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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 141:5



Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; It is oil upon the head; Do not let my head refuse it, For still my prayer is against their wicked deeds.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Let the righteous smite me - This verse is extremely difficult in the original. The following translation, in which the Syriac, Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic, and Arabic nearly agree, appears to me to be the best: "Let the righteous chastise me in mercy, and instruct me: but let not the oil of the wicked anoint my head. It shall not adorn (יני yani, from נוה navah ) my head; for still my prayer shall be against their wicked works."

The oil of the wicked may here mean his smooth flattering speeches; and the psalmist intimates that he would rather suffer the cutting reproof of the righteous than the oily talk of the flatterer. If this were the case, how few are there now-a-days of his mind! On referring to Bishop Horsley, I find his translation is something similar to my own: -

Let the just one smite me, let the pious remove me.

Let not the ointment of the impious anoint my head.

But still I will intrude in their calamities.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Let the righteous smite me - This verse is exceedingly difficult and obscure (compare the margin); and there have been almost as many different opinions in regard to its meaning as there have been commentators on the psalm. A large number of these opinions may be seen in Rosenmuller in loc. DeWette explains it, “I gladly suffer anything that is unpleasant from my friends, that may be for my good; but the wickedness of my enemies I cannot endure.” The Septuagint and Latin Vulgate render it, “Let a righteous man correct me with mercy, and he will work convictions in me; but let not the oil of a sinner (for this shall still be my prayer) anoint my head at their pleasure.” “Thompson‘s translation.” According to this, the sense would be, “If the righteous smite me with severity of words I shall take it as an act of kindness and benevolence; on the other hand, the bland words of a sinner, smooth as oil, which wound more than sharp arrows, may God avert from me.”

Or, in other words, “I had rather be slain by the severe words of the righteous than anointed by the oily and impious words of the wicked.” The sense proposed by Hengstenberg (Com. in loc.) is, “Even as I through the cloud of wrath can see the sunshine of divine goodness, I will not give myself over to doubt and despair, according to the course of the world, when the hand of the Almighty rests upon me; but I will, and can, and should, in the midst of trouble, be joyful, and that is the high privilege of which I will never be deprived.” According to this, the idea is, that the sufferings endured by good people, even at the hand of the wicked, are chastisements inflicted by a gracious God in justice and mercy, and as such may be likened to a festive ointment, which the head of the sufferer should not refuse, as he will still have occasion for consolation to invoke God in the midst of trials yet to be experienced.

The word “righteous” is evidently employed in the usual sense of the term. It refers to those who love and serve God. The word translated “smite” - חלם châlam - is rendered broken in Judges 5:22; Isaiah 16:8; Isaiah 28:1 (“margin,” but rendered by our translators “overcome,” sc. with wine); “smote,” Judges 5:26; Isaiah 41:7; “beaten,” Proverbs 23:35; “beating down,” 1 Samuel 14:16; “break down,” Psalm 74:6. It does not elsewhere occur, except in the verse before us. It would apply to any beating or smiting, with the fist, with a hammer, with a weapon of war, and then with “words” - words of reproof, or expressions of disapprobation. According to the view above taken (Introduction), it is used here with reference to an apprehended rebuke on the part of good people, for not following their advice.

It shall be a kindness - literally, “A kindness;” that is, an act of kindness. The idea is, that it would be so intended on their part; it should be so received by him. Whatever might be the wisdom of the advice, or the propriety of yielding to it, or whatever they might say if it were not followed, yet he could regard it as on their part only well-intended. If a certain course which they had advised should be rejected, and if by refusing or declining to follow it one should incur their displeasure, yet that ought to be interpreted only as an act well-intended and meant in kindness.

And let him reprove me - As I may anticipate that he will, if his advice is not taken. I must expect to meet this consequence.

It shall be an excellent oil - literally, “Oil of the head.” That is - like oil which is poured on the head on festive occasions, or when one is crowned, as a priest, or a prophet, or a king. See the notes at Mark 6:13; notes at Luke 4:18-19. Oil thus used for the head, the face, etc., was an indispensable article for the toilet among Orientals. The idea is here that the reproof of the righteous should be received as readily as that which contributed most to comely adorning and comfort; or that which diffused brightness, cheerfulness, joy.

Which shall not break my head - Or rather, Which my head shall not (or, should not) refuse; which it should welcome. The word rendered break should not have been so translated. The Hebrew word - הניא hāniy' is from נוא nû' - in Hiphil, to negative; to make naught; then to refuse, to decline, to deny. It is rendered “discourage” in Numbers 32:7, Numbers 32:9 (Margin, “break”); “disallow,” Numbers 30:5 (“twice”), Numbers 30:8, Numbers 30:11; “make of none effect,” Psalm 33:10; “break,” in the passage before us. It does not elsewhere occur. The idea is, “If such reproof comes on me for the faithful doing of what I regard as wise and best, I ought no more to reject it than the head would refuse the oil poured on it, to make the person healthful and comely.”

For yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities - I will not be sullen, displeased, angry, revengeful. I will not refuse to pray for them when trials come upon them, because they have not approved of my course, because they have reproved me for not following their counsel, because they have used words that were like heavy blows. I will cherish no malice; I will not be angry; I will not seek to be revenged. I will not turn away from them when trouble comes on them. I will love them, cherish with gratitude the memory of the kindness they meant, and pray for them in the time when they especially need prayer. Should they now rebuke me rather than pray for me, yet I will not in turn “rebuke” them in similar trials, but “will pray for them,” as though nothing of this had happened. Noble spirit - indicative of what should always be the spirit of a good man. Our friends - even our pious friends - may not be always “wise” in their advice, and they may be severe in their reproofs if we do not follow their counsel; yet let us receive all as well-intended, and let us not in anger, in sullenness, or in revenge, refuse to aid them, and to pray for them in trouble, though they were “not” wise, and though they used words of severity toward us.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Psalms 141:5

Let the righteous . . . reprove me.

The reproof of the righteous

I. The character of one who is qualified to give reproof.

1. One whose life is habitually consistent with his profession.

2. One who is influenced by proper motives.

II. The manner in which reproof should be received, and the effect it should produce.

1. The manner.

2. The effect.

III. The manner in which we should requite those who reprove us. As sanctified reproof constrains us to pray for ourselves it will dispose us to pray for reprovers. A spirit of prayer is never a selfish spirit; it embraces all mankind, and enables us to offer fervent supplications in behalf of our enemies; much more will it dispose us to pray for those whom we love, and to whom we are indebted for acts of kindness. (Essex Remembrancer.)

Advantages of Christian reproof

I. The obligation to this duty (Leviticus 19:17; Proverbs 9:8; Proverbs 24:15; Luke 17:3; 1 Timothy 5:20; 2 Timothy 4:2).

III. The character of those who are to administer reproof to others. “Let the righteous smite me.” Let the sincere, humble, constant Christian, who is blameless and harmless, the child of God, without rebuke, let him administer reproof. Let the conscientious man, who endeavours to keep himself always in the love of God, who is a pattern of righteousness and peace, reprove and rebuke others. This is Christian reproof, and has the weight which God designed it to have.

III. The spirit is which it is to be administered.

1. It must be in the spirit of true Christian meekness.

2. It must be administered in a spirit of real kindness and brotherly love for the individual reproved, and with a sincere desire to do him good.

3. It is to be administered in a spirit of firmness and fidelity. This is not inconsistent with Christian meekness and gentleness, nor with fraternal kindness and tender benevolent desire to do our offending brother goad.

IV. The happy effects to be realized.

1. It will free the Christian who performs this duty from being partaker of other men’s sins, and will give him a peace of conscience which he cannot otherwise enjoy.

2. It is often the means of breaking the spell and delusions of sin on a brother’s mind which have withstood all other influences.

3. It will prevent the evil of talebearing and backbiting.

4. It will promote amongst Christians a spirit of brotherly love and prayerfulness for each other. (D. L. Carroll, D. D.)

How we may bring our hearts to bear reproofs

I. How reproofs may be duly received.

1. It is desirable on many accounts that he who reproves us be himself a righteous person, and be of us esteemed so to be; for as such an one alone will or can have a due sense of the evil reproved, with a right principle and end in the discharge of his own duty, so the minds of them that are reproved are, by their sense of his integrity, excluded from those insinuations of evasions which prejudices and suggestions of just causes of reflections on their reprover will offer unto them. Especially, without the exercise of singular wisdom and humility, will all the advantages of a just reproof be lost where the allowed practice of greater sins and evils than that reproved is daily chargeable on the reprover.

2. The nature of a reproof is either--

(a) Ministerial.

(b) Parental.

(c) Despotical.

3. The matter of a reproof is duly to be weighed by him who designs any benefit thereby.

II. Why we ought to receive reproofs orderly or regularly given unto us, esteeming them a singular privilege.

1. Mutual reproofs for the curing of evil and preventing of danger in one another are prime dictates of the law of nature and that obligation which our participation in the same being, offspring, original, and end, to seek the good of each other, doth lay upon us.

2. Whereas the light of nature is variously obscured and its directive power debilitated in us, God hath renewed on us an obligation unto this duty by particular institutions, both under the Old Testament and the New.

3. A due consideration of the use, benefit, and advantage of them will give them a ready admission into our minds and affections. Who knows how many souls that are now at rest with God have been prevented by reproofs, as the outward means, from going down into the pit? Unto how many have they been an occasion of conversion and sincere turning unto God!

III. What considerations may further us in their due improvement.

1. If there be not open evidence onto the contrary, it is our duty to judge that every reproof is given us in a way of duty. This will take off offence with respect unto the reprover, which, unjustly taken, is an assured entrance into a way of losing all benefit and advantage by the reproof.

2. Take heed of cherishing habitually such disorders, vices, and distempers of mind as are contrary unto this duty and will frustrate the design of it. Such are--

3. Reckon assuredly that a fault, a miscarriage which any one is duly reproved for, if the reproof be not received and improved as it ought, is not only aggravated, but accumulated with a new crime, and marked with a dangerous token of an incurable evil (Proverbs 29:1).

4. It is useful unto the same end immediately to compare the reproof with the word of truth. This is the measure, standard, and directory of all duties, whereunto in all dubious cases we should immediately retreat for advice and counsel.

5. The best way to keep our souls in a readiness rightly to receive, and duly to reprove such reproofs, as may regularly be given us by any, is to keep and preserve our souls and spirits in a constant awe and reverence of the reproofs of God, which are recorded in His Word.

6. We shall fail in this duty unless we are always accompanied with a deep sense of our frailty, weakness, readiness to halt, or miscarry, and thereon a necessity of all the ordinances and visitations of God, which are designed to preserve our souls. (J. Owen, D. D.)

A wise reprover

Mr. John Wesley, having to travel some distance in a stage coach, fell in with a pleasant-tempered, well-informed officer. His conversation was sprightly and entertaining, but frequently mingled with oaths. When they were about to take the next stage, Mr. Wesley took the officer aside, and, after expressing the pleasure he had enjoyed in his company, told him he was thereby encouraged to ask of him a very great favour. “I would take a pleasure in obliging you,” said the officer, “and I am sure you will not make an unreasonable request.” “Then,” said Mr. Wesley, “as we have to travel together some time, I beg that, if I should so far forget myself as to swear, you will kindly reprove me.” The officer immediately saw the motive, and felt the force of the request, and, with a smile, said, “None but Mr. Wesley could have conceived a reproof in such a manner.” (Weekly Pulpit.)

For yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.--

Intercessory prayer

Passage difficult, but we take the meaning of our Authorized Version, and would speak--

I. Of the duty of intercession for the people of God.

1. Take as our first key-note the word obligation. The new nature in us teaches us this as does the law of the elect household. And our membership of the body of Christ, and our obligation to the intercession of others, urge this.

2. Honour. It is this to be permitted to pray for the saints, for so we are brought into close fellowship with Christ. Especially when we think what we once were--beggars for ourselves at mercy’s door. Avail yourselves of this honour.

3. Excellence. Such intercession benefits those who use it, for it will suggest go you to know your brethren, and will bring love with it; and will lead you to kinder judgments, and to self-watchfulness. Have we not cause to be ashamed on account of our neglect of this duty?

4. Extent. He would pray for those who had displeased him; who had said, perhaps, severe things to him. And especially when they were in trouble. Men of the world leave their companions when they get into trouble as the herd leave the wounded deer. But we should stand by such.

II. For sinners also we should intercede. It is the most essential thing we can do. We cannot change their hearts. Such prayer will fit you to become God’s instrument, and will make you go to work hopefully. It is a very horrible thing to think of persons being buried alive, put underground by their friends in their coffins while yet there was breath in their bodies. Let us mind that we never bury a soul alive; I am afraid we are in the habit of doing it. We judge of such an one that he will never be converted, all effort would be useless. But we have no right thus to seal a soul’s death-warrant or to limit the grace of God. In this prayer all can aid. Some things many of you cannot do, but this all can. And especially when sinners come into calamities. We may win them then. Let us all intercede more. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 141:5". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible


Psalms 141:5-7 are the difficult verses mentioned at the head of this chapter; and we submit the following renditions of these in various versions as the most practical way of discerning what might be meant.

"Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness;

And let him reprove me, it shall be as oil upon the head;

Let not my head refuse it:

For even in their wickedness shall my prayer continue.

Their judges are thrown down by the sides of the rock;

And they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.

As when one ploweth and cleaveth the earth,

Our bones are scattered at the mouth of Sheol."

(MOFFATT) "When good men wound us and reprove us,

'tis a kindness. I would pray ever to have their good will ...

They are given over to their tyrants -

to teach them that the Eternal's threats are true.

Their bones lie scattered for the grave to swallow,

like stones splintered and crushed upon the road."

(GOOD NEWS BIBLE) "A good man may punish me and rebuke me in kindness,

but I will never accept honor from evil men.

because I am always praying against their evil deeds.

When their rulers are thrown down from rocky cliffs,

The people will admit that my words are true.

Like wood that is split and chopped into bits,

So their bones are scattered at the edge of the grave."

(RSV) "Let a good man strike or rebuke me in kindness,

but let the oil of the wicked never anoint my head;

for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds.

When they are given over to those who shall condemn them,

Then shall they learn that the word of the Lord is true.

As a rock which one cleaves and shatters on the land,

so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol."

These examples are enough to demonstrate that the translators simply do not know what these verses mean. Some of the proposed renditions have merit in themselves, but the proposition that any of these renditions is what is stated in the word of the Lord is impossible of any confident acceptance.

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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness,.... Or, "smite me in kindness"F1 εν ελεει, Sept. "in misericordia", V. L. "benigne ac clementer", Michaelis. . In love; in a loving and friendly manner, which makes reproofs the more agreeable and effectual. Not the righteous God, as Arama; though he does sometimes smite his people for their sins, Isaiah 57:17; that is, reproves, corrects, and chastises them, and that in love and for their good; and therefore such smitings and corrections should be taken in good part by them, and received as fatherly chastisements, and as instances of his paternal care of them, and love to them; but rather righteous and good men; who, when there is occasion for it, should reprove and rebuke one another; but then it should be in a kind and tender manner, and with the spirit of meekness; and such reproofs should be as kindly received: "for faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful", Proverbs 27:6. Or, "let the righteous beat me with kindness" or "goodness"F2חסד "benignitate", Tigurine version; "bonitate", Gejerus; "seu praeceptis bonitatis", Gussetius, p. 212. ; with precepts of goodness, by inculcating good things into him; which he should take, as if he overwhelmed and loaded him with benefits; even though it was like striking with a hammer, as the word signifies;

and let him, reprove me; which explains what is meant by smiting;

it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head; give no pain nor uneasiness to his head or his heart, but rather supple and heal the wounds sin reproved for has made. The Targum is,

"the oil of the anointing of the sanctuary shall not cease from my head;'

with which he was anointed king; and signifies that he should enjoy the dignity, and continue in it. The Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it, "the oil of the ungodly", or "sinners": meaning their flattering words, which, though smooth as oil, were deceitful; and therefore he deprecates them, "let not the oil of the wicked", &c. as being hurtful and pernicious;

for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities; that is, when the righteous, that smote and reproved him for his good, should be in any distress; such a grateful sense should he retain of their favour in reproving him, that he would pray for them, that they might be delivered out of it; which would show that he took it kindly at their hand. Or, "in their evils", or "against them"F3ברעותיהם "in malis eorum", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius; "adversus mala eorum", Musculus, Michaelis; so some in Vatablus. ; which some understand of the evil practices of wicked men; which the psalmist prayed against, and that he might be kept and delivered from.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Let the righteous smite me; [it shall be] a kindness: and let e him reprove me; [it shall be] an excellent oil, [which] shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also [shall be] in their calamities.

(e) He could abide all corrections that came from a loving heart.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

Smite — By reproofs.

Break — Not hurt, but heal and greatly refresh me.

Calamities — In the calamities of those righteous persons who reproved him. When they came into such calamities as those wherein he was involved he would pity them and pray for them.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

5.Let the righteous smite me, etc. While Satan tempts the wicked by his allurements, they, at the same time, deceive one another by flattery, which leads David to declare, that he would much rather be awakened to his duty by the severe rod of reproof, than be seduced through pleasing falsehoods. Among those who hold religion in contempt no reproof is administered to one who has contracted any sin, and, therefore, if we have any concern for our spiritual safety we will connect ourselves with good men, who restore such as have fallen by upright admonition, and bring back those who have erred to the right way. It is not agreeable to corrupt nature to be reproved when we sin, but, David had brought himself to that degree of docility and self-denial which led him to consider no reproof distasteful which he knew to proceed from the spirit of kindness. As there is some ambiguity in the words, we may see to ascertain the proper meaning of them. The noun חסד, chesed, can very well be resolved into the adverb — the righteous shall smite me mercifully, or in mercy, supplying the preposition. And this is the meaning adopted by most interpreters, that David reckoned as the best ointment such reproofs as breathed charity and kindness, or proceeded from a kind and dispassionate spirit. Should this reading be preferred it is to be remembered, that David refers, not so much to the outward manner in which the reproof is to be administered, as to the frame of the heart. However how good men may be, and whatever severity of language they may employ in admonishing those who have erred, they are still actuated by the force of brotherly affection. My, the very severity is, in fact, occasioned by their holy anxiety and fear of their brother’s safety. The righteous act mercifully under all this apparent sharpness and severity — as the wicked, on the other hand, act cruelly who censure only in a very gentle manner. By noticing this feature in reproof, David besides would distinguish that kind of it which takes its rise in sincere affection, from invectives which proceed from hatred or private animosity, as Solomon says. (Proverbs 10:12.) The other rendering of the words, however, which I have adopted, is equally suitable —

Let the righteous censure me, it shall be mercy, or, I will reckon it a benefit, let him reprove me, this shall be precious ointment that will not hurt my head.

The last clause some interpret in another way — the oil of the head let it not break my head, that is, let not the wicked seduce me to destruction by their pleasing flatteries. (239) By the oil they understand the pernicious adulations by which the wicked would ruin us, and plunge us deeper and deeper in destruction, while they seem to administer pleasure. This would make the passage convey a fuller meaning, That while David was pliable and yielding in the matter of reproof, he fled from flattery as from the fatal songs of the Sirens. However sweet praise may be to the taste at first, every one who lends an ear to flattery, drinks in a poison which will presently diffuse itself through the whole heart. Let us learn by David’s example to reject all flatteries, prone as we are naturally to receive them, and to renounce waywardness and obstinacy, lest we should put away from us those corrections which are wholesome remedies for our vices. For such is the infatuated love men have to their own destruction, that even when forced to condemn themselves they wish to have the approbation of the world. And why? that by superinducing torpor of conscience, they may, by their own spontaneous act, devote themselves to ruin.

For yet my prayer, etc. Three explanations of this clause have been suggested. According to some the meaning of it is, that, as we are ever ready to be corrupted by bad example, David here prays, that he might not decline to their evils, or the evils which they practiced. The second sense assigned is, that David, recognizing their mischievous devices, prays that he may be kept by the Lord from their wickedness. The third sense, that recognizing them as reduced to desperate calamities, he prays that the just vengeance of God might be executed upon them according to their deserts. The very opposite meaning might seem the more suitable, that David was not prevented by their obstinacy in wickedness from praying for their welfare. For there is the adverb yet emphatically inserted. Or, what if David is to be considered as predicting their unfortunate end, intimating, that though the ungodly now riot in excess, they shall shortly be arrested, and that before long his compassion would be exercised towards them? The way in which the words stand connected favors this view; for he does not say — yet my prayer shall be in their calamities, but rather separately, “yet, or, yet a little while, and then my power shall be in their calamities.” As David was in danger of being tempted to yield to similarly vain courses with them, he very properly suggests a sustaining motive to his soul, why he should retain his integrity, that erelong they would be overtaken with so awful a destruction as to entreat compassion from him and others of the people of God.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 141:5 Let the righteous smite me; [it shall be] a kindness: and let him reprove me; [it shall be] an excellent oil, [which] shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also [shall be] in their calamities.

Ver. 5. Let the righteous smite me, &c.] In case I do offend in word or deed, let me never want a faithful reprover, who may smite me as with a hammer (so the word signifieth), reprove me sharply, Proverbs 23:35, Zechariah 13:5, Titus 1:13, cuttingly, as the apostle’s word importeth, yet mildly and lovingly, Galatians 6:1, Proverbs 9:8; Proverbs 19:25; Proverbs 25:12, with soft words, but hard arguments, αποτομως.

It shall be a kindness] David thought the better of Nathan for so roundly reproving him, 2 Samuel 12:7-12, and made him of his counsel, 1 Kings 1:32 Peter thought the better of Paul for dealing so plainly with him at Antioch, Galatians 2:11-16, and maketh honourable mention of him, and his writings, 2 Peter 3:15-16 It is said of Gerson, that great chancellor of Paris, that nulla re alia tantopere laetaretur, quam si ab aliquo fraterne et charitative redargueretur, he rejoiced in nothing so much as in a friendly reprehension; great pity it was that none bestowed a chiding on him for being so active against John Huss and Jerome of Prague, at the council of Constance (Mr Clark’s Martyrology). Of Queen Anne Bullen it is reported, that she was not only willing to be admonished, but required her chaplains freely and plainly to tell her of whatsoever was amiss. Her daughter, Queen Elizabeth, was well pleased with Mr Deering’s plain dealing, who told her in a sermon that once she was tanqnam ovis, but now tanquam indomita iuvenca, as an untamed heifer; and speaking of the disorder of the times, These things are so, said he, and you sit still and do nothing, &c.

It shall be an excellent oil] Heb. a head oil, such as they poured on their friends’ heads; and that was of the best.

Which shall not break my head] My heart it may. Or, let him not make it fail my head, let him not cease to do me this good office daily; I shall count it a courtesy, and requite it with my best prayers for him, in his greatest necessity.

For yet my prayer also shall be in their calamity] I will not curse them for their good counsel, rail at them for reproving me, or insult over them in misery as justly met withal; but pray for them, and prize them as my best friends.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Some read this verse very differently froth our present translation. They render it thus: Reproach will bruise me that am righteous, and rebuke but that poisonous oil shall not break my head, that is, shall not hurt me; for yet my prayer shall be in their mischiefs. Supposing that this be the construction of the words (I do not presume to determine that it is) nothing can be more beautiful or expressive in pointing to Christ; to none else can the expression of being righteous be applicable. See Luke 22:63-64; Luk_23:34.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 141:5. Let the righteous, &c.— I. Mr. Peters is of opinion, that David in this verse manifestly alludes to his anointment and designation to the throne. He translates and explains it thus: Let the just man be still upbraiding me with my goodness, and let the ointment of my head be urged against me, it shall not break my head: for hitherto my prayer has been against their wickedness. "As for my part behaviour towards Saul, I can never repent of it, whilst I am conscious I have done my duty. Though my friends and followers, those advocates for strict justice, are still upbraiding me with my excessive piety and goodness; and though the ointment of my head, thy designation of me to the throne, be urged against me, either as a reason why I might justly take the life of Saul, or as the cause that he will never cease to persecute me; yet I trust in thy mercy; it shall not break my head, or bring me to destruction. For hitherto it has not done it; I am safe under thy protection; and yet my prayers are all that I have opposed against the wicked attempts of my enemies." This writer supposes the last clause of the verse to be elliptical, and that it should be supplied, according to his paraphrase: and he thinks that the verse thus understood very naturally introduces the two next verses, where the mild and dutiful behaviour of David towards Saul, and Saul's cruelty towards him and his friends, are set together by way of contrast, in the strongest light. See the following notes. II. Mr. Mann and Houbigant nearly agree in the following translation: Let the righteous instruct me in mercy, and reprove me; but let not the oil of the wicked anoint my head: yea, my prayers shall be a witness against their depravity.—Ver. 6. Let their judges be overthrown, &c. III. Another writer observes, that breaking the head, in scripture language, means destroying, or utterly subduing. See Genesis 3:15. And we may easily suppose David to mean by the expression of excellent oil, the plausible and enticing, but withal treacherous and ensnaring speeches of his idolatrous enemies. He has the same thought, Psalms 55:21. His words were softer than oil, yet be they very swords:—so the LXX, The oil of the sinner:—Ethiopic, The oil of sinners:—Syriac, The oil of the ungodly—shall not anoint my head:—And the Arabic, I will not anoint my head with the oil of sinners: i.e. "I will not be enticed with their flattering and ensnaring speeches." The following translation by Mr. Green seems as reasonable as any: Let the righteous man, out of kindness, correct me and reprove me: but let not the fragrant oil of the wicked anoint my head; for my prayer shall ever be against their wicked practices.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Smite me, to wit, with his tongue by reproofs, as the next clause explains it, which are called wounds, Proverbs 27:6. As I pray unto thee that thou wouldst keep me from sinful practices, so I beg it of all just men, that if I do transgress, or if by the arts and slanders of mine enemies any of them are made to believe that I am guilty of evil designs against Saul, or of any other wickedness, that they would freely admonish and reprove me for it. And their reproofs shall please me better than the dainties of the wicked last mentioned, Psalms 114:4.

It shall be a kindness; I shall be so far from being offended with it as an act of entity or ill will, as they may suspect, that I shall esteem it an act and sign of true friendship.

It shall be an excellent oil; or, it shall be as the oil of the head, as it is in the Hebrew, i.e. which is poured upon the head, as the manner was in great feasts and solemnities.

Not break my head; not Inert or disturb it, but, on the contrary, shall heal and greatly refresh and delight it; which is here understood by a known figure called meiosis, whereby more is intended than is expressed, as Proverbs 17:21, and oft elsewhere.

In their calamities; either,

1. In the calamities of those righteous persons who reproved and censured him. So this is an evidence of what he last said, that he should take their reproofs for a kindness, because when they came into such calamities as those wherein he was involved, as all righteous men must expect sufferings at one time or other, he would not insult over them, nor censure them, but pity them, and pray for them. Or,

2. In the calamities of his enemies, of which he speaks in the next words. And so this may be added as a reason why he did so freely offer himself to the righteous to be reproved by them, if he or his cause were so bad as his enemies made them, because he was well assured that he was sincere and his cause good, and that God would bring him out of all his calamities, and bring his enemies into such calamities that they should need and desire his prayers, which also he would willingly grant to them; and then all good men would be fully satisfied of the justice of his person and cause.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

5. Let the righteous smite me—This is preferred to the “dainties” of the wicked, Psalms 141:4. Smiting, here, literally means beating as with a hammer, as Judges 5:26, Psalms 74:6; sharp reproof, as it is called in the next line.

Kindness—Or, taking the word adverbially, Let the righteous smite me kindly. See the maxim Proverbs 27:6.

Excellent oil—Literally, Oil of the head, and hence refinedof excellent quality.

Not break my head—Better, My head shall not refuse it. In Hebrew idiom equal to, “it shall cheer and refresh my head”diffuse joy and gladness, which answers to the figurative idea of anointing the head with oil. Psalms 23:5; Psalms 45:7; Luke 7:46. Or, taking נוא (noh) in the sense of discourage, depress, as Numbers 32:7; Numbers 32:9, we may render: “It [the smiting reproof] shall not depress my head”not bow it down as if in sorrow or shame.

For yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities—An ambiguous sentence. The word translated “calamities” may signify either affliction or wickedness. It is best to understand the psalmist as referring to his enemies, and render: “For yet my prayer also shall be against their wickedness;” that is, I return only prayer for their malice.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 141:5. Let the righteous smite me — Namely, by reproofs. If at any time, through the frailty of nature, I should be inclined to yield to temptation, let me find, among my attendants or friends, some righteous and faithful person, who, with kind severity, will check and reprove me. It shall be a kindness — I shall be so far from being offended with it, as an act of enmity or ill will, that I shall esteem it an act and mark of true friendship. It shall be an excellent oil — Hebrews שׁמן ראשׁ, the oil of the head, that is, as the oil which is poured upon the head as the manner was in great feasts and solemnities, which shall not break my head — Nor hurt, but heal, and greatly refresh me. For yet my prayer shall be in their calamities — Either, 1st, In the calamities of those persons who reproved and censured him. When they came into such calamities as those wherein he had been involved, he would pity them, and pray for them. Or, he may mean the calamities of his enemies, of which he speaks in the next words. He foresaw that his enemies would be in calamities, and that they would need, and desire his prayers; and he here declares he would willingly grant them: but the Hebrew of this clause may be properly rendered, My prayer shall be against their wickedness.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Hand. For succour, Psalm xv. 8. So was David situated at Engaddi, as our Saviour was, when he was abandoned by his disciples. (Calmet) --- None would appear to be acquainted with those in distress. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

the righteous = a righteous one.

an excellent oil = oil for the head. This verse is said to be "extremely obscure" and "corrupt to a degree". The Figure of speech Metalepsis (App-6) makes all clear; "head", being first used for hair, and then for the whole person by Figure of speech Synecdoche (of the Part). Hebrew = "as oil on the hair, I will not refuse it". Note the alternation of lines in this verse.

yet. Same root as "withal" in Psalms 141:10.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

Let the righteous smite me; (it shall be) a kindness. It is real kindness on the part of God to cause me to be smitten by the righteous, and not to let me be 'inclined to practice' wickedness with the workers of iniquity (Psalms 141:4), allured by their prosperity. I had rather be associated by God with the righteous when they smite me, than with the wicked, though they offer me dainties. Hengstenberg makes God to be meant by "the Righteous:" as some take Isaiah 24:16. But there is no article here, which is against this view; and the antithesis is better as explained above.

And let him reprove me; (it shall be) an excellent oil (literally, an oil for the head) (which) shall not And let him reprove me; (it shall be) an excellent oil (literally, an oil for the head) (which) shall not break my head - Whereas 'the dainties' of the wicked (Psalms 141:4) would ultimately cause my head (the vital part which shall be bruised in the old serpent and his seed Genesis 3:15) to be fatally broken (Psalms 68:21; Psalms 110:6; Habakkuk 3:13). Hengstenberg, Maurer etc., translate the Hebrew verb [ yaaniy (Hebrew #5106)] refuseth: 'oil for the head my head refuseth not.' But Pagnini, Buxtorf, and Cocceius agree in the main with the English version, 'shall not cause my head to be weighed down,' in contrast, the head being lifted up (Psalms 3:3) (Cocceius). The Lord is the lifter up of the head of His people; He breaks the head of the ungodly. Their own prosperity prepares them for being thus broken. I prefer the stronger sense, break fatally, or else break with grief, as in Numbers 32:7; Numbers 32:9, margin (cf. the same Hebrew Psalms 33:10). The "break my head" stands in antithesis to "smite me." Though the righteous smite me, their smiting does not break my head: nay, it is rather as a prime oil (literally, oil for the head) to anoint my head with gladness (cf. Proverbs 27:6; Ecclesiastes 7:5). So far from wounding fatally, it heals one's spiritual sore, and gives festive joy: cf. the image of anointing the head before a feast, for the Lord's feast of good things to His people, including joy in the midst of trials (Psalms 4:7; Psalms 42:8), as opposed to the "dainties" of the wicked (Psalms 141:4; Psalms 23:5; Psalms 45:7; Psalms 104:15; Matthew 6:17). Contrast with this divine "oil" of joy the wicked men's 'words softer than oil,' which are yet "drawn swords" (Psalms 55:21). The promise to which this cycle of Psalms 138:1-8; Psalms 139:1-24; Psalms 140:1-13; Psalms 141:1-10; Psalms 142:1-7; Psalms 143:1-12; Psalms 144:1-15; Psalms 145:1-21 refers is 2 Samuel 7:1-29. There, in Ps. 141:14-15 , the Lord declares that when David's seed offend He will chasten them with the rod of men; but His mercy shall not wholly depart from them: so also Psalms 89:30-34. This promise is the ground of the prayer here.

For yet my prayer, also shall be in their calamities - i:e., "for" flourishing as the ungodly are now, and abounding in "dainties" which tempt one to join them, "yet" the time will come when they shall be 'in calamities,' and "my prayer shall be" for them "in their calamities." Psalms 141:6 is parallel; the overthrowing of their judges answering to "their calamities" here, and "my words" (of invitation to worship the Lord), which "are sweet," answering to "my prayer" for them here. The type David, like the antitype Messiah, prays for his enemies (Psalms 109:4-5). Hengstenberg, taking Yahweh to be meant by "the Righteous," and the wicked to be the instruments employed by Him to chastise David and his seed and his people, translates, 'still then (if they proceed in their wicked actions, so as to overstep the due measure of chastisement of the Lord's people; or, as Maurer takes it, if Yahweh shall go on to chastise me more, severely) I shall pray against their wickedness.' I prefer the English version on account of the parallelism to Psalms 141:6.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(5) The difficulties of the psalm thicken here. Render, Let a righteous man smite me, it is a kindness; and let him reprove me, it is oil for the head: my head shall not refuse it though it continue; yet my prayer is against their wickedness.

The word rendered “smite” is that used of Jael’s “hammer strokes “(Judges 5:26). (Comp. Isaiah 41:7.) The Hebrew for “reprove” is probably used in a judicial sense, as in Genesis 31:37; Isaiah 2:4; Proverbs 24:25, &c. The greatest obscurity attaches to the word rendered above “refuse,” but in the Authorised Version “break,” probably because in Psalms 33:10 (“ bring to none effect”) it is in parallelism with “break.” The LXX. and Vulg. take it as meaning “anoint,” rendering (from a different text to ours) “let not oil of a wicked man anoint my head.” If we might adopt this reading it would remove the difficulty of this part of the verse, and give an excellent parallelism: “A righteous man may smite me in mercy and reprove me, but let not a wicked man’s oil anoint my head;” i.e., I would welcome reproof from the righteous, but reject even the festive oil offered by the wicked. For the rendering “wickednesses,” instead of “calamities,” comp. Job 20:12; Psalms 94:23. For the sense of “although” given to the conjunction, see Exodus 13:17. The suffix “their” refers back, of course, to the ungodly in Psalms 141:4. The “oil for the head” (comp. Psalms 45:7) is a natural emblem of festivity, and the whole sentiment of the passage is tolerably clear. Rather than join in the wicked mirth of a profane banquet, the poet would be the object of continued rebuke and chastisement from one of the godly—his prayer meanwhile still rising for protection against the allurements held out to tempt him. We probably have sketched here the actual condition of many a Levite between the apostate and the loyal part of the nation.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.
the righteous
1 Samuel 25:31-34; 2 Samuel 12:7-13; 2 Chronicles 16:7-10; 25:16; Proverbs 6:23; 9:8,9; Proverbs 15:5,22; 19:25; 25:12; 27:5,6; Galatians 2:11-14; 6:1; Revelation 3:19
smite, etc
or, smite me kindly and reprove me; let not their precious oil break my head, etc. for yet my.
51:18; 125:4; Matthew 5:44; 2 Timothy 1:16-18; James 5:14-16

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 141:5". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

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