Psalm 59:6-9

6. They will return at evening; they will make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city17. Behold, they will prate2 with their mouth; swords are in their lips for who (say they) will hear? 8. But thou, O Jehovah! shalt laugh at them; thou shalt have all the nations in derision. 9. I will put in trust his strength with thee;3 for God is my fortress.


6. They will return at evening. He compares his enemies to famished and furious dogs which hunger impels to course with endless circuits in every direction, and under this figure accuses their insatiable fierceness, shown in the ceaseless activity to which they were instigated by the desire of mischief. He says that they return in the evening, to intimate, not that they rested at other times, but were indefatigable in pursuing their evil courses. If they came no speed through the day, yet the night would find them at their work. The barking of dogs aptly expressed as a figure the formidable nature of their assaults.

In the verse which follows, he describes their fierceness. The expression, prating, or belching out with their mouth, denotes that they proclaimed their infamous counsels openly, and without affecting concealment. The Hebrew word ebn, nabang, means, metaphorically, to speak, but properly, it signifies to gush out,4 and here denotes more than simply speaking. He would inform us, that not content with plotting the destruction of the innocent secretly amongst themselves, they published their intentions abroad, and boasted of them. Accordingly, when he adds, that swords were in their lips, he means that they breathed out slaughter, and that every word they spoke was a sword to slay the oppressed. He assigns as the cause of their rushing to such excess of wickedness, that they had no reason to apprehend disgrace. It may be sufficiently probable, that David adverts here, as in many other places, to the gross stupidity of the wicked, who, in order to banish fear from their minds, conceive of God as if he were asleep in heaven; but I am of opinion that he rather traces the security with which they prosecuted their counsels, and openly proclaimed them, to the fact, that they had long ere now been in possession of the uncontrolled power of inflicting injury. They had succeeded so completely in deceiving the people, and rendering David odious by their calumnies, that none had the courage to utter a word in his defense. Nay, the more atrociously that any man might choose to persecute this victim of distress, from no other motive than to secure the good graces of the king, the more did he rise in estimation as a true friend to the commonwealth.

8. But thou, O Jehovah! shalt laugh at them. In the face of all this opposition, David only rises to greater confidence. When he says that God would laugh at his enemies, he employs a figure which is well fitted to enhance the power of God, suggesting that, when the wicked have perfected their schemes to the uttermost, God can, without any effort, and, as it were, in sport, dissipate them all. No sooner does God connive at their proceedings, than their pride and insolence take occasion to manifest themselves: for they forget that even when he seems to have suspended operation, he needs but nod, and his judgments shall be executed. David, accordingly, in contempt of his adversaries, tells them that God was under no necessity to make extensive preparations, but, at the moment when he saw fit to make retribution, would, by a mere play of his power, annihilate them all. He in this manner conveys a severe rebuke to that blind infatuation which led them to boast so intemperately of their own powers, and to imagine that God was slumbering in the heavens. In the close of the verse, mention is made of all nations, to intimate that though they might equal the whole world in numbers, they would prove a mere mockery with all their influence and resources. Or the words may be read -- Even As thou hast all the nations in derision. One thing is obvious, that David ridicules the vain boasting of his enemies, who thought no undertaking too great to be accomplished by their numbers.

9. I will intrust his strength to thee. The obscurity of this passage has led to a variety of opinions amongst commentators. The most forced interpretation which has been proposed is that which supposes a change of person in the relative his, as if David, in speaking of himself, employed the third person instead of the first, I will intrust my strength to thee. The Septuagint, and those who adopt this interpretation, have probably been led to it by the insufficient reason, that in the last verse of the psalm it is said, I will ascribe with praises my strength to thee, or, my strength is with thee, I will sing, etc. But on coming to that part of the psalm, we will have occasion to see that David there, with propriety, asserts of himself what he here in another sense asserts of Saul. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the relative is to be here understood of Saul. Some consider that the first words of the sentence should be read apart from the others -- strength is his -- meaning that Saul had the evident superiority in strength, so as at the present to be triumphant. Others join the two parts of the sentence, and give this explanation: Although thou art for the present moment his strength, in so far as thou dost sustain and preserve him on the throne, yet I will continue to hope, until thou hast raised me to the kingdom, according to thy promise. But those seem to come nearest the meaning of the Psalmist who construe the words as one continuous sentence -- I will put in trust his strength with thee; meaning that, however intemperately Saul might boast of his strength, he would rest satisfied in the assurance that there was a secret divine providence restraining his actions. We must learn to view all men as subordinated in this manner, and to conceive of their strength and their enterprises as depending upon the sovereign will of God. In my opinion, the following version is the best -- His strength is with thee,5 I will wait. The words are parallel with those in the end of the psalm, where there can be no doubt that the nominative case is employed, My strength is with thee; I will sing. So far as the sense of the passage is concerned, however, it does not signify which of the latter interpretations be followed. It is evident that David is here enabled, from the eminence of faith, to despise the violent opposition of his enemy, convinced that he could do nothing without the divine permission. But by taking the two parts of the sentence separately, in the way I have suggested, -- His strength is with thee, I will wait, -- the meaning is more distinctly brought out. First, David, in vindication of that power by which God governs the whole world, declares that his enemy was under a secret divine restraint, and so entirely dependent for any strength which he possessed upon God, that he could not move a finger without his consent. He then adds, that he would wait the event, whatsoever it might be, with composure and tranquillity. For the word which we have translated, I will intrust, may here be taken as signifying I will keep myself, or quietly wait the pleasure of the Lord. In this sense we find the word used in the conjugation Niphal, Isaiah 7:4. Here it is put in the conjugation Kal, but that is no reason why we may not render it, "I will silently wait the issue which God may send." It has been well suggested, that David may allude to the guards which had been sent to besiege his house, and be considered as opposing to this a watch of a very different description, which he himself maintained, as he looked out for the divine issue with quietness and composure.6

1 "Ou, ils iront et viendront." -- Fr. marg. "Or, they go and come." "He here describes the ceaseless pursuit of him in which his enemies were engaged all the day they were seeking him in vain in more distant places; in the evening they came again into the city, and continued their search, while their execrations and curses resembled the angry howling of a dog." -- Walford.

2 "Ou, bouilloneront." -- Fr. marg. "Or, will belch out."

3 "Ou, sa force est a toy, je me tiendray coy: ou, ma force est a toy," etc. -- Fr. marg. "Or, his strength is with thee, I will keep myself quiet: or, my strength is with thee," etc.

4 Ainsworth reads, "to utter or well out, as from a fountain; belch or babble, as Proverbs 15:2, 28, 'As a fountain casteth out her waters, so she casteth out her malice.'" "Le mot Hebrieu signifie se repandre en paroles, etc.;" i.e., "The Hebrew word signifies to break out in words, and it here denotes the oft repeated and passionate expressions which proceed from the mouth of persons actuated by hatred and rage, as in Psalm 94:4. To it the word bark answers very well, which is borrowed from dogs, and expresses the noise made by these animals; and this word is here the more apposite, that David in the preceding verse compares his enemies to dogs which incessantly run about and do nothing but bark." -- Martin.

5 In the Latin edition, from which we now translate, it reads, "Fortitude mea ad re." This is evidently a mistake of the printer for "fortitudo ejus," and has misled the former English translators. This is the more wonderful, as they thus make the Author adopt the very transposition of person which he had immediately before rejected. Of course, the French version reads, "Sa forte est a toy: je garderay."

6 Hammond translates, "His strength I will ward, or avoid, or beware, or take heed of at thee." And the amount of his explanation is: Saul having sent a party to guard, that is, to besiege the house in which David was, in order to kill him, as is mentioned in the title of the psalm, David resolves to guard, or look to, or beware of the strength of his persecutor, by fleeing to God as his refuge.


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