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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Psalms 141

 

 

Verse 1

LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee. Psalms 141:1-10 -David begs Yahweh to hasten to hear his cry, the spiritual incense which he offers morning and evening, he fears the dainties of the ungodly, and prays against murmuring at sinners' prosperity and his own adversity, and against the inclination to join them (Psalms 141:1-4). Reasons for resisting such a temptation; the reproofs of the righteous are true kindness; such are God's chastisements. He will pray in the calamities of the wicked. When their judges are overthrown, they will hear his words, for they are sweet; but now Israel's bones lie scattered at the grave's mouth (Psalms 141:5-7). He looks to Yahweh to keep him from sinners' snares, and that they may fall into them themselves (Psalms 141:8-10). Psalms 141:7 shows that the reference is national, not merely individual. David shows his seed how to get grace against the temptation which would arise in seeing the godless pagan prosper, and the elect nation depressed. This prophetic legacy answers to David's last words, (2 Samuel 23:1-39.)

The close connection which this psalm has with the Psalms of David confirms the title, which ascribes it to him.

Lord, I cry unto thee - (Psalms 17:6.)

Make haste unto me - (Psalms 22:19; Psalms 70:5; Psalms 71:12.) The urgency of the petition implies how imminent is the danger which threatens to overwhelm him unless immediate succour be given.

Give ear unto my voice - (Psalms 140:6.)


Verse 2

Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Let my prayer be set forth ('be directed,' the Septuagint, Chaldaic, Vulgate, Ethiopic. In Psalms 140:11 the same Hebrew means 'be established')

Before thee as incense. Incense, with its sweet perfume, is the symbol of prayer accepted before God (Revelation 5:8; Revelation 8:3-4 : cf. Malachi 1:11). The time of offering the incense, morning and evening (Exodus 30:7-8), was the chosen time for prayer (Luke 1:10).

And the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice - or rather, 'meat offering:' Hebrew, minchaah. The burnt offering was regarded as having the prominent place in the morning sacrifice, the meat offering being only an appendage, so that the whole was named from the burnt offering; while in the evening sacrifice the meat offering was regarded as having the chief place (cf. 2 Kings 16:15 : cf. Exodus 29:39-41). As incense represents prayer, so the meat offering symbolizes good works, according to Hengstenberg. Rather, from the parallelism here, the evening offering symbolizes the lifting, of the heart with the hands (Lamentations 3:41; Psalms 63:4; Psalms 86:4; 1 Timothy 2:8) to God, the necessary condition of God's acceptance of prayer: the incense expresses the sweetness of such heartfelt prayer to Him (Genesis 8:21). Possibly this psalm was written in the evening, as the morning sacrifice is not mentioned (Kimchi). (Daniel 9:21; Acts 3:1.) The time of the evening sacrifice was most especially "the hour of prayer," doubtless with a prospective reference designed by the Spirit to time of Christ's sacrifice-namely, at the ninth hour. 1 Kings 18:36, "at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice Christ's sacrifice-namely, at the ninth hour. 1 Kings 18:36, "at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice (minchaah):" so Ezra 9:4-5.


Verse 3-4

Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.

Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth ... Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works - (cf. Psalms 119:36.) God, in judicial retribution, gives up the froward to their evil inclinations. The heart is the fountain of evil. We need to pray God not to 'lead us into temptation,' by judicial reprobation (James 1:13-14; Matthew 6:13). In Psalms 141:3 he prays for preservation from sin of tongue; in Psalms 141:4, from sin of deed. Psalms 39:1-2 is a commentary, on Psalms 141:3. He feels tempted by his own trials, and by the prosperity of the enemy, to utter impatient complaints against God, and even to apostatize to the practices of the wicked (cf. Ps. 37:49,73 ): this, therefore, he prays against. In Psalms 141:5-7 he calls to remembrance the reasons which should keep him from such murmurings, and from joining the wicked in their practices-namely, that the faithful reproofs and chastisements administered by righteous men (the instruments of the righteous God) are far preferable to the dainties of the wicked; and that the overthrow of the rulers of the wicked is coming, though now Israel's bones lie scattered at the grave's mouth.

Keep the door of my lips - (Micah 7:5.)

Verse 4. To practice wicked works with men that work iniquity. Unless the inclination of the will be resisted in time, it goes on to "practice wicked work."

And let me not eat of their dainties - let me not be allured into joining them in sin, through their seeming prosperity in and by it. As here their prosperity is represented under the image of delicious, dainties, so in Psalms 73:10, under the image of "waters of a full cup wrung out to them" (cf. Proverbs 23:6).


Verse 5

Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.

Let the righteous smite me; (it shall be) a kindness. It is real kindness on the part of God to cause me to be smitten by the righteous, and not to let me be 'inclined to practice' wickedness with the workers of iniquity (Psalms 141:4), allured by their prosperity. I had rather be associated by God with the righteous when they smite me, than with the wicked, though they offer me dainties. Hengstenberg makes God to be meant by "the Righteous:" as some take Isaiah 24:16. But there is no article here, which is against this view; and the antithesis is better as explained above.

And let him reprove me; (it shall be) an excellent oil (literally, an oil for the head) (which) shall not And let him reprove me; (it shall be) an excellent oil (literally, an oil for the head) (which) shall not break my head - Whereas 'the dainties' of the wicked (Psalms 141:4) would ultimately cause my head (the vital part which shall be bruised in the old serpent and his seed Genesis 3:15) to be fatally broken (Psalms 68:21; Psalms 110:6; Habakkuk 3:13). Hengstenberg, Maurer etc., translate the Hebrew verb [ yaaniy (Hebrew #5106)] refuseth: 'oil for the head my head refuseth not.' But Pagnini, Buxtorf, and Cocceius agree in the main with the English version, 'shall not cause my head to be weighed down,' in contrast, the head being lifted up (Psalms 3:3) (Cocceius). The Lord is the lifter up of the head of His people; He breaks the head of the ungodly. Their own prosperity prepares them for being thus broken. I prefer the stronger sense, break fatally, or else break with grief, as in Numbers 32:7; Numbers 32:9, margin (cf. the same Hebrew Psalms 33:10). The "break my head" stands in antithesis to "smite me." Though the righteous smite me, their smiting does not break my head: nay, it is rather as a prime oil (literally, oil for the head) to anoint my head with gladness (cf. Proverbs 27:6; Ecclesiastes 7:5). So far from wounding fatally, it heals one's spiritual sore, and gives festive joy: cf. the image of anointing the head before a feast, for the Lord's feast of good things to His people, including joy in the midst of trials (Psalms 4:7; Psalms 42:8), as opposed to the "dainties" of the wicked (Psalms 141:4; Psalms 23:5; Psalms 45:7; Psalms 104:15; Matthew 6:17). Contrast with this divine "oil" of joy the wicked men's 'words softer than oil,' which are yet "drawn swords" (Psalms 55:21). The promise to which this cycle of Psalms 138:1-8; Psalms 139:1-24; Psalms 140:1-13; Psalms 141:1-10; Psalms 142:1-7; Psalms 143:1-12; Psalms 144:1-15; Psalms 145:1-21 refers is 2 Samuel 7:1-29. There, in Ps. 141:14-15 , the Lord declares that when David's seed offend He will chasten them with the rod of men; but His mercy shall not wholly depart from them: so also Psalms 89:30-34. This promise is the ground of the prayer here.

For yet my prayer, also shall be in their calamities - i:e., "for" flourishing as the ungodly are now, and abounding in "dainties" which tempt one to join them, "yet" the time will come when they shall be 'in calamities,' and "my prayer shall be" for them "in their calamities." Psalms 141:6 is parallel; the overthrowing of their judges answering to "their calamities" here, and "my words" (of invitation to worship the Lord), which "are sweet," answering to "my prayer" for them here. The type David, like the antitype Messiah, prays for his enemies (Psalms 109:4-5). Hengstenberg, taking Yahweh to be meant by "the Righteous," and the wicked to be the instruments employed by Him to chastise David and his seed and his people, translates, 'still then (if they proceed in their wicked actions, so as to overstep the due measure of chastisement of the Lord's people; or, as Maurer takes it, if Yahweh shall go on to chastise me more, severely) I shall pray against their wickedness.' I prefer the English version on account of the parallelism to Psalms 141:6.


Verse 6

When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.

When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet - Hebrew, 'their judges (i:e., leaders and princes) are (doomed to be) overthrown in the hands of (i:e., given up to be thrown down from: or hands may mean, as in Judges 11:26; Psalms 140:5, the sides of: dashed down a ainst the side of) a rock: then they shall hear my words,' etc. So Jezebel was thrown down (2 Kings 9:33). "Sweet" is the same Hebrew word (nahemu) as was used for the "dainties" of the wicked: to imply that the true sweetness is with the godly, not with the wicked. Dashing dawn a precipice was a common punishment among the Jews (2 Chronicles 25:12; Luke 4:29; cf. Psalms 137:9). The lords of the godless world-power who rebel against the Divine Son of David shall ultimately be 'dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel' (Psalms 2:9); where also, in Psalms 141:10, the unbelieving "judges" are warned to listen to the 'sweet words' of the inspired Teacher ere it be too late. Psalms 138:4, in the same cycle of psalms, foretells the conversion of the world-kings as the effect of the final exaltation of the Son of David, and of the overthrow of the antichristian confederates. The 'sweet words' of the inspired Teacher's "month" are these whereby he invites them to submit to the Lord's Anointed and to "praise Him." These words they now despise; but taught by a severe lesson, they shall at last Anointed and to "praise Him." These words they now despise; but taught by a severe lesson, they shall at last prize them dearly.


Verse 7

Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth wood upon the earth.

Our bones are scattered at the grave's mouth, as when one cutteth and cleaveth (wood) upon the earth.

The trunk of the tree remains fast in the earth, and the chips are scattered far and wide by the hewer; so are our bones scattered (Ecclesiastes 10:9). In this translation the scattered and lifeless state of the godly now (Psalms 141:7) stands in contrast to the coming overthrow of the ungodly (Psalms 141:6), and consequent exaltation of the godly; and it forms the ground of the prayer in Psalms 141:8, "But mine eyes are unto thee," etc. However, as there is no "wood" in the Hebrew, the translation perhaps ought to be as the Chaldaic, Arabic, and Syriac (and the Septuagint in the main) support, 'as when one cutteth and cleaveth (making furrows by plowing) in the earth, (so) our bones are scattered at the mouth of Hades ( Sh


Verse 8

But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute.

But mine eyes are unto thee, O God - in the midst of our scattered and almost extinct state (Psalms 141:7 : cf. Psalms 25:15; 2 Chronicles 20:12).

Leave not my soul destitute - Hebrew ( t


Verse 9

Keep me from the snares which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity.

Keep me from the snares - literally, 'keep me from the hands of the snare' (i:e., the power; in Isaiah 47:14).


Verse 10

Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.

Let the wicked fall into their own nets - (Psalms 140:9-10; Psalms 7:15.)

While that I withal escape - literally, 'pass over.' "Withal" - i:e., at the same time, or in the meantime [ yachad (Hebrew #3162)]. Maurer translates, 'until that I in all my parts (i:e., wholly) shall have escaped:' so Job 10:8.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 141:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/psalms-141.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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