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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

Psalms 109

 

 

Verses 1-31

Psalm 109

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David

Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;

2 For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me;

They have spoken against me with a lying tongue.

3 They compassed me about also with words of hatred;

And fought against me without a cause.

4 For my love they are my adversaries:

But I give myself unto prayer.

5 And they have rewarded me evil for good,

And hatred for my love.

6 Set thou a wicked man over him:

And let Satan stand at his right hand.

7 When he shall be judged, let him be condemned:

And let his prayer become sin.

8 Let his days be few;

And let another take his office.

9 Let his children be fatherless,

And his wife a widow.

10 Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg:

Let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.

11 Let the extortioner catch all that he hath;

And let the strangers spoil his labour.

12 Let there be none to extend mercy unto him:

Neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.

13 Let his posterity be cut off;

And in the generation following let their name be blotted out.

14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord;

And let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.

15 Let them be before the Lord continually,

That he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.

16 Because that he remembered not to shew mercy,

But persecuted the poor and needy Prayer of Manasseh,

That he might even slay the broken in heart.

17 As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him:

As he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.

18 As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment,

So let it come into his bowels like water,

And like oil into his bones.

19 Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him,

And for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.

20 Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the Lord,

And of them that speak evil against my soul.

21 But do thou for me, O God the Lord, for thy name’s sake:

Because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.

22 For I am poor and needy,

And my heart is wounded within me.

23 I am gone like the shadow when it declineth:

I am tossed up and down as the locust.

24 My knees are weak through fasting;

And my flesh faileth of fatness.

25 I became also a reproach unto them:

When they looked upon me they shaked their heads.

26 Help me, O Lord my God:

O save me according to thy mercy:

27 That they may know that this is thy hand;

That thou, Lord, hast done it.

28 Let them curse, but bless thou:

When They arise, let them be ashamed;

But let thy servant rejoice.

29 Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame;

And let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.

30 I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth;

Yea, I will praise him among the multitude.

31 For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor

To save him from those that condemn his soul.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Contents and Composition.—The Psalmist calls upon God not to be silent with regard to his complaint ( Psalm 109:1-5) against his enemies, who are deceitful and filled with enmity, and who persecute him causelessly and unrelentingly, for he is innocent and pious, and who reward both his good deeds and his love towards them with ingratitude and hatred. The retributive justice of God, with all its terrible consequences, is then invoked upon an enemy, who is thereafter designated in the singular number, and upon his family ( Psalm 109:6-20). He then implores from God’s mercy his own deliverance, describing his personal weakness and dishonor ( Psalm 109:21-25), and, with faith in Divine help, entreats a victorious issue of this suffering ( Psalm 109:26-29), and unites with this a vow of public thanksgiving ( Psalm 109:30-31).

In these prayers, as well as in the introduction, a plurality of foes is spoken of. We might therefore be inclined to regard the singular designation of the enemy, which appears in the prayer for punishment, as a rhetorical figure. Yet the whole picture is of such a character that it cannot be intended for a number of persons, but only for an individual. But there is no occasion for maintaining that this section interrupts the connection, and regarding it as an interpolation (Hupfeld). From the band of enemies one could very well have been singled out for special punishment, since one actually appears as having been specially hardened in wickedness. In favor of this is the circumstance that Satan, as the accuser, is to stand at his right hand ( Psalm 109:6), as God the Defender of his servant stands at his right ( Psalm 109:31). Psalm 109:8 also speaks of the loss of his occupation. The Apostle Peter took the same view ( Acts 1:20) in referring this verse, along with Psalm 69:26, to Judas Iscariot, of whom the Holy Ghost had prophesied by the mouth of David ( Acts 1:16). Accordingly it is best to refer this Psalm to the typico-prophetical (Calvin, Venema, Stier, Del.), and not to the Messianic class. For the speaker is not presented as a type of the Messiah (many of the older commentators), or of the suffering righteous (Hengst, Clauss.) It is the enemy who is treated as the type of Judas, and that in a relation altogether definite, and only manifested as existing, when viewed from the stand-point of the prophetical conception of history, and not until it was brought out by the fulfilment. It is understood, of course, that actual history must furnish corresponding events, which, without seeking too far, can be naturally brought into connection with the situation described. Such events are found in the relations of David to Doeg the Edomite (Kimchi), to Ahithophel (Grotius, Knapp) to Shimei (Dathe) although the individual case in question cannot be established from the text. But, by regarding such a special case as no more than an extreme heightening of the contrast between the theocratic ruler of Israel and his adversary, who has fallen into the power of Satan, and by treating it typico-prophetically, not only may the attempts, inadequate by themselves, of a moral (Ewald) or psychological (Olshausen) or poetical (Döderlein) explanation of the fearful imprecations be assigned their relative worth, but also the absurd and unsuccessful efforts to justify them in the mouth of David as a type of Christ in His judicial office (J. H. Mich, Hengst.) may be avoided. For the contradiction between these imprecations, and the actions, as well as the commands, of Jesus Christ (Clericus, Grotius), cannot be removed by any effort of skill, or concealed by referring to Matthew 26:24, and similar passages. The announcement and execution of the Divine judgment, and even prayer for its coming, may be in agreement with the Divine will, and may coexist with a righteous desire for its actual realization. But in such a relation there are manifested grief, moral indignation, and holy anger (comp. our remark at Psalm 69) Here, on the contrary, a spirit is displayed which is not free from carnal passion, and which invokes injuries of such a kind upon the person, and even upon the wife and offspring of the enemy, that some expositors have been able to discover no other way out of the difficulty, than by placing these words in the mouths of the ungodly adversaries of the Psalmist (J. D. Mich, Muntinghe). Others, acknowledging that such a view cannot be admitted, seek the origin of the Psalm in the fanatical and revengeful spirit of later Judaism. Those who hold the last view consider the poetical style, which delights in redundancies and exaggerations, to be further evidence of a late period and degenerate taste (De Wette, Hitzig). But we would be inclined to regard these as characteristics of the style employed in imprecations, rather than as a genuine expression of the feelings (Hupfeld).

[Alexander: “This Psalm is remarkable on two accounts: first, as containing the most striking instances of what are called the imprecations of the Psalm; and, then, as having been applied in the most explicit manner to the sufferings of our Saviour from the treachery of Judas, and to the miserable fate of the latter. These two peculiarities are perhaps more closely connected than they may at first sight seem. Perhaps the best solution of the first is afforded by the second, or at least by the hypothesis that the Psalmist, under the instruction of the Spirit, viewed the sufferings of Israel which furnished the occasion of the Psalm, as an historical type of the Messiah’s sufferings from the treachery of Judas, and that, with this view, he expresses his abhorrence of the crime, and acquiesces in the justice of its punishment, in stronger terms than would have been, or are elsewhere, employed in reference to ordinary criminals.”—J. F. M.]

Psalm 109:1-5. God of my praise, that Isaiah, God, who art my praise ( Jeremiah 17:14). The translation of the Vulg.: God, be not silent to my praise! is against the Heb. Text, and its translation in Psalm 109:4 : instead of the love due to me, is against the context; for it is clearly not the objective genitive, but the subjective, which occurs in Psalm 109:5, as in Psalm 38:21. The change of tenses indicates a hostile course of action of very long duration, hardening itself against affection in repeated actions. The slight correction of Böttcher in Psalm 109:4 b, in order to gain the sense: I am a loathing to them, is ingenious but unnecessary. [This is done by pointing תִּפְלָה. The literal rendering of the received text is: I (am) prayer. The expression probably means, I give forth my whole being in prayer. This is proposed as interpreting the form of the sentence (comp. the Heb. of Psalm 110:3) better than the common explanation.—J. F. M.]

Psalm 109:6-7. Can Psalm 109:6 mean: pronounce against him: guilty (Hitzig)? [Hupfeld says this is against the usage of the verb, and anticipates verse7.—J. F. M.] Since it is not a human judgment but a Divine one that is spoken of, and the expressions closely resemble Zechariah 3:1, and שׂטן occurs without the article, as in 1 Chronicles 21:1, the adversary placed in the usual position at the right hand of the accused, is hardly to be resolved, if we regard 1 Samuel 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:23, into the more general idea of an accuser, and is certainly not to be explained into that of an unrighteous accuser, according to the usual conception of the wicked man as being placed over the accused, as an unrighteous judge. God is rather to be supposed as the Judges, after Psalm 109:7 b, and the punitive power is to be transferred to a wicked man ( Leviticus 26:16; Jeremiah 15:3), perhaps the power to drag him to judgment; a Satan to appear as the accuser. The Devil in the strict sense is probably not yet alluded to, but still, in all likelihood, an enemy with superhuman wickedness and power is intended. The objection which many take to the wish that the prayer might become sin, disappears when it is perceived that it is not the prayer of a penitent, but of one unconverted and despairing. Hence we are not to translate: let his prayer be a failure, that Isaiah, unavailing (Then.).

Psalm 109:8-11. Instead of: office, or position as overseer (Sept. ἐπισκοπὴ) there is no sufficient occasion to translate: property, savings, with reference to Isaiah 15:17 (Syr, J. D. Mich, Knapp, De Wette, Hitzig). The usual explanation ( Numbers 3:36; Numbers 4:16) is the more to be preferred, as the loss of property is not mentioned till Psalm 109:11. In Psalm 109:10 b the Sept. have probably read גֹרְוּ instead of the present דָּרְשׁוּ, for they translate: may they be cast out. This agrees so well with the context, as also in Exodus 12:39; Job 30:5, that it is natural to conjecture that it was the original reading (Houbigant, Knapp, Hupfeld). It is certainly much more simple and justifiable than the arbitrary correction of Hitzig, in order to gain the rendering: and may they get ready their baskets, that Isaiah, for begging. The whole passage is wanting in the Syriac Version. [In Psalm 109:11 instead of: extortioner, translate: creditor.—J. F. M.]

Psalm 109:14-15. The iniquity of his fathers.—There is presented here something more than a poetical variation (Hupfeld) of the imprecation that even the name of the family might be blotted out (Hengstenberg). Even this would be more than a “dull play of wit with conceptions which have no inner reality.” The speaker wishes that the guilt of the fathers may be remembered to the disgrace of the Song of Solomon, Lamentations 5:8. Since he himself is loaded with guilt, that of his fathers may be imputed to him also, Exodus 20:5; Psalm 69:28 (Hitzig). [Perowne: “The curse goes backward as well as forward. The whole race of man is involved in it; root and branch he is accursed. Not the guilt of the individual only, but the guilt of all his guilty ancestors is to be remembered and visited upon his posterity. For the great law comp. Matthew 23:32-36. Hupfeld objects that ‘the curse on the fathers’ is pointless, as it could no longer reach them, but if I see rightly, the object is to heighten the effect of the curse as it falls upon the children mentioned in Psalm 109:13.”—J. F. M.]

Psalm 109:17-19. Verse19 desires, that according to the law of retribution, there may be experienced what in Psalm 109:18 is related as already accomplished. The law itself is stated already in Psalm 109:17, and the different images in Psalm 109:18 represent its operation. [The true construction in Psalm 109:17-18 is to take all the verbs as describing past events: “And he loved cursing, and it came upon him,” etc., and then in Psalm 109:19 comes the imprecation explained above. The Vav Conversive at the beginning of Psalm 109:17, and repeated, proves the correctness of this construction.—J. F. M.]

Psalm 109:21-24. Do thou for me, namely, good, as is expressly added in Psalm 119:165. But perhaps the expression is absolute, as in Jeremiah 14:7, since the idea is furnished from the context (Geier, Hengst,, Hupfeld). The renderings which follow are less to be commended: do with me (Rudinger), or: act with me (Del), namely, helpfully=be with me (Luth), in which we are referred to the construction of this word with the dative, 1 Samuel 14:6 (De Wette and others).—In Psalm 109:24 b it is doubtful whether שֶמֶן is to be taken as meaning: oil, as usual, and especially anointing oil, in contrast to the fasting and mourning ( 2 Samuel 12:16; 2 Samuel 12:20; 2 Samuel 14:2; Matthew 6:16-17), and then the מִן causally=because of (the want of) oil (Sept, Vulg. and others, Hengst.), or whether the preposition is to be taken in a privative sense, and oil as equivalent to fat (the recent expositors).

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. A religious and righteous life does not protect a man from calumny and persecution at the hands of envious and wicked men; nor can love and friendship be secure against hatred and ingratitude. But piety and love lead him to prayer, in the midst of the trials thence resulting, and to commit revenge, as well as deliverance, to the Holy God as the true Avenger, who will not remain silent, either to the lying words and calumnies of the enemies, or to the sighs and prayers of His servant, but will give renewed occasion for the ever-extending proclamation of His ancient glory.

2. The law of retribution has not merely its Old Testament foundation ( Exodus 21:23 f.), but its New Testament application ( 2 Timothy 4:14). But he who has recourse to it, and demands and entreats that God would put it into practice, should see well to it, that he himself be not seized and crushed by it. For “cursing as well as swearing is both good and bad. For we read in the Scriptures that holy men have often cursed—therefore none can offer the Lord’s Prayer rightly without also cursing. For when he prays, ‘hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,’ etc., he must include in the same outpouring of his desires all that is opposed to these, and say: cursed and execrated and dishonored must all other names be, and all kingdoms which are opposed to Thee must be destroyed and rent in pieces, and all devices, Wisdom of Solomon, and purposes, formed against Thee fall to the ground” (Luther, Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount). This cursing, as correlated to blessing, is just a testimony to the energy of opposition in a heart and of a life wholly devoted to God, and was uttered by Prophets and Apostles with the full consciousness that, as God’s servants, they were justified and obligated in doing Song of Solomon, and that they acted in the name and under the commission and commands of God, and with His authority and power. The scruples of many expositors, arising from over-delicacy and sentimentality, are shorn of their force by these considerations, and the principle must be firmly held, that the servants of God are to make His threatenings as well as His promises an article of their belief, and that when they say “amen” to them, they must in deed and in truth, set themselves for the earnest execution of the Divine will. For “the kingdom of God comes not only through the salvation of the penitent, but also through the condemnation of the impenitent” (Kurtz). But still we have to lay to heart these two qualifications, first, that it is not every one who is called to curse in God’s kingdom, and secondly, that those who are called must allow nothing that proceeds from their own flesh and heart to influence them in their Divine office. There are curses which do not fall upon those at whom they are cast, but recoil upon the heads of those who pronounce them.

3. When children continue in the sins of their parents, judicial hardening may then come upon them, in which the whole family is miserably ruined and destroyed, even to its name. The powers of evil, by whose aid such a race hoped to rule according to its pleasure and to the ruin of others, have gained dominion over it and its several members, and buried it beneath the burden of its iniquities. Persistent scorn of love has heaped up for itself a treasure of wrath; growing despite of goodness has exhausted patience; the increased abuse of the day of grace ripens for that judgment in which the unconverted sinner receives the fulness of that which he sought his whole life long, as though he could never be satiated with it, while that which he despised ever remains far from him; both of these being the consequences of his wickedness and the punishment of his obduracy. In such fearful judgments they will experience the force of the truth, that there is a sin unto death, and that there are sinners for whom there is no place for prayer ( 1 John 5:16), and whose own prayer becomes sin, because it is not the expression of a religious need or condition.

4. The history of the lives of the righteous may be a history of suffering, and a long narrative of distress and peril, dishonor and persecution, sorrow and trial. But it attains at last a blessed and joyful issue, and becomes a history of victory. And this is accomplished, not according to any pretended law of the reversing of fortune in the changes and fluctuations of earthly things, not by accident or by human power, but by the hand of God. And the servant of God can never cease to confess His name and invoke his mercy, to proclaim His glory and praise His benefits, in the Church, and before the world.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

God hears thee, oh child of man! and does not keep silence: are thy words pleasing to Him?—If thou art in distress, peril, and anxiety, do not cease to praise God’s glory, to call upon His name, to trust His hand.—Never let go of the hand of God, it is thy only help; but submit also to its guidance.—He who persists in scorning love will reach the place where he can no longer receive it.—The suffering, the conflict, the delight of love.—He who acts with cursing as though it were his daily food and his raiment, need not wonder if his prayer becomes sin.—It befits the servant of God to bewail to God his distress, but also, when God is on his side, to venture against all foes, and even to beat Satan off the field.

Starke: He who extends God’s glory by celebrating it and praising it, will never be permitted by Him to come to shame beneath the calumnies of the ungodly.—Satan and his followers contend against the right with the weapons of unrighteousness and falsehood; let us oppose to them the weapons of righteousness and truth.—Love and prayer are united like the tree and its fruit.—It is the law of retribution to punish the wicked by means of the wicked.—He who has Satan as an accuser, and has not Jesus as his Intercessor, cannot escape the sentence of condemnation from God.—The wicked bequeath to their descendants nothing but cursing and judgments.—The Lord can curse none who earnestly seek His blessing ( Genesis 32:26; Genesis 32:28), nor can He bless any who labor for His curse ( Isaiah 24:5-6).—In all our actions, and therefore in our prayers, the glory of the Divine name must be our final and highest aim.—Osiander: Although the Christian is sometimes condemned as guilty by worldly judgment, and though its sentence is inflicted upon him, as happened also to Christ, yet the Lord stands by him, and pronounces him free, and leads him through death to eternal joy.—Selnecker: Why does God keep His own under the rod and the cross? (1) That they may be continually tried and exercised in the fear of God, in faith, in calling upon Him, in patience, in confession, in holding fast to the end; (2) That they may know His anger against the sins of all men, of believers as well as of the ungodly; (3) That they may be conformed to the image of Christ; (4) That they may think upon His gracious presence, help, and deliverance.—Frisch: The poison of the world finds its strongest antidote in prayer.—Tholuck: All the consequences of sin are punishments, and they come from the living God. And is it not allowable for men to wish for the fulfilment of that which God does, provided only that it be wished in the same sense as that in which God does it?—Richter: He who despises Christ’s intercession, experiences His curse.—Judicial hardening is not inflicted upon transgressors, until the Lord’s love to them has spent itself in loving, and has been offered in vain.—All prayer for deliverance, unless preceded by true repentance and penitence, and every despairing prayer, are sins before God.—Diedrich: Mankind lasts only by God’s mercy; he who hates it must vanish from the earth like the family of Saul.—The ungodly cannot be happy in any possession, for they have forfeited God’s blessing in everything.—Their works follow the wicked merely as the demands of justice.—Taube: A prayer of David for the manifestation of God’s retributive justice upon the enemy of the Lord and his companions, and for the assistance of God’s gracious help for himself in his distress.—He who rejects the love of Christ, the only Mediator and Intercessor, has the eternal God over him as an angry Judges, and Satan beside him as a strict accuser; the end of his road is night.—The self-chosen reward of the ungodly.—The matter rests here: he who would be a companion of saints in God’s kingdom must be their companion in affliction here.

[Matt. Henry: His prayer becomes sin, as the clamors of a condemned malefactor not only find no acceptance, but are looked upon as an affront to the court.—Men’s curses are impotent; God’s blessings are omnipotent. J. F. M.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 109:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-109.html. 1857-84.

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