Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
invocation of Divine Protection against the Falseness of Men
Even Hilary begins the exposition of this Psalm with the words Psalmi superscriptio historiam non continet, in order at the outset to give up all attempt at setting forth its historical connection. The Midrash observes that it is very applicable to Daniel, who was cast into the lions' den by the satraps by means of a delicately woven plot. This is indeed true; but only because it is wanting in any specially defined features and cannot with any certainty be identified with one or other of the two great periods of suffering in the life of David.
The Psalm opens with an octostich, and closes in the same way. The infinitive noun שׂיח signifies a complaint, expressed not by the tones of pain, but in words. The rendering of the lxx (here and in Psa 55:3) is too general, ἐν τῷ θέεσθαί με. The "terror" of the enemy is that proceeding from him (gen. obj. as in Deu 2:15, and frequently). The generic singular אויב is at once particularized in a more detailed description with the use of the plural. סוד is a club or clique; רגשׁה (Targumic = המון, e.g., Eze 30:10) a noisy crowd. The perfects after אשׁר affirm that which they now do as they have before done; cf. Psa 140:4 and Psa 58:8, where, as in this passage, the treading or bending of the bow is transferred to the arrow. דּבר מר is the interpretation added to the figure, as in Psa 144:7. That which is bitter is called מר, root מר, stringere, from the harsh astringent taste; here it is used tropically of speech that wounds and inflicts pain (after the manner of an arrow or a stiletto), πικροὶ λόγοι. With the Kal לירות (Psa 11:2) alternates the Hiph. ירהוּ. With פּתאם the description takes a new start. ולא ייראוּ, forming an assonance with the preceding word, means that they do it without any fear whatever, and therefore also without fear of God (Psa 55:20; Psa 25:18).
The evil speech is one with the bitter speech in Psa 64:4, the arrow which they are anxious to let fly. This evil speech, here agreement or convention, they make firm to themselves (sibi), by securing, in every possible way, its effective execution. ספּר (frequently used of the cutting language of the ungodly, Psa 59:13; Psa 69:27; cf. Talmudic ספּר לשׁון שׁלישׁי, to speak as with three tongues, i.e., slanderously) is here construed with ל of that at which their haughty and insolent utterances aim. In connection therewith they take no heed of God, the all-seeing One: they say (ask), quis conspiciat ipsis. There is no need to take למו as being for לו (Hitzig); nor is it the dative of the object instead of the accusative, but it is an ethical dative: who will see or look to them, i.e., exerting any sort of influence upon them? The form of the question is not the direct (Psa 59:8), but the indirect, in which מי, seq. fut., is used in a simply future (Jer 44:28) or potential sense (Job 22:17; Kg1 1:20). Concerning עולת, vid., Psa 58:3. It is doubtful whether תּמּנוּ
(Note: תּמּנוּ in Baer's Psalterium is an error that has been carried over from Heidenheim's.)
is the first person (= תּמּונוּ) as in Num 17:13, Jer 44:18, or the third person as in Lam 3:22 (= תּמּוּ, which first of all resolved is תּנמוּ, and then transposed תּמּנוּ, like מעזניה = מענזיה = מעזּיה, Isa 23:11). The reading טמנוּ, from which Rashi proceeds, and which Luther follows in his translation, is opposed by the lxx and Targum; it does not suit the governing subject, and is nothing but an involuntary lightening of the difficulty. If we take into consideration, that תּמם signifies not to make ready, but to be ready, and that consequently חפשׂ מחפּשׂ is to be taken by itself, then it must be rendered either: they excogitate knavish tricks or villainies, "we are ready, a clever stroke is concocted, and the inward part of man and the heart is deep!" or, which we prefer, since there is nothing to indicate the introduction of any soliloquy: they excogitate knavish tricks, they are ready - a delicately devised, clever stroke (nominative of the result), and (as the poet ironically adds) the inward part of man and the heart is (verily) deep. There is nothing very surprising in the form תּמּנוּ for תּמּוּ, since the Psalms, whenever they depict the sinful designs and doings of the ungodly, delight in singularities of language. On ולב (not ולב) = (אישׁ) ולב = ולבּו, cf. Psa 118:14.
Deep is man's heart and inward part, but not too deep for God, who knoweth the heart (Jer 17:9.). And He will just as suddenly surprise the enemies of His anointed with their death-blow, as they had plotted it for him. The futt. consec. that follow represent that which is future, with all the certainty of an historical fact as a retribution springing from the malicious craftiness of the enemies. According to the accentuation, Psa 64:8 is to be rendered: "then will Elohim shoot them, a sudden arrow become their wounds." Thus at length Hupfeld renders it; but how extremely puzzling is the meaning hidden behind this sentence! The Targum and the Jewish expositors have construed it differently: "Then will Elohim shoot them with arrows suddenly;" in this case, however, because Psa 64:8 then becomes too blunt and bald, פּתאם has to be repeated in thought with this member of the verse, and this is in itself an objection to it. We interpunctuate with Ewald and Hitzig thus: then does Elohim shoot them with an arrow, suddenly arise (become a reality) their wounds (cf. Mic 7:4), namely, of those who had on their part aimed the murderous weapon against the upright for a sudden and sure shot. Psa 64:9 is still more difficult. Kimchi's interpretation, which accords with the accents: et corruere facient eam super se, linguam suam, is intolerable; the proleptic suffix, having reference to לשׁונם (Exo 3:6; Job 33:20), ought to have been feminine (vid., on Psa 22:16), and "to make their own tongue fall upon themselves" is an odd fancy. The objective suffix will therefore refer per enallagen to the enemy. But not thus (as Hitzig, who now seeks to get out of the difficulty by an alteration of the text, formerly rendered it): "and they cause those to fall whom they have slandered [lit. upon whom their tongue came]." This form of retribution does not accord with the context; and moreover the gravely earnest עלימו, like the הוּ-, refers more probably to the enemies than to the objects of their hostility. The interpretation of Ewald and Hengstenberg is better: "and one overthrows him, inasmuch as their tongue, i.e., the sin of their tongue with which they sought to destroy others, comes upon themselves." The subject to ויּכשׁילהוּ, as in Psa 63:11; Job 4:19; Job 7:3; Luk 12:20, is the powers which are at the service of God, and which are not mentioned at all; and the thought עלימו לשׁונם (a circumstantial clause) is like Psa 140:10, where in a similar connection the very same singularly rugged lapidary, or terse, style is found. In Psa 64:9 we must proceed on the assumption that ראה ב in such a connection signifies the gratification of looking upon those who are justly punished and rendered harmless. But he who tarries to look upon such a scene is certainly not the person to flee from it; התנודד does not here mean "to betake one's self to flight" (Ewald, Hitzig), but to shake one's self, as in Jer 48:27, viz., to shake the head (Psa 44:15; Jer 18:16) - the recognised (vid., Psa 22:8) gesture of malignant, mocking astonishment. The approbation is awarded, according to Psa 64:10, to God, the just One. And with the joy at His righteous interposition, - viz. of Him who has been called upon to interpose, - is combined a fear of the like punishment. The divine act of judicial retribution now set forth becomes a blessing to mankind. From mouth to mouth it is passed on, and becomes an admonitory nota bene. To the righteous in particular it becomes a consolatory and joyous strengthening of his faith. The judgment of Jahve is the redemption of the righteous. Thus, then, does he rejoice in his God, who by thus judging and redeeming makes history into the history of redemption, and hide himself the more confidingly in Him; and all the upright boast themselves, viz., in God, who looks into the heart and practically acknowledges them whose heart is directed unswervingly towards Him, and conformed entirely to Him. In place of the futt. consec., which have a prophetic reference, simple futt. come in here, and between these a perf. consec. as expressive of that which will then happen when that which is prophetically certain has taken place.