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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 5

Introduction

Psalms 5

We make our commencement here with an explanation of אל הנחילות in the superscription. This has received a threefold exposition. 1. According to the Chaldee and the greater number of modern expositors, these words denote the instruments, with the accompaniment of which the Psalm was to be publicly performed; נחילה is held to be of like signification with חליל , “flute,” to which it is supposed to be related. But to this it may be objected, that not a trace of connection is anywhere else to be found between the two roots; further, that the instruments are never in the superscriptions introduced with אל ; finally, that the flute, although it is named among the instruments of the disciples of the prophets in 1 Samuel 10:5, yet is never mentioned as a component part of the sacred temple music; and, in particular, never as one of the instruments with which the singing of the Psalms was accompanied. For the most part, it is only stringed instruments that are spoken of in this latter respect, comp., besides the superscriptions, Psalms 92:3, Psalms 49:4, Psalms 150; the trumpets, which were used only in the solemn songs of praise, are mentioned in Psalms 5, Psalms 81:3, Psalms 98:6, Psalms 150; but the flute is never named, not even among the instruments of Psalms 150:2. Others suppose, that the words point to another Psalm, after the air of which this Psalm was to be sung; so Abenezra, Hitzig “After the inheritance.” But a careful examination of the superscriptions establishes the result, that they do not afford one certain example of this sort; and it would require an extreme necessity to shut us up here to a supposition, which is so devoid of all certain analogy. 3. Others suppose, that the words describe the subject of the Psalm. So all the Greek translators, who render the words: ὑ?πὲτῆκληρονομούσης , “upon the heiress;” the Vulgate: Super ea, quae haereditatem consequitur; and Luther: “for the inheritance,” which he thus explains,—“According to the title, this is the common purport of the Psalm, that it asks for the inheritance of God, desiring that the people of God may be kept and preserved for their Lord.” It is a general confirmation of this view, that, in by far the most dark and difficult superscriptions, the words are found, on close investigation, to give a kind of enigmatical description of the contents and object of the Psalms, of which David in particular was fond. It is a special reason for this signification, that in the only other place where אל occurs in a superscription; in Psalms 80, it, in like manner, introduces the subject. This exposition is therefore to be preferred, provided the word נחילות admits of a sense which can serve as a suitable designation of the subject of the Psalm. נחל signifies, to acquire, possess; the feminine of the adjective with a passive signification can, therefore, only mean the acquired, the possessed; in plural, the pos sessions, the lots,—comp. Job 7:3. Now, the whole Psalm is taken up with a double destiny, that of the righteous, and that of the wicked—the blessing which is appointed by God to the former, and the misery to the latter; and in case of a single word being employed to describe the contents, none more suitable could be found than that here used, “on the lots.”

After an introduction in Psalms 5:1 and Psalms 5:2, in which the Psalmist entreats the Lord that He would hear and answer his prayer, the prayer itself follows in two strophes of equal length, each consisting of five verses, Psalms 5:3-7, and Psalms 5:8-12, which run parallel in point of matter, both treating of the same subject, and their individual parts corresponding to each other. In the first strophe, the Psalmist prays the Lord, that as he made haste to pray to Him—being his first business in the morning—so the Lord might hasten to help him against his enemies, Psalms 5:3; Psalms 5:4-6 grounds this prayer upon the circumstance, that God, as holy and righteous hates sin and sinners, and dooms them to destruction; and in Psalms 5:7, the hope and confidence is expressed, that he, the righteous, delivered through God’s grace, will give thanks to Him in His temple. The second strophe, which is as it were the second table of the prayer, which, as in the Decalogue, is comprised in the number ten, begins anew in Psalms 5:8, with a supplication for the Psalmist’s deliverance in his conflict with the adversaries; then follows in Psalms 5:9-10, the ground of it, pointing to the sinfulness of the adversaries, which called for God’s judgments on them, and for their destruction; and the conclusion here again, Psalms 5:11-12, contains an expression of joyful hope for the righteous, whom God cannot fail to bless.

The only inequality in point of form is, that in the first strophe, the grounding of the prayer, and the delineation given of the lot of the wicked, take up three verses, in the second only two: whereas the hope and the description of the lot of the righteous occupy but one verse in the first strophe, and in the second, two verses. As it is the peculiar aim of the Psalm to elevate the hope of the righteous, it is quite natural that the writer should close with a fuller expression thereof.

Venema justly describes the Psalm as “a distinguished testimony of Divine righteousness and mercy, in defending and blessing the righteous, and in excluding the wicked from His fellowship, driving them away, and destroying them.” But he errs in thinking that these truths are delivered by him, quite in a general way, without any subjective starting point, without any actual oppression of the righteous, by the wicked giving occasion to the unfolding of these truths,—a supposition in which he was already preceded by Luther, who says: “It is certain that this Psalm does not treat of external suffering and opposition, for not a word in the whole Psalm makes mention of that; but all the complaint is directed against the wicked, the ungodly, and workers of iniquity. Hence it appears to me, that the leading object and characteristic of this Psalm is, that in it the Psalmist prays against hypocrites, against self-righteous seducers and false prophets, who mislead the people of God, and the heritage of Christ, with their human statutes.” That the Psalm originated in the oppression of actual enemies, appears from the mention of these in Psalms 5:8, from the “for” in Psalms 5:4, and the same in Psalms 5:9. When the Psalmist grounds his prayer for acceptance and blessing on the abandonedness of the wicked, it is presupposed that the wicked were his enemies. He does not say, as he should have done, according to that hypothesis, Bless the righteous, destroy the wicked; but he says, Discomfit the wicked because of their wickedness, and thereby deliver the righteous. What has misled men into that hypothesis, and given it probability, is the Psalmist’s here specially bringing out, as a ground of hope for the righteous, that his enemies in general are wicked, while elsewhere, that which they actually do as enemies is particularly declared— there it is: “Deliver me from mine enemies, for they wrong me;” here: “Deliver me from them, for they are evil, but I am righteous; and Thou canst not but, according to Thy nature, destroy the wicked, and bless the righteous.” The authors of the Psalms divide the treasure of consolation, which God has given them as householders, into particular gifts, and sometimes they exhibit one, sometimes another. Here, for example, the particular point brought into notice is, that the enemies of the Psalmist are, at the same time, rebels against God, to whom He cannot accord the victory, without denying Himself; while the Psalmist, on the other hand, was a righteous man,—that it was impossible God could interchange or confuse the unalterably fixed, and perpetually separated lots of the righteous and the wicked; while in Psalms 6 the ground of hope is derived from the extremely sad position in which the Psalmist had been placed by his enemies. In brief, the Psalmist raises up the suffering righteous, by pointing to the unchangeable Divine righteousness, which will see to it that the righteous and the wicked shall each receive their respective lots. He points out how his deliverance from the hand of the wicked is as undoubtedly certain, as that God cannot deny and forget Himself.

The superscription ascribes the Psalm to David; and that no exception can be taken against this from Psalms 5:7, where the house and temple of the Lord are spoken of, we shall show in our remarks on that verse. What Hitzig has advanced against its Davidic authorship, viz., the slow motion and diffuseness of expression, is only, in so far as it is well grounded, of force against those who suppose a particular occasion. The racy style and liveliness of feeling generally to be perceived in those Psalms of David, which originated in particular occasions, we certainly do not find here.

Various defenders of the Davidic authorship have tried to discover some such particular occasion here; usually, it has been attributed to the revolt of Absalom,—but the endeavour has been found to be quite fruitless. Psalms 5:7, which might be connected with 2 Samuel 15:25, is altogether general in its subject, and contains only such matter as every righteous man might utter. Not a single trace is to be found in the whole Psalm, of any particular reference. And what is the main point, viz., that the Psalmist speaks, not in his own person, but in that of the righteous, puts the words into his mouth, which he is to use in times of oppression, is clear from the close in Psalms 5:11-12, where, instead of saying “I,” he brings forward those who “trust in the Lord,” “who love His name,” “the righteous.” The Psalm is, therefore, in the most proper sense, a didactic one.

This Psalm probably owes its place here to the circumstance of its being designed for a morning prayer, Psalms 5:3. On this account it appeared very appropriate to connect it with Psalms 3 and Psalms 4, which are evening prayers.

The significant part which the numerals play in our Psalm, is worthy of remark. The three which the Israelites accounted peculiarly important and sacred, are found in it. The whole Psalm contains twelve verses; its proper building without the ante-chamber, ten; the delineation of the malice of the wicked twice over, makes up the number seven.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. Give ear to my words, O Lord; understand my meditation. הגיג , which, excepting this passage, occurs only in Psalms 39:3, is to be derived from the verb הגג , which is of the same import as הגה . There is no reason for renouncing here, the common signification, “to meditate,” which is also quite suitable in Psalms 39; indeed, the context favours this. David puts first the general expression, “my words.” This he now divides into two parts, the low and the loud; the silent complaint of the heat, the unutterable sighs, which are understood by Him who searches the heart, of which Paul also speaks in Romans 8:26-27; and the loud cry of the distressed soul for help, in the following verse. בין , is not to be taken with Luther, and most modern expositors, in the sense of to observe, to consider, which the verb never has, when construed with the accusative, but in the sense of understanding or perceiving, which, as Muis has remarked, is favoured also by its connection with meditation.

Verse 2

Ver. 2. Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King and my God! This address proclaims the ground of the Psalmist’s, or the righteous man’s right to demand help, and of his hope in regard to it. God is named King here, not on account of His resistless sovereignty over the whole earth, but on account of His special relation to Israel. As King, God cannot permit evil to triumph in His kingdom, and He cannot but defend him, who, as righteous, can address Him as his King. This address, therefore, reminds God candidly, as only a believer can, of His obligation to help: it is, at the same time, an exhortation of the Psalmist to himself, to trust in Divine help. Another reminder lies in the words, for unto Thee do I pray—where the for refers to the preceding imperative. David, as Calvin remarks, “sets out with the general principle, that those who call on God in their necessities, are never cast off by Him. He places himself in opposition to the unbelieving, who in misfortune, neglecting God, either consume their grief within themselves, or make complaints of it to men, and are unworthy, therefore, that God should take cognizance of them.”

Verse 3

Ver. 3. My voice mayest Thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I set in order my prayer to Thee, and look out. Previously, the Psalmist had entreated the Lord generally to render help; now, he desires Him to make haste to perform the same. It is, says he, so soon as I awake, my first work in the day to flee to Thee: do Thou, therefore, hasten also to help me. Comp. in Psalms 143:8, “Cause me to hear Thy favour in the morning,” with that in Psalms 143:7, “Hear me speedily.” That תשמע is to be taken optat., and is not, with Hitzig, to be translated, hearest Thou, is clear from the analogy of the corresponding verse just referred to, where the imperative is found, as also from the words, I look out, which, as to matter, equally contains a prayer. ארךְ? , to set in order, is used of arranging the wood upon the altar in Genesis 22:9, Leviticus 1:7, 1 Kings 18:33; the bread upon the sacred table, Leviticus 24:8, comp. Exodus 40:23, Leviticus 24:6. The matter which is here set in order, are the words of his prayer. Still the expression, “I will set in order,” has not merely the force of “I will direct to Thee;” but the prayer, probably with a special allusion to the shewbread, is described as a spiritual oblation, which the Psalmist prepares for the Lord with the break of day. And then I look out. צפה , speculari, namely, whether the answer, the help, approaches. The Psalmist, having done his own part, waits in faith that God also will do His. The image is taken from those who, during hostile attacks, look out from a high watch-tower, to see whether help is at hand. Comp. Habakkuk 2:1, where the same image is more fully expressed. Micah 7. “Therefore I will look unto the Lord (rather, I will look out in the Lord), I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” The Berleb. Bible: “One must keep on the watch, if one would receive anything from God, and wait with longing for the desired answer; also be constantly looking after the help, and giving heed to whatsoever the Lord may speak.” This verse shows that the Psalm is a morning prayer, just as the two preceding Psalms contained prayers for the evening. That the pious in Israel prayed at the same three periods, which the Christian Church has also consecrated to prayer, appears from Psalms 55:17, “Evening, morning, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud; and He shall hear my voice.” Of the morning prayer alone is mention made in Psalms 88:13, “But unto Thee do I cry, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer surprise Thee.”

Verse 4

Ver. 4. For Thou art not a God whom wickedness pleases; the wicked dwelleth not with Thee. The for, which connects Psalms 5:4-6 with Psalms 5:3, is only satisfactorily explained, when his deliverance from his enemies is considered as the object, though not expressly named, of the Psalmist’s prayer, and of his earnest expectation: Hear my prayer for deliverance from mine enemies, for Thou art not a God that has pleasure in wickedness, etc. But mine enemies are wicked; therefore Thou must subdue them, and deliver me. Upon the number seven in the description of wickedness, Luther has remarked: “With seven words does the prophet accuse the ungodly preachers and their disciples, those who seek holiness by works.” It is the less likely to have been an accident, as the number seven occurs again in Psalms 5:9-10. יְ גֻ רְ ךָ? is not to be regarded, with many expositors, as standing for יגווּ ר עמךָ? ; nor may we, with Ewald, account for the accus. by saying, that to dwell with is here put for to be confidential, to know any one as a friend; for in other passages, such as Psalms 120:5, where the verb is in like manner joined with the accus., this modification of meaning is inadmissible. There it is used of such as dwell with any one by constraint, and unwillingly. The construction is rather to be accounted for by considering the person as comprehending its property in itself: “to inhabit the Lord,” for, “to inhabit the house of the Lord.” This supposition is strongly confirmed by the fact that גור באהל יהוה , “to dwell in the tabernacle of the Lord,” usually is גור יהוה ; that is, “to inhabit the Lord” (as we explain the words), denoting the near relation to the Lord, and His protection; comp. for example, Psalms 15:1, Psalms 61:4. The figure is taken from him who receives a pilgrim, גֵ ר , hospitably into his dwelling. Whosoever is received to such honour by God, he must take care not to pollute His pure dwelling with unrighteousness. He must be holy, even as God is holy.

Verse 5

Ver. 5. The proud come not before Thine eyes, Thou hatest all workers of iniquity. They must not appear in His sight; a mark of the deepest abhorrence, taken from earthly kings, near whom none are allowed to come, excepting those who enjoy their favour. De Wette falsely: “They cannot bear Thy presence on account, of their evil conscience,” instead of: “ Thou wilt not bear their presence on account of Thy holiness.” Habakkuk 1:13 is parallel, “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity; wherefore lookest Thou upon them that deal treacherously, etc.” הוללים , proud, from הלל , to shine, then “to be proud,” in Hithp. to boast. From the parallelism here and in other passages with “evildoers” and “ungodly,” some would judge the word to have a more general signification. But this is to be admitted only, in so far as pride, together with covetousness and lust, is considered in Scripture as one of the main roots of all sinful corruption, so that every proud and lofty one is, at the same time, an ungodly person, and a worker of iniquity. In regard to the object aimed at by this representation of the hatred of God toward the workers of iniquity, Calvin remarks: “It is an excellent conclusion: God hates unrighteousness, therefore He will take righteous vengeance on all unrighteous persons.”

Verse 6

Ver. 6. Thou destroyest them that speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloody and deceitful man. Berleb. Bible: “In us are selfish and vain thoughts, which, as liars, only seek after vanity, and would fill our souls therewith; but these, Lord, Thou wilt bring down by the sword and word of Thy mouth, and root out all falsehood in us.”

Verse 7

Ver. 7. And I, through Thy great favour, will come into Thy house, to worship in Thy fear toward Thy holy temple. In the words and I, a contrast is presented to the enemies who are doomed to destruction. So also do the words, in the greatness of Thy favour, stand in opposition to the Lord’s abhorrence of sinners expressed in the preceding verse. Coupled therewith is a reference to the greatness of the distress, which, irremediable by human means, called for a singular manifestation of Divine help. While mine enemies, whom the Lord abhors, perish, I, whom He loves as His pious worshipper, shall come, not through mine own power, but through the greatness of His favour, etc. This contrast to the Lord’s abhorrence of the ungodly, is by itself a proof how falsely some expound: “In the greatness of My love towards thee.” This exposition has not the slightest support even from the usus loquendi. חסד יהוה , is never love to God, but always the grace or favour of God towards His people. It is also opposed by Psalms 69:13, Ps 63:16, where “the multitude of God’s tender mercies” is celebrated as the cause of deliverance.

The coming into the house of God, and worshipping toward His holy temple, is mentioned here only in respect to its occasion, only so far as its aim was to give thanks to God for his deliverance, and presupposes this. Comp. Psalms 66:13, “I will go into Thy house with burnt-offerings, I will pay Thee my vows.” In Thy fear, corresponds to in the greatness of Thy favour. The fear of God, a reverent regard to Him, is the fruit of the manifestation of His fulness of love, of the display of His glory in the Psalmist’s deliverance. As the product of God’s manifestations, fear is not unfrequently named; for example, Genesis 28:17, where, after one of God’s richest manifestations of grace had been noticed, it is said, “Jacob was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place!” also Hab. “O Lord, I have heard Thy report (the report, viz., of Thy glorious deeds in behalf of Thy people), and was afraid.” Completely mistaken is the sense which De Wette and others give to this verse, understanding it thus: “The Psalmist pronounces himself blessed in opposition to the ungodly, in that he belongs to those who can approach God; he visits His temple and serves Him. But it is of God’s great mercy, that he may do this.” Against such a view it is enough to compare this verse with the corresponding ( Psalms 5:11) 11th, which, like this, expresses, according to our view, the hope of deliverance. The manifest contrast to the miserable lot prepared by God for the wicked, Psalms 5:4-6, requires that here the happy condition of the righteous should be described. Access to the outward sanctuary was free also to the ungodly, and it did not require “the fulness of the love of God” to keep open the way. The “fulness of the love of God,” as contrasted with His annihilating abhorrence of the wicked, can only be considered here so far as it is the power which delivers the righteous. The expression, “in Thy fear,” is, according to the view in question, torn away from its connection with the words, “in the greatness of God’s favour.” And, what is the main point, this explanation gives the first strophe, which is manifestly complete in itself, an unsatisfactory conclusion. The Psalmist had begun with a prayer for help and deliverance, grounded upon God’s abhorrence of sin, in consequence of which He cannot but destroy the wicked, his enemies. The only conclusion we could expect, is the hope and confidence of help. But instead of this, the Psalmist is made to speak of his happiness in being able to visit the temple of the Lord—how, we are not told; and of the result of his prayer We learn absolutely nothing. אל־היכל־קדשך is not, as many expositors take it, in, but “ to Thy holy temple.” The interior of the temple David was not allowed to enter. But he would, according to the custom of the worship then established, turn, at the time of prayer, towards the place where the gracious presence of the Lord had its seat, from whence also his aid had come. היכל יהוה was the dwelling-place of the Lord, not so named as being a great building, but from being His residence as King of Israel. The house where a king or prince dwells, is a palace, whether it be splendid or not. Hence the tabernacle bore this name equally with the subsequent temple. Of the former it is used in 1 Samuel 1:9, 1 Samuel 3:3:“And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was,”—passages which, with perfect arbitrariness (for there is no reason to consider היכל as exclusively used for designating the temple), men have sought to get rid of by the remark, that the author unconsciously carries back to an antecedent period, a word of later origin. But an incontestible proof that the word was applied also to the tabernacle, is furnished by Psalms 27. From that word occurring in Psalms 27:4, De Wette concludes the Psalm not to be one of David’s. But he has overlooked the circumstance, that in Psalms 27:6 of the same Psalm, the Psalmist vows to bring an offering to God in the tabernacle or tent-temple. It is undeniable, therefore, that at a time when the temple was still unbuilt, the holy tent was named היכל ; first the old Mosaic tabernacle, then the tent which David erected over the ark of the covenant on Mount Zion. It is, besides, false to maintain, as is usually done, that the word denotes the Holy, in opposition to the Most Holy Place. Those who hold this view are perplexed with this passage, since the person praying could only so far direct himself to the היכל , as the Lord was throned there,—comp. Psalms 28:2, where David stretches out his hands to the holiest of all; and 1 Samuel 3:3, where the lamp belonging to the sanctuary is represented as being found in the Hekal. The right view is, that Hekal denotes the Holy and the Most Holy Place together—the temple in the strictest sense, as opposed to the outer courts. Only in a few passages, such as 1 Kings 6:5, is it used specially to denote the Holy Place, where it is limited by being expressly distinguished from the Most Holy Place,—a relation similar to that of Israel and Judah, Judah and Jerusalem,—so that we cannot properly say, that Hekal of itself denotes the Holy Place, for the more limited idea is only conveyed by the context.

Verse 8

Ver. 8. The Psalmist makes here, as it were, a new onset. Just as upon his prayer joyful hope had followed, so here out of his hope a new prayer comes forth, to which new confidence attaches. The matter from Psalms 5:8-12 runs parallel with Psalms 5:3-7, first a prayer, then its ground, and lastly a hope.

Lead me, O Lord, in Thy righteousness, because of mine enemies; make Thy way smooth before my face. The Psalmist prays the Lord, that He would display His righteousness in His dealings, and bring salvation to His servant. A great many expositors,—of more recent ones, De Wette, Ewald, Hitzig, Maurer,—translate “in the righteousness” which Thou requirest, which is well-pleasing to Thee. The words, “because of mine enemies,” i.e. from regard to them, that they may not triumph over me, if I should make a false step; “make straight Thy way before me,” make easier for me the course of action, which Thou lovest. But the whole of this interpretation is certainly erroneous. The righteousness here spoken of is rather the attribute of God, according to which He gives to every one his own—befriends the pious, who confide in His promises, and destroys the ungodly. This is evident from the for in the next verse, which assigns the reason. How little this accords with the first exposition may appear from the remark of De Wette in the earlier editions of his Com.: “כי , dropt out in the translation, is not here a proper logical for, and is often an expletive;” and also from the remark made in the fourth edit., on Psalms 5:9, “the ground, on account of which God should uphold him in righteousness, and protect him against his enemies,”—which last words he is obliged to supply, though his exposition of the preceding verse does not justify him in doing so. The meaning is: Because mine enemies are so godless, but my cause and object are righteous, Thy righteousness demands that Thou shouldst guide me, as I can find no other resource,—shouldst make plain to me Thy way, the path by which Thou leadest me, and remove the mountains of difficulty which Thou hast now thrown in the way. This view is confirmed as the right one, by a comparison with Psalms 5:5, where David pleads for help on the same ground, and also with Psalms 5:12, where it is said, “Thou, O Lord, blessest the righteous.” It is a further confirmation, that this view alone brings the prayer here into a proper relation to the hope in Psalms 5:11, which concerns not moral preservation, but salvation and blessing. Then, on no other interpretation can our verse be fitly connected with Psalms 5:7, where not moral support, but salvation and deliverance are hoped for—and in particular, the words, “In Thy righteousness,” with “the greatness of Thy favour.” Finally, our interpretation is borne out by a great number of parallel passages in the Psalms, the meaning of which has in no small degree been perverted; for example, Psalms 23:3, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness;” Psalms 25:4-5, “Show me Thy ways, O Lord; teach me Thy paths: lead me in Thy truth, and teach me; for Thou art the God of my salvation;” Psalms 27:11, “Teach me Thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.” The expression “ in Thy righteousness,” is, according both to the parallelism and the parallel passages, to be thus explained, that the righteousness of God is represented as the way in which the Psalmist desires to be led, by which nothing more is meant, than that it should develop itself in what befell him. When the Psalmist pleads, “because of his enemies,” it shows how much, being surrounded by powerful adversaries, he stood in need of help. Through the whole he has only to do with Divine aid against his enemies.

In the word הושר there is united a twofold reading. The consonants belong to that of the text, which must be pronounced הוֹ שׁ ַ ר , the vowels to that of the gloss הַ יְ שׁ ַ ר . Both forms are the imperative in Hiph. of the verb ישר , to be straight. The form of the text is here, as always, to be preferred; for in Hiph. the original verbs פי almost always borrow their forms from the פו ; comp. Ewald, p. 393. The Masorites have here, as very often, only substituted the grammatical regularity, to which they were also particularly led by a regard to Proverbs 4:25, where the form הושר is actually found. Just as in our text they satisfied their love for regularity and uniformity by substituting הישר for הושר , so in Isaiah 45:2, for the same reason, they placed the Piel in the Kri instead of the Hiph. of the text.

Verse 9

Ver. 9. For there is no uprightness in his mouth; their inward part is wickedness, their throat is an open sepulchre, they make smooth their tongue. We remarked already, that here also the description of the wickedness of the enemies is completed in the number seven. The four points contained in our verse are obvious; and to these must be added those in Psalms 5:10—their destructive counsels, the fulness of their transgressions, their rebellion against God. Our verse corresponds exactly to the ( Psalms 5:4) 4th and ( Psalms 5:5) 5th verses, and Psalms 5:10 to the ( Psalms 5:7) 7th. In both places, the seven fall into four and three. The for shows that Psalms 5:9-10 lay the ground of the petition expressed in ver. 8. God must take the part of the Psalmist, and grant him deliverance, for his enemies are in the highest degree corrupt, are rebels against God, whom He, as the Holy One, cannot but discomfit. The suffixes refer to the adversaries in Psalms 5:8. The use of the singular suffix at the first, is to be explained by the entire mass of enemies being represented by the Psalmist as one person, as personified ungodliness. The enemies are only numerically different; in respect to wickedness, there is no distinction among them. They are as a head with many members. “There is no uprightness in his mouth.” They speak nothing but faithless deceit and lies. Comp. Psalms 62:4, “They bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly.” “Their inward part” many explain simply by “their soul.” But this is not allowable; for in the whole verse mention is always made of the bodily part that corresponds to the spiritual. So that here also, the inward as opposed to the outward—the mouth as the organ of words—denotes the heart as the seat of feelings. We too speak of the heart in the body. הַ ווּ ָ ה , from &הוה היה , to be, properly accident, casus; then in a bad sense, an ill accident, misfortune, evil, and not simply such as one suffers, but, as here, such also as one brings—hurt, wickedness. “Their heart is wickedness,” very expressive; it has so completely taken possession of their hearts, that there is no distinction between them. The throat, according to several, is introduced here as the organ of swallowing, to denote the insatiable thirst for destruction of his enemies. So Calvin: “He compares them to graves, as if he would say, They are all-devouring abysses; denoting thereby, their insatiable thirst to shed blood.” But the throat is commonly used as an organ of speech; comp. Psalms 149:6, Psalms 115:7, etc.; and that it must here also be regarded as the same, appears from the connection in which it stands with the mouth as an instrument of speech, with the heart as the source of speech, and with the tongue. The point of comparison between the throat and an open grave is, that each is pregnant with destruction. Their talk prepares destruction for those who approach them.

They make smooth their tongue, speak smoothly and hypocritically. Venema “They pretend love to God and man, that they may the more easily impose on the credulous, and overwhelm them.” Falsely many: with the tongue. לשונם is accusative, governed by the verb יחליקון , which in Hiph. is always transitive; and in connection with the accusative, “the tongue,” or “the words,” as in Proverbs 2:16, Proverbs 7:5, signify “to flatter.”

Verse 10

Ver. 10. This verse, as to its matter, continues the plea for deliverance, grounded by the Psalmist on the corruptness of his enemies, which, according to the Divine righteousness, would necessitate their destruction. But in place of: Thou must or wilt hold them guilty on account of their counsels, etc., the imperative is introduced for liveliness of effect: Hold them guilty, etc. Hold them guilty, O God; let them fall on account of their counsels; on account of the multitude of their crimes, overthrow them, for they have rebelled against Thee. אשם signifies in Kal to be guilty; hence, in Hiph., in which it occurs only here, to make or hold guilty. It is wrong to say, that the word in Hiph. exactly means punish. It is perfectly sufficient to take it as meaning “to make guilty,” “to represent as guilty,” in so far as the guilty is thereby first exhibited before the eyes of men in his real character: comp., for example, Psalms 34:21, “Evil shall slay the wicked, and they that hate the righteous shall be guilty.” Michaelis: Reos eos pronuntia, ut qui multis modis rei suet. Luther: “The word properly signifies such a decision and judgment, as would show and manifest what sort of men they are, when their ungodly nature is disclosed, and is made known to every one.” In the expression יפלו ממעצותיהם , the preposition is best taken as the causal m: comp. Hosea 11:6, where the same compound is used in the same sense; “on account, because, of their counsels.” This exposition is confirmed by the analogy of the following clause, “Because of the multitude of their crimes;” and also, “ For they have rebelled against Thee.” Only when thus understood, can the clause fall into the circle of the number seven. The cause of their perdition, and of the Psalmist’s deliverance from them, is, that their mouth is without uprightness, etc. These ground’s decide against other expositions. Not a few, following in the footsteps of Luther—that they fall from their own plans:— let them fall, perish from their counsels, i.e. without their being able to execute them. Others: “Let their counsels become vain,” נפל מן like the Latin, spe excidere, ausis excidere. But against this, it is to be urged, that no example can be produced of this signification. Then there is the parallel, “overthrow them,” which shows that נפל must here mean “fall” in its proper sense. Comp. Psalms 36:12, “There are the workers of iniquity fallen: they are cast down, and shall not be able to rise:” Psalms 141:10. Still others: “Let them fall by their counsels, or through them.”—ברב signifies prop. in the multitude of. The effect rests in its cause. For against Thee have they rebelled. The verbs which express an affection, particularly those which mark a hostile feeling, are commonly connected with the object to which the effect adheres, by the prep. ב . Since the Psalm, as already shown, refers not specially to David, but to the righteous generally, we must not expound: “For not against me, but against Thee, have they rebelled;” the contrast is one between enmity toward men, and rebellion against God. The Psalmist’s enemies must sustain a defeat, for they are rebels against God, whose sacred rights they trample under foot. God would not be God, if He should suffer them to go unpunished. The wishes of the Psalmist are at the same time so many predictions; for he prays only for that which God, on the supposition that his enemies do not change—that is expressly stated in Psalms 7:12, and is always to be supposed in such cases—must, according to His nature, necessarily do; the request, hold them guilty, has this for its ground and justification: Thou must hold them guilty. For what God does, and must do, that man not merely may, but should wish. So already August. Sermo. 22 ad Script.: “The prophet utters in the form of a wish, what he certainly foresees, will take place, showing simply, as appears to me, that we may not be dissatisfied with the known decree of God, which He has firmly and unalterably fixed.” Of a thirst for revenge, there can be no question in cases like the preceding; it is not against personal enemies as such, but only against enemies of God, that the Psalmist pretends to give judgment.

Verse 11

Ver. 11. And all those that put their trust in Thee shall rejoice; they shall for ever shout for joy, and Thou wilt protect them; and in Thee shall they be joyful, who love Thy name. The and connects this with the announcement indirectly contained in the preceding context, of the overthrow of the wicked. That the Futures of the verbs are not, with Luther and others, to be taken optatively (let them rejoice, etc.), but in the sense of the Future, expressing not a prayer, but a hope, is clear from the analogy of the corresponding ( Psalms 5:8) eighth verse. That those who trust upon the Lord, are not, as most expositors think, such as are different from the Psalmist, rejoicing at the deliverance granted to him, but rather those very persons who participate in the deliverance,—that the gladness and rejoicing here, are considered only in respect of their object and occasion: “they shall rejoice, etc.;” as if he had said: “Thou wilt, through Thy salvation, afford them cause for joy,”—is evident, 1. From the analogy of Psalms 5:7, where, in like manner, the hope of salvation is indirectly declared,—the joy and rejoicing here correspond to the coming into the temple there: 2. From the circumstance, that if the Psalmist spoke of others, who would be glad at his deliverance, this object of their delight would probably have been more minutely described: 3. From the words, “they shall for ever shout for joy,” which, as others could not possibly be supposed to rejoice perpetually at the deliverance of the Psalmist, necessarily imply, that the persons rejoicing are the delivered themselves, and that the rejoicing is spoken of only as the consequence of the deliverance; Thou wilt give them perpetual cause for rejoicing: 4. From the consideration, that “they shall rejoice,” “they shall shout for joy,” “they shall be joyful,” stand entirely on a par with, “and Thou wilt protect them,”—which the defenders of the exposition we oppose, in vain strive to separate from the preceding and succeeding context, rendering “since Thou protectest them,” or, “whom Thou protectest:” 5. And, finally, our view is confirmed by the entirely general character of the Psalm; so that it cannot appear strange, if, at the close, the plurality concealed under the unity should clearly come to light, and the righteous at large should be substituted in the place of the righteous individual. The meaning, therefore, is simply this: Whereas destruction befalls impious rebels, salvation is experienced by the pious.

Upon חוסי־בךְ? comp. on Psalms 2:12. The former is the full pausal form; Ewald. p. 137. תסךְ? is Fut. in Hiph. from סכך , to cover, with על , to cover upon, to protect.

Those that love Thy name. The name of God never stands in the Old Testament as a mere designation, but always emphatically, as an expression of His nature. Hence, “to love the name of the Lord” is as much as to “love Him,” so far as He has manifested His nature. If God were nameless, He could not be the object of love; for then He could not manifest Himself, as the name is the necessary product of the manifestation, that in which the Church gathers up the impression which it has received through the manifestation, so that the name only needs to be named, in order to renew the impression.

Verse 12

Ver. 12. The Psalmist here lays the foundation of the hope, expressed in the preceding verse. The pious shall have occasion to rejoice, on account of the salvation of God; for the manner of God, founded in His nature, is to bless the righteous, or him who trusts in God, and loves His name. For Thou blessest the righteous, O Lord; with favour Thou compassest him about as with a shield. The Fut. is used in the sense of custom. Hope in regard to that which the Lord will do, is only well founded when it rests on what He constantly does. The כצנה is prop. to be rendered: “as a shield,” i.e. covers. The comparison is often not fully expressed, when a mere indication will suffice; for example, Isaiah 1:25, “I will cleanse thy dross, as soap,” that is, as soap cleanses; comp. Ew. p. 614. Just as improper as to supply a ב is it to maintain, that צנה stands in the accus. governed by the verb. (De Wette.) Then the shield would be not that which covers, but that which is covered. תעטרנו is Fut. in Kal. To take it as Fut. in Hiph. with Rosenmüller, is unwarranted. The Hiph. is never used in the sense of covering or crowning, but only in a single place, Isaiah 23:8, as Denom. from עטרה , a crown, in the sense of “distributing crowns.” Luther is not exactly right in rendering: Thou crownest him with favour. The signification of crowning does not belong to the Kal, but only to the Piel.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 5". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-5.html.