Psalm 55:15
Let death seize on them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(15) Let death.—According to the written text we should render desolations upon them. Here we have another sudden outburst of overmastering feeling.

Quicki.e., alive, perhaps with reminiscence of the fate of Korah. (Comp. Proverbs 1:12.)

Hell.Sheôl. (See Note Psalm 6:5.)

And among them.—The conjunction is unnecessary. Render, in their dwellings, in their very midst.

Psalm 55:15. Let death seize upon them — Hebrew, ישׁי מות עלימו, jashi maveth gnaleemo, which Cocceius renders, death will exact the debt with usury, a version which, as Dr. Chandler well remarks, preserves the propriety of the original verb, and greatly adds to the force of the expression. The verb is in the future tense, and therefore should not be rendered as an execration; for it only points out what would be the punishment of such perfidy and wickedness. And let them go down, &c. — Hebrew, ירדו שׁאול חיים, jeeredu sheol chiim, they shall descend alive into hades, or into the grave, for the word, as has been observed before, may mean either. Thou wilt cut off, by a sudden and violent death, him, and all such false-hearted and hypocritical wretches, that pretend to religion with a wicked design, and now have manifestly apostatized both from the profession and practice of it. This was awfully verified by the event, as Ahithophel hanged himself, and went down, as it were, alive into hades. Wickedness is in their dwelling — במגורם, bimguram, in the place where they sojourn. They carry their wickedness along with them from place to place, and leave the impressions and effects of it wheresoever they come. And among them — Hebrew, בקרבם, bekirbam, in their inwards. Wickedness is deeply rooted in their hearts, and it breaks forth in all their houses and actions.55:9-15 No wickedness so distresses the believer, as that which he witnesses in those who profess to be of the church of God. Let us not be surprised at the corruptions and disorders of the church on earth, but long to see the New Jerusalem. He complains of one that had been very industrious against him. God often destroys the enemies of the church by dividing them. And an interest divided against itself cannot long stand. The true Christian must expect trials from professed friends, from those with whom he has been united; this will be very painful; but by looking unto Jesus we shall be enabled to bear it. Christ was betrayed by a companion, a disciple, an apostle, who resembled Ahithophel in his crimes and doom. Both were speedily overtaken by Divine vengeance. And this prayer is a prophecy of the utter, the everlasting ruin, of all who oppose and rebel against the Messiah.Let death seize upon them - This would be more correctly rendered, "Desolations (are) upon them!" That is, Desolation, or destruction will certainly come upon them. There is in the original no necessary expression of a wish or prayer that this might be, but it is rather the language of certain assurance - the expression of a fact - that such base conduct - such wickedness - would make their destruction certain; that as God is just, they must be overwhelmed with ruin. Injury is sometimes done in the translation of the Scriptures by the insertion of a wish or prayer, where all that is necessarily implied in the original is the statement of a fact. This has been caused here by the somewhat uncertain meaning of the word which is used in the original. That phrase is ישׁימות yaśimâveth. It occurs nowhere else. Our translators understood it (as the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and Luther do) as made up of two words. More correctly, however, it is to be regarded as one word, meaning "desolations," or "destructions." So Gesenius (Lexicon), Rosenmuller, and Prof. Alexander understand it.

And let them go down quick into hell - "Alive," or "living," for that is the meaning of the word "quick" here - חיים chayiym - as it commonly is in the Scriptures. Compare Leviticus 13:10; Numbers 16:30; Acts 10:42; 2 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 4:5. The word "hell" is rendered in the margin "the grave." The original word is "sheol," and means here either the grave, or the abode of departed spirits. See the notes at Isaiah 14:9; notes at Job 10:21-22. There is a harshness in the translation of the term here which is unnecessary, as the word "hell" with us now uniformly refers to the place of punishment for the wicked beyond death. The meaning here, however, is not that they would be consigned to wrath, but that they would be cut off from the land of the living. The idea is that their destruction might be as sudden as if the earth were to open, and they were to descend alive into the chasm. Probably there is an implied allusion here to the manner in which the company of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram was destroyed, Numbers 16:31-33. Compare Psalm 106:17.

For wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them - Wickedness abounds in all their transactions. It is in their houses, and in their hearts. This is mentioned as a reason why they should be cut off and consigned to the grave. It is the reason why people are cut down at all; it is often a fact that wicked people are most manifestly cut down for their sins. And because it will be better for the community that the wicked should be punished than that they should escape, so there is no evidence that David cherished malice or ill-will in his heart. See General Introduction, Section 6 (5).

15. Let death, &c.—or, "Desolations are on them."

let them go—literally, "they will go."

quick—or, living in the midst of life, death will come (compare Nu 16:33).

among them—or, "within them," in their hearts (Ps 5:9; 49:11).

15 Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.

Not thus would Jesus pray, but the rough soldier David so poured out the anguish of his spirit, under treachery and malice seldom equalled and altogether unprovoked. The soldier, as such, desires the overthrow of his foes, for this very end he fights; and viewed as a matter of law and justice, David was right in his wish; he was waging a just, defensive war against men utterly regardless of truth and justice. Read the words as a warrior's imprecation. "Let death seize upon them." Traitors such as these deserve to die, there is no living with them, earth is polluted by their tread; if spies are shot, much more these sneaking villains. "Let them go down quick into hell." While in the rigour of life into sheol let them sink, let them suddenly exchange the enjoyment of the quick or living of the dead. There is, however, no need to read this verse as an imprecation, it is rather a confident expectation or prophecy: God would, he was sure, desolate them, and cast them out of the land of the living into the regions of the dead. "For wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them." They are too bad to be spared, for their houses are dens of infamy, and their hearts fountains of mischief. They are a pest to the commonwealth, a moral plague, a spiritual pestilence, to be stamped out by the laws of men and the providence of God. Both Ahithophel and Judas soon ended their own lives; Absalom was hanged in the oak, and the rebels perished in the wood in great numbers. There is justice in the universe, love itself demands it; pity to rebels against God, as such, is no virtue - we pray for them as creatures, we abhor them as enemies of God. We need in these days far more to guard against the disguised iniquity which sympathises with evil, and counts punishment to be cruelty, than against the harshness of a former age. We have steered so far from Scylla that Charybdis is absorbing us.

Them, i.e. him and all such false-hearted wretches, that pretended religion with wicked design, and now have manifestly apostatized, both from the profession and practice of it, and fallen into all manner of wickedness; for such are the vilest of men, and most obnoxious to the curse of God.

Into hell; or, into the grave; cut them off by a sudden and violent death, as thou didst those Numbers 16:32. But these imprecations used by inspired persons in extraordinary cases is no precedent for our imitation.

Their dwellings; or, where they sojourn. They carry their wickedness along with them from place to place, and leave the impressions and effects of it wheresoever they come.

Among them, Heb. in their inwards. Wickedness is deeply rooted in their hearts, and it breaks forth in all their houses and actions. Let death seize upon them,.... Ahithophel and his accomplices, Judas and the men with him; as a mighty man, as the king of terrors, and shake them to pieces. Or, "let him exact upon them" (a); as a creditor upon the debtor, and demand the debt of punishment for sin: or let him come upon them at an unawares; let them not die a natural, but a violent death. The Targum mentions Doeg and Ahithophel;

and let them, go down quick into hell: as Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, went down quick or alive into the earth; so let these men die, and descend into the grave, in their full strength; and accordingly Absalom and Ahithophel died sudden and violent deaths, 2 Samuel 17:23; and so did Judas, Matthew 27:5; and the beast and false prophet, another part of the antitype, will be taken and cast alive into the lake of fire, Revelation 19:20;

for wickedness is in their dwellings; and dwells in them; wherever they go or sojourn, this goes and abides with them, being the reigning principle in their hearts and lives;

and among them; in the midst of them; their inward part is very wickedness. The Targum is, "in their bodies". But rather the sense is, in their hearts; wickedness was both in their houses and in their hearts, and is the reason of the imprecation on them; which arises not from a revengeful spirit, but from a zeal for the glory of God; and is to be considered as a prophecy of what would be, and not to be drawn into an example for private Christians to act by.

(a) "exigat debitum", Pagninus; "aget vel agat exactorem", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Gejerus, Amama.

Let death seize upon them, and let them {l} go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.

(l) As Korah, Dathan and Abiram.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. The mournful recollections of past friendships so cruelly outraged give way to a fierce invocation of vengeance, and the individual disappears behind the whole body of the Psalmist’s enemies. It will be noted that he avoids any personal execration of his old friend.

Let death &c.] The consonants of the written text must be rendered, Desolations be upon them! but the word for desolations is one which only occurs in the name of a place (Beth-jeshimoth) and is not a natural word to apply to persons; and the marginal reading, with which all the Ancient Versions agree, should certainly be followed in its division of the consonants into two words. Render, Let death come upon them unawares. In this and in the next line, Let them go down alive into Sheol, there may be an allusion to the fate of Korah and his company of rebels (Numbers 16:30; Numbers 16:33). Let them be overtaken in the midst of their villany by a sudden and premature death, which will be a visible judgement on their crimes. Cp. Psalm 35:8; and Psalm 124:3; Proverbs 1:12. Quick in A.V. regularly retains its old meaning alive. Sheol (A.V. hell) is not the place of torment, but the abode of the departed, the O.T. equivalent of Hades, by which it is rendered in the LXX. See note on Psalm 6:5.

for wickedness &c.] For wickedness (lit. evils) is in their dwelling, in the midst of them (lit. in their inward part). Evil of every kind finds a home, not only in their dwellings, but in their hearts.Verse 15. - Let death seize upon them. As this strophe begins (ver. 9), so it ends, with an imprecation. The psalmist calls on God to bring destruction upon the whole mass of his enemies. Of the two readings in the original, the one adopted by our translators seems the best, "Let death come suddenly upon them." Let them go down quick (i.e. alive) into hell. There is an allusion to the fate of Korah and his company (Numbers 16:30-33), who "went down quick into the pit;" but probably the psalmist neither expected nor desired a literal fulfilment of his imprecation. The deaths of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:23) and Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14, 15), and of so many of Absalom's followers (2 Samuel 18:7, 8), were quite a sufficient fulfilment. For wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them. (comp. vers. 3, 9-11). In the second group anger is the prevailing feeling. In the city all kinds of party passions have broken loose; even his bosom friend has taken a part in this hostile rising. The retrospective reference to the confusion of tongues at Babel which is contained in the word פּלּג (cf. Genesis 10:25), also in remembrance of בּלל (Genesis 11:1-9), involves the choice of the word בּלּע, which here, after Isaiah 19:3, denotes a swallowing up, i.e., annihilation by means of confounding and rendering utterly futile. לשׁונם is the object to both imperatives, the second of which is פּלּג (like the pointing usual in connection with a final guttural) for the sake of similarity of sound. Instead of חמס וריב, the pointing is חמס וריב, which is perfectly regular, because the וריב with a conjunctive accent logically hurries on to בּעיר as its supplement.

(Note: Certain exceptions, however, exist, inasmuch as ו sometimes remains even in connection with a disjunctive accent, Isaiah 49:4; Jeremiah 40:10; Jeremiah 41:16; and it is pointed ו in connection with a conjunctive in Genesis 45:23; Genesis 46:12; Leviticus 9:3; Micah 2:11; Job 4:16; Ecclesiastes 4:8.)

The subjects to Psalm 55:11 are not violence and strife (Hengstenberg, Hitzig), for it is rather a comical idea to make these personified run round about upon the city walls; but (cf. Psalm 59:7, Psalm 59:15) the Absalomites, and in fact the spies who incessantly watch the movements of David and his followers, and who to this end roam about upon the heights of the city. The narrative in 2 Samuel 15 shows how passively David looked on at this movement, until he abandoned the palace of his own free will and quitted Jerusalem The espionage in the circuit of the city is contrasted with the movements going on within the city itself by the word בּקרב. We are acquainted with but few details of the affair; but we can easily fill in the details for ourselves in accordance with the ambitious, base, and craftily malicious character of Absalom. The assertion that deceit (מרמה) and the extremest madness had taken possession of the city is confirmed in Psalm 55:13 by כּי. It is not open enemies who might have had cause for it that are opposed to him, but faithless friends, and among them that Ahithophel of Giloh, the scum of perfidious ingratitude. The futures ואשּׂא and ואסּתר are used as subjunctives, and ו is equivalent to alioqui, as in Psalm 51:18, cf. Job 6:14. He tells him to his face, to his shame, the relationship in which he had stood to him whom he now betrays. Psalm 55:14 is not to be rendered: and thou art, etc., but: and thou (who dost act thus) wast, etc.; for it is only because the principal clause has a retrospective meaning that the futures נמתּיק and נהלּך describe what was a custom in the past. The expression is designedly אנושׁ כּערכּי and not אישׁ כערכי; David does not make him feel his kingly eminence, but places himself in the relation to him of man to man, putting him on the same level with himself and treating him as his equal. The suffix of כערכי is in this instance not subjective as in the כערכך of the law respecting the asham or trespass-offering: according to my estimation, but objectively: equal to the worth at which I am estimated, that is to say, equally valued with myself. What heart-piercing significance this word obtains when found in the mouth of the second David, who, although the Son of God and peerless King, nevertheless entered into the most intimate human relationship as the Son of man to His disciples, and among them to that Iscariot! אלּוּף from אלף, Arabic alifa, to be accustomed to anything, assuescere, signifies one attached to or devoted to any one; and מידּא, according to the Hebrew meaning of the verb ידע, an intimate acquaintance. The first of the relative clauses in Psalm 55:15 describes their confidential private intercourse; the second the unrestrained manifestation of it in public. סוד here, as in Job 19:19 (vid., supra on Psalm 25:14). המתּיק סוד, to make friendly intercourse sweet, is equivalent to cherishing it. רגשׁ stands over against סוד, just like סוד, secret counsel, and רגשׁה, loud tumult, in Psalm 64:3. Here רגשׁ is just the same as that which the Korahitic poet calls המון חוגג in Psalm 42:5.

In the face of the faithless friends who has become the head of the Absalomite faction David now breaks out, in Psalm 55:16, into fearful imprecations. The Chethb is ישׁימות, desolationes (super eos); but this word occurs only in the name of a place ("House of desolations"), and does not well suit such direct reference to persons. On the other hand, the Ker ישּׁיאמות, let death ensnare or impose upon them, gives a sense that is not to be objected to; it is a pregnant expression, equivalent to: let death come upon them unexpectedly. To this ישּׁיא corresponds the חיּים of the second imprecation: let them go down alive into Hades (שׁאול, perhaps originally שׁאולה, the ה of which may have been lost beside the ח that follows), i.e., like the company of Korah, while their life is yet vigorous, that is to say, let them die a sudden, violent death. The drawing together of the decipiat (opprimat) mors into one word is the result of the ancient scriptio continua and of the defective mode of writing, ישּׁי, like יני, Psalm 141:5, אבי, 1 Kings 21:29. Bttcher renders it differently: let death crash in upon them; but the future form ישּׁי equals ישׁאה from שׁאה equals שׁאי is an imaginary one, which cannot be supported by Numbers 21:30. Hitzig renders it: let death benumb them (ישּׁים); but this gives an inconceivable figure, with the turgidity of which the trepidantes Manes in Virgil, Aenid viii. 246, do not admit of comparison. In the confirmation, Psalm 55:16, בּמגוּרם, together with the בּקרבּם which follows, does not pretend to be any advance in the thought, whether מגור be rendered a settlement, dwelling, παροικία (lxx, Targum), or an assembly (Aquila, Symmachus, Jerome). Hence Hitzig's rendering: in their shrine, in their breast ( equals ἐν τῷ θησαυρῷ τῆς καρδίας αὐτῶν, Luke 6:45), מגוּרם being short for מגוּרתם in accordance with the love of contraction which prevails in poetry (on Psalm 25:5). But had the poet intended to use this figure he would have written בּמגוּרת קרבם, and is not the assertion that wickedness is among them, that it is at home in them, really a climax? The change of the names of God in Psalm 55:17 is significant. He calls upon Him who is exalted above the world, and He who mercifully interposes in the history of the world helps him.

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