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To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
That this psalm was written by David admits of no doubt. That it was written at a time when government and society offered no protection to the innocent, and his own life was in danger, are equally evident. He is advised to fly, to which he replies in the dignity of true courage, (Psalms 11:1,) asserting his hope to be in God rather than in mountain fastnesses. It is not wholly inconsistent with the state of affairs at the time Absalom was marching upon the capital with the insurgent army, but better suits the earlier date when David first fled from Saul. “The facts clearly point (Ewald says ‘ indisputably’) to the position of David at Saul’s court, when first seriously endangered by calumniators.” Speaker’s Commentary. See 1 Samuel 19:2; 1 Samuel 19:22, etc.; note on Psalms 11:1. The contents are expressed in his answer to the advice to fly, Psalms 11:1-3; and his calm trust in the righteous, retributive government of God, Psalms 11:4-7
1. Flee as a bird, etc. Literally, Flee, bird, to your mountain. The ancient versions read, as a bird. The particle of comparison is implied. This advice is given to the psalmist as the only measure of safety, at a time of imminent peril. There is no ground for assuming that the imperilled one here is an ideal person. The universal application of the psalm to all innocent sufferers is not at all impaired by admitting a real historic origin, which Psalms 11:1-3 clearly require. The direct flight of a bird from the valley to its mountain home, when frightened, is a marked though common event, probably the occasion of a proverb by the Hebrews.
How say ye This is not a rejection of the advice given, as some have taught, as though David scorned to yield to circumstances and save his life by flight. Both in the time of Saul and Absalom he did fly “to the mountains.” It is no honour to our faith in God to despise danger, or refuse lawful means to save life, when duty so permits. Jesus and his apostles repeatedly retired before their enemies. But David here only professes higher and more essential trust in Jehovah than in any natural means of defence or escape.
2. Here is given the reason for the above advice of David’s friends namely, the character and attitude of his enemies.
Make ready Fix, place upon the string.
Privily Literally, in darkness; that is, treacherously. See Saul’s conduct towards David, 1 Samuel 19:11. The imagery is that of an archer in ambush, with drawn bow and with an assassin’s purpose, awaiting his victim.
3. If foundations Not princes and nobles as pillars of the State, but laws and institutions of justice. Psalms 75:3; Psalms 82:5. When these are overthrown the righteous have no appeal.
What can the righteous do As if he would say, Having no appeal to justice or law, nothing remains but to seek safety by flight.
4. The Lord is in his holy temple His earthly temple, or tabernacle called temple, 1Sa 1:9 ; 1 Samuel 3:3; and, by implication, is there for purposes of grace and protection to his covenant people.
Throne in heaven As the universal ruler and judge. So that on this twofold ground David rests his cause in confidence.
5. Trieth the righteous An early and fundamental Hebrew doctrine. The trials of the righteous are not punishments for sin, but fatherly and corrective chastisements for their profit. Hebrews 12:6-8.
But the wicked Very different are the judgments of God upon the “wicked,” whom he treats as violators of his laws. See on Psalms 7:11-13
6. Rain snares, fire and brim-stone A plain allusion to the overthrow of Sodom, Genesis 19:24-25. The overthrow of the wicked shall, like that of Sodom, be sudden, manifestly the judgment of God, and terrible.
Horrible tempest Literally, hot wind. Probably an allusion to the sirocco. Thomson: “The eyes inflame, the lips blister, and the moisture of the body evaporates under the ceaseless application of this persecuting wind; you become languid, nervous, irritable, and despairing.” The destruction of Sodom became early an emblem of the doom of the wicked, as did afterward gehenna, or tophet. See Deuteronomy 29:23-25; Isaiah 30:33; Isaiah 34:9-10; Ezekiel 38:22; Jude 1:7. To deny the application of these figures to the life to come is to deny that the Old Testament gives any allusion to a future state; that is, that the Hebrews knew as much of that subject as the heathen. Conformably to the same laws of language, before our Lord’s time the Greek παραδεισος , ( grove, pleasure garden,) became the emblem of the abode of the blessed after death.
The portion of their cup An idiomatic expression, (see Job 21:20,) denoting that award or portion which God himself has accurately measured out to the wicked as their just desert. Psalms 75:8; Revelation 14:10. It is also used in a good sense in Psalms 16:5; Psalms 116:13
7. His countenance doth behold the upright That is, with complaisance and delight, as the verb often signifies. But most modern critics read, The upright shall behold his face, which, though either is defensible, makes a better sense, and better suits the doctrinal antithesis of the context respecting the divine treatment of the righteous and the wicked. See note on Psalms 17:15; and compare 1 John 3:2. The passage is a clear recognition of the future life.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent