3. How long will ye continue mischief against a man?1 ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and a fence which has been struck. 4. Yet they consult to cast him down from his elevations: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, and curse inwardly. Selah. 5. Nevertheless, my soul, be thou silent before God: for my expectation is from him. 6. Nevertheless, he is my rock and my salvation: my high tower; I shall not fall.
3. How long will ye continue mischief? The Hebrew word wttwht, tehotethu,2 which I have translated continue, or lengthen out, mischief, is rendered by some, to meditate, or imagine mischief, while others suppose an allusion to the putting forth of the tongue in sign of mockery. It has been rendered also, to rush upon, or assault. The sense of the passage seems to be, How long will ye meditate evil against a man, and persist in mischievous devices for accomplishing his ruin? He has in view the obstinate malice of his enemies, moving every stone for his destruction, and forming new plans daily for effecting it. The instruction to be learned from his experience is, that we should exercise patience, even when our enemies show unwearied cruelty in their attempts to destroy us, and are instigated by the devil to incessant artifices for our persecution. We may just advert to the meaning of the figure which is subjoined. Some think that the wicked are compared to a bowing wall, because it threatens every moment to fall to the ground, and they, upon every sin which they commit, tend more and more downwards, till they are precipitated into destruction. But it would seem as if the allusion were somewhat different. A wall, when ill built, bulges out in the center, presenting the appearance of nearly twice its actual breadth; but, as it is hollow within, it soon falls to ruins. The wicked, in like manner, are dilated with pride, and assume, in their consultations, a most formidable appearance; but David predicts that they would be brought to unexpected and utter destruction, like a wall badly constructed, and hollow in the interior, which falls with a sudden crash, and is broken by its own weight into a thousand pieces.3 The word rdg, gader, which I have rendered, a fence, means, properly, an enclosure built of slight and insufficient materials;4 and an epithet is added still more to express the violence and impetuosity of their fall. The Psalmist, then, would teach us that, high as our enemies may appear to stand, and proud and swelling as their denunciations may be, they shall be suddenly and signally overthrown, like a smitten wall.
4. Yet they consult to cast him down from his elevation. I still would interpret the particle Ka, ach, in an adversative sense. David, on the one hand, encouraged himself by determining to rest steadfastly upon the promise of divine favor; but, upon the other, he had before him the machinations of his enemies, characterised by cruelty, audacity, pride, and deceit. By all their attempts, as if he had said, they do nothing but precipitate their own fall; still such are the frenzy and the fury by which they are actuated, that they persist in their intrigues against me. He insinuates that their attacks were directed, not so much against himself as against God -- agreeably to the picture which is given us of impiety by the poets in their fable of the Giants.5 Nothing will satisfy the enemies of God but setting themselves above the heavens. David is to be understood as primarily speaking here of himself in the third person, but of himself as elevated expressly by the divine hand. Accordingly, though we might consider that God is the party directly intended, the scope of the words rather intimates that they aimed at the overthrow of one whom God had exalted, and desired to establish in honor. In thus attempting to thwart his purpose, they were really fighting against God. The clause which follows, they delight in lies, has reference to the same thing. Refusing to acknowledge his divine vocation, they persevered in following such corrupt designs, as could only recoil upon them to their own confusion, as the Psalmist exclaims,
"O ye sons of men! how long is my glory made matter of your reproach? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah." -- (Psalm 4:2)
Or the expression may denote the hidden and deceitful measures which they adopted in their persecution of this saint of God; for it is immediately added, that they blessed with their mouth, but cursed inwardly. Whatever may be the meaning, it is evident that David, contemplating all the treachery, intrigues, and wickedness of his enemies, supports himself by the single consideration, that his help was in God, and that every opposing instrumentality was therefore vain.
5. Nevertheless, my soul, be thou silent before God. Here there may appear to be a slight inconsistency, inasmuch as he encourages himself to do what he had already declared himself to have done. His soul was silent before God; and where the necessity of this new silence, as if still under agitation of spirit? Here it is to be remembered, that our minds can never be expected to reach such perfect composure as shall preclude every inward feeling of disquietude, but are, at the best, as the sea before a light breeze, fluctuating sensibly, though not swollen into billows. It is not without a struggle that the saint can compose his mind; and we can very well understand how David should enjoin more perfect submission upon a spirit which was already submissive, urging upon himself farther advancement in this grace of silence, till he had mortified every carnal inclination, and thoroughly subjected himself to the will of God. How often, besides, will Satan renew the disquietudes which seemed to be effectually expelled? Creatures of such instability, and liable to be borne away by a thousand different influences, we need to be confirmed again and again. I repeat, that there is no reason to be surprised though David here calls upon himself a second time to preserve that silence before God, which he might already appear to have attained; for, amidst the disturbing motions of the flesh, perfect composure is what we never reach. The danger is, that when new winds of troubles spring up, we lose that inward tranquillity which we enjoyed, and hence the necessity of improving the example of David, by establishing ourselves in it more and more. He adds the ground of his silence. He had no immediate response from God, but he confidently hoped in him. My expectation, he says, is from God. Never, as if he had said, will he frustrate the patient waiting of his saints; doubtless my silence shall meet with its reward; I shall restrain myself, and not make that false haste which will only retard my deliverance.