Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Plaintive and Supplicatory Prayer under the Pressure of Heathenish Foes at Home and Abroad
This Psalm and Ps 33 are the only ones that are anonymous in the First book of the Psalms. But Ps 10 has something peculiar about it. The lxx gives it with Ps 9 as one Psalm, and not without a certain amount of warrant for so doing. Both are laid out in tetrastichs; only in the middle portion of Ps 10 some three line strophes are mixed with the four line. And assuming that the ק-strophe, with which Ps 9 closes, stands in the place of a כ-strophe which one would look for after the י-strophe, then Ps 10, beginning with ל, continues the order of the letters. At any rate it begins in the middle of the alphabet, whereas Ps 9 begins at the beginning. It is true the ל-strophe is then followed by strophes without the letters that come next in order; but their number exactly corresponds to the letters between ל and ק, ר, שׁ, ת with which the last four strophes of the Psalm begin, viz., six, corresponding to the letters מ, נ, ס, ע, פ, צ, which are not introduced acrostically. In addition to this it is to be remarked that Ps 9 and Psa 10:1 are most intimately related to one another by the occurrence of rare expressions, as לעתּות בצּרה and דּך; by the use of words in the same sense, as אנושׁ and גּוים; by striking thoughts, as "Jahve doth not forget" and "Arise;" and by similarities of style, as the use of the oratio directa instead of obliqua, Ps 9:21; Psa 10:13. And yet it is impossible that the two Psalms should be only one. Notwithstanding all their community of character they are also radically different. Ps 9 is a thanksgiving Psalm, Ps 10 is a supplicatory Psalm. In the latter the personality of the psalmist, which is prominent in the former, keeps entirely in the background. The enemies whose defeat Ps 9 celebrates with thanksgiving and towards whose final removal it looks forward are גּוים, therefore foreign foes; whereas in Ps 10 apostates and persecutors of his own nation stand in the foreground, and the גוים are only mentioned in the last two strophes. In their form also the two Psalms differ insofar as Ps 10 has no musical mark defining its use, and the tetrastich strophe structure of Ps 9, as we have already observed, is not carried out with the same consistency in Ps 10. And is anything really wanting to the perfect unity of Ps 9? If it is connected with Ps 10 and they are read together uno tenore, then the latter becomes a tail-piece which disfigures the whole. There are only two things possible: Ps 10 is a pendant to Ps 9 composed either by David himself, or by some other poet, and closely allied to it by its continuance of the alphabetical order. But the possibility of the latter becomes very slight when we consider that Ps 10 is not inferior to Ps 9 in the antiquity of the language and the characteristic nature of the thoughts. Accordingly the mutual coincidences point to the same author, and the two Psalms must be regarded as "two co-ordinate halves of one whole, which make a higher unity" (Hitz.). That hard, dull, and tersely laconic language of deep-seated indignation at moral abominations for which the language has, as it were, no one word, we detect also elsewhere in some Psalms of David and of his time, those Psalms, which we are accustomed to designate as Psalms written in the indignant style (in grollendem Stil).
The Psalm opens with the plaintive inquiry, why Jahve tarries in the deliverance of His oppressed people. It is not a complaining murmuring at the delay that is expressed by the question, but an ardent desire that God may not delay to act as it becomes His nature and His promise. למּה, which belongs to both members of the sentence, has the accent on the ultima, as e.g., before עזבתּני in Psa 22:2, and before הרעתה in Exo 5:22, in order that neither of the two gutturals, pointed with a, should be lost to the ear in rapid speaking (vid., on Psa 3:8, and Luzzatto on Isa 11:2, נחה עליו).
(Note: According to the Masora למּה without Dag. is always Milra with the single exception of Job 7:20, and ימּה with Dag. is Milel; but, when the following closely connected word begins with one of the letters אהע it becomes Milra, with five exceptions, viz., Psa 49:6; Sa1 28:15; Sa2 14:31 (three instances in which the guttural of the second word has the vowel i), and Sa2 2:22, and Jer 15:18. In the Babylonian system of pointing, למה is always written without Dag. and with the accent on the penultimate, vid., Pinsker, Einleitung in das Babylonish-hebrishce Punktationssystem, S. 182-184.)
For according to the primitive pronunciation (even before the Masoretic) it is to be read: lam h Adonaj; so that consequently ה and א are coincident. The poet asks why in the present hopeless condition of affairs (on בצּרה vid., on Psa 9:10) Jahve stands in the distance (בּרחוק, only here, instead of מרחוק), as an idle spectator, and why does He cover (תּעלּים with orthophonic Dagesh, in order that it may not be pronounced תּעלים), viz., His eyes, so as not to see the desperate condition of His people, or also His ears (Lam 3:56) so as not to hear their supplication. For by the insolent treatment of the ungodly the poor burns with fear (Ges., Stier, Hupf.), not vexation (Hengst.). The assault is a πύρωσις, Pe1 4:12. The verb דּלק which calls to mind דּלּקת, πυρετός, is perhaps chosen with reference to the heat of feeling under oppression, which is the result of the persecution, of the (בּו) דּלק אחריו of the ungodly. There is no harshness in the transition from the singular to the plural, because עני and רשׁע are individualising designations of two different classes of men. The subject to יתּפשׁוּ is the עניּים, and the subject to חשׁבוּ is the רשׁעים. The futures describe what usually takes place. Those who, apart from this, are afflicted are held ensnared in the crafty and malicious devices which the ungodly have contrived and plotted against them, without being able to disentangle themselves. The punctuation, which places Tarcha by זוּ, mistakes the relative and interprets it: "in the plots there, which they have devised."
The prominent features of the situation are supported by a detailed description. The praett. express those features of their character that have become a matter of actual experience. הלּל, to praise aloud, generally with the accus., is here used with על of the thing which calls forth praise. Far from hiding the shameful desire or passion (Psa 112:10) of his soul, he makes it an object and ground of high and sounding praise, imagining himself to be above all restraint human or divine. Hupfeld translates wrongly: "and he blesses the plunderer, he blasphemes Jahve." But the רשׁע who persecutes the godly, is himself a בּצע a covetous or rapacious person; for such is the designation (elsewhere with בּצע Pro 1:19, or רע בּצע Hab 2:9) not merely of one who "cuts off" (Arab. bḍ‛), i.e., obtains unjust gain, by trading, but also by plunder, πλεονέκτης. The verb בּרך (here in connection with Mugrash, as in Num 23:20 with Tiphcha בּרך) never directly signifies maledicere in biblical Hebrew as it does in the alter Talmudic (whence בּרכּת השּׁם blasphemy, B. Sanhedrin 56a, and frequently), but to take leave of any one with a benediction, and then to bid farewell, to dismiss, to decline and abandon generally, Job 1:5, and frequently (cf. the word remercier, abdanken; and the phrase "das Zeitliche segnen" = to depart this life). The declaration without a conjunction is climactic, like Isa 1:4; Amo 4:5; Jer 15:7. נאץ, properly to prick, sting, is sued of utter rejection by word and deed.
(Note: Pasek stands between נאץ and יהוה, because to blaspheme God is a terrible thought and not to be spoken of without hesitancy, cf. the Pasek in Psa 74:18; Psa 89:52; Isa 37:24 (Kg2 19:23).)
In Psa 10:4, "the evil-doer according to his haughtiness" (cf. Pro 16:18) is nom. absol., and בּל־ידרשׁ אין אלהים (contrary to the accentuation) is virtually the predicate to כּל־מזמּותיו. This word, which denotes the intrigues of the ungodly, in Psa 10:2, has in this verse, the general meaning: thoughts (from זמם, Arab. zmm, to join, combine), but not without being easily associated with the secondary idea of that which is subtly devised. The whole texture of his thoughts is, i.e., proceeds from and tends towards the thought, that he (viz., Jahve, whom he does not like to name) will punish with nothing (בּל the strongest form of subjective negation), that in fact there is no God at all. This second follows from the first; for to deny the existence of a living, acting, all-punishing (in one word: a personal) God, is equivalent to denying the existence of any real and true God whatever (Ewald).
This strophe, consisting of only three lines, describes his happiness which he allows nothing to disturb. The signification: to be lasting (prop. stiff, strong) is secured to the verb חיל (whence חיל) by Job 20:21. He takes whatever ways he chooses, they always lead to the desired end; he stands fast, he neither stumbles nor goes astray, cf. Jer 12:1. The Chethמb דרכו (דּרכו) has no other meaning than that give to it by the Kerמ (cf. Psa 24:6; Psa 58:8). Whatever might cast a cloud over his happiness does not trouble him: neither the judgments of God, which are removed high as the heavens out of his sight, and consequently do not disturb his conscience (cf. Psa 28:5, Isa 5:12; and the opposite, Psa 18:23), nor his adversaries whom he bloweth upon contemptuously. מרום is the predicate: altissime remota. And הפיח בּ, to breathe upon, does not in any case signify: actually to blow away or down (to express which נשׁב or נשׁף would be used), but either to "snub," or, what is more appropriate to Psa 10:5, to blow upon them disdainfully, to puff at them, like הפּיח in Mal 1:13, and flare rosas (to despise the roses) in Prudentius. The meaning is not that he drives his enemies away without much difficulty, but that by his proud and haughty bearing he gives them to understand how little they interfere with him.
Then in his boundless carnal security he gives free course to his wicked tongue. That which the believer can say by reason of his fellowship with God, בּל־אמּוט (Psa 30:7; Psa 16:8), is said by him in godless self-confidence. He looks upon himself in age after age, i.e., in the endless future, as אשׁר לא ברע, i.e., as one who (אשׁר as in Isa 8:20) will never be in evil case (ברע as in Exo 5:19; Sa2 16:8). It might perhaps also be interpreted according to Zac 8:20, Zac 8:23 (vid., Kצhler, in loc.): in all time to come (it will come to pass) that I am not in misfortune. But then the personal pronoun (אני or הוּא) ought not be omitted; whereas with our interpretation it is supplied from אמּוט, and there is no need to supply anything if the clause is taken as an apposition: in all time to come he who.... In connection with such unbounded self-confidence his mouth is full of אלה, cursing, execratio (not perjury, perjurium, a meaning the word never has), מרמות, deceit and craft of every kind, and תּך, oppression, violence. And that which he has under his tongue, and consequently always in readiness for being put forth (Psa 140:4, cf. Psa 66:17), is trouble for others, and in itself matured wickedness. Paul has made use of this Psa 10:7 in his contemplative description of the corruptness of mankind, Rom 3:14.
The ungodly is described as a lier in wait; and one is reminded by it of such a state of anarchy, as that described in Hos 6:9 for instance. The picture fixes upon one simple feature in which the meanness of the ungodly culminates; and it is possible that it is intended to be taken as emblematical rather than literally. חצר (from חצר to surround, cf. Arab. hdr, hṣr, and especially hdr) is a farm premises walled in (Arab. hadar, hadâr, hadâra), then losing the special characteristic of being walled round it comes to mean generally a settled abode (with a house of clay or stone) in opposition to a roaming life in tents (cf. Lev 25:31; Gen 25:16). In such a place where men are more sure of falling into his hands than in the open plain, he lies in wait (ישׁב, like Arab. q‛d lh, subsedit = insidiatus est ei), murders unobserved him who had never provoked his vengeance, and his eyes להלכה יצפּנוּ. צפה to spie, Psa 37:32, might have been used instead of צפן; but צפן also obtains the meaning, to lie in ambush (Psa 56:7; Pro 1:11, Pro 1:18) from the primary notion of restraining one's self (Arab. ḍfn, fut. i. in Beduin Arabic: to keep still, to be immoveably lost in thought, vid., on Job 24:1), which takes a transitive turn in צפן "to conceal." חלכה, the dative of the object, is pointed just as though it came from חיל: Thy host, i.e., Thy church, O Jahve. The pausal form accordingly is חלכה with Segol, in Psa 10:14, not with Ṣere as in incorrect editions. And the appeal against this interpretation, which is found in the plur. חלכאים Psa 10:10, is set aside by the fact that this plural is taken as a double word: host (חל = חיל = חיל as in Oba 1:20) of the troubled ones (כּאים, not as Ben-Labrat supposes, for נכאים, but from כּאה weary, and mellow and decayed), as the Ker (which is followed by the Syriac version) and the Masora direct, and accordingly it is pointed חלכּאים with Ṣere. The punctuation therefore sets aside a word which was unintelligible to it, and cannot be binding on us. There is a verb הלך, which, it is true, does not occur in the Old Testament, but in the Arabic, from the root Arab. ḥk, firmus fuit, firmum fecit (whence also Arab. ḥkl, intrans. to be firm, ferm, i.e., closed), it gains the signification in reference to colour: to be dark (cognate with חכל, whence חכלילי) and is also transferred to the gloom and blackness of misfortune.
(Note: Cf. Samachschari's Golden Necklaces, Proverb 67, which Fleischer translates: "Which is blacker: the plumage of the raven, which is black as coal, or thy life, O stranger among strangers?" The word "blacker" is here expressed by Arab. ahlaku, just as the verb Arab. halika, with its infinitives halak or hulkat and its derivatives is applied to sorrow and misery.)
From this an abstract is formed חלך or חלך (like חפשׁ): blackness, misfortune, or also of a defective development of the senses: imbecility; and from this an adjective חלכּה = חלכּי, or also (cf. חפשׁי, עלפּה Eze 31:15 = one in a condition of languishing, עלף) חלכּה = חלכּי, plur. חלכּאים, after the form דּוּדאים, from דּוּדי, Ew. 189, g.
The picture of the רשׁע, who is become as it were a beast of prey, is now worked out further. The lustrum of the lion is called סך Jer 25:38, or סכּה Job 38:40 : a thicket, from סכך, which means both to interweave and to plait over = to cover (without any connection with שׂך a thorn, Arab. shôk, a thistle). The figure of the lion is reversed in the second line, the עני himself being compared to the beast of prey and the רשׁע to a hunter who drives him into the pit-fall and when he has fallen in hastens to drag him away (משׁך, as in Psa 28:3; Job 24:22) in, or by means of (Hos 11:4, Job 41:1), his net, in which he has become entangled.
The comparison to the lion is still in force here and the description recurs to its commencement in the second strophe, by tracing back the persecution of the ungodly to its final cause. Instead of the Chethb ודכה (ודכה perf. consec.), the Kerמ reads ידכּה more in accordance with the Hebrew use of the tenses. Job 38:40 is the rule for the interpretation. The two futures depict the settled and familiar lying in wait of the plunderer. True, the Kal דּכה in the signification "to crouch down" finds no support elsewhere; but the Arab. dakka to make even (cf. Arab. rṣd, firmiter inhaesit loco, of the crouching down of beasts of prey, of hunters, and of foes) and the Arab. dagga, compared by Hitzig, to move stealthily along, to creep, and dugjeh a hunter's hiding-place exhibit synonymous significations. The ταπεινώσει αὐτὸν of the lxx is not far out of the way. And one can still discern in it the assumption that the text is to be read ישׁח ודכה: and crushed he sinks (Aquila: ὁ δὲ λασθεὶς καμφθήσεται); but even דּכה is not found elsewhere, and if the poet meant that, why could he not have written דּכה? (cf. moreover Jdg 5:27). If דּכה is taken in the sense of a position in which one is the least likely to be seen, then the first two verbs refer to the sculker, but the third according to the usual schema (as e.g., Psa 124:5) is the predicate to חלכּאים (חלכּאים) going before it. Crouching down as low as possible he lies on the watch, and the feeble and defenceless fall into his strong ones, עצוּמיו, i.e., claws. Thus the ungodly slays the righteous, thinking within himself: God has forgotten, He has hidden His face, i.e., He does not concern Himself about these poor creatures and does not wish to know anything about them (the denial of the truth expressed in Psa 9:13, Psa 9:19); He has in fact never been one who sees, and never will be. These two thoughts are blended; עב with the perf. as in Job 21:3, and the addition of לנצח (cf. Psa 94:7) denies the possibility of God seeing now any more than formerly, as being an absolute absurdity. The thought of a personal God would disturb the ungodly in his doings, he therefore prefers to deny His existence, and thinks: there is only fate and fate is blind, only an absolute and it has no eyes, only a notion and that cannot interfere in the affairs of men.
The six strophes, in which the consecutive letters from מ to צ are wanting, are completed, and now the acrostic strophes begin again with ק. In contrast to those who have no God, or only a lifeless idol, the psalmist calls upon his God, the living God, to destroy the appearance that He is not an omniscient Being, by arising to action. We have more than one name of God used here; אל is a vocative just as in Psa 16:1; Psa 83:2; Psa 139:17, Psa 139:23. He is to lift up His hand in order to help and to punish (נשׂא יד, whence comes the imperat. נשׂא = שׂא, cf. נסה Psa 4:7, like שׁלח יד Psa 138:7 and נטה יד Exo 7:5 elsewhere). Forget not is equivalent to: fulfil the לא שׁכח of Psa 9:13, put to shame the שׁכח אל of the ungodly, Psa 10:11! Our translation follows the Kerמ ענוים. That which is complained of in Psa 10:3, Psa 10:4 is put in the form of a question to God in Psa 10:13 : wherefore (על־מה, instead of which we find על־מה in Num 22:32; Jer 9:11, because the following words begin with letters of a different class) does it come to pass, i.e., is it permitted to come to pass? On the perf. in this interrogative clause vid., Psa 11:3. מדּוּע inquires the cause, למּה the aim, and על־מה the motive, or in general the reason: on what ground, since God's holiness can suffer no injury to His honour? On לא תדרשׁ with כּי, the oratio directa instead of obliqua, vid., on Ps 9:21.
Now comes the confirmation of his cry to God: It is with Him entirely different from what the ungodly imagine. They think that He will not punish; but He does see (cf. Ch2 24:22), and the psalmist knows and confesses it: ראתה (defective = ראיתה Psa 35:22), Thou hast seen and dost see what is done to Thine own, what is done to the innocent. This he supports by a conclusion a genere ad speciem thus: the trouble which is prepared for others, and the sorrow (כּעס, as in Ecc 7:3) which they cause them, does not escape the all-seeing eye of God, He notes it all, to give it into (lay it in) His hand. "To give anything into any one's hand" is equivalent to, into his power (Kg1 20:28, and frequently); but here God gives (lays) the things which are not to be administered, but requited, into His own hand. The expression is meant to be understood according to Psa 56:9, cf. Isa 49:16 : He is observant of the afflictions of His saints, laying them up in His hand and preserving them there in order, in His own time, to restore them to His saints in joy, and to their enemies in punishment. Thus, therefore, the feeble and helpless (read חלכּה or חלכּה; according to the Masoretic text חלכה Thy host, not חלכה, which is contrary to the character of the form, as pausal form for חלכה) can leave to Him, viz., all his burden (יהבו, Psa 55:23), everything that vexes and disquiets him. Jahve has been and will be the Helper of the fatherless. יתום stands prominent by way of emphasis, like אותם Psa 9:13, and Bakius rightly remarks in voce pupilli synecdoche est, complectens omnes illos, qui humanis praesidiis destituuntur.
The desire for Jahve's interposition now rises again with fresh earnestness. It is a mistake to regard דּרשׁ and מצא as correlative notions. In the phrase to seek and not find, when used of that which has totally disappeared, we never have דּרשׁ, but always בּקּשׁ, Psa 37:36; Isa 41:12; Jer 50:20, and frequently. The verb דּרשׁ signifies here exactly the same as in Psa 10:4, Psa 10:13, and Psa 9:13 : "and the wicked (nom. absol. as in Psa 10:4) - mayst Thou punish his wickedness, mayst Thou find nothing more of it." It is not without a meaning that, instead of the form of expression usual elsewhere (Psa 37:36; Job 20:8), the address to Jahve is retained: that which is no longer visible to the eye of God, not merely of man, has absolutely vanished out of existence. This absolute conquest of evil is to be as surely looked for, as that Jahve's universal kingship, which has been an element of the creed of God's people ever since the call and redemption of Israel (Exo 15:18), cannot remain without being perfectly and visibly realised. His absolute and eternal kingship must at length be realised, even in all the universality and endless duration foretold in Zac 14:9; Dan 7:14, Rev 11:15. Losing himself in the contemplation of this kingship, and beholding the kingdom of God, the kingdom of good, as realised, the psalmist's vision stretches beyond the foes of the church at home to its foes in general; and, inasmuch as the heathen in Israel and the heathen world outside of Israel are blended together into one to his mind, he comprehends them all in the collective name of גּוים, and sees the land of Jahve (Lev 25:23), the holy land, purified of all oppressors hostile to the church and its God. It is the same that is foretold by Isaiah (Isa 52:1), Nahum (Nah 2:1), and in other passages, which, by the anticipation of faith, here stands before the mind of the suppliant as an accomplished fact - viz. the consummation of the judgment, which has been celebrated in the hymnic half (Ps 9) of this double Psalm as a judgment already executed in part.
Still standing on this eminence from which he seems to behold the end, the poet basks in the realisation of that which has been obtained in answer to prayer. The ardent longing of the meek and lowly sufferers for the arising, the parusia of Jahve (Isa 26:8), has now been heard by Him, and that under circumstances which find expression in the following futt., which have a past signification: God has given and preserved to their hearts the right disposition towards Himself (הכין, as in Psa 78:8; Job 11:13, Sir. 2:17 ἑτοιμάζειν καρδίας, post-biblical כּוּן
(Note: B. Berachoth 31a: the man who prays must direct his heart steadfastly towards God (יכוּן לבּו לשּׁמים).)
and to be understood according to Sa1 7:3; Ch2 20:33, cf. לב נכון Psa 51:12; Psa 78:37; it is equivalent to "the single eye" in the language of the New Testament), just as, on the other hand, He has set His ear in the attitude of close attention to their prayer, and even to their most secret sighings (הקשׁיב with אזן, as in Pro 2:2; to stiffen the ear, from קשׁב, Arab. qasuba, root קש to be hard, rigid, firm from which we also have קשׁה, Arab. qsâ, קשׁה, Arab. qsh, qsn, cf. on Isa 21:7). It was a mutual relation, the design of which was finally and speedily to obtain justice for the fatherless and oppressed, yea crushed, few, in order that mortal man of the earth may no longer (בּל, as in Isa 14:21, and in post-biblical Hebrew בּל and לבל instead of פּן) terrify. From the parallel conclusion, Ps 9:20-21, it is to be inferred that אנושׁ does not refer to the oppressed but to the oppressor, and is therefore intended as the subject; and then the phrase מן־הארץ also belongs to it, as in Psa 17:14, people of the world, Psa 80:14 boar of the woods, whereas in Pro 30:14 מארץ belongs to the verb (to devour from off the earth). It is only in this combination that מן־הארץ אנושׁ forms with לערץ a significant paronomasia, by contrasting the conduct of the tyrant with his true nature: a mortal of the earth, i.e., a being who, far removed from any possibility of vying with the God who is in heaven, has the earth as his birth-place. It is not מן־האדמה, for the earth is not referred to as the material out of which man is formed, but as his ancestral house, his home, his bound, just as in the expression of John ὁ ὢν ἐκ τῆς γῆς, Joh 3:31 (Lat. ut non amplius terreat homo terrenus). A similar play of words was attempted before in Psa 9:20 אנושׁ אל־יעז. The Hebrew verb ערץ signifies both to give way to fear, Deu 7:21, and to put in fear, Isa 2:19, Isa 2:21; Isa 47:12. It does mean "to defy, rebel against," although it might have this meaning according to the Arabic ‛rḍ (to come in the way, withstand, according to which Wetzstein explains ערוּץ Job 30:6, like Arab. ‛irḍ, "a valley that runs slantwise across a district, a gorge that blocks up the traveller's way"
(Note: Zeitschrift fr Allgem. Erdkunde xviii. (1865) 1, S. 30.)).
It is related to Arab. ‛rṣ, to vibrate, tremble (e.g., of lightning).