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14

from mortals—by your hand, O Lord

from mortals whose portion in life is in this world.

May their bellies be filled with what you have stored up for them;

may their children have more than enough;

may they leave something over to their little ones.

 


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14. From men by thy hand, O Jehovah, from men who are from an age. I connect these words thus: O Lord, deliver me by thy hand, or by thy heavenly aid, from men; I say from men whose tyranny has prevailed too long, and whom thou hast suffered to wallow too long in the filth and draft of their prosperity. This repetition is very emphatic; David’s voice being stifled, as it were, with the indignation which he felt at seeing such villany continuing for so long a period, he stops all at once after uttering the first word, without proceeding farther in the sentence which he meant to express; then, after having recovered his breath, he declares what it is that so greatly distressed him. In the preceding verse he had spoken in the singular number; but now he gives us to understand that he had not only one enemy but many, and that those who were set against him were strong and powerful, so that he saw no hope of deliverance remaining for him except in the aid of God.

These words, from world, or age, (for such is the exact literal rendering, 372372     “Ou siecle car il y a ainsi mot a mot.” — Fr. ) are expounded in different ways. Some understand them as meaning men who have their time, as if David intended to say that their prosperous condition would not be of long duration; but this does not appear to me to be the proper explanation. Others suppose he means by this expression such as are wholly devoted to the world, and whose whole attention and thoughts are absorbed in the things of earth; and, according to their opinion, David compares his enemies to brute beasts. In the same sense they explain what follows immediately after, Their portion is in life, language which they consider as applied to them, because, being entirely destitute of the Spirit, and cleaving with their whole hearts to transitory good things, they think of nothing better than this world. For that in which each man places his felicity is termed his portion. As, however, the Hebrew word חלד, cheled, signifies an age, or the course of a man’s life, David, I doubt not, complains that his enemies had lived and enjoyed prosperity longer than the ordinary term allotted to the life of man. The audacity and the outrages 373373     “L’audace et les outrages.” — Fr. committed by wicked men might be borne with for a short time, but when they wax wanton against God, it is very strange indeed to see them continuing stable in their prosperous condition. That this is the sense appears from the preposition מן, min, which we have translated from, by which David expresses that they were not sprung up only a few days before or lately, but that their prosperity, which should have vanished away in a moment, had lasted for a very long time. Such, then, is the meaning of the Psalmist, unless, perhaps, we may understand him as denominating them of the world, or age, because they bear the chief authority among men, and are exalted in honors and riches, as if this world had been made for them alone.

When he says, Their portion is in life, I explain it as meaning that they are exempted from all troubles, and abound in pleasures; in short, that they do not experience the common condition of other men; as, on the contrary, when a man is oppressed with adversities, it is said of him that his portion is in death. David therefore intimates, that it is not a reasonable thing that the ungodly should be permitted to gad about in joy and gaiety without having any fear of death, and to claim for themselves, as if by hereditary right, a peaceful and happy life.

What he adds immediately after, Whose belly thou fillest with thy secret goods, is of the same import. We see these persons not only enjoying, in common with other men, light, breath, food, and all other commodities of life, but we also see God often treating them more delicately and more bountifully than others, as if he fed them on his lap, holding them tenderly like little babes, and fondling them more than all the rest of mankind. 374374     “Comme s’il les nourissok en son giron, les tenant tendrement et mignardant plus que tout le reste.” — Fr. Accordingly, by the secret goods of God, we are here to understand the rare and more exquisite dainties which he bestows upon them. Now, this is a severe temptation, if a man estimates the love and favor of God by the measure of earthly prosperity which he bestows; and, therefore, it is not to be wondered at, though David was greatly afflicted in contemplating the prosperous condition of ungodly men. But let us remember that he makes this holy complaint to console himself, and to mitigate his distress, not in the way of murmuring against God and resisting his will; - let us remember this, I say, that, after his example, we may learn also to direct our groanings to heaven. Some give a more subtile exposition of what is here called God’s secret goods, viewing it as meaning the good things which the ungodly devour without thinking of or regarding him who is the author of them; or they suppose the good things of God to be called secret, because the reason why God pours them forth so abundantly upon the wicked is not apparent. But the exposition which I have given, as it is both simple and natural, so of itself it sufficiently disproves the others. The last point in this description is, that, by continual succession, these persons transmit their riches to their children and their children’s children. As they are not among the number of the children of God, to whom this blessing is promised, it follows, that when they are thus fattened, it is for the day of slaughter which he hath appointed. The object which David therefore has in view in making this complaint is, that God would make haste to execute vengeance, seeing they have so long abused his liberality and gentle treatment.




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