Psalm 41:6
And if he come to see me, he speaks vanity: his heart gathers iniquity to itself; when he goes abroad, he tells it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) And if he come.—Some one particular individual is here singled out from the body of enemies.

To see.—The usual word for visiting a sick person. (Comp. 2Samuel 13:5; 2Kings 8:29.)

Vanity.—Better, lies. No more vivid picture of an insincere friend could be given. Pretended sympathy lies at the very bedside, while eye and ear are open to catch up anything that can be retailed abroad or turned into mischief, when the necessity of concealment is over.

The scene of the visit of the king to the death-bed of Gaunt in Shakespeare’s King Richard II. illustrates the psalmist’s position, and the poet may even have had this verse in his mind when he wrote.

“Should dying men flatter with those that live

No, no; men living flatter those that die.

41:5-13 We complain, and justly, of the want of sincerity, and that there is scarcely any true friendship to be found among men; but the former days were no better. One particularly, in whom David had reposed great confidence, took part with his enemies. And let us not think it strange, if we receive evil from those we suppose to be friends. Have not we ourselves thus broken our words toward God? We eat of his bread daily, yet lift up the heel against him. But though we may not take pleasure in the fall of our enemies, we may take pleasure in the making vain their designs. When we can discern the Lord's favour in any mercy, personal or public, that doubles it. If the grace of God did not take constant care of us, we should not be upheld. But let us, while on earth, give heartfelt assent to those praises which the redeemed on earth and in heaven render to their God and Saviour.And if he come to see me - If he condescends to visit me in my sickness. The word me is not in the original; and perhaps the idea is not that he came to see the sufferer, but that he came to see "for himself," though under pretence of paying a visit of kindness. His real motive was to make observation, that he might find something in the expressions or manner of the sufferer that would enable him to make a report unfavorable to him, and to confirm him in his impression that it was desirable such a man should die. He would come under the mask of sympathy and friendship, but really to find something that would confirm him in the opinion that he was a bad man, and that would enable him to state to others that it was desirable he should die.

He speaketh vanity - He utters no expressions of sincerity and truth; he suggests nothing that would console and comfort me; his words are all foreign to the purpose for which a man should visit another in such circumstances, and are, therefore, vain words. What he says is mere pretence and hypocrisy, and is designed to deceive me, as if he had sympathy with me, while his real purpose is to do me mischief.

His heart gathereth iniquity to itself - Or, in his heart he is gathering mischief. That is, in his heart, or in his secret purpose, under the pretence of sympathy and friendship, he is really aiming to gather the materials for doing me wrong. He is endeavoring to find something in my words or manner; in my expressions of impatience and complaining; in the utterances of my unguarded moments, when I am scarcely conscious - something that may be uttered in the honesty of feeling when a man thinks that he is about to die - some reflections of my own on my past life - some confession of sin, which he may turn to my disadvantage, or which may justify his slanderous report that I am a bad man, and that it is desirable that such a man should live no longer. Can anything be imagined more malicious than this?

When he goeth abroad, he telleth it - literally, he tells it to the street, or to those who are without. Perhaps his friends, as malicious as himself, are anxiously waiting without for his report, and, like him, are desirous of finding something that may confirm them in their opinion of him. Or perhaps he designs to tell this to the friends of the sufferer, to show them now that they were deceived in the man; that although in the days of his health, and in his prosperity, he seemed to be a good man, yet that now, when the trial has come, and a real test has been applied, all his religion has been found false and hollow; his impatience, his complaining, his murmuring, and his unwillingness to die, all showing that he was a hypocrite, and was at heart a bad man. Compare the notes at Job 1:9-11.

6. to see me—as if to spy out my case.

he speaketh … itself—or, "he speaketh vanity as to his heart"—that is, does not speak candidly, "he gathereth iniquity to him," collects elements for mischief, and then divulges the gains of his hypocrisy.

To see me; to visit me in my sickness, according to the custom.

He speaketh vanity, or falsehood; pretending sympathy with me, and friendship to me, whilst they plot mischief in their hearts against me.

His heart gathereth iniquity to itself; even when he is with me, and pretends hearty affection to me, his heart cannot forbear its customary practice of meditating and devising mischief against me; for which he watcheth and seeketh for all occasions from my speeches, or carriage, or the circumstances of my condition, which he observes.

He telleth it, partly to delight his companions, and partly to encourage them to and direct them in their malicious designs against me. And if he come to see me,.... Meaning anyone of his enemies, when they came, as pretended, to pay him a friendly visit. A late learned writer (x) interprets this of Absalom, who visited his father when he had the smallpox, which he thinks, after mentioned, of which his enemies expected he would die, when Absalom pretended great concern for his life; though he, with others, were plotting against him, should he live, to destroy him;

he speaketh vanity; lies and falsehoods, in an hypocritical manner, with a double heart; his mouth and his heart not agreeing together; see Matthew 22:16;

his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; amasses to itself greater treasures of wickedness still, thought that itself is desperately wicked, and very wickedness: this is to be understood of the enemies of Christ observing his words and actions, and laying them up, with a wicked intention, against a proper time;

when he goeth abroad, he telleth it; as in the instances concerning giving tribute to Caesar, destroying the temple, and saying he was the son of God, Matthew 22:17; compared with Luke 23:2; compared with Matthew 26:60, compared with John 19:5.

(x) Delaney's Life of King David, vol. 2. p. 157, 158.

And if he come to see me, he speaketh {e} vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; when he goeth abroad, he telleth it.

(e) For pretending to comfort me, he conspires my death in his heart, and brags of it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. And if one of them comes to see me, he speaketh falsehood. If one of these enemies comes to visit him, as was usual in sickness (2 Kings 8:29), he speaks vanity or falsehood (Psalm 12:2), makes hypocritical professions of sympathy; though all the time his heart it gathering iniquity or mischief; he is collecting materials for fresh slander, or feeding his malice on the sight of the sick man; and then he goeth abroad, he telleth what he has seen.Verse 6. - And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity; rather, he speaketh falsehood (see the comment on Psalm 12:2). It is suggested that Ahithophel is especially aimed at. But there is no proof of this. All the enemies are probably intended, only distributively instead of collectively. His heart gathereth iniquity to itself. Dr. Kay's comment is, "He makes a show of friendship, using hollow compliments; but he is treasuring up every expression as material for misrepresentation." When he goeth abroad, he telleth it. He reports what he has seen and heard, but untruly. On Psalm 40:17 compare Psalm 35:27. David wishes, as he does in that passage, that the pious may most heartily rejoice in God, the goal of their longing; and that on account of the salvation that has become manifest, which they love (2 Timothy 4:8), they may continually say: Let Jahve become great, i.e., be magnified or celebrated with praises! In Psalm 40:17 with ואני he comes back to his own present helpless state, but only in order to contrast with it the confession of confident hope. True he is עני ואביון (as in Psalm 109:22; Psalm 136:1, cf. Psalm 25:16), but He who ruleth over all will care for him: Dominus solicitus erit pro me (Jerome). חשׁב in the same sense in which in Psalm 40:6 the מחשׁבות, i.e., God's thoughts of salvation, is conceived of (cf. the corresponding North-Palestinian expression in Jonah 1:6). A sigh for speedy help (אל־תּאחר, as in Daniel 9:19 with a transition of the merely tone-long Tsere into a pausal Pathach, and here in connection with a preceding closed syllable, Olshausen, 91, d, under the accompanying influence of two final letters which incline towards the a sound) closes this second part of the Psalm. The first part is nothing but thanksgiving, the second is exclusively prayer.
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