Matthew Poole's Commentary
Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?THE ARGUMENT
This Psalm contains David’s complaint unto God against his malicious enemies, especially those of his own people, whose wicked and deceitful practices he here describes, and then commits his cause to God, and begs his help against them.
The psalmist complaineth of God’s hiding himself, Psalm 10:1; and of the outrage and pride of the wicked, Psalm 10:2-5. The language, Psalm 10:6,7, and malicious practice of the wicked, Psalm 10:8-10, and their denying God’s omniscience, Psalm 10:11. David prayeth for remedy against and punishment upon, the wicked, Psalm 10:12-15; and acknowledgeth God’s mercy in hearing the oppressed, Psalm 10:16-18.
Why standest thou afar off, like one that neither sees, nor hears, nor regards me, nor intendest any help for me?
Thyself, or, thy face, out of Psalm 10:11, which did sometimes shine upon me; or, thine eyes, by comparing this with Proverbs 28:27 Isaiah 1:15.
In times of trouble, when I most need thy pity and succour. Do not add affliction to the afflicted.
The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.In his pride; through pride of heart; which makes him forget God, Psalm 10:4, and despise the poor, and oppress others, either because they oppose or dislike his wicked courses, or that he may have more fuel for his pride or ambition. Or, in his exaltation. This is the use that he makes of that power and authority to which thou hast advanced him, to persecute those whom he should protect and cherish. He seems to point at Saul or his courtiers.
Doth persecute with great fervency and burning fury, as the word signifies.
The poor, to wit, me, who am through their tyranny poor, and destitute, and miserable, and therefore the more proper object for thy compassion, and others who favour my righteous cause.
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.Boasteth, or glorieth, or praiseth, or pleaseth himself.
Of his heart’s desire; or, in, or concerning, or because of the desire, or concupiscence, or lust of his heart, or soul; which word is added to note the vehemency and fervency of it. He glorieth in his very lusts, which are his shame, Philippians 3:19, and especially in the satisfaction of his desires, how wickedly soever he gets it.
Desire is oft put for the thing desired, as Psalm 21:2 78:29,30.
And blesseth the covetous; and as he applaudeth himself, so he commends others that are greedy after and get abundance of gain, though it be done by fraud and violence, accounting such the only happy men. Or, the covetous (the same with the wicked enlarging his desire, as was now said) blesseth, or applaudeth, or flattereth himself in what he hath already gotten, and in the confident expectation of the continuance and increase of his worldly wealth and glory.
Whom the Lord abhorreth; so his judgment as well as practice is contrary to God’s. Or rather, without any supplement, as it is in the margin, he abhorreth, or despiseth, or provoketh the Lord. He sets himself not only against men, but against God himself, as he declareth more fully in the next verse.
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.Through the pride; by which he scorns to stoop to God, or to own any superior, and makes himself and his own lusts his only rule, and his last end, and is full of self-confidence, and a conceit of his own self-sufficiency and unchangeable felicity, as is hated, Psalm 10:6.
Of his countenance; so called, because though pride be properly seated in the heart; whence it is called pride, or loftiness of heart, or spirit, as Psalm 131:1 Proverbs 16:18 Ecclesiastes 7:8, &c.; yet it is manifested in the countenance, and therefore is oft described by lofty looks, as Psalm 101:5 131:1 Proverbs 6:17 21:4 30:13, &c.; which possibly was done purposely to meet with the excuses of proud persons, who when they are charged with pride for their looks, or gestures, or apparel, or the like, use to make this apology for themselves, that pride lies in the heart, and not in these outward things.
Will not seek after God, i.e. not seek or inquire into the mind and will of God, to order his life by it so as to please God, nor seek to him by prayer for his favour and blessing. But the words
after God are not in the Hebrew, and it is thought by some too great boldness to add them here. And therefore others omit it, and render the Hebrew words, will not search, or consider, to wit, his actions, which seems to be a more natural and, easy supplement: he will not trouble himself to inquire whether his actions be just or unjust, pleasing or offensive to God; but without any care or consideration rusheth into sin, and doth whatsoever seemeth right in his own eyes. But these and the former words are and may be, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew, thus rendered without any supplement,
The wicked, through his pride, ( for so this Hebrew word by itself signifies, Isaiah 5:16 10:33) will not seek his (i.e. God’s, which is plain both from the foregoing and following words) face, which is a usual phrase in Scripture, as 2 Chronicles 7:14 Psalm 24:6 27:8 105:4, &c.
God is not in all his thoughts; he hath no serious thoughts of nor regard unto God, or his word, which ought to command him; or his threats and judgments, which should keep him in awe. Or,
all his thoughts are, There is no God, to wit, no such God as minds the affairs of the world, and the actions of men, and punisheth sinners. He was a deist, and owned a God, at least in words, but denied his providence.
His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.His ways are always grievous; his whole course and carriage is vexatious to all that are within his reach, but especially to the poor, who cannot right themselves; and to just and good men, whom he hateth and persecuteth. Or, His ways, i.e. his designs and enterprises, at all times are prosperous, or successful, or do bring forth; for this verb signifies, as the pains and trouble, so also the success and comfort, of child-bearing, or the bringing forth children, as Psalm 29:9 Isaiah 54:1 Jeremiah 4:31. And the accomplishment or disappointment of designs is frequently expressed by this metaphor; of which see 2 Kings 19:23 Psalm 7:14 Isaiah 59:4, &c. And this sense seems best to suit with the context.
Thy judgments; either,
1. Thy laws, which are oft called judgments. Or rather,
2. Thy threatenings denounced against and punishments inflicted upon sinners.
Are far above out of his sight; either,
1. He doth not feel them; thou removest them far from him; which indulgence of thine is the cause of his insolency. Or rather,
2. He doth not discern, nor regard, nor fear them, nor think of them, but goes on securely and resolvedly in his wicked courses. He hath not so much faith nor reason as to apprehend or consider them, but, like a brute beast, looks only downward to the earth, and minds not things above him. And thus it seems best to agree with the foregoing and following clauses. His devices succeed, and therefore he neither fears God’s judgments, nor the power of his enemies, but fancies his happiness to be unchangeable, as it follows, Psalm 10:6.
He puffeth at them, i.e. he despiseth them, being confident that he can blow them away with a breath. This is a gesture of contempt or disdain, both in Scripture, as Psalm 12:5 Malachi 1:13, and in other authors, as in Plautus; where one speaks thus to a proud and bragging captain, Thou hast blown away whole legions with thy breath, as leaves are blown away by a wind.
He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.He hath said in his heart; he thinketh or persuadeth himself. I shall not be moved; or, removed, to wit, from my place and happy state.
For I shall never be in adversity; or, because I am not in adversity, therefore I never shall be in it. His present prosperity makes him secure for the future. Compare Revelation 18:7. Or, yea, (for this particle sometimes hath no other signification or use but only to amplify or aggravate, as it is also taken 1 Samuel 15:20 24:11) I shall never be in evil. So the sense of the place is, I shall not only be kept from total ruin, or a removal from my place and estate, but I shall not meet with the least cross or trouble. For this evil is not the evil of sin, as some here understand it, in which he knew that he was, and was resolved, ever to continue; but the evil of punishment, which was the only thing that he feared or regarded.
His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.Of cursing; either,
1. Of oaths and blasphemies against God. Or,
2. Of reviling and execration of other men, especially those that are good; or those that stand in his way, and hinder his wicked designs. Or rather,
3. Of oaths and imprecations against himself, of which this word is used, Numbers 5:21 Deu 29:12,21 Ne 10:29; by which he endeavours to gain credit, and to make his neighbours secure, and so to make way for the
deceit and fraud which here follows. For this wretched man is represented both here, and in the succeeding verses, as one that doth not act with open violence and hostility, but with subtle and secret artifices, using all cunning insinuations, and flatteries, and lies, and, among others, oaths, of which an atheistical politician said, that men were to be deceived with oaths, and children with rattles or toys.
Deceit and fraud; two words signifying the same thing, to note the greatness and frequency of his deceits. Or one word may signify the deceit lurking in his heart, and the other the manifestation of it in external frauds and stratagems.
Under his tongue; either,
1. In his heart, which is under the tongue. Or rather,
2. Under his fair and plausible speeches the
mischief here following is hid and covered. Withal he seems to allude to serpents, whose poison lies hidden under the tongue or within their teeth.
Mischief and vanity; or rather, iniquity, as this word is oft rendered, or injury, the vexation or oppression of other men, which he covers with these fair pretences.
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.In the lurking places of the villages; not within the villages, which is not a fit place for lurking; but about them, in the ways bordering upon them, or leading to them, as robbers use to do.
In the secret places, that he may avoid the shame and punishment of men; which is the only thing that he fears.
Are privily set, Heb. are hid. The sense is either,
1. He winketh as men do when they shoot their arrows at a mark. Or rather,
2. He watcheth and looketh out of his lurking-place, to spy what passengers come that way. He alludes still to the practices of robbers.
He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net.As a lion in his den, where he lurks and waits for prey.
He doth catch, or snatch, or seize upon, to wit, with violence, and to devour or destroy him.
When he draweth him; or, by drawing him; or, after he hath drawn him. He layeth snares for him, and when he takes him, tears him in pieces.
He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones.Like a lion, (for he continues the same metaphor,) which gathereth himself together, and lies close upon the ground, partly that he may not be discovered, and partly that he may more suddenly, and surely, and fiercely lay hold upon his prey. But for this translation, because this and is not in the Hebrew, and there is another and there prefixed to the first verb, some join that first verb to the end of the 10th verse, and render the place thus, he catcheth the poor by drawing him into his net, and breaks him to pieces, as that verb properly signifies. So there is only a detect of the pronoun, which is most frequent. And this makes the sense complete, which otherwise would be imperfect in that verse, and showeth us what he doth with his prey when he hath taken it. And this 10th verse begins very well with the next verb,
he humbleth himself; or, he stoops, or bends himself.
That the poor may fall; or, that he may fall (for this verb is sometimes taken actively, as Joshua 11:7 Job 1:15) upon the poor; that having first crouched and lain down, and then of a sudden rising, he may leap and fall upon his prey, like a lion.
By his strong ones, i.e. by his strong members, his teeth or paws. So it is an ellipsis of the noun substantive; whereof we have examples, as 2 Samuel 21:16, new for a new sword; and Psalm 73:10, full for a full cup; and Matthew 10:42, cold for cold water.
He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.God hath forgotten, to wit, the poor, Psalm 10:10; or the humble, which we are taught to supply out of Psalm 10:12, where he saith, forget not the humble. He forgets and neglects all their oppressions and prayers, and doth not avenge their cause, as he hath said he would do; nor execute judgments upon their oppressors, as he hath sometimes done or been thought to do.
He hideth his face, lest he should see. He takes no notice of their sufferings, lest he should be engaged to help them. He will not encumber himself with the care of things done upon earth, but leaves it wholly to men to manage their affairs as they think fit.
He will never see it, to wit, the oppression of the poor, or the design of oppressors against them, which is the chief subject of the whole Psalm, and is particularly expressed Psalm 10:10.
Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.Lift up thine hand, to rescue the poor, and to smite their oppressors with a hand stretched out and lifted up, that the blow maybe the greater: compare Exodus 7:5 Isaiah 5:25 9:12, &c.
Forget not the humble; show by thy appearance for their vindication that thou dost remember and regard them.
Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.The sense is either,
1. What is the cause of his contempt of God? To which question the next words give an answer, Thy connivance makes him secure. Therefore show thyself. Or,
2. Why dost thou by giving them impunity suffer and occasion them to despise thee? Do so no longer. Which tacit desire he enforceth by representing their atheistical denial of God’s providence.
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.Thou hast seen it; or, but thou hast seen it, and therefore they are horribly mistaken, as they will find to their cost. For; or, surely, as this particle is oft used, as Job 8:6 Psalm 73:18.
Thou beholdest; not as an idle spectator, but with an eye of observation and vindication, as it follows. Mischief and spite, i.e. all the injurious and spiteful or malicious carriages of wicked men towards those who are more righteous than they.
To requite it with thy hand, Heb. to give (i.e. to restore or pay, the simple verb for the compound; which is usual in the Hebrew tongue) it (to wit, the mischief which they have done to others)
with thy hand, i.e. by thy own immediate and extraordinary providence, because the oppressed were destitute of all other succours. Or, to put (giving being oft used for putting, as hath been observed before) it in or into thy hand, that thou mayst have it always in thine eye, and under thy care and consideration, as the like phrase is evidently used, Isaiah 49:16 Therefore thou dost not and canst not forget it, but wilt certainly require it.
Committeth himself; or, his matters or cause, i.e. the care of his person and righteous cause. Heb. he leaveth; which word is used for committing to the trust of another, Genesis 39:6 Job 39:14 Isaiah 10:3.
Of the fatherless, i.e. of such poor oppressed ones as have no friend nor helper; one kind of them being put for all the rest.
Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till thou find none.Break thou; or, Thou wilt break. For it may be either a prayer or a prophecy.
The arm, i.e. his strength, the instrument of violence and mischief.
Seek out his wickedness; search for it so strictly, and punish these wicked atheists so severely.
Till thou find none, i.e. no such wickedness, to wit, undiscovered and unpunished, or indeed left in the world, or at least in the church; which might happen, because those wicked men here spoken of should be generally either convinced or rooted out, and the rest should be warned and reformed by their example, and so this lewdness should cease out of the land, as the phrase is, Ezekiel 23:48. That is said to be sought for, and not found, which is utterly lost, as Job 20:7,8 Psa 37:36 Revelation 16:20 18:21. And this phrase is used both of good men, whose sins are taken away by God’s grace and mercy, pardoning and purging them away, and of wicked men in the sense above mentioned.
The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.The Lord is King; to whom it belongs to protect his subjects. Therefore thou wilt save the humble, and punish the oppressors.
For ever and ever; therefore his people’s case is never desperate, seeing he ever lives and reigns to help them, and therefore he will help them in his time sooner or later.
The heathen; either,
1. Those impious Israelites who oppressed David and other good men, whom, although they were reputed Israelites by themselves and others, yet he might call them heathens for their heathenish opinions of God and his providence, and for their ungodly and unrighteous lives. Compare Isaiah 1:9 Amos 9:7. Or,
2. The Canaanites, whom God as King of the world did expel or destroy, and gave their land to his people; by which great example he confirms his faith and hope for the future.
Out of his land, i.e. out of Canaan, which God calls his land, Leviticus 25:23, because he spied it out for them, Ezekiel 20:6, and gave it to them, and fixed his presence and dwelling in it.
LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:Thou hast heard the desire of the humble; and therefore wilt still do it, being unchangeable and the same for ever.
Thou wilt prepare, or direct, or fit, by thy grace and good Spirit, either that they may so pray as thou wilt hear, or that they may be made fit to receive the mercies which they desire; which when they are, they shall have their prayers heard. Or, thou wilt confirm or stablish (as this verb is oft used) their heart, to bear their present pressures, and to wait upon and hope and trust in thee for deliverance, until thou seest fit to hear and help them:
Thou wilt cause thine ear to hear in due time, though for a season thou seemest to turn a deaf ear to them. But this and the foregoing verb may be taken as a prayer, future verbs being oft used imperatively; prepare or stablish their hearts, (by giving them support and assurance of help in the time of need, and then,) cause thine ear to hear.
To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.To judge, i.e. to defend them, and give sentence for them, and against their enemies, as this word is used, Deu 32:36 Psalm 7:8 135:14.
The man of the earth, i.e. earthly and mortal men, who are made of the dust, and must return to it, such as the oppressors of thy people are; who yet presume most audaciously and madly to contend with thee their Maker and Judge. Therefore it is time for thee to repress such insolency, and to show how unable they are to stand before thee.
May no more oppress, to wit, the fatherless last mentioned.