Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 8: Psalms, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
David, loaded with unjust calumny, calls upon God to be his advocate and defender, and commits his innocence to the Divine protection. In the first place, he protests that his conscience did notaccuse him of the wickedness laid to his charge. Secondly, he shows how greatly it concerns the glory of God that he should execute judgment against the ungodly. Thirdly, to inspire his mind with confidence, he seriously reflects upon the goodness and righteousness of God, and sets before him the divine promises. Lastly, as if he had obtained the desire of his heart, he derides the folly and the vain attempts of his enemies; or rather, depending upon the aid of God, he assures himself that all their endeavours against him shall turn to their own destruction.
Shiggaion of David, which he sung unto Jehovah,
upon the words of Cush the Benjamite.
With respect to the word Shiggaion, the Jewish interpreters are not agreed. Some understand it to mean a musical instrument. To others it seems to be a tune to which a song is set. Others suppose it to have been the beginning of a common song, to the tune of which David wished this psalm to be sung. Others translate the Hebrew word, delight, or rejoicing. 96 The second opinion appears to me the most probable, namely, that it was some kind of melody or song, as if one should term it Sapphic or Phaleucian verse. 97 But I do not contend about a matter of so small importance. Again, the psalm is said to have been composed upon the words of Cush. I cannot subscribe to the interpretation, (although it is the commonly received one,) that words here mean affairs, or business. To put word for a matter, or an affair, is, I allow, a common form of speech among the Jews; but as David a little after declares that he was falsely accused of some crime, I doubt not but he here speaks of the accusation or calumny itself, of which, as I judge, Cush, some one of Saul’s kindred, was the author, or, at least, the instrument who preferred and circulated it. The opinion of some who say that Saul is here spoken of under a fictitious name, is not supported by any argument of sufficient weight. According to them, David avoided calling him by his own name, in order to spare the royal dignity. David, I admit, had great reverence for the holy anointing; but as he expressly names Saul in other places where he reprehends him not less severely, and paints him in colours no less black than he does in this psalm, why should he suppress his name here, and not in these passages? In my opinion, therefore, he here expresses by his proper name, and without figure, a wicked accuser, who had excited hatred against him by falsely charging him with some crime, and who had either been bribed by the king to do this, or, currying the royal favour, had calumniated David of his own accord; for David, we know, was very much slandered, as if he had been ungrateful and treacherous towards the king, his father-in-law. Saul, indeed, belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. We do not, however, think that he is the person here mentioned, but that it was one of Saul’s relations, one who belonged to the same tribe with him, who falsely accused David.
1. O Jehovah, my God, in thee do I trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me. 2. Lest he seize upon my soul as a lion, and tear it in pieces, while there is none to deliver it.
At the commencement of the psalm, David speaks of having many enemies, and in the second verse he specifies some one in the singular number. And certainly, since the minds of all men were inflamed against him, he had very good reason for praying to be delivered from all his persecutors. But as the wicked cruelty of the king, like a firebrand, had kindled against him, though an innocent person, the hatred of the whole people, he had good reason also for turning his pen particularly against him. Thus, in the first verse, he describes the true character of his own circumstances—he was a persecuted man; and, in the second verse, the fountain or cause of the calamity he was enduring. There is great emphasis in these words which he uses in the beginning of the Psalms O Jehovah my Godly in thee do I trust. The verb, it is true, is in the past tense in the Hebrew; and, therefore, if literally translated, the reading would be, In thee have I trusted; but as the Hebrews often take one tense for another, 98 I prefer to translate it in the present, In thee I do trust, especially since it is abundantly evident that a continued act, as it is termed, is denoted. David does not boast of a confidence in God, from which he had now fallen, but of a confidence which he constantly entertained in his afflictions. And this is a genuine and an undoubted proof of our faith, when, being visited with adversity, we, notwithstanding, persevere in cherishing and exercising hope in God. From this passage, we also learn that the gate of mercy is shut against our prayers if the key of faith do not open it for us. Nor does he use superfluous language when he calls Jehovah his own God; for by setting up this as a bulwark before him, he beats back the waves of temptations, that they may not overwhelm his faith. In the second verses by the figure of a lion, he represents in a stronger light the cruelty of Saul, as an argument to induce God to grant him assistance, even as he ascribes it to Him as his peculiar province to rescue his poor sheep from the jaws of wolves.
3. O Jehovah, my God, if I have done this thing, if there be iniquity in my hands: 4 If I have rewarded evil to him that was at peace with me, and have not delivered him that persecuted me without cause: 5. Let the enemy pursue my soul and take it; and let him throw down my life to the ground, 99 and hold down 100 my glory in the dust. Selah.
3 O Jehovah my God Here David, to induce God to show him favour, protests that he is molested unjustly, and without being guilty of any crime. To give his protestation the greater weight, he uses an imprecation. If he has done any wrong, he declares his readiness to bear the blame; yea, he offers to endure the severest punishment, if he is not altogether innocent of the crime of which all men thought him almost convicted. And by entreating God to succour him upon no other condition than this, that his integrity should upon trial be found to be untarnished, he teaches us, by his example, that as often as we have recourse to God, we must make it our first care to be well assured in our own consciences with respect to the righteousness of our cause; for we do him great wrong if we wish to engage him as the advocate and defender of a bad cause. The pronoun this shows that he speaks of a thing which was generally known; whence we may conclude, that the slander which had been raised by Cush was spread far and wide. And as David was condemned, by the false reports and unrighteous judgments which men advanced against him, and saw no remedy on earth, he betakes himself to the judgment-seat of God, and contents himself with maintaining his innocence before the heavenly Judge; an example which all the godly should imitate, in order that, in opposition to the slanderous reports which are spread against them, they may rest satisfied with the judgment of God alone. He next declares more distinctly, that he had committed no crime. And in the fourth verse, he mentions two particulars in self-vindication; first, That he had done no wrong to any one; and, secondly, That he had rather endeavoured to do good to his enemies, by whom notwithstanding he had been injured without any just cause. I, therefore, explain the fourth verse thus: If I have wronged any man that was at peace with me, and have not rather succoured the unworthy, who persecuted me without a cause, etc. Since David was hated of almost all men, as if ambition to reign had impelled him perfidiously to rise up in rebellion against Saul, and to lay snares for the monarch to whom he was bound by the oath of allegiances 101 in the first part of the verse, he clears himself of such a foul slander. The reason, perhaps, why he calls Saul him that was at peace with him is, that on account of his royal dignity his person ought to be sacred, and secure from danger, 102 so that it should be unlawful to make any hostile attempt against him. This phrase, however, may be understood generally, as if he had said, No one who has meekly restrained himself from injuring me, and has conducted himself kindly towards me, can with truth complain that I have ever injured him in a single instance. And yet it was the general persuasion, that David, in the midst of peace, had stirred up great confusion, and caused war. From this it is just so much the more manifest, that David, provided he enjoyed the approbation of God, was contented with the consolation arising from this, though he should have comfort from no other source.
In the second clause of the fourth verse, he proceeds farther, and states, that he had been a friend, not only to the good, but also to the bad, and had not only restrained himself from all revenge, but had even succoured his enemies, by whom he had been deeply and cruelly injured. It would certainly not be very illustrious virtue to love the good and peaceable, unless there were joined to this self-government and gentleness in patiently bearing with the bad. But when a man not only keeps himself from revenging the injuries which he has received, but endeavours to overcome evil by doing good, he manifests one of the graces of a renewed and sanctified nature, and in this way proves himself to be one of the children of God; for such meekness proceeds only from the Spirit of adoption. With respect to the words: as the Hebrew word חלץ chalats, which I have translated to delivers signifies to divide and to separate, some, to prevent the necessity of supplying any word to make out the sense, 103 thus explain the passage, If I have withdrawn myself from my persecutors, in order not to succour them. The other interpretation, however, according to which the verb is rendered to deliver or rescue from danger, is more generally received; because the phrase, to separate or set aside, is applied to those things which we wish to place in safety. And thus the negative word not must be supplied, an omission which we will find not unfrequently occurring in The Psalms.
5 Let mine enemy pursue It is a striking proof of the great confidence which David had in his own integrity, when he is willing to endure any kind of punishment, however dreadful, provided he should be found guilty of any crime. If we could bring a good conscience like this before God, his hand would be more quickly stretched forth to afford us immediate assistance. But as it often happens that those who molest us have been provoked by us, or that we burn with the desire of revenge when offended, we are unworthy of receiving succour from God; yea, our own impatience shuts the gate against our prayers. In the first place, David is prepared to be given over to the will of his enemies, that they may seize his life, and throw it down to the ground; and then to be publicly exhibited as an object of their mockery, so that, even after he is dead, he may lie under eternal disgrace. Some think that the כבוד kebod, which we have translated glory, is here to be taken for life, and thus there will be three words, soul, life, glory, signifying the same thing. But it appears to me, that the meaning of the passage will be fuller if we refer the word glory to his memory, or his good name, as if he had said, Let my enemy not only destroy me, but, after having put me to death, let him speak of me in the most reproachful terms, so that my name may be buried in mire or filth.
6. Arise, O Jehovah, in thine anger, lift up thyself against the rage of mine enemies; and awake thou for me to the judgment which thou hast ordained. 104 7. And then the assembly of peoples [or nations] shall compass thee about: and on account of this, return thou on high. 8. Jehovah shall judge the peoples, [or nations:] judge me, O Jehovah, according to my righteousness, and according to the integrity that is in me.
6 Arise, O Jehovah David here sets the anger of God in opposition to the rage of his enemies; and when we are in similar circumstances we should act in the same manner. When the ungodly are inflamed against us, and cast forth their rage and fury to destroy us, we ought humbly to beseech God to be inflamed also on his side; in other words, to show in truth that he has, no less zeal and power to preserve us, than they have inclination to destroy us. The word, Arise, is taken in a figurative sense, for to ascend into a judgment-seat, or rather to prepare one’s self to make resistance; and it is here applied to God, because, while he delays to succour us, we are very apt to think him asleep. Accordingly, David also, a little after, beseeches him to awake; for it seemed on the part of God something like the forgetfulness of sleep to give no assistance to an individual who was so much afflicted and oppressed on all hands.
In the end of the verse he shows that he asks nothing but what is according to the appointment of God. And this is the rule which ought to be observed by us in our prayers; we should in every thing conform our requests to the divine will, as John also instructs us, (1Jo 5:14.) And, indeed, we can never pray in faith unless we attend, in the first place, to what God commands, that our minds may not rashly and at random start aside in desiring more than we are permitted to desire and pray for. David, therefore, in order to pray aright, reposes himself on the word and prose mise of God; and the import of his exercise is this: Lord, I am not led by ambition, or foolish headstrong passion, or depraved desire, inconsiderately to ask from thee whatever is pleasing to my flesh; but it is the clear light of thy word which directs me, and upon it I securely depend. Since God, of his own good pleasure, had called him to be one day king, it belonged to him to defend and maintain the rights of the man whom he had chosen for his servant. David’s language, therefore, is the same as if he had said, “When I was well contented with my humble condition in private life, it was thy pleasure to set me apart to the honourable station of being a king; now, therefore, it belongs to thee to maintain this cause against Saul and his associates who are using their efforts to defeat thy decree in making war upon me.” The Hebrew word עורה, urah, which we have rendered awake thou, 105 might also be taken transitively for to build up, or to establish the right of David. The sum of the whole, however, comes to this, that David, trusting to the call of God, beseeches him to stretch forth his hand for his relief. The faithful must, therefore, take care not to exceed these bounds, if they desire to have God present with them to maintain and preserve them.
7 And a congregation of peoples Some limit this sentence exclusively to the people of Israel, as if David promised that, as soon as he should ascend the throne, he would endeavour to reunite together, in the pure worship of God, the people who before had been as it were in a state of dispersion. Under the reign of Saul, religion had been neglected, or such an unrestrained license in wickedness had prevailed, that few paid any regard to God. The meaning, therefore, according to these expositors, is this: Lord, when thou shalt have constituted me king, the whole people, who have so basely gone astray from thee, 106 shall return from their wanderings and disorderly courses to thee and to thy service, so that all shall know that thou rulest in the midst of them, and shall worship thee as their only King. But I am rather inclined to view this as language which has a respect in common to many nations. David here speaks in high terms of the effects resulting from his deliverance, the report of which would be spread far and wide, and his words are, as if he had said, “Lord, when thou shalt have put me in peaceable possession of the kingdom, this will not only be a benefit conferred on me personally, but it will be a common lesson to many nations, teaching them to acknowledge thy just judgment, so that they shall turn their eyes to thy judgment-seat.” 107 David here alludes to the practice of a people who surround their king, as in a circle, when he holds a solemn assembly. In the same sense, he adds immediately after, that God, who, for a time, lay still and kept silence, would raise himself on high that not only one or two, but whole nations, might behold his glory: And on account of this return thou on high 108 There is in these words, a tacit comparison, that although it might not be necessary to have a regard to one man alone, it is requisite that God should keep the world in the fear and reverence of his judgment.
8 Jehovah shall judge the nations This sentence is closely connected with the preceding verse. David had prayed God to show himself as judge to the nations; and now he takes it for a certain and admitted truth, that it is the peculiar office of God to judge the nations: for the word put in the future tense, and rendered shall judge, denotes here a continued act; and this is the signification of the future tense in general sentences. Besides, he does not here speak of one nation only, but comprehends all nations. As he acknowledges God to be the judge of the whole world, he concludes a little after from this, that he will maintain his cause and right. And as often as we seem to be forsaken and oppressed, we should recall this truth to our remembrance, that as God is the governor of the world, it is as utterly impossible for him to abdicate his office as to deny himself. From this source there will flow a continual stream of comfort, although a long succession of calamities may press upon us: for from this truth we may assuredly conclude, that he will take care to defend our innocence. It would be contrary to every principle of just reasoning to supposes that he who governs many nations neglects even one man. What happens with respect to the judges of this world can never take place with respect to him; he cannot, as may be the case with them, be so occupied about great and public affairs as to neglect, because unable to attend to them, the concerns of individuals. He again brings into new his integrity that he may not seem, after the example of hypocrites to make the name of God a mere pretext for the better furthering of his own purposes. Since God is no respecter of persons, we cannot expect him to be on our side, and to favour us, if our cause is not good. But it is asked, how can David here boast of his own integrity before God, when in other places he deprecates God entering into judgment with him? The answer is easy, and it is this: The subject here treated of is not how he could answer if God should demand from him an account of his whole life; but, comparing himself with his enemies, he maintains and not without cause, that, in respect of them, he was righteous. But when each saint passes under the review of God’s judgment, and his own character is tried upon its own merits, the matter is very different, for then the only sanctuary to which he can betake himself for safety, is the mercy of God.
9. Let the malice of the wicked come to an end I beseech thee and direct thou the righteous: for God who is righteous, proves [or searches] the hearts and the reins. 10. My defense [or shield] is in God, who saves the upright in heart. 11. God judgeth the righteous, and him who despiseth God, daily.
9 Let the malice of the wicked come to an endow I beseech thee. David, in the first place, prays that God would restrain the malice of his enemies, and bring it to an end; from which it follows, that his affliction had been of long duration. Others suppose that this is rather a dreadful imprecation, and they explain the Hebrew word גמר, gamar, somewhat differently. Instead of rendering it to cease, and to come to an end, as I have done, they understand it to make to cease, which is equivalent to destroy or to consume. 109 Thus, according to them, David wishes that God would cause the mischief which the wicked devise to fall upon their own heads: Let the wickedness of the wicked consume them But, in my opinion, the former interpretation is the more simple, namely, that David beseeches God to bring his troubles to a termination. Accordingly there follows immediately after the corresponding prayer Direct thou the righteous, or establish him; for it is of little importance which of these two readings we adopt. The meaning is, that God would re-establish and uphold the righteous, who are wrongfully oppressed, and thus make it evident that they are continued in their estate by the power of God, notwithstanding the persecution to which they are subjected.—For God searcheth the hearts The Hebrew copulative is here very properly translated by the causal particle for, since David, without doubt, adds this clause as an argument to enforce his prayer. He now declares, for the third time, that, trusting to the testimony of a good conscience, he comes before God with confidence; but here he expresses something more than he had done before, namely, that he not only showed his innocence, by his external conduct, but had also cultivated purity in the secret affection of his heart. He seems to set this confidence in opposition to the insolence and boasting of his enemies, by whom, it is probable, such calumnies had been circulated among the people concerning him, as constrained him in his deep affliction to present his heart and reins to be tried by God. Perhaps, also, he speaks in this manner, in order to divest them of all those plausible but false and deceitful pretenses, which they made use of for the purpose of deceiving men, and if they succeeded in doing this they were satisfied. 110 He shows that, although they might triumph before the world, and receive the applause of the multitude, they, nevertheless, gained nothing, inasmuch as they would, by and by, have to make their appearance before the judgment-seat of God, where the question would not be, What were their titles? or, What was the splendour of their actions? but how it stood as to the purity of their hearts.
10. My shield It is not wonderful that David often mingles meditations with his prayers, thereby to inspire himself with true confidence. We may go to God in prayer with great alacrity; but our fervour, if it does not gather new strength, either immediately fails or begins to languish. David, therefore, in order to continue in prayer with the same ardour of devotion and affection with which he commenced, brings to his recollection some of the most common truths of religion, and by this means fosters and invigorates his faith. He declares, that as God saves the upright in heart, he is perfectly safe under his protection. Whence it follows, that he had the testimony of an approving conscience. And, as he does not simply say the righteous, but the upright in heart, he appears to have an eye to that inward searching of the heart and reins mentioned in the preceding verse.
11 God judgeth the righteous etc. Others read, God is a righteous Judge, and God is angry every day. The words will certainly admit of this sense; but as the doctrine is fuller according to the first reading, I have preferred following it, as I see it is more approved of by the most learned divines, and, besides, it is more suitable to the subject which David is now considering. As Saul and his accomplices had, by their calumnious reports, so far succeeded in their wicked design as to have produced a general prejudice against David, so that he was condemned by almost the whole people, the holy man supports himself from this one consideration, that whatever may be the confusion of things in the world, God, notwithstanding, can easily discern between the righteous and the wicked. He, therefore, appeals from the false judgments of men to Him who can never be deceived. It may, however, be asked, How does the Psalmist represent God as judging every day, when we see him delaying punishment frequently for a long time? The sacred writings certainly most justly celebrate his long-suffering; but, although he exercises patience long, and does not immediately execute his judgments, yet, as no time passes, yea, not even a day, in which he does not furnish the clearest evidence that he discerns between the righteous and the wicked, notwithstanding the confusion of things in the world, it is certain that he never ceases to execute the office of a judge. All who will be at the trouble to open their eyes to behold the government of the world, will distinctly see that the patience of God is very different from approbation or connivance. Surely, then, his own people will confidently betake themselves to him every day.
12. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready. 111 13. And he hath prepared for 112 the instruments of death; he shall make fit his arrows for them that persecute. 113 14. Behold, he shall travail to bring forth iniquity; he hath conceived wickedness, and he shall bring forth falsehood. 114
12 If he turn not These verses are usually explained in two ways. The meaning is, that if David’s enemies should persevere in their malicious designs against him, there is denounced against them the vengeance which their obstinate wickedness deserves. Accordingly, in the second clause, they supply the name of God,—If he turn not, GOD will whet his sword; 115 as if it had been said, If my enemy do not repent, 116 he shall, at length, feel that God is completely armed for the purpose of maintaining and defending the righteous. If it is understood in this sense, the third verse is to be considered as a statement of the cause why God will thus equip himself with armour, namely, because the ungodly, in conceiving all kinds of mischief, in travailing to bring forth wickedness, and in at length bringing forth deceit and falsehood, directly assail God, and openly make war upon him. But, in my judgment, those who read these two verses in one continued sentence, give a more accurate interpretation. I am not, however, satisfied that even they fully bring out the meaning of the Psalmist. David, I have no doubt, by relating the dreadful attempts of his enemies against him, intended thereby to illustrate more highly the grace of God; for when these malicious men, strengthened by powerful military forces, and abundantly provided with armour, furiously rushed upon him in the full expectation of destroying him, who would not have said that it was all over with him? Moreover, there is implied in the words a kind of irony, when he pretends to be afraid of their putting him to death. They mean the same thing as if he had said, “If my enemy do not alter his purpose, or turn his fury and his strength in another direction, who can preserve me from perishing by his hands? He has an abundant supply of arms, and he is endeavouring, by all methods, to accomplish my death.” But Saul is the person of whom he particularly speaks, and therefore he says, he hath made fit his arrows for the persecutors This implies that Saul had many agents in readiness who would willingly put forth their utmost efforts in seeking to destroy David. The design of the prophet, therefore, was to magnify the greatness of the grace of God, by showing the greatness of the danger from which he had been delivered by him. 117 Moreover, when it is here said, if he do not return, returning does not signify repentance and amendment in David’s enemy, but only a change of will and purpose, as if he had said, “It is in the power of my enemy to do whatever his fancy may suggest.” 118 Whence it appears the more clearly, how wonderful the change was which suddenly followed contrary all expectation. When he says that Saul had prepared the instruments of death for his bow, he intimates that he was driving after no ordinary thing, but was fully determined to wound to death the man whom he shot at. Some, referring the Hebrew word דולקים doulekim, which we have rendered persecutors, to arrows, have rendered it burning, 119 because it has also this signification; 120 but the translation which I have given is the more appropriate. David complains that he had reason to be afraid, not only of one man, but of a great multitude, inasmuch as Saul had armed a powerful body of men to pursue and persecute a poor fugitive.
14 Behold, he shall travail David has hitherto shown how great and formidable the danger was which was near him. In this verse, laughing to scorn the presumptuous and foolish attempts of Saul, and his magnificent preparations, he declares that they had failed of accomplishing their object. 121 By the demonstrative adverb Behold, he enhances the wonder, inasmuch as such a result fell out, on his part altogether unlooked for. Behold, says he, after he has travailed to bring forth wickedness, like as he had conceived mischief, at length there comes forth only empty wind and vanity, because God frustrated his expectations, and destroyed all these wicked attempts. 122 Iniquity and mischief are here put for every kind of violence and outrage 123 which Saul intended to inflict upon David. Some interpreters think that the order of the words is inverted, because travailing to bring forth is put before conceiving; but I think that the words have their proper place if you explain them thus: Behold, he shall travail to bring forth wickedness, for he hath conceived mischief; that is to say, as he long ago devised with himself my destruction, so he will do his utmost to put his design into execution. David afterwards adds, he hath brought forth falsehood This implies that Saul had been disappointed in his expectation; as Isaiah, (Isa 26:18,) in like manner, speaks of unbelievers “bringing forth wind,” when their success does not correspond to their wicked and presumptuous attempts. As often, therefore, as we see the ungodly secretly plotting our ruin, let us remember that they speak falsehood to themselves; in other words deceive themselves, and shall fail in accomplishing what they devise in their hearts. 124 If, however, we do not perceive that they are disappointed in their designs until they are about to be brought forth, let us not be cast down, but bear it with a spirit of patient submission to the will and providence of God.
15. He hath digged a pit, and hollowed it out; 125 and he hath fallen into the ditch which he hath made. 16. His wickedness shall return upon his own head, and his violence shall descend upon his own crown.
Here David says not only that their wicked devices were without success, but that, by the wonderful providence of God, the result was the very opposite of what had been contemplated. He sets this forth in the first place metaphorically, by employing the figure of a pit and a ditch; and then he expresses the same thing in simple terms without figure, declaring, that the mischief intended for others returned upon the head of him who had devised it There is no doubt that it was a common proverb among the Jews, He who hath digged a pit falleth into it; which they quoted when they meant to say, that wicked and crafty men are caught in the snares and traps which they have set for others, or that the contrivers of the ruin of others perish by their own devices. 126 There is a twofold use of this doctrine: the first place, however skilled in craft our enemies may be, and whatever means of doing mischief they may have, we must nevertheless look for the issue which God here promises, that they shall fall by their own sword. And this is not a thing which happens by chance; but God, by the secret direction of his own hand, causes the evil which they intend to bring upon the innocent to return upon their own heads. In the second place, If at any time we are instigated by passion to inflict any injury upon our neighbours, or to commit any wickedness, let us remember this principle of retributive justice, which is often acted upon by the divine government, that those who prepare a pit for others are cast into it themselves; and the effect will be, that every one, in proportion as he would consult his own happiness and welfare, will be careful to restrain himself from doing any injury, even the smallest, to another.
17 I will praise Jehovah according to his righteousness; and I will sing to the name of Jehovah, Most High As the design of God in the deliverances which he vouchsafes to his servants is, that they may render to him in return the sacrifices of praise, David here promises that he will gratefully acknowledge the deliverance which he had received, and at the same time affirms that his preservation from death was the undoubted and manifest work of God. He could not, with truth, and from the heart, have ascribed to God the praise of his deliverance, if he had not been fully persuaded that he had been preserved otherwise than by the power of man. He, therefore, not only promises to exercise the gratitude which was due to his deliverer, but he confirms in one word what he has rehearsed throughout the psalm, that he is indebted for his life to the grace of God, who had not suffered Saul to take it from him. The righteousness of God is here to be understood of his faithfulness which he makes good to his servants in defending and preserving their lives. God does not shut up or conceal his righteousness from our view in the secret recesses of his own mind, but manifests it for our advantage when he defends us against all wrongful violence, delivers us from oppression, and preserves us in safety although wicked men make war upon us and persecute us.
“Delectation, ou Resjouissance.”—Fr.
“Ascavoir que c’a este une espece de melodie ou certain chant, comme nous scavons que selon la diversite des nations et langues, il y a diverses mesures de vers.”—Fr. “Namely, that it was a kind of tune or song, as we know, that, according to the diversity of nations and languages, there are different measures of verse.”
“Mais pource que les Hebrieux prenent souvent un temps pour l’autre.”—Fr.
“Et foulle ma vie en terre.”—Fr. “And let him trample my life on the ground.”
“Et qu’il mette.”—Fr. “And lay.”
“Apres luy avoir fait le serment.”—Fr. “After having sworn the oath of allegiance to him.”
“Pource que le nom et titre royal luy devoit estre une sauvegarde et le tenir en seurete.”—Fr. “Because the royal name and title ought to be to him a safeguard, and secure the safety of his person.”
In the clause, “And have NOT delivered him that persecuted me without cause,” the word not is a supplement, there being nothing for it in the Hebrew text.
Street’s rendering is, “And exert in my favour the judgment thou hast ordained.”
“Lequel nous avons traduit Veille.”—Fr.
“Tout le peuple qui s’estoit ainsi vilenement destourne de toy.”—Fr.
“Mais ce sera un enseignement commun a plusieurs peuples, pour recognoistre ton juste jugement, tellement qu’ils dresseront les yeux vers ton siege judicial.”—Fr.
Fry reads, “And over it resume thy high tribunal.” He supposes that the word עליה, aleha, which Calvin has rendered on account of this, may be understood, “concerning this affair,” and gives the following paraphrase: ”Resume thy judgment-seat, in order to investigate the cause in which I have been prejudged by the adversary.”
“Les autres estiment plustost que ce soit une vehemente imprecation, et exposent ce mot Hebrieu un peu autrement. Car en lieu que nous le traduisons Cesser et Prendre fin, ils le prenent pour Faire cesser, qui est Destruire et Consumer.”—Fr.
“Il se peut faire aussi qu’il parle ainsi pour oster toutes ces belles apparances bien fardees dont ils se servoyent pour abuser les hommes et ce leur estoit assez.”—Fr.
“Il a ja tendu son arc, et l’a dresse ascavoir pour tirer.”—Fr. “He hath already bent his bow and made it ready, namely, to shoot.” The words in italics are supplementary, there being nothing for them in the Hebrew text. Calvin, in his French version, has uniformly distinguished supplementary words by printing them in smaller characters.
According to Calvin, the pronoun refers to bow. Fry renders it differently. “It is,” says he, “literally for himself—for his use. We must keep in view the metaphor of the warrior preparing for action.”
“Pour les bailler aux persecuteurs.”—Fr. “To give them to the persecutors.”
“Car il a conceu meschancete, ou moleste, mais il enfantera mensonge.” — Fr. “For he hath conceived wickedness, or mischief, but he shall bring forth falsehoods.”
This is the view adopted by Hengstenberg in his excellent Commentary on The Psalms. “The apparently coarse manner of expression in our text,” says he, “representing God as a warrior equipped with sword and bow, has besides for its foundation the coarseness of sinners, and the weakness of faith on the part of believers, which does not direct itself against the visible danger with pure thoughts of God’s controllable agency, but seeks to clothe those thoughts with flesh and blood, and regards the judge as standing over against the sinner, man against man, sword against sword.”
“Ne cesse de me poursuyvre.” — Fr. “Do not cease from pursuing me.”
“Duquel il avoit este delivre par luy.” — Fr.
“Au reste, quand il est yci parle de se retourner, ce n’est pas pour signifier ce que nous appelons repentance et amendement en son ennemi, mais tant seulement une volonte et deliberation diverse; comme si’il dit qu’il estoit en la puissance de l’ennemi de parfaire tout ce qui luy venoit en la fantasie.” — Fr.
Those who adopt this rendering, support it from the reading of the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Syriac versions, although the Chaldee version reads persecuting; and they generally view the 12th and 13th verses as a representation of God under the image of a warrior ready to shoot his flaming, burning, fiery arrows, against the object to which he is opposed.” I read וצלקים urentes, inflammatos; the arrows of the Almighty, (De 32:24.) Languishments of famine, the burnings of the carbuncle, and the bitter pestilence. Schultens, (Pr 26:23.) Lightnings are also called God’s arrows, (Ps 18:15,) and represented as the artillery of heaven.”—Dr Kennicott’s note on this place in his Select Passages of the Old Testament. Hengstenberg takes the same view. His rendering is, He [that is, God] makes his arrows burning. “רלק, to burn. In sieges it is customary to wrap round the arrows burning matter, and to shoot them after being kindled.”
“La ou nous avons mis Persecuteurs aucuns le rapportans aux fleches, traduissent Ardentes; pource que le mot Hebrieu emporte aussl ceste signification.”—Fr.
“Disant que tout cela est alle en fumee.” — Fr. “Saying that the whole ended in smoke.”
“Pource que Dieu l’a frustre de son attente et renverse toutes ces meschantes entreprises.”—Fr.
“Pour toutes violences et outrages.”—Fr.
“C’est a dire, se decoyvent et ne viendront a bout de ce qu’ils couvent en leurs coeurs.”—Fr.
Fry, from a comparison of the Hebrew word which Calvin renders hollowed it out, with the cognate Arabic words supposes that it means “dug it over, so as to cover and hide it.” The imagery is taken from the common method of catching lions and other wild beasts in the east, by digging pits on the spots which they were observed to frequent, and covering them slightly over with reeds or small branches of trees. Luther’s translation of this clause is precisely the same with that of Calvin; and, in his Commentary on the place, he well explains the force of the expressions of the Psalmist. “See,” says he, “how admirably he expresses the hot burning fury of the ungodly, not simply declaring, he has dug a pit, but adding to this, and hollowed it out. So active and diligent are they to have the pit dug and the hole prepared. They try every thing, they explore every thing, and not satisfied that they have dug a pit, they clear it out and make it deep, as deep as they possibly can, that they may destroy and subvert the innocent.”
“Tomboyent au mal qu’ils avoyent brasse.”—Fr. “Fall into the destruction which they had contrived.”