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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 140

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2944. B.C. 1060.

This Psalm, which the title ascribes to David, was undoubtedly composed by him during his troubles, and occasioned by the persecution which he suffered from Saul, and the malicious and treacherous dealings of Doeg and the Zyphites. David prays and hopes for deliverance from his enemies, Psalms 140:1-7 . Foretels their destruction, Psalms 140:8-13 .

Verses 1-3

Psalms 140:1-3. Deliver me from the evil man Either Saul, or Doeg, or some other malicious enemy, or rather enemies; the word man being taken collectively for men, as appears from the next verse. Continually, are they gathered, &c. To execute those bloody enterprises which they have devised. They have sharpened their tongues, &c. Their malicious hearts have excited their tongues to utter vile slanders against me, using words as sharp and piercing as the sting of a serpent. Adder’s poison is under their lips There is so much malignity in all they say, that one would think there was nothing under their lips but adder’s poison. “Slander and calumny,” says Dr. H., “must always precede and accompany persecution, because malice itself cannot excite people against a good man, as such; to do this, he must first be represented as a bad man. What can be said of those who are busied in this manner, but that they are a generation of vipers, the brood of the old serpent, that grand accuser and calumniator of the brethren, having under their tongues a bag of poison, conveying instant death to the reputation on which they fasten? Thus David was hunted as a rebel, Christ was crucified as a blasphemer, and the primitive Christians were tortured as guilty of incest and murder.”

Verses 4-5

Psalms 140:4-5. Keep me from the hands of the wicked Hebrew, רשׁע , the wicked man. Let him not prevail to take away my life, my reputation, my interest, or my comfort, or to prevent my coming to the throne. Preserve me from the violent man Hebrew, מאישׁ חמסים , (as also in Psalms 140:1,) from the man of violences, injuries, or rapines; who hath purposed Whose design and full resolution it is, if thou do not prevent it; to overthrow my goings My feet, or footsteps; that is, to throw me down to the ground, to defeat all my hopes and counsels, and bring me to ruin. The proud My insolent enemies, who despise me for my meanness, and exalt themselves against thee; have hid Have secretly laid; a snare for me That their designs, being undiscovered, might be the more likely to take effect, and I might fall into their hands ere I was aware. They have spread a net by the way In which I used to walk. No hunter or fowler can be more industrious and cunning in spreading nets, or setting gins and traps for the beasts or birds which he wishes to insnare and catch, than they are to trace me in all my motions, (1 Samuel 23:23,) and to invent all manner of wiles and subtle arts to surprise me.

Verses 6-8

Psalms 140:6-8. Hear the voice of my supplication The more malice appears in our enemies against us, and the greater efforts they use to injure us, the more earnest ought we to be in prayer to God, after the example of David here, to take us under his protection. On him believers may depend for security, and may enjoy it and themselves with holy serenity. Those are safe whom God preserves. Thou hast covered my head in the day of battle With thy powerful protection, as with a helmet or shield. Grant not the desires of the wicked Suffer not him, who now seeks my destruction, to obtain his desire; further not his wicked device Let him not succeed in any of his mischievous designs against me. Lest they exalt themselves Lest he, and those associated with him, grow insolent, so as to dare to attempt all manner of violence against other innocent persons: or, lest they exalt themselves against thee, as if by their power and policy they had frustrated thy design and promise made to me.

Verses 9-11

Psalms 140:9-11. As for the head of those, &c. Bishop Hare connects this clause with the preceding, and translates the passage thus; Let not those that beset me lift up the head. Let the mischief of their own lips cover them Let the evil, which by their calumnies they design to bring upon me fall upon themselves. Let burning coals fall, &c. Rather, burning coals shall fall, the verb ימישׂו , and the other verbs in this verse being in the future tense: that is, the divine vengeance, often compared to coals of fire, shall fall upon them. The psalmist seems to allude to the destruction of the Sodomites. Let them be cast They shall be cast, into the fire Which themselves have kindled, and shall perish in the flames thereof: into deep pits Into those dangers and mischiefs which, like deep pits, they prepared for my destruction; that they rise not, &c. Hebrews they shall not rise again. Let not an evil speaker Such as slander me and other innocent persons; Hebrew אישׁ לשׁון , a man of tongue, which, according to the Hebrew phraseology, signifies a detractor, a sycophant, one who gives his tongue the liberty to vent what mischief he pleases; be established Hebrew בל יכון , he shall not be established; he shall not prosper, or establish his power or greatness by such base and wicked practices. Evil shall hunt the violent man Either the evil of punishment, or which comes to the same thing, the evil of sin, shall pursue and overtake him. The wickedness of such persons shall recoil upon themselves to their utter destruction. “The prophet, in these three verses,” says Dr. Horne, “predicts those just judgments which Heaven would inflict on the slanderers and persecutors of the righteous. Their lips, which uttered mischief against others, shall be the means of covering themselves with confusion, when out of their own mouths they shall be judged. Those tongues which have contributed to set the world on fire shall be tormented with the hot burning coals of eternal vengeance; and they who with so much eagerness and diligence have prepared pits for the destruction of their brethren shall be cast into a deep and bottomless pit, out of which they will not rise up again any more for ever. Evil speakers and false accusers shall gain no lasting establishment, but punishment shall hunt sin through all its doubles, and seize it, at last, as its legal prey. Let those great truths be firmly rooted in our hearts, and they will keep us steady in the worst of times.”

Verses 12-13

Psalms 140:12-13. I know, &c. Both by God’s word, who hath promised it, and by my own experience of it in the course of God’s providence; that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, &c. That he will not suffer might always to prevail against right, though it be but the right of the poor. God is, and will be, the patron of oppressed innocence, much more of persecuted piety; they that know him at all cannot but know this. Surely the righteous shall give thanks Shall have occasion to praise thee for their deliverance; the upright shall dwell in thy presence Shall constantly enjoy thy gracious and powerful presence, protection, and assistance.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 140". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-140.html. 1857.
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