Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Imprecation upon the Curser Who Prefers the Curse to the Blessing
The אודה, corresponding like an echo to the הודו of Ps 107, is also found here in Psa 109:30. But Psalms 109 is most closely related to Ps 69. Anger concerning the ungodly who requite love with ingratitude, who persecute innocence and desire the curse instead of the blessing, has here reached its utmost bound. The imprecations are not, however, directed against a multitude as in Ps 69, but their whole current is turned against one person. Is this Doeg the Edomite, or Cush the Benjamite? We do not know. The marks of Jeremiah's hand, which raised a doubt about the לדוד of Ps 69, are wanting here; and if the development of the thoughts appears too diffuse and overloaded to be suited to David, and also many expressions (as the inflected מעט in Psa 109:8, the נכאה, which is explained by the Syriac, in Psa 109:16, and the half-passive חלל in Psa 109:22) look as though they belong to the later period of the language, yet we feel on the other hand the absence of any certain echoes of older models. For in the parallels Psa 109:6, cf. Zac 3:1, and Psa 109:18, Psa 109:29, cf. Isa 59:17, it is surely not the mutual relationship but the priority that is doubtful; Psa 109:22, however, in relation to Psa 55:5 (cf. Psa 109:4 with Psa 55:5) is a variation such as is also allowable in one and the same poet (e.g., in the refrains). The anathemas that are here poured forth more extensively than anywhere else speak in favour of David, or at least of his situation. They are explained by the depth of David's consciousness that he is the anointed of Jahve, and by his contemplation of himself in Christ. The persecution of David was a sin not only against David himself, but also against the Christ in him; and because Christ is in David, the outbursts of the Old Testament wrathful spirit take the prophetic form, so that this Psalm also, like Ps 22 and Ps 69, is a typically prophetic Psalm, inasmuch as the utterance of the type concerning himself is carried by the Spirit of prophecy beyond himself, and thus the ara' is raised to the προφητεία ἐν εἴδει ἀρᾶς (Chrysostom). These imprecations are not, however, appropriate in the mouth of the suffering Saviour. It is not the spirit of Zion but of Sinai which here speaks out of the mouth of David; the spirit of Elias, which, according to Luk 9:55, is not the spirit of the New Testament. This wrathful spirit is overpowered in the New Testament by the spirit of love. But these anathemas are still not on this account so many beatings of the air. There is in them a divine energy, as in the blessing and cursing of every man who is united to God, and more especially of a man whose temper of mind is such as David's. They possess the same power as the prophetical threatenings, and in this sense they are regarded in the New Testament as fulfilled in the son of perdition (Joh 17:12). To the generation of the time of Jesus they were a deterrent warning not to offend against the Holy One of God, and this Psalmus Ischarioticus (Act 1:20) will ever be such a mirror of warning to the enemies and persecutors of Christ and His Church.
A sign for help and complaints of ungrateful persecutors form the beginning of the Psalm. "God of my praise" is equivalent to God, who art my praise, Jer 17:14, cf. Deu 10:21. The God whom the Psalmist has hitherto had reason to praise will also now show Himself to him as worthy to be praised. Upon this faith he bases the prayer: be not silent (Psa 28:1; Psa 35:22)! A mouth such as belongs to the "wicked," a mouth out of which comes "deceit," have they opened against him; they have spoken with him a tongue (accusative, vid., on Psa 64:6), i.e., a language, of falsehood. דּברי of things and utterances as in Psa 35:20. It would be capricious to take the suffix of אהבתי in Psa 109:4 as genit. object. (love which they owe me), and in Psa 109:5 as genit. subject.; from Psa 38:21 it may be seen that the love which he has shown to them is also meant in Psa 109:4. The assertion that he is "prayer" is intended to say that he, repudiating all revenges of himself, takes refuge in God in prayer and commits his cause into His hands. They have loaded him with evil for good, and hatred for the love he has shown to them. Twice he lays emphasis on the fact that it is love which they have requited to him with its opposite. Perfects alternate with aorists: it is no enmity of yesterday; the imprecations that follow presuppose an inflexible obduracy on the side of the enemies.
The writer now turns to one among the many, and in the angry zealous fervour of despised love calls down God's judgment upon him. To call down a higher power, more particularly for punishment, upon any one is expressed by על (הפקיד) פּקד, Jer 15:3; Lev 26:16. The tormentor of innocence shall find a superior executor who will bring him before the tribunal (which is expressed in Latin by legis actio per manus injectionem). The judgment scene in Psa 109:6, Psa 109:7 shows that this is what is intended in Psa 109:6: At the right hand is the place of the accuser, who in this instance will not rest before the damnatus es has been pronounced. He is called שׂטן, which is not to be understood here after Sa1 29:4; Sa2 19:22, but after Zac 3:1; Ch1 21:1, if not directly of Satan, still of a superhuman (cf. Num 22:22) being which opposes him, by appearing before God as his κατήγωρ; for according to Psa 109:7 the שׂטן is to be thought of as accuser, and according to Psa 109:7 God as Judge. רשׁע has the sense of reus, and יצא refers to the publication of the sentence. Psa 109:7 wishes that his prayer, viz., that by which he would wish to avert the divine sentence of condemnation, may become לחטאה, not: a missing of the mark, i.e., ineffectual (Thenius), but, according to the usual signification of the word: a sin, viz., because it proceeds from despair, not from true penitence. In Psa 109:8 the incorrigible one is wished an untimely death (מעטּים as in one other instance, only, Ecc 5:1) and the loss of his office. The lxx renders: τὴν ἐπισκοπὴν αὐτοῦ λάβοι ἕτερος. פּקדּה really signifies the office of overseer, oversight, office, and the one individual must have held a prominent position among the enemies of the psalmist. Having died off from this position before his time, he shall leave behind him a family deeply reduced in circumstances, whose former dwelling - place-he was therefore wealthy - becomes "ruins." His children wander up and down far from these ruins (מן as e.g., in Jdg 5:11; Job 28:4) and beg (דּרשׁ, like προσαιτεῖν ἐπαιτεῖν, Sir. 40:28 = לחם בּקּשׁ, Psa 37:25). Instead of ודרשׁוּ the reading ודרשׁוּ is also found. A Poel is now and then formed from the strong verbs also,
(Note: In connection with the strong verb it frequently represents the Piel which does not occur, as with דּרשׁ, לשׁן, שׁפט, or even represents the Piel which, as in the case of שׁרשׁ, is already made use of in another signification (Piel, to root out; Poel, to take root).)
in the inflexion of which the Cholem is sometimes shortened to Kametz chatuph; vid., the forms of לשׁן, to slander, in Psa 101:5, תּאר, to sketch, mark out in outline, Isa 44:13, cf. also Job 20:26 (תּאכלהוּ) and Isa 62:9 (according to the reading מאספיו). To read the Kametz in these instances as ā, and to regard these forms as resolved Piels, is, in connection with the absence of the Metheg, contrary to the meaning of the pointing; on purpose to guard against this way of reading it, correct codices have ודרשׁוּ (cf. Psa 69:19), which Baer has adopted.
The Piel נקּשׁ properly signifies to catch in snares; here, like the Arabic Arab. nqš, II, IV, corresponding to the Latin obligare (as referring to the creditor's right of claim); nosheh is the name of the creditor as he who gives time for payment, gives credit (vid., Isa 24:2). In Psa 109:12 משׁך חסד, to draw out mercy, is equivalent to causing it to continue and last, Psa 36:11, cf. Jer 31:3. אחריתו, Psa 109:13, does not signify his future, but as Psa 109:13 (cf. Psa 37:38) shows: his posterity. יהי להכרית is not merely exscindatur, but exscindenda sit (Eze 30:16, cf. Jos 2:6), just as in other instances חיה ל corresponds to the active fut. periphrasticum, e.g., Gen 15:12; Isa 37:26. With reference to ימּח instead of ימּח (contracted from ימּחה), vid., Ges. 75, rem. 8. A Jewish acrostic interpretation of the name ישׁוּ runs: ימּח שׁמו וזכרו. This curse shall overtake the family of the υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας. All the sins of his parents and ancestors shall remain indelible above before God the Judge, and here below the race, equally guilty, shall be rooted out even to its memory, i.e., to the last trace of it.
He whom he persecuted with a thirst for blood, was, apart from this, a great sufferer, bowed down and poor and נכאה לבב, of terrified, confounded heart. lxx κατανενυγμένον (Jerome, compunctum); but the stem-word is not נכא (נכה), root נך, but כּאה, Syriac bā'ā', cogn. כּהה, to cause to come near, to meet. The verb, and more especially in Niph., is proved to be Hebrew by Dan 11:30. Such an one who without anything else is of a terrified heart, inasmuch as he has been made to feel the wrath of God most keenly, this man has persecuted with a deadly hatred. He had experienced kindness (חסד) in a high degree, but he blotted out of his memory that which he had experienced, not for an instant imagining that he too on his part had to exercise חסד. The Poel מותת instead of המית points to the agonizing death (Isa 53:9, cf. Eze 28:10 מותי) to which he exposes God's anointed. The fate of the shedder of blood is not expressed after the manner of a wish in Psa 109:16-18, but in the historical form, as being the result that followed of inward necessity from the matter of fact of the course which he had himself determined upon. The verb בּוא seq. acc. signifies to surprise, suddenly attack any one, as in Isa 41:25. The three figures in Psa 109:18 are climactic: he has clothed himself in cursing, he has drunk it in like water (Job 15:16; Job 34:7), it has penetrated even to the marrow of his bones, like the oily preparations which are rubbed in and penetrate to the bones.n In Psa 109:19 the emphasis rests upon יעטּה and upon תּמיד. The summarizing Psa 109:20 is the close of a strophe. פּעלּה, an earned reward, here punishment incurred, is especially frequent in Isa 40:1, e.g., Psa 49:4; Psa 40:10; it also occurs once even in the Tra, Lev 19:13. Those who answer the loving acts of the righteous with such malevolence in word and in deed commit a satanic sin for which there is no forgiveness. The curse is the fruit of their own choice and deed. Arnobius: Nota ex arbitrio evenisse ut nollet, propter haeresim, quae dicit Deum alios praedestinasse ad benedictionem, alios ad maledictionem.
The thunder and lightning are now as it were followed by a shower of tears of deep sorrowful complaint. Ps 109 here just as strikingly accords with Ps 69, as Ps 69 does with Ps 22 in the last strophe but one. The twofold name Jahve Adonaj (vid., Symbolae, p. 16) corresponds to the deep-breathed complaint. עשׂה אתּי, deal with me, i.e., succouring me, does not greatly differ from לי in Sa1 14:6. The confirmation, Psa 109:21, runs like Psa 69:17 : Thy loving-kindness is טּוב, absolutely good, the ground of everything that is good and the end of all evil. Hitzig conjectures, as in Psa 69:17, חסדך כּטוב, "according to the goodness of Thy loving-kindness;" but this formula is without example: "for Thy loving-kindness is good" is a statement of the motive placed first and corresponding to the "for thy Name's sake." In Psa 109:22 (a variation of Psa 55:5) חלל, not חלל, is traditional; this חלל, as being verb. denom. from חלל, signifies to be pierced, and is therefore equivalent to חולל (cf. Luk 2:35). The metaphor of the shadow in Psa 109:23 is as in Psa 102:12. When the day declines, the shadow lengthens, it becomes longer and longer (Virgil, majoresque cadunt altis de montibus umbrae), till it vanishes in the universal darkness. Thus does the life of the sufferer pass away. The poet intentionally uses the Niph. נהלכתּי (another reading is נהלכתּי); it is a power rushing upon him from without that drives him away thus after the manner of a shadow into the night. The locust or grasshopper (apart from the plague of the locusts) is proverbial as being a defenceless, inoffensive little creature that is soon driven away, Job 39:20. ננער, to be shaken out or off (cf. Arabic na‛ûra, a water-wheel that fills its clay-vessels in the river and empties them out above, and הנּער, Zac 11:16, where Hitzig wishes to read הנּער, dispulsio = dispulsi). The fasting in Psa 109:24 is the result of the loathing of all food which sets in with deep grief. כּחשׁ משּׁמן signifies to waste away so that there is no more fat left.
(Note: The verbal group כחשׁ, כחד, Arab. ḥajda, kaḥuṭa, etc. has the primary signification of withdrawal and taking away or decrease; to deny is the same as to withdraw from agreement, and he becomes thin from whom the fat withdraws, goes away. Saadia compares on this passage (פרה) בהמה כחושׁה, a lean cow, Berachoth 32a. In like manner Targum II renders Gen 41:27 תּורתא כהישׁתא, the lean kine.)
In Psa 109:25 אני is designedly rendered prominent: in this the form of his affliction he is the butt of their reproaching, and they shake their heads doubtfully, looking upon him as one who is punished of God beyond all hope, and giving him up for lost. It is to be interpreted thus after Psa 69:11.
The cry for help is renewed in the closing strophe, and the Psalm draws to a close very similarly to Ps 69 and Ps 22, with a joyful prospect of the end of the affliction. In Psa 109:27 the hand of God stands in contrast to accident, the work of men, and his own efforts. All and each one will undeniably perceive, when God at length interposes, that it is His hand which here does that which was impossible in the eyes of men, and that it is His work which has been accomplished in this affliction and in the issue of it. He blesses him whom men curse: they arise without attaining their object, whereas His servant can rejoice in the end of his affliction. The futures in Psa 109:29 are not now again imprecations, but an expression of believingly confident hope. In correct texts כּמעיל has Mem raphatum. The "many" are the "congregation" (vid., Psa 22:23). In the case of the marvellous deliverance of this sufferer the congregation or church has the pledge of its own deliverance, and a bright mirror of the loving-kindness of its God. The sum of the praise and thanksgiving follows in Psa 109:31, where כּי signifies quod, and is therefore allied to the ὅτι recitativum (cf. Psa 22:25). The three Good Friday Psalms all sum up the comfort that springs from David's affliction for all suffering ones in just such a pithy sentence (Psa 22:25; Psa 69:34). Jahve comes forward at the right hand of the poor, contending for him (cf. Psa 110:5), to save (him) from those who judge (Psa 37:33), i.e., condemn, his soul. The contrast between this closing thought and Psa 109:6. is unmistakeable. At the right hand of the tormentor stands Satan as an accuser, at the right hand of the tormented one stands God as his vindicator; he who delivered him over to human judges is condemned, and he who was delivered up is "taken away out of distress and from judgment" (Isa 53:8) by the Judge of the judges, in order that, as we now hear in the following Psalm, he may sit at the right hand of the heavenly King. Ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι...ἀνελήμφθη ἐν δόξῃ! (Ti1 3:16).