Psalm 59:13-17

13. Consume, consume them in wrath, that they may not be, and let them know unto the ends of the earth that God ruleth in Jacob. Selah. 14. And at evening they will return; they will make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city. 15. They will wander up and down to eat;1 if they be not satisfied,2 they will even lodge all night long. 16. But I will sing of thy power, I will praise thy mercy in the morning;3 for thou hast been my fortress and refuge in the day of my trouble. 17. My strength is with thee, I will sing psalms; for God is my defence, the God of my mercy.


13. Consume, consume them in wrath, that they may not be. David may seem to contradict himself in praying for the utter destruction of his enemies, when immediately before he had expressed his desire that they might not be exterminated at once.4 What else could he mean when he asks that God would consume them in wrath, but that he would cut them off suddenly, and not by a gradual and slower process of punishment? But he evidently refers in what he says here to a different point of time, and this removes any apparent inconsistency, for he prays that when they had been set up for a sufficient period as an example, they might eventually be devoted to destruction. It was customary with the victorious Roman generals, first to lead the captives which had been kept for the day of triumph through the city, and afterwards, upon reaching the capital, to give them over to the lictors for execution. Now David prays that when God had, in a similar manner, reserved his enemies for an interval sufficient to illustrate his triumph, he would upon this consign them to summary punishment. The two things are not at all inconsistent; first, that the divine judgments should be lengthened out through a considerable period, to secure their being remembered better, and that then, upon sufficient evidence being given to the world of the certainty with which the wicked are subjected in the displeasure of God to the slower process of destruction, he should in due time bring them forth to final execution, the better to awake, by such a demonstration of his power, the minds of those who may be more secure than others, or less affected by witnessing moderate inflictions of punishment. He adds, accordingly, that they may know, even to the ends of the earth, that God ruleth in Jacob. Some would insert the copulative particle, reading, that they may know that God rules in Jacob, and in all the nations of the world, an interpretation which I do not approve, and which does violence to the sense. The allusion is to the condign nature of the judgment, which would be such that the report of it would reach the remotest regions, and strike salutary terror into the minds even of their benighted and godless inhabitants. He was more especially anxious that God should be recognised as ruling in the Church, it being preposterous that the place where his throne was erected should present such an aspect of confusion as converted his temple into a den of thieves.

14. And at evening they shall return. It is of no consequence whether we read the words in the future tense or in the subjunctive, understanding it to be a continuance of the preceding prayer. But it seems more probable that David, after having brought his requests to a close, anticipates the happy issue which he desired. And he makes an apt allusion to what he had already said of their insatiable hunger. The words which he had formerly used he repeats, but with a different application, ironically declaring that they would be ravenous in another sense, and that matters would issue otherwise than they had looked for. Above he had complained that they made a noise like dogs, adverting to the eagerness and fierceness with which they were bent upon mischief; now he derides their malicious efforts, and says, that after wearying themselves with their endless pursuit all day, they would go disappointed of their purpose. He uses no longer the language of complaint, but congratulates himself upon the abortive issue of their activity. The Hebrew word which I have translated, if not, in the close of the fifteenth verse, is by some considered to be the form of an oath. But this is an over-refined interpretation. Others would have the negation repeated, reading, if they shall not have been satisfied, neither shall they lodge for the night. But this also is far-fetched. The simple and true meaning suggests itself at once, that, although they might not be satisfied, they would be forced to lay themselves down, and the misery of their hunger would be aggravated, by the circumstance that they had passed the whole day in fruitless application, and must lie down for the night empty, wearied, and unsatisfied.5

16. But I will sing of thy power. By this he does not mean merely that he would have occasion to sing at some future period, but prepares himself presently for the exercise of thanksgiving; and he proceeds to acknowledge that his deliverance would be at once an illustrious effect of Divine power, and conferred of mere grace. It may be true, that David escaped at this time from the hands of his enemies without stir, and with secrecy, through the dexterity of his wife; still, by means of this artifice, God disappointed the preparations and forces of Saul, and may, therefore, with propriety be said to have exerted his power. We may suppose, however, that David takes occasion, from this particular instance, to look further back, and embrace, in his view, the various Divine interpositions which he had experienced.

17. My strength is with thee, I will sing psalms. He expresses still more explicitly the truth, that he owed his safety entirely to God. Formerly he had said that the strength of his enemy was with God, and now he asserts the same thing of his own. The expression, however, which admits of two meanings, he elegantly applies to himself in a different sense.6 God has the strength of the wicked in his hands, to curb and to restrain it, and to show that any power of which they boast is vain and fallacious. His own people, on the other hand, he supports and secures, against the possibility of falling, by supplies of strength from himself. In the preceding part of the psalm, David had congratulated himself upon his safety, by reflecting that Saul was so completely under the secret restraint of God's providence as to be unable to move a finger without his permission. Now, weak as he was in himself, he maintains that he had strength sufficient in the Lord; and accordingly adds, that he had good reason to engage in praise, as James the inspired apostle exhorts those who are merry to sing psalms, (James 5:13.) As to the reading which some have adopted, I will ascribe my strength with praises unto thee, the reader cannot fail to see that it is forced. It is clear that the two clauses must be taken separately, as I have already observed.

1 "The literal translation, to eat, i.e., to devour, may be best." -- Archbishop Secker. From the great attention which is paid to external purity in the East, and in consequence of dogs being reckoned unclean, as they were by the Jews under the law, the inhabitants do not admit them into their houses, and even carefully avoid touching them in their streets, by which they would consider themselves defiled. But though not there domesticated as with us, dogs are to be found in great numbers, and crowd the streets. They are not attached to any particular person or family, nor accounted the property of any one; and though it is not uncommon for some of the inhabitants, from motives of superstition, to give money weekly or monthly to butchers and bakers to feed them at stated times, and though some even leave legacies at their death for the same purpose, yet they must necessarily subsist in a great measure on what they can seize or steal; and, being very numerous, they are perpetually wandering about in large troops seeking for something to devour. -- (Harmer's Observations, volume 1, p. 344.) To these circumstances the Psalmist clearly alludes in the 14th and 15th verses, when he compares the behavior of his enemies to that of dogs. He repeats what he had said in the 5th verse; but here he intends to convey a different idea. "Let them do what they may;" as if he had said, "I am safe under the protection of God."

2 "C'est, combien qu'ils ne soyent." -- Fr. marg. "That is, though they be not satisfied."

3 "In the morning. It should seem this hath a relation to Saul's servants watching for him in the morning to kill him, (1 Samuel 19:11;) meaning, At that time when those people imagine to have me in their hands I shall be in safety, and have cause to praise and bless thee for my deliverance." -- Annotations on the Bible by English Divines.

4 Williams observes, that the Hebrew rendered consume "literally means to finish, bring to an end; namely, the banditti. The Psalmist, verse 11, prays, 'Slay them not;' i.e., take not away their lives as individuals, but put an end to the conspiracy."

5 Street translates, "If they be not satisfied, they spend the night in howling;"and observes, that there seems to be a word lost after the original verb Nwl, lun, which he renders, they spend the night; and he supplies h; by the words, in howling. The meaning of the verb Mwl, lun, is ambiguous. It signifies both to continue all night, and to growl, or murmur. Either sense will be appropriate in this passage. The Chaldee and Syriac understand it in the former sense; and the Septuagint in the latter.

6 "Sed eleganter ambiguam locutionem diverso sensu ponit." -- Lat. In the French version, "Mais c'est une bonne rencontre et qui a grace, quand il met deux fois un propos ambigu, mais en divers sens."


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