Psalm 120:3
What shall be given to you? or what shall be done to you, you false tongue?
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(3) What shall . . .?—Literally, What will he give to thee, and what will he add to thee, deceitful tongue? where it is better, as in the Authorised Version, to take the subject as indefinite, and so render by the passive. Thus we get in substance the following question: “What more can be added to thee (i.e., in the way of epithet), besides lying and false, thou deceitful tongue?” the answer is given by suggesting the usual metaphors of malicious speech, “the warrior’s sharpened arrows” (Jeremiah 9:8; Psalm 57:4); “fire” (James 3:6). Only here both images are elaborated. For the Hebrew word give with the sense of comparison, see 1Samuel 1:16, “Count (Heb., give) not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial.” Gesenius compares the use of the Greek τιθένμι, instead of νομίζειν. So, too, the word “add” has a similar sense (1Kings 10:7; see margin).

120:1-4 The psalmist was brought into great distress by a deceitful tongue. May every good man be delivered from lying lips. They forged false charges against him. In this distress, he sought God by fervent prayer. God can bridle their tongues. He obtained a gracious answer to this prayer. Surely sinners durst not act as they do, if they knew, and would be persuaded to think, what will be in the end thereof. The terrors of the Lord are his arrows; and his wrath is compared to burning coals of juniper, which have a fierce heat, and keep fire very long. This is the portion of the false tongue; for all that love and make a lie, shall have their portion in the lake that burns eternally.What shall be given unto thee? - Margin, "What shall the deceitful tongue give unto thee;" or, "what shall it profit thee?" Luther, "What can the false tongue do?" Others render this, "How will God punish thee?" Others, "What will he (God) give to thee?" That is, What recompence can you expect from God for these malignant calumnies? A literal translation of this verse would be, "What shall the tongue of deceit give to thee, and what shall it add to thee?" - referring to the offender himself. The essential idea is, What will be the result of such conduct? What must be expected to follow from it? That is, either

(a) from the unprofitableness of such a course; or

(b) from the natural consequences to one's reputation and happiness; or

(c) from the judgment of God.

The answer to these questions is found in Psalm 120:4.

Or what shall be done unto thee? - Margin, as in Hebrew, "added." What must be the consequence of this? what will follow?

Thou false tongue - This may be either an address to the tongue itself, or, as above, the word "tongue" may be used as the nominative to the verbs in the sentence. The sense is not materially affected either way.

2, 3. Slander and deceit charged on his foes implies his innocence.

tongue—as in Ps 52:2, 4.

What shall be given unto thee, whosoever thou art who art guilty of these practices? He applies himself severally to the consciences of every one of them. Or he designs Doeg or some other person in Saul’s court eminent for this wickedness. The sense may be this, It is true, thou dost me some mischief; but what benefit dost thou get by it, if all thy accounts be cast up? For although thou mayst thereby obtain some favour and advantage from Saul, yet thou wilt assuredly bring upon thyself the curse and vengeance of God; and then thou wilt be no gainer by the bargain. And to do mischief to another without benefit to thyself, is an inhuman and diabolical wickedness. What shall be given unto thee?.... Or, "what shall it give unto thee?" (s) That is, what shall the deceitful tongue give unto thee, O my soul? or to thee, to anyone that hears and reads this psalm? It is capable of giving thee a deal of trouble, of doing thee a deal of mischief; and of injuring thy character, and hurting thy peace and comfort, if permitted;

or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? or, "what shall the false tongue add unto thee?" (t) it shall increase thy sorrows and distress: or rather, what gain, profit, and advantage, shall the deceitful tongue get to itself by its lies and deceit? none at all; it may do harm to others, but gets no good to itself; see Isaiah 28:15; Or, "what shall he (God) give unto thee?" (u) or, "what shall he add unto thee, thou false tongue?" so Jarchi. What punishment will not he inflict upon thee, who hates lying lips? what plagues will not he add unto thee, who knows all the deceit that is in thee, and spoken by thee? The answer is as follows:

(s) "quid dabit tibi", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus, Gejerus; so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (t) "et quid addet tibi", Montanus, Castalio; so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius. (u) "Quid inferat tibi (Deus) aut quem rem adhibeat tibi, O lingua dolosa?" Tigurine version.

What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou {c} false tongue?

(c) He assured himself that God would turn their craft to their own destruction.

3, 4. What should he give thee, and what should he add to thee, thou deceitful tongue? Arrows of a warrior sharpened, with glowing coals of broom. The tongue, or rather its owner, is addressed. God is the subject of the verbs, and the form of expression is suggested by the familiar formula, “So God do to thee and more also” (1 Samuel 3:17), lit. “So shall God do to thee and so shall he add.” Psalm 120:4 is the answer to the question. The just retribution which is to overtake the deceitful man is described in terms suggested by his offence (cp. Psalm 7:12 ff.). He has shot his arrows of slander or false accusation at the innocent, but a mightier than he, even God Himself, will pierce him with the arrows of His judgement: he has kindled the fire of strife by his falsehoods, but the lightnings of Divine wrath will consume him. For the comparison of the evil tongue to a bow which shoots arrows of falsehood see Jeremiah 9:3; Proverbs 26:18 f.; cp. too Jeremiah 9:8, “Their tongue is a murderous arrow”: its power of mischief is described as fire in Proverbs 16:27 (cp. James 3:6). Glowing coals are a metaphor for Divine judgements in Psalm 140:10.

This is the simplest and most natural explanation. Several other explanations have however been proposed, e.g. (1) “What profit will thy false tongue bring thee, O slanderer? It is as sharp arrows” &c., but this seems to lack point. (2) Others suppose that God is addressed and that the tongue is the subject of the sentence: “What profit can the deceitful tongue bring to Thee?”—a sarcastic question, like that in Job 10:3 ff. Can it be that Jehovah tolerates the deceitful man, because thereby He gains some advantage? Psalm 120:4 will then be an equally sarcastic answer. The gain that accrues from his existence is mischief and strife. But apart from grammatical difficulties, such an idea is unsuited to the context.

coals of juniper] Heb. rôthem, broom, from which the Arabs still manufacture charcoal of the finest quality, which makes the hottest fire and retains heat for the longest time.Verse 3. - What shall be given unto thee? rather, what shall he (i.e. God) give to thee? Or, in other words - What punishment will God inflict on thee for thy false speaking? Or what shall be done unto thee? literally, or what shall he add to thee? Compare the common phrase, "God do so unto me, and more also" (1 Samuel 3:17; 1 Samuel 14:44). Thou false tongue. The "false tongue" is apostrophized, as if it were a living person. The eightfold Tav. May God answer this his supplication as He has heard his praise, and interest Himself on behalf of His servant, the sheep that is exposed to great danger. The petitions "give me understanding" and "deliver me" go hand-in-hand, because the poet is one who is persecuted for the sake of his faith, and is just as much in need of the fortifying of his faith as of deliverance from the outward restraint that is put upon him. רנּה is a shrill audible prayer; תּחנּה, a fervent and urgent prayer. ענה, prop. to answer, signifies in Psalm 119:172 to begin, strike up, attune (as does ἀποκρίνεσθαι also sometimes). According to the rule in Psalm 50:23 the poet bases his petition for help upon the purpose of thankful praise of God and of His word. Knowing how to value rightly what he possesses, he is warranted in further supplicating and hoping for the good that he does not as yet possess. The "salvation" for which he longs (תּאב as in Psalm 119:40, Psalm 119:20) is redemption from the evil world, in which the life of his own soul is imperilled. May then God's judgments (defective plural, as in Psalm 119:43, Psalm 119:149, which the Syriac only takes a singular) succour him (יעזּרני, not יעזרני). God's hand, Psalm 119:173, and God's word afford him succour; the two are involved in one another, the word is the medium of His hand. After this relationship of the poet to God's word, which is attested a hundredfold in the Psalm, it may seem strange that he can say of himself תּעיתי כּשׂה אבד; and perhaps the accentuation is correct when it does not allow itself to be determined by Isaiah 53:6, but interprets: If I have gone astray - seek Thou like a lost sheep Thy servant. שׂה אבד is a sheep that is lost (cf. אבדים as an appellation of the dispersion, Isaiah 27:13) and in imminent danger of total destruction (cf. Psalm 31:13 with Leviticus 26:38). In connection with that interpretation which is followed by the interpunction, Psalm 119:176 is also more easily connected with what precedes: his going astray is no apostasy; his home, to which he longs to return when he has been betrayed into by-ways, is beside the Lord.
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