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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 1
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Psalm 9:17-18

17. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. 18. For the poor shall not always be forgotten; the hope of the humble shall not perish for ever.

 

17. The wicked shall be turned into hell. Many translate the verb in the optative mood, Let the wicked be turned into hell, as if it were an imprecation. But, in my judgment, David here rather confirms himself and all the godly with respect to the future, declaring that whatever the wicked may attempt, it will have a termination disastrous to themselves. By the word turn he means that the issue will be far otherwise than what they imagine; for there is implied in it a tacit contrast between the height of their presumption and the depth of their fall. As they have no fear of God, they exalt themselves above the clouds; and then, as if they had “made a covenant with death,” according to the language of Isaiah, (Isaiah 28:15) they become so much the more arrogant and presumptuous. But when we see them raging without apprehension of danger, the prophet warns us that their madness carries them headlong, so that, at length, they fall into the grave, from which they thought themselves to be a great way off. Here, then, is described to us the sudden and unexpected change, by which God, when he pleases, restores to order things which were in confusion. When, therefore, we see the wicked flying aloft devoid of all fear, let us, by the eyes of faith, behold the grave which is prepared for them; and rest assured that the hand of God, although it is unseen, is very near, which can turn them back in the midst of their course in which they aim at reaching heaven, and make them tumble into hell in a moment. The meaning of the Hebrew word שאולה, sheolah, is doubtful, but I have not hesitated to translate it hell 180180     “Le mot Hebreu, pour lequel nous avons traduit Enfer signifie aussi Sepulchre; mais j’ay mieux aime retenir ceste signification. — Fr. “The Hebrew word which we have translated hell also signifies the grave; but I have preferred to retain the former meaning of the word.” I do not find fault with those who translate it the grave, but it is certain that the prophet means something more than common death, otherwise he would here say nothing else with respect to the wicked than what would also happen to all the faithful in common with them. Though then, he does not speak in express terms of eternal destruction, but only says, They shall be turned into the grave, yet, under the metaphor of the grave, he intimates that all the ungodly shall perish, and that the presumption with which, by every unlawful means, they raise themselves on high to trample righteousness under foot, and to oppress the innocent, shall bring upon them ruin and perdition. The faithful, also, it is true, descend into the grave, but not with such fearful violence as plunges them into it without hope of coming out again. So far is this from being the case, that even when shut up in the grave, they dwell already in heaven by hope.

18. For the poor shall not always be forgotten. The assertion that God will not forsake the poor and afflicted for ever, is a confirmation of the preceding sentence. By it he intimates, that they may indeed seem to be forsaken for a time. Let us, therefore, remember that God has promised his assistance to us, not in the way of preventing our afflictions, but of at length succouring us after we have been long subdued under the cross. David speaks expressly of hope or expectation, thereby to encourage us to prayer. The reason why God seems to take no notice of our afflictions is, because he would have us to awaken him by means of our prayers; for when he hears our requests, (as if he began but then to be mindful of us,) he stretches forth his powerful hand to help us. David again repeats that this is not done immediately, in order that we may persevere in hoping well, even although our expectations may not be instantly gratified.


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