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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Psalms 58



This Psalm was composed, as very many others were, upon the occasion of those wicked calumnies, and unjust censures and sentences, which were passed upon him by Saul and his courtiers.

David, reproving wicked judges, describeth their nature, Psalms 58:1-5; and prayeth God to punish and destroy them, Psalms 58:6-9, for his own glory, and the joy of the righteous, Psalms 58:10,Psalms 58:11.

Verse 1

Do ye indeed speak righteousness? the question implies a denial. You censure me freely, without any regard to truth or justice.

Congregation: the word signifies a band or company of men, and seems to point at Saul’s judges and counsellors; who met together to consult what they should do against David, and probably passed a sentence upon him, as guilty of treason and rebellion.

Sons of men; so he calls them, either,

1. In contempt and opposition to the sons of God, or good men. Or,

2. By way of admonition, to mind them that they also were men, and must give an account to God for all their hard speeches and unrighteous decrees against him.

Verse 2

In heart; or, with your heart; with free choice and consent, and not only by constraint, and out of compliance with Saul.

Ye weigh the violence of your hands; or, you weigh violence or injustice with your hands. The phrase of weighing hath respect to their office, which was to administer justice, which is usually expressed by a pair of balances. So he intimates that they did great wrong under the pretence and with the formalities of justice; and whilst they scented exactly to weigh and consider the true and fit proportion between the actions and the recompences allotted to them, they turned the scale; and partly to curry favour with Saul, and partly from their own malice against David, pronounced an unjust sentence against him. In the earth; or, in this land, where God is present, and where you have righteous laws to govern you, and you profess better things.

Verse 3

Estranged, to wit, from God, Ephesians 4:18, and from all goodness.

From the womb; either,

1. Hyperbolically; even from their tender years. Or,

2. Strictly and properly. So the sense is, No wonder they act so unrighteously, for their very natures and principles are corrupt, even from their birth; they are the wicked offspring of sinful parents. And this hereditary and native corruption, though too common to all men, he particularly ascribes to these men; either because their immediate parents were such as did not only convey a corrupt nature to them, but greatly improved it by wicked counsel and example; or because they themselves had improved that stock of original corruption, and instead of mortifying it, had made it their great design and constant business to gratify and obey it.

They go astray, by actual sins, the fruit of their original sin, as soon as they be born; from their childhood, as soon as ever they were capable of the exercise of reason, and the practice of sinning.

Verse 4

Their poison, their virulent and malicious disposition, is like the poison of a serpent; partly in itself, being natural, and inveterate, and incurable; and partly in its most pernicious effects.

Verse 5

This similitude doth neither justify the practice of charming, which, in the very word here used, is condemned, Deuteronomy 18:11, no more than those which are drawn from the unjust steward, Luke 16:1, &c.; Luke 18:2, &c., and from a thief, Revelation 16:15; nor yet affirm the truth of what is reported concerning the asps or adders, which are said to lay one ear close to the ground, and to cover the other with their tail, that so they may avoid the danger of enchantment; but only was taken from the common opinion, which he poetically mentions to this purpose: As they commonly say of the asps or adders, &c., such really are these men; deaf to all my counsels, and to the dictates of their own consciences, and to the voice of God’s law. And yet of the

charming or enchanting of serpents, mention is made both in other places of Scripture, as Ecclesiastes 10:11; Jeremiah 8:17, and in all sorts of authors, ancient and modern, Hebrew, and Arabic, and Greek, and Latin of which see my Latin Synopsis. And particularly the Arabic writers (to whom these creatures were best known) name some sorts of serpents, among which the adder is one, which they call deaf, not because they are dull of hearing, but, as one of them expressly saith, because they will not be charmed.

Verse 6

Their teeth; their power and instruments of doing mischief. He mentions teeth, partly because the adder’s poison lies in its teeth; and partly to make way for the following metaphor.

The great teeth, called the grinders; which are more sharp and strong than the rest, and more used in breaking and tearing what they are about to eat.

Verse 7

As waters which run continually; as waters arising from melted snow, or great showers, or some other extraordinary cause, which at first run with great force and noise, and throw down all that stands in their way, but are suddenly gone, and run away and vanish, and return no more.

When he bendeth his bow, to wit, any or every one of mine enemies, as appears from the foregoing and following words.

Is cut in pieces, i.e. like arrows broken asunder whilst a man shoots, which can do no hurt.

Verse 8

Which melteth; Which thrusts forth, and seems to threaten with its horns, but is quickly dissolved; for when it goes out of its shell, it spends its vital moisture, until by degrees it waste away and perish.

The untimely birth of a woman; which endeavouring violently and unseasonably to break forth from the womb, is choked in the attempt, and doth not live to see the light of the sun.

Verse 9

Feel the thorns, i.e. the heat of the fire kindled by the thorns put under them for that purpose; before your pots can be thoroughly heated.

Take them away, to wit, mine enemies; whose sudden destruction he describes under this similitude.

As with a whirlwind, i.e. violently and irresistibly.

Both living, and in his wrath, Heb. as living (i.e. alive, as he did Korah, Numbers 16:0, the particle as being here not a note of similitude, but of truth or asseveration as it is John 1:14, and oft elsewhere, as hath been noted) as in (which preposition is frequently understood)

wrath, i.e. as a man moved with great wrath destroys his enemy without mercy, and is ready to devour him alive, if it were possible; or, both that which is raw, (as the Hebrew word chai signifies, Leviticus 13:16; 1 Samuel 2:15, to wit, the raw flesh, which is supposed to be put into the pot that it may be boiled,) and the burning fire. There is indeed great variety of construction and interpretation of these Hebrew words, which is not strange, especially considering the conciseness of the Hebrew language, and that this is a proverbial speech; nor is it of any great importance, because it is not in any great point of faith, and because the sense of it is agreed, the only difference being about the manner and ground of the phrase. The learned reader may see more upon this place in my Latin Synopsis.

Verse 10

The vengeance, i.e. the vengeance of God upon his implacable enemies; not simply for himself, but for the blessed effects of it, the vindication of God’s honour, and the deliverance of himself and of all good men.

He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, i.e. there shall be so great a slaughter of his enemies, that he might, if he so pleased, wash his feet in their blood. See the same or like expressions, Psalms 68:23; Isaiah 63:3; Revelation 14:20.

Verse 11

And these administrations of God’s providence shall be so evident and convincing, that not only good men shall be sensible thereof, but any man that sees them, yea, even such as were apt to dispute or doubt of God’s providence, shall upon this eminent occasion break forth into such exclamations as this: Now I see that religion is not a vain and unprofitable thing, and that there is a God who doth now observe and govern, and, when he sees fit, judgeth the inhabitants of the earth, and will hereafter judge the whole world in righteousness, and recompense every man according to his works.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 58". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.