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Bible Commentaries

Clarke's Commentary

Psalms 140

Verse 1

The psalmist prays against his enemies, 1-6;

returns thanks for help, 7;

describes his enemies, and prays farther against them, 8-11.

His confidence in God, 12, 13.


The Hebrew, and all the Versions, attribute this Psalm to David; and it is supposed to contain his complaint when persecuted by Saul. The Syriac determines it to the time when Saul endeavoured to transfix David with his spear.

Verse Psalms 140:1. From the evil man — Saul, who was full of envy, jealousy, and cruelty against David, to whom both himself and his kingdom were under the highest obligations, endeavoured by every means to destroy him.

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 140:2. They gathered together — He and his courtiers form plots and cabals against my life.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 140:3. They have sharpened their tongues — They employ their time in forging lies and calumnies against me; and those of the most virulent nature.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 140:4. Preserve me from the violent man — Saul again; who was as headstrong and violent in all his measures, as he was cruel, and inflexibly bent on the destruction of David.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 140:5. Have hid a snare for me — They hunted David as they would a dangerous wild beast: one while striving to pierce him with the spear; another to entangle him in their snares, so as to take and sacrifice him before the people, on pretense of his being an enemy to the state.

Selah — This is the truth.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 140:7. Thou hast covered my head — Not only when I fought with the proud blaspheming Philistine; but in the various attempts made against my life by my sworn enemies.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 140:8. Further not his wicked device — He knew his enemies still desired his death, and were plotting to accomplish it; and here he prays that God may disappoint and confound them. The Chaldee understands this of Doeg.

Verse 10

Verse Psalms 140:10. Let burning coals — The Chaldee considers this as spoken against Ahithophel, who was head of a conspiracy against David; and translates this verse thus: "Let coals from heaven fall upon them, precipitate them into the fire of hell, and into miry pits, from which they shall not have a resurrection to eternal life." This is a proof that the Jews did believe in a resurrection of the body, and an eternal life for that body, in the case of the righteous.

Verse 11

Verse Psalms 140:11. Let not an evil speaker be establishedאיש לשון ish lashon, "a man of tongue." There is much force in the rendering of this clause in the Chaldee גבר דמשתעי לישן תליתי gebar demishtai lishan telithai, "The man of detraction, or inflammation, with the three-forked tongue." He whose tongue is set on fire from hell; the tale-bearer, slanderer, and dealer in scandal: with the three-forked tongue; wounding three at once: his neighbour whom he slanders; the person who receives the slander; and himself who deals in it. What a just description of a character which God, angels, and good men must detest! Let not such a one be established in the land; let him be unmasked; let no person trust him; and let all join together to hoot him out of society. "He shall be hunted by the angel of death, and thrust into hell." - CHALDEE.

Verse 12

Verse Psalms 140:12. The cause of the afflicted — Every person who is persecuted for righteousness' sake has God for his peculiar help and refuge; and the persecutor has the same God for his especial enemy.

Verse 13

Verse Psalms 140:13. The righteous shall give thanks — For thou wilt support and deliver him.

The upright shall dwell in thy presence. — Shall be admitted to the most intimate intercourse with God.

The persecuted have ever been dear to God Almighty; and the martyrs were, in an especial manner, his delight; and in proportion as he loved those, so must he hate and detest these.

David, being persecuted by Saul, Doeg, and the men of Ziph, prays to God against their evil tongues. But the fathers apply it more largely to the Church, in its persecution by wicked men and devils.

The Psalm is divided into four parts: -

I. A petition to be delivered from his enemies, whom he describes, Psalms 140:1-19.140.6.

II. A protestation of his confidence in God, Psalms 140:6-19.140.7.

III. A prayer against them, Psalms 140:8-19.140.11.

IV. A manifestation of his hope, that God will maintain his just cause, Psalms 140:12-19.140.13.

I. He first summarily proposes his petition.

1. "Deliver me, O Lord," c. From Saul, Doeg, or the devil.

2. "Preserve me," &c. From his violence and malice, and their effects. 1. Evil counsels, and wicked stratagems: "Which imagine mischief," &c. 2. From their evil words, which were consonant with their thoughts.

"They have sharpened their tongues," &c. With calumnies and frauds.

"Like a serpent," &c. Their bitter words are as the poison of the viper and adder, or the asp, which, without pain, extinguishes life.

He repeats his petition: "Keep me, O Lord," &c.

To move God, he shows their intentions.

1. "They have purposed," &c.: To make me walk slowly, or not at all, in the ways of God to turn me back.

2. The method they took to attain their purpose: "The proud have laid a snare," c.: as hunters do for birds and beasts. So the devil shows the bait, but hides the hook: under pleasure he hides the bitterness of its reward and consequences.

II. He implores aid from God against the evil and danger.

1. "I said unto the Lord," &c. I do not cast away my confidence.

2. "Hear the voice," &c.

Better to show the ground of his constancy, he declares, -

1. What esteem he had for his God: "Thou art the strength," &c. My fortification against all my enemies.

2. What he had formerly done for him: "Thou hast covered my head," &c.

III. The other part of his petition consists in praying against their plots.

1. "Grant not, O Lord," &c. Let them not have their wishes.

2. "Further not his wicked device," &c. Give them no prosperity in them.

3. "Lest they exalt themselves," &c. Triumph in my being conquered by them.

After praying against them, predicts their punishment: "As for the head of those that compass me about," &c.

1. "Let the mischief of their own lips," &c.

2. Deal severely with them: "Let burning coals," &c. Let them suffer extreme punishment: "Let them be cast into the fire," &c.

3. "Let not an evil speaker," &c. - a liar, flatterer, &c., "be established in the earth."

4. "Evil shall hunt," &c. Give no rest, but pursue the wicked man to his utter ruin all those who persecute the church, who write their laws in her blood.

IV. To the infliction of punishment on the wicked, he subjoins, by an antithesis, the promise of God for the defence of the righteous, and so concludes.

1. "I know," c. Am certainly persuaded by my own experience, and the example of my forefathers, whom thou hast delivered in their trials and temptations.

2. "That the Lord will maintain," &c. He may defer his help and deliverance but he will not take it from them.

And this he confirms and amplifies from the final cause, which is double.

1. That they praise him: "Surely the righteous shall give thanks," &c. Being delivered, they attribute the honour, not to themselves, or their innocency or merit, but give the glory of his grace and love to God alone.

2. That they remain before him in his Church militant and triumphant. That they may "dwell in thy presence," &c. Walk before his face here, dwell in his favour, and enjoy the beatific vision hereafter.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 140". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-140.html. 1832.