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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 58

Verses 1-11

Psalms 58:4 . The deaf adder, which stops her ears by putting one ear to the ground, and forcing her tail into the other. Very many of the ancient Greek and Latin writers mention the practice of certain singers and musicians who could so charm a serpent as to draw him from his retreat. Plin. 8: 16. They could also drive him away with affright. They could stop him in his flight, compose his fury, and stupify him to slumber. Tibullus, Elag. 9. They boasted of a power so to expel the poison, that the bite of the serpent should not hurt. Isiodor. Originum Psalms 9:2. Vide Synop. Poli. I have read in a paper of the United States, that a man by his violin so charmed a rattlesnake before a company of people, as to draw from it signs of delight in the music. Virgil states that the serpent frozen in the field could be thus roused by the arts of the charmer.

Frigidus in pratis cantando rumpitur anguis. ECLOG. 8:71.

Psalms 58:8 . As the snail which melteth. The LXX read, as the wax melteth, so let every one of them melt away.

Psalms 58:10 . Wash his feet in blood. This alludes to horrible scenes on the field of battle when the contest has been severe, and the slain lie in heaps. God has generally, and always in the issue, showed favour to princes who sought him with true and unfeigned repentance.


The psalmist laments here the great wickedness of the court, the judges and rulers of the land. They weighed; that is, they premeditated the violence of their hands and decisions in the earth; they pleaded one wicked precedent to justify another. When magistrates indulge in malpractices, the floodgates of vice are thrown open to the people, David, as in Psalms 51:5, traces up these corruptions to their source of original sin; the wicked are estranged from the womb; and by consequence there is no remedy but a new heart and a right spirit. Their malicious, their bold and daring speeches infuse a mortal poison deep into the heart, like the serpent’s venom from the hollow of his fangs. They become obdurate and scornful; they will not hear the voice of the charmer. Ezekiel, a man of incomparable eloquence, was to the elders as one that sung a pleasant song; but they would not obey. Our Saviour spake as never man spake, yet the rulers shut their eyes, and stopped their ears. Stephen’s face shone like an angel’s, yet the rulers murdered him. St. Paul made Felix tremble, yet the deep roots of covetousness remained in his heart. Oh what shall the issues be!

The issues shall be in ages to come as in ages past. The thorns shall burn them, the whirlwind shall carry them away, the fields of battle shall swim with their gore, and hell shall receive its prey. Then shall men say, verily there is a reward for the righteous.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 58". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.