Psalms 140

PSALM CXL

The psalmist prays against his enemies, 1-6;

returns thanks for help, 7;

describes his enemies, and prays farther against them, 8-11.

His confidence in God, 12, 13.

NOTES ON PSALM CXL

The Hebrew, and all the Versions, attribute this Psalm to David;

and it is supposed to contain his complaint when persecuted by

Saul. The Syriac determines it to the time when Saul endeavoured

to transfix David with his spear.

Verse 1. From the evil man] Saul, who was full of envy,

jealousy, and cruelty against David, to whom both himself and his

kingdom were under the highest obligations, endeavoured by every

means to destroy him.

Verse 2. They gathered together] He and his courtiers form plots

and cabals against my life.

Verse 3. They have sharpened their tongues] They employ their

time in forging lies and calumnies against me; and those of the

most virulent nature.

Verse 4. Preserve me from the violent man] Saul again; who was

as headstrong and violent in all his measures, as he was cruel,

and inflexibly bent on the destruction of David.

Verse 5. Have hid a snare for me] They hunted David as they

would a dangerous wild beast: one while striving to pierce him

with the spear; another to entangle him in their snares, so as to

take and sacrifice him before the people, on pretense of his being

an enemy to the state.

Selah] This is the truth.

Verse 7. Thou hast covered my head] Not only when I fought with

the proud blaspheming Philistine; but in the various attempts made

against my life by my sworn enemies.

Verse 8. Further not his wicked device] He knew his enemies

still desired his death, and were plotting to accomplish it; and

here he prays that God may disappoint and confound them. The

Chaldee understands this of Doeg.

Verse 10. Let burning coals] The Chaldee considers this as

spoken against Ahithophel, who was head of a conspiracy against

David; and translates this verse thus: "Let coals from heaven fall

upon them, precipitate them into the fire of hell, and into miry

pits, from which they shall not have a resurrection to eternal

life." This is a proof that the Jews did believe in a resurrection

of the body, and an eternal life for that body, in the case of the

righteous.

Verse 11. Let not an evil speaker be established] ish

lashon, "a man of tongue." There is much force in the rendering of

this clause in the Chaldee gebar demishtai

lishan telithai, "The man of detraction, or inflammation, with the

three-forked tongue." He whose tongue is set on fire from hell;

the tale-bearer, slanderer, and dealer in scandal: with the

three-forked tongue; wounding three at once: his neighbour whom

he slanders; the person who receives the slander; and himself who

deals in it. What a just description of a character which God,

angels, and good men must detest! Let not such a one be

established in the land; let him be unmasked; let no person trust

him; and let all join together to hoot him out of society. "He

shall be hunted by the angel of death, and thrust into

hell."-CHALDEE.

Verse 12. The cause of the afflicted] Every person who is

persecuted for righteousness' sake has God for his peculiar help

and refuge; and the persecutor has the same God for his especial

enemy.

Verse 13. The righteous shall give thanks] For thou wilt support

and deliver him.

The upright shall dwell in thy presence.] Shall be admitted to

the most intimate intercourse with God.

The persecuted have ever been dear to God Almighty; and the

martyrs were, in an especial manner, his delight; and in

proportion as he loved those, so must he hate and detest these.

ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND FORTIETH PSALM

David, being persecuted by Saul, Doeg, and the men of Ziph,

prays to God against their evil tongues. But the fathers apply it

more largely to the Church, in its persecution by wicked men and

devils.

The Psalm is divided into four parts:-

I. A petition to be delivered from his enemies, whom he

describes, Ps 140:1-6.

II. A protestation of his confidence in God, Ps 140:6, 7.

III. A prayer against them, Ps 140:8-11.

IV. A manifestation of his hope, that God will maintain his just

cause, Ps 140:12, 13.

I. He first summarily proposes his petition.

1. "Deliver me, O Lord," &c. From Saul, Doeg, or the devil.

2. "Preserve me," &c. From his violence and malice, and their

effects. 1. Evil counsels, and wicked stratagems: "Which imagine

mischief," &c. 2. From their evil words, which were consonant with

their thoughts.

"They have sharpened their tongues," &c. With calumnies and

frauds.

"Like a serpent," &c. Their bitter words are as the poison of

the viper and adder, or the asp, which, without pain,

extinguishes life.

He repeats his petition: "Keep me, O Lord," &c.

To move God, he shows their intentions.

1. "They have purposed," &c.: To make me walk slowly, or not at

all, in the ways of God; to turn me back.

2. The method they took to attain their purpose: "The proud have

laid a snare," &c.: as hunters do for birds and beasts. So the

devil shows the bait, but hides the hook: under pleasure he hides

the bitterness of its reward and consequences.

II. He implores aid from God against the evil and danger.

1. "I said unto the Lord," &c. I do not cast away my confidence.

2. "Hear the voice," &c.

Better to show the ground of his constancy, he declares,-

1. What esteem he had for his God: "Thou art the strength," &c.

My fortification against all my enemies.

2. What he had formerly done for him: "Thou hast covered my

head," &c.

III. The other part of his petition consists in praying against

their plots.

1. "Grant not, O Lord," &c. Let them not have their wishes.

2. "Further not his wicked device," &c. Give them no prosperity

in them.

3. "Lest they exalt themselves," &c. Triumph in my being

conquered by them.

After praying against them, predicts their punishment: "As for

the head of those that compass me about," &c.

1. "Let the mischief of their own lips," &c.

2. Deal severely with them: "Let burning coals," &c. Let them

suffer extreme punishment: "Let them be cast into the fire," &c.

3. "Let not an evil speaker," &c.-a liar, flatterer, &c., "be

established in the earth."

4. "Evil shall hunt," &c. Give no rest, but pursue the wicked

man to his utter ruin; all those who persecute the church, who

write their laws in her blood.

IV. To the infliction of punishment on the wicked, he subjoins,

by an antithesis, the promise of God for the defence of the

righteous, and so concludes.

1. "I know," &c. Am certainly persuaded by my own experience,

and the example of my forefathers, whom thou hast delivered in

their trials and temptations.

2. "That the Lord will maintain," &c. He may defer his help and

deliverance; but he will not take it from them.

And this he confirms and amplifies from the final cause, which

is double.

1. That they praise him: "Surely the righteous shall give

thanks," &c. Being delivered, they attribute the honour, not to

themselves, or their innocency or merit, but give the glory of his

grace and love to God alone.

2. That they remain before him in his Church militant and

triumphant. That they may "dwell in thy presence," &c. Walk before

his face here, dwell in his favour, and enjoy the beatific vision

hereafter.

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