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This Psalm also must he referred to the time of David’s persecution by Saul. It is a humble prayer that God would deliver him from the rage and malice of his enemies, and from those sins to which he might be inclined or provoked upon that occasion.
David prayeth that he might be heard and comforted, Psalms 141:1,Psalms 141:2; that his service might be sincere, Psalms 141:3-6, and his life safe from the snares of his adversaries, Psalms 141:7-10.
Be set forth before thee, Heb. be directed to thy face. Let it not be lost, but let it come unto thee and find audience.
As incense; owned and accepted by thee no less than the increase, which by thy command, Exodus 30:7, &c., is offered upon thine altar, from which I am now banished, and so disenabled to offer it there, and therefore I trust thou will accept my prayer instead of it. The lifting up of my hands; my prayer made with hands lifted up, which was the usual gesture. See Job 11:13; Psalms 63:4; Psalms 88:9, &c.
As the evening sacrifice; which was offered every evening, Exodus 29:39, &c.; which he mentions either,
1. By way of opposition to the incense which was offered in the morning: or,
2. Synecdochically, so as to include the morning sacrifice, and all the sacrifices of the day, of which this was the close; such synecdoches being most frequent, as hath been already observed: or,
3. Because the evening sacrifice was more solemn than the morning, and was attended with more company and more prayers; whence the ninth hour, which was the time of this sacrifice, is called the hour of prayer, Acts 3:1.
That I may not through mine own infirmity, and the great provocations of mine enemies, break forth into any unadvised speeches, or any expressions of impatience, or distrust, or envy, or malice, &c.
My lips, which are the door of my mouth whence words come forth.
Incline not; suffer it not to be inclined or led aside, either by my own errors or lusts, or by the temptations of the world or of the devil. Thus God is frequently said to harden men’s hearts, not positively, for he can do no evil, nor tempt any man to it, James 1:3; but privatively, by denying softening grace.
My heart; keep me not only from wicked speeches, Psalms 141:3, but from all evil motions of my heart, which otherwise will draw me to many evil speeches and actions.
To practice wicked works with men that work iniquity; either,
1. To join with them in their sinful courses; or,
2. To do wickedly, as they do.
Let me not eat of their dainties; let me never enjoy or desire worldly comforts upon such terms as they do, to wit, with God’s wrath and curse, as instruments of wickedness, and of my own eternal destruction. My afflictions are more desirable than such prosperity. Let none of their sweet morsels, the pleasures or advantages which they gain by their wickedness, tempt me to approve of or imitate their ways.
Smite me, to wit, with his tongue by reproofs, as the next clause explains it, which are called wounds, Proverbs 27:6. As I pray unto thee that thou wouldst keep me from sinful practices, so I beg it of all just men, that if I do transgress, or if by the arts and slanders of mine enemies any of them are made to believe that I am guilty of evil designs against Saul, or of any other wickedness, that they would freely admonish and reprove me for it. And their reproofs shall please me better than the dainties of the wicked last mentioned, Psalms 114:4.
It shall be a kindness; I shall be so far from being offended with it as an act of entity or ill will, as they may suspect, that I shall esteem it an act and sign of true friendship.
It shall be an excellent oil; or, it shall be as the oil of the head, as it is in the Hebrew, i.e. which is poured upon the head, as the manner was in great feasts and solemnities.
Not break my head; not Inert or disturb it, but, on the contrary, shall heal and greatly refresh and delight it; which is here understood by a known figure called meiosis, whereby more is intended than is expressed, as Proverbs 17:21, and oft elsewhere.
In their calamities; either,
1. In the calamities of those righteous persons who reproved and censured him. So this is an evidence of what he last said, that he should take their reproofs for a kindness, because when they came into such calamities as those wherein he was involved, as all righteous men must expect sufferings at one time or other, he would not insult over them, nor censure them, but pity them, and pray for them. Or,
2. In the calamities of his enemies, of which he speaks in the next words. And so this may be added as a reason why he did so freely offer himself to the righteous to be reproved by them, if he or his cause were so bad as his enemies made them, because he was well assured that he was sincere and his cause good, and that God would bring him out of all his calamities, and bring his enemies into such calamities that they should need and desire his prayers, which also he would willingly grant to them; and then all good men would be fully satisfied of the justice of his person and cause.
Their judges; the chief of mine enemies, their governors civil and military.
Are overthrown; or, shall be overthrown, or cast down headlong by thine exemplary vengeance. Or, as others, were left free, unhurt by me, when it was in my power to destroy them; of which see 1 Samuel 24:0; 1 Samuel 26:0; to which histories this place is by divers learned interpreters thought to allude. And then by their judges he means Saul, although he thought not fit distinctly to mention him, but only to intimate him in an obscure and general way.
In stony places, Heb. in the hands or by the sides of the rock; which may relate either,
1. To the rocky nature of those places in which Saul fell into David’s hands. See 1 Samuel 24:2. Or,
2. To the ancient manner of punishing malefactors, which was by throwing them down from the tops of rocks; of which see 2 Chronicles 25:12. Or,
3. To aggravate their overthrow; for falls in stony places are, as most easy and frequent, so also most mischievous.
They shall hear my words, for they are sweet: then they; either the judges, who will be wise too late; or the people spared by my favour, when others were overthrown and warned by that fearful example; will hear my words, i.e. hearken to my counsels and offers, which now they despise, and then they, my words, will be sweet and acceptable to them, which now they reject. Others thus, then they did hear my words that they were sweet; then they acknowledged that my words and carriage towards Saul were full of meekness and gentleness, and that I was not so false and malicious as they had represented me to be.
Our bones; my bones, and the bones of my friends and followers. Our skin and flesh is in a manner consumed, and there is nothing left of us but a company of dead and dry belles; whereby he intimates that their condition was desperate. Compare Ezekiel 37:11.
Are scattered at the grave’s mouth; either,
1. Literally and properly. So barbarously cruel were our enemies, that they not only killed us, but left our carcasses unburied, by which means our flesh and sinews, &c. were consumed or torn in pieces by wild beasts, and our bones dispersed ripen the time of the earth, our common grave; or if any of my followers were dead and buried, they pulled their bones out of the grave, and scattered them about. Or rather,
2. Metaphorically. So the sense is, Our case is almost as hopeless as of those who are dead, and whose bones are scattered in several places.
As when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth; as much neglected and despised by them as the chips which a carpenter makes when he is cutting wood, which he will not stoop to take up. Or rather, as the LXX., and Chaldee, and Syriac understand it, and as it is in the Hebrew, as when one (to wit, the husbandman) cutteth and cleaveth the earth, or in the earth, which he teareth without any mercy.
Or, naked, as this word signifies, Psalms 137:7, and Aaron is said to have made the people naked, Exodus 32:25, i.e. deprived of thy favour and protection. Or, do not pour out my soul, to wit, unto death, as this word is used, Isaiah 53:12.
Into their own nets, Heb. into his nets; either into God’s nets, the relative being put without the antecedent, as is usual in such cases, where it is easily understood; or, each
into his own nets, to wit, the mischiefs which he designs against me.
Withal, or, together, to wit, with my followers; or, in like manner, as I have done formerly. But this word may seem to be more fitly joined to the foregoing clause, to which it is next placed in the Hebrew, and the verse may be and is by divers, both ancient and later translators, thus rendered, Let the wicked fall (or, the wicked shall fall) into their own nets together, (altogether, or alike, one as well as another, Saul himself not excepted, whom though I dare not destroy, God will judge,)
whilst that I escape; am preserved from that common calamity in which mine enemies shall perish; which was verified by the event. For David was strangely kept out of harm’s way when Saul and others of David’s enemies were cut off by the Philistines, 1 Samuel 31:0.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 141". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26