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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 10

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary


Psalms 10

The Psalmist complains, that the Lord delivers up His people to the oppressions of proud, cruel, deceitful enemies, who forget God, Psalms 10:1-11. He calls upon Him to withhold no longer His help from the innocent, and avenge Himself and them on His despisers and their oppressors, and expresses his confident hope that this will be done, Psalms 10:12-15. He receives the assurance of being heard; and, with the eye of faith, sees the enemies annihilated, the meek redeemed, the offence removed, which had drawn from him the “wherefore,” Psalms 10:16-18.

Though the Psalm has no superscription, yet its place among those which belong to David renders it very probable that he was the author. At all events, the exceedingly compressed and difficult style, and the impress of originality, allowed even by De Wette, proves it to belong to an early age. The almost literal agreement in many passages between it and the preceding Psalm, which the superscription ascribes to David, would lead us to infer that this also must be his: comp. especially the peculiar phrase לעתות בצרה , in Psalms 10:1, which nowhere else occurs, with Psalms 9:9; “Arise, O Lord,” in Psalms 10:12, with Psalms 9:20; “That the man of the earth may no more oppress,” at the close, with “let not man prevail,” in Psalms 9:19; the words, “the heathen are perished,” and “judge the fatherless and the oppressed,” in Psalms 10:16 and Psalms 10:18, with “let the heathen be judged,” in Psalms 9:19, etc. These similarities, especially the first, prove not merely the identity of the author, but also contemporaneity of composition. Others show, that a still nearer connection existed between the two Psalms; and that therefore the older translators, such as the LXX. and Vulgate, who joined both together, did not do so without reason. It is, first of all, remarkable, that this Psalm has, unlike all those which immediately precede and follow, no superscription. It is still more remarkable, that Psalms 9 begins with א and Psalms 10 closes with ת ,—nay, that through the two Psalms a certain alphabetical arrangement discovers itself, though it is not preserved throughout. In the rule, every alternate verse begins with the letter of the alphabet next in order. This fact is not overthrown by a number of exceptions. For these are to be explained on the principle, that the external arrangement was subordinated to the sense, and hence sacrificed to it, where the one could not be adapted to the other. The same view also is supported by the manifest internal reference of the words, “Thou hidest Thyself in times of trouble,” in Psalms 10:1, to those in Psalms 9:9, “The Lord is a refuge in times of trouble,”—a reference, to which the similarity of the otherwise quite singular expression is but a fingerpost, and by which Psalms 10 proclaims itself to be a continuation of Psalms 9. But, on the other hand, it does not suit well to unite both Psalms precisely into one. An external ground against this exists in the division in the MSS., which certainly is not accidental; and an internal one, that the two Psalms are separate, and complete in themselves. There only remains, therefore, the supposition, that the author designed the two Psalms to form one whole, divisible into two parts—a sort of thing which also occurs elsewhere; for example, in the relation of Psalms 1 and Psalms 2, Psalms 42, Psalms 43 to each other. Along with the unquestionably great resemblance between the two Psalms in reference to the object, situation, train of thought, and particular features, there still exists a threefold difference, not to be overlooked: 1. The help, which the Lord had already granted to His people, forms in Psalms 9 the foundation on which the prayer is based; whereas in Psalms 10 the same purpose is served by a lengthened description of the mournful state of things, loudly calling for Divine interference, of the superciliousness of the ungodly, nourished by their impunity, and of the sufferings of the righteous. This parallelism of the two sections, Psalms 9:1-13, and Psalms 10:1-11, is of importance for coming to a right judgment on the first. It shows that the thanks rendered in it have not an independent significance, but that the remembrance of that, which the Lord had formerly done, was only designed to insure the fulfilment of the word, “Ask in faith, nothing doubting.” 2. In Psalms 9 the reference to the heathen is decidedly prominent. On the contrary, in Psalms 10 the heathen are only once thought of, in Psalms 10:16; and the author, besides, is throughout concerned simply with “the wicked.” 3. In Psalms 9 the Psalmist introduces the people of the Lord saying, “I will praise the Lord,” etc., which has caused some groundlessly to suppose that it refers to the personal relations of the Psalmist; here, on the contrary, he speaks always of the meek, the afflicted, etc., in the third person.

That David composed this Psalm, not in reference to any particular position of his life, but to the end that the people might avail themselves of it in all seasons of distress, was remarked even by Kimchi and if this supposition had been kept steadily in view here, as also in the preceding Psalm, confirmed as it is by the entire matter, a host of fruitless conjectures might have been spared,—such, for example, as Hitzig has brought forward, who, however, has decidedly acknowledged the authorship of David. No trace is anywhere to be found of an individual reference; and Psalms 10:8-10, which might be most readily explained historically, conclusively show that the individual element, where it seems to occur, is merely poetical individualization. The individual representation is also excluded here, as in Psalms 9, by the use of the alphabetical arrangement. This is never found in the personal Psalms.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord? Why standest Thou as an indifferent spectator of my contest with the enemy, and dost not hasten to my rescue? The why is, in circumstances like the present, an evidence of lively faith. Only he who possesses it, and, with it, a firm conviction of God’s omnipotence and righteousness, will consider it as a monstrous thing, and one that cannot continue, that God should not assist His suffering people. Thou coverest in times of trouble. תעלים rightly by Calvin: “connives;” to which must be supplied, eyes. The expression stands in full, Leviticus 20:4, 1 Samuel 12:3, and in many other places. See upon the omission of the members in current phrases, Ewald, p. 190. When God does not assist His people, He appears to have turned away His face from them, to have covered His eyes; comp. ver. 14. See on Psalms 9:9, for the expression, “times of distress or trouble.” The supposition that “times in distress” stands simply for “times of distress,” is opposed by the very concise character of the whole Psalm. We have already shown, that the words are externally, as well as internally, related to Psalms 9:9. There the Psalmist had obtained from the earlier manifestations of God the sure result, that He is a refuge in times when one is in distress. He here takes up the inference from this result, and asks God, wherefore His actions are in contradiction thereto. The לעתות בצרה is to be viewed as furnished with marks of quotation, and תעלים should have stress laid on it, as forming the contrast to משגב .

Verse 2

Ver. 2. Through the pride of the wicked the poor is inflamed; they are taken in the plots which they have devised. דלק , in Heb. as well as in the cognate dialects, signifies, “to burn.” Here the burning, or setting on fire, figuratively denotes “anger:” comp. כעס indignation, in Psalms 10:14, which so often appears under the image of fire—comp., for example, Psalms 37:1, “Be not inflamed against the evil-doers;” Psalms 39:3, “My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned;” Isaiah 30:27, “burning His anger;” Ezekiel 21:31 ( Ezekiel 21:31), בערים , burning, for angry, raging. Against Gesenius and De Wette, who think that burn must here mean to be in anguish, we place the fact, that anguish is never so designated in Hebrew; and against Stier, who takes דלק to signify the heat of tribulation, and of Hitzig, who translates, is burned, we may urge as decisive, the remark of J. H. Michaelis: “דלק ardorem activum, quails est in igne, non passivum, qualis in materia denotat.” The exposition of Sachs and others: “Through the pride of the wicked he persecutes the miserable,” does not suit the parallelism so well; only one passage, Lamentations 4:19, in support of דלק connected in this signification with the accusative, can be adduced. Elsewhere it has this signification only with אחרי , which also is strictly necessary; and indeed it could only be left out, when the language had already grown corrupt. Most expositors explain the second clause: “they, the wretched, are caught or taken through the plans which those, the wicked, have devised;” and this exposition is to be preferred, from the parallelism and connection, to the other: “may they, the wicked, be caught or taken in the wiles which they have devised;” although the latter may be supported by parallel passages, such as Psalms 7:13 ss., Psalms 9:16.

Verse 3

Ver. 3. For the wicked extols the desire of his soul, and he who makes gain blesses, despises the Lord. The for marks not so much the relation of this verse to the preceding one, as the relation of the whole representation in Psalms 10:3-11 to Psalms 10:1 and Psalms 10:2. The brief intimations which the Psalmist had given in these two verses, regarding the posture of things, he establishes by a further elucidation in Psalms 10:3-11. כי has precisely the same force in Psalms 9:4; and this agreement also points to a closer connection between the two Psalms. The first clause is commonly rendered: “For the wicked boasts of his desire.” But this rendering is inadmissible, as הלל never signifies to boast, to be proud, least of all in Psalms 56:4, where its object is coupled with it, nor in Psalms 44:8. We must rather translate: “The wicked extols the desire of his heart.” The על stands then quite appropriately as a designation of the object, to which the extolling refers—its substratum. When the wicked ventures to laud in public the shameful lusts of his heart, as things which need not shun the light, this is the highest degree of depravity; and betokens, at the same time, how secure he has become in consequence of his impunity, how sad the condition of the poor, how much occasion there is for such to fear, how necessary therefore it is for God to interfere, and what reason there was for the why in the first verse. So also Ewald: “He gives praise, not, as is due, to Jehovah, but to his own lust;” comp. Habakkuk 1:11-16. The second clause can only be rendered: whosoever makes gain, blesses, despises God. בצע is correctly explained by Venema: quaestum faciens per fas et nefas. The bad sense lies not in the word itself, but in the connection. The object of the lamentation is, that whosoever makes gain, without further consideration, blesses God for it, without ever asking whether the gain is a righteous one or not. Blesses God. This indicates the highest degree of boldness. For a man who possesses any moral feeling will say, “Blessed be God,” only when he has obtained a righteous gain;—comp. Zechariah 11:5, which passage clearly shows, that God is to be considered as the object of blessing. With this is fitly connected, “he despises the Lord.” Such a blessing of God is, indeed, the highest kind of contempt toward Him. For, as Calvin justly remarks: “Whosoever believes that God will be his judge, will shudder to bless his soul (rather, God), while he has an evil conscience.” That from the expression, “he blesses the Lord,” we are not to conclude the Psalmist to have referred to the wicked in Israel, is manifest from the passage already quoted, Zechariah 11:5, the oversight of which has been a main cause in the misunderstanding the present words. Zechariah speaks of the flock of slaughter, “whose buyers slay them, and hold themselves not guilty; and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord, for I am rich.” Under the buyers and sellers are there to be understood the foreign oppressors; see Christol. in loc. The blessing or praising of the Lord here, on account of gain, we are not to regard quite so seriously,—it is done half in joke; moreover, even the heathen were inclined to grant a certain portion to Jehovah of the advantages which they obtained over His people,—comp., for example, Jeremiah 50:7. De Wette, following many of the older expositors, and himself again followed by Maurer and others, expounds quite differently “The plunderer blasphemes, despises God.” If we would follow this exposition, we must, in that case, not take ברךְ? in the sense of blaspheming, which it never has, but in that of renouncing, bidding farewell, which originated in the custom of blessing at separation. That the sense of blaspheming does not, and cannot exist, Schultens has proved on Job, p. 12. Comp. further, my Beitr. Th. II. S. 131, where I have shown, that that meaning is not found in the passage, 1 Kings 21:10, on which the principal stress is laid. Neither should we force on בצר the signification of plunderers, which is not justified by a robber’s being designated בּ?וֹ?צֵ?עַ? in Habakkuk 2:9—for what might not then be proved?—but it must be taken in the only certain signification: “the gain-getting,” which is also perfectly suitable in Habakkuk 2:9, where it is clear that we must render בּ?ֹ?צֵ?עַ? בּ?ֶ?צַ?ע רַ?ע . “he who gaineth a wrong gain.” Not only is the meaning, robber, unsuitable, but that also of covetous, which others have accepted. Therefore: “He who only makes gain, renounces the Lord, despises Him.” The verbs ברךְ? and נאץ would then mark a progression. But against this explanation, even as thus modified, we may urge, that the obvious and striking contrast between blessing and despising, the designation of the highest degree of impiety by the juxtaposition of these extreme opposites, is destroyed by it; to which also must be added, that ברךְ? can scarcely be taken in any other sense than that of blessing, were it only for the parallelism with הלל , to extol; the extolling of the desire of his soul, and the blessing of God on account of his unrighteous gain, are closely connected. The exposition: “He blesses himself,” adopted by Stier and others, after Venema, is quite arbitrary. In the passage referred to by them, Deuteronomy 29:18, the verb in Hithpael is unquestionably used in a transitive sense. We repeat, that all these wrong expositions are set aside by the passage in Zechariah.

Verse 4

Ver. 4. The wicked in his pride, he does not inquire: God is not, are all his purposes. The height of the nose is a picturesque description of pride. Many render the first clause: “The wicked in, or according to, his pride, does not concern himself.” They either supply God to ידרש : he does not seek after, or care for, God; or they understand the verb quite generally: in his heart the wicked disregards everything; right and wrong are alike to him; he knows no other law than his own lust. “The principle of right action through the whole of life,” remarks Calvin, “is inquiry, in that we do not allow ourselves to be blindly carried about wherever our own spirit, and the impulses of our corrupt flesh, would draw us. But the disposition to inquire springs from humility, in that we, as becomes us, set God before us as our judge and guide.” But others take בל ידרש as the words of an evil-doer: “the wicked in his pride (says) He (God) searches or perceives not.” And this exposition, which presents no difficulty when we bear in mind the extremely concise style of the Psalm, is shown to be the correct one, by comparing Psalms 10:13: “Wherefore doth the wicked despise God; and say in his heart, Thou wilt not require it?” לא תדרש ,—a parallel passage which is the more decisive, as Psalms 10:13 manifestly resumes the subject of Psalms 10:3 and Psalms 10:4. In these verses the fact is set before us, that he despises God, that he says, “Thou punishest not;” in Psalms 10:13 reference is made to the abnormity of such thoughts, and to the necessity of their being uprooted: “ Wherefore does he despise, wherefore does he speak?” We may also comp. דרש דמים in Psalms 9:12, where the verb, in like manner, signifies “to inquire into,” “to punish.” The denial of providence is here justly marked as the product of pride. The wicked desires to be a god himself; therefore he suppresses consciousness regarding God in heaven. God is not, are all his purposes: they are a continued practical denial of God. For had he a real conviction of the being of a living God, he would stand in awe of the judgment-seat. Whether he have a cold and dead notion of God, or even of His providence, is a matter of indifference. Venema: “Their counsels and projects were such, that in their very nature they involved the denial of God; and if an inference might be drawn therefrom concerning the faith of those who entertain them, we should conclude them to be deniers of God: in which sense those who confess God in words, are said to deny Him by their works, Titus 1:16.” מזמה we take here, according to the usage of the Psalms, for ungodly purposes, and the rather so, as it had occurred in that sense in ver. 2. The sense is weakened if we render, with other expositors: “There is no God, are all his thoughts.” This exposition is also unsuitable, in that it would attribute a theoretical denial of God to the wicked, in opposition to the first clause, Psalms 10:3, Psalms 10:11 and Psalms 10:13. Some, in order to avoid this objection, would take the “not God,” against the usage, as meaning: “God is nothing; He has no power.” אין always denies existence, not quiddity—see Christol. P. ii. p. 474 ss. Hupfeld, Hitzig, and De Wette, in his 4th ed., take רשע absolutely, and both periods as expressing his thoughts: “The wicked, according to his pride, he punishes not, God is not, are all his thoughts.” But this construction, which destroys the parallelism, rests upon the view of מזמותיו , which has already been proved to be false. If this be understood of the purposes, it cannot be referred to בל ידרש . For the denial of providence is, according to Psalms 10:11 and Psalms 10:13, the theoretical principle of the wicked.

Verse 5

Ver. 5. His ways, his undertakings, are always prosperous. The Chaldee gives this sense, and the best expositors follow it. The verb חול occurs in a similar meaning in Job 20:21; and the derivative, חיל strength, also confirms it. Against the parallelism, some expositors take it in the unproved sense of being crooked, and translate: His ways are always crooked. The relation of the two following members to this first was already pointed out quite correctly by Venema: “The other two members take out of the way the obstacles to prosperity, the one of which is the judgments of God, the other, the attacks of enemies.” A height are Thy judgments, Thy punishments, away from him; i.e. Thy righteous chastisements are so far removed from him, that they never reach him. This can only be understood in two ways—either as a continued description of the prosperity of the wicked, and their freedom from punishment, from which sprung their supercilious security described in Psalms 10:6; or as a description of this supercilious security itself, as a consequence of their being “prospered in their ways.” The latter exposition is adopted by Calvin: “Because continual prosperity flows in upon them, they think that God is obliged to them. And so it comes to pass, that they put His judgments far from them.” But as there is not the slightest hint of a reference to the wicked’s thoughts, and since the preceding words, “his ways are prosperous,” refer not to a fancy, but to the reality, this view could only be considered as admissible, in case these grounds could be counterbalanced by an undeniable reference of the last clause to the supercilious security of the wicked. This, however, is by no means the case. The last clause, also, has respect, not to the thoughts, but to the actual lot of the wicked. From what has been said, the presumption is in favour of this view, and the most natural exposition is: All His adversaries, He breathes upon them; i.e. He blows them away with little trouble; He has only to breathe, and they vanish: comp. Isaiah 40:24, “He blows upon them, and they wither;” and the “cujus to legiones difflavisti. spiritu quasi ventus folia” of Plautus, in the Mil. Glor. i. 1, 17. To explain the words as referring to some sort of blowing, through which a proud disposition manifested itself, has this against it, that such a blowing is nowhere mentioned in the Old Testament. In Malachi 1:13, to which we are referred, the הפיח , “to make to breathe out,” is, by comp. with Job 31:39, as much as, “to blow out the light of life,” to rob the soul, to annihilate. So that all the three clauses refer to the external lot of the wicked; and the following verse for the first time sets forth the influence, which his prosperity and his impunity have upon his disposition.

Verse 6

Ver. 6. A feeling of security springs from his prosperity. He says in his heart, I shall not be moved; from generation to generation, I am he who is not in adversity; i.e. is not unfortunate. The meaning is: Misfortune shall never overtake me. The expression, “from generation to generation,” is to be explained by the circumstance, that the wicked here is an ideal personage. ברע , in evil, for, in misfortune, as in Exodus 5:19. The אשר is used with peculiar emphasis, and not as a kind of expletive, as we might at first sight suppose. He is that man who defies all misfortune, whom God cannot harm, even if He would. Precisely so is it also used, for example, in Isaiah 8:20, “If they speak not according to these, they are those for whom there is no dawn.” Calvin here beautifully contrasts the confidence of the pious, which is the offspring of faith, and the false security of the wicked. “The latter says, I shall not be moved, or shall not shake for ever, because he thinks his strength sufficient to bear up against all assaults. The believer says, If I should happen to be moved, or even to fall, and to sink into the depths, still I shall not utterly perish; for God will put His hand beneath me.”

Verse 7

Ver. 7. The representation given of the violation of duties toward neighbours, which the ungodly, confirmed in his unconscientiousness by his prosperity, allows to grow into actual guilt, is commenced in this verse with the words, and proceeds in Psalms 10:8-10 to deeds. His mouth is full of cursing, and of deceit and oppression. אלה preserves here its common signification. But the circumstance, that it occurs here in a description, which refers only to the relation toward: neighbours, and its being coupled with deceit and oppression, shows that such cursings are here spoken of, as the ungodly utters upon himself, so that he may be successful in his deceit, and may win confidence to the perjuries through which he seeks to circumvent his neighbour in goods and chattels. In the foreground are perjury and deceit, false assurances of peace and love: in the background are violence and oppression. By the former his victims are made defenceless; and then he comes forth with the latter. In Psalms 59:12, אלה is coupled with כחש , “lie,” as it is here with מרמה . In opposition to the connection, Stier regards the cursings, execrations, and calumnies, as directed against God, as well as men. מלא not an adjective, but a verb.

And of deceit and oppression. מרמות the LXX. render by πικρί?α , bitterness, probably confounding the word with מרות from מרר .

Under his tongue is sorrow and mischief. עמל , never actively, distress, which one brings upon another; but here, as always, misfortune, distress, which others suffer. און signifies here, and constantly, mischief. The sorrow, the product of the injustice, is in, and with this under the tongue: comp. the investigations upon both words in my Treatise on Balaam, p. 112 sq. In the expression, “under his tongue,” the metaphor, according to several interpreters, is taken from the poison of serpents, which is concealed under the teeth, and from thence is pressed out, as is mentioned in Psalms 140:3, “Adder’s poison is under their lips.” But the parallelism, with the mouth, favours the less remote exposition of others, who consider the tongue to be mentioned here as the organ of speech. That the Psalmist says under the tongue, and not, as elsewhere, upon it, arises from his thinking of a whole storehouse of misery and injustice as being under their tongue, from which, at fitting times, particular portions are taken and laid upon the tongue. This corresponds precisely to the words in the first clause: His mouth is full. His mouth is like a magazine of sorrow and mischief. It is also against the reference to the poison of serpents, that, in Psalms 66:17, the expression, “under the tongue,” is in like manner used of words, and that in a good sense: “I cried unto Him with my mouth, and the song of praise was under my tongue.”

Verse 8

Ver. 8. Having set forth, that if God be willing to help, now is the proper time, as the profligacy of the wicked had mounted to the highest pitch, the Psalmist turns from words to deeds. He describes them as robbers and murderers, who lay wait for the defenceless traveller for the purpose of destroying him. Several commentators are disposed to understand this representation figuratively: the wicked are likened to robbers. But there is just as little ground for this supposition as for the other, that a reference exists here to special historical events. The representation is not a figurative, but an individualizing one; and the particular mode in which the heathen committed their wickedness here mentioned, is in reality no more under consideration than any others: the individualization is only designed to give vividness to the description. The particular trait, besides, manifestly suits better to evil-doers among the Israelites, than to foreign adversaries, who were wont to break in upon the land with open violence, and not to waylay individuals in lurking places: comp. the analogous description, Job 24:14. Habakkuk 3:14, to which De Wette appeals in support of the reference to the heathen, is placed by him in a distorted light. The Chaldeans are there expressly compared to such as waylay the poor in secret places, who are here the subject of discourse; it cannot, therefore, have been their custom. He lies in the lurking places of the villages; i.e. in concealed places, in the thicket, in the neighbourhood of townships, they lie in wait for the peaceable inhabitants, with the view of suddenly falling upon them, and killing or plundering them. The verb ישב is specially used of the lion, which lies in his den upon the watch, comp. ver. 9; then also of men. In the secret places he murders the innocent. מסתר is used pre-eminently of covered places, which are adapted for snares. So, of the dens of lions, where they lie in secret, Psalms 17:12; Lamentations 3:10.

His eyes keep watch upon the miserable. צפן prop. denotes to conceal, and nothing else. The sense of watching, as it occurs here and in Proverbs 1:11, Proverbs 1:18, comes only from the general omission of the object, as is often the case in Hiph., that is, of the concealed place of the snares or gins. But this omission must have been so current, that the verb gradually got to mean simply “watching.” For here, on account of the verb’s being connected with the eyes, it would not at all do to supply the object. חֵ?לְ?כָ?ה is very differently explained. The Masorites think it is a compound of the defectively written word חֵ?יל host, and the suff. ךָ? with ה appended. Believing that the first syllable must have been originally written plene, they have given to it the vowel Zere, whereas otherwise, in a compound syllable, a short vowel must always stand. Hence the vowels, as due to the Masoretic explanation, do not come under consideration. This exposition of the word, which a number of interpreters follow, is undoubtedly false, and yields no fitting sense. Equally false is another explanation, that of Schroeder ad Ps. dec. p. 180-88, which is adopted by most recent expositors. According to it, the word is derived from the Arabic [Note: Arabic not reproduced

ED.] , to be black, which, in the metaphorical sense, must mean to be unfortunate. It is in itself a questionable proceeding to transfer a root at once to the Hebrew, which does not otherwise occur in it, and that too in a sense not even found in the Arabic; some faint trace of it is discernible there only in the derivatives. The chief objection, however, against it is, that the ה cannot, as is done by some, be taken as a formative, or with others as parag., since the plural הלכאים in Psalms 10:10, where then ה is exchanged for א , shows it to be a radical. We must rather take חלכה as a quadriliterum compositum, formed from the two Hebrew roots חלה , to be weak, sick, and כאה , moerore affectus, afflictus fuit. Comp. Psalms 109:16, Ezekiel 13:22. The sing. is then to be pointed חַ?לְ?כֶ?ה , the plural חַ?לְ?כָ?אִ?ים . There are not wanting examples of similar compounds; comp. Ewald, p. 519, Christol. P. p. 98. The double form with ה and with א admits then of an easy explanation, because both letters properly belonged to the root, and the mode of abbreviation was a matter of choice. We can thus also understand how the Masorites should have come to consider the word as a double one. In Psalms 10:10 they understand one of its component parts quite correctly. They take הלכאים as meaning an agmen afilictorum, and consequently derive כאים from the verb כאה . With this exposition agrees also admirably the rendering of the LXX., the Syriac., Chal., by poor; that of Aquila and Symm. by weak. But what is the main thing, this exposition is in perfect accordance with that which the Psalm itself suggests in reference to the signification of חלכה . We must, firstly, now consider the other designations in the Psalm of those here denominated. In reference to these, it is remarked by Gousset: “Semel ( Psalms 10:14, Psalms 10:18) vocantur nomine יתום , semel nomine נקי , alias quoque nomine עני .

At merito עני praeferemus, quia multoties in eodem sermone occurrit, tanquam proprium orationis subjectum et cujus ideam ac notionem auctor sibi frequentius objiceret.” Then, an important help towards a right explanation is supplied by Psalms 10:10, where הלכאים stands in opposition to עצומים , “the strong.” Now, in הלכאים , according to the view we have taken, both ideas, that of a mournful, poor condition (כאח ), and that of weakness (חלה ), are combined, while the latter, according to the derivation from חלךְ? , is entirely absent. The writer unquestionably formed this word himself, which is never used elsewhere, and intended it to be a kind of enigma.

Verse 9

Ver. 10. Crushed, he sinks down, the poor man. The first word has a double reading. The form in the text, which must be pronounced וְ?דָ?כָ?ה , is an adj. verb, formed from דכה =דכךְ? ; the marginal reading, which must be pronounced יִ?דְ?כּ?ֶ?ה , and the vowels of which, as usual, stand in the text, is Fut. in Kal of דכה . The text is here, as always, when there is no urgent reason to the contrary, to be preferred to the margin. The unhappy man is represented under the image of a wild animal, which, entangled in the net, falls to the ground. The crushing, overpowering, is to be taken figuratively, and refers to the utter impotence produced by the netting, to use his powers and save himself; comp. Psalms 57:6. With ישח here should be compared my soul is bowed down,” in Psalms 57:6. And the poor falls through his strong ones. עצומים signifies, wherever it occurs in the Old Testament, the strong; hence all those expositions which give the word another meaning must be rejected at once, from such as palm on it a foreign sense out of the Arabic, to those which take it abstractly in the sense of strength. The suff. ו refers to the רשע as an ideal person. His strong ones stand in opposition to הלכאים , and indicate how the latter, in their impotence and helplessness, must be an easy prey for such formidable enemies. “Through his strong ones,” is substantially the same as, “through them, the strong.” The individuals are represented as belonging to the personified idea. Calvin explains it somewhat differently. According to him, the image of a lion is here continued, his claws and teeth are personified as strong warriors. This supposition, though deserving to be rejected, as the Psalmist has long since dropt the image of a lion, is, however, more admissible than the one adopted by some recent expositors, who would have the word to signify strong members. This view weakens also the manifest contrast between עצומים and הלכאים , which requires the former, according to its constant import, to be a designation of persons. The connection of a verb in the singular with a noun in the plural is always allowable, when the verb precedes, inasmuch as then the speaker has not in view determinate persons, their number or sex; comp. Ewald, p. 639. Here the use of the singular was the more natural, as in the first member he had spoken of an individual who was wretched.

Verse 11

Ver. 11. The Psalmist here comes back again to the source of the audacity of the wicked, their fancy, fostered by continued impunity, that God’s providence rules not over human things. He brings this so prominently out, because it must be to God the most pressing motive to interference, and is consequently the best preparation for the immediately following prayer. He, the wicked, says in his heart: God hath forgotten, namely, my shameful deeds, as well as the sufferings of the unfortunate; it is to Him a matter of indifference what is done on earth, He troubles not Himself about it

He hideth His face, that He may not be disturbed in His repose by the sight of the confusion on earth.

Verse 12

Ver. 12. Arise, O Lord: O God, lift up Thine hand; forget not the wretched. Here the second part begins— the prayer, which, of itself, springs out of, and was indeed strictly contained in, the complaint uttered before God. As the visible presented no traces of God’s righteousness and providence, but seems rather to clash therewith, it is to the Psalmist, in accordance with the weakness of human nature, as if God rested, and did not concern Himself about earthly things, and left His people in forgetfulness. But while the ungodly purposely cherishes and feeds this error, the offspring of his own reprobate state of mind, the believer fights against it, as a thought that has arisen only from his troubled condition, and prays the Lord to help him in his conflict, and, at the same time, to destroy the delusion of the wicked; by making Himself known in His righteousness and retribution. The lifting up of the hand, is spoken of one, who, after he has been taking rest, and has put his hand into his bosom, arises and addresses himself to his work. The words “forget not,” refer to those of the wicked in Psalms 10:11, “God hath forgotten.” On the different readings, עניים and ענוים , see on Psalms 9:12. Here, too, the latter, which is the marginal reading, arose out of the supposition that a moral quality was required.

Verse 13

Ver. 13. Wherefore does the wicked contemn God? Wherefore dost Thou permit him to despise Thee with impunity? Wherefore does he speak, wherefore dare he say, Thou punishest not? prop. Thou dost not inquire. This, with God, coincides with punishing. For when God inquires into the doings of men, being a righteous God, it necessarily follows that He also recompenses. The transition from the third person to the second gives more emphasis to the language. He speaks as it were to God’s very face. Still we might also take the words לא תדרש as oratio obliqua,=“that Thou punishest not;” and this view is even to be preferred. Calvin: “Though it is superfluous to bring forth reasons before God, for the purpose of persuading Him, He yet permits us to deal familiarly with Him in our prayers, to address Him as a son addresses his earthly father. For the object of the prayer must always be kept in view, namely, that God may be the witness of all our feelings, not as if they would otherwise escape Him, but because, while we pour out our hearts before Him, our cares are lightened, and our confidence of being heard, increases.” Thus David here rises to hope, through representing to himself how absurd a thing it would be for God to suffer the impious to despise Him with impunity. The verse, besides, is closely connected with the first part, Psalms 10:3 and Psalms 10:4. There the fact was set forth; here attention is called to its absurdity, and consequently to the necessity of a reaction of the idea against the actual state of things:

Verse 14

Ver. 14. Thou hast seen. The Psalmist here rises to the confidence, to the faith, that the Lord will put to shame, the fancy of the ungodly, mentioned in Psalms 10:11, that He is unconcerned about earthly things in general, and especially about their wickedness; and that He sees both their abominable deeds, and the sufferings of the righteous, and will act accordingly. We might regard this as the commencement of the third part of the Psalm. However, as the Psalmist turns back again to the prayer in Psalms 10:15, it is better to begin the third part with Psalms 10:16, from where confidence alone, has the ascendant. When more closely examined, the confidence here also is different from that in Psalms 10:16 sq. Here it is grounded upon a conclusion; there it is an immediate conviction. Confidence of the first kind, which may be designated a presupposing one, is more related to prayer, nay, a kind of prayer: I hope still that Thou dost see. The Psalmist here expresses his confidence in the form of a conclusion a genere ad speciem. God is, in general, the all-knowing, the righteous One, the true helper of His people; consequently, He both will, and must prove Himself to be such here also. This conclusion a genere ad speciem is, of all tasks, the most difficult, and one that can be performed only by the powerful assistance of God. That all human things are placed under God’s providence, is not so difficult to be received as a matter of conviction; but to judge every particular oppression in accordance therewith, to apply this doctrine thereto, at the very time when the flesh feels precisely the reverse, when God appears to be merely an inactive spectator of our misery, is possible to none but the regenerate, and yet there is no living faith in Divine providence without it. The same holds good also in reference to the doctrine of the atonement. To accept it as true, that Christ died for the sins of the whole world, is not so difficult. But to be convinced, and firmly persuaded, that He died specially for our sins, whilst sin and Satan are loudly crying the opposite, lies beyond the reach of human power. The object of the word ראיתה , which refers to בל ראח לנצח in Psalms 10:11, is the particular case,—that in respect to which the ungodly had declared, God inquires not. The תביט , on the other hand, refers to the general. Allowing this, כי , as part. ration., is evidently quite suitable, and there is no need of palming on it, with many expositors, strange meanings, such as yea, yea indeed. With this also agrees the use, first of the Preterite, and then of the Future. Thou hast seen, for Thou art accustomed to behold. If the latter were not, the assumption of the former would be utterly groundless. For God does nothing which has not its foundation in His nature; and what has its foundation there, must regularly take place. But the latter being the case, then it is unreasonable not to assume the first. For this is virtually to hold that God denies Himself, that He is not God. For Thou seest suffering and anger in the city, to put them in Thine hand. The verb כעס always signifies to be angry; the noun, without exception, rage, anger; and the meanings grief, lamentation, which expositors give it here and in some other places, are palmed on it merely from the connection. Here it is anger at the unjust assaults of the wicked,—the righteous indignation, the subjective feeling which is called forth by the suffering, עמל : comp. 1 Samuel 1:6, where an example also occurs of the manner in which God takes this anger into His hand, when He appears for a moment to forget: also the expression in ver. 2, “the wretched one burns;” and the passage in Job 6:2, which is important for the signification of כעס , when connected with words expressive of misfortune. In the words, “to give, or put them in Thine hand,” the image, according to many, is derived from those who make for themselves marks of remembrance in their hand. The justness of this explanation is thought to be clear from Isaiah 49:16, “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands, thy walls are continually before Me.” But the use of the verb נתן does not favour the view adopted. Rather is the thought, that the Lord lays the sufferings of His people in His hand, a sign that He will, in His own time, avenge them upon their enemies, that no part of their afflictions escapes Him, or is a matter of indifference to Him; comp. Psalms 56:8, “Thou tellest my wanderings; put my tears in Thy bottle, nay, they stand in Thy book.” Against the explanation, “to recompense with Thy hand,” apart from the impossibility of at once assigning such a meaning to giving, there is also the circumstance, that נתן ביד uniformly occurs, in the sense of, “to put into the hand.” The poor commits to Thee. יעזב , “ may commit to Thee,” as the parallel last clause shows. The subject in hand is not primarily that which the helpless in duty ought to do, but what he, in good confidence, can do. אזב is not to be taken here in a reflective sense: neither is any definite object, his weakness or the like, to be supplied; but it is as if he had said: “The unfortunate man commits to Thee, to Thee he surrenders.” Of the orphan, Thou art the helper. יתום , “an orphan,” is used in this Psalm, which refers to the relation of the Church of God to the heathen, as a figurative designation of helplessness and desertion. There is also a reference to passages of the law which ascribe to God a tender care for orphans in the strict and proper sense: e. g. Deuteronomy 10:18; Exodus 22:22 ( Exodus 22:21). So also Psalms 68:5 ( Psalms 68:6); Hosea 14:4.

Verse 15

Ver. 15. Break the arm of the wicked, annihilate his power, which he is applying to the destruction of the innocent,— and the evil, seek out his wickedness, find them not. רע , according to the accents, belongs to the second clause, and stands as nomin. absol.: And the evil. Expositors generally explain: Thou mayest seek his wickedness, not find it; i.e. may Thy judgments so utterly annihilate him, that even Thine all-seeing eye shall be able to detect no more wickedness remaining to be punished. The trackless disappearance of a thing, and its complete destruction, are often denoted by the seeking and not finding of it: comp. Psalms 37:35-36. But it is remarked, on the other hand, quite correctly by Claus, after the older expositors, such as Venema, that there is thereby overlooked the unmistakeable reference to דרש , in Psalms 10:13. The verb must here be taken in the same sense as there,—therefore: search out his wickedness, drag it before Thy judgment-seat, to which he thinks himself not liable; and that with such a result, that it shall be utterly brought to an end, that Thou Thyself shalt find it no more. Venema: “Until Thou shalt not find; i.e. until there shall be none surviving, or nothing shall remain to be punished, and so Thou mayest require to the very uttermost.” To the לא תדרש of the ungodly, stands opposed the תדרש . The בל תמצא contains a piece of covert raillery. True, indeed, as thou sayest, it shall not be found; but from quite another cause than thou supposest, to wit, because thou, with thy ungodliness, shalt be wholly extirpated. The prayer, that God would break the arm of the ungodly, and search out his wickedness, proceeds from the living faith that He can and must do so; that the ungodly rages only through His permission; that he would be made to disappear without leaving a trace behind, the moment God pleased, and that He would certainly be pleased to do it in His own time. We have proceeded on the supposition that תדרש and תמצא are to be taken optatively in paral. with the Imper. שבר . But, as the demand has hope for its foundation, we can also fairly expound: Thou wilt search out, Thou wilt not find; and this might be represented as the more suitable, since the transition to the undoubting confidence, expressed in Psalms 10:16, would then appear a more natural one: “Break, for that we pray; Thou wilt search out, for that we hope; they are perished, that we behold.”

Verse 16

Ver. 16. The third strophe—the confidence, as it springs from the inwardly received assurance of being heard. The Psalmist gives utterance here to an exuberant joy of faith. The Lord has granted him such an internal assurance of being heard, that he already sees the ungodly conquered, and the holy land of God purged of their abominations. The Lord is King for ever and ever. At an earlier period, when his faith was still subject to assaults, it had appeared to the Psalmist as if the Lord were thrust down from His high throne, but now the matter presents itself to him quite otherwise. Faith shows him how impotent all attempts of the rebels are to rob Him of His supremacy. He is, and abides KING, and will prove Himself such now and for ever. The Lord is named King here, not as ruler of the world, but as sovereign over His people and His holy land; comp. Deuteronomy 33:5, Numbers 23:21. The heathen are perished out of His land. Luther understands by גוים such as ought to have belonged to God’s people and the chosen Israel, but have now degenerated and become heathens, and so are no longer God’s people, but His enemies. So also Calvin, with an appeal to Ezekiel 16:3, “Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite;” for: As to thy way and manners, thou derivest thy being from these people; comp. other passages in which the ungodly among the Israelites are described as heathens, in Christol. P. ii. p. 398. But we have no reason here to depart from the usual signification of the word; and this, indeed, is rather confirmed by a comp. with Psalms 10:9, where heathens, in the proper sense, are unquestionably meant. גוים also signifies, not heathen, as individuals, but heathen nations. Yet it does not follow from this that the whole Psalm limits itself to them. The Psalmist might here very well name a particular species of ungodly enemies—just as the poor are in Psalms 10:14, Psalms 10:18, denoted by the individualizing term of the orphan, and the wicked in Psalms 10:8-10 are described under the particular character of robbers—because the same law which brought their subjection, would certainly carry in its bosom the subjection of the others. Against the exclusive reference of the whole Psalm to heathenish enemies, we have to urge the want of any special allusion to them in all the rest of the Psalm, and the existence of many traits which suit better a home conflict between the pious and the ungodly; comp. on Psalms 10:7-10. But all appearances are satisfactorily explained when the Psalm is viewed as a song for the general use of the pious, when suffering oppression at the hands of the wicked,—it being of no moment whether the latter were merely uncircumcised in heart, or also uncircumcised in flesh; comp. Jeremiah 9:25. The words, “out of His land,” point to the cause of the extirpation of “the heathen.” The Pret. אבדו is to be explained thus, that the Psalmist, by the internal vision of faith, sees his enemies as already annihilated.

Verse 17

Ver. 17. Thou hast heard, O Lord, the desire of the meek Thou makest their heart firm: through the inward conviction which Thou givest them of the hearing of their prayer, Thou impartest to them the power of resisting all assaults, in the firm hope of obtaining the deliverance promised them. A firm heart is opposed to a heart that is moved, shaking, trembling, and indicates courage, strength, repose; comp. Psalms 112:7, “His heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord,” Psalms 51:12, Psalms 57:7. Thou causest Thine ear to hear.

Verse 18

Ver. 18. In order that Thou makest judge the orphan and the oppressed. These words are closely connected with the close of the preceding verse.

The man of the earth will not continue to defy. We must take the second clause as an expression of confidence, not of desire. For in the latter case, the abbreviated Fut. would have been used. אנוש has, as was already remarked, the subordinate ideas of feebleness and weakness, which are still more plainly denoted by the addition, “of the earth;” q. d.: He who is, sprung from the earth, who belongs to it; the man of the earth, as opposed to the God of heaven. The expression occurs in Psalms 148:7, “Praise the Lord, מן הארץ , ye of the earth,” ye inhabitants thereof; before, in Psalms 148:1, it was, “Praise the Lord, from the heavens.” Comp. also, examples of the similar use of מן in Venema, in loc. The verb ערץ has in the Arabic and Hebrew ( Isaiah 47:12) the signification of, withstanding, braving. As the object of the resistance or defiance, God is to be understood. Between לערץ and הארץ there exists an intentional paronomasia, pointing to the glaring contradiction between nature and will. The exposition of Hitzig and others: “That they may not further drive the people out of the land,” is already confuted by the parallel passage, Psalms 9:19-20, “Arise, O Lord, let not man prevail,” where the same contrast is found between the assumed strength and native weakness; and also by the circumstance, that it destroys the significance of the paronomasia, which was taken notice of by Luther: “Here is a fine play upon the words, in that man who is still of the earth, should magnify and exalt himself; which contains within itself a strong contrast, since it is wholly and utterly improper, that man, because he is a man, and besides born of the earth, and returning again to it, should thus exalt himself and act proudly.” Also, we do not perceive how the suffering could be designated אנוש , which refers solely to human weakness in general. Finally, it is far-fetched to render בל יוסיף , “ one will not continue.”

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 10". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-10.html.
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