Verses 1-5. - The initial prayer and complaint. The prayer occupies one verse only (ver. 1); the complaint four verses (vers. 2-5). Verse 1. - Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise (comp. Psalm 28:1; Psalm 35:22; Psalm 39:12). If God makes no sign when men arc grievously persecuted, he seems to be indifferent to their sufferings. Surely he will not thus treat one who praises him continually (Psalm 22:26; Psalm 71:6).
For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.
Verse 2. - For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful; literally, of deceit - the abstract for the concrete. Are opened against me; literally, hare they opened upon me (Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). They have spoken against ms with a lying tongue (comp. Psalm 27:12; Psalm 35:11). Calumny and misrepresentation are ever the portion of the children of God. David was calumniated by Saul (1 Samuel 22:7-13), by Absalom (2 Samuel 15:3, 4), by Shimei (2 Samuel 16:8), and others. One more perfect than David was even more calumniated (Matthew 11:19; Matthew 12:24; Matthew 26:61; Luke 23:2, etc.).
They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause.
Verse 3. - They compassed me about also with words of hatred. The hatred of the wicked for the good is a plain fact of history, and quite indisputable. "Words of hatred" are less patent, since they are often restrained from prudential considerations. But sometimes free vent is given to them (see 2 Samuel 16:5-8). And fought against me without a cause (comp. Psalm 35:7, 19; Psalm 69:4; Psalm 119:161). Saul's hatred towards David was markedly of this character - un-provoked by either act or word from its object.
For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto prayer.
Verse 4. - For my love they are my adversaries. The tenderness and kindness of the good towards wicked men does not soften them. Rather it provokes them to greater hostility. This was seen clearly in the instance of Saul. But I give myself unto prayer; literally, but I prayer; i.e. "but I am wholly prayer," "I do nothing during their attacks on me but pray for them."
And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love.
Verse 5. - And they have rewarded ms evil for good, and hatred for my love; or, "thus they rewarded me." The verse is a corollary from what has gone before, not anything additional.
Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.
Verses 6-15. - The imprecatory portion of the psalm now begins. It is no doubt true to say, with Tholuck, that "no passion is discernible in the imprecations, dreadful as they are." Clearly the writer is not moved by personal feelings of hostility, but by a spirit of justice, and an intense abhorrence of sin. He delivers a calm judicial sentence. Still, the spirit of Christian love must ever shrink from such utterances, which belong to an earlier and less perfect dispensation (comp. Luke 9:51-56). Verse 6. - Set thou a wicked man over him; i.e. to judge him (see ver. 7). A persecutor deserves to be himself persecuted, an oppressor to be himself oppressed. "Nec lex justior ulla est, Quam necis artifices arte periresua." And let Satan stand at his right hand; rather, an adversary, or an accuser. In courts of justice the accuser stood at the accused person's right hand.
When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.
Verse 7. - When he shall be judged, let him be condemned; literally, let him go forth condemned; Let him quit the court under sentence. And let his prayer become sin. The most terrible of all the imprecations. "Let him even be unable to pray to God acceptably," and so let any prayer that he offers when he is brought low be an additional sin (comp. Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 1:12-15).
Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
Verse 8. - Let his days be few. There were Divine promises that "bloodthirsty and deceitful men" should not "live out half their days," which might naturally be regarded as justifying this wish (see Psalm 55:23; Proverbs 10:27; Ecclesiastes 7:17). And let another take his office. Τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν αὐτοῦ, LXX. Applied by St. Peter to Judas (Acts 1:20).
Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
Verse 9. - Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. Necessary consequences of his own condemnation to death.
Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
Verse 10. - Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg. If it be just that the sins of the fathers be visited upon the children, the psalmist may be regarded as justified in this wish. Still, it is not one that a Christian will readily echo. Let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places. Professor Cheyne corrects דָרְשׁוּ into לֺגּדְשׁוּ, and translates, "Let them be driven from their desolate houses."
Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour.
Verse 11. - Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; rather, the creditor, or the usurer; i.e. the man from whom he has borrowed money. And let the strangers (rather, let foreigners) spoil his labor; i.e. plunder his lands, carry off his crops, and leave him destitute.
Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.
Verse 12. - Let there be none to extend (literally, continue) mercy unto him. In his need, let none of his neighbors continue to show him mercy and loving-kindness. Let them stand aloof, and remain passive, while punishment overtakes him. Neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children. Let them too be suffered to endure the woes which come naturally upon them (see ver. 10) through their father's fault, without any one thinking it necessary, because they arc fatherless, to show them favor.
Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.
Verse 13. - Let his posterity be cut off. If he have children; let them die without offspring; literally, let them be for extinction. And in the generation following let their name be blotted out. This would be the natural result if the preceding wish were accomplished. The family having come to an end, their very name would be soon forgotten (comp. Job 18:18; Psalm 37:28; Proverbs 10:7).
Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
Verse 14. - Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord. Let the threatening of Exodus 20:5 take effect in his case, and the sins of his forefathers be remembered by God, and visited upon him. And let not the sin of his mother be blotted out; i.e. erased from God's remembrance. Let it also be visited on him, as Jezebel's was on her children.
Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.
Verse 15. - Let them be before the Lord continually; i.e. let these sins be present to the mind of God constantly, that he may visit for them constantly, even to the bitter end; and so may cut off the memory of them (i.e. of the original sinners) from the earth (comp. ver. 13).
Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in heart.
Verses 16-20. - A portraiture of the wicked man, who was David's chief adversary at the time, is now given, in explanation, and perhaps in justification, of the numerous and severe anathemas. He was merciless (ver. 16), a persecutor of the poor (ver. 16), given to cursing (vers. 17, 18), and one who spoke evil against the innocent (ver. 20). Verse 16. - Because that he remembered not to show mercy. Saul certainly was a persecutor of this kind - implacable; one whom compassion never touched; who, after he had once become David's enemy, never under any circumstances showed him mercy. But otherwise the description scarcely seems to point to Saul. But persecuted the poor and needy man (see 1 Samuel 18:10; 1 Samuel 19:1, 10, 11; 1 Samuel 20:31; 1 Samuel 23:8, 14, 25; 1 Samuel 24:2; 1 Samuel 26:2-20; 1 Samuel 27:1, etc.). That he might even slay the broken in heart; literally, and the broken in heart (or, yea, the broken in heart) to slay him. It was certainly Saul's object to slay David (1 Samuel 18:11; 1 Samuel 19:1, 10; 1 Samuel 20:1, etc.). It was probably also Ahithophel's (2 Samuel 17:2).
As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.
Verse 17. - As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him; rather, so it came upon him (Revised Version), or so it shall come upon him (LXX., Cheyne). The one of David's enemies who "loved cursing" most was Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5-12). As he de lighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him; rather, so it was, or so it will be, far from him.
As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.
Verse 18. - As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment (comp. Psalm 10:7; Psalm 59:12; Psalm 62:4). Extreme malevolence vents itself in curses, which tend to become frequent, and, so to speak, habitual. So let it come; rather, so it cams, or so it will come. Into his bowels like water. Dr. Kay sees here an allusion to the "water of cursing" which was drunk by the woman whose husband taxed her with unfaithfulness (Numbers 5:22); and so also Hengstenberg. But this is doubtful. Perhaps the mere penetrative power of water is alluded to. See the next clause. And like oil into his bones. The oil, wherewith it was usual to anoint the frame, was believed to penetrate, not only into the tissues, but into the very bones and marrow.
Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
Verse 19. - Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him. Let it cling to him both outwardly and inwardly - inwardly, as the penetrating oil; outwardly, as the everyday dress. And for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually. The "girdle" or "waistcloth" was even more inseparable from the wearer than his beged, his "cloak" or "wrap."
Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul.
Verse 20. - Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the Lord; rather, this is the reward, or the wages. This is what their conduct has earned, and what they have received, or assuredly will receive. And of them that speak evil against my soul (see above, ver. 2).
But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake: because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.
Verses 21-29. - The psalmist now turns to God in prolonged prayer, setting forth his needs (vers. 22-25), and entreating for help (ver. 26), deliverance (ver. 21), blessing (ver. 28), and triumph over his enemies (ver. 29). Verse 21. - But do thou for me; or, "deal thou with me" (see the Revised Version). O God the Lord; literally, Jehovah the Lord, as in Psalm 68:20; Psalm 140:7; Psalm 141:8; Habakkuk 3:19. For thy Name's sake; i.e. suitably to thy Name - according to thy historically manifested attributes. Because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me. A variant echo of the preceding clause (comp. Psalm 69:16).
For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
Verse 22. - For I am poor and needy (comp. ver. 16). David was "poor and needy" both when hunted upon the mountains by Saul, and when forced to flee from Absalom. And my heart is wounded within me. The wound to David's heart was, on the former occasion, from the malignity of Saul; on the latter, especially from the desertion of his "own familiar friend whom he trusted."
I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust.
Verse 23. - I am gone like the shadow when it declineth; rather, lille a shodow (comp. Psalm 102:11). When shadows "decline," they are just about to cease and disappear. I am tossed up and down as the locust; or, "I am carried away" - swept off, i.e., or just ready to be swept off, from the face of the earth (see Exodus 10:19; Joel 2:20; Nahum 3:17).
My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
Verse 24. - My knees are weak through fasting. I have brought myself down to extreme weakness by penitential fasting for my sins (comp. Psalm 35:13; Psalm 69:10). And my flesh faileth of fatness; literally, of oil. In my state of mourning and penitence I have abstained from anointing myself (2 Samuel 14:2), which has still further weakened me.
I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads.
Verse 25. - I became (rather, am become) also a reproach unto them; i.e. to my enemies. I am an object of their reproach and scorn. When they looked upon me they shaked their heads. In derision (comp. Psalm 22:7; Psalm 44:14; Matthew 27:39).
Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy:
Verse 26. - Help me, O Lord my God. Connect with ver. 21. O save me according to thy mercy; i.e. "as thou art wont to show mercy, show mercy now to me."
That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.
Verse 27. - That they may know that this is thy hand (comp. Psalm 59:13). "Deliver me," prays the psalmist, "in some signal way, so that my enemies may be forced to recognize thy hand in my deliverance, and to confess that thou, Lord, hast done it."
Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice.
Verse 28. - Let them curse, but bless thou; i.e. "Let them curse, if they will. What matters it? Provided only that thou blessest." When they arise. When they attempt to put their malevolent designs in act. Let them be ashamed; or, "they shall be ashamed" (Revised Version); i.e. they shall fail so utterly, that they shall be covered with shame. But let thy servant rejoice; rather, but thy servant shall rejoice. "Thy servant" is the psalmist himself (comp. Psalm 69:17). He will rejoice at their failure, which secures his safety.
Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
Verse 29. - Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame; rather, my adversaries shall be clothed with shame. "The prayer is now, in conclusion, changed into a confident expectation" (Dean Johnson). And let them (rather, and shall) cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle (comp. ver. 18). Instead of the "cursing" with which the wicked delighted to clothe themselves, they shall be forced to wear a covering of shame and confusion of face.
I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude.
Verses 30, 31. - The psalm terminates with a short burst of praise, the writer feeling assured that his prayer is granted, and that he will shortly triumph over his enemies. Verse 30. - I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth. The expression "greatly praise" does not occur elsewhere in the Psalms. It is indicative of an unusually strong feeling of thankfulness. Yea, I will praise him among the multitude; i.e. in the congregation.
For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.
Verse 31. - For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor. God will always come to the assistance of the poor and needy, when unrighteous men oppress them, and will give them help and deliverance. To save him from those that condemn his soul. The salvation is not always from the death of the body, or there could have been no martyrs; but in all cases it is a deliverance of the soul.