Psalm 11:6-7

6. He will rain upon the ungodly snares, fire and brimstone, and a storm of whirlwinds:this is the portion of their cup. 7. For the righteous Jehovah loveth righteousness;1 his countenance approveth the upright.2


6. He will rain upon the ungodly. David now, in the last place, lays it down as a certain truth, that although God, for a time, may be still and delay his judgments, yet the hour of vengeance will assuredly come. Thus we see how by degrees he rises up to the hope of a happy issue to his present affliction, and he uses his efforts to attain this, that the social and moral disorder, which he saw prevailing around him, might not weaken his faith. As the tribunal of God remains firm and immovable, he, in the first place, sustains and comforts himself from the consideration, that God from on high beholds all that is done here below. In the next place, he considers what the office of judge requires, from which he concludes, that the actions of men cannot escape the inspection of God's omniscient eye, and that although he does not immediately punish their evil deeds, he hates all the wicked. Finally, he adds, that since God is armed with power, this hatred will not be in vain or ineffectual. Thus while God defers the infliction of punishment, the knowledge of his justice will have a powerful influence in maintaining our faith, until he actually show that he has never departed from his watch-tower, from which he beholds the actions of men.3 He appropriately compares the punishments which God inflicts to rain. As rain is not constant, but the Lord sends it forth when he pleases; and, when the weather is calmest and most serene, suddenly raises a storm of hail or violent showers of rain; in like manner, it is here intimated that the vengeance which will be inflicted on the wicked will come suddenly, so that, when they shall be indulging in mirth, and intoxicated with their pleasures, and "when they shall say, Peace and safety, sudden destruction will come upon them."4 At the same time, David here evidently alludes to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. As the prophets, when they would promise the grace of God to the elect, remind them of the deliverance from Egypt, which God wrought in behalf of his ancient people, so when they would alarm the wicked, they threaten them with a destruction like that which befell Sodom and Gomorrah, and they do so upon good grounds; since Jude, in his Epistle, tells us that these cities "are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," (Jude 1:7) The Psalmist, with much beauty and propriety, puts snares5 before fire and brimstone. We see that the ungodly, while God spares them, fear nothing, but give themselves ample scope in their wayward courses, like horses let loose6 in an open field; and then, if they see any adversity impending over them, they devise for themselves ways of escape; in short, they continually mock God, as if they could not be caught, unless he first entangle and hold them fast in his snares. God, therefore, begins his vengeance by snares, shutting up against the wicked every way of escape; and when he has them entangled and bound, he thunders upon them dreadfully and horribly, like as he consumed Sodom and the neighboring cities with fire from heaven. The word twpelz, zilaphoth, which we have rendered whirlwinds, is by some translated kindlings or burnings; and by others, commotions or terrors.7 But the context requires the interpretation which I have brought forward; for a tempest is raised by stormy winds, and then follow thunder and lightning.

The portion of their cup. By this expression he testifies that the judgments of God will certainly take effect, although ungodly men may delude themselves by deceitful flattery. This metaphor is frequently to be met with in the Scriptures. As the carnal mind believes nothing with greater difficulty than that the calamities and miseries which seem to be fortuitous, happen according to a just distribution from God, he represents himself under the character of a householder, who distributes to each member his portion or allowance. David, therefore, here intimates that there is certainly a reward laid up for the ungodly; that it will be in vain for them to resist, when the Lord shall reach to them the cup of his wrath to drink; and that the cup prepared for them is not such as they may sip drop by drop, but a cup, the whole of which they will be compelled to drink, as the prophet threatens,

(Ezekiel 23:34) "Thou shalt drink it off even to the dregs."

7. For the righteous Jehovah loveth righteousness. The Psalmist has just now reasoned from the office of God that he will punish the wicked, and now, from the nature of God, he concludes, that he will be the defender of the good and the upright. As he is righteous, David shows that, as the consequence of this, he must love righteousness, for otherwise he would deny himself. Besides, it would be a cold speculation to conceive of righteousness as inherent in God, unless, at the same time, we could come to the settled conclusion that God graciously owns whatever is his own, and furnishes evidence of this in the government of the world. Some think that the abstract term righteousness is put for righteous persons. But, in my opinion, the literal sense is here more suitable, namely, that righteousness is well pleasing to God, and that, therefore, he favors good causes. From this the Psalmist concludes, that the upright are the objects of his regard:His countenance approveth the upright. He had said a little before in a different sense, that God beholds the children of men, meaning that he will judge the life of every man; but here he means that God graciously exercises a special care over the upright and the sincere, takes them under his protection, and keeps them in perfect safety. This conclusion of the psalm sufficiently shows, that the scope of the whole of it was to make it manifest that all those who, depending upon the grace of God, sincerely follow after righteousness, shall be safe under his protection. The Psalmist himself was one of this number and, indeed, the very chief of them. This last clause, His countenance approveth the upright, is, indeed, variously explained; but the true meaning, I have no doubt, is, that God has always a regard for the upright, and never turns away his eyes from them. It is a strained interpretation to view the words as meaning that the upright shall behold the face of God. But I will not stop to refute the opinions of other men.

1 "Car le Seigneur est juste, et aime justice." -- Fr. "For the Lord is righteous, and loveth righteousness."

2 "La droiture." Fr. "Uprightness." "Ou, le droiturier." -- Fr. marg. "Or, the upright."

3 "De la quelle il contemple les faits des hommes." -- Fr.

4 "Et qu'ils diront paix et asseurance mort soudaine leur advient h'a." -- Fr.

5 Horsley reads, "glowing embers." Lowth renders the word "live coals," and observes, that Mytp, pachim, means globes of fire, or simply the lightning. "This," says he, "is certainly more agreeable to the context than snares. The root is puach, which, though it sometimes means to ensnare, yet more frequently means to breathe forth, or emit, fire, for instance. Ezekiel 21:31, 'In the fire of my wrath I will blow upon thee.' The Ammonites are spoken of as thrown into the furnace of the divine wrath:compare Ezekiel 22:21, where almost the same words occur, except that the corresponding (and in this case synonymous) verb apach is made use of, whence mapnach, a bellows, Jeremiah 6:29. In the same sense the verb puach is introduced, Proverbs 29:8, 'Scorners will inflame a city.' From this explication of the root puach, the word pach, a coal blown up, is rightly derived." -- Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, volume. 1:pp. 194, 195. Lowth also states, that the Orientals sometimes call the lightning snares or chains, probably from the continual coruscations of the lightning in its passage through the air, which seem to be connected with each other like a chain. Hengstenberg, however, opposes this exposition, and adopts and defends that which Calvin has given. "Myxp," says he, "must here, according to most expositors, be taken as a figurative designation of lightning, which is alleged to be called also by the Arabians, in prose and poetry, by the name of chains. But it is a sufficient objection to this meaning, that xp does not signify cord, in general, but specially, gin, snare, trap." In proof of this, he quotes Psalm 9:15; Job 18:9; 22:10; Isaiah 24:17, 18; Proverbs 22:5. "The expression, that he will rain," says he, "can present no proper difficulty, as it simply points to the fullness of God's retributive judgments, noticed already by Luther, when he says, that by it the prophet indicates the great variety and multitude of the evils threatened."

6 "Ainsi que des chevaux desbridez." -- Fr.

7 Dr Adam Clarke renders the words twpelz hwr, ruach zilaphoth, "the spirit of terrors," and states, that "this may refer to the horribly suffocat ing Arabian wind called Sinurn." Bishop Lowth translates the words, "a burning storm," upon which Michaelis observes, "This is an admirable image, and is taken from the school of nature. The wind zilgaphoth, which blows from the east, is very pestilential, and, therefore, almost proverbial among the Orientals Many wonderful stories are related of its effects by the Arabians, and their poets feign that the wicked, in their place of eternal torment, are to breathe this pestiferous wind as their vital air." -- Lowth's Sacred Poetry, vol. 1:p. 193. Hengstenberg translates the words wrath-wind, and explains them as simply meaning the divine anger which breaks forth as a tempest; and observes, that the vehemence of the anger is denoted by the plural number. In opposition to the rendering burning wind, and to the opinion that there is an allusion to the Arabian Samurn, he states, "The root, pez has, in Hebrew, the signification of being angry, no other; and that of being hot, is not once to be found in the dialects."