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56. Psalm 56

Be merciful unto me, O God: for man would swallow me up; he fighting daily oppresseth me.

2Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High.

3What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

4In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.

5Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil.

6They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.

7Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.

8Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?

9When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.

10In God will I praise his word: in the Lord will I praise his word.

11In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.

12Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee.

13For thou hast delivered my soul from death: wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?

5 Every day my words vex me The first part of this verse has been variously rendered. Some understand my words to be the nominative in the sentence, and with these I agree in opinion. Others suppose a reference to the enemies of David, and translate, they calumniate my words, or, they cause me grief on account of my words. Again, יעצבו, yeatsebu, has been taken in the neuter sense, and translated, my words are troublesome. But עצב 332332     Horsley observes, that the primary meaning of the verb עצב, atsab, is “perhaps to do a thing with great labor, to take pains about it; if, indeed, its primary meaning be not to distort Hence it may signify to affect the mind with any unpleasing passion or sensation, grief, vexation, anger; for every perturbation is a sort of distortion of the mind. רברי יעצבו עלי — ‘torquent contra me verba mea,’ — ‘torquent, i e., labouriose fingunt in mentem alienam et sensum alienum.’ — Pagninus after Aben Ezra and R.D.” Horsley Hammond, after stating that עזב, atsab, signifies primarily to grieve, or be in pain, and that by metonomy it is used for the laborious framing or forming of any thing, says, “Here, being applied to another’s words or speeches, it seems to denote the depraving them, laboring and using great art and diligence to put them into such a form as may be most for the disadvantage of the speaker, turning and winding them to his hurt, in putting some odious gloss upon them, and so, according to sense, may most fully be rendered depraving.” , atsab, commonly signifies to afflict with grief, and in Pihel is always taken transitively; nor does there seem any reason in this place to depart from the general rule of the language. And the passage flows more naturally when rendered, my words affect me with grief, or vex me, than by supposing that he refers to his enemies. According to this translation, the verse contains a double complaint, that, on the one hand, he was himself unsuccessful in everything which he attempted, his plans having still issued in vexatious failure; while, on the other hand, his enemies were devising every means for his destruction. It may appear at first sight rather inconsistent to suppose that he should immediately before have disclaimed being under the influence of fear, and now acknowledge that he was not only distressed, but in some measure the author of his own discomfort. I have already observed, however, that he is not to be considered as having been absolutely divested of anxiety and fear, although enabled to look down with contempt upon his enemies from the eminence of faith. Here he speaks of the circumstances which tried him, which his faith certainly overcame, but at the same time could not altogether remove out of the way. He confesses his own lack of wisdom and foresight, shown in the abortive issue of every plan which he devised. It aggravated the evil, that his enemies were employing their united counsels to plot his ruin. He adds, that they gathered themselves together; and this made his case the more calamitous, matched as he was, a single individual, against this numerous host. In mentioning that they hide themselves, he adverts to the subtile devices which they framed for surprising him into destruction. The verb יצפינו, yitsponu, by grammatical rule ought to have the letter ו, vau, in the middle; from which the general opinion is, that the י yod, is as it were the mark of Hiphil, denoting that the enemies of David came to the determination of employing an ambush, with the view of surrounding him. He tells us that they pressed upon him in every direction, and as it were trod upon his heels, so that he had no respite. And he points at their implacable hatred as the cause of their eager pursuit of him; for nothing, he informs us, would satisfy them but his death.


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