psalms, that they were composed
by David while flying and hiding from the persecutions of Saul. What, then,
should hinder us from imagining that they were inscribed on the rocks and on the
sides of the caves which so often formed his place of refuge? This view would
accord with the strict etymological meaning of the word, and explain the
rendering of the Septuagint. John Jebb, in "A Literal Translation of the Book
of Psalms," 1846. (See also Explanatory Notes on Psalms 6 and 56. "Treasury of
David", Vol. 1., pp. 222-23; Vol. 3, p. 40.)
Whole Psalm. Kimchi says this Psalm was written on account
of Abner, and the rest of Saul's princes, who judged David as a rebel against
the government, and said it was for Saul to pursue after him to slay him; for if
they had restrained him, Saul would not have pursued after him; and indeed they
seem to be wicked judges who are addressed in this Psalm; do not destroy.
Arama says, it declares the wickedness of Saul's judges. John Gill.
Verse 1. Are ye dumb (when) ye (should)
speak righteousness (and) judge equitably, sons of men? The
first words are exceedingly obscure. One of them mla, not expressed in the English, and the ancient versions, means
dumbness, as in Ps 61:1, and seems to be here used as a strong expression
for entirely speechless. In what respect they were thus dumb, is
indicated by the verb which follows, but the connection can be made clear in
English only by a circumlocution. The interrogation, are ye indeed,
expresses wonder, as at something scarcely credible. Can it be so? Is it
possible? are you really silent, you, whose very office is to speak for God, and
against the sins of men? Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 1. O congregation, O band, or company.
The Hebrew alem, which hath the signification of binding as a sheaf
or bundle, seemeth here to be a company that are combined or
confederate. Henry Ainsworth.
Verse 2. In heart ye work wickedness, etc. The psalmist doth
not say, they had wickedness in their heart, but that they did work it there:
the heart is a shop within, an underground shop; there they did closely
contrive, forge, and hammer out their wicked purposes, and fit them into
actions; yea, they weighed the violence of their hands in the
earth. That's an allusion to merchants, who buy and sell by weight; they
weigh their commodity to an ounce; they do not give it out in gross, but by
exact weight. This saith the psalmist, they weigh the violence of
their hands; they do not oppress grossly, but with a kind of exactness and
skill, they sit down and consider what and how much violence they may use in
such a case, or how much such a person may endure, or such a season may bear.
They are wiser than to do all at once, or all to one, lest they spoil all. They
weigh what they do, though what they do be so bad that it will hold no
weight when God comes to weigh it. Nor do they arrive at this skill presently,
but after they have, as it were, served an apprenticeship at it; and they bind
themselves to the trade very early; for as it follows at the third verse of the
Psalm, The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon
as they be born, speaking lies, that is, they are estranged both by
nature and by early practice; they lose no time, they go to it young, even "as
soon as they are born, "as soon as they are fit for any use, or to do any thing,
they are using and setting themselves to do wickedly. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 2. The word twlwe wickedness properly signifies the inclinations of
scales, when the scale weighs down to one side; then it is transferred to
respect of persons, to injustice and iniquity, especially in public tribunals
and decisions, as in Ps 82:2, How long will ye judge lwe by an unjust inclination of the
scales? Hermann Venema.
Verse 2. The principles of the wicked are even worse than
their practices: premeditated violence is doubly guilty. George Rogers.
Verse 3. The wicked are estranged from the womb, etc. How
early men do sin! How late they do repent! As soon as they are born "they
go astray, "but if left to themselves they will not return till they die; they
will never return. Children can neither go nor speak as soon as born, but as
soon as born they can "go astray" and "speak lies; "that is, their first
speaking is lying, and their first going is straying; yea, when they cannot go
naturally, they can go astray morally or metaphorically: the first step they are
able to take is a step out of the way. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 3. They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking
lies. Of all sins, no sin can call Satan father like to lying. All the
corruption that is in us came from Satan, but yet this sin of forging and lying
is from the devil more than any; tastes of the devil more than any. Hence every
man is a liar (Ro 3:4), and so every man is every sinner else; but in a special
manner every man is a liar; for that the very first depravation of our nature
came in by lying, and our nature doth taste much still of this old block to be
given to lying, the devil also breathing into us a strong breath to stir us up
to lying. Hence no sooner do we speak but we lie. As we are in body,
subject to all diseases, but yet, some to one sickness rather than to another:
so in the soul, all are apt enough to all sin, and some rather to one vice than
to another; but all are much inclined to lying. A liar then is as like the devil
as ever he can look: as unlike to God as ever he can be. Richard Capel,
1586-1656, in "Tentations, their Nature, Danger, Cure."
Verse 3. The figure of the wicked going astray as soon as
they are born, seems to be taken from the disposition and power of a young
serpent soon after its birth. The youngest serpent can convey poison to anything
which it bites; and the suffering in all cases is great, though the bite is
seldom fatal. Place a stick near the reptile whose age does not amount to many
days, and he will immediately snap at it. The offspring of the tiger and of the
alligator are equally fierce in their earliest habits. Joseph Roberts, in
"Oriental Illustrations of the Sacred Scriptures," 1844.
Verse 4. Poison. There is such a thing as poison; but where
to be found? Ubicunque fuerit, in homine quis quaereret? Wheresoever it
is, in man who would look for it? God made man's body of the dust; he mingled no
poison with it. He inspires his soul from heaven; he breathes no poison with it.
He feeds him with bread; he conveys no poison with it. Unde venenum?
Whence is the poison? Mt 13:27 --"Didst not thou, O Lord, sow good seed in thy
field?" Unde zizaniae --"From whence then hath it tares?" Whence?
Hoc fecit inimicus --"The enemy hath done this." We may perceive
the devil in it. That great serpent, the red dragon, hath poured into wicked
hearts this poison. His own poison, malitiam, wickedness. Cum
infundit peccatum, infundit venenum --"When he pours in sin he pours in
poison." Sin is poison. Original depravity is called corruption; actual poison.
The violence and virulence of this venomous quality comes not at first. Nemo
fit repente pessimus --No man becomes worst at the first dash. We are born
corrupt, we have made ourselves poisonous. There be three degrees, as it were so
may ages, in sin. First --secret sin; an ulcer lying in the bones, but
skinned over with hypocrisy. Secondly --open sin, bursting forth into
manifest villany. The former is corruption, the second is eruption.
Thirdly --frequented and confirmed sin, and that is rank poison,
envenoming soul and body. Thomas Adams, 1614.
Verse 4. Adder. Hebrew ntb pethen, the Egyptian cobra (Naja hage), one of
the venomous Colubrine Snakes (Colubri). This is one of the so
called hooded snakes, with which serpent charmers chiefly deal. The Spectacled
Snake proper (Naja tripudians) is a closely related species. The
well known Cobra di Capello is another. They are all noted for their deadly
bite. The hollow fangs communicate with a poison gland, which being pressed in
the act of biting, sends a few drops into the puncture. The venom quickly acts
on the whole system, and death soon ensues. John Duns, D.D., in "Biblical
Natural Science," 1868.
Verse 4. The deaf adder. Certain it is, says a modern writer
upon the Psalms, that the common adder or viper here in England, the bite of
which too, by the way, is very venomous, if it is not wholly deaf, has
the sense of hearing very imperfectly. This is evident from the danger there is
of treading upon these animals, unless you happen to see them; for if they do
not see you, and you do not disturb them, they never endeavour to avoid you,
which when they are disturbed and do see you, they are very solicitous of doing.
Allowing, then, that there is a species of these noxious animals, which either
not having the sense of hearing at all, or having it only in a low degree, may
very well be said to be deaf; this may help to explain the present poetical
passage of the psalmist. He very elegantly compares the pernicious and
destructive practices of wicked men to the venom of a serpent; and his
mentioning this species of animals, seems to have brought to his mind another
property of at least one sort of them, in which they likewise resembled perverse
and obstinate sinners, who are deaf to all advice, utterly irreclaimable, and
not to be persuaded. This the adder resembled, which is a very venomous animal,
and moreover is deaf, or very near it. And perhaps his saying that she
stoppeth her ear, may be no more than a poetical expression for deafness;
just as the mole, which in common speech is said to be blind,
might in a poetical phrase, be said to shut her eyes; as in fact she does
when you expose her to the light. The next clause, Which refuseth to hear,
etc., is another poetical expression for the same thing. Samuel Burder,
in "The Scripture Expositor," 1810.
Verse 4. The deaf adder. Several of the serpent tribe are
believed to be either quite deaf, or very dull of hearing. Perhaps that which is
called the puddeyan, the "beaver serpent, "is more so than any other. I
have frequently come close up to these reptiles; but they did not make any
effort to move out of the way. They lurk in the path, and the victim on whom
they pounce will expire within a few minutes after he is bitten. Joseph
Verse 4. The deaf adder. The adder, or asp, is
the haje naja, or cobra of Egypt, according to Cuvier. The hearing
of all the serpent tribes is imperfect, as all are destitute of a tympanic
cavity, and of external openings to the ear. The deaf adder is not a
particular species. The point of the rebuke is, the pathen, or "adder,
"here in question, could hear in some degree but would not; just
as the unrighteous judges, or persecutors, of David could hear with their
outward ears such appeals as he makes in Ps 58:1-2, but would not. The charmer
usually could charm the serpent by shrill sounds, either of his voice or of the
flute, the serpent's comparative deafness rendering it the more amenable to
those sounds which it could hear. But exceptional cases occurred of a deaf
adder which was deaf only in the sense that it refused to hear, or to
be acted on. Also Jer 8:17; compare Ec 10:11. A. R. Fausset.
Verse 4. The deaf adder that stoppeth her ear. With respect
to what is said of the animal's stopping its ears, it is not necessary to have
recourse to the supposition of its actually doing so, which by some persons has
been stated, but it is sufficient to know, that whilst some serpents are
operated upon in the manner above described, others are partly or altogether
insensible to the incantation. Richard Mant.
Verse 4. (second clause). This clause admits of a
different construction, like the deaf adder he stops his ear, which some
interpreters prefer, because an adder cannot stop its ears, and need not stop
them if naturally deaf, whereas it is by stopping his, the wicked man becomes
like a deaf adder. J. A. Alexander.
Verses 4-5. Experienced and skilful as the serpent charmers
are, however, they do not invariably escape with impunity. Fatal terminations to
these exhibitions of the psyllid art now and then occur; for there are still to
be found "deaf adders, which will not hearken to the voice of
charmers, charming never so wisely."... Roberts mentions the instance of a
man who came to a gentleman's house to exhibit tame snakes, and on being told
that a cobra, or hooded snake, was in a cage in the house, was asked if he could
charm it; on his replying in the affirmative, the serpent was released from the
cage, and no doubt, in a state of high irritation. The man began his
incantation, and repeated his charms; but the snake darted at him, fastened upon
his arm, and before night he was a corpse. Philip Henry Gosse, in "The
Romance of Natural History, "1861.
Verses 4-5. One day a rattlesnake entered our encampment.
Among us was a Canadian who could play the flute, and who, to divert us, marched
against the serpent with his new species of weapon. On the approach of his
enemy, the haughty reptile curls himself into a spiral line, flattens his head,
inflates his cheeks, contracts his lips, displays his envenomed fangs and his
bold throat; his tongue flows like two flames of fire; his eyes are burning
coals; his body swollen with rage, rises and falls like the bellows of a forge;
his dilated skin assumes a dull and scaly appearance; and his tail, whence
proceeds the death announcing sound, vibrates with such rapidity as to resemble
a light vapour. The Canadian begins to play upon his flute --the serpent starts
with surprise, and draws back his head. In proportion as he is struck with the
magic notes, his eyes lose their fierceness; the oscillations of his tail become
slower and the sounds which it makes become weaker, and gradually die away. Less
perpendicular upon their spiral line, the rings of the charmed serpent are by
degrees expanded, and sink one after another on the ground in concentric
circles. The shades of azure, green, white, and gold recover their brightness on
his quivering skin, and slightly turning his head, he remains motionless, in the
attitude of attention and pleasure. At this moment the Canadian advances a few
steps, producing from his flute sweet and simple notes. The serpent, inclining
his variegated neck, opens a passage with the head through the high grass, and
begins to creep after the musician; stopping when he stops, and beginning to
follow him again as soon as he advances forward. In this manner he was led out
of the camp, attended by a great number of spectators, both savages and
Europeans, who could scarcely believe their eyes, which had witnessed this
effect of harmony. Francois Aguste, Viscount de Chateaubriand, 1768-1848.
Verses 4-5. The serpent, when she begins to feel the charmer,
clappeth one ear presently to the ground, and stoppeth the other ear with her
tail, although by hearkening to the charmer, as some observe, she would be
provoked to spit out her poison, and renew her age. (This is a specimen of the
old fashioned un-natural history. No one will be misled by it. C. H.
S.) So hot is man upon his harlot sin, that he is deaf to all that would
counsel him to the contrary; he stops his ear, hardens his heart, stiffens his
neck against the thunders of the law, the still voice of the gospel, the motions
of the Spirit, and the convictions of his own conscience. When sin calls, they
run through thick and thin for haste; when the world commands, how readily do
they hearken, how quickly do they hear, how faithfully do they obey! but when
the blessed God cries to them, charges them by his unquestionable authority,
beseeches them for their own unchangeable felicity, they, like statues of men,
rather than living creatures, stand still and stir not at all. Other things move
swiftly to their centres; stones fall tumbling downward, sparks fly apace
upward, coneys run with speed to their burrows, rivers with violence to the
ocean, and yet silly man hangs off from his Maker, that neither entreaties nor
threatenings, nor the word, nor the works of God, nor the hope of heaven, nor
fear of hell, can quicken or hasten him to his happiness. Who would imagine that
a reasonable soul should act so much against sense and reason? George
Verse 5. Will not hearken. The Lord hath some of his elect
ones whom he seeth walking in bypaths and crooked ways: the Lord giveth a
commission to his servants, the ministers, and saith, Go invite and call yon
soul to come to me, and say, Return, O Shulamite; but the soul stirs not: the
Lord sends and calls again: yet with the deaf adder, he hearkeneth not to the
voice of the enchanter: well, saith the Lord, "If you will not come; I will
fetch you"; if fair means will not do, foul means must; then he hisses for the
fly and the bee of affliction, and calls forth armies of trouble, and gives them
commission to seize upon, and to lay siege to such a man or woman, and saith,
Ply them with your cannon shot, till you make them yield, give up the keys and
strike the sail; he sends sickness to their bodies, a consumption to their
estate, death to their friends, shame to their reputation, a fire to their
house, and the like, and bids them prey and spoil, till they see and acknowledge
the hand of the Lord lifted up. J. Votier's "Survey of Effectual Calling,"
Verse 6. Break their teeth, destroy the fangs of these
serpents, in which their poison is contained. This will amount to the
same meaning as above. Save me from the adders, the sly and poisonous
slanderers: save me also from the lions --the tyrannical and bloodthirsty
men. Adam Clarke.
Verse 6. Great teeth. mwetlm, according to Michaelis and Gesenius, are the eye teeth,
which in lions are sharp and terrible. George Phillips, B.D., in "The
Psalms in Hebrew: With a Commentary," 1846.
Verses 6-9. David's enemies were strong and fierce as young
lions: he therefore prayed that their teeth might be broken, even their
strongest teeth, their grinders, with which they were ready to devour
him; that so they might be disabled from doing mischief. They overwhelmed him
like an inundation: but he desired it might prove a land flood, which is soon
wasted. They were about to shoot at him: but he would have their bows, or their
arrows, to be shivered to pieces, and become like straw, and do no execution,
and he prayed that they might waste insensibly as the snail, which leaves its
substance all along its track; and that they might come to nothing, like an
abortion. He also predicted, that their prosperous rage (which resembled the
crackling of thorns under a pot), would soon be extinct, and produce no effect;
while the Lord in his wrath would hurry them into speedy destruction; as a
furious whirlwind drives a living man down a precipice, or into a dreadful pit.
Thomas Scott, 1747-1821.
Verse 8. As a snail which melteth away as it goeth,
literally, which goeth in melting (or slime), the noun being in the
accusative as describing the nature of the action, and the allusion being to the
slimy trail which the snail leaves behind it, so that it seems to waste
away. Evidently this is nothing more than a poetical hyperbole, and need not be
explained, therefore, as a popular error or a mistake in natural history. --J. J. Stewart Perowne, B.D., in "The Book of Psalms; a New
Translation, with Introduction and Notes," 1864.
Verse 8. As a snail which melteth, etc. This is a very
remarkable and not very intelligible passage. The Jewish Bible renders the
passage in a way which explains the idea which evidently prevailed at the time
the Psalms were composed: "As a snail let him melt as he passeth on." The
ancients had an idea that the slimy track made by a snail as it crawled along
was subtracted from the substance of its body, and that in consequence the
farther it crept the smaller it became until at last it wasted entirely away.
The commentators on the Talmud took this view of the case. The Hebrew word,
lwlbv shablul, which undoubtedly
does signify a snail of some kind, is thus explained: --"The Shablul is a
creeping thing; when it comes out of its shell, saliva pours from itself until
it becomes liquid, and so dies." Other explanations of this passage have been
offered, but there is no doubt that the view taken by these commentators is the
correct one, and that the psalmist, when he wrote the terrible series of
denunciations in which the passage occurs, had in his mind the popular belief
regarding the gradual wasting away of the snail as it "passeth on." It is
needless to say that no particular species of snail is mentioned, and almost as
needless to state that in Palestine there are many species of snails, to any or
all of which these words are equally applicable. J. G. Wood, in "Bible
Verse 8. The untimely birth of a woman. The wicked are all,
so speak, human abortions; they are and for ever remain defective beings, who
have not accomplished the great purpose of their existence. Heaven is the one
end for which man is created, and he who falls short of it does not attain the
purpose of his being; he is an eternal abortion. O. Prescott Hiller.
Verse 8. (second clause). David when he curseth the
plots of wicked men, that though they have conceived mischief, and though they
have gone with it a long time, and are ready to bring it forth, yet saith he,
Let them be (that is, let their counsels and designs be) like the
untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun: that is, let
them be dashed and blasted, let them never bring forth their poisonous brood to
the hurt and trouble of the world. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 9. (first clause). Before your cooking
vessels, etc. It would puzzle Oedipus himself to make any tolerable sense of
the English translation of this verse. It refers to the usage of travellers in
the East, who when journeying through the deserts, make a hasty blaze with the
thorns which they collect, some green and full of sap, others dry and withered,
for the purpose of dressing their food; in which circumstances, violent storms
of wind not infrequently arise, which sweep away their fuel and entire
apparatus, before the vessels which they use become warm by the heat. An
expressive and graphical image of the overwhelming ruin of wicked men.
William Walford, 1837.
Verse 9. Before your pots feel the bramble. By this
proverbial expression the psalmist describes the sudden eruption of the divine
wrath; sudden and violent as the ascension of the dry bramble underneath the
housewife's pot. The brightness of the flame which this material furnishes, the
height to which it mounts in an instant, the fury with which it seems to rage on
all sides of the vessel, give force, and even sublimity to the image, though
taken from one of the commonest occurrences of the lower life--a cottager's wife
boiling her pot! The sense, then, will be: "Before your pots feel the bramble,
he shall sweep them away in whirlwind and hurricane." Samuel Horsley,
Verse 9. In all the book of God I do not remember any
sentence so variously and differently translated as this verse... This variety
of translations ariseth chiefly from the original Hebrew word twrym siroth, which in the Hebrew tongue
signifies, first, pots or cauldrons, wherein flesh is sod, as Ex
16:3 38:3 Eze 11:11. Secondly, thorns, and pricks of thorns and
briers, as Isa 34:13 Ho 2:8. Thirdly, because the pricks of the great bramble
are very sharp and hooked, this word is used to signify fishhooks. Am 4:2. In
all our English Bibles of the old, new, and Geneva translation, and some Latin
Bibles, this word is taken to signify pots or cauldrons; but the Septuagint,
Hierome, vulgar Latin, Austine, Pagnine, Tremellius, and all others that I have
seen, take this word in the second sense, for the sharp pricks of thorns and
brambles. Here, certainly, this word signifies the sharp pricks of the great dog
bramble, which here in the Hebrew text is dj atad, and is used (Jud 9:14-15) in Jotham's parable to
signify the bramble, which being made king of the trees, kindled a fire, which
devoured the cedars of Lebanon. Now this bramble in the body, and every branch
of it, is beset with sharp hooked pricks, some of which are green and have life
and moisture in them, and though they be sharp, yet they are not so stiff and
strong as to make any deep wound in a man's flesh. Others are greater, more
hooked, and hardened by drying and parching with the vehement heat of the sun;
and they strike to the quick, and hold fast, or tear where they catch hold of
man's skin or flesh. The first are here called dja, living or green; the other are called, nwrx, dried, or parched and hardened; and the
prophetical psalmist affirms that "God who judgeth in the earth, will take away
and destroy as with a tempestuous whirlwind, every one of them, as well the
green as the dry, "as Tremellius out of the original doth most truly translate
the word... The whole text runs thus: "Before they feel your thorns or pricks, O
ye bramble, he will take away every one as with a whirlwind, as well the green
as the dry." Before they, that is, the righteous whom ye hate and
persecute; do feel. that is, have a full sense and understanding of your
thorns or pricks, that is, of the sharpness, fury, and mischief which is in the
heart and hand of all and every one among you; for every one in your band and
congregation is a grievous thorn and sharp prick of the cursed bramble, sharply
set and bent to do mischief in malice and fury to the people and church of God.
"He that is God who judgeth in the earth" (as it is expressed in the eleventh
verse, in the last words) "will take away as with a whirlwind" (that is, scatter
and destroy tempestuously), "every one, as well the living and green as the dry
and hardened." That is, of every sort banded together, as well the green headed
and young persecutors, sharp set, but not so strong to hurt, as the old and dry
who are hardened in malice by long custom, and in power and policy are strong to
do mischief. George Walker, in a Fast Sermon before the House of Commons,
Verse 10. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the
vengeance. When the just man seeth the vengeance and rejoiceth, it is not of
malice, but of benevolence, either hoping that the wicked may by punishment be
amended, or loving God's justice above men's persons, not being displeased with
the punishment of the wicked, because it proceedeth from the Lord, nor desiring
that the wicked may be acquitted from penalty because the deserve in justice to
be punished. Nicholas Gibbens.
Verse 10. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the
vengeance. Not that he shall be glad of the vengeance purely as it is a
hurt, or a suffering to the creature, but the righteous shall be glad when he
seeth the vengeance of God, as it is a fulfilling of the threatening of God
against the sin of man, and so evidence of his own holiness. Ps 59:9-10.
Verse 10. He shall; wash his feet, etc. That is, he gets
comfort and encouragement by seeing the Lord avenge his cause against his
adversaries. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 10. He shall wash his feet in the blood, etc. As the
victorious survivor of a conflict, walking over the battle field, might be said
to do. R. T. Society's Notes.
Verse 10.. When angels execute God's judgments upon sinners,
the saints see much in it; they see matter of fear and praise; of fear, in that
God's power, wrath, and hatred are manifested in them against sin and sinners;
of praise, in that themselves are delivered and justice performed. When the
wicked are taken away by a divine stroke, by the hand of justice, and God hath
the glory of his justice, the righteous rejoice at it: but is that
all? No, he washes his feet in the blood of the wicked; that is,
by this judgment he fears and reforms. It is a metaphor taken from the practice
of those parts where they went barefoot, or with sandals, and so contracted much
filth, and used to wash and cleanse their feet when they came in; so here, the
godly seeing the hand of God upon the wicked, fears, and judges himself for his
sins, purges his conscience and affections, and stands now in awe of that God
who hath stricken the wicked for those sins which he himself in part is guilty
of. Waldus, a man of note in Lyons, seeing one struck dead in his presence, he
washed his hands in his blood; for presently he gave alms to the poor,
instructed his family in the true knowledge of God, and exhorted all that came
unto him to repentance and holiness of life. William Greenhill,
Verse 10.. No doubt, at the sight of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah,
and Zeboim destroyed, angels saw cause to rejoice and sing, "Hallelujah."
Wickedness was swept away; earth was lightened of a burden; justice, the justice
of God, was highly exalted; love to his other creatures was displayed in freeing
them from the neighbourhood of hellish contaminations. On the same principles
(entering, however, yet deeper into the mind of the Father, and sympathising to
the full in his justice), the Lord Jesus himself, and each one of his members
shall cry, "Hallelujah, "over Antichrist's ruined hosts. Re 19:3. The
righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his
feet in the blood of the wicked. He shall be refreshed at the end of his
journey (Joh 13:5 Lu 7:44 Ge 18:4), he shall wipe off all the dust of the way,
and end its weariness by entering into that strange, that divine joy over sin
destroyed, justice honoured, the law magnified, vengeance taken for the insult
done to Godhead, the triumph of the Holy One over the unholy. It is not merely
the time when the joy begins--it is also the occasion and cause of that
day's rapturous delight. Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 10. A broad and vital distinction is to be made
between desire for the gratification of personal vengeance, and zeal for
the vindication of the glory of God. "The glory of God" includes
necessarily the real good of the offender and the well being of society. Desire
for retaliation is alway wrong; desire for retribution may be in
the highest degree praiseworthy. For personal motives only can I desire
retaliation upon the wrong doer; but for motives most disinterested and noble I
may desire retribution. R. A. Bertram, in "The Imprecatory Psalms, "1867.
Verse 11. So that a man shall say, Verily, etc. This shall
be said not by a man, nor by any particular man, but by men in general,
by man as opposed to God. The particle translated, verily really means
only, and denotes that this and nothing else is true. J. A.
Verse 11. So that, etc. There is something worth noting from
the connexion of this verse with the context, and is implied in the first word,
so that, which joins this verse with the former parts of this Psalm, and
shows this to be an illation from them. What? did God so suddenly, "as with a
whirlwind, "overthrow those wicked judges who lorded it over his people? did he
make those "lions" melt like snails? did he confirm the joints of his people,
which were little before, trembling and smiting on against another, as if they
had been so many forlorn wretches exposed and cast forth, and no eye to pity
them; as if they had been floating with Moses upon the sea in a basket of
bulrushes, without any pilot to guide them, and even ready to cry out with the
disciple, "Master, carest not that we perish?" Did he then command a calm, and
bring them to the haven where they would be? did he turn their howling like
dragons and chattering like cranes, under the whips and saws of tyrannical
taskmasters, into a song of joy and triumph? did he dismantle himself of that
cloud wherein for a time he had so enveloped himself, that he seemed not to
behold the pressures of his people? did he, I say, then step in to his people's
rescue, by breaking their yokes as in the day of Midian, and kissing them with
kisses of his mouth? So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward
for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.
Observe: Though the passages of God's providence may seem so rugged and uncouth,
as if they were destructive to his church, and likely to put out the eye of his
own glory; yet our God will so dispose of them in the close, that they shall
have an advantageous tendency, to the setting forth of his honour and our good.
John Hinckley, 1657.
Verse 11. Some of the judgments of God are a shallow, or a
ford, over which a lamb may wade; every child may read the meaning of them; and
a man --any ordinary man--may say, Verily there is a reward for
the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.
Verse 11. This judging here does not refer to the judgment
to come, at the last day, when there shall be a general convention of quick and
dead before the Lord's dreadful tribunal; though so, it is most true affore
tempus, that there will be a time when God will ride his circuit here in a
solemn manner, so that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for
the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth; but that
is not the scope of this place. It is in the present tense, o krinwn, that
now judgeth, or is now judging the earth and the inhabitants
thereof; and therefore it must be understood of a judgment on this side, the
judgment of the great day; and so God judges the earth, or in the earth, three
manner of ways. First, by a providential ordering and wise disposal of all the
affairs of all creatures. Secondly, in relieving the oppressed, and pleading the
cause of the innocent. Thirdly, in overthrowing and plaguing the wicked doers.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. The natural effects of original sin are seen in early suffering and death.
2. Its moral effects are seen in the early commission of actual sin.
3. Early depravity is evinced in the conscious guilt of telling lies. G. R.
Verse 3. (first clause). The inner pandemonium, or
the calendar of the heart's crime.
Verse 4. (first clause). A generation of serpents.
T. Adams's Sermon.
Verse 4. Sin as a poison. Poisons may be attractive in
colour and taste, slow or rapid in action, painful in effect, withering,
soporific or maddening. In all cases deadly.
Verse 5. The serpent charmer.
1. He charms with moral persuasion, promise, threatening, etc.
2. He charms wisely, earnestly, affectionately, argumentively.
3. He charms in vain; the will is averse. Hence the need of divine grace and of the gospel.
Verse 8. The snail like course of ungodly men. Their sin
destroys their property, health, time, influence, life.
Verse 11. Remarkable cases of divine judgments and their