Psalm 57:4
My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
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(4) Them that are set on fire.—Rather, greedy ones (literally, lickers) in apposition to lions. The verse expresses the insecurity of the poet, who, his dwelling being in the midst of foes, must go to sleep every night with the sense of danger all round him. (See LXX.) How grandly the refrain in Psalm 57:8 rises from such a situation.

Psalm 57:4. My soul is among lions — I live in the midst of a generation of fierce and bloody men; I lie — That is, I have my abode; among them that are set on fire — Namely, of, or from hell, James 3:6, who are mere firebrands and incendiaries, that are continually breathing out their wrath and threatenings. Even the sons of men — Whereby he explains what he meant by lions, and tells us that they were beasts in the shape of men; whose teeth — With which they gnash upon me, and with which they would, as it were, tear me to pieces, or eat me up; are spears and arrows — Fitted for mischiefs and murders; and their tongue — With which they wound my reputation, and load me with their curses, is a sharp sword — To cut and give deadly wounds.57:1-6 All David's dependence is upon God. The most eminent believers need often repeat the publican's prayer, God be merciful to me a sinner. But if our souls trust in the Lord, this may assure us, in our utmost dangers, that our calamities will at length be overpast, and in the mean time, by faith and prayer, we must make him our refuge. Though God be most high, yet he condescends so low, as to take care that all things are made to work for good to his people. This is a good reason why we should pray earnestly. Look which way we will on this earth, refuge fails, no help appears; but we may look for it from heaven. If we have fled from the wrath to come, unto Jesus Christ, he that performed all things needful to purchase the salvation of his people, will do for us and in us all things needful for our enjoyment of it. It made David droop to think there should be those that bore him so much ill-will. But the mischief they designed against him, returned on themselves. And when David was in the greatest distress and disgrace, he did not pray, Lord, exalt me, but, Lord, exalt thine own name. Our best encouragement in prayer, is taken from the glory of God, and to that, more than to our own comfort, we should have regard in all our petitions for mercy.My soul is among lions - That is, among people who resemble lions; men, fierce, savage, ferocious.

And I lie even among them that are set on fire - We have a term of similar import in common use now, when we say that one is "inflamed" with passion, referring to one who is infuriated and enraged. So we speak of "burning" with rage or wrath - an expression derived, perhaps, from the inflamed "appearance" of a man in anger. The idea here is not that he "would" lie down calmly among those persons, as Prof. Alexander suggests, but that he actually "did" thus lie down. When he laid himself down at night, when he sought repose in sleep, he was surrounded by such persons, and seemed to be sleeping in the midst of them.

Even the sons of men - Yet they are not wild beasts, but "men" who seem to have the ferocious nature of wild beasts. The phrase, "sons of men," is often used to denote men themselves.

Whose teeth are spears and arrows - Spears and arrows in their hands are what the teeth of wild beasts are.

And their tongue a sharp sword - The mention of the tongue here has reference, probably, to the abuse and slander to which he was exposed, and which was like a sharp sword that pierced even to the seat of life. See the notes at Psalm 55:21.

4. The mingled figures of wild beasts (Ps 10:9; 17:12) and weapons of war (Ps 11:2) heighten the picture of danger.

whose … tongue—or slanders.

I live in the midst of a generation of fierce and bloody men; which both in Scripture and other authors are oft called lions.

I lie, I have my abode and conversation, even among (which particle is easily borrowed out of the foregoing clause)

them that are set on fire, to wit, of or from hell, as is fully expressed, Jam 3:6; who are mere fire-brands and incendiaries, that are continually breathing out their wrath and threatenings, and incensing Saul against me. The sons of men; whereby he explains what he meant by lions, and tells us they were beasts in the shape of men.

Teeth; which may be considered, either,

1. As instruments of destruction, as they are in lions. Or rather,

2. As instruments of speech, as they are in men; for it here follows by way of explication, as the manner is, and their tongue. And both seem to signify their wicked and pernicious calumnies, of which he every where complains, and particularly in the history to which this Psalm seems to relate, 1 Samuel 24:10, and by which they designed to promote his destruction.

Are spears and arrows, i.e. they grievously wound my name, and are devised to do me mischief. My soul is among lions,.... Not literally understood; though such there might be in the wildernesses where he sometimes was; but figuratively, men comparable to lions, for their stoutness, courage, strength, fierceness, and cruelty; meaning not his own men, as some think, who were fierce, and of keen resentment against Saul, and would fain have killed him when he was in the cave, had they not been restrained by David, 1 Samuel 24:4; but Saul, and those with him, who were three thousand chosen men, stout, courageous, fierce, and furious. It is usual in scripture to describe powerful princes, and especially persecuting ones, by the name of lions, Proverbs 28:15. Achilles, in Homer (o), is compared to a lion for his cruelty. The soul of Christ was among such, when he was apprehended by the band of men that came with Judas to take him; when he was in the high priest's hall buffeted and spit upon; and when he was in the common hall of Pilate, surrounded by the Roman soldiers; and when he was encircled on the cross with the crowd of the common people, priests and elders, Matthew 26:55; and so the souls of his people are often among lions, persecuting men, and Satan and his principalities, who is compared to a roaring lion, 1 Peter 5:8; and among whom they are as wonderfully preserved as Daniel in the lion's den;

and I lie even among them that are set on fire; of hell, as the tongue is said to be in James 3:6; by the devil, who stirred up Saul against David, filled him with wrath and fury, so that he breathed out nothing but flaming vengeance, threatening and slaughter, against him; and by wicked men his courtiers, who kindled and stirred up the fire of contention between them; among these incendiaries, as Junius renders the word (p), David was, who inflamed the mind of Saul against him, which he suggests in 1 Samuel 24:10;

even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows; whose words, formed by means of their teeth, were very devouring ones, Psalm 52:4; were very piercing and wounding; calumnies, detractions, and backbitings, speaking against him when absent and at a distance, may be meant; see Proverbs 30:14;

and their tongue a sharp sword; See Gill on Psalm 52:2; and there was a sort of swords called "lingulae", because in the shape of a tongue (q).

(o) Iliad. 24. v. 40, 41. (p) "incendiarios", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "flammantes", Gejerus, Michaelis; so Ainsworth, Cocceius, Vatablus, Musculus. (q) A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 10. c. 25.

My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are {e} spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.

(e) He means their slanderous and false reports.

4. A difficult verse, the text of which is perhaps corrupt. Adhering to the punctuation (in the modern sense) of the Massoretic accents, we may render with R.V.,

My soul is among lions;

I lie among them that are set on fire,

Even the sons of men, &c.

i.e. virtually, as the marg., I must lie, an expression of despondent resignation. But the note of despair is out of harmony with the generally courageous and confident tone of the Psalm; and it is more in accordance with the usual force of the Heb. tense (the ‘cohortative’ or ‘voluntative’) to take I will lie down as expressive of strong resolution:

My soul is among lions;

I will lie down to rest among fiery foes,

Even the sons of men, &c.

Though my life is in momentary danger from savage enemies, I will lie down to rest (cp. Psalm 4:8) among these fiery foes, secure under God’s protection. The Psalm is an evening hymn, for the Psalmist contemplates ‘waking the dawn’ with his praises (Psalm 57:8). He lies down in danger, he awakes in safety: the night of trouble ends in the dawn of deliverance.

Delitzsch, rightly understanding the words as an expression of confidence, thinks that actual wild beasts are meant, among which he feels more secure than among his deadly foes; but this is scarcely probable.

Neglecting the accents we may render somewhat differently, With my life in my hands (so the idiomatic apposition ‘my soul, I’ may be paraphrased) I must lie down (or, I will lie down) among lions: fiery are the sons of men &c.; but the sense will be substantially the same. For lions as a metaphor for fierce and dangerous enemies cp. Psalm 7:2 : Psalm 10:9; Psalm 17:12.

whose teeth] The language is suggested by the comparison of his enemies to lions.

their tongue &c.] The reference may be not so much to slander, as to the blasphemy of which he speaks in Psalm 57:3, which pierces him to the heart. Cp. Psalm 42:10. See also Psalm 52:2 note; Psalm 58:6; Psalm 64:3; Proverbs 30:14.Verse 4. - My soul is among lions (comp. Psalm 7:2; Psalm 10:9; Psalm 17:12; Psalm 22:21, etc.). And I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men - literally, I lie on firebands, sons of men - whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. David occupies the cave (of Adullam?), while around him prowl lion-like men, whose fury is like that of firebrands, who threaten to devour him with their sharp teeth, and to pierce his soul with their cruel tongues. What the poet prays for in Psalm 56:8, he now expresses as his confident expectation with which he solaces himself. נד (Psalm 56:9) is not to be rendered "flight," which certainly is not a thing that can be numbered (Olshausen); but "a being fugitive," the unsettled life of a fugitive (Proverbs 27:8), can really be numbered both by its duration and its many temporary stays here and there. And upon the fact that God, that He whose all-seeing eye follows him into every secret hiding-place of the desert and of the rocks, counteth (telleth) it, the poet lays great stress; for he has long ago learnt to despair of man. The accentuation gives special prominence to נדי as an emphatically placed object, by means of Zarka; and this is then followed by ספרתּה with the conjunctive Galgal and the pausal אתּה with Olewejored (the _ of which is placed over the final letter of the preceding word, as is always the case when the word marked with this double accent is monosyllabic, or dissyllabic and accented on the first syllable). He who counts (Job 31:4) all the steps of men, knows how long David has already been driven hither and thither without any settled home, although free from guilt. He comforts himself with this fact, but not without tears, which this wretched condition forces from him, and which he prays God to collect and preserve. Thus it is according to the accentuation, which takes שׂימה as imperative, as e.g., in 1 Samuel 8:5; but since שׂים, שׂימה ,שׂים, is also the form of the passive participle (1 Samuel 9:24, and frequently, 2 Samuel 13:32), it is more natural, in accordance with the surrounding thoughts, to render it so even in this instance (posita est lacrima mea), and consequently to pronounce it as Milra (Ewald, Hupfeld, Bttcher, and Hitzig). דמעתי (Ecclesiastes 4:1) corresponds chiastically (crosswise) to נדי, with which בנאדך forms a play in sound; and the closing clause הלא בּספרתך unites with ספרתּה in the first member of the verse. Both Psalm 56:9 and Psalm 56:9 are wanting in any particle of comparison. The fact thus figuratively set forth, viz., that God collects the tears of His saints as it were in a bottle, and notes them together with the things which call them forth as in a memorial (Malachi 3:16), the writer assumes; and only appropriatingly applies it to himself. The אז which follows may be taken either as a logical "in consequence of so and so" (as e.g., Psalm 19:14; Psalm 40:8), or as a "then" fixing a turning-point in the present tearful wandering life (viz., when there have been enough of the "wandering" and of the "tears"), or "at a future time" (more abruptly, like שׁם in Psalm 14:5; Psalm 36:13, vid., on Psalm 2:5). בּיום אקרא is not an expansion of this אז, which would trail awkwardly after it. The poet says that one day his enemies will be obliged to retreat, inasmuch as a day will come when his prayer, which is even now heard, will be also outwardly fulfilled, and the full realization of the succour will coincide with the cry for help. By זה־ידעתּי in Psalm 56:10 he justifies this hope from his believing consciousness. It is not to be rendered, after Job 19:19 : "I who know," which is a trailing apposition without any proper connection with what precedes; but, after 1 Kings 17:24 : this I know (of this I am certain), that Elohim is for me. זה as a neuter, just as in connection with ידע in Proverbs 24:12, and also frequently elsewhere (Genesis 6:15; Exodus 13:8; Exodus 30:13; Leviticus 11:4; Isaiah 29:11, cf. Job 15:17); and לי as e.g., in Genesis 31:42. Through Elohim, Psalm 56:11 continues, will I praise דּבר: thus absolutely is the word named; it is therefore the divine word, just like בּר in Psalm 2:12, the Son absolutely, therefore the divine Son. Because the thought is repeated, Elohim stands in the first case and then Jahve, in accordance with the Elohimic Psalm style, as in Psalm 58:7. The refrain in Psalm 56:12 (cf. Psalm 56:5) indicates the conclusion of the strophe. The fact that we read אדם instead of בּשׂר in this instance, just as in Psalm 56:11 דּבר instead of דּברו (Psalm 56:5), is in accordance with the custom in the Psalms of not allowing the refrain to recur in exactly the same form.
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