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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Psalms 55:9

 

 

Confuse, O Lord, divide their tongues, For I have seen violence and strife in the city.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Destroy, O lord - Swallow them up - confound them.

Divide their tongues - Let his counsellors give opposite advice. Let them never agree, and let their devices be confounded. And the prayer was heard. Hushai and Ahithophel gave opposite counsel. Absalom followed that of Hushai; and Ahithophel, knowing that the steps advised by Hushai would bring Absalom's affairs to ruin, went and hanged himself. See 2 Samuel 15, 16, and 17.

Violence and strife in the city - They have been concerting violent measures; and thus are full of contention.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/psalms-55.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Destroy, O Lord - The word rendered “destroy,” properly means to “swallow up;” to “devour” with the idea of greediness. Isaiah 28:4; Exodus 7:12; Jonah 1:17; Jeremiah 51:34. Then it is used in the sense of “destroy,” Job 20:18; Proverbs 1:12. The reference here is to the persons who had conspired against David. It is a prayer that they, and their counsels, might be destroyed: such a prayer as people always offer who pray for victory in battle. It is a prayer that the may be successful in what they regard as a righteous cause; but this implies a prayer that their enemies may be defeated and overcome. That is, they pray for success in what they have undertaken; and if it is right for them to attempt to do the thing, it is not wrong to pray that they may be succesful.

And divide their tongues - There is evident allusion here to the confusion of tongues at Babel Genesis 11:1-9; and as the language of those who undertook to build that tower was confounded so that they could not understand each other, so the psalmist prays that the counsels of those engaged against him might be confounded, or that they might be divided and distracted in their plans, so that they could not act in harmony. It is very probable that there is an allusion here to the prayer which David offered when he learned that Ahithophel was among the conspirators 2 Samuel 15:31; “And David said, O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” This would tend to divide and distract; the purposes of Absalom, and secure his defeat.

For I have seen violence and strife in the city - In Jerusalem. Perhaps he had learned that among the conspirators there was not entire harmony, but that there were elements of “strife” and discord which led him to hope that their counsels would be confounded. There was little homogeneoushess of aim and purpose among the followers of Absalom; and perhaps David knew enough of Ahithophel to see that his views, though he might be enlisted in the cause of the rebellion, would not be likely to harmonize with the views of the masses of those who were engaged in the revolt.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/psalms-55.html. 1870.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

PLEA FOR GOD TO DESTROY THE PLANS OF THE WICKED

"Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongue;

For I have seen violence and strife in the city.

Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof:

Iniquity also and mischief are in the midst of it.

Wickedness is in the midst thereof:

Oppression and guile depart not from its streets"

"Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongue" (Psalms 55:9).

"David wanted his enemies destroyed by `dividing their tongues' (confusing their counsel); and this prayer was fully and effectively answered. Hushai and Ahithophel gave opposite counsel to Absalom; and Absalom followed the advice of Hushai. Ahithophel, knowing that such advice would destroy Absalom, went out and hanged himself (2 Samuel 15-17)."[10]

Both King David of Israel and the Son of David, the Christ, were betrayed by a close friend, who as a consequence of his deeds went out and hanged himself. It is difficult not to see a type of Judas Iscariot in this.

In this paragraph, notice the seven words which describe conditions in Jerusalem: violence, strife, iniquity, mischief, wickedness, oppression, and guile. The Jerusalem Bible personifies these,[11] but we cannot find any good reason for such a personification, Taken in the aggregate, they describe the frightful condition of a sorely troubled city. This writer once heard Mayor Bob Wagner of New York City describing a similar condition there, saying that, "The spirit of the jungle has invaded the heart of the great city."

Spurgeon's description of Jerusalem's sufferings under those conditions is a classic.

Alas, poor Jerusalem, to be thus the victim of sin and shame! Virtue reviled and vice regnant! Her solemn assemblies were broken up, her priests fled, her king a fugitive, and troops of reckless villains, parading her streets and sunning themselves on her walls, and vomiting their blasphemies in her sacred shrines. Here was cause enough for the sorrow which so plaintively utters itself in these verses.[12]


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

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/psalms-55.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Destroy, O Lord,.... Or "swallow up"F19בלע "degluti", Montanus, Tigurine version; "absorbe", Piscator, Gejerus, Michaelis; so Ainsworth. , as Pharaoh and his host were swallowed up in the Red sea; or as Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, were swallowed up in the earth; so all the enemies of Christ and his church will be destroyed; and death, the last of them, will be swallowed up in victory, Isaiah 25:8. The Targum interprets it, "destroy", or "scatter their counsel": but this seems to be intended in the next clause;

and divide their tongues: as at the confusion of languages at Babel, to which the allusion is: this had its accomplishment in Absalom's counsellors according to David's wish, 2 Samuel 15:31; and in the Jewish sanhedrim in Christ's time, and in the witnesses they produced against him, Luke 23:51; and of which there is an instance in the council of the Jews, held on account of the Apostle Paul, Acts 23:7;

for I have seen violence and strife in the city: in the city of Jerusalem, now left by David, and possessed by Absalom, by whom "violence" was done to David's wives, through the advice of Ahithophel; and "strife", contention, and rebellion, were fomented among the people: this David saw, understood, and perceived, by the intelligence brought him from time to time: and in the times of Christ the kingdom of heaven suffered "violence" in this place, and he endured the "contradiction" of sinners against himself.


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/psalms-55.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Destroy, O Lord, [and] g divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.

(g) As in the confusion of Babylon when the wicked conspired against God.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/psalms-55.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Destroy — literally, “swallow” (Psalm 21:9).

divide their tongues — or, “confound their speech,” and hence their counsels (Genesis 11:7).

the city — perhaps Jerusalem, the scene of anarchy.


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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/psalms-55.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.

Destroy — Destroy them by dividing.

Tongues — Their speech, as thou didst at Babel, Genesis 11:9, their votes, and opinions, and counsels. Which was eminently done among Absalom's followers, 2 Samuel 17:23.

Strife — Injustice and fraud, oppression and contention rule here, instead of that public justice and peace which I established.

City — In Jerusalem; which in Absalom's time was a sink of all sins.


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Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/psalms-55.html. 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

9.Destroy, (303) O Lord; and divide their tongue Having now composed, as it were, his mind, he resumes the exercise of prayer. Had he indulged longer in the strain of complaint, he might have given his sanction to the folly of those who do themselves more harm than good by the excessive use of this barren species of comfort. There will occasionally escape from the lips of a saint, when he prays, some complaining exclamations which cannot be altogether justified, but he soon recalls himself to the exercise of believing supplication. In the expression, divide their tongue, there seems an allusion to the judgment which fell upon the builders of Babel, (Genesis 31:7.) He means in general to pray that God would break their criminal confederacies, and distract their impious counsels, but evidently with an indirect reference to that memorable proof which God gave of his power to thwart the designs of the wicked by confounding their communication. It is thus that to this day he weakens the enemies of the Church, and splits them into factions, through the force of mutual animosities, rivalries, and disagreements in opinion. For his own encouragement in prayer, the Psalmist proceeds to insist upon the wickedness and malignity of his adversaries, this being a truth never to be lost sight of, that just in proportion as men grow rampant in sin, may it be anticipated that the divine judgments are about to descend upon them. From the unbridled license prevailing amongst them, he comforts himself with the reflection that the deliverance of God cannot be far distant; for he visits the proud, but gives more grace to the humble. Before proceeding to pray for divine judgments against them, he would intimate that he had full knowledge of their evil and injurious character. Interpreters have spent an unnecessary degree of labor in determining whether the city here spoken of was that of Jerusalem or of Keilah, for David by this term would appear merely to denote the open and public prevalence of crime in the country. The city stands opposed to places more hidden and obscure, and he insinuates that strife was practiced with unblushing publicity. Granting that the city meant was the metropolis of the kingdom, this is no reason why we should not suppose that the Psalmist had in his view the general state of the country; but the term is, in my opinion, evidently employed in an indefinite sense, to intimate that such wickedness as is generally committed in secret was at that time openly and publicly perpetrated. It is with the same view of marking the aggravated character of the wickedness then reigning in the nation, that he describes their crimes as going about the walls, keeping sentry or watch, so to speak, upon them. Walls are supposed to protect a city from rapine and incursion, but he complains that this order of things was inverted — that the city, instead of being surrounded with fortifications, was beset with strife and oppression, or that these had possession of the walls, and went about them. (304) I have already commented elsewhere upon the words און, aven, and עמל, amal. In announcing that wickedness was in the midst of the city, and deceit and guile in her streets, he points to the true source of the prevailing crimes; even as it was to be expected that those who were inwardly corrupt, and given to such mischievous devices, would indulge in violence, and in persecuting the poor and defenseless. In general, he is to be considered as adverting in this passage to the deplorable confusions which marked the government of Saul, when justice and order were in a manner banished from the realm. And whether his description were intended to apply to one city or to many, matters had surely reached a portentous crisis in a nation professing the true religion, when any of their cities had thus become a den of robbers. It may be observed, too, that David, in denouncing a curse, as he does in the psalm before us, upon cities of this description, was obviously borne out by what must have been the judgment of the Holy Spirit against them.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/psalms-55.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Psalms 55:9 Destroy, O Lord, [and] divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.

Ver. 9. Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues] Heb. Swallow them up, O Lord, and divide their tongues; by an allusion, as some conceive, to those two famous judgments of God upon Dathan and Abiram, first, Numbers 16:31-33, and then, secondly, upon the Babel builders, Genesis 11:6-9, both which were thrown out for examples to all succeeding ages (as St Jude saith of the Sodomites, 1:7), and are to be considered by the saints, as here, in their prayers against their enemies. How God answered this prayer to David, see 2 Samuel 17:1-14, &c.

For I have seen violence and strife in the city] i.e. In Jerusalem, something I have seen, but more outrages I have heard of, since Absalom with his army came into it. The rude soldiers plunder the poor citizens at pleasure, and cannot agree among themselves in dividing the spoil.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-55.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 55:9. Destroy, O Lord, &c.— Confound, or overwhelm them, O Lord, and disunite their counsels. Chandler. Praying that God would destroy their consultations by dividing them, was the prayer of a wise man, and verified by the event; as the counsels of Achitophel and Hushai were divided, and thereby Achitophel's advice was utterly frustrated and destroyed. The 10th and 11th verses express in very strong terms the confusion and contention, the deceit and treachery, and other crimes, which abounded in the city by the managers and abetters of this conspiracy. They watched the walls; they resorted to violence and fraud to increase their numbers, and the emissaries of the rebels used every art to alienate the hearts of the people from their king, and engage them in the interests of his unnatural and impious son. Chandler. It plainly appears, says Dr. Delaney, from this Psalm, particularly from Psalms 55:9-15 that David had discerned the seeds and workings of a conspiracy in the city, and that Achitophel was at the bottom of it; and not only so, but that David foresaw his sudden and sad end.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-55.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Divide their tongues, i.e. destroy them by dividing.

Their tongues, i.e. their speech, as thou didst at Babel, Ge 11; their votes, and opinions, and counsels; which was eminently done among Absalom’s followers, 2Sa 17.

I have seen; or, I do see or perceive, by certain and general report. Violence and strife in the city; that injustice, and fraud, and oppression, and contention bear rule there, instead of that public justice and peace which I established and maintained in it. In the city; either,

1. In Keilah, where David thought to abide, 1Sa 23, Or,

2. In Gibeah, where Saul had his abode. Or rather,

3. In Jerusalem; which is called the city by way of eminency; and which in Absalom’s time was the chief seat of rebellion, and a mere sink of all sins. And this circumstance is noted as an aggravation of their wickedness, that it was committed in that city, where the throne and seat of public justice was settled; and where God was in a special manner present and worshipped; and where they had great opportunities, both for the knowledge and practice of their several duties.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/psalms-55.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

9. Destroy—Literally, swallow them up. Let their destruction be sudden and at a single blow, as Psalms 106:17.

Divide their tongues—An allusion to Genesis 11:7; compare Isaiah 19:3. This was done when the conspirators were divided in counsel, the first and fatal step in Absalom’s downfall. Compare 2 Samuel 15:31, “And David said, O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” Accomplished, 2 Samuel 17:1-14.

Violence and strife in the city— “All kinds of party passions have broken loose.”Delitzsch.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/psalms-55.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 55:9. Destroy, O Lord, and divide — Destroy them by dividing their tongues — Their speech, as thou didst at Babel, (Genesis 11.,) their votes, and opinions, and counsels. Which was eminently done among Absalom’s followers, 2 Samuel 17. I have seen violence and strife — Injustice and fraud, oppression and contention rule there, instead of that public justice and peace which I established. In the city — In Jerusalem, which in Absalom’s time was a sink of all sins. And this circumstance is mentioned as an aggravation of their wickedness, that it was committed in that city where the throne and seat of public justice were settled; and where God was in a special manner present, and worshipped, and where they had great opportunities both for the knowledge and practice of their several duties.


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Bibliography
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-55.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

I have. Protestants, "thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle. Are the not in thy book?" St. Jerome, "thou hast numbered my most secret things: place my tears in thy sight," &c. (Haydock) --- Septuagint render the sense clearer. (Berthier) --- God has promised to relieve the distressed, who confided in him.


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/psalms-55.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

LORD *. One of the 134 alterations of Jehovah to Adonai by the Sopherim. App-32.

divide their tongues = cleave (as in Genesis 10:25; Genesis 11:1-9) their counsels; "tongues" being put by Figure of speech Metonymy (of Cause), App-6, for counsels given by them. This prayer was literally answered (2 Samuel 17:1-14).

tongues. Hebrew singular.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/psalms-55.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.

Destroy, O Lord - literally, devour, namely, the enemies; not, as the English version, their tongues; cf. "they," Psalms 55:10, and Psalms 55:15, "Let them go down quick (i:e., alive) into hell." The allusion is to Korah and his company. So Numbers 16:32, "The earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up [the same Hebrew verb, baala` (Hebrew #1104)], and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah."

Divide their tongues - i:e., make them disunited among themselves who league together to destroy the righteous. The 'divided tongues' are the organs, of divided minds. The allusion is to Genesis 11:1, "The whole earth was of one language (Hebrew, lip) and of one speech" (Hebrew, words); Psalms 55:7, the Lord said, "Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech;" Psalms 55:9, "Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth;" cf. also Genesis 10:25. Thus David means, Do again in behalf of thy cause against the wicked the same thing as in the days of old.

For I have seen violence and strife in the city - therefore there is need for thy 'destroying' judgments upon them. "The city" is an ideal one, to represent the world given up to the prince of this world. Cain built the first earthly city, (Genesis 4:1-26.) Contrast "the city of God" coming down from heaven (Revelation 21:10-11; Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 13:14).


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-55.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(9) Destroy.—Literally, swallow up. So the LXX., forcibly, “drown in the sea.” The object them must be supplied.

This sudden change from plaintive sadness to violent invective is one of the marked features of this poem. Some think there has been a transposition of verses, but in lyric poetry these abrupt transitions of tone are not uncommon nor unpleasing.

Divide their tongues—i.e., cause division in their councils. “Divide their voices” would be almost English, being exactly the opposite of Shakespeare’s “a joint and corporate voice.”

For I have seen.—With the sense, and see still.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/psalms-55.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
divide
That is, "Distract their counsels; and let their devices be confounded;"--and the prayer was heard; See the Parallel Passages.
Genesis 11:7-9; 2 Samuel 15:31; 17:1-14; John 7:45-53; Acts 23:6-10
I have
Jeremiah 6:7; 23:14; Matthew 23:37,38

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Psalms 55:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/psalms-55.html.

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