Verse 1. - Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication (comp. Psalm 54:2; and, for the second clause, see Psalm 13:1; Psalm 27:8; Psalm 69:17; Psalm 89:46, etc.).
Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;
Verse 2. - Attend unto me, and hear me. A very special need is indicated by these four petitions to be heard (vers. 1, 2). I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise; rather, I wander in my musing, and moan aloud. "I wander," i.e. "from one sad thought to another" (Kay); and, unable to constrain myself, I give vent to meanings. Orientals are given to open displays of their grief (Herod., 8:99; AEschylus, 'Persae,' passim).
Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.
Verse 3. - Because of the voles of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. Professor Cheyne says that by "the wicked" heathen men are primarily intended. But רשׁע - the word used - is" the wicked man," in the simplest and widest sense (see Psalm 1:1, 4, 5, 6; Psalm 7:9; Psalm 9:16, etc.). For they cast iniquity upon me; or, "hurl wickedness at me" (Cheyne). And in wrath they hats me; rather, they persecute me (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version).
My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
Verse 4. - My heart is sore pained within me. The attacks of his enemies (ver. 3) deeply grieve and pain the heart of the psalmist. It is not as if they were foreigners, whose hostility was to be expected. They are his own countrymen; one of them is his own familiar friend (ver. 12). Yet they threaten his life. And the terrors of death are fallen upon ms. When a king is the object of a conspiracy, he well knows, especially in the East, that nothing but his death will satisfy the conspirators. So on David, long before he made up his mind to quit Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:14), the "terrors of death" must have fallen.
Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.
Verse 5. - Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. A graphic description of the feelings which the apprehension of death naturally excites in a man. Where the expectation of a life beyond the grave was so dim and shadowy as in Judaea at this time, the "horror" of death would be the greater.
And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
Verse 6. - And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! The beauty of this passage has sunk deep into the Christian heart. Great composers have set to it some of their most exquisite music. The desire is one which finds an echo in almost every human breast, and the expression of it here has all the beauty of the best Eastern poetry. Jeremiah's words are far tamer, "Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging-place of wayfaring men, that I might leave my people, and go from them!" For then would I fly away, and be at rest. The desire of "rest" is universal. Whatever the delights of action, they can only charm us for a time. In our hearts we are always longing to have done with action, and to be at rest.
Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.
Verse 7. - Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness; rather, and lodge in the wilderness. Doves, ring-doves, and others, are abundant in Palestine, and frequent wild and rocky places, far from the haunts of man. Speaking of a rocky gorge near the Lake of Gennesaret, Canon Tristram says, "But no description can give an adequate idea of the myriads of rock-pigeons. In absolute crowds they dashed to and fro in the ravine, whirling round with a rush and a whirr that could be felt like a gust of wind" ('Land of Israel,' p. 446).
I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
Verse 8. - I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. As doves fly from storm and tempest to their nests in the rocks, so the psalmist would fain haste away from the passions and perils of the city to some safe refuge in the wilds. What he here anticipates, he afterwards accomplished, when he fled from Absalom over Jordan (2 Samuel 15:14).
Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
Verses 9-15. - With a sudden transition, the writer passes from his own suffering, fears, and longings, to imprecations on his enemies, and a description of their wicked proceedings. In the course of his description he singles out one individual for special remark - one who had been his own guide, companion, and friend - but who had turned against him, and joined the company of his adversaries (vers. 12-14). Verse 9. - Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues. The second clause contains a reference to the confusion of tongues at Babel (Genesis 11:7). "Introduce confusion into their counsels, and disperse them, as thou didst with the wicked ones who were forced to leave off to build the Tower." For I have seen violence and strife in the city. Such quarrels and broils, i.e., as usually precede revolutionary disturbance.
Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it.
Verse 10. - Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof. "It is not a siege or blockade that is described; and the persons spoken of are not foreign, but native enemies. These are compared to watchmen on the walls; only, instead of keeping watch against the enemy, they 'watch for iniquity' "(Cheyne). Mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it; rather, iniquity also and trouble. Compare the "violence and strife" of ver. 9. Society is disorganized. It is not only that wickedness prevails, but throughout the city there is violence and contention.
Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.
Verse 11. - Wickedness is in the midst thereof; deceit and guile depart not from her streets; literally, out of her street (rehob) - "the open square, where justice ought to have been administered "(Kay), "adjoining the vaulted passage of the city gate" (Cheyne); comp. Job 29:7.
For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:
Verse 12. - For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it. The psalmist passes from the general to the particular - from the great mass of his opponents to one special individual. Even Professor Cheyne allows this, and suggests that we have here Jeremiah inveighing against Pashur. But the general sentiment of commentators has always been that Ahithophel is intended. And, if we allow the psalm to be David's, we can scarcely give any other explanation. Ahithophel was known as "David's counsellor" (2 Samuel 15:12), i.e. his chief adviser, his "grand vizier," his "prime minister? What he counselled was considered as a sort of "oracle of God" (2 Samuel 16:23). His defection was the bitterest drop in the cup of the unhappy king. Anything else he "could have borne;" but this was too much. Neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me. It was not one among my professed and open enemies - not one of those whose hatred I had long known and reckoned on. Then I would have hid myself from him. Instead of opening all my heart to him, as I have done to Ahithophel.
But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
Verse 13. - But it was thou, a man mine equal; literally, a man according to my valuing; i.e. one of my social rank, with whom I was on familiar terms. My guide; or, "my companion." But the LXX. have ἡγέμων. And mine acquaintance. "My confidant" (Kay); "my familiar friend" (Cheyne, and Revised Version).
We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
Verse 14. - We took sweet counsel together (comp. 2 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 16:23; 1 Chronicles 27:33). And walked unto the house of God in company; rather, in the throng (Cheyne, Revised Version); i.e. in the midst of the crowd of worshippers. When David went up to the house of God, who is more likely to have accompanied him than his chief "counsellor"?
Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
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).
As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.
Verses 16-23. - In conclusion, the psalmist turns altogether to God, whom he now addresses as "Jehovah" (vers. 16, 22), and expresses his confidence that, in answer to his continual prayers (ver. 17), God will come to his aid, will deliver his soul from the machinations of his enemies, and will visit them with "affliction" (ver. 19) and "destruction" (ver. 23). Still grieved chiefly by the defection of his unfaithful friend, he once more describes the treachery and heinousness of his conduct (vers. 20. 21), before winding up with a word of comfort for all the righteous (ver. 22), and of menace against all the ungodly (ver. 23). Verse 16. - As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord (Jehovah) shall save me. The call is upon the God known to man by nature as the Almighty Ruler of the universe; the answer is from the covenant God of Israel, the Self-existent One, in whom Israel trusts. The two are different aspects of one and the same Being.
Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
Verse 17. - Evening, and morning (comp. Genesis 1:5, 8, etc.), and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud. From this passage and from Daniel's conduct (Daniel 6:10) we learn that devout Israelites habitually offered prayer to God at these three times of the day. The "morning "and "evening" devotions were doubtless suggested by the law of the morning and evening sacrifice (Exodus 29:38-42); but the midday prayer, being nowhere commanded, can only be ascribed to natural piety. And he shall hear my voice. Constant unremitting prayer is certain of an answer. Compare the parable of the importunate friend (Luke 11:5-8).
He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.
Verse 18. - He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me. Once mere "the preterite of prophetic certainty." David sees his deliverance effected. He beholds the coming battle (2 Samuel 17:11; 2 Samuel 18:6-8). He sees that there are many with him; i.e. "many that contend with him;" but his courage does not fail - he is assured of being "delivered" and re-established in his kingdom "in peace."
God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.
Verse 19. - God shall hear, and afflict them; i.e. "God will hear my prayers, and will afflict my adversaries;" or, perhaps, "God will hear me and answer me." But this requires a change in the reading. Even he that abideth of old; or, "he that is enthroned of old;" he, i.e., that sitteth, and has always sat, on his eternal throne in the heavens. Selah. The "selah" here marks probably a pause for adoration of the great and eternal King enthroned in all his glory. Because they have no changes; rather, the men who have no changes - exegetical of "them" in the first clause of the verse. The wicked "have no changes," i.e. no great reverses of fortune, until their end comes (see Job 21:7-15). Therefore they fear not God; rather, and who do not fear God.
He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.
Verse 20. - He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him. Some explain "he" as "the wicked collectively," and maintain that in this verse and the next no particular person is pointed at; but it seems better to regard the psalmist as "suddenly reverting to the fixed and deepest thought in his heart - the treachery of his friend" (Canon Cook). Ahithophel had put forth his hand against such as were at peace with him." He hath broken his covenant. The covenant of friendship with David (ver. 14), not, perhaps, a formal one, but involved in the terms on which they stood one towards the other.
The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.
Verse 21. - The words of his mouth wore smoother than butter; literally, smooth were the butters of his mouth - i.e., his flattering utterances. But war was in his heart; literally, but his heart was war. His words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords; i.e. keen, cutting - according to our own idiom, "like daggers."
Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
Verse 22. - Cast thy burden upon the Lord; rather, thy portion - or, the lot assigned thee - that which God has given thee to bear. And he shall sustain thee. God will support thee under the lot which he assigns, however hard it is. He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved; i.e. to be disturbed, shaken, unsettled from their faith in him. Note that these promises are made to the righteous only; and, among them, only to those who cast themselves in full faith upon God.
But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.
Verse 23. - But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction. We must understand by "them" the ungodly, the thought of whom is associated with that of the righteous by the law of contrast. While God sustains and supports the righteous, he "brings down" and crushes the ungodly. The "pit of destruction" is the grave. Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days (comp. Jeremiah 17:1). Of course, the statement is not intended for a universal law, and indeed was probably pointed especially at the "bloody and deceitful men" of whom the psalmist had been speaking. The suicide of Ahithophel, and the slaughter of Absalom with so many of his followers, furnished a striking commentary on the statement. But I will trust in thee; i.e. but I, for my part, will put no trust in violence or deceit - I will trust in nothing and no one but God (comp. Psalm 7:1; Psalm 11:1, etc.).