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This Psalm seems to have been composed by David when he was persecuted by Saul, and forced to flee from place to place for safety.
David encourageth himself in God, Psalms 11:1,
against the wicked designs of his enemies, Psalms 11:2,Psalms 11:3.
The providence and justice of God, Psalms 11:4, to the righteous and wicked, Psalms 11:5-7.
In the Lord, i.e. in his faithfulness, who hath promised, and will, I doubt not, give me the kingdom.
How say ye? either,
1. Ye my friends; who through diffidence and despondency advised him to this course. Or,
2. Ye my enemies; who said it scoffingly and insultingly. How say ye? With what face or reason can you say thus to him, who hath the Lord God Almighty for his refuge?
To my soul, i.e. to me, as Psalms 6:4; Psalms 7:2.
Flee as a bird, suddenly and swiftly, and to some remote place, where thou mayst be out of Saul’s reach. Feed not thyself with vain hopes of the kingdom, but consult for thy own safety, which thou canst not do without taking the wings of a dove, or some other bird, that thou mayst flee away out of the land, and be at rest, as thou sayest, Psalms 55:6. Or, Flee away, O thou bird, thou little silly bird, lest the royal eagle seize upon thee.
To your mountain, i.e. to some of your mountains in Judah, and there hide thyself. But this was David’s common practice; and therefore there was no need that any should advise him to it, or that he should reprove them for that advice. Or, from (which prefix is oft wanting, and to be understood, as Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 23:24)
your mountain i.e. from the mountain or mountainous country of Judah, as it is called, Joshua 20:7; the mountain being frequently put for a mountainous country, as Numbers 13:29; Numbers 23:7; Joshua 9:1; Joshua 10:6,Joshua 10:40, and oft elsewhere. Or, from your mountains, in which thou and thy companions use to hide yourselves. Flee into some foreign land, where you may be safe. For this was the design of David’s enemies, as he complains, 1 Samuel 26:19; and afterward, when David was under sore temptations, it was his practice once or twice.
For lo: these are the words, either,
1. Of David’s friends or enemies, confirming their former advice; which might suit with it, if that was the counsel of his friends; but not if it was (as it seems to have been) the counsel of his enemies; for these would never have called themselves
wicked, nor David and his men
upright in heart. Or rather,
2. Of David himself; who having directed his speech to his enemies, Psalms 11:1, now turns it to God, and pours out before him his complaints against his enemies, as his usual course is in this book. They do not only speak scornfully of me, as I have said, but, O Lord, they act against me with all their might and malice.
They make ready their arrow upon the string; they lay designs for my destruction, and they make all things ready to execute them.
Privily; out of their lurking holes: compare Psalms 10:8,Psalms 10:9; Psalms 64:5. For as some of his enemies did openly oppose him, so others did secretly undermine him, and with pretences of friendship seek to betray him.
At the upright in heart; at me and my followers, who have manifested our integrity both towards God and towards Saul, whom I have faithfully served and Spared when I could have taken away his life.
If; or, for; or, when.
The foundations, i.e. piety, and justice, and fidelity, and mercy, which are the pillars or foundations of a state or kingdom, as they are called, Psalms 75:2,Psalms 75:3; Psalms 82:5; by which they are established, Proverbs 29:14, and which Saul and his courtiers had manifestly violated and overthrown in persecuting David and his friends. The sense is, There is nothing in public administrations but disorder and oppression, and right can take no place.
What can the righteous do? the condition of all righteous men (whom thou hast engaged thyself to protect and deliver) will be desperate; which will not be for thine honour. Heb. what hath the righteous done? As for me and my friends, upon whom all the blame is laid, what have we poor, but righteous, persons (for such thou thou knowest us to be) done? namely, to cause all these calumnies and persecutions, or to occasion all these commotions and disturbances of public peace and justice. It is easy to slander us, but let them prove their accusations by any one of our actions.
The Lord, to whom I appeal from men’s unjust tribunals,
is in his holy temple; either,
1. In his tabernacle, which is sometimes called his temple, as 1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 3:3; Psalms 18:6; Psalms 48:9; Psalms 68:29, where he resides to hear the prayers and appeals of all his people. Or,
2. In heaven, as it is explained in the next clause; which is also called God’s temple, Micah 1:2; Revelation 7:15, and which seems to be most emphatical here; for God’s being in heaven is oft mentioned as an evidence of his glorious majesty, of his sovereign power and dominion over all men and things, and of his accurate inspection into all men and their actions here below, which from that high tower he can easily behold, as it here follows.
The Lord’s throne; where he sits to examine all causes, and to judge all men, and to give forth righteous sentences according to every man’s works; which is my great comfort and joy.
His eyes behold, his eye-lids try, the children of men, i.e. he doth exactly and thoroughly discern all men, and all that is in men, their most inward and secret actions, Psalms 7:9. And therefore he sees and will reward my innocency, notwithstanding all the reproaches and calumnies of mine enemies; and withal he sees all their secret, and subtle, and malicious designs against me through all their cunning pretences, and withal discover and defeat them.
The Lord trieth the righteous; either,
1. He examines them, and knows them to be righteous, and consequently approveth, and loveth, and will preserve and bless them; which may be gathered from the contrary condition of the wicked, whom God is supposed to try, though that be not expressed, and upon trial finds them to be wicked, and therefore hates and punisheth them, as it follows. The like ellipsis of a whole sentence, see on Psalms 1:6. Or,
2. He trieth and exerciseth them and their graces by afflictions, or he corrects them for their sins; which is oft called trying, as Psalms 66:10; Zechariah 13:9; James 1:12; 1 Peter 4:12. So this is spoken by way of concession, and to remove the offence which some men might take at David, whose person and cause they might be apt to condemn because of his troubles. Therefore he saith, God tries, i.e. chastens, even righteous persons; yet still he loves them, and therefore will in due time deliver them. But as for the wicked, let not them rejoice in my trials, for far worse things are appointed for them; God hates them, and will severely punish them.
Him that loveth violence; by which character he describes and brands his enemies, and aggravates their malice, because they chose and practised violence against him, not for any need which they had of it, (for David was a most peaceable and harmless man, and neither pretended nor endeavoured to do any more than to defend himself, and that, as far as was possible, without the offence or injury of any other man,) but merely from their love to injustice and violence, and their implacable hatred against goodness and good men.
His soul hateth; he hateth with or from his soul, i.e. inwardly and ardently.
He shall rain; which notes their original to be extraordinary, and from God’s hand; and withal, that they should come plentifully, swiftly, and suddenly, violently and unavoidably, as rain commonly doth fall from heaven.
Snares, i.e. grievous plagues or judgments, which are called snares here, as also Job 18:9,Job 18:10; Job 22:10; Isaiah 8:14; Isaiah 24:17,Isaiah 24:18; partly because wicked men are ofttimes surprised with them when they least expect them, Luke 21:35; and partly because they cannot escape them, nor get out of them, but are held fast and destroyed by them.
Fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest, i.e. dreadful judgments, so called metaphorically, and by allusion to the destruction of Sodom and other places by these means. But this he seems to speak not so much of present and temporal calamities, as of their future and eternal punishments, because he manifestly speaks of those miseries which are peculiar to wicked men; whereas David knew very well, both by his own experience, and by the history of Job, and of Israel’s bondage in Egypt, that all things here came alike to all men, good or bad, Ecclesiastes 9:2, and that wicked men had many times a greater share of worldly prosperity than God’s own people; as David acknowledgeth and complaineth of it, Psalms 73:0.
This shall be the portion of their cup; this is their portion, and as it were the meat and drink appointed to them by God. This shall certainly and unavoidably be their state or condition; which is oft called a man’s part or portion, as Psalms 16:5; Psalms 63:10; Psalms 75:8; Matthew 24:51. He alludes to the ancient custom of masters of families, or of feasts, who used to distribute the several portions of meat to their domestics or guests.
This is given as the reason why God hateth and punisheth wicked men so dreadfully, because he loves righteousness, and therefore must needs hate wickedness and punish wicked men. Or, but, as this particle is oft rendered; for this seems to be added by way of opposition to what he now said concerning the state of wicked men.
His countenance doth behold the upright; to wit, with an eye of approbation, and true and tender affection, and watchful and gracious providence; which is oft signified by God’s beholding or looking upon men, as Exodus 2:25; Ezra 5:5; Psalms 25:18; Psalms 33:18; Psalms 34:15, &c.: as, on the contrary, God is oft said to hide or turn away his face or eyes from wicked men.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 11". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30