10. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth1 the vengeance; he shall wash his hands in the blood of the wicked.2 11. And a man shall say, Verily there is a reward [literally fruit3] for the righteous; verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth.
10. The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance. It might appear at first sight that the feeling here attributed to the righteous is far from being consistent with the mercy which ought to characterise them; but we must remember, as I have often observed elsewhere, that the affection which David means to impute to them is one of a pure and well-regulated kind; and in this case there is nothing absurd in supposing that believers, under the influence and guidance of the Holy Ghost, should rejoice in witnessing the execution of divine judgments. That cruel satisfaction which too many feel when they see their enemies destroyed, is the result of the unholy passions of hatred, anger, or impatience, inducing an inordinate desire of revenge. So far as corruption is suffered to operate in this manner, there can be no right or acceptable exercise. On the other hand, when one is led by a holy zeal to sympathise with the justness of that vengeance which God may have inflicted, his joy will be as pure in beholding the retribution of the wicked, as his desire for their conversion and salvation was strong and unfeigned. God is not prevented by his mercy from manifesting, upon fit occasions, the severity of the judge, when means have been tried in vain to bring the sinner to repentance, nor can such an exercise of severity be considered as impugning his clemency; and, in a similar way, the righteous would anxiously desire the conversion of their enemies, and evince much patience under injury, with a view to reclaim them to the way of salvation: but when wilful obstinacy has at last brought round the hour of retribution, it is only natural that they should rejoice to see it inflicted, as proving the interest which God feels in their personal safety. It grieves them when God at any time seems to connive at the persecutions of their enemies; and how then can they fail to feel satisfaction when he awards deserved punishment to the transgressor?
11. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward. We have additional evidence from what is here said of the cause or source of it, that the joy attributed to the saints has no admixture of bad feeling. It is noticeable from the way in which this verse runs, that David would now seem to ascribe to all, without exception, the sentiment which before he imputed exclusively to the righteous. But the acknowledgement immediately subjoined is one which could only come from the saints who have an eye to observe the divine dispensations; and I am, therefore, of opinion that they are specially alluded to in the expression, And a man shall say, etc. At the same time, this mode of speech may imply that many, whose minds had been staggered, would be established in the faith. The righteous only are intended, but the indefinite form of speaking is adopted to denote their numbers. It is well known how many there are whose faith is apt to be shaken by apparent inequalities and perplexities in the divine administration, but who rally courage, and undergo a complete change of views, when the arm of God is bared in the manifestation of his judgments. At such a time the acknowledgement expressed in this verse is widely and extensively adopted, as Isaiah declares,
"When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness," (Isaiah 26:9.)
The Hebrew particle Ka, ach, which we have translated verily, occasionally denotes simple affirmation, but is generally intensitive, and here implies the contrast between that unbelief which we are tempted to feel when God has suspended the exercise of his judgments, and the confidence with which we are inspired when he executes them. Thus the particles which are repeated in the verse imply that men would put away that hesitancy which is apt to steal upon their minds when God forbears the infliction of the punishment of sin, and, as it were, correct themselves for the error into which they had been seduced. Nothing tends more to promote godliness than an intimate and assured persuasion that the righteous shall never lose their reward. Hence the language of Isaiah, "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings," (Isaiah 3:10.) When righteousness is not rewarded, we are disposed to cherish unbelieving fears, and to imagine that God has retired from the government of the world, and is indifferent to its concerns. I shall have an opportunity of treating this point more at large upon the seventy-third psalm.
There is subjoined the reason why the righteous cannot fail to reap the reward of their piety, because God is the judge of the world; it being impossible, on the supposition of the world being ruled by the providence of God, that he should not, sooner or later, distinguish between the good and the evil. He is said more particularly to judge in the earth, because men have sometimes profanely alleged that the government of God is confined to heaven, and the affairs of this world abandoned to blind chance.