22. Let1 their table before them be for a snare; and their prosperity 2 [or things for peace] for a net. 23. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see; and make their loins continually to tremble. 24. Pour out thy wrath upon them; and let thy hot displeasure seize them. 25. Let their habitation be desolate; let none dwell in their tent; 26. For they have persecuted him whom thou hast smitten; and they have added to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded, [literally of thy wounded ones.] 27. Add iniquity to their iniquity; and let them not enter into thy righteousness. 28. Let them be blotted out from the book of the living; and let them not be written among the righteous. 29. As for me, I am poor and sorrowful; thy salutation shall exalt me.
22. Let their table before them be for a snare. Here we have a series of dire imprecations, with respect to which we must bear in mind, what we have elsewhere observed, that David did not allow himself recklessly to pour out his wrath, even as the greater part of men, when they feel themselves wronged, intemperately give way to their own passion; but, being under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he was kept from going beyond the bounds of duty,3 and simply called upon God to exercise just judgment against the reprobate. Farther, it was not on his own account that he pleaded in this manner; but it was a holy zeal for the divine glory which impelled him to summon the wicked to God's judgment-seat. It was also owing to this: that he was not carried away by violence of passion, like those who are actuated by a desire of taking revenge. Since, then, the Spirit of wisdom, uprightness, and moderation, put these imprecations into the mouth of David, his example cannot justly be pleaded in self-vindication by those who pour forth their wrath and spite upon every one that comes in their way, or who are carried away by a foolish impatience to take revenge; never allowing themselves to reflect for a moment what good purpose this can serve, nor making any efforts to keep their passion within due bounds. We need wisdom by which to distinguish between those who are wholly reprobate and those of whose amendment there is still some hope; we have also need of uprightness, that none may devote himself exclusively to his own private interests; and of moderation too, to dispose our minds to calm endurance. It being evident, then, that David was distinguished by these three qualities, whoever would follow him aright, must not allow himself to break forth with reckless and blind impetuosity into the language of imprecation; he must, moreover, repress the turbulent passions of his mind, and, instead of confining his thoughts exclusively to his own private interests, should rather employ his desires and affections in seeking to advance the glory of God. In short, if we would be true imitators of David, we must first clothe ourselves with the character of Christ, that he may not administer to us at the present day the same rebuke which he gave to two of his disciples of old,
"Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of,"
David had complained that his enemies mingled his meat with gall; and now he prays that their table may be turned into a snare for them, and that the things which are for peace may be turned into a net for them. These expressions are metaphorical, and they imply a desire that whatever things had been allotted to them in providence for the preservation of life, and for their welfare and convenience, might be turned by God into the occasion or instrument of their destruction. From this we gather that as things which naturally and of themselves are hurtful, become the means of furthering our welfare when we are in favor with God; so, when his anger is kindled against us, all those things which have a native tendency to produce our happiness are cursed, and become so many causes of our destruction. It is an instance of the Divine justice, which ought deeply to impress our minds with awe, when the Holy Spirit declares that all the means of preserving life are deadly to the reprobate, (Titus 1:15;) so that the very sun, which carries healing under his wings, (Malachi 4:2,) breathes only a deadly exhalation for them.
23. Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see. The Psalmist here refers chiefly to two powers of the body, those of the eyes and of the loins; and I have no hesitation in considering his language as a prayer that God would deprive his enemies of reason and understanding, and at the same time enfeeble their strength, that they might be altogether unfitted for exerting themselves in any way. We know how indispensable it is, in order to the doing of any thing aright, that counsel go before to give light, and that there should also be added the power of putting what is purposed into execution. The curse here expressed impends over the heads of all the enemies of the Church; and, therefore, we have no reason to be terrified at the malice or fury of the wicked. God, whenever he pleases, can strike them suddenly with blindness, that they may see nothing, and by breaking their loins,4 lay them prostrate in shame and confusion.
24. Pour out thy fury upon them. It is not surprising that David utters a lengthened series of imprecations; for we know well that the frantic enemies of the Church, into whom it was his object to inspire terror, are not easily moved. He therefore lifts up his voice against them in tones of greater vehemence, that they might be led to desist from their wrongful and insolent conduct. He, however, had principally an eye to true believers, who, being oppressed with calamities, have no other stay to lean upon, but such as arises from the voice which they hear proceeding from the mouth of God, declaring the terrible vengeance which is prepared for their enemies, if, indeed, they are among the reprobate. As to those of whose repentance and amendment there was some hope, David would have had them to be corrected by chastisements; but as to those whose repentance and reformation were hopeless, he prays that destruction may fall upon their heads, that thus they might not escape the punishment which was appointed for them, and which they had deserved.
25. Let their habitation be desolate. Here he proceeds farther than in the preceding verse, praying that God would cause his wrath to descend to their posterity; and it is no new thing for the sins of the fathers to be cast into the bosom of the children. As David uttered these imprecations by the inspiration and influence of the Holy Spirit, so he took them out of the law itself, in which God threatens that he will
"visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him," (Exodus 20:5)
In this way he desires that the memorial of them may be cursed, and that thus God would not spare them even after their death.
26. For they have persecuted him whom thou hast smitten. He brings forward the crime with which they were chargeable, to make it manifest that they richly deserved such dreadful punishments. Some explain the verse in this way: "These enemies, O Lord! not content with the strokes which thou hast inflicted, have exercised their cruelty upon a wretched man, who had already been wounded by thy hand." And as it is the dictate of humanity to succor the afflicted, he who treads down the oppressed most assuredly betrays the brutal cruelty of his disposition. Others reject this exposition, whether upon sufficient ground I know not, observing that David, properly speaking, was not stricken or wounded by the hand of God, it being of the violent rage of his enemies that he complains through the whole of the psalm. Accordingly, they have recourse to a subtle interpretation, and view David as meaning that his enemies wickedly pretended that they had just cause against him, and boasted of being the ministers of God, whose office it was to execute punishment upon him as a wicked person. This is a pretext under which the wicked generally shield themselves, and by which they are led to think that they may lawfully do what they please against those who are in misery, without ever being called to account for it. Thus we find this purpose of the wicked expressed in another place,
"Come let us persecute him, for God hath forsaken him;
for there is none to deliver him," (Psalm 71:11.)
But I am rather of opinion that the Psalmist applies the term smitten to the man whom God intended to humble as one of his own children; so that in the very chastisement or correction, there was engraven a mark of God's paternal love. And he employs the expression, the wounded of God, almost in the same sense in which Isaiah 26:29 speaks of the dead of God, the prophet thereby denoting those who continue under the Divine guardianship, even in death itself. This cannot be extended to all men in general, but is exclusively applicable to true believers, whose obedience God puts to the test by means of afflictions. If from this the wicked take occasion to persecute the righteous with greater severity, it is not to be wondered at if they involve themselves in heavier damnation. Upon seeing such examples set before them, the manner in which they should have reasoned with themselves is this,
"If these things are done in a green tree,
what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:31.)
But from their becoming more and more hardened, it is evident that the pride and insolence which they manifest against the children of God proceed from contempt and hatred of true religion. The Hebrew word
27. Add iniquity to their iniquity. As the Hebrew word
28. Let them be blotted out from the book of the living.10 This is the last imprecation, and it is the most dreadful of the whole; but it nevertheless uniformly follows the persevered in impenitence and incorrigible obduracy of which the Psalmist has spoken above. After having taken away from them all hope of repentance, he denounces against them eternal destruction, which is the obvious meaning of the prayer, that they might be blotted out of the book of the living; for all those must inevitably perish who are not found written or enrolled in the book of life. This is indeed an improper manner of speaking; but it is one well adapted to our limited capacity, the book of life being nothing else than the eternal purpose of God, by which he has predestinated his own people to salvation. God, it is certain, is absolutely immutable; and, further, we know that those who are adopted to the hope of salvation were written before the foundation of the world, (Ephesians 1:4;) but as God's eternal purpose of election is incomprehensible, it is said, in accommodation to the imperfection of the human understanding, that those whom God openly, and by manifest signs, enrols among his people, are written. On the other hand, those whom God openly rejects and casts out of his Church are, for the same reason, said to be blotted out. As then David desires that the vengeance of God may be manifested, he very properly speaks of the reprobation of his enemies in language accommodated to our understanding; as if he had said, O God! reckon them not among the number or ranks of thy people, and let them not be gathered together with thy Church; but rather show by destroying them that thou hast rejected them; and although they occupy a place for a time among thy faithful ones, do thou at length cut them off, to make it manifest that they were aliens, though they were mingled with the members of thy family. Ezekiel uses language of similar import when he says,
"And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel."
That, however, continues true which is spoken by the Apostle John, (1 John 2:19,) that none who have been once really the children of God will ever finally fall away or be wholly cut off.11 But as hypocrites presumptuously boast that they are the chief members of the Church, the Holy Spirit well expresses their rejection, by the figure of their being blotted out of the book of life. Moreover, it is to be observed that, in the second clause, all the elect of God are called the righteous; for, as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 7,
"This is the will of God, even our sanctification, that every one of us should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor: for God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." (1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4, 7)
And the climax which the same Apostle uses in the 8th chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, at the 30th verse, is well known:
"Whom he did predestinate, them he also called; and whom
he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified,
them he also glorified." (Romans 8:30)
29. As for me, I am poor and sorrowful.12 From this verse we perceive more distinctly how David cast away from him the swelling and raging passion of those who, with ungovernable fury, pour forth imprecation and vengeance. He here, without doubt, offers himself to God with the sacrifice of a broken and humble heart, that by this meekness of spirit he may obtain favor with him. He therefore adds immediately after, Thy salvation shall exalt me. Those assuredly who are impelled to avenge themselves by their own ungovernable spirits are so far from being humbled, that they exalt themselves to a position to which they are not entitled. There is here a mutual relation stated between the sorrow with which he was oppressed, and the help of God by which he hoped to be lifted up. At the same time, he assures himself that the very thing which others considered as a ground for despair, would prove to him the cause of his salvation. This sentence might also be explained adversatively thus: Although I now mourn under the pressure of affliction, yet shall thy salvation, O Lord! exalt me. But for my part, I consider it certain that David brings forward his own affliction as a plea for obtaining mercy at the hand of God. Nor does he say simply that he will be raised up, but he expressly speaks of being exalted; and in this he alludes to fortresses which are set upon high places; for this is the proper signification of the Hebrew word
1 This and the following verses, which are here expressed in the form of imprecations, are translated by many in the future tense, as predictions: "Their table before them shall be for a snare," etc.
2 The LXX. have rendered the word here translated prosperity by a word which signifies recompense: "Let their table before them be for a snare, kai ei>v ajntapo>dosin, and for a recompense, and for a stumbling-block." Paul, in quoting this and the verse immediately following, as descriptive of the judgments which befell the Jews after their rejection of the Messiah, quotes with some slight difference the words of the LXX. He has, Eijv ajntapo>oma aujtoi~v, "for a retribution upon them." The Psalmist's enemies had given him gall for his meat, and in his thirst vinegar to drink, and he denounces on them evils similar in kind: as if he had said, Would that their own table may be made bitter by misery and misfortune, and the food provided for the nourishment and strengthening of their bodies turned, in the righteous retribution of God, into the means of their injury and destruction. "Michaelis," says Walford, "shows how exactly these comminations were fulfilled in the history of the final siege of Jerusalem by the Romans. Many thousands of the Jews had assembled in the city to eat the Paschal lamb, when Titus unexpectedly made an assault upon them. In this siege the greater part of the inhabitants of Jerusalem miserably perished."
3 "Mais estant conduit par le Sainct Esprit, il n'a point passe outre les limites." -- Fr.
4 The loins are the seat of strength in every animal; and hence the prayer, "Make their loins continually to tremble," is just a prayer that their strength might be impaired, or entirely taken away.
5 This is the translation given by the LXX., who read, prose>qhkan, "they added to;" and similar is that of the Syriac, Vulgate, Arabic, and Æthiopic versions, and of the learned Castellio, who reads, "Sauciorum tuorum numerum adaugentes," "increasing the number of thy wounded." "
6 This is the idea attached to it by Horsley, who translates the verse thus: "Give them punishment upon punishment, and admit them not to thy justification." Cresswell explains it thus: "Let them not be restored to thy favor, nor experience thy clemency."
7 "Qu'ils sont alienez et bannis de la presence de Dieu." -- Fr. "That they are alienated and banished from the presence of God."
8 This is the explanation given by Hammond. The Hebrew word
9 In the French version, the two last verbs of the sentence are put in the future tense, by which the idea conveyed is somewhat modified: "En sorte qu'ils ne retourneront jamais, a bon sens, et celuy qui est ord, deviendra encore plus ord." -- "So that they shall never return to a sound understanding, and he who is filthy will become still more filthy."
10 "This phrase," observes Bishop Mant, "which is not unusual in Scripture, alludes to the custom of well ordered cities, which kept registers, containing all the names of the citizens. Out of these registers the names of apostates, fugitives, and criminals, were erased, as also those of the deceased: whence the expression 'blotting,' or 'erasing names from the book of life.'"
11 "Et se retrancher du tout." -- Fr.
12 Boothroyd reads, "humbled and afflicted!"