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Studies in Psalm Fifty Eight

Studies in Psalm Fifty Eight

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Published by: glennpease on Apr 14, 2012
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STUDIES I PSALM FIFTY EIGHTBY WILLIAM S. PLUMER, D. D., LL. D.ALL the phrases of the title are explained on titles of Psalms iv. xvi. Ivii. Theauthorship of David is undoubted. This Psalm has no known historic occasion,although its contents show that it refers to a time of bitter persecution. Scott andClarke both date it B. C. 1061. In it we find Jehovah Lord and Elohim God, onwhich see on Ps. i. 2 ; iii. 2.1. Do ye indeed speak righteousness, congregation f do ye judge uprightly, yesons of men f Chaldee : Does it indeed seem to you that ye speak justice when ye[who are or ought to be] just ones are silent in the time of strife? Judge the sons of men in uprightness ; Amesius : Do ye truly speak justice, band? do ye judge thethings, which are right, ye sons of men ? Edwards : Do ye really pronouncerighteoussentence? and do ye judge equitably, ye sons of men? Horsley : Are ye in earnest,faction, when ye talk of righteousness, do ye give sentence upriglitly, O ye sous of men ? Hengstenberg : Are ye then indeed dumb, that ye will not speak what is right-eous, and judge what is upright, ye children of men ? For righteousness, Waterlandhas tmdh. For congregation we may read Band, Company, Assembly, Council,literallya sheaf. Patrick supposes it designates Saul's Privy Council. In the Hebrew Bibleit nowhere else means assembly. This has led many to think the word should be ren-dered dumb or silent. If we drop or vary the Masoretic points, this may well be thereading. The change of a letter would then also give ns princes or judges. In thii^case the sense is given by Alexander in his paraphrase : "Can it be? is it possible?are you really silent, you whose very office is to speak for God, and against the sinsof men? See Deut. i. 16, 17." Taking the clauses according to the common version,we may regard them as a bold and unqualified denial of the justice of theaccusation>against him. David honors these men by calling them an assembly or council; but \w.also calls them sons of man, either to remind them of their frailty andaccountability.or, to let them know that even here their real characters are understood and theyarenot sons of God.2. Yea, in heart ye work udckedness. All the time they were sitting as solemn anddignified judges, they were meditating wrong and injury. Their very station shouldhave warned them against injustice, but they intentionally used their position towork vnckedness. Ye weigh [or ponder] the violence of your hands in the earth. Whattheydid, they did deliberately, with malice prei:)ense. Violence, often so rendered, alsov:rong, cruelty, injustice, damage, violent dealing, Ps. vii. 16 ; xxvii. 12. It furtheraggravated their crimes that they did all this injustice in the land of Israel, where
were excellent statutes and ordinances of justice, and Avhere God had presentedmanyand urgent motives to uprightness in all, especially in judges.3. The wicked are estranged from the womb. For estranged some have alienated,aliens, froward, wicked, strangers to pity. The clause asserts native hereditary de-nravity. Compare Isa. Ixviii. 8; Eph. ii. 3. Ainsworth: "This noteth man's naturalcorruption ;" Pool : " The sense is, o wonder they act so unrighteously, for theirverynatures and principles are corrupt from their birth ; they are the wicked offspringof 600 STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. [psalm lviii.einful parents." They go astray so soon as they be hm-n, speaking lies.Estrangementfrom God is very naturally attended by signs of wickedness towards man, and espe-cially by want of truthfulness. What parent's heart has not ached at infallibleevidenceof a tendency to falsehood in his offspring? It requires the best precepts andexamples,enforced by the highest authority and the most steadfast government to savechildrenand youth from growing up to be arrant liars.4. Their poison is like the jyoison of a se'tpent. Poison, elsewhere rendered also rage,wrath, fury, anger ; see on Ps. vi. 1, where it is rendered hot displeasure. Here itmeans venom. The poison of serpents is a 'fiery liquor,' which is soon spreadthroughthe system. It is a fit emblem of the deadly malice of violent men. I have seen aman thrown by it in a few minutes into a raging fever, and into dreadful pain. Inthis verse there may be an allusion also to the old serpent. Rev. xx. 2. These violentmen resembled one species of serpent in another respect : They are like the deaf adderthat stoppcth her ear. Some have alleged that the stories respecting some kinds of serpents being unaffected by sounds are fabulous. This can hardly be so. The belief is too widely spread in countries where serpents abound. The species here spoken of is the a^. The word here rendered adder occurs six times in the Bible, and is alwaysrendered asj) except here and in Ps. xci. 13 ; and even then the margin gives asp.Other words are rendered adder in Gen. xlix. 17 ; Ps. exl. 3 ; Pr. xxiii. 32. Therewas no remedy for the poison of the asp. Its bite was fatal in a few minutes. Somemodern travellers say that this species of serpent is still found in countries east of theMediterranean.
5. Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.Charmers of serpents are still common in India and Egypt. That they possess powerover venomous reptiles so as to malce them harmless cannot be denied, for theyoftenexhibit themselves and their serpents. Compare Eccle. x. 11; Jer. viii. 17. Butover the asp these men are said to have had no power. The reason given by some isthat asps are entirely deaf; by others that though they have hearing, yet to the mur-muring noise made by charmers they close their ears ; and by others that they are sovenomous that the charmer has no power over them at any time. Which of these istrue in natural history the author has no means of determining. The latter is mostprobable. The import of the passage is that David's enemies were obstinately deaf toall tender appeals, to all the demands of justice, to the dictates of nationality and of conscience. Such a transaction as that recorded in 1 Sam. xxiv. 4-20 ought foreverto have terminated the Sauline persecutions. They were not provoked even by im-prudence, much less by any crime.6. Break their teeth, God, in their mouth. On breaking the teeth, see on Ps. iii. 7,The allusion is to rendering beasts of prey powerless by breaking their teeth. This isa very old figure among sacred writers. Job iv. 10. Break otd the great teeth of theyoung lions, Lord. On young lions see on Ps. xvii. 12; xxxiv. 10. A friend, Avhohas spent a quarter of a century in South Africa, informs me that the old lionbecomestoothless and clumsy, and has great difficulty in securing his prey, or in eating it, ashe has first to tear it to pieces with his claws. Compare Job iv. 11. The prayer of David is that his enemies, though strong and active, may be rendered powerless formischief and cruelty against him. On the imprecatory form see Introduction, § 6.7. Let them melt away as waters which run continually. The verbs are in the future.The modern signification of the word melt renders it not so good here as flow orpassaway. The same form of the verb is in Job vii. 5 rendered become loathsome. Calvin:Let thorn flow away like waters, let them depart; church of England: Let them fallaway like water that runneth apace; Green: Let them waste away like water whichnmneth continually ; Chaldee (interpreting) : Let them melt away in their sins likePSALM Lviii.] STUDIES I THE BOOK OF PSALMS. 60]water, let them flow away from themselves; Septuagint, Ethiopic, Vulgate andDoway :They shall come to nothing, like water running down. When he bendeth his bow toshoot his arroics let them be as cut in jneces. On the mode of bending the bow see onP.S. vii. 13; xi. 2; xxxvii. 14. The reader will notice that in the common versionmuch is supplied by the translators. Rogers: "I am persuaded that some word, thename of something with Avhich the wicked, perishing under the divine vengeance,werf 

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