Verse 1. - O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust (compare the openings of Psalm 11, 31, and 71.). When David is most sorely pressed by persecution and danger, then is his faith and trust in God mast plainly apparent. Save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me. The Revised Version has, "from all them that pursue me;" but "persecute" is better. Hengstenberg and Kay have, "from all my persecutors." So also French and Skinner. The persecutors are such men as the Ziphites and others, who encouraged Saul in his attempts to take David's life (1 Samuel 26:1, 19).
Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
Verse 2. - Lest he tear my soul like a lion (comp. Psalm 5:6, where there is a similar abrupt transition from the plural to the singular number). On both occasions David fears one special enemy - then probably Ahithophel, now Saul. The simile of the lion is one frequent in the Psalms (see Psalm 10:9; Psalm 17:12; Psalm 22:13, 21; Psalm 35:17; Psalm 54:4, etc.). Rending it in pieces. As the lion does a sheep. While there is none to deliver. No human helper, at once willing and able to give deliverance.
O LORD my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands;
Verse 3. - O Lord my God, if I have done this; i.e. "this which is laid to my charge." The general charge against David in Saul's lifetime was that he "sought the king's hurt" (1 Samuel 24:9). Afterwards he was accused of being "a bloody man" (2 Samuel 16:8) - the death of Ishbosheth, and perhaps of others, being regarded as his work. If there be iniquity in my hands. If, i.e., I have committed any criminal act, if any definite offence can be charged against me. Human weakness and imperfection David does not mean to deny, but, like Job, he maintains in a certain qualified sense his righteousness.
If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me; (yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy:)
Verse 4. - If I have rewarded evil unto him that was at peace with me. This is probably the true meaning. David denies that he has wantonly attacked and injured any one with whom he was on friendly and peaceable terms. No doubt he was accused of having estranged Saul by plotting to take the crown from him. (Yea, I have delivered him that without cause is mine enemy.) This translation, which is retained by our Revisers, has the support also of Ewald, Hupfeld, Mr. Aglen, and the 'Speaker's Commentary.' If accepted, it must be considered as a reference to 1 Samuel 24:7, or else to 1 Samuel 26:9, or both, and as a sort of parenthetic protest, "Nay, not only have I not injured a friend, but I have gone so far as to let my enemy escape me." A different meaning is, however, given to the passage by many critics, as Rosenmuller, Hengstenberg, Bishop Horsley, Cheyne, etc., who regard the sense as running on without any parenthesis, and translate, "If I have oppressed him who without cause is mine enemy." David, according to this view, denies that he has either injured a friend or requited evil to a foe.
Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust. Selah.
Verse 5. - Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it. "If I have been guilty of any of these acts, then let my enemy not only persecute my soul, as he is doing (vers. 1, 2), but take it - make it his prey - obtain full power over it." Yea, let him tread down my life upon the earth; i.e. "utterly destroy me and bring me to ruin." And not only so, but also lay mine honour in the dust; i.e. "bring me down to the grave with shame." Compare the imprecations of Job upon himself (Job 31:8, 10, 22, 40).
Arise, O LORD, in thine anger, lift up thyself because of the rage of mine enemies: and awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded.
Verse 6. - Arise, O Lord, in thine anger. To call on God to "arise" is to ask him to take action, to lay aside the neutral attitude in which he most commonly shows himself to man, and to interfere openly in the concerns of earth. To call on him to "arise in his anger" is to entreat him to vindicate our cause against those opposed in us, and to visit them with some open manifestation of his displeasure (comp. Psalm 3:7; Psalm 9:19; Psalm 10:12; Psalm 17:13; Psalm 44:26; Psalm 68:1). Lift up thyself. This is even a stronger expression than "arise" (Isaiah 33:10). It is a call on God to appear in his full strength. Because of the rage of mine enemies; or, against the rage of mine enemies (Kay, Revised Version). Force must be met by force. David justifies his appeal for aid by alleging the violence and fury of those whose attacks he has to meet. And awake for me to the judgment that thou hast commanded. The two clauses are not connected in the original, which runs, "Awake for me: thou hast commanded judgment." The meaning seems to be, "Arouse thyself on my behalf - judgment is a thing which thou hast ordained - surely now is the time for it."
So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about: for their sakes therefore return thou on high.
Verse 7. - So shall the congregation of the people compass thee about. Titan, if thou wilt show thyself in judgment, the congregation of the peoples - not, apparently, Israel only - will crowd around thee, in acknowledgment of thy majesty, and recognize in thee the righteous Judge of all the earth. For their sakes therefore return thou on high; rather, and above it (or, above them; i.e. above the congregation of the peoples) return thou on high. After coming down to earth, and executing judgment, then go back to thy throne in heaven.
The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.
Verse 8. - The Lord shall judge the people. Hitherto judgment has been prayed for, now it is announced, "The Lord shall judge " - shall decide between David and his enemies - shall judge them in his anger, and at the same time judge David, i.e. vindicate his cause. David has no desire to escape this judgment Judge me, he says, O Lord, according to my righteousness. Judge me, i.e., and, if thou findest me righteous, acquit me and vindicate me. And according to mine integrity that is in me; literally, which is on me (comp. Job 29:24, "I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my judgment was as a robe and a diadem"). Ver. 9: - Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end. It is not the removal of the wicked, but the removal of their wickedness, that David desires (comp. Psalm 10:15). But establish the just; i.e. protect strengthen, and sustain him. For the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins (comp. Jeremiah 11:20; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12). "The heart, as the seat of the understanding and the will, the reins of natural impulses and affections" ('Speaker's Commentary').
Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end; but establish the just: for the righteous God trieth the hearts and reins.
My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart.
Verse 10. - My defense is of God; literally, my shield is on God; i.e. "rests on him" (Kay) - is upheld by him. Which sayeth the upright in heart (comp. Psalm 125:4).
God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
Verse 11. - God judgeth the righteous; rather, God is a righteous Judge. So Rosenmuller, Bishop Horsley, Dr. Kay, the 'Speaker's Commentary,' and the Revised Version. And God is angry with the wicked every day. There is no need of inserting the words, "with the wicked," since, of course, it is with the wicked that God is angry. What the psalmist means to assert especially is that God's anger continues against the wicked as long as their wickedness continues.
If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.
Verse 12. - If he turn not, he (i.e. God) will whet his sword (comp. Deuteronomy 32:41; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 34:5). "Every new transgression," says Bishop Horne, "sets a fresh edge to God's sword" He hath bent his bow, and made it ready; rather, he hath bent his bow, and fixed it; i.e. held it in the position for taking aim.
He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.
Verse 13. - He hath prepared for him the instruments of death. These are probably not the sword and the bow, but the "arrows" of the next clause. They are prepared "for him," i.e. for the wicked man. He ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors; rather, he maketh his arrows to be fiery ones. Hengstenberg notes that "in sieges it was customary to wrap inflammable matter round arrows, and to shoot them after it had been kindled" (compare the, fiery darts" of St. Paul, Ephesians 6:16).
Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.
Verse 14. - Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood (comp. Job 15:35; Isaiah 59:4). The "falsehood" intended is probably the bringing of false charges against David (see vers. 3-5).
He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made.
Verse 15. - He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made (comp. Psalm 9:15, 16; Psalm 35:8; Psalm 57:6; Proverbs 26:27; Proverbs 28:10, etc.). There are several illustrations of this law of God's providence in Scripture, the most striking being that of Haman. Its existence as a law was noticed by some of the classical writers, as Ovid, who says -
"Nec lex justior ulla est,
Quam necis artifices arte petite sua."
His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate.
Verse 16. - His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing upon his own pate. Some critics see in this a continuation of the metaphor, and suppose that, while the sinner is in the pit, the heap which his own hands have thrown out falls in upon him and crushes him. But it is perhaps better to understand the words in a more general way.
I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.
Verse 17. - I will praise the Lord according to his righteousness. Another abrupt transition - a song of thankfulness to Jehovah for giving the deliverance which the psalmist foresees, and considers as good as accomplished. And will sing praise to the Name of the Lord most high (comp. Psalm 8:1, 9, "How excellent is thy Name in all the earth!"). God is identified with his Name very commonly in Scripture, or, perhaps we should say, the Name of God is used as a periphrasis for God himself. Where God puts his special presence, he is said to "put his Name" (Deuteronomy 12:5, 21: 1 Kings 14:21; 2 Chronicles 12:13). His Name is "holy and reverend" (Psalm 111:19); "incense is offered unto it" (Malachi 1:11); it is "magnified for ever" (1 Chronicles 17:24); for it the temple is built (1 Kings 8:44); through it the godly "tread down their enemies" (Psalm 44:5); the "desire of men's souls is to it" (Isaiah 26:8). (See also Psalm 92:1; Psalm 96:8; Psalm 99:3; Psalm 103:1; Psalm 105:1; Psalm 113:1; Psalm 115:1; Psalm 119:55; Psalm 145:1, 2, 21; Psalm 148:13; Psalm 149:3.)
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