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Psalms 11:1 « To the chief Musician, [A Psalm] of David. » In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee [as] a bird to your mountain?
Ver. 1. In the Lord put I my trust ] This was that which David had and held, wherewith to answer him that reproached him (and it was an excellent good one), that he trusted in God’s word, Psalms 119:42 . When it was that he gave this answer, "In the Lord put I my trust" (whether when Saul’s courtiers, under pretence of friendship, counselled him to quit the court for fear of Saul, which he was very loth to do, see the like Neh 6:10 Luke 13:31 , or else when he was with Samuel at Naioth, 1 Samuel 19:18 , &c., where his carnal friends might advise him, as Peter did his Master, Matthew 16:22 , with a Fuge, fuge, David, cite, citius, citissime Flee, flee david, quick, quicker, most quickly), is uncertain. But this is certain, that all the troops of ungodliness aim and act vigorously to cast down the castle of confidence we have in God. This, therefore, we must be sure to secure, as the serpent doth his head, the soldier his shield, Ephesians 6:16 . This is the victory whereby we overcome the world (with its allurements or affrightments) even our faith, 1 John 5:4 . The believer walketh about as a conqueror; and he alone is the man whom the heathen poet elegantly describeth (Horat. Carm. lib. iii. Od. 7):
Iustum et tenacem propositi virum,
Non civium ardor prava iubentium,
Non vultus instantis tyranni
Mente quatit solida, &c.
Si fractus illabatur orbis,
Impavidum ferient ruinae.
The poet instanceth in Hercules and Bacchus, but had he known of David, Moses, Micah, Nehemiah, Daniel and his three friends, &c., he would rather have pitched upon them, or some others of those worthies of whom the world was not worthy, Hebrews 11:38 .
Flee as a bird to your mountain? ] Get you gone, you and your followers (the Hebrew word flee is plural), or flee to your mountain, O bird; see you not the fowler’s snare? and will you not away with all speed? Thus they sought to fright him (as birds are fearful, Isa 16:2 ), and to make him flee from his place, as a bird fleeth from her nest, Proverbs 27:8 . But he was never without his cordial, the same that relieved him at the sack of Ziklag, where, in the fail of all other comforts, he "encouraged himself in the Lord his God," 1 Samuel 30:6 , he knew that, as birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend his people; defending also he will deliver them, and passing over he will preserve them, Isaiah 31:5 . This, though it were not written in David’s days, yet he had the good assurance of it in his soul.
Psa 11:2 For, lo, the wicked bend [their] bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.
Ver. 2. For, lo, the wicked bend their bow ] sc. To shoot at you, a silly bird; you were best therefore to be packing, and not to stay till you come tumbling down, as a bird fetched off with a bolt. Nam ecce inquitis impii apposuerunt pedem arcui (Beza). This hath ever been the guise of the Church’s enemies, and is still, to terrify her (if they could) and affright her out of her faith and true religion. Nebuchadnezzar, for instance, Antiochus, that little antichrist, the primitive persecutors, and still the Papists, with their cruel inquisition, and otherwise. But what saith the apostle, In nothing be terrified by your adversaries, Philippians 1:28 . Be not afraid with any amazement, 1 Peter 3:6 . Nos quidem neque expavescimus neque pertimescimus ea quae ab ignorantibus patimur, saith Tertullian, We fear not what any of you can do to us, do your worst ( Ad Scapulain). Contemptus est a me Romanus et favor et furor, said Luther, I care not for Rome’s frowns or fair looks. This the blind world counteth and calleth silliness or stubbornness, but they know not the force of faith nor the privy armour of proof that the saints have about their hearts. They make ready their arrow upon the string, not in the quiver, as the Vulgate reads it.
That they may privily shoot Heb. to shoot in the darkness; so that, although the saints hide themselves in caves and dark corners, yet they are ferreted out thence by their persecutors, as David was by Saul often. And this some hold to be the meaning of that place, Psalms 74:20 , "The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty"; that is, we can hide ourselves nowhere but the persecutors find us out.
Psa 11:3 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Ver. 3. If the foundations be destroyed ] If all things be turned "topsy turvy" in the state, and no regard had to right or wrong, Sed vi geritur res, ut in regno Cyclopico; if Saul, notwithstanding mine alliance to him, and innocence toward him, his many fair promises to me, and those hazards and hardships I have suffered for his sake, will needs go on to hunt me up and down, as a partridge in the mountains, and to seek mine utter undoing, what can I do to help it? how can it be but the most righteous must have his share of sufferings? See Psalms 82:5 .
What can the righteous do? ] More than glorify God, by suffering his will, and patiently wait for better times, comforting himself (as in the next verse) in this confidence, that God is in heaven, &c. Some render it, What hath the righteous done? The wicked will say that he hath undone all, and that David with his accomplices are the causes of all the public calamities and confusions. So the primitive persecutors charged the Christians ( Christianos ad leones. Tertul.), and Papists do still the Protestants, to be the troublers of the states, the seed men of sedition, the disturbers of the Church’s peace, &c., when as indeed themselves are flagella Reip. flabella seditionis, the only traitors and troublers of Israel; with Athaliah, they cry out, Treason, treason, when they themselves are the greatest traitors and incendiaries of Christendom. We may confidently say, with the psalmist, The foundations are destroyed, but what hath the righteous done? Some render the words thus, But those purposes or counsels (of Saul and his flatterers, Psa 11:2 ) shall be destroyed (Saul shall be frustrated in his hope, therefore I will not flee into the mountains), but what hath the righteous done? That is, I have done nothing unrighteously against Saul, therefore I will not fly, &c.
Psa 11:4 The LORD [is] in his holy temple, the LORD’S throne [is] in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men.
Ver. 4. The Lord is in his holy temple ] i.e. In heaven, and there hence he both can and will do much for the relief of his poor oppressed, though the righteous can do little for themselves, Ubi deficit auxilium humanum incipit divinum (Philo). He also knows, and will clear their innocence; for he sits between the cherubims, whence he is wont to send help, Psalms 20:3 , and hath his throne in heaven, whence he is wont to strike terror into the enemies, Psalms 18:8 , &c.
The Lord’s throne is in heaven] This is the same with the former, serving to set forth God’s sufficiency, as the following words do his efficiency, those props of David’s faith, answerable to Jachin and Boaz, those two brazen pillars in Solomon’s temple, Dei solium est nostrum asylum.
His eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men ] The eye of God is taken in Scripture (saith one) either for his knowledge or for his judgment; his eye in this text pointeth out his knowledge, his eyelids his critical descant. It is a manner of speech, saith another, taken from those men’s actions who, being desirous to look upon a thing more intently, do wink with their eyes, or close up one of them, that they may see the better with the other.
Psa 11:5 The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth.
Ver. 5. The Lord trieth the righteous ] Or approveth, as James 1:12 ; he justifieth and accepteth him, as appeareth by the opposition here. The Vulgate rendereth it thus: Deus interrogat iustum et impium, sc. quia per interrogatoria veritas dignoscitur: The Lord interrogateth the just and the wicked, sc. that so he may sift out the truth of things. But neither doth the Hebrew word so signify, nor doth God need any such help.
His soul hateth ] i.e. He can in no wise away with; and this is spoken of God after the manner of men, for fury, hatred, and the like affections are not in him. If it could be said of Trajan the emperor, that he neither feared nor hated any man, how much more of God! And if of the tribunal at Zante, much better of God’s throne:
Hic locus odit, amat, punit, conservat, honorat,
Nequitiam, pacem, crimina, iura, bonos.
Psa 11:6 Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: [this shall be] the portion of their cup.
Ver. 6. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares ] His soul hateth them; and as revenge is the next effect of hatred, he will exercise horrible judgmeuts upon them. Go on they may in their wicked ways for a time, and happily think to outrun wrath, but it shall easily overtake them, and inevitably: for the first thing that God shall rain upon them is snares, to catch and hold them fast, that they may surely suffer the rest that follow. "Take him, and lead him away safely," saith Judas concernmg Jesus to the soldiers, Mark 14:44 . And the same in effect saith God to his judgments concerning the wicked, on whom for that purpose he raineth snares, i.e. he suddenly surpriseth them; as by unexpected foul weather.
Fire and brimstone ] Hell from heaven, as once upon Sodom and her sisters, figuring the vengeance of eternal fire, Jdg 1:7 Revelation 20:10 , where the sacrifice is salted with fire, Mark 9:49 , that is, burneth, but consumeth not, fire being of a burning, but salt of a preserving nature, Perdit sed non disperdit, et cruciat ita ut nunquam perimat (Camero.). Tophet is of the most tormenting temper, the fuel thereof is fire, and much wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of fire, doth kindle it, Isaiah 30:33 . Utinam ubique, de Gehenna dissereretur, saith a Father, Oh that men would think and talk much of hell! Oh that they would take a turn in it; and, taking a view of that formidable fire fed with a river of brimstone, and blown by the breath of the Almighty, they would hasten out of their natural condition, as Lot did out of Sodom; since there is the smell of the fire and brimstone already upon them!
And an horrible tempest ] Ventus procellosissimus, a most terrible blasting whirlwind, such as the Greeks call Prester; whereof see Plin. lib. 2, c. 48, and the Evangelist calleth Euroclydon, Acts 27:14 , the mariner’s mischief.
This shall be the portion of their cup ] Vel, portio partis eorum, id est, ipsissima eorum portio; duplicatur idem sensus duobus verbis, saith R. David. He seemeth to allude to the custom at feasts, where each had his cup, his demensum, or measure of meat and drink. Wicked ones shall drink up the cup of God’s wrath (worse than that cup of boiling lead poured down the drunken Turk’s throat by the command of the bashaw), though it be brimful, and have eternity to the bottom, Psalms 75:8 .
Psa 11:7 For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.
Ver. 7. For the righteous Lord loveth righteousness ] sc. As a reflection of himself, as a piece of his own image. This is better than eyes opened, limbs restored, Psalms 146:8 .
His countenance ] Heb. countenances, or their faces, in mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Doth behold the upright ] With singular delight and complacency ( Vide Vicars in loc.).
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 11". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent