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Bible Commentaries

Trapp's Complete Commentary

Psalms 58

Verse 1

Psalms 58:1 « To the chief Musician, Altaschith, Michtam of David. » Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men?

Ver. 1. Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? ] Or, O council; you that are gathered together on a knot, under a pretence of doing justice, and promoting the public good by giving faithful advice to the king. Una ligati, ut Genesis 37:7 , vel ab אלם Mutus quia congregatio ante oratorem est quasi mutus (Aben Ezra). Colloquitur Abnero et reliquis, saith Kimchi, David here talketh to Abner and the rest, who, to please Saul, pronounced David a rebel, and condemned him absent for an enemy to the state. And forasmuch as there is no greater injury than that which passeth under the name of right, he sharply debateth the matter with them whom he knew of old to be very corrupt; painting them out in their colours, and denouncing God’s heavy judgments against them for their unjust dealings with him. The word rendered congregation is not found elsewhere in that sense. It signifieth dumbness; and is by the Spanish translators rendered, O audientia by antiphrasis, ut lucus, quia non lucet.

Do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men? ] i.e. O ye carnal profane persons that savour not the things of the Spirit; q.d. ye are fit persons to make counsellors of state. Sedes prima et vita ima agree not. Dignitas in indigno est ornamentum in luto, saith Salvian. You do much misbecome your places.

Verse 2

Psa 58:2 Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth.

Ver. 2. Yea, in heart ye work wickedness ] These the devil worketh it as in a forge; ye are always plotting and ploughing mischief, and that not so much for fear of Saul, or to please him, as out of the naughtiness of your own hearts; and all this you know in your consciences to be true. Kimchi saith, that the word Aph, or yea, importeth, that their hearts were made for a better purpose; and therefore their sin was the greater. Corruptio optimi pessima.

Ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth ] i.e. Your bribes, saith Kimchi; these we weigh or poise, quasi essent recta, as if there were no hurt in them: so Demosthenes weighed Harpalus’s goblet, to the great danger of his country, and his own indelible infamy. Manus vestrae concinnant iniquitatem (Vul.). The Arabic rendereth it, Manus vestrae in tenebris immersae sunt, your hands are drowned in darkness; you seem to do all according to law and justice (pictured with a pair of balances in her hand), when, indeed, you weigh out wrong for right, and do things κατα προσκλισιν , by partiality, 1 Timothy 5:21 , by tilting the balance on the one side, Trutina iustior. Prov. ζυγον μη παραBαινειν (Pythag. Symb.).

Verse 3

Psa 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

Ver. 3. The wicked are estranged from the womb ] q.d. These enemies of mine are old sinners; hardened and habituated in wickedness from the very womb; it hath also grown up with them, and quite turned away their hearts from God and goodness, whereunto they stand utterly across, and have an innate antipathy; they are not only averse thereto, but adverse also; yea, to their sinews of iron they have added brows of brass, Isaiah 48:4 . Sinful, indeed, we are all by nature, and a birth blot we bring into the world with us, making us strangers to and strayers from God. But some God sanctifieth even from the womb, as he did Jeremiah; and some by the light of nature, not altogether extinct, and by God’s restraining grace, are reined in from notorious outrage in sin. Whereas others, cast off by God, and suffered to walk after their own heart’s lusts, in pesus indies proficiunt, wax every day worse and worse, as the apostle speaketh, till their iniquity be full, and so wrath come upon them to the utmost. But as young nettles sting straight, and young crab fish go backward, and young urchins are rough; so naughty nature soon appeareth in little ones. Valezatha, the youngest of Haman’s sons, is by the Hebrews said to be the most malicious; and hath therefore one letter ו in his name bigger than the rest. Hebrew Text Note

They go astray as soon as they be born ] Heb. from the belly; Partus sequitur ventrem, no sooner could they do anything but they were doing evil, lisping out lies and slanders very early.

Verse 4

Psa 58:4 Their poison [is] like the poison of a serpent: [they are] like the deaf adder [that] stoppeth her ear;

Ver. 4. Their poison is like the poison of a serpent ] Their inbred corruption (the spawn of that old serpent, Gen 3:1-14 ) is strong, and full of infection, able to kill both the party in whom it is and the other also upon whom it is cast. Malice drinketh up the most part of its own venom, but some it spitteth out upon others; for it is not like the maid whom Avicen mentioneth, who, feeding upon poison, was herself healthy, yet infected others with her venomous breath, Deuteronomy 32:33 . Hot poison have they, like as the hot poison of a serpent (so some render it), yea, of the worst sort of serpents, the asp (for serpentum quot colores tot dolores, saith Isidore), the venom whereof is incurable, saith Pliny, lib. viii. c. 3; unless the members touched therewith be immediately cut off.

They are like the deaf adder (or asp) that stoppeth her ear] So that their naughtiness is not natural only, but habitual, acquired, wilful; they refuse to be reformed, they hate to be healed, and must, therefore, be turned over to God with a Noluerunt incantari, they would not be reclaimed, they are uncounselable, unpersuasible. The adder or asp here hath her name Pethen, from persuasibleness, but it is by antiphrasis. Wicked men are likewise said to be απειθεις , unpersuaded, or disobedient, Titus 1:16 , and children of disobedience, Ephesians 2:2 , such as whom Non persuadebis etiamsi persuaseris, speak you never so persuasively, ye shall never persuade. Nay, but we will have a king, said they of old, when they had nothing else to say. So Pharaoh, when clearly convinced, sent for the sorcerers.

Verse 5

Psa 58:5 Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.

Ver. 5. Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers ] Such there are, the devil’s spellmen, Ecclesiastes 10:8 , that can enchant some kind of serpents, and some they cannot, as Jeremiah 8:17 . That the serpent here spoken of, when she beginneth to feel the charmer, clappeth one of her ears close to the ground, and stoppeth the other with her tail, is affirmed by Jerome, Austin, and Cassiodorus. Vide Plin. lib. 2, c. 7; l. 8, c. 3. Quum coeperit incantatorem suum pati, allidit unam aurem terrae et cauda obturat alteram (Aug. in loc.; Horat. Epist. 2). And that she doth this, although by hearkening to the charmer, provoking her to spit out her poison, she might renew her age, is affirmed by others; semblably, perverse people will not be persuaded to live happily, reign everlastingly.

- At Paris ut vivat regnetque beatus,

Cogi posse negat.

Verse 6

Psa 58:6 Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD.

Ver. 6. Break their teeth, O God ] Disarm and disable them from doing me mischief. See Psalms 3:7 ; Psalms 10:13 ; Psalms 57:4 , to which last he seemeth here to refer.

Verse 7

Psa 58:7 Let them melt away as waters [which] run continually: [when] he bendeth [his bow to shoot] his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces.

Ver. 7. Let them melt away as waters ] As snowwaters before the sunbeams, quickly melted, and soon drunk in by the dry earth, Job 24:19 . In Peru, they say, there is a river called the diurnal river, or the day river, because it flows with a mighty current in the day, but in the night is dry, because it is not fed by a spring, but caused merely by the melting of the snow, which lieth on the mountains thereabouts.

When he bendeth his bow ] i.e. Let him be utterly frustrated, let all his mischievous designs and endeavours be blasted, and come to nothing. In that famous battle between Theodosius and Maximus, Milites nobis qui aderant retulerunt, saith Augustine (De Cit. Dei, l. 5, c. 26), extorta sibi esse de manibus quaecunque iculabantur; cum a Theodosii partibus in adversarios vehemens ventus iret; et non solum quaecunque in cos iaciebantur concitatissime raperet, verum etiam ipsorum tela in eorum corpora retorqueret: the soldiers told us that their darts thrown against the Christians were, by a violent wind, brought back upon themselves. Accordingly some render this hemistich thus: When he bendeth, &c., let him be as they that cut off themselves, Iethmalalu reciprocam habet significationem. Et hoc Saulo contigit.

Verse 8

Psa 58:8 As a snail [which] melteth, let [every one of them] pass away: [like] the untimely birth of a woman, [that] they may not see the sun.

Ver. 8. As a snail which melteth ] The psalmist heapeth up many very fit similitudes agreeable to these men’s avarice and ambition, which was to raise themselves and their posterity to great estates; but all should come to nothing suddenly.

Verse 9

Psa 58:9 Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in [his] wrath.

Ver. 9. Before your pots can feel the thorns, &c. ] Of this text we may say, as one doth of another, it had been easy had not commentators made it so knotty. I am for that of Drusius, Tractum a semicrudis carnibus olla extractis priusquam ignis calorem senserint, It is a comparison taken from raw flesh, taken out of the pot before it hath felt the full force of the fire (Proverb, Colossians 2:0 , l. 2. Pro 30:16 ).

Both living, and in his wrath ] i.e. When they are most vigorous and vivacious, to see to, his wrath shall sweep them away.

Verse 10

Psa 58:10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

Ver. 10. The righteous shall rejoice, &c. ] Giving God the glory of his justice against his enemies and care of his poor people. See Exodus 15:1-27 : 1Ki 15:3 Esther 7:10 ; Est 8:9 Proverbs 11:10 .

He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked ] A speech borrowed from great conquerors, wading up to the ancles in the blood of their enemies; or, as some think, from those that tread the wine-press with joy. Some make this the sense: the righteous, seeing the ruin of the wicked, shall become more cautious; according to that, Alterius perditio tua sit cautio.

Verse 11

Psa 58:11 So that a man shall say, Verily [there is] a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.

Ver. 11. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward ] Not the religious only, but the rational, Passim et palam haec duo profitebuntur, shall everywhere, and all abroad, say, as here,

There is a reward ] See my Righteous Man’s Recompense.

Verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth ] Sitteth not idle in heaven, letting things run here at sixes and sevens, as fate or blind fortune will. Curiosus est, plenusque negotii Deus, saith Cicero.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 58". Trapp's Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.