Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
See Introduction to Psalms 9.
Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?
The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.(2) The wicked.—Better, in the pride of the wicked, the sufferer burns. (So LXX., Aquila, Symmachus, and Vulg.) Not to be taken of indignation felt by the sufferers, but literally of the afflictions they endure. The Authorised Version rendering of the next clause takes the wicked as the subject of the verb; but it preserves the parallelism better, and is more in accordance with the rest of the psalm (Psalm 10:8-10), to understand it of the “humble,” the singular changing to the plural in the subject when supplied: “they (the sufferers) are taken (the verb is in the present) in the plot which they (the wicked) have devised.”
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.(3) Afar off.—Comp. Psalm 22:1-2; Psalm 22:19; Psalm 35:22, &c
Hidest.—Isaiah 1:15 supplies the ellipsis, “thine eyes,” used of a judge bribed to wink at offence 1Samuel 12:3; comp. Leviticus 20:4), of indifference to suffering (Proverbs 28:27); LXX. and Vulg. “to overlook.”
(3) For the wicked boasteth.—Literally, for the wicked speaketh praise to the lust of his soul, which has been understood either as in the Authorised Version, “prides himself upon his evil desires;” or “prides himself in or according to his sinful wish,” as LXX., Vulg., Syriac, and Chaldee. The former of these follows most naturally on Psalm 10:2. His wiles, so successful in snaring his victim, are a cause of self-gratulation. The representation of the villain addressing his own evil passions in laudatory terms is highly poetic. So the rich fool in the parable congratulates his soul on his greed.
The covetous—properly, robber—may either be subject or object, as also may “Jehovah;” or being a participle, may be adverbial (as Ewald). Hence we get, besides the Authorised Version and the margin, either, “the robber curses (and) despises Jehovah,” or, “he greedily (literally, robbing) curses, despises Jehovah;” the last makes a better echo to the first clause. The LXX. and Vulg. read, “The wicked is praised; the sinner has irritated the Lord,” getting the second subject from the next verse.
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.(4) The wicked.—The Authorised Version has quite missed the meaning of this verse. Translate, the wicked in his haughtiness (literally, height of his nostril. Comp. the common expression, ‘to turn up one’s nose at a person’) saith He will not requite it (i.e., punish; comp. Psalm 10:13). There is no God in all his thought. (Comp. Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1.)
His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.(5) His ways are always grievous.—Better, his enterprises always succeed. This meaning is obtained from Job 20:21, “nothing escaped his covetousness, therefore his prospering shall not last,” and from the cognate of the verb “strength.” Perhaps, however, “his ways are always strong” implies only the bold and reckless course with which a tyrant pursues his end. (Comp. Psalm 73:12.)
Thy judgments . . . .—Literally, a height thy judgments far above him. (Comp. Psalm 36:6.)
Puffeth—i.e., in scorn. (Comp. Psalm 12:5.) South uses the word in this sense, “It is really to defy heaven to puff at damnation, and bid omnipotence do its work.” It is especially forcible after the description of the haughty attitude of the wicked, with his nose high in the air, snorting out contempt against his foes, disdaining God and man alike.
He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.(6) I shall not.—The meaning of the verse is clear, but the construction is involved. Literally, I shall not be moved to generation and generation, which not in evil. The LXX. and Vulg. omit the relative altogether. The best rendering is, “I shall never be moved at any time: I who am without ill.”
His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.(7) Cursing and deceit.—From the connection of cursing with deceit (comp. Hosea 4:2, “swearing and lying “), we must understand perjury.
He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor.(8) In lurking places . . .—i.e., in ambush.
Villages.—Properly, enclosed spaces, but then, like our “town” (ton, an enclosure), for any collection of dwellings; and in Leviticus 25:31, “an unwalled place”; applied also to a nomadic encampment (Genesis 25:16).
Privily set.—Literally, hid: i.e., watched secretly.
The poor.—The Hebrew word, occurring three times in this psalm (Psalm 10:10; Psalm 10:14), is peculiar to it. The root idea is darkness; hence here, by an easy transition, obscure, humble. Symmachus has “feeble.” But Mr. Burgess suggests that we may in all three places keep the root idea, darkness. Translate, his eyes hide (i.e., wait) for the darkness; and comp. Job 24:15. “The eye of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight.”
“The Arab robber lurks like a wolf among these sand-heaps, and often springs out suddenly upon the solitary traveller, robs him in a trice, and then plunges again into the wilderness of sandhills and reedy downs, where pursuit is fruitless. Our friends are careful not to allow us to straggle about or linger behind, and yet it seems absurd to fear a surprise here—Khaifa before our eyes, Acre in our rear, and travellers in sight on both sides. Robberies, however, do often occur just where we now are. Strange country; and it has always been so.”—Thomson, The Land and Book.
He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.(11) Hideth.—Better, hath hidden.
Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.(12) Here the acrostic arrangement is resumed with koph.
Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.(14) The poor committeth himself.—Better, the helpless leaveth it to Thee. By a slight alteration in the division of the Hebrew letters, and of the pointing, we should get, It is against thee that he is strong in darkness. (See Notes above, Psalm 10:8; Psalm 10:10.)
Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till thou find none.(15) Seek out.—The meaning of the verse is clear, from Psalm 37:36, and Isaiah 41:12, where we see that to seek and not find was a proverb expressing “riddance of evil;” but the construction is difficult. The first clause should end at “wicked,” the words “and the evil” being absolute; and the verbs, which are in form either second or third person, should be taken in the second. Translate, and as for the evil man, thou shalt look for his wickedness, and not find it (thou=anybody, which preserves the proverbial tone. So the LXX., “his sin shall be sought, and not be found “).
The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.(16) The Lord is King.—If the psalm has hitherto been personal, it here swells out into a larger strain of national hope and faith.
To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.(18) Oppressed.—See Psalm 9:9. “God’s choice acquaintances are humble men.”—Leighton.
That the man.—Literally, that may not continue to terrify (or defy) mere man from the earth, which may mean that mere mortals may have to confess their weakness in comparison with God. But Psalm 9:20, where the same word is used, indicates that it is here used in a contemptuous sense of the “heathen.” “That the nations from the earth (i.e., spread over the earth) may know themselves to be but men, and no longer defy Israel and Israel’s God.”