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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Psalms 141

 

 

Verse 2

Psalms 141:2. Let my prayer be set forth before thee — Hebrews תכון לפניךְ, be directed to thy face, person, or presence. Let it not be lost, but let it come unto thee and find audience; as incense — Let it be owned and accepted by thee, no less than if it had been offered with incense at thine altar, from which I am now banished, and so am prevented from offering it there. And the lifting up of my hands — My prayer made with hands lifted up, which was the usual gesture in praying; as the evening sacrifice — In which he instances rather than the morning sacrifice, either because this prayer was addressed to God in the evening, or because the evening sacrifice was more solemn than that of the morning, and was attended with more company and more prayers; whence the ninth hour, which was the time of this sacrifice, is emphatically called the hour of prayer, Acts 3:1.


Verse 3-4

Psalms 141:3-4. Set a watch before my mouth — That I may not, through mine own infirmity, and the great provocation of mine enemies, break forth into any unadvised speeches, or any expressions of impatience, distrust, envy, or malice; keep the door, &c. — My lips, which are the door of my mouth, whence words come forth. Incline not my heart — Suffer it not to be inclined, either by the temptations of the devil, the world, or the flesh, to any evil thing — Whatever inclination there may be in me to sin, let it be not only restrained but mortified by divine grace; and keep me, not only from wicked words and works, but from all evil motions of the heart, which might otherwise draw me to join with wicked men in sinful courses, or to act wickedly as they do. And let me not eat of their dainties — Let me not partake of the pleasures or advantages which they gain by their wickedness. My troubles and afflictions are more desirable than such prosperity.


Verse 5

Psalms 141:5. Let the righteous smite me — Namely, by reproofs. If at any time, through the frailty of nature, I should be inclined to yield to temptation, let me find, among my attendants or friends, some righteous and faithful person, who, with kind severity, will check and reprove me. It shall be a kindness — I shall be so far from being offended with it, as an act of enmity or ill will, that I shall esteem it an act and mark of true friendship. It shall be an excellent oil — Hebrews שׁמן ראשׁ, the oil of the head, that is, as the oil which is poured upon the head as the manner was in great feasts and solemnities, which shall not break my head — Nor hurt, but heal, and greatly refresh me. For yet my prayer shall be in their calamities — Either, 1st, In the calamities of those persons who reproved and censured him. When they came into such calamities as those wherein he had been involved, he would pity them, and pray for them. Or, he may mean the calamities of his enemies, of which he speaks in the next words. He foresaw that his enemies would be in calamities, and that they would need, and desire his prayers; and he here declares he would willingly grant them: but the Hebrew of this clause may be properly rendered, My prayer shall be against their wickedness.


Verse 6

Psalms 141:6. When their judges are overthrown, &c. — “Of this verse, as it stands in our translation,” says Dr. Horne, “I know not what can be made. When literally rendered from the Hebrew, it runs thus; Their judges have been dismissed in the sides of the rock,” נשׁמשׂו בירי סלע, “and have heard my words that they were sweet. David, reflecting on Saul’s cruelty in driving him out of his country to wander among aliens and idolaters, very naturally calls to mind, and mentions his own different behaviour toward that implacable enemy, whose life he had spared two several times, when he had it in his power to destroy him as he pleased.” This is also Mr. Peters’s interpretation of the passage, who translates it as above, understanding, by שׁפשׂיהם, rendered their judges, their leaders, or generals, according to the frequent usage of the word in Scripture. The sense evidently is, “Their princes have been dismissed in safety when I had them at an advantage in those rocky deserts, and they only heard me expostulate with them in the gentlest words;” indeed, “in a manner so mild and humble that even Saul himself was overcome, and lift up his voice and wept, saying, My son David, thou art more righteous than I: the Lord reward thee good for what thou hast done unto me this day, 1 Samuel 24:16. Such has been my conduct toward the servants of Saul; yet how have my people, alas! been by them most miserably butchered!”


Verse 7

Psalms 141:7. Our bones are scattered, &c. — So barbarously cruel were our enemies that they not only killed many of our friends, but left their carcasses unburied, by which means their flesh, and sinews, &c., were consumed, or torn in pieces by wild beasts, and their bones dispersed upon the face of the earth, our common grave. The words are thought to refer to Saul’s barbarity and cruelty to David’s friends, in the horrid massacre of Ahimelech and the priests, by the hand of Doeg; perpetrated in such a savage manner that he compares it to the chopping and cleaving of wood, as if he had said, “How unlike, how barbarous, has their treatment been of me! My best friends slaughtered in great numbers, at the command of Saul, (so some render לפי שׁאול, instead of, at the grave’s mouth,) and hewn to pieces in his presence, as one would cut or chop a piece of wood:” see Peters.


Verse 8

Psalms 141:8. But mine eyes are unto thee — But in this sore distress I fix my thoughts on thee, O God, the Lord, the only living and true God, and governor of all things; in thee is my trust, &c. — In thee I repose an assured confidence that thou wilt not leave me without support and protection, much less wilt thou abandon me to the malice of those that seek to take away my life. This verse, says Mr. Peters, shows us what was David’s support under his extraordinary trials: it was a firm trust in God, as the great Lord and Ruler of the world: and a steady resolution to obey him in all things. “Among the sayings of Pythagoras this was one, απλωσον σεαυτον, simplify thyself, that is, ‘reduce thy conduct, if possible, to one single aim, and pursue it without weariness, or distraction.’ If this single aim be, to approve ourselves to God by such a course of life as he prescribes; to adhere strictly to our duty, with an eye to him who has commanded it, and patiently submit the issue of things to his all-wise and gracious providence; we have then hit upon that principle which here appears to have animated David, and may, with confidence, address our prayers to the great Lord and Sovereign of the world in all our straits and difficulties, as he does in the following part of the Psalm.” Leave not my soul destitute — Hebrew, make not my soul naked: deprive it not of thy favour and protection: or, do not pour out my soul, namely, unto death, as the same word, ערה, is used, Isaiah 53:12. In the language of the Holy Scriptures, God is said to do what he only permits or suffers to be done. But whether David here prays to have his life preserved from danger, or his soul from sin, may admit of a question. The words will suit with either explanation, and probably he might intend both; but chiefly the latter. We have seen, from Psalms 141:4, how earnestly he begs that God would protect him by his grace from complying with the idolatrous practices of the heathen, to whom he was about to flee for refuge; and it is remarkable that, in his last speech to Saul, he particularly dwells upon the danger to which his religion was exposed, 1 Samuel 26:19. They have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go serve other gods. As if he had said, “They have done what lies in their power to drive me to idolatry, by forcing me into a country where I shall have the strongest temptations to it.” This was a thing he seems to have dreaded more than death; and therefore he prays against it in the next verse.


Verse 9-10

Psalms 141:9-10. Keep me from the snare which they have laid for me — Keep me from being taken in it: give me to discover and evade it. If Saul and his evil counsellors be intended in this clause, probably the heathen, to whom David was now driven for refuge, were meant in the next. They were workers of iniquity in the worst sense, being worshippers of idols, and their idols were always snares to the Israelites, as their history informs us, and as they were forewarned by God himself, 2:3. Their gods will be a snare unto you, Hebrew, מוקשׁ, the same word with that translated, in the plural number, gins, in this verse. Let the wicked fall — Hebrew, יפלו, they shall fall; into their own nets — Into the snares, dangers, and mischiefs which they design for me. While that I withal escape — Namely, together with my followers, or, in like manner, as I have formerly done. But many translators, both ancient and modern, join the word יחד, here rendered withal, or together, to the preceding clause to which it is placed next in the Hebrew, and then the meaning is, the wicked shall fall into their own nets together, or alike, one as well as another, Saul himself not excepted, (whom, though I dare not destroy him, God will judge,) while that I escape, am preserved from that common calamity in which mine enemies perish. Which was verified by the event. For David escaped all the snares which were laid for him on every side; and was strangely kept out of harm’s way, when Saul and other of David’s enemies were cut off by the Philistines, 1 Samuel 31. So will the devices of the enemies of God’s people be in the end turned against themselves. They shall fall and perish, but the saved of the Lord shall triumph with their Redeemer to eternity. Reader, see that thou be one of these!

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 141:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/psalms-141.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, August 25th, 2019
the Week of Proper 16 / Ordinary 21
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