Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. A Psalm, Of David. Yes, David under
suspicion, half afraid to speak lest he should speak unadvisedly while trying to
clear himself; David slandered and beset by enemies; David censured even by
saints, and taking it kindly; David deploring the condition of the godly party
of whom he was the acknowledged heard: David waiting upon God with confident
expectation. The Psalm is one of a group of four, and it bears a striking
likeness to the other three. Its meaning lies so deep as to be in places
exceedingly obscure, yet even upon its surface it has dust of gold. In its
commencement the psalm is lighted up with the evening glow as the incense rises
to heaven; then comes a night of language whose meaning we cannot see; and this
gives place to morning light in which our eyes are unto the Lord.
DIVISION. The Psalmist cries for acceptance in prayer (Ps
141:1-2); Then he begs to be kept as to his speech, preserved in heart and deed,
and delivered from every sort of fellowship with the ungodly. He prefers to be
rebuked by the gracious rather than to be flattered by the wicked, and consoles
himself with the confident assurance that be will one day be understood by the
godly party, and made to be a comfort to them (Ps 141:3-6). In the last verses
the slandered saint represents the condition of the persecuted church, looks
away to God and pleads for rescue from his cruel enemies, and for the punishment
of his oppressors.
Verse 1. Lord, I cry unto thee. This is my last resort:
prayer never fails me. My prayer is painful and feeble, and worthy only to be
called a cry; but it is a cry unto Jehovah, and this ennobles it. I have cried
unto thee, I still cry to thee, and I always mean to cry to thee. To whom else
could I go? What else can I do? Others trust to themselves, but I cry unto thee.
The weapon of all prayer is one which the believer may always carry with him,
and use in every time of need. Make haste unto me. His case was urgent,
and he pleaded that urgency. God's time is the best time, but when we are sorely
pressed we may with holy importunity quicken the movements of mercy. In many
cases, if help should come late, it would come too late; and we are permitted to
pray against such a calamity. Give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto
thee. See how a second time he talks of crying: prayer had become his
frequent, yea, his constant exercise: twice in a few words he says, "I cry; I
cry." How he longs to be heard, and to be heard at once! There is a voice to the
great Father in every cry, and groan, and tear of his children: he can
understand what they mean when they are quite unable to express it. It troubles
the spirit of the saints when they fear that no favourable car is turned to
their doleful cries: they cannot rest unless their "unto thee" is answered by an
"unto me." When prayer is a man's only refuge, he is deeply distressed at the
bare idea of his failing therein.
"That were a grief I could not bear,
Didst thou not hear and answer prayer;
But a prayer hearing, answering God
Supports me under every load."
Verse 2. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.
As incense is carefully prepared, kindled with holy fire, and devoutly presented
unto God, so let my prayer be. We are not to look upon prayer as easy work
requiring no thought. It needs to be "set forth"; what is more, it must be set
forth "before the Lord, "by a sense of his presence and a holy reverence for his
name: neither may we regard all supplication as certain of divine acceptance, it
needs to be set forth before the Lord "as incense, "concerning the offering of
which there were rules to be observed, otherwise it would be rejected of God.
And the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Whatever
form his prayer might take his one desire was that it might be accepted of God.
Prayer is sometimes presented without words by the very motions of our bodies:
bent knees and lifted hands are the tokens of earnest, expectant prayer.
Certainly work, or the lifting up of the hands in labour, is prayer if it be
done in dependence upon God and for his glory: there is a hand prayer as well as
a heart prayer, and our desire is that tiffs may be sweet unto the Lord as the
sacrifice of eventide. Holy hope, the lifting up of hands that hang down, is
also a kind of worship: may it ever be acceptable with God. The Psalmist makes a
bold request: he would have his humble cries and prayers to be as much regarded
of the Lord as the appointed morning and evening sacrifices of the holy place.
Yet the prayer is by no means too bold, for, after all, the spiritual is in the
Lord's esteem higher than the ceremonial, and the calves of the lips are a truer
sacrifice than the calves of the stall. So far we have a prayer about prayer: we have a distinct
supplication in the two following verses.
Verse 3. Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth. That mouth
had been used in prayer, it would be a pity it should ever be defiled with
untruth, or pride, or wrath; yet so it will become unless carefully watched, for
these intruders are ever lurking about the door. David feels that with all his
own watchfulness he may be surprised into sin, and so he begs the Lord himself
to keep him. When Jehovah sets the watch the city is well guarded: when the Lord
becomes the guard of our mouth the whole man is well garrisoned. Keep the
door of my lips. God has made our lips the door of the mouth, but we cannot
keep that door of ourselves, therefore do we entreat the Lord to take the rule
of it. O that the Lord would both open and shut our lips, for we can do neither
the one nor the other aright if left to ourselves. In times of persecution by
ungodly men we are peculiarly liable to speak hastily, or evasively, and
therefore we should be specially anxious to be preserved in that direction from
every form of sin. How condescending is the Lord! We are ennobled by being door
keepers for him, and yet he deigns to be a door keeper for us. Incline not my heart to any evil thing. It is equivalent to
the petition, "Lead us not into temptation." O that nothing may arise in
providence which would excite our desires in a wrong direction. The Psalmist is
here careful of his heart. He who holds the heart is lord of the man: but if the
tongue and the heart are under God's care all is safe. Let us pray that he may
never leave us to our own inclinations, or we shall soon decline from the right.
To practise wicked works with men that work iniquity. The
way the heart inclines the life soon tends: evil things desired bring forth
wicked things practised. Unless the fountain of life is kept pure the streams of
life will soon be polluted. Alas, there is great power in company: even good men
are apt to be swayed by association; hence the fear that we may practise wicked
works when we are with wicked workers. We must endeavour not to be with them
lest we sin with them. It is bad when the heart goes the wrong way alone, worse
when the life runs in the evil road alone; but it is apt to increase unto a high
degree of ungodliness when the backslider runs the downward path with a whole
horde of sinners around him. Our practice will be our perdition if it be evil:
it is an aggravation of sin rather than an excuse for it to say that it is our
custom and our habit. It is God's practice to punish all who make a practice of
iniquity. Good men are horrified at the thought of sinning as others do; the
fear of it drives them to their knees. Iniquity, which, being interpreted, is a
want of equity, is a thing to be shunned as we would avoid an infectious
disease. And let me not eat of their dainties. If we work with them we
shall soon eat with them. They will bring out their sweet morsels, and delicate
dishes, in the hope of binding us to their service by the means of our palates.
The trap is baited with delicious meats that we may be captured and become meat
for their malice. If we would not sin with men we had better not sit with them,
and if we would not share their wickedness we must not share their wantonness.
Verse 5. Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness.
He prefers the bitters of gracious company to the dainties of the ungodly. He
would rather be smitten by the righteous than feasted by the wicked. He gives a
permit to faithful admonition, he even invites it--"let the righteous smite me."
When the ungodly smile upon us their flattery is cruel; when the righteous smite
us their faithfulness is kind. Sometimes godly men rap hard; they do not merely
hint at evil, but hammer at it; and even then we are to receive the blows in
love, and be thankful to the hand which smites so heavily. Fools resent reproof;
wise men endeavour to profit by it. And let him reprove me; it shall be an
excellent oil, which shall not break ray head. Oil breaks no heads,
and rebuke does no man any harm; rather, as oil refreshes and perfumes, so does
reproof when fitly taken sweeten and renew the heart. My friend must love me
well if he will tell me of my faults: there is an unction about him if he is
honest enough to point out my errors. Many a man has had his head broken at the
feasts of the wicked, but none at the table of a true hearted reprover. The oil
of flattery is not excellent; the oil so lavishly used at the banquet of the
reveller is not excellent; head breaking and heart breaking attend the
anointings of the riotous; but it is otherwise with the severest censures of the
godly: they are not always sweet, but they are always excellent; they may for
the moment bruise the heart, but they never break either it or the head. For
yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities. Gracious men never grow
wrathful with candid friends so as to harbour an ill feeling against them; if
so, when they saw them in affliction, they would turn round upon them and taunt
them with their rebukes. Far from it; these wisely grateful souls are greatly
concerned to see their instructors in trouble, and they bring forth their best
prayers for their assistance. They do not merely pray for them, but they so
closely and heartily sympathize that their prayers are "in their calamities,
"down in the dungeon with them. So true is Christian brotherhood that we are
with our friends in sickness or persecution, suffering their griefs; so that our
heart's prayer is in their sorrows. When we can give good men nothing more, let
us give them our prayers, and let us do this doubly to those who have given us
Verse 6. This is a verse of which the meaning seems far to
seek. Does it refer to the righteous among the Israelites? We think so. David
surely means that when their leaders fell never to rise again, they would then
turn to him and take delight in listening to his voice. When their judges are
overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are
sweet. And so they did: the death of Saul made all the best of the nation
look to the son of Jesse as the Lord's anointed; his words became sweet to them.
Many of those good men who had spoken severely of David's quitting his country,
and going over to the Philistines, were nevertheless dear to his heart for their
fidelity, and to them he returned nothing but good will, loving prayers, and
sweet speeches, knowing that by and by they would overlook his faults, and
select him to be their leader. They smote him when he erred, but they recognized
his excellences. He, on his part, bore no resentment, but loved them for their
honesty. He would pray for them when their land lay bleeding at the feet of
their foreign enemies; he would come to their rescue when their former leaders
were slain; and his words of courageous hopefulness would be sweet in their
ears. This seems to me to be a good sense, consistent with the context. At the
same time, other and more laboured interpretations have their learned admirers,
and to these we will refer in our notes from other authors.
Verse 7. David's case seemed hopeless: the cause of God in
Israel was as a dead thing, even as a skeleton broken, and rotten, and shovelled
out of the grave, to return as dust to its dust. Our bones are
scattered at the grave's mouth. There seemed to be no life, no cohesion, no
form, order, or headship among the godly party in Israel: Saul had demolished
it, and scattered all its parts, so that it did not exist as an organized whole.
David himself was like one of these dried bones, and the rest of the godly were
in much the same condition. There seemed to be no vitality or union among the
holy seed; but their cause lay at death's door. As when one cutteth and
cleaveth wood upon the earth. They were like wood divided and thrown
apart: not as one piece of timber, nor even as a bundle, but all cut to pieces,
and thoroughly divided. Leaving out the word "wood", which is supplied by the
translators, the figure relates to cleaving upon the earth, which probably means
ploughing, but may signify any other form of chopping and splitting, such as
felling a forest, tearing up bushes, or otherwise causing confusion and
division. How often have good men thought thus of the cause of God! Wherever
they have looked, death, division, and destruction have stared them in the face.
Cut and cloven, hopelessly sundered! Scattered, yea, scattered at the grave's
mouth! Split up and split for the fire! Such the cause of God and truth has
seemed to be. "Upon the earth" the prospect was wretched; the field of the
church was ploughed, burrowed, and scarified: it had become like a wood
chopper's yard, where everything was doomed to be broken up. We have seen
churches in such a state, and have been heart broken. What a mercy that there is
always a place above the earth to which we can look! There lives One who will
give a resurrection to his cause, and a reunion to his divided people. He will
bring up the dead bones from the grave's mouth, and make the dried faggots live
again. Let us imitate the Psalmist in the next verse, and look up to the living
Verse 8. But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord. He
looked upward and kept his eyes fixed there. He regarded duty more than
circumstances; he considered the promise rather than the external providence;
and he expected from God rather than from men. He did not shut his eyes in
indifference or despair, neither did he turn them to the creature in vain
confidence, but he gave his eyes to his God, and saw nothing to fear. Jehovah
his Lord is also his hope. Thomas called Jesus Lord and God, and David here
speaks of his God and Lord. Saints delight to dwell upon the divine names when
they are adoring or appealing. In thee is my trust. Not alone in thine
attributes or in thy promises, but in thyself. Others might confide where they
chose, but David kept to his God: in him he trusted always, only, confidently,
and unreservedly. Leave not my soul destitute; as it would be if the Lord
did not remember and fulfil his promise. To be destitute in circumstances is
bad, but to be destitute in soul is far worse; to be left of friends is a
calamity, but to be left of God would be destruction. Destitute of God is
destitution with a vengeance. The comfort is that God hath said, "I will never
leave thee nor forsake thee."
Verse 9. Keep me from, the snares which they have laid for
me. He had before asked, in Ps 141:3, that the door of his mouth might be
kept; but his prayer now grows into "Keep me." He seems more in trouble
about covert temptation than concerning open attacks. Brave men do not dread
battle, but they hate secret plots. We cannot endure to be entrapped like
unsuspecting animals; therefore we cry to the God of wisdom for protection.
And the gins of the workers of iniquity. These evil workers sought to
catch David in his speech or acts. This was in itself a piece of in equity, and
so of a piece with the rest of their conduct. They were bad themselves, and they
wished either to make him like themselves, or to cause him to seem so. If they
could not catch the good man in one way, they would try another; snares and gins
should be multiplied, for anyhow they were determined to work his ruin. Nobody
could preserve David but the Omniscient and Omnipotent One: he also will
preserve us. It is hard to keep out of snares which you cannot see, and to
escape gins which you cannot discover. Well might the much hunted Psalmist cry,
Verse 10. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that
I withal escape. It may not be a Christian prayer, but it is a very
just one, and it takes a great deal of grace to refrain from crying Amen
to it; in fact, grace does not work towards making us wish otherwise concerning
the enemies of holy men. Do we not all wish the innocent to be delivered, and
the guilty to reap the result of their own malice? Of course we do, if we are
just men. There can be no wrong in desiring that to happen in our own case which
we wish for all good men. Yet is there a more excellent way.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. This psalm, like the one before it, is
distinguished by a pregnant brevity and the use of rare expressions, while at
the same time it is full of verbal and real coincidences with the other psalms
of David. These indications are so clear and undeniable, that a sceptical critic
of great eminence (De Wette) pronounces it one of the oldest psalms in the
collection. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Whole Psalm. Few psalms in so small a compass crowd
together so many gems of precious and holy truth. --Barton Bouchier.
Whole Psalm. Many commentators are strongly of opinion that
this psalm was written as a memorial of that very interesting scene in the life
of David recorded in 1Sa 24:1-22, relating to his generous treatment of Saul.
Though he had an opportunity of putting his cruel persecutor to death in the
cave of Engedi, yet he spared his life, only cutting off his skirt, and not
suffering his followers to touch him; and when Saul had gone out of the cave,
David, going out after him, remonstrated with him from some distance in the
gentlest and most respectful language in regard to the injustice of his conduct
towards him. It is thought that the sixth verse contains so express a reference
to this very remarkable occurrence in David's history, as to leave little doubt
that it was the occasion on which the psalm was composed. --James Anderson's
Note to Calvin, in loc.
Whole Psalm. The imagery and allusions of the psalm are in
keeping; viz., the oil which had lately anointed him; and the watch before his
mouth, etc., suggested by the watching at the mouth of the cave, though
ultimately referring to the tabernacle service. --John Jebb.
Verse 1. LORD, I cry unto thee. Misbelief doth seek many
ways for delivery from trouble; but faith hath but one way, --to go to God, to
wit, by prayer, for whatsoever is needful. --David Dickson.
Verse 1. LORD, I cry unto thee. No distress or danger, how
great soever, shall stifle my faith or stop my mouth, but it shall make me more
earnest, and my prayers, like strong streams in narrow straits, shall bear down
all before them. --John Trapp.
Verse 1. Unto thee...unto me. Our prayer and God's mercy are
like two buckets in a well; while the one ascends, the other descends.
Verse 1. Note that the difference of tense, "I have
cried" (Heb., 70., and Vulgate) followed by "when I cry", signifies
the earnest perseverance of the saint in prayer, never ceasing, so long as
trouble lasts. And trouble does last so long as we are in the world; wherefore
the apostle teaches us to "Pray without ceasing." --Augustine and Bruno, in
Neale and Littledale.
Verses 1-5. That the Psalmist was now in some distress,
whereof he was deeply sensible, is evident from the vehemency of his spirit,
which he expresses in the reiteration of his request or supplication (Ps 141:1);
and by his desire that his "prayer might come before the Lord like incense, and
the lifting up of his hands as the evening sacrifice" (Ps 141:2). The Jewish
expositors guess, not improbably, that in that allusion he had regard unto his
present exclusion from the holy services of the tabernacle, which in other
places he deeply complains of. For the matter of his prayer in the beginning of the psalm, it
respecteth himself, and his deportment under his present condition, which he
desireth may be harmless and holy, becoming himself, and useful to others. And
whereas he was two ways liable to miscarry; first, by too high an exasperation
of spirit against his oppressors and persecutors; and, secondly, by a fraudulent
and pusillanimous compliance with them in their wicked courses; --which are the
two extremes which men are apt sinfully to run into in such conditions: he prays
earnestly to be delivered from them both. The first he hath respect unto in Ps
141:3, "Set a watch, O, LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my
lips": namely, that he might not, under those great provocations which were
given him, break forth into an unseemly intemperance of speech against his
unjust oppressors, which sometimes fierce and unreasonable cruelties will wrest
from the most sedate and moderate spirits. But it was the desire of this holy
Psalmist, as in like cases it should be ours, that his heart might be always
preserved in such a frame, under the conduct of the Spirit of God, as not to be
surprised into an expression of distempered passion in any of his words or
sayings. The other he regards in his earnest supplication to be delivered from
it, Ps 141:4: "Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise
wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their
dainties." There are two parts of his request unto the purpose intended. 1.
That by the power of God's grace influencing his mind and soul, his heart might
not be inclined unto any communion or society with his wicked adversaries in
their wickedness. 2. That he might be preserved from a liking of, or a longing
after those things, which are the baits and allurements whereby men are apt to
be drawn into societies and conspiracies with the workers of iniquity; "And
let me not eat of their dainties." See Pr 1:10-14. For he here
describeth the condition of men prospering for a season in a course of
wickedness; they first jointly give up themselves unto the practice of iniquity,
and then together solace themselves in those satisfactions of their lusts, with
which their power and interest in the world do furnish them.
These are the "dainties", for which an impotent longing
and desire do betray the minds of unstable persons unto a compliance with ways
of sin and folly: for I look on these "dainties" as comprising whatever
the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life can afford.
All these David prays to be delivered from any inclination unto; especially when
they are made the allurements of a course of sin. In the enjoyment of these
"dainties", it is the common practice of wicked men to soothe up, and
mutually encourage one another in the way and course wherein they are engaged.
And this completes that poor felicity which in this world so many aspire unto,
and whereof alone they are capable. The whole of it is but a society in
perishing sensual enjoyments, without control, and with mutual applause from one
another. This the Psalmist had a special regard unto when casting his eye
towards another communion and society which he longed after (Ps 141:5). He saw
there not dainties but rebukes: he discerned that which is most opposite unto
those mutual applause and rejoicing in one another, which is the salt and cement
of all evil societies, for he noticed rebukes and reproofs for the least
miscarriages that shall be observed. Now whereas the dainties which some enjoy
in a course of prosperous wickedness, are that alone which seems to have
anything in it amongst them that is desirable, and on the other side rebukes and
reproofs are those alone which seem to have any sharpness, or matter of
uneasiness and dislike in the society of the godly, David balances that which
seemeth to be sharpest in the one society, against that which seems to be
sweetest in the other, and, without respect unto other advantages, prefers the
one above the other. Hence, some read the beginning of the words, "Let the
righteous rather smite me", meaning, "rather than that I should eat of
the dainties of the ungodly." --John Owen.
Verse 2. Let my prayer be set forth before thee. Margin,
directed. The Hebrew word means to fit; to establish; to make firm. The
Psalmist desires that his prayer should not be like that which is feeble,
languishing, easily dissipated; but that it should be like that which is firm
and secure. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 2. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense.
Literally, Let my prayer, incense, be set in order before Thee, -- implying that
prayer was in the reality what incense was in the symbol ...Passing to New
Testament Scripture, though still only to that portion which refers to Old
Testament times, we are told of the people without being engaged in player,
while Zacharias was offering incense within the Sanctuary (Lu 1:10); they were
in spirit going along with the priestly service. And in the book of Revelation
the prayers of saints are once and again identified with the offering of incense
on the golden altar before the throne. Re 5:8 8:3-4. --Patrick Fairbairn, in
"The Typology of Scripture."
Verse 2. Set forth. Prayer is knowing work, believing work,
thinking work, searching work, humbling work, and nothing worth if heart and
hand do not join in it. --Thomas Adam, 1701-1784.
Verse 2. Set forth before thee as incense, whose fragrant
smoke still ascends upwards. But many times in the very ascent, whilst it
strives up higher and higher, infimo phantasmate verberatur, saith
Gregory, "it is beaten back again by earthly imaginations which intervene", and
then is extenuated by degrees, and vanisheth to nothing. Therefore the prophet
prays ut diriyatur oratio, "that his prayer may be set before God", ut
stubiliatur;so some render it out of the Hebrew, "that it may be
established", that it may neither evaporate itself nor be whiffed about with the
wind of vain and contrary imaginations, which come ab extrinseco from
without], and may corrupt it. --Anthony Farindon.
Verse 2. As incense. That in general by incense prayer is
signified, the Scripture expressly testifieth. And there is a fourfold
resemblance between them:
1. In that it was beaten and pounded before it
was used. So doth acceptable prayer proceed from a broken and contrite heart: Ps
2. It was of no use until fire was put under it, and that
taken from the altar. Nor is that prayer of any virtue or efficacy which is
no kindled by the fire from above, the Holy Spirit of God, which we have from
our altar, Christ Jesus.
3. It naturally ascended upwards towards heaven, as
all offerings in the Hebrew are called twle, "ascensions", uprisings. And this is the design of prayer,
to ascend unto the throne of God: "I will direct unto thee, and will look up";
that is, pray: Ps 5:3.
4. It yielded a sweet savour; which was one end of it in temple
services, wherein there was so much burning of flesh and blood. So doth prayer
yield a sweet savour unto God; a savour of rest, wherein he is well pleased.
Verse 2. As incense...as the evening sacrifice. Though this
address of mine must necessarily want all that solemnity of preparation required
in the service of thy holy Tabernacle, the cloud of incense and perfume, etc.,
the "mincha" or oblation of fine flour, etc., yet let the purity and fervour of
my heart, and the innocency of my hands, now lifted up to thee in tiffs sad hour
of my distress, be accepted instead of all these, and prevail for deliverance
and a safe retreat to me and my companions. --Charles Peters (--1777), in
"A Critical Dissertation on the Book of Job," 1751.
Verse 2. As the evening sacrifice. This should be our daily
service, as a lamb was offered up morning and evening for a sacrifice. But,
alas! how dull and dead are our devotions! Like Pharaoh's chariots, they drive
on heavily. Some, like Balaam's ass, scarce ever open their mouths twice.
Verse 2. My hands. Spreading forth our hands in believing
and fervent prayer is the only way of grasping mercy. --F. E., in "The Saints
of Ebenezer," 1667.
Verse 2. In the gorgeous ceremonial worship of the Hebrews,
none of the senses were excluded from taking part in the service...The sense of
smell occupied, perhaps, the most prominent place; for the acceptance of the
worship was always indicated by a symbol borrowed from this sense: "The Lord
smelled a sweet savour." The prayer of the people ascended as incense, and the
lifting up of their hands as the evening sacrifice. The offering of incense
formed the essential part of the religious service. The altar of incense
occupied one of the most conspicuous and honoured positions in the tabernacle
and temple... On this altar a censer full of incense poured forth its fragrant
clouds every morning and evening; and yearly, as the day of atonement came
round, when the high priest entered the holy of holies, he filled a censer with
live coals from the sacred fire on the altar of burnt offerings, and bore it
into the sanctuary, where lie threw upon the burning coals the "sweet incense
beaten small", which lie had brought in his hand. Without this smoking censer
lie was forbidden, on pain of death, to enter into the awful shrine of Jehovah.
Notwithstanding the washing of his flesh, and the linen garments with which he
was clothed, tie dare not enter the holiest of all with the blood of atonement,
unless he could personally shelter himself under a cloud of incense.
It has been supposed by some writers that incense was invented
for the purpose of concealing or neutralizing the noxious effluvia caused by the
number of beasts slaughtered every day in the sanctuary. Other writers have
attached a mystical import to it, and believed that it was a symbol of the
breath of the world arising in praise to the Creator, the four ingredients of
which it was composed representing the four elements. While a third class,
looking upon the tabernacle as the palace of God, the theocratic King of Israel,
and the ark of the covenant as his throne, regarded the incense as merely
corresponding to the perfume so lavishly employed about the person and
appointments of an Oriental monarch. It may doubtless have been intended
primarily to serve these purposes and convey these meanings, but it derived its
chief importance in connection with the ceremonial observances of the Mosaic
ritual from the fact of its being the great symbol of prayer. It was offered at
the time when the people were in the posture and act of devotion; and their
prayers were supposed to be presented to God by the priest, and to ascend to him
in the smoke and odour of that fragrant offering. Scripture is full of allusions
to it, understood in this beautiful symbolical sense. Acceptable, prevailing
prayer was a sweet smelling savour to the Lord; and prayer that was unlawful, or
hypocritical, or unprofitable, was rejected with disgust by the organ of smell.
Doubtless the Jews felt, when they saw the soft white clouds of
fragrant smoke rising slowly from the altar of incense, as if the voice of the
priest were silently but eloquently pleading in that expressive emblem in their
behalf. The association of sound was lost in that of smell, and the two senses
were blended in one. And this symbolical mode of supplication, as Dr. George
Wilson has remarked, has this one advantage over spoken or written prayer, that
it appealed to those who were both blind and deaf, a class that are usually shut
out from social worship by their affliction. Those who could not hear the
prayers of the priest could join in devotional exercises symbolized by incense,
through the medium of their sense of smell; and the hallowed impressions shut
out by one avenue were admitted to the mind and heart by another. The altar of incense stood in the closest connection with the
altar of burnt offerings. The blood of the sin offering was sprinkled on the
horns of both on the great day of annual atonement. Morning and evening, as soon
as the sacrifice was offered, the censer poured forth its fragrant contents, so
that the perpetual incense within ascended simultaneously with the perpetual
burnt offering outside. Without the live coals from off the sacrificial altar,
the sacred incense could not be kindled; and without the incense previously
filling the holy place, the blood of atonement from the altar of burnt offering
could not be sprinkled on the mercy seat. Beautiful and expressive type of the
perfect sacrifice and the all prevailing intercession of Jesus-- of intercession
founded upon atonement, of atonement preceded and followed by intercession!
Beautiful and expressive type, too, of the prayers of believers kindled by the
altar fire of Christ's sacrifice, and perfumed by his merits! --Hugh
Macmillan, in "The Ministry of Nature," 1871.
Verse 3. Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth, etc.
1. A man
would never use this language without a conviction of the importance of
the subject ...Everything is transacted by speech, in natural, civil, and
religious concerns: how much, therefore, depends on the good or evil management
of the tongue! What an ardour of holy love and friendship, or of anger and
malice, may a few words fan into a flame! The tongue is the principal instrument
in the cause of God; and it is the chief engine of the devil; give him this, and
lie asks no more-- there is no mischief or misery he will not accomplish by it.
The use, the influence of it, therefore, is inexpressible; and words are never
to be considered only as effects, but as causes, the operation of
which can never be fully imagined. Let us suppose a case, a case, I fear, but
too common. You drop, in the thoughtlessness of conversation, or for the sake of
argument or wit, some irreligious, sceptical, expression--it lodges in the memory
of a child, or a servant--it takes root in a soil favourable to such seed--it
gradually springs up, and brings forth fruit, in the profanation of the Sabbath;
the neglect of the means of grace; in the reading of improper books; in the
choice of dangerous companions; --who can tell where it will end? But there is a
Being who knows where it began. It will be acknowledged that some have it in
their power, by reason of their office, talents, and influence, to do much more
injury than others; but none are so insignificant as to be harmless.
2. A man would never use this language without a conviction
that he is in danger of transgression. And if David was conscious of a
liableness to err, shall we ever presume on our safety? Our danger arises from
the depravity of our nature. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and
desperately wicked"; and "who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" Our
danger arises from the contagion of example. There is nothing in which mankind
are more universally culpable than in the disorders of speech. Yet with these we
are constantly surrounded; and to these we have been accustomed from our
impressible infancy. We are in danger from the frequency of speech. "In the
multitude of words there wanteth not sin." We must of necessity speak often; but
we often speak without necessity. Duty calls us to intermingle much with our
fellow creatures; but we are too little in the closet, and too much in the
crowd--and when we are in company we forget the admonition, "Let every man be
swift to hear, and slow to speak."
3. A man would never use this language without a conviction of
inability to preserve himself. The Bible teaches us this truth, not only
doctrinally, but historically. The examples of good men, and men eminent in
godliness, confirm it in the very article before us. Moses, the meekest man in
the earth, "spake unadvisedly with his lips." You have heard of the patience of
Job, but he "cursed the day of his birth"; and Jeremiah, the prophet of the
Lord, did the same. Peter said, "Though all men should be offended because of
thee, I will never be offended; though I should die with thee, yet will I not
deny thee." But how did he use his tongue a few hours after? Then "began he to
curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man!"
4. A man would never use this language without a conviction
of the wisdom of applying to God for the assistance he needs.
Prayer is the effect of our weakness, and the expression of our dependence. It
confesses the agency of God.
(a) In the first place--God is equal to our
(b) His succours are not to be obtained without prayer.
always brings the assistance it implores.
--Condensed from W. Jay's Sermon on
"The Regulation of the Tongue."
Verse 3. Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth, etc. Watching
and prayer are often joined together. We are best kept when recommended into
God's hand. I do observe here, First, That unadvised and passionate speeches do
easily drop from us in our troubles, especially in our persecution. Secondly,
That a godly, conscientious man is very tender of these, as of all evil. He that
would live in communion with God for the present, and hope to appear with
comfort before him hereafter, is sensible of the least thing that tends to God's
displeasure, and God's dishonour: this is the true spirit of one that will be
owned by Christ at the last day. Thirdly, There is no way to prevent being
provoked to impatience and rashness of speech, or any evil, but by keeping a
watch, and renewing our obligations to God. Fourthly, Whoever would keep a watch
must call in the aid and assistance of God's grace; "Lord, set a watch before
my mouth." --Thomas Manton.
Verse 3. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, etc. Thus
holy men have kept the sessions at home, and made their hearts the foremen of
the jury, and examined themselves as we examine others. The fear of the Lord
stood at the door of their souls, to examine every thought before it went in,
and at the door of their lips, to examine every word before it went out, whereby
they escaped a thousand sins which we commit, as though we had no other work.
Verse 3. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth. Nature having
made my lips to be a door to my words, let grace keep that door, that no word
may be suffered to go out which may any way tend to the dishonour of God, or the
hurt of others. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 3. Set a watch, etc. Let a seal for words not to be
spoken lie on the tongue. A watch over words is better than over wealth.
Verse 3. Keep the door of my lips. That it move not creaking
and complaining, as on rusty hinges, for want of the oil of joy and gladness.
David had somewhat to do with his tongue, as we see (Ps 39:1,3); and when he had
carted the ark, how untowardly he spake, as if the fault were more in God than
himself, that there was such a breach made in Uzzah (1Ch 13:12). It was but need
thus to pray. --John Trapp.
Verse 4. Incline not my heart to any evil thing, etc. The
present pleasure and commodity of sin is in high estimation with the sinner, and
much sweeter to him than what he may lawfully enjoy; the pleasures of sin are
his delicates. No man can keep himself from being taken with the allurements of
a sinful course, except the Lord preserve him: Let me not eat of their
dainties. The holiest men in Scripture have been most sensible of the
impotency of their own free will, and of their inability to resist temptations,
or to bring the principles of grace into action; most diffident of themselves,
most dependent upon God, most careful to make use of means, and conscientious in
following of ordinances, as their prayers do testify: "Incline not my
heart to any evil thing", etc. --David Dickson.
Verse 4. Incline not my heart. Heb. Let not be inclined my
heart. --John Jebb.
Verse 4. My heart. That man is like Esau which had an
inheritance, which had a heart but now he hath not possession of his own;
therefore, give God thy heart, that he may keep it; and not a piece of thy
heart, not a room in thy heart, but thy heart. The heart divided, dieth. God is
not like the mother which would have the child divided, but like the natural
mother, which said, rather than it should be divided, let her take all. Let the
devil have all, if he which gave it be not worthy of it. God hath no cope-mate,
therefore he will have no parting of stakes, but all or none; and therefore he
which asks here thy heart, in the sixth of Deuteronomy and the fifth verse,
asketh "all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy strength"; thrice he requireth
all, lest we should keep a thought behind. Yet it is thy heart, that is,
a vain heart, a barren heart, a sinful heart, until thou give it unto God, and
then it is the spouse of Christ, the temple of the Holy Ghost, and the image of
God, so changed, and formed, and refined, that God calls it a new heart. There is such strife for the heart as there was for Moses's
body. "Give it me", saith the Lord; "give it me", saith the tempter; "give it
me", saith the pope; "give it me", saith riches; "give it me", saith pleasure;
as though thou must needs give it to some one. Now here is the choice, whether
thou wilt give it to God or the devil; God's heart or the devil's heart; whose
wilt thou be? --Henry Smith.
Verse 4. Let me not eat of their dainties. Sin is not only
meat, but sweet meat, not only bread, but pleasant bread to an evil heart.
Daniel for some weeks ate no pleasant bread; he ate bread to keep life and soul
together, but he forbare feasting or good cheer. Sin is a feast to a carnal man,
it is his good cheer, yea, it is "dainties" to him. David, speaking of
wicked men, says, Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practise
wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their
dainties. These "dainties" may be expounded either for the prosperity
that comes in by wicked practices (some by wicked ways get not only their
ordinary food but "dainties"); or those "dainties" are sin itself:
they feasted themselves in doing evil: "Lord, let me not eat of their
dainties." If that be their food I had rather starve than eat with them.
Verse 4. Their dainties. The enemies of David were sensual
and luxurious; and they would have gladly admitted him to share in their
banquets, if his character had resembled their own. He entreats to be preserved
from inducement so to do. --William Walford.
Verse 5. Let the righteous smite me, etc. This verse is so
obscure as to be almost unintelligible. According to the English versions, it
expresses his willingness to be rebuked by good men for his benefit. But this
sense is not only hard to be extracted from the words, but foreign from the
context. Of the many contradictory interpretations which have been proposed the
most probable is that which makes the sentence mean, that the sufferings endured
by the good man, even at the hand of the wicked, are chastisements inflicted by
a righteous God in justice and with mercy, and as such may be likened to a
festive ointment, which the head of the sufferer should not refuse, as he will
still have need of consolation and occasion to invoke God, in the midst of
trials and of mischiefs yet to be experienced. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 5. Let the righteous smite me, The word olh is seldom used in Scripture but to signify a
severe stroke which shakes the subject smitten, and causeth it to tremble; see
Pr 23:35 1Sa 14:16 Ps 74:6; and it is used for the stroke of the hammer on the
anvil in fashioning of the iron (Isa 41:7). Wherefore the word dox following may be taken adverbially, as a lenitive
of that severity which this word imports: "Let him smite me, but" leniter,
benigne, misericorditer, "gently, kindly, friendly, mercifully": and
so some translations read the words, "Let the righteous smite me friendly, or
kindly." --John Owen.
Verse 5. Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness,
etc. Grace will teach a Christian to take those potions which are wholesome,
though they be not toothsome. Faithful reproof is a token of love, and therefore
may well be esteemed a kindness. Such wounding of a friend is healing, and so
David might well call it an excellent oil. And he did not only say
so, which is easy and ordinary, but acted accordingly. He did not as the
papists, who highly commend holy water, but turn away their faces when it comes
to be sprinkled on them. When he had by sin, and continuance in it, so gangrened
his flesh, and corrupted himself, that he was in danger of death, he suffered
his sores to be thoroughly searched without regret. Nathan was the chirurgeon
whom God employed to search that wound which had divers mouths for festering in
his soul; and truly he did not dally with his patient, though he were a prince,
but thrust his instrument to the bottom; yet whatever pain it put him to, he
took it patiently, and was so far from being angry with the prophet, that he
made him one of his privy council. It is a sign of a polluted nature for a man,
like a serpent, if he be but touched, to gather poison, and vomit it up at the
party. "Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee": Pr 9:8. --George
Verse 5. Let the righteous smite me, etc. If the righteous
smite us by reproofs, it must be taken as a kindness, and as a precious balsam,
which doth not break our head, but heal us. Not that we are bound to belie
ourselves in compliance with every man's censorious humour that will accuse us;
but we must be readier to censure ourselves than others, and readier to confess
a fault than to expect a confession from others whom we reprove. Sincerity and
serious repentance will be honourable in that person who is most careful to
avoid sin, and most ready penitently to confess it when he hath been overcome,
and truly thankful to those that call him to repentance; as being more desirous
that God and his laws and religion should have the glory of their holiness, than
that he himself should have the undue glory of innocency; and escape the
deserved shame of his sin. It is one of the most dangerous diseases of professors, and one
of the greatest scandals of this age, that persons taken for eminently religious
arc more impatient of plain, though just, reproof than many a drunkard, swearer,
or fornicator; and when they have spent hours or days in the seeming earnest
confession of their sin, and lament before God and man that they cannot do it
with more grief and tears, yet they take it for a heinous injury in another that
will say half so much against them, and take him for a malignant enemy of the
godly who will call them as they call themselves. --Richard Baxter
(1615-1691), in "The Morning Exercises."
Verse 5. Let the righteous smite me. If a righteous or a
right wise man smite and reprove, he will do it, 1. Sine felle, without
gall, without bitterness. 2. Sine publicatione, without publishing,
divulging, or telling it to the world. 3. Sine contumelia, without
disgrace--to reform his friend, not to disgrace him. 4. Sine
adulatione, without flattery. 5. Nonn sine Deo, not without God.
--John Gore, in a Sermon entitled "Unknowne Kindnesse", 1635.
Verse 5. The righteous, etc. The minister cannot be always
preaching; two or three hours, may be, in a week, he spends among his people in
the pulpit, holding the glass of the gospel before their faces; but the lives of
professors, these preach all the week long: if they were but holy and exemplary,
they would be as a repetition of the preacher's sermon to their families and
neighbours among whom they converse, and keep the sound of his doctrine
continually ringing in their ears. This would give Christians an amiable
advantage in doing good to their carnal neighbours by counsel and reproof, which
now is seldom done, and when done it proves to little purpose, because not
backed with their own exemplary walking. "It behooves him", saith Tertullian,
"that would counsel or reprove another, to guard his speech with the authority
of his own conversation, lest, wanting that, what he says puts himself to the
blush." We do not love one that hath a stinking breath to come very near us;
such, therefore, had need have a sweet scented life. Reproofs are a good physic, but they have an unpleasant
reception; it is hard for men not to throw them back on the face of him that
gives them. Now nothing is more powerful to keep a reproof from thus coming back
than the holiness of the person that reproves. "Let the righteous
smite me", saith David, "it shall be a kindness: and let him
reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my
head." See how well it is taken from such a hand, from the authority that
holiness carries with it. None but a vile wretch will smite a righteous man with
reproach for smiting him with a reproof, if softly laid on, and like oil
fermented, and wrought into him, as it should, with compassion and love to his
soul! Thus we see how influential the power of holiness would be unto the
wicked, neither would it be less upon our brethren and fellow Christians. Holy
David professed he would take it as a kindness for the righteous man to smite
him; yea, as kindly as if he broke a box of precious oil upon his head, which
was amongst the Jews a high expression of love. --William Gurnall.
Verse 5. It shall be a kindness.
1. It is a kindness
reducere errarvin, to bring back the wandering.
cegrotum, to recover the sick.
3. Suscitare letbargum, to awake, to
stir up the lethargic, the sleepy.
4. Ligure insanum, to bind a madman.
5. Liberare perditum, to save a lost man, one in imminent danger.
Verse 5. It shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break
my head. Some persons pride themselves on being blunt, or, as they
call it, "honest"; but very blunt people do little good to others, and get
little love to themselves. The Scriptures recommend gentleness and kindness.
Reproof should fall like the dew, and not like the rushing hailstorm. The
"oil" insinuates itself; the stone wounds and then rebounds. Christians
should take heed of getting fond of the work of "rebuking." Such "spiritual
constables" do a great deal of mischief without intending it. They are in a
church what a very witty and sarcastic person is in society, or what a tell tale
is in a school; and approximate very closely to that class which the apostle
terms "busy bodies in other men's matters." Our manner must be tender and
winning. The nail of reproof, says an old writer, must be well oiled in kindness
before it is driven home. Meddling with the faults of others is like attempting
to move a person afflicted with the rheumatic gout: it must be done slowly and
tenderly, nor must we be frightened by an out cry or two. The great thing is to
show the person that you really love him; and if you manifest this in the sight
of God, he will bless your efforts, and give you favour in the sight of an
erring brother. --Christian Treasury.
Verse 5. It shall be an excellent oil. Certain oils are said
to have a most salutary effect on the head; hence in fevers, or any other
complaints which affect the head, the medical men always recommend oil. I have
known people who were deranged, cured in a very short time by nothing more than
the application of a peculiar kind of oil to the head. There are, however, other
kinds which are believed, when thus applied, to produce delirium. Thus the
reproofs of the righteous were compared to "excellent oil", which
produced a most salutary effect on the head. So common is this practice of
anointing the head, that all who can afford it do it every week. But, strange as it may appear, the crown of their heads is the
place selected for chastisement; thus owners of slaves, or husbands, or school
masters, beat the heads of the offenders with their knuckles. Should all urchin
come late to school, or forget his lesson, the pedagogue says to some of the
other boys, "Go beat his head!" "Begone, fellow! or I will beat thy head."
Should a man be thus chastised by an inferior, he quotes the old proverb: "If my
head is to be beaten, let it be done with the fingers that have rings on";
meaning a man of rank. "Yes, yes; let a holy man smite my head! and what of
that? it is an excellent oil." "My master has been beating my head, but it has
been good oil for me." --Joseph Roberts.
Verse 5. Oil, which shall not break my head. When I first
took this text in hand, this seemed unto me a very strange and uncouth
expression. If the Psalmist had said, It shall be a stone that shall not break
my head, etc., we had easily understood him; but to speak of an oil, or a balm,
which we know to be so soft, so supple, so lithe and gentle an ointment, that he
should speak of breaking his head with oil, it is strange. I confess it troubled
me a while, till at length I conceived it might be spoken by contraries; as when
a physician gives a patient some pectoral, or cordial, and saith, Take this, it
will not hurt you; his meaning is, it will help and do him good. So this oil
shall not break my head;that is, it shall heal it, being broken by my own
corruption, by Satan's temptations, and by the evil influence of such as flatter
me in my sins. --John Gore.
Verse 5. If David could say of his enemy that cursed him,
"Let him alone, for God hath bidden him to curse"; much more safely mayest thou
say of thy friend that reproves thee, "Let him alone, for God hath bidden him to
smite." And as the apostle saith of ministers, that God "doth entreat you by
us"; so persuade yourselves that God doth reprove you by them. --John
Verse 5. It was the saying of a heat hell, though no
heathenish saying, "That he who would be good, must either have a faithful
friend to instruct him, or a watchful enemy to correct him." Should we murder a
physician because he comes to cure us; or like him worse, because he would make
us better? The flaming sword of reprehension is but to keep us from the
forbidden fruit of transgression. "Let the righteous smite me; it
shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent
oil, which shall not break my head." Let him smite me as with a
hammer, for so the word signifies. A Boanerges is as necessary as a
Barnabas. --William Seeker.
Verse 5. Yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.
That is, if ever they who are my reprovers fall into calamity, though they may
think they provoked me so by reproving me, that they have lost my love, and have
cast themselves out of my prayers, or that I will never speak well of them or
for them again; yet I will pray for them with all my heart, as their matter
shall require. I will pray for them when they have most need of prayer, even
"in their calamities." Some heighten the sense thus, --The more they
sharpen their reproof, the more I think myself bound to pray for them. It shows
an excellent spirit, not to be hindered from doing good to others by anything
they do or speak against us, nor by their sharpest (though perhaps mistaken)
reproofs of us. Thus it was that that good man Job "prayed for his
friends", who had spoken much against him, and not only reproved him without
cause, but reproached him without charity. --Joseph Caryl.
Verse 6. When their judges are overthrown, etc. When the
judgments in reserve for the leaders of my enemies shall come upon them, they
will perceive too late how reasonable are my words, and wish that they had
hearkened to them sooner. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 6. Overthrown. The verb rendered "overthrown" is used
of Jezebel in 2Ki 9:33; "Throw her down. So they threw her down." --Speaker's
Verse 6. They shall hear my words; for they are sweet. This
is especially true of all the words which David spake by inspiration, or the
Spirit of God spake to him; articulately in his book of Psalms; concerning the
Messiah, the covenant of grace, and the blessings of it; of the rich experiences
of grace he had, and the several doctrines of the gospel declared by him; which
were sweet, delightful, and entertaining to those who have ears to hear such
things; or whose ears are opened to hear them, so as to understand them and
distinguish them, but to others not. --John Gill.
Verse 6. They shall hear my words; for they are sweet. Those
that slighted the word of God before, will relish it and be glad of it when they
are in affliction; for that opens the ear to instruction. When the world is
bitter the word is sweet. Oppressed innocency cannot gain a hearing with those
that live in pomp and pleasure; but when they come to be overthrown themselves,
they will have more compassionate thoughts of the afflicted. --Matthew
Verse 6. For they are sweet. They shall be pleasant; mild;
gentle; equitable; just. After the hash and severe enactments of Saul, after
enduring his acts of tyranny, the people will be glad to welcome me, and to live
under the laws of a just and equal administration. The passage, therefore,
expresses confidence that Saul and his hosts would be overthrown, and that the
people of the land would gladly hail the accession to the throne of one who had
been anointed to reign over them. --Albert Barnes.
Verses 6-7. The mild and dutiful behaviour of David towards
Saul and his friends are set together by way of contrast, in the strongest
light, from the instances of each sort here produced. The first is, David's
humanity towards Saul, in giving him his life at two several times, when he had
it in his power to destroy him as he pleased. "Their judges have been
dismissed in the rocky places; and have heard my words that they are
sweet"; that is, "Their princes have been dismissed in safety, when I had
them at an advantage in those rocky deserts; and only heard me expostulate with
them in the gentlest words." The other is, Saul's barbarity and cruelty towards David (or
his friends, which is much the same) in the horrid massacre of Ahimelech and the
priests, by the hand of Doeg the Edomite, done in such a savage manner, that he
compares it to the chopping and cleaving wood; "Like as when one cutteth and
cleaveth, so have our bones been scattered on the earth at the command of
Saul"; for so I read the Hebrew words, le-pi Saul, at the mouth, that is,
the command of Saul. Should we suppose this passage to refer to the first time of
David's sparing Saul, viz., when he had him in his power in the cave of
Engedi (here called jede selay), the sides of the rock, or the
rocky places, the speech he made on this occasion when he called after Saul (and
which is recorded in 1Sa 24:8-16.) might well be called sweet or
pleasant words. For they set his own innocence and the king's unjust
behaviour to him in so strong a light, and with all that gentleness and
mildness, and even this hard hearted prince could not forbear being greatly
affected with it for the present; and we are told (1Sa 24:16-17) that "he lifted
up his voice and wept." --Charles Peters.
Verse 7. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, etc.
The primary reference may be to the slaughter of the priests by the command of
Saul, 1Sa 22:16-19. The language, however, may be illustrative of the many
massacres like that on the eve of St. Bartholomew, so numerous as to be
scattered on the face of the earth, marking the passage of pious martyrs from
this world to a better, and testifying where the blood of the slain shall be
disclosed for the judgment of their murderers. --W. Wilson.
Verse 7. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, etc.
Assuming the very extreme, it is a look of hope into the future: should his
bones and the bones of his followers be even scattered about the mouth of Sheol
(cf. the Syrian picture of Sheol: "the dust upon its threshold,
`al-escufteh", Deutsche Morgenland. Zeit-schrift, 20. 513), their
soul below, their bones above--it would nevertheless be only as when one in
ploughing cleaves the earth; i.e., they do not lie there in order that they may
continue lying, but that they may rise up anew, as the seed that is sown sprouts
up out of the upturned earth. --Franz Delitzsch.
Verse 7. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth. That
is to say, I and my company are in a dying condition, free among the dead; yea,
if taken we should be put to most cruel deaths, hewn in pieces, or pulled
limbmeal, and left unburied; and our dead bodies mangled by a barbarous
inhumanity, as wood cleavers make the shivers fly hither and thither. This is
the perilous case of me and my partisans. --John Trapp.
Verse 7. Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth. This
seems to be strong eastern painting, and almost figurative language; but that it
may be strictly true, the following extract demonstrates: "At five o'clock we
left Garigana, our journey being still to the eastward of north; and, at a
quarter past six in the evening, arrived at the village of that name, whose
inhabitants had all perished with hunger the year before; their wretched bones
being all unburied, and scattered upon the surface of the ground, where the
village formerly stood. We encamped among the bones of the dead, as no space
could be found free from them; and on the 23rd, at six in the morning, full of
horror at this miserable spectacle, we set out for Teawa." -- (James Bruce's
Travels.) To the Jews such a spectacle must have been very dreadful, as the
want of burial was esteemed one of the greatest calamities which could befall
them. --Burder's "Oriental Customs."
Verse 7. Like one ploughing and cleaving in the earth. This
clause may be explained not of cleaving wood but ploughing, to which the first
verb is applied in Arabic. Like (one) ploughing and cleaving (making
furrows) in the earth, not for the sake of mangling its surface, but to
make it fruitful and productive, (so) our bones are scattered at the
mouth of hell as the necessary means of a glorious resurrection. --Joseph
Verse 7. Who can attend the digging of a grave, and view the
ruins then disclosed, without exclaiming, Our bones are scattered at the
grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth?
Verse 8. Mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord. If you
would keep your mind fixed in prayer, keep your eye fixed. Much vanity comes in
at the eye. When the eyes wander in prayer, the heart wanders. To think to keep
the heart fixed in prayer, and yet let the eyes gaze abroad, is as if one should
think to keep his house sate, yet let the windows be open. --Thomas
Verse 8. Leave not my soul destitute. The literal Hebrew is,
Pour not out my soul, but keep it in thy cup of salvation. --Agellius.
Compare Isa 53:12: "He hath poured out his soul unto death."
Verse 8. Leave not my soul destitute, or, "Cast not out
my soul." That is, cast not my life away, as water, which is of no
account, is cast out of a vessel containing it. --Daniel Cresswell.
Verse 8. Leave not my soul destitute. His soul knew what it
was to be "destitute"; he had known the misery of spiritual beggary and
soul poverty. It was not with him as natural poverty is with the rich, a matter
of speculation, a mere matter of theory; but a matter of personal and painful
experience...It is in the margin "Make not my soul bare", Strip me
not of every hope; leave me not completely naked; abandon me not to nature's
beggary and misery; let me not go down into the pit with all my sins upon my
head; leave not my soul destitute of pardon and peace. --Joseph C.
O pour not out my soul, I pray,
From the dark snare preserve my way,
The chambers of the blind
Which by my path the powers of evil set.
Behold them hid, the godless crew,
Low in the toils they darkly
The while, with gathering heart and watchful eye
I wait mine
hour to pass victorious by.
Verses 9-10. Snares, Gins, Nets. The usual method of
capturing or killing the lion in Palestine was by pitfalls or nets, to both of
which there are many references in the Scriptures. The mode of hunting the lion
with nets was identical with that which is practised in India at the present
time. The precise locality of the lion's dwelling place having been discovered,
a circular wall of net is arranged round it, or if only a few nets can be
obtained, they are set in a curved form, the concave side being towards the
lion. They then send dogs into the thicket, hurl stones and sticks at the den,
shoot arrows into it, fling burning torches at it, and so irritate and alarm the
animal that it rushes against the net, which is so made that it falls down and
envelops the animal in its folds. If the nets be few, the drivers go to the
opposite side of the den, and induce the lion to escape in the direction where
he sees no foes, but where he is sure to run against the treacherous net. Other
large and dangerous animals were also captured by the same means. Another and
more common, because an easier and a cheaper method, was, by digging a deep pit,
covering the mouth with a slight covering of sticks and earth, and driving the
animal upon the treacherous covering. It is an easier method than the net,
because after the pit is once dug, the only trouble lies in throwing the
covering over its mouth. But it is not so well adapted for taking beasts alive,
as they are likely to be damaged, either by the fall into the pit, or by the
means used in getting them out again. Animals, therefore, that are caught in
pits are generally, though not always, killed before they are taken out. The
net, however, envelops the animal so perfectly, and renders it so helpless, that
it can be easily bound and taken away. The hunting net is very expensive, and
requires a large staff of men to work it, so that none but a rich man could use
the net in hunting. Besides the net, several other modes of bird catching were used
by the ancient Jews, just as is the case at the present day. Boys, for example,
who catch birds for their own consumption, and not for the market, can do so by
means of various traps, most of which are made on the principle of the noose, or
snare. Sometimes a great number of hair nooses are set in places to which the
birds are decoyed, so that in hopping about, many of them are sure to be
entangled in the snares. Sometimes the noose is ingeniously suspended in a
narrow passage which the birds are likely to traverse, and sometimes a simple
fall trap is employed. --J. G. Wood.
Verse 10. Into their own nets. The word rendered
"nets" occurs only in this place, as the closely corresponding word in Ps
140:10, which is rendered "deep pits", occurs there only. --Speaker's
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. The Perpetuity of Prayer: "I cry. I cry."
2. The Personality: "unto thee", "unto me."
3. The Practicalness: "Make haste; give ear."
Verse 1. Holy haste.
1. The saint hasting to God.
2. The saint hastening God.
3. God's sure hastening to his help. --W. B. H.
1. Prayer put forth:
a) With urgency: "Make haste unto me."
b) With fervency: "Give ear", etc.
2. Prayer set forth: "Let my prayer be set forth", etc. When
hearing is obtained there is composure and order in prayer. When the fire is
kindled the incense rises.
3. Prayer held forth: "The lifting up of my hands as the
evening sacrifice", as constant and accepted. --G. R.
Verse 2. True prayer acceptable as incense and as the
evening sacrifice. It is spiritual, solemn, ordained of God, brings Christ to
1. The mouth a door.
2. A watchman needed.
3. The Lord fulfilling that office.
Verse 4. Total abstinence from evil desires, practices, and
Verse 4. A prayer,
1. For the repression of every evil tendency in the heart:
"Incline not my heart", etc.
2. For the prevention of any association with the wicked in
their sinful works: "To practise", etc.
3. For a holy contempt of the temporal pleasure or profit
placed in our way through the sin of others: "Let me not eat", etc. Note, many
who will not engage in a wicked act do not object to participate in its gains.
Verse 4. Deprecation of,
1. Devil's desires.
2. Devil's deeds.
3. Devil's dainties. --W. B. H.
Verse 5. Rebukes of good men.
2. Appreciated: "it shall be a kindness."
3. Utilized: "an excellent oil."
4. Cheerfully endured: "not break my head."
5. Repaid, by our prayers for them in time of trouble.
Verse 5. (last clause.) "Intercessory Prayer." See"
Spurgeon's Sermons", No. 1,049.
1. Times of trouble will come to the careless.
2. Then they will be more ready to hear the gospel.
3. Then they will find sweetness in that which they formerly
Verse 6. A Desert Oasis.
1. The world is a stony place, hard, barren.
2. Often pride and self trust suffer overthrowing there.
3. Then words of God by his sent servant make an oasis in the
--W. B. H.
Verses 7-8. A cemetery scene.
1. Dry bones of the dead about the grave.
2. Weary bones of the aged and sick around the grave.
3. All bones being from day to day made ready for the grave.
4. Bones finding rest in God: "mine eyes are unto thee, O God",