Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
"Author of the psalm." This psalm is ascribed to David, not only in the title, but in all the versions, and there is no reason to doubt the correctness of this. It would not be difficult to show from its contents that the sentiments and style of composition are such as accord with the other compositions of David.
"Occasion on which the psalm was composed." On this point nothing is intimated expressly in the psalm, unless it be in the title, "To the chief Musician upon Muth-labben." The meaning of and that it was composed on his death. Others, as Rudinger, suppose that it is a psalm of thanksgiving on occasion of the victory over Absalom, and the suppression of his rebellion by his death: a harsh and unnatural supposition, as if any father, in any circumstances, could compose a psalm of praise on occasion of the death of it son. Moeller supposes that it was composed on occasion of a victory over the Philistines by David; Ferrand, who unites this psalm with the following, supposes that the whole refers to the times of the captivity in Babylon, and is a triumphal song of the people over their enemies; and Venema, who also thinks that these two psalms should be united, supposes that Ps. 9:1-18 refers to David, and to his deliverance from all his enemies, and the remainder to the times of the Maccabees, and the deliverance from the persecutions under Antiochus Epiphanes. Dr. Horsley styles the psalm "thanksgiving for the extirpation of the Atheistical faction, promised in Ps. 10," and supposes that the order should be reversed, and that the whole refers to some great deliverance - either the "overthrow of the Babylonian empire by Cyrus, or the defeat of Haman's plot."
The Jewish writers, Jarchi and Aben Ezra, suppose that it was composed on occasion of the defeat and death of some foreign prince. From this variety of views, none of which seem to rest on certain historical grounds, it appears probable that the exact occasion on which the psalm was composed cannot now be ascertained in such a way as to leave no ground for doubt. The only indications of the occasion on which it this will be considered in another part of the introduction to the psalm (Section 4). it will be seen there that nothing is determined by that title in regard to the origin of the psalm, or the time when it was composed. Neither is there any certain tradition which will determine this, and most that has been written on this point has been mere conjecture, or has arisen out of some interpretation of the enigmatical title; "upon Muthlabben." Some have supposed that the word labben refers to some foreign king or prince slain by David, and that the psalm was composed on his death. Others, following the Targum, or Aramaic Paraphrase (see section 4), suppose that the person referred to was Goliath of Gath, was written must be found, if at all, in the psalm itself. In the psalm we find the following things, which may, perhaps, be all that is necessary to enable us to understand it.
(a) It was composed in view of "enemies" of the writer, or foes with whom he had been engaged, Psa 9:3 : "When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence." Compare Psa 9:6, Psa 9:13, Psa 9:19-20.
(b) These were foreign enemies, or those who are called pagan, that is, belonging to idolatrous nations, Psa 9:5 : "Thou hast rebuked the heathen." Compare Psa 9:15, Psa 9:19.
(c) They were desolating foes - invading foes - those who laid a land waste in their marches, Psa 9:6 : "Thou hast destroyed cities: their memorial is perished with them."
(d) The writer had achieved a victory over them, and for this he celebrated the praises of God for his interposition, Psa 9:1-2, Psa 9:10-11, Psa 9:15. This victory thus achieved was such as to make him certain of ultimate complete triumph.
(e) Yet he was still surrounded by enemies, and he still asks God's merciful interposition in his behalf, Psa 9:13 : "Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death." Compare Psa 9:18-20.
David was not unfrequently in his life in circumstances such as arc here supposed, and it is not possible now to determine the exact occasion to which the psalm alludes.
The contents of the psalm. The psalm erabraces two leading subjects - one pertaining to the past and the other to the future, both illustrating the character of God, and both giving occasion to the writer to express iris confidence in God. The one relates to deliverance already granted; the other to deliverance still hoped for in his troubles.
I. The first relates to deliverance from trouble, or conquest over foes, already granted, and to the occasion which that furnished for praising God, and for pious reflections on his character.
(1) The psalmist expresses his thanks to God, or pours out the language of praise for mercies that have been received. Psa 9:1-2.
(2) The particular reason for this is stated; that God had enabled him to overcome many of his enemies - the pagan that had risen up against him, who had now been subdued, Psa 9:3-6.
(3) this gives occasion for pious reflections on him character of God, as one who would endure forever; as one who had set up his throne to do judgment or right; as one who would be a refuge for the oppressed; as one who might; be confided in by all who knew him; as one who would remember the foes of the righteous, and who would not forget the cry of the humble, Psa 9:7-12. The principal truth taught in this part of the psalm is, that God is a refuge and help for those who are in trouble and danger; that all such may put their trust in Him; and that He will interpose to save them.
II. The second part, constructed in a manner similar to the former, relates to the future, and to what the psalmist hoped still from God, in view of the character which lie had evinced in his former troubles, Psa 9:18-20.
(1) The psalmist still needs help, Psa 9:13-14. He still has trouble from them that hate him, and he calls upon God still to interpose and lift him up from the gates of death, that he may praise him.
(2) He refers to the fact that; the pagan, who surrounded him as his foes, had sunk down into the pit which they hall made for others; and that their foot was taken in the net which they had hid: referring either to what had occurred in the past as the foundation of his present hope, or being so certain that this would be done that he could speak of it as if it were now actually accomplished, Psa 9:15.
(3) This also, as in the former case, gives occasion for pious reflections on the character of God, and on the fact that he would interpose to destroy the wicked, and to protect the righteous, Psa 9:16-18.
(4) In view of all this, the psalmist calls on God still to interpose - to manifest the same character which He had formerly done, by protecting him, and by overcoming his foes, Psa 9:19-20. The principal truth taught in this part of the psalm is, that the wicked will be destroyed; that they as contradistinguished from the righteous, can hope for no protection from God, but will be cut down and punished.
The condition of the author of the psalm then was, that he had been surrounded by foes, and that God had interposcd in his behalf, giving him occasion for praise and thanksgiving; that he was still surrounded by formidable inemies, yet he felt assured that God would manifest the same character which he had done formerly, and that he might, therefore, call upon Him to interpose and give him occasion for future praise.
"The title of the psalm." The psalm is directed to "the chief Musician upon Muth-labben." In regard to the phrase "chief Musician," see the notes at the title to Psa 4:1-8. The phrase, "upon Muthlabben," occurs nowhere else, and very different explnations have been given of its meaning. The Targum, or Aramaic Paraphrase, renders it "To be sung over the man that went out between the camps;" that is, Goliath of Gath; and the author of the Aramaic Paraphrase, evidently supposed it was written on the occasion of his death. The Latin Vulgate renders it, "Pro occultis filii;" and so the Septuagint, ὑπὲρ τῶν κρυφίων τοῦ ὑιοῦ huper tōn kruphiōn tou huiou - "for the secret things (mysteries) of the Son:" but what idea was attached to those words it is impossible now to determine. The Syriac has this title: "Concerning the Messiah taking his throne and kingdom, and prostrating his foe." Luther renders it, "A Psalm of David concerning a beautiful youth" - von der schonen Jugend. Substantially so also DeWette; Nach der Jungfernweise, den Beniten. Tholuck renders it, "To the chief Musician, after the melody 'Death to the Son' (Tod dem Sohne), a Psalm of David."
After this variety in the explanation of the title, it is certainly not easy to determine the meaning. The most probable opinions may be regarded as two.
(1) That which supposes that it was a melody designed to be sung by females, or with female voices: literally according to this interpretation, "after the manner of virgins;" that is, with the female voice treble, soprano, in opposition to the deeper voice of men. Compare Ch1 15:20. Forkel, in his History of Musick (Gesch. der Musik, 1,142), understands it as meaning virgin measures, like the German Jungfrauweis. Gesenius, who supposes that it refers to the female voice or treble, regards the title - על־מות ‛al-mûth - "upon Muth," as being the same as עלמות על ‛al ‛ălâmôth, in Psa 46:1-11, "Upon Alamoth," and supposes that it is derived from עלמה ‛almâh - a virgin.
(2) The other opinion is that which supposes that the title is the beginning of some old and well-known melody in common use, and that the idea is, that this psalm was to be sung to that melody. That melody was, as expressed by Tholuck and others, a melody on the death of a son, and was set to some hymn that had been composed with reference to such an event. This is founded on the supposition that the national melodies had become in some degree fixed and unchangeable, or that certain melodies or tunes originally composed for a particular occasion had become popular and that the melody would be affixed to new pieces of music. This is common in the East; and, indeed, it is common in all countries. See this idea illustrated in Rosenmuller (Morgenland, No. 800). The meaning, as thus expressed, is, "According to the manner (or, to the air) of the song (or poem called Death to the Son." Thus understood, it does not refer to the death of Absalom (as some have supposed), since there is nothing in the psalm that would correspond with such a supposition; nor to the death of Goliath, as the Targum supposes; but the composition was to be sung to the well-known air, or tune, entitled "Death to the Son." But when that air was composed, or on what occasion, there is of course no possibility now of ascertaining; and equally impossible is it to recover the air, or tune. The literal meaning of the title is על ‛al, on, or according to - מות mûth, death - לבן labên, to the son.
I will praise thee, O Lord - That is, in view of the merciful interpositions referred to in the psalm Psa 9:3-5, and in view of the attributes of God's character which had been displayed on that occasion Psa 9:7-12.
With my whole heart - Not with divided affection, or with partial gratitude. He meant that all his powers should be employed in this service; that he would give utterance to his feelings of gratitude and adoration in the loftiest and purest manner possible.
I will show forth - I will recount or narrate - to wit, in this song of praise.
All thy marvelous works - All his works or doings fitted to excite admiration or wonder. The reference here is particularly to what God had done which had given occasion to this psalm, but still the psalmist designs undoubtedly to connect with this the purpose to give a general expression of praise in view of all that God had done that was fitted to excite such feelings.
I will be glad - I will rejoice, and will express my joy.
And rejoice in thee - I will exult; I will triumph. That is, he would express his joy in God - in knowing that there was such a Being; in all that he had done for him; in all the evidences of his favor and friendship.
Will sing praise to thy name - To thee; the name often being put for the person.
O thou Most High - Thou who art supreme - the God over all. See the notes at Psa 7:17.
When mine enemies are turned back - Who these enemies were, the psalmist does not say. It is clear, however, as was remarked in the introduction, that the psalm was composed:
(a) in view of a victory which had been achieved over some formidable enemies; and
(b) in view of some dangers still impending from a similar source.
The literal meaning of the passage here is, "In the turning of my enemies back;" that is, in their retreat, defeat, overthrow. So far as the Hebrew form of expression is concerned, this may either refer to what had been done, or to what would be; and may imply either that they had been turned back, or that the psalmist hoped and believed that they would be; for in either case the fact would show the divine perfections, and give occasion for gratitude and praise. The verbs with which this is connected - "they shall fall and perish" - are indeed in the Hebrew, as in our version, in the future tense; but this does not necessarily determine the question whether the psalmist refers to what had occurred or what would occur. His attitude is this: he contemplates his enemies as mighty and formidable; he sees the danger which exists when such enemies surround one; he looks at the interposition of God, and he sees that whenever it occurs it would be followed by this consequence, that they would stumble and fall before him. But while this verse does not determine the question whether he refers to what has been, or to what would be, the subsequent verses Psa 9:4-6 seem to settle it, where he speaks as if this were already done, and as if God had interposed in a remarkable manner in defeating his foes. I regard this, therefore, as a reflection on what had occurred, and as expressing what was then actually a ground of praise and thanksgiving.
They shall fall and perish - A general statement in view of what had occurred, meaning that this would always be the case.
At thy presence - Before thee; that is, when thou dost manifest thyself. This was the reason why they would stumble and fall, and is equivalent to saying, that "whenever mine enemies are turned back, the reason why they stumble and fall is "thy presence." It is the interposition of thy power. It is not to be traced to the prowess of man that they thus turn back, and that they fall and perish; it is to be traced to the fact that thou art present - that thou dost interpose." It is thus an acknowledgment of God as the author of the victory in all cases.
For thou hast maintained my right and my cause - My righteous cause; that is, when he was unequally attacked. When his enemies came upon him in an unprovoked and cruel manner, God had interposed and had defended his cause. This shows that the psalmist refers to something that had occurred in the past; also that he regarded his cause as right - for the interposition of God in his behalf had confirmed him in this belief.
Thou satest in the throne judging right - As if he had been seated on a bench of justice, and bad decided on the merits of his cause before he interfered in his behalf. It was not the result of impulse, folly, partiality, or favoritism; it was because he had, as a judge, considered the matter, and had decided that the right was with the author of the psalm, and not with his enemies. As the result of that determination of the case, he had interposed to vindicate him, and to overthrow his adversaries. Compare Psa 8:3-8.
Thou hast rebuked the heathen - Not the pagan in general, or the nations at large, but those who are particularly referred to in this psalm - those who are described as the enemies of the writer and of God. On the word rendered "heathen" here - גוים gôyim - see the notes at Psa 2:1. The word rebuke here does not mean, as it does usually with us, to chide with words, but it means that he had done this by deeds; that is, by overcoming or vanquishing them. The reference is, undoubtedly, to some of those nations with whom the writer had been at war, and who were the enemies of himself and of God, and to some signal act of the divine interposition by which they had been overcome, or in which the author of the psalm had gained a victory. DeWette understands this as referring to "barbarians, foreigners, pagan?" David, in the course of his life, was often in such circumstances as are here supposed, though to what particular event he refers it would not be possible now to decide.
Thou hast destroyed the wicked - The Hebrew here is in the singular number - רשׁע râshâ‛ - though it may be used collectively, and as synonymous with the word "heathen." Compare Isa 14:5; Psa 84:10; Psa 125:3. The Aramaic Paraphrase renders this, "Thou hast destroyed the impious Goliath." The reference is undoubtedly to the enemies meant by the word pagan, and the writer speaks of them not only as pagan or foreigners, but as characterized by wickedness, which was doubtless a correct description of their general character.
Thou hast put out their name forever and ever - As when a nation is conquered, and subdued; when it is made a province of the conquering nation, and loses its own government, and its distinct existence as a people, and its name is no more recorded among the kingdoms of the earth. This is such language as would denote entire subjugation, and it is probably to some such event that the psalmist refers. Nations have often by conquest thus lost their independence and their distinct existence, by becoming incorporated into others. To some such entire subjugation by conquest the psalmist undoubtedly here refers.
O thou enemy! - This verse has been very variously rendered and explained. For an examination of the particular views entertained of it, see particularly Rosenmuller, in loc. The reference is doubtless to the enemies mentioned in the previous verses; and the idea is substantially the same - that they were completely overcome and subdued. The phrase, "O thou enemy," is probably to be regarded as the nominative absolute. "The enemy - his destructions or desolations are finished forever. He will now no more engage in that work." The attention of the writer is fixed on them, and on the fact that they will no more engage in the work of desolation. It is not, therefore, properly to be regarded, as it is rendered in the common translation, as an apostrophe to the enemy, but rather as indicating a state of mind in which the writer is meditating on his foes, and on the fact that they would no more engage in the work in which they had been occupied - of laying cities and towns in ruins.
Destructions are come to a perpetual end - That is, thy destructions are finished, completed, accomplished. There are to be no more of them. This may either refer to their acts causing destruction, or laying waste cities and towns, meaning that they would no more accomplish this work; or to the destruction or ruins which they had caused in laying waste cities - the ruins which marked their career - meaning that the number of such ruins was now complete, and that no more would be added, for they them. selves were overthrown. The word rendered "destructions" means properly desolations, waste places, ruins, and seem here to refer to the wastes or ruins which the enemy had made; and the true idea is, that such desolations were now complete, or that they would not be suffered to devastate anymore cities and fields. Prof. Alexander renders this, "finished, completed are (his) ruins, desolations, forever; that is, he is ruined or made desolate forever."
And thou hast destroyed cities - That is, in thy desolating career. This, considered as an address to the enemy, would seem to refer to the career of some victor who had Carried fire and sword through the land, and whose course had been marked by smoking ruins. This was, however, now at an end, for God had interposed, and had given the author of the psalm a victory ever his foe. Prof. Alexander regards this, less properly, as an address to God, meaning that he had destroyed the cities of the enemy. The idea is, rather, that this enemy had been distinguised for spreading desolation and ruin, and that this career was now closed forever.
Their memorial is perished with them - The names of the cities, referring to their utter destruction, and to the character of the warfare which had been waged. It had been utterly barbarous and vicious; the enemy had left nothing to testify even what the city had been, and its name had ceased to be mentioned. See the notes at Psa 9:5. This seems to be mentioned as a justification of the warfare which the author of the psalm had waged against this enemy, and as showing why God had interposed and had given him the victory.
But the Lord shall endure for ever - Yahweh is eternal - always the same. Though these cities have become desolate, and the enemy has been permitted to triumph, and nations and people have passed away, yet God is ever the same, unaffected by these changes and desolations, and in due time he will always interfere and vindicate his own character, and defend the oppressed and the wronged.
He hath prepared his throne for judgment - See Psa 9:4. He sits as a just judge among the nations, and he will see that right is done. The wicked, though temporarily prosperous, cannot always triumph; and the righteous, though cast down and oppressed, cannot always remain thus, for God, the just Judge, will rise in their defense and for their deliverance. The unchangeableness of God, therefore, is at the same time the ground of confidence for the righteous, and the ground of dread for the wicked. The eternal principles of right will ultimately triumph.
And he shall judge the world in righteousness - The word here rendered world means properly the habitable earth; and then it denotes the inhabitants that dwell upon the earth. The statement here is general, and is suggested by what is referred to in the previous verses. In the particular case on which the psalm turns, God had manifested himself as a just Judge. He had overthrown the enemies of himself and of truth; he had interposed in behalf of the righteous: and from this fact the psalmist makes the natural and proper inference that this would be fouud to be his character in regard to all the world; this indicated what, in all Iris dealings with men he would always be found to be; this showed what he would be whenever he in any way pronounced a judgment on mankind. It may be added here that this will be found to be true in the great final judgment; that it will be in accordance with the principles of eternal justice.
He shall minister judgment - He will declare or pronounce judgment; he will execute the office of judge. "To the people." To all people; to the nations of the earth. This corresponds with what, in the former part of the verse, is called the world; and the declaration is, that in his dealings with the dwellers on the earth he will be guided by the strictest principles of justice.
In uprightness - In rectitude. He will not be influenced by partiality; he will show no favoritism; he will not be bribed. He will do exact justice to all.
The Lord also will be a refuge - Margin, an high place. The margin expresses the more exact sense of the, Hebrew word - משׂגב miśgâb. It means properly height, altitude; then a height, rock, crag; and then, as such localities, being inaccessible to an enemy, were sought in times of danger as places of secure retreat, it comes to denote a place of security and refuge, Psa 18:2; Psa 46:7, Psa 46:11; Psa 48:3; Psa 59:9, Psa 59:17; Psa 94:22. The declaration here is equivalent to what is so often said, that God is a refuge, a rock, a high tower, a defense; meaning, that those referred to might find safety in him. See the notes at Psa 18:2.
For the oppressed - literally, for those who are crushed, broken; hence, the dejected, afflicted, unhappy - דך dak - from דכך mor dākak - to beat small; to break in pieces; to crush. The allusion here is to those who are wronged or down-trodden; to the victims of tyranny and injustice. Such may look to God to vindicate them and their cause, and they will not look in vain. Sooner or later he will manifest himself as their protector and their helper. See Psa 9:12.
A refuge in times of trouble - Not only for the oppressed, but for all those who are in trouble. Compare Psa 46:1. That is, all such may come to him with the assurance that he will be ready to pity them in their sorrows, and to deliver them. The psalmist had found it so in his own case; and he infers that it would be so in all cases, and that this might be regarded as the general character of God.
And they that know thy name - All who are acquainted with thee; all those who have been made acquainted with the manifestations of thy goodness, and with the truth respecting thy character.
Will put their trust in thee - That is, all who have any just views of God, or who understand his real character, will confide in him. This is as much as to say, that he has a character which is worthy of confidence - since they who know him best most unreservedly rely on him. It is the same as saying that all the revelations of his character in his word and works are such as to make it proper to confide in him. The more intimate our knowledge of God, the more entirely shall we trust in him; the more we learn of his real character, the more shall we see that he is worthy of universal love. It is much to say of anyone that the more he is known the more he will be loved; and in saying this of God, it is but saying that one reason why men do not confide in him is that they do not understand his real character.
For thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee - Thou hast never left them when they have come to time with a confiding heart. David means, doubtless, to refer here particularly to his own case, to derive a conclusion from his particular case in regard to the general character of God. But what is here affirmed is still true, and always has been true, and always will be true, that God does not forsake those who put their trust in him. Men forsake him; he does not forsake them.
Sing praises to the Lord - As the result of these views of his character, and at the remembrance of his doings. The heart of the psalmist is full of exultation and joy at the remembrance of the divine interposition, and he naturally breaks out into these strong expressions, calling on others to rejoice also.
Which dwelleth in Zion - On the word Zion, see the notes at Psa 2:6. Compare Psa 3:4; Psa 5:7. As Zion was the place where at this time the tabernacle was set up, and the worship of God was celebrated, it is spoken of as his dwelling-place.
Declare among the people his doings - Make general and wide proclamation of what he has done; that is, make him known abroad, in his true character, that others may be brought also to put their trust in him, and to Praise him.
When he maketh inquisition for blood - When he "inquires" after blood; that is, when he comes forth with this view, to wit, for purposes of punishment. There is allusion here to such passages as that in Gen 9:5, "And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man." The idea is, that when blood was shed in murder, God would seek out the murderer; he would require satisfaction of him who had shed the blood; he would punish the offender. The language, there, becomes equivalent to that of seeking punishment for murder, and then for sin in general; and the representation here is that of God as going forth in the capacity of an executioner of his own laws to inflict punishment on the guilty.
He remembereth them - "He remembereth," says Prof. Alexander, "the bloods or murders," since the word blood, as in Psa 5:6, is in the plural - bloods. The better interpretation, however, is, that the word "them" here refers to the oppressed and the afflicted - for that is the main idea in the passage. See Psa 9:8-9. When he goes forth in the earth to execute judgment on the wicked; when he cuts them down in his wrath; when he sweeps them away as with a flood - the punishment will not be indiscriminate. He will then mark the oppressed, the afflicted, the persecuted, the troubled, and the sad, and will interpose to save them - delivering them from the storms of wrath. The idea, then, is, that the righteous will not be forgotten; that even in the most fierce and awful of his dispensations he will still regard them, and interpose to save them.
He forgetteth not the cry of the humble - Margin, afflicted. The margin expresses the true idea. The reference is not to the humble in the common sense of that term, but to the afflicted; the oppressed; to those who are in trouble, Psa 9:9. He will then remember the cry which in their afflictions they have been long sending up to him.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord - The cry for mercy implies that though God had interposed and granted them surprising deliverances, yet he was still surrounded by enemies, and was still in trouble. See introduction to the psalm, 2, 3. He had been delivered from many troubles, but there were many still pressing upon him, and he now calls on God to interpose further in his behalf, and to grant him entire deliverance from all his sorrows and dangers. The trouble to which he here refers was of the same kind as that adverted to in the former part of the psalm - that arising from the efforts of formidable enemies.
Consider my trouble - Do not forget this trouble; bear it in remembrance; look upon its character and its depth, and mercifully interpose to deliver me.
Which I suffer of them that hate me - Or, "see my suffering arising from those that hate me; or, which is produced by those who hate me." The design is to fix the attention on the greatness of that suffering as caused by his "haters" or by his enemies - the foes that were still unsubdued.
Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death - Thou on whom I rely to do this; or, who hast done it in times past. The idea by bars and walls; as entered by gates - the grave leading to it. See Introduction to Job, Section 7, and the notes at Job 10:21-22. The psalmist felt that he had come near to that dark and gloomy abode, and that God only could rescue him from it; therefore, in the trouble which now threatened his life, he looks to him to interfere and save him.
That I may show forth all thy praise - That I may praise time in the land of the living; that I may finish the work of praise by rendering to thee all that is due. The idea is, that the dead could not praise God, or that his praise could be uttered only by the living; and he calls on God, therefore, to interpose and save him, that he might yet worship and praise him on the earth. In this sentiment the psalmist utters only what man naturally feels when he looks upon the grave; that it is an end of human plans and pursuits; that it is a land of silence; that the worship of God is not there celebrated. Such language must be retarded as uttered under the impulse of natural feeling, and not as uttered by the deliberate judgment of the mind when calmly contemplating the whole subject. All pious persons baize these feelings at times, and it was proper that these feelings should be expressed in the sacred writings, as illustrating human nature even under the influence of religion. The same sentiment occurs in several places, as is, that he was apparently near to the gates of death, and that the only one who could raise him up was God, and he now invoked His interposition that it might be done. The phrase "gates of death" relates to the prevalent views about the unseen world - the world where the dead abide. That world was represented as beneath; as a dark and gloomy abode; as enclosed Psa 115:17, "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." See the notes at Psa 6:5. It is not necessary to say that the sacred writers had brighter views at times than these. But who can keep the mind always from desponding when it looks at the grave? Who can always help feeling that it is a place of darkness and gloom?
In the gates of the daughter of Zion - As contradistinguished from the "gates of death." Gates in ancient cities were places of concourse, where important transactions were performed; and the "gates" of Jerusalem were regarded as attractive and sacred, because it was through them that the people passed on their way to worship God at the tabernacle or in the temple. Hence, it is said, Psa 87:2, "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." Psa 100:4, "enter into his gates with thanksgiving." Compare Psa 118:19. The phrase, "daughter of Zion," means Jerusalem. For the reason of this appellation see the notes at Isa 1:8. The language used here proves that the psalm was composed after Zion or Jerusalem was made the capital of the kingdom and the seat of public worship, and, therefore, that it cannot refer, as is supposed in the Aramaic Paraphrase, to the death of Goliath.
I will rejoice in thy salvation - In the salvation which thou wilt bestow on me; here particularly, in delivering him from his dangers. The language, however, is general, and may be employed with reference to salvation of any kind.
The heathen - Hebrew, "The nations;" that is, the idolatrous people that were arrayed against him. See the notes at Psa 9:5.
Are sunk down - That is, referring to those who had been overcome, as mentioned in Psa 9:5; or to those who still encompassed him, in respect to whom he was so certain that they would be overcome that he could speak of it as a thing already accomplished. According to the former view, it would be an encouragement derived from the past; according to the latter, it would indicate unwavering confidence in God, and the certain assurance of ultimate victory. It is not easy to determine which is the true interpretation. The Hebrew is, "Sunk are the nations in the pit which they have made;" that is, he sees them sinking down to destruction.
In the pit that they made - In which they designed that others should fall. See the notes at Psa 7:15.
In the net which they hid - Which they laid for others. The allusion here is to a spring-net made to capture birds or wild beasts.
Is their own foot taken - The net here referred to seems to have been particularly a net to take wild beasts by securing one of their feet, like a modern trap. The idea is, that they had been brought into the destruction which they had designed for others. See the notes at Psa 7:15-16.
The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth - By what; he does in his dealings with men, in dispensing rewards and punishments, bestowing blessings upon the righteous, and sending punishments upon the ungodly. That is, his character can be learned from his dealings with mankind; or, by studying the dispensation of his Providence, we may learn what he is. This is always a fair and proper way of estimating character, alike in regard to God and man; and it is proper, at all times, to study what God does, to learn what he is.
The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands - The same sentiment which is expressed here occurs in Psa 7:16. The idea is that the wicked are the cause of their own destruction; their own devices and designs are the means of their ruin, and they are made their own executioners. It is this to which the writer seems particularly to refer in the former part of the verse, when he says that "the Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth." This great principle is brought out in his dealings with human beings, that the course which wicked men pursue is the cause of their own ruin. The laws of God in a great measure execute themselves, and men bring upon themselves their own destruction. It is the highest perfection of government to make ttle laws execute themselves.
Higgaion - Margin, "Meditation." This word occurs elsewhere only in the following places, Psa 19:14, rendered meditation; Psa 92:3, rendered solemn sound; Lam 3:62. rendered device. Its proper meaning is, murmur; muttering; the utterance of a low sound, as the low sound of a harp; or the murmuring or muttering of one who talks to himself; and then meditation. Compare the notes at Psa 2:1, on the word "imagine," Margin, meditate, - the verb from which this is derived. Gesenius supposes that it is here a musical sound. So it is understood by the Septuagint - ᾠδὴ διαψάλματος ōdē diapsalmatos. It is not known why it is introduced here. There seems to be nothing in the sense which demands it, as there is no particular reason why the reader should pause and meditate here rather than in any other place in the psalm. It is doubtless a mere musical pause, though perhaps indicating the kind of pause in the music, as some special sound or interlude on the musical instrument that was employed.
Selah - Another musical term, see the notes at Psa 3:2. This indicates a general pause; the word Higgaion denotes the particular kind of pause.
The wicked - All the wicked; all who come properly under the denomination of wicked persons. Doubtless the writer had particularly in his eye the enemies with whom he was contending, and in reference to whom the psalm wits composed; and he meant to say that they would be certainly punished. But what was true in regard to them, was true of all others of similar character, and the statement is therefore made in a universal form - all the wicked.
Shall be turned - Shall turn back, or be turned from their present course. The idea is, that they were now pursuing a certain course, but that they would be turned back from that, or would fail and retreat; and instead of going on to victory, would be defeated, and would sink into hell. The idea is essentially the same as that which is expressed in Psa 9:3 above: "When mine enemies are turned back."
Into hell - - לשׁאולה lishe'ôlâh - to Sheol, Hades, the grave, the world of departed spirits. This is the usual meaning of this word. See Luk 16:23, note; Isa 14:9, note; Job 10:21-22, note. Though the word, however, originally denoted the grave, the region of the dead, the world of departed spirits, yet it was also supposed that there was a distinction in the condition of the dead; and the word gradually came to denote the abode of the wicked portion of the dead, and hence, the place of future punishment. So it is undoubtedly used in Luk 16:23. It is clear
(a) that this cannot be understood here as referring to the grave in its ordinary sense, for the righteous will be as certainly consigned to the, grave, or will as certainly die, as the wicked;
(b) that it cannot refer to the invisible world, the abodes of the dead, in the ordinary sense of the term - for it is as true that the righteous will enter that world as that sinners will.
There must be some sense, in which the word is used here, different from that of the grave, or different merely from death as such. This sense can be only one of two - either:
(1) that the author means that they will be cut off by a sudden and violent death, considered as a calamity or as a punishment; or
(2) that he regarded the Sheol mentioned here as a place of punishment.
Calvin thinks it is not improbable that the former of these is intended; but it may be observed in regard to this,
(a) that this is not the language usually employed to denote that idea - the phrase, to be cut off, or cut down, being that which a writer intending to express that idea, would most naturally use - since the phrase, to be sent to Sheol, considered as the grave or the region of the dead, would express nothing special in regard to the wicked; and
(b) the spirit of the passage seems to demand the idea that the wicked referred to here would he consigned to a place of punishment, that they would be cut off as wicked persons, and treated accordingly.
This interpretation is strengthened by the other member of the parallelism, where it is said, "and all the nations that forget God;" since it is no more true that the nations "that forget God" will be "turned into the grave, or the world of departed spirits," than it is that the nations that serve and obey him will. It seems to me, therefore, that this is one of the passages in which it is clear that the word Sheol had connected with it the idea of punishment beyond the grave - of a region where the wicked would be treated according to their deserts, and in a manner different from the treatment of the righteous; that although the general idea of that under-world was that it was a dark and gloomy place, yet that there was also the idea that the abode of the wicked there was far more gloomy than that of the righteous; and that it was regarded as a punishment to be consigned to that region. It is not necessary to suppose that they had the full idea attached to the word hell which we have, anymore than that they had the same full and clear idea of heaven that we have. Light has come into our world on all these subjects gradually, and there is nothing which requires us to suppose that the earlier sacred writers lind the same clear views which the later writers had, or that either of them knew all that is to be known. Compare Pe1 1:10-11.
And all the nations that forget God - All who are strangers to him, or who are ignorant of the true God. See the notes at Rom 2:12. From the character and prospective doom of those to whom the psalmist particularly referred in this psalm, he is led to make this general remark about all who sustain the same character which they did. Under the administration of the same God those of the same character would share alike, for "there is no respect of persons with him;" and it is the perfection of an impartial government to treat all of the same character in the same manner. If we can, therefore, ascertain how, under his administration, one sinner will be treated in the future world, we can infer how all of the same character will be treated; if we can learn how God will deal with one people, we can infer how he will deal with all. The statement here is, that all the wicked, of whatever nation, will be consigned to punishment in the future world. The phrase used here, "that forqet God," denotes those who are not disposed or inclined to remember and honor him. The idea seems to be that though they might have known him, they did not choose to retain him in their knowledge, but gave themselves up to a life of idolatry and sin. Compare Rom 1:19-21, notes; Rom 1:28, note.
For the needy - The poor; those who are dependent and helpless.
Shall not always be forgotten - That is, by God. He will interfere and save them by destroying their enemies. He will not suffer the wicked always to persecute and oppress the righteous. In due time he will vindicate his own cause; will deliver the oppressed and down-trodden, and will consign their oppressors to deserved punishment. This is as true now, in regard to all the oppressed and their oppressors, as it was in the time of the psalmist.
The expectation of the poor - Of the afflicted and the oppressed. The word "expectation" refers to their hope; their desire; their earnest looking for deliverance. In that state men naturally look for the divine interposition, and the psalmist says that in that they will not always be disappointed.
Shall not perish for ever - The word "not" is supplied here by our translators, but not improperly. It is thus supplied in the Targum, and in the Syriac, the Vulgate and the Greek. Such forms of construction are not uncommon. Compare Psa 1:5; Deu 33:6. "The negative is repeated from the preceding member." - Michaelis.
Arise, O Lord - See the notes at Psa 3:7.
Let not man prevail - Against thee and thy cause. The war waged against the psalmist he regarded as waged against God, and he calls upon him, therefore, to interpose and vindicate his own cause. The word rendered "prevail" is be strong; that is, let not man seem to be stronger than thou art, or let, him not succeed in his efforts in opposing thy cause.
Let the heathen be judged in thy sight - The nations to whom the writer had referred in the psalm, that were arrayed against him and against God. He desired that a just judgment should be passed on them, and that God would vindicate the righteous, and save them from the power of those who oppressed and wronged them.
Put them in fear, O Lord - From this it is evident that the enemies of the psalmist were bold, daring, confident in their own strength, and in the belief that they would succeed. He prays, therefore, that these bold and daring invaders of the rights of others might be made to stand in awe, and to tremble before the great and terrible majesty of God; that they might thus have just views of themselves, and see how weak and feeble they were as compared with Him.
That the nations may know - The nations particularly referred to in this psalm as arrayed against the writer.
Themselves to be but men - That they may see themselves as they are - poor, feeble creatures; as nothing when compared with God; that instead of their pride and self-confidence, their belief that they can accomplish any purpose that they choose, they may see that they are not like God, but that they are frail and feeble mortals. The psalmist seems to have supposed that if they understood this, they would be humbled and would desist from their purposes; and he therefore prays that God would interpose and show them precisely what they were. If men understood this, they would not dare to arrayy themselves against their Maker.