Psalm 15:3
He that backbites not with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor.
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(3) He that backbiteth not.—Literally, he has not footed it on his tongue. Very expressive of those who go about from house to house carrying tittle- tattle. (Comp. 1Timothy 5:13.)

Reproach.—The Hebrew word has a striking derivation. Properly, the stripping of the trees of autumn fruit; so, stripping honour and reputation from a person. Two different words are in the Hebrew for “neighbour.” Translate, “Who does no ill to his friend, nor carries a reproach against his neighbour.” The marginal receiveth, or endureth, is quite against the context.

Psalm 15:3. He backbites not with his tongue — Doth not use his tongue to calumniate, or detract from the reputation of any one; speaks evil of no man, nor makes the faults of others the subject of his conversation, much less of his sport or ridicule, nor speaks of them with pleasure, nor at all but for edification. Nor doeth evil — Any hurt or injury, willingly or designedly, to his neighbour — That is, any man; doth nothing to offend or grieve his spirit, to prejudice the health or ease of his body, to injure him in his estate or secular concerns, in his family or relations; but makes conscience of doing as he would be done by. Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour — Namely, into his lips or mouth: doth not raise it, or spread and propagate it, or even believe it, without sufficient reason.15:1-5 The way to heaven, if we would be happy, we must be holy. We are encouraged to walk in that way. - Here is a very serious question concerning the character of a citizen of Zion. It is the happiness of glorified saints, that they dwell in the holy hill; they are at home there, they shall be for ever there. It concerns us to make it sure to ourselves that we have a place among them. A very plain and particular answer is here given. Those who desire to know their duty, will find the Scripture a very faithful director, and conscience a faithful monitor. A citizen of Zion is sincere in his religion. He is really what he professes to be, and endeavours to stand complete in all the will of God. He is just both to God and man; and, in speaking to both, speaks the truth in his heart. He scorns and abhors wrong and fraud; he cannot reckon that a good bargain, nor a saving one, which is made with a lie; and knows that he who wrongs his neighbour will prove, in the end, to have most injured himself. He is very careful to do hurt to no man. He speaks evil of no man, makes not others' faults the matter of his common talk; he makes the best of every body, and the worst of nobody. If an ill-natured story be told him, he will disprove it if he can; if not, it goes no further. He values men by their virtue and piety. Wicked people are vile people, worthless, and good for nothing; so the word signifies. He thinks the worse of no man's piety for his poverty and mean condition. He reckons that serious piety puts honour upon a man, more than wealth, or a great name. He honours such, desires their conversation and an interest in their prayers, is glad to show them respect, or do them a kindness. By this we may judge of ourselves in some measure. Even wise and good men may swear to their own hurt: but see how strong the obligation is, a man must rather suffer loss to himself and his family, than wrong his neighbour. He will not increase his estate by extortion, or by bribery. He will not, for any gain, or hope of it to himself, do any thing to hurt a righteous cause. Every true living member of the church, like the church itself, is built upon a Rock. He that doeth these things shall not be moved for ever. The grace of God shall always be sufficient for him. The union of these tempers and this conduct, can only spring from repentance for sin, faith in the Saviour, and love to him. In these respects let us examine and prove our own selves.He that backbiteth not with his tongue - The word "backbite" means to censure; slander; reproach; speak evil of. The Hebrew word - רגל râgal - a verb formed from the word foot, means properly "to foot it," and then "to go about." Then it means to go about as a tale-bearer or slanderer; to circulate reports unfavorable to others. It is not improperly rendered here "backbite;" and the idea is, that it is essential to true piety that one should "not" be a slanderer, or should "not" circulate evil reports in regard to others. On the use of the "tongue," see the note at James 3:2-11.

Nor doeth evil to his neighbor - That does his neighbor no harm. This refers to injury in any way, whether by word or deed. The idea is, that the man who will be admitted to dwell on the holy hill of Zion, the man who is truly religious, is one who does no injury to anyone; who always does that which is right to others. The word "neighbor" usually refers to one who resides near us; and their it denotes all persons who are near to us in the sense that we have business relations with them; all persons with whom we have anything to do. It is used in this sense here as referring to our dealings with other persons.

Nor taketh up a reproach - Margin, "or receiveth," or, "endureth." The idea is that of "taking up," or receiving as true, or readily giving credit to it. He is slow to believe evil of another. He does not grasp at it greedily as if he had pleasure in it. He does not himself originate such a reproach, nor does he readily and cheerfully credit it when it is stated by others. If he is constrained to believe it, it is only because the evidence becomes so strong that he cannot resist it, and his believing it is contrary to all the desires of is heart. This is true religion every where; but this is contrary to the conduct of no small part of the world. There are large classes of persons to whom nothing is more acceptable than reproachful accusations of others, and who embrace no reports more readily than they do those which impute bad conduct or bad motives to them. Often there is nothing more marked in true conversion than the change which is produced in this respect. He who delighted in gossip and in slanderous reports of others; who found pleasure in the alleged failings and errors of his neighbors; who gladly lent a listening ear to the first intimations of this kind, and who cheerfully contributed his influence in giving circulation to such things, augmenting such reports as they passed through his hands - now sincerely rejoices on hearing everybody well spoken of, and does all that can be done consistently with truth to check such reports, and to secure to every man a good name.

3. He neither slanders nor spreads slander. He doth not take away or diminish his neighbour’s good name, either by denying him his due praises, or by laying any thing to his charge falsely, or without sufficient cause and evidence;

nor doeth evil, i.e. any hurt or injury, to his neighbour, i.e. to any man; as is evident,

1. From the nature of this precept, which reacheth to all, it being plain and certain that, both by laws of nature and of Moses, it was not. lawful to do evil to any man, except where God the Sovereign commanded it, as he did to the Canaanites and Amalekites.

2. From the Scripture usage of this word neighbour, which frequently signifies every man, though a stranger or a heathen, as appears from Genesis 29:4 Exodus 20:10,17 Le 18:20 19:15, &c.; Proverbs 25:8,9 Lu 10:20, &c.; Matthew 5:43,44. And he useth this word neighbour, because he who is strictly so is most within our reach, and most liable to the injuries which one man doth to another.

Nor taketh up, to wit, into his lips or mouth, which is understood here, as also Exodus 20:7 Job 4:2, and fully expressed Psalm 16:4 50:16, i.e. doth not raise it, though that may seem to be included in the first clause, that backbiteth not; or doth not spread and propagate it; which men are too prone and ready to do, and which makes that a public which before was but a private injury and mischief. Or, nor taketh or receiveth, i.e. entertaineth it cheerfully and greedily, as men usually do such things, and easily believeth it without sufficient reason. See Exodus 23:1 Leviticus 19:16. Or, nor beareth or endureth, as this phrase signifies, Psalm 69:7 Ezekiel 36:15. He doth not suffer another to defame him without some rebuke or signification of his dislike, Proverbs 25:23. He that backbiteth not with his tongue,.... Is not a slanderer, a defamer, a tale bearer; a backbiter is one who privately, secretly, behind a man's back speaks evil of him, devours and destroys his credit and reputation: the word here used comes from which signifies the "foot", and denotes such a person who goes about from house to house, speaking things he should not, 1 Timothy 5:13; and a word from this root signifies spies; and the phrase here may point at such persons who creep into houses, pry into the secrets of families, and divulge them, and oftentimes represent them in a false light. Such are ranked amongst the worst of men, and are very unfit to be in the society of the saints, or in a church of Christ; see Romans 1:30, 2 Corinthians 12:20;

nor doeth evil to his neighbour: to any man whatever, good or bad, friend or foe, whether in a natural, civil, or spiritual relation, either by words or deeds, to his person, property, or good name;

nor taketh up, a reproach against his neighbour; does not raise any scandalous report on him himself, nor will he bear to hear one from another, much less will he spread one; nor will he suffer one to lie upon his neighbour, but will do all he can to vindicate him, and clear his character.

He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
3. In the preceding verse the present participle is used; but here the perfect tense, describing how his actual behaviour has been governed by the principles of truth and justice.

He that hath had no slander on his tongue,

Nor done evil to his fellow,

Nor taken up reproach against his neighbour.

Neighbour in A.V. represents two different words. Friend (R.V.) however is somewhat too strong for the first, which denotes anyone with whom he is associated in the intercourse of life. The general sense of the last line is clear. He has not made his neighbour’s faults or misfortunes the object of his ridicule or sarcasm (Psalm 69:20). The precise meaning is however not quite certain. Either (1) uttered reproach, or (2) taken up, and given currency to, what might otherwise have lain unheeded; or (3), as is most probable, loaded his neighbour with reproach, adding to the burden of his trouble (Psalm 69:7).Verse 3. - He that backbiteth not with his tongue. Among the negative virtues the first place is given to the observance of the ninth commandment, probably because to err in this respect is so very common a fault (see Jeremiah 6:28; Jeremiah 9:4; James 3:5-8). Nor doeth evil to his neighbour; rather, to his friend, or his companion - a different word from that used at the end of the verse, and implying greater intimacy. There is special wickedness in injuring one with whom we are intimate. Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour. The good man does not, even when it is true, spread an ill report concerning his neighbour. He prefers to keep silence, and let the report die out (see Exodus 33:1). Thus utterly cheerless is the issue of the divine scrutiny. It ought at least to have been different in Israel, the nation of the positive revelation. But even there wickedness prevails and makes God's purpose of mercy of none effect. The divine outburst of indignation which the psalmist hears here, is applicable to the sinners in Israel. Also in Isaiah 3:13-15 the Judge of the world addresses Himself to the heads of Israel in particular. This one feature of the Psalm before us is raised to the consistency of a special prophetic picture in the Psalm of Asaph, Psalm 82:1-8. That which is here clothed in the form of a question, הלא ידעוּ, is reversed into an assertion in Psalm 82:5 of that Psalm. It is not to be translated: will they not have to feel (which ought to be ידעוּ); but also not as Hupfeld renders it: have they not experienced. "Not to know" is intended to be used as absolutely in the signification non sapere, and consequently insipientem esse, as it is in Psalm 82:5; Psalm 73:22; Psalm 92:7; Isaiah 44:18, cf. 9, Isaiah 45:20, and frequently. The perfect is to be judged after the analogy of novisse (Ges. 126, 3), therefore it is to be rendered: have they attained to no knowledge, are they devoid of all knowledge, and therefore like the brutes, yea, according to Isaiah 1:2-3 even worse than the brutes, all the workers of iniquity? The two clauses which follow are, logically at least, attributive clauses. The subordination of אכלוּ לחם to the participle as a circumstantial clause in the sense of כּאכל לחם is syntactically inadmissible; neither can אכלו לחם, with Hupfeld, be understood of a brutish and secure passing away of life; for, as Olshausen, rightly observes אכל לחם does not signify to feast and carouse, but simply to eat, take a meal. Hengstenberg correctly translates it "who eating my people, eat bread," i.e., who think that they are not doing anything more sinful, - indeed rather what is justifiable, irreproachable and lawful to them, - than when they are eating bread; cf. the further carrying out of this thought in Micah 3:1-3 (especially Micah 3:3 extr.: "just as in the pot and as flesh within the caldron."). Instead of לא קראוּ ה Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 10:21 (cf. however, Jeremiah 10:25): לא דרשׁוּ ואת־ה. The meaning is like that in Hosea 7:7. They do not pray as it becomes man who is endowed with mind, therefore they are like cattle, and act like beasts of prey.
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