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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 141:3

 

 

Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth - While there are so many spies on my actions and words, I have need to be doubly guarded, that my enemies may have no advantage against me. Some think the prayer is against impatience; but if he were now going to Gath, it is more natural to suppose that he was praying to be preserved from dishonoring the truth, and from making sinful concessions in a heathen land; and at a court where, from his circumstances, it was natural to suppose he might be tempted to apostasy by the heathen party. The following verse seems to support this opinion.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/psalms-141.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth - That I may not say anything rashly, unadvisedly, improperly. Compare Psalm 39:1. The prayer here is, that God would guard him from the temptation to say something wrong. To this he seems to have been prompted by the circumstances of the case, and by the advice of those who were with him. See introduction to the psalm. Compare the notes at Psalm 11:1.

Keep the door of my lips - That my lips or mouth may not open except when it is proper and right; when something good and true is to be said. Nothing can be more proper than “this” prayer; nothing more desirable than that God should keep us from saying what we ought not to say.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/psalms-141.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 141:3

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

The regulation of the tongue

I. Importance of the subject. The use of speech is seldom considered morally. Unless on some very particular occasions, people imagine that it is perfectly optional with them what they speak and how they speak--saying, with those in the time of David, “Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us?” Hence numberless words are daily uttered with indifference, and never thought of again; and if ever people confess or pray, speech never makes an article either in their confessions or prayers

II. Danger of transgression.

1. From the depravity of our nature. The stream will always resemble the fountain.

2. From the contagion of example.

3. From the frequency of speech.

4. From the extent of our obligation.

III. Inability to preserve himself.

1. This conviction is well founded. “Without Me ye can do nothing.”

2. This conviction is continually increasing. As the Christian, in the course of his experience, is learning to cease from man, so is be also taught to cease from himself.

3. It is a conviction the most happy. You need not be afraid of it. This self-acquaintance will only reduce you to the proper condition of a creature, and prepare you for the reception of Divine supplies. Our misery is from our self-sufficiency; it is pride that ruins us.

IV. The wisdom of applying to God for the assistance we need.

1. God is equal to our preservation. However great our danger, He can keep us from falling. Whatever difficulties we have to encounter, or duties to perform, His grace is sufficient for us.

2. His succours are not to be obtained without prayer. He has a right to determine in what way He will communicate His own favours; he is infinitely capable of knowing what method is most consistent with His own glory and conducive to our good--and He has revealed it; and however freely He has promised His influences, He has said (Ezekiel 36:37).

3. Prayer always brings the assistance it implores (Isaiah 45:19; Matthew 7:7). (W. Jay.)

Sins of the tongue

I. Foolish talking (Ephesians 5:4).

1. Some persons are so indisposed to sobriety of thought, and have so long accustomed themselves to regard seriousness as bordering upon stupidity or gloom, that the gravest concerns lose in their conversation every symptom of importance. The wisest reflections are encountered with unmeaning laughter; and conclusions of the highest moment are repelled by a paltry effort at a jest.

2. Of another class, more numerous, and, if it be possible, equally thoughtless, the conversation is altogether and uniformly idle. Day after day, at home and abroad, you hear nothing drop from their lips which manifests a cultivated mind, or a desire of mental improvement. Everything is trifling.

II. Those which arise from impatience and discontent.

1. Of this description is hasty and peevish language in common life. Thus domestic comfort is perpetually invaded by little uneasinesses, little bickerings, little disagreements; and at length perhaps falls a sacrifice to the multiplication of inconsiderable wounds. Is this to be kindly affectioned, tender-hearted one towards another? Is this to walk in love? Is this to imitate the gentleness of Christ?

2. But some men advance to bolder manifestations of impatience and discontent. Not only is their fretfulness querulous, vehement, and acrimonious in domestic and in social life; but, after tormenting man, it shrinks not from insulting God. They repine at His dispensations: they murmur against His providence. Having received so much is this your gratitude, to be indignant that you have not obtained more? Does not He who knows all things discern whether it is better that you should enjoy a greater or a less portion of His gifts?

III. Those which may be regarded as the offspring of contention. “Be ye angry, and sin not” If anger in its lowest degree overtake you, beware of transgression. Sin after sin is the usual consequence of anger; and among the first sins which arise from anger are sins of the tongue. The irritated mind unburdens itself in passionate language. When the heart glows with resentment, heat and vehemence of language betray the inward flame. The tongue of rage blazes fiercer and fiercer; and abstains from no injury towards man or towards God. Is this to be the disciple of the meek and holy Jesus? Is this to imitate Him who, when He was reviled, reviled not again, etc.? Wily does the Almighty permit provocations to assail thee, but to prove thee, to know what is in thine heart, whether thou wilt keep His commandments or no; whether thou wilt obey the headlong impulse of wrath; or strive through the grace of thy God, and for the sake of pleasing Him, to remain unmoved?

IV. Those sins of the tongue which owe their origin to vanity and pride. The boastful man speaketh of himself and seeketh his own glory. His heart is lifted up; his mouth uttereth proud things; he giveth not the honour unto God; he vaunteth himself against the Most High. Not unfrequently wickedness itself becomes his boast. He openly triumphs in the violence with which he has borne down an opponent. Solicitous in every circumstance of life to magnify himself, he speaks contemptuously and degradingly of others; and the more contemptuously and degradingly in proportion as he apprehends that they may be advantageously compared with him, or may stand in the way of his enterprises and projects.

V. Censoriousness. Some persons are censorious through carelessness; some through selfishness; some through anger; some through malice; some through envy. According to the difference of the sources from which censoriousness springs, its guilt is more or less flagrant. But even when it arises from carelessness, deem it not a trifling sin. You are not careless concerning your own character, your own welfare. Are you not to love your neighbour as yourself?

VI. Those sins of the lips which originate in a busy and meddling spirit; sins which, if not in themselves of a deeper hue than some which have already been mentioned, often prove more extensively destructive to the peace of society (Ecclesiastes 10:11; Proverbs 11:13; Proverbs 17:9; Proverbs 18:18; Proverbs 26:20; Leviticus 19:16; 1 Peter 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:11).

VII. Those offences which fall under the general description of deceit. Of these the most prominent is open falsehood. The liar destroys the foundation of all confidence, whether in the public dealings of men one with another, or in the retirement of domestic life. The falsehood, however, of the lips frequently shows itself in the form of slander, which is but a more refined, and therefore more mischievous, mode of lying. What were the engines of sin by which ruin was brought upon mankind? An open falsehood and a disguised slander. As the imitators, the slaves, the children of the devil, all liars, whether they deal in open falsehood or in lurking slander, are objects of detestation to Almighty God (Proverbs 6:17; Proverbs 12:22; Revelation 21:8).

VIII. Violations of modesty (Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 5:3-4). There is no sin which is more odious in its nature, more expressive of a depraved and polluted heart. Christ hath called you unto holiness. You are required to be holy, as He was holy; pure, as He was pure.

IX. Profaneness. This sin comprehends every irreverent expression concerning the Deity, His titles, His attributes, His providence, His revelation, His judgments. (T. Gisborne, M. A.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 141:3". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-141.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth,.... While praying, as Jarchi and Kimchi; that he might not utter any rash, unguarded, and unbecoming word; but take and use the words which God gives, even the taught words of the Holy Ghost; or lest, being under affliction and oppression, he should speak unadvisedly with his lips, and utter any impatient murmuring and repining word against God; or express any fretfulness at the prosperity of the wicked, or speak evil of them; especially of Saul, the Lord's anointed, for the ill usage of him;

keep the door of my lips; which are as a door that opens and shuts: this he desires might be kept as with a bridle, especially while the wicked were before him; lest he should say anything they would use against him, and to the reproach of religion; and that no corrupt communication, or any foolish and filthy talk, or idle and unprofitable words, might proceed from them. The phrase signifies the same as the other; he was sensible of his own inability to keep a proper watch and guard over his words, as was necessary, and therefore prays the Lord to do it; see Psalm 39:1.


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-141.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; c keep the door of my lips.

(c) He desires God to keep his thoughts and ways either from thinking or executing vengeance.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/psalms-141.html. 1599-1645.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

3.Set a watch, O Jehovah! upon my mouth. As David was liable to be hurt at the unbridled and unprincipled rage of his enemies, so as to be tempted to act in a manner that might not be justifiable, he prays for divine direction, and not that he might be kept back from manual violence merely, but that his tongue might be restrained from venting reproach, or words of complaint. Even persons of the most self-possessed temper, if unwarrantably injured, will some — times proceed to make retaliation, through their resenting the unbecoming conduct of their enemies. David prays accordingly that his tongue might be restrained by the Lord from uttering any word which was out of joint. Next he seeks that his heart be kept back from every mischievous device that might issue in revenge. The words added — that I may not eat of their delicacies, are to be understood figuratively, as a petition that he might not be tempted by the prosperity which they enjoyed in sin to imitate their conduct. The three things mentioned in the context are to be connected; and it may be advisable to consider each of them more particularly. Nothing being more difficult than for the victims of unjust persecution to bridle their speech, and submit silently and without complaint to injuries, David needed to pray that his mouth might be closed and guarded — that the door of his mouth might be kept shut by God, as one who keeps the gate watches the ingress and egress — נצרה, nitsrah, being the imperative of the verb, rather than a noun. He next subjoins that God would not incline his heart to an evil thing; for דבר, dabar, is here, as in many other places, used to signify a thing. Immediately after he explains himself to mean, that he would not desire to strive with them in wickedness, and thus make himself like his enemies. Had that monk of whom Eusebius makes mention duly reflected upon this resolution of David, he would not have fallen into the silly fallacy of imagining that he had shown himself the perfect scholar by observing silence for a whole term of seven years. Hearing that the regulation of the tongue was a rare virtue, he betook himself to a distant solitude, from which he did not return to his master for seven years; and being asked the cause of his long absence, replied that he had been meditating upon what he had learned from this verse. It would have been proper to have asked him at the same time, whether during the interim he had thought none, as well as spoken none. For the two things stand connected the being silent, and the being free from the charge of evil thoughts. It is very possible that although he observed silence, he had many ungodly thoughts, and these are worse than vain words. We have simply alluded in passing to this foolish notion, as what may convince the reader of the possibility of persons running away with a word torn from its connection, and overlooking the scope of the writer. In committing himself to the guidance of God, both as to thoughts and words, David acknowledges the need of the influence of the Spirit for the regulation of his tongue and of his mind, particularly when tempted to be exasperated by the insolence of opposition. If, on the one hand, the tongue be liable to slip and too fast of utterance, unless continually watched and guarded by God; on the other, there are disorderly affections of an inward kind which require to be restrained. What a busy workshop is the heart of man, and what a host of devices is there manufactured every moment! If God do not watch over our heart and tongue, there will confessedly be no bounds to words and thoughts of a sinful kind, — so rare a gift of the Spirit is moderation in language, while Satan is ever making suggestions which will be readily and easily complied with, unless God prevent. It need not seem absurd to speak of God inclining our hearts to evil, since these are in his hand, to turn them whithersoever he willeth at his pleasure. Not that he himself prompts them to evil desires, but as according to his secret judgments he surrenders and effectually gives over the wicked to Satan’s tyranny, he is properly said to blind and harden them. The blame of their sins rests with men themselves, and the lust which is in them; and, as they are carried out to good or evil by a natural desire, it is not from any external impulse that they incline to what is evil, but spontaneously and of their own corruption. I have read — to work the works of iniquity; others read — to think the thoughts of iniquity. The meaning is the same, and it is needless to insist upon the preference to be given. By מנעמים, manammim, translated delicacies, is meant the satisfaction felt by the ungodly when their sins are connived at through the divine forbearance. While their insolence in such a case becomes more presumptuous, even the Lord’s people are in danger of being deceived by the prosperity they see enjoying, and to take liberties themselves. David had reason therefore to pray for the secret restraints of the Holy Spirit, that he might be kept from feasting on their delicacies; that is, being intoxicated into license or sinful pleasure through anything debasing, flattering, or agreeable in outward circumstances. (237)


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/psalms-141.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 141:3 Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

Ver. 3. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth] Orat pro patientia, saith one, here he prayeth for patience; lest by giving himself leave to overlash, he make the matter much worse. The best patience, long tried and hard put to it, may miscarry, to its cost.

Keep the door of my lips] That it move not creaking, and complaining, as on rusty hinges, for want of the oil of joy and gladness, Dal pro Deleth per Apocopen poetieam. David had somewhat to do with his tongue, as we see, Psalms 39:1; Psalms 39:3, and when he had carted the ark, how untowardly spake he, as if the fault were more in God than himself, that there was such a breach made in Uzzah, 1 Chronicles 15:2. It was but need, therefore, thus to pray,


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-141.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

That I may not through mine own infirmity, and the great provocations of mine enemies, break forth into any unadvised speeches, or any expressions of impatience, or distrust, or envy, or malice, &c.

My lips, which are the door of my mouth whence words come forth.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/psalms-141.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

3. Keep the door of my lips—The “lips” are but the “door” of the heart, through which, from within, escape words. Here he would have a sentinel placed. He had need of a guarded speech in view of his relations to Saul and the Hebrew public, of his enemies among whom he lived, and of his sacred character as the anointed and beloved of God, against whose providences he might be tempted to complain.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/psalms-141.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Pour out. Explaining all the sentiments of my heart, Psalm lxi. 9. (Calmet) --- This is never perfectly done with earthly friends, 1 Peter v. 7. (Berthier)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/psalms-141.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Set a watch = Set a guard. Hebrew. shamrah. Same word as "keep", Psalms 141:9 Occurs only here.

Keep = keep in safety. Not the same word as in Psalms 141:9.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/psalms-141.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(3) Watch.—The image drawn from the guard set at city gates at night seems to indicate the evening as the time of composition of the psalm.

Door of my lips.—Comp. “doors of thy mouth” (Micah 7:5), and so in Euripides, πύλαι στόματος. For the probable motive of the prayer, see Introduction. The poet’s feeling is that of Xenocrates: “I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having been silent.”


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/psalms-141.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
Set a watch
17:3-5; 39:1; 71:8; Micah 7:5; James 1:26; 3:2

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 141:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/psalms-141.html.

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