7. His mouth is full of cursing, and deceit, and malice:under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. 8. He will sit in the ensnaring places of the villages; in his lurking places will he murder the innocent:his eyes will take their aim against the poor. 9. He will lie in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; he will lie in wait to catch the poor; he will catch the poor by drawing him into his net. 10. He will crouch low, and cast himself down, and then shall an army of the afflicted fall by his strengths.1
7. His mouth is full of cursing. The scope of these four verses is this:If God intends to succor his servants, it is now a proper time for doing so, inasmuch as the lawlessness of the ungodly has burst forth to the utmost possible excess. In the first place, he complains that their tongues are full of perjuries and deceits, and that they carry or hide mischief and wrongs, it being impossible to have any dealings with them in any matter without loss and damage. The word hla, alah, which some render cursing, does not signify the execrations which they throw out against others, but rather those which they call down upon their own heads:for they do not scruple to utter the most awful imprecations against themselves, that thereby they may the better succeed in deceiving others. It is, therefore, not improperly rendered by some, perjury, for this word ought to be joined to the other two, deceit and malice. Thus the wicked are described as cursing or swearing falsely, so far as it contributes to forward their purposes of deceiving and doing injury. Hence follow mischief and injustice, because it is impossible for the simple, without suffering detriment, to escape their snares, which are woven of deceits, perjuries, and malice.
8. He will sit in the ensnaring places of the villages.2 I have purposely avoided changing the verbs of the future tense into another tense, because they imply a continued act, and also because this Hebrew idiom has extended even to other languages. David, therefore, describes what ungodly men are accustomed to do. And, in the first place, he compares them to highwaymen, who lie in wait at the narrow parts of roads, and choose for themselves hiding-places from which they may fall upon travelers when off their guard. He says also, that their eyes are bent or leering,3 by a similitude borrowed from the practice of dart-shooters, who take their aim with leering, or half shut eyes, in order to hit the mark the surer. Nor does he here speak of the common sort of highwaymen who are in the woods;4 but he directs his language against those great robbers who hide their wickedness under titles of honor, and pomp, and splendor. The word Myrux, chatserim, therefore, which we have rendered villages, is by some translated palaces; as if David had said, they have converted their royal mansions into places of robbery, where they may cut the throats of their unhappy victims. But granting the word to have this allusion, I consider that it refers principally to the practice of robbers, to which there is a reference in the whole verse, and I explain it thus:Like as robbers lie in wait at the egresses of villages, so these persons lay their snares wherever they are.
In the next verse, he sets forth their cruelty in a light still more aggravated, by another comparison, saying, that they thirst for their prey like lions in their dens. Now, it is a step higher in wickedness to equal in cruelty wild beasts than to make havoc after the manner of robbers. It is worthy of remark, that he always joins deceits and snares with violence, in order the better to show how miserable the children of God would be, unless they were succoured by help from heaven. There is also added another similitude, which expresses more clearly how craft in catching victims is mingled with cruelty. They catch them, says he but it is by drawing them into their net. By these words he means, that they not only rush upon them with open force and violence, but that, at the same time also, they spread their nets in order to deceive.
He again repeats all this in the tenth verse, giving a beautiful and graphic description of the very mien or gesture of such wicked men, just as if he set before our eyes a picture of them. They crouch low, says he, and cast themselves down,5 that they may not, by their cruelty, frighten away their victims to a distance; for they would fain catch in their entanglements those whom they cannot hurt without coming close to them. We see how he joins these two things together, first snares or gins, and then sudden violence, as soon as the prey has fallen into their hands. For, by the second clause, he means, that whenever they see the simple to be fully in their power, they rush upon them by surprise with a savage violence, just as if a lion should furiously rise from his couch to tear in pieces his prey.6 The obvious meaning of the Psalmist is, that the ungodly are to be dreaded on all sides, because they dissemble their cruelty, till they find those caught in their toils whom they wish to devour. There is some obscurity in the words, to which we shall briefly advert. In the clause which we have rendered an army of the afflicted, the Hebrew word Myaklx, chelcaim, an army, in the opinion of some, is a word of four letters.7 Those, however, think more accurately who hold it to be compound, and equivalent to two words.8 Although, therefore, the verb lpn, naphal, is in the singular number, yet the prophet, doubtless, uses Uuu, chel caim, collectively, to denote a great company of people who are afflicted by every one of these lions. I have rendered Myak lx, atsumim, his strengths, as if it were a substantive; because the prophet, doubtless, by this term, intends the talons and teeth of the lion, in which the strength of that beast chiefly consists. As, however, the word is properly an adjective in the plural number, signifying strong, without having any substantive with which it agrees, we may reasonably suppose that, by the talons and teeth of the lion, he means to express metaphorically a powerful body of soldiers. In short, the meaning is this:These wicked men hide their strength, by feigned humility and crafty courteous demeanour, and yet they will always have in readiness an armed band of satellites, or claws and teeth, as soon as an opportunity of doing mischief is presented to them.
"He sitteth in ambush* in the villages in secret places;
He murdereth the innocent;
his eyes are ever watching for the helpless."
And he has the following note:"Symmachus and St Jerome certainly read thus Myruxb bram ksy, and they both render ,H, as a participle. ' He sitteth prowling about the farm-houses.' This I take to be the true reading and the true rendering. The image is that of a beast of prey of the lesser order, a fox or a wolf, lying upon the watch about the farm-yard in the evening."
*Or, "he sitteth prowling about the farmyard."