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Commentary on Psalms - Volume 2
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Psalm 52:5-7

5. God shall likewise destroy thee for ever: he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling-place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah 6. The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him. 7. Lo! this is the man that made not God his strength; and trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.

 

5 God shall likewise destroy thee for ever. From these words it is made still more evident that his object in dwelling upon the aggravated guilt of Doeg, was to prove the certainty of his approaching doom, and this rather for his own conviction and comfort, than with a view to alarming the conscience of the offender. Accordingly, he declares his persuasion that God would not allow his treachery to pass unpunished, though he might for a time connive at the perpetration of it. The ungodly are disposed, so long as their prosperity continues, to indulge in undisturbed security; and the saint of God, when he sees the power of which they are possessed, and witnesses their proud contempt of the divine judgments, is too apt to be overwhelmed with unbelieving apprehensions. But in order to establish his mind in the truth which he announces, it is observable that the Psalmist heaps one expression upon another, — God shall destroy thee, take thee away, pluck thee out, root thee out, — as if by this multiplicity of words he would convince himself more effectually, that God was able to overthrow this adversary with all his boasted might and authority. 278278     “Wonderful,” says Bishop Horne, “is the force of the verbs in the original, which convey to us the four ideas of ‘laying prostrate,’ ‘dissolving as by fire,’ ‘sweeping away as with a besom,’ and ‘totally extirpating root and branch,’ as a tree eradicated from the spot on which it grew.” The second verb, יחתך, yachtecha, Bythner explains, “will snatch thee away, as one snatches fire from a hearth. From חתה, chatheh, he snatched off live coals or fire from one place to another.” In adding that God would root him out of his dwelling-place or tent, 279279     There is another interpretation of this expression which may here be stated. It has been thought that the allusion is to God’s tabernacle. “מאהל, meohel,” says Hammond, “is literally ‘from the tabernacle,’ not ‘from thy dwelling-place:’ and so the LXX. render it, ‘Απὸ σκηνώματος,’ ‘from the tabernacle;’ and though the Latin, and Syriac, and Arabic, have added tuo, thy, yet neither will the Hebrew bear, nor do the Chaldee acknowledge it, who read by way of paraphrase, ‘He shall cause thee to depart from inhabiting in the place of the Schechina, or tabernacle, the place of God’s presence.’” Hammond supposes that the expression is to be understood “of the censure of excommunication, which in the last and highest degree was Schammatha, delivering up the offender to the hand of heaven to be cut off, himself and his posterity.” “Doeg,” says Archbishop Secker, “had no office in the tabernacle; but it seems, by his history, that he frequented it, which he might do to seem a good man. And there seems an opposition between his being plucked out of God’s dwelling-place, and David’s continuing in the house of God, verse eighth.” and out of the land of the living, he insinuates that the wicked will be destroyed by God, however securely they may seem to repose ir the nest of some comfortable mansion, and in the vain hope of living upon earth for ever. Possibly he may allude, in mentioning a tent, to the profession of Doeg, as shepherds have their dwelling in tents.

6 The righteous also shall see, and fear 280280     French and Skinner read, “The righteous shall see it, and feel reverence; — feel reverence, i.e., in the punishment of this wicked man, find additional reason to reverence God, and to observe his righteous laws.” He here adduces, as another reason why the ruin of Doeg might be expected, that an important end would be obtained by it, in so far as it would promote religion in the hearts of the Lord’s people, and afford them a refreshing display of the Divine justice. Should it take place, it would be witnessed by the ungodly as well as by the righteous; but there are two reasons why the Psalmist represents it as being seen especially by the latter. The wicked are incapable of profiting by the judgments of God, being blind to the plainest manifestations which he has made of himself in his works, and it was only the righteous therefore who could see it. Besides, the great end which God has in view, when he prostrates the pride of the ungodly, is the comfort of his own people, that he may show to them the care with which he watches over their safety. It is they, therefore, whom David represents as witnessing this spectacle of Divine justice. And when he says that they would fear, it is not meant that they would tremble, or experience any slavish apprehension, but that their reverential regard for God would be increased by this proof of his care of their interests. When left exposed to the injurious treatment of their enemies, they are apt to be distressed with doubts as to the concern which he takes in the government of the world. But such illustrations to the contrary have the effect of quickening their discouraged zeal, and promoting that fear which is by no means inconsistent with the joy spoken of in the close of the verse. They are led to reverence him the more when they see that he is the avenger of cruelty and injustice: on the other hand, when they perceive that he appears in defense of their cause, and joins common battle with them against their adversaries, they are naturally filled with the most triumphant joy. The beautiful play upon the words see and fear, in the Hebrew, cannot be transferred to our language; the form of the expression intimates that they would see, and see effectually.

7. Lo! this is the man that made not God his strength Some think that these words are given as what should afterwards be proverbially applied to Doeg; but they would not appear to have been intended in that restricted signification. They merely express the improvement which the people of God would make of the judgment. It would teach them, on the one hand, to be patient under the insolence of the ungodly, which is so speedily humbled; and, on the other, to beware of indulging a similarly infatuated spirit themselves. They would laugh at their destruction, yet not in the way of insulting over them, but rejoicing more and more in the confidence of the help of God, and denying themselves more cheerfully to the vain pleasures of this world. This is the lesson to be learned from such dispensations of providence: they should recall our wandering affections to God. The verse is introduced with an exclamation, Lo! this is the man, etc.; for David would have us to look upon this one instance as representing to our eyes, in a vivid manner, the end of all who despise the Lord; and it may be remarked, that it is no small point of practical wisdom thus to generalise individual providences. The two clauses, made not God his strength, and, trusted in the abundance of his riches, stand mutually connected; for none can be said sincerely to repose upon God but he who has been emptied of all confidence in his own resources. So long as men imagine that they have something of their own in which they can boast, they will never resort to God: just in proportion as we arrogate to ourselves do we derogate from him; and it is not only wealth, but any other earthly possession, which, by engrossing our confidence, may prevent us from inquiring after the Lord. The noun הוה, havah, which most interpreters have rendered wickedness, 281281     If this is the true rendering, there may be a reference to the expectations which Doeg had entertained of increasing his power and influence by maliciously injuring David, as he would thereby obtain, in a high degree, the favor of Saul. and some slaughter or destruction, seems, in this place, rather to mean substance. 282282     This is the marginal reading in our English Bible. As he was Saul’s chief herdsman, it is probable that his riches consisted chiefly in cattle. Such repetitions of the same sentiment in different words are common with the Psalmist; and, according to this translation, the verse will flow connectedly, reading, that the man who trusts in his riches, and strengthens himself in his substance, defrauds God of his just glory.


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