Psalms 11

PSALM XI

David's friends advise him to flee to the wilderness from

Saul's fury, 1-3.

He answers that, having put his trust in God, knowing that he

forsakes not those who confide in him, and that he will punish

the ungodly, he is perfectly satisfied that he shall be in

safety, 4-7.

NOTES ON PSALM XI

The inscription is, To the chief Musician, A psalm of David. By

the chief musician we may understand the master-singer; the leader

of the band; the person who directed the choir: but we know that

the word has been translated, To the Conqueror; and some deep and

mystical senses have been attributed to it, with which I believe

the text has nothing to do.

Verse 1. In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye] Some of David's

friends seem to have given him this advice when they saw Saul bent

on his destruction: "Flee as a bird to your mountain;" you have

not a moment to lose; your ruin is determined; escape for your

life; get off as swiftly as possible to the hill-country, to some

of those inaccessible fortresses best known to yourself; and hide

yourself there from the cruelty of Saul. To which advice he

answers, "In the Lord put I my trust," shall I act as if I were

conscious of evil, and that my wicked deeds were likely to be

discovered? Or shall I act as one who believes he is forsaken of

the protection of the Almighty? No: I put my trust in him, and I

am sure I shall never be confounded.

Verse 2. For, lo, the wicked bend their bow] Perhaps these are

more of the words of his advisers: Every thing is ready for thy

destruction: the arrow that is to pierce thy heart is already set

on the bow-string; and the person who hopes to despatch thee is

concealed in ambush.

Verse 3. If the foundations be destroyed] If Saul, who is the

vicegerent of God, has cast aside his fear, and now regards

neither truth nor justice, a righteous man has no security for his

life. This is at present thy case; therefore flee! They have

utterly destroyed the foundations; (of truth and equity;) what can

righteousness now effect? Kimchi supposes this refers to the

priests who were murdered by Doeg, at the command of Saul. The

priests are destroyed, the preservers of knowledge and truth; the

Divine worship is overthrown; and what can the righteous man work?

These I think to be also the words of David's advisers. To all of

which he answers:-

Verse 4. The Lord is in his holy temple] He is still to be

sought and found in the place where he has registered his name.

Though the priests be destroyed, the God in whose worship they

were employed still lives, and is to be found in his temple by his

upright worshippers. And he tries the heart and the reins of both

sinners and saints. Nothing can pass without his notice. I may

expect his presence in the temple; he has not promised to meet me

in the mountain.

Verse 5. The Lord trieth the righteous] He does not abandon

them; he tries them to show their faithfulness, and he afflicts

them for their good.

His soul hateth.] The wicked man must ever be abhorred of the

Lord; and the violent man-the destroyer and murderer-his soul

hateth; an expression of uncommon strength and energy: all the

perfections of the Divine nature have such in abomination.

Verse 6. Upon the wicked he shall rain] This is a manifest

allusion to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Snares] Judgments shall fall upon them suddenly and unawares.

Fire] Such as shall come immediately from God, and be

inextinguishable.

Brimstone] Melted by the fire, for their drink! This shall be

the portion of their cup.

A horrible tempest] ruach zilaphoth, "the spirit of

terrors." Suffering much, and being threatened with more, they

shall be filled with confusion and dismay. My old MS. has gost of

stormis. See at the end. See Clarke on Ps 11:7. Or,

the blast of destructions. This may refer to the horribly

suffocating Arabian wind, called [Arabic] Smum.

Mohammed, in describing his hell, says, "The wicked shall drink

nothing there but hot stinking water; breathe nothing but burning

winds; and eat nothing but the fruit of the tree zakon, which

shall be in their bellies like burning pitch." Hell enough!

The portion of their cup.] Cup is sometimes put for plenty,

for abundance; but here it seems to be used to express the quantum

of sorrow and misery which the wicked shall have on the earth.

See Ps 75:8; Isa 51:17, 21-23; Jer 25:15; 49:12;

La 4:21, 22. It is also used in reference to the afflictions

of the righteous, Mt 20:22; 26:39, 42; Joh 18:11.

We find a similar metaphor among the heathens. The following,

from Homer, Il. xxiv., ver. 525, is in point:-

ωςγαρεπεκλωσαντοθεοιδειλοισιβροτοισι

ζωειναχνυμενουςαυτοιδετακηδεεςεισι

δοιοιγαρτεπιθοικατακειαταιενδιοςουδει

δωρωνοιαδιδωσικακωνετεροςδεεαων

ωμενκαμμιζαςδωηζευςτερπικεραυνος

αλλοτεμεντεκακωογεκυρεταιαλλοτεδεσθλω

Such is, alas! the god's severe decree,

They, only they are bless'd, and only free.

Two urns by Jove's high throne have ever stood,

The source of evil one, and one of good.

From thence the CUP of mortal man he fills:

Blessings to these; to those distributes ills.

To most he mingles both: the wretch decreed

To taste the bad unmixed, is curs'd indeed.

-POPE.

Verse 7. The righteous Lord loveth righteousness] He loves that

which resembles himself. His countenance-his face-is ever open and

unclouded to the upright. They always enjoy his salvation, and

know that he is pleased with them.

The preceding verse my old MS. translates and paraphrases thus:-

He sal rayne on synful, snares, fyre, brimstane, and gost of

stormis.

Par.-He sal rayne on synful in this werld, snares, that es wiked

Lare: fyre is covatyse: brunstane, that es stynk of il werkes: and

gost of stormis, that es a stormy though that es withoutyn rest in

Ihesu Crist, and ay es traveld with the wynd of the devel. Or the

gast of stormys, es the last depertyng of synful fra ryghtwis men,

and there fyre, brunston, storm, er part of the chalyie of thaim:

that es, thai ar thair part in pyne. He cals thair pyne a Cop, for

ilk dampned man sal drynk of the sorow of Hel, eftir the mesure of

hys Syn. Behald the pynes of wikid men: fyrst, God raynes upon

thaim snares, that es qwen he suffers fals prophetes that comes in

clathing of mekenes; and withinnen er wers than wolves, to desayf

thaim thurgh errour. Sythen the fyre of lychery, and covatys

wastes al the gude that thai haf done: eftirward for stynk of il

werkes that er castyn fra Crist, and al his Halows, and then er in

sentence of dome; as in a grete storme, dryven in til a pitte of

Hel, to bryn in fyre withoutyn ende. This es the entent of this

wers.

Ver. 7. For ryghtwis es Lord; and he lufes ryghtwisnes; evennes

saw the face of hym] Yf ge ask qwy oure lorde yelded pyne to

synful? lo here an answere; for he es rightwis. Als so if ge wil

witt qwy he gifes ioy til gude men? Lo here an answere; for he

lufed ryghtwisnes: that es, ryghtwis men, in the qwilk er many

ryghtwisneses: thof ane be the ryghtwisnes of God, in the qwilk al

ryghtwise men or parcenel. Evenes saw his face: that es, evenes es

sene in his knawyng inence, both the partys of gud and il. This es

ogayne wryches at sais, If God saf me noght, I dar say he es

unryghtwis: bot thof thai say it now, qwen he suffris wryched men

errour in thought, and worde and dede; thai sal noght be so hardy

to speke a worde qwen he comes to dampne thaire errour. Bot who so

lufes here and haldes that na unevenes may be in hym, qwam so he

dampnes, or qwam so he saves, he sal have thaire myght to stand

and to speke gude space. Now er swilk in a wonderful wodenes, that

wenes for grete wordes to get ought of God.

The former part of this Psalm, Flee as a bird, &c., this ancient

author considers as the voice of heresy inviting the true Church

to go away into error; and intimates that those who were

separating from haly kyrk were very pure, and unblameable in all

their conduct; and that mountain or hill, as he translates it,

signifies eminent virtues, of which they had an apparently good

stock. So it appears that those called heretics lived then a

holier life than those called halows or saints.

ANALYSIS OF THE ELEVENTH PSALM

This Psalm is composed dialoguewise, betwixt David and those of

his counsellors that persuaded him to fly to some place of safety

from Saul's fury; which, if he did not, he was in a desperate

condition. The Psalm has two parts.

I. He relates his counsellors' words Ps 11:1-3.

II. To which he returns his answer, Ps 11:1, and confirms it,

Ps 11:4-7.

I. You, my counsellors, whether of good or bad will I know not,

tempt me, that, giving up all hope of the kingdom, I go into

perpetual banishment. Such, you say, is Saul's fury against me.

Thus, then, ye advise, "Flee as a bird to your mountain:" and your

arguments are,

1. The greatness of the danger I am in: "For lo, the wicked bend

their bow."

2. The want of aid; there is no hope of help. For the

foundations are cast down. Saul has broken all the leagues and

covenants he has made with you. He has slain the priests with the

sword, has taken thy fortresses, laws subverted. If thou stay,

perish thou must: some righteous men, it is true, are left; but

what can the righteous do?

II. To these their arguments and counsel, David returns his

answer in a sharp reprehension. I tell you,

1. "I trust in God: how say you then to my soul." And he gives

his reasons for it from the sufficiency and efficiency of God.

1. You say the foundations are cast down; yet I despair not, for

God is sufficient.

1. Present in his holy temple; he can defend.

2. He is a great King, and his throne is in heaven.

3. Nothing is hidden from him: "His eyes behold, and his

eyelids," &c.

4. He is a just God, and this is seen in his proceedings both to

the just and unjust. 1. He trieth the righteous, by a fatherly and

gentle correction. 2. "But the wicked, and him that loveth

violence, his soul hateth."

These two last propositions he expounds severally, and begins

with the wicked.

1. "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone,"

&c. 1. He shall rain upon them when they least think of it, even

in the midst of their jollity, as rain falls on a fair day. 2. Or,

he shall rain down the vengeance when he sees good, for it rains

not always. Though he defer it, yet it will rain. 3. The

punishment shall come to their utter subversion, as the fire on

Sodom, &c. 4. This is the portion of their cup, that which they

must expect from him.

2. But he does good to the just: "For the righteous Lord loveth

righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright." He bears

him good will, and is careful to defend him.

On the whole the Psalm shows, 1. That David had the strongest

conviction of his own uprightness. 2. That he had the fullest

persuasion that God would protect him from all his enemies, and

give him a happy issue out of all his distresses.

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