Why boastest thou thyself in Mischief? - Why dost thou "exult" in that which is wrong? Why dost thou find pleasure in evil rather than in good? Why dost thou seek to triumph in the injury done to others? The reference is to one who prided himself on schemes and projects which tended to injure others; or who congratulated himself on the success which attended his efforts to wrong other people.
O mighty man - DeWette and Luther render this, "tyrant." The original word would be properly applied to one of rank or distinction; a man of "power" - power derived either from office, from talent, or from wealth. It is a word which is often applied to a hero or warrior: Isaiah 3:2; Ezekiel 39:20; 2 Samuel 17:10; Psalm 33:16; Psalm 120:4; Psalm 127:4; Daniel 11:3; Genesis 6:4; Jeremiah 51:30. So far as the "word" is concerned, it might be applied either to Saul or to any other warrior or man of rank; and Professor Alexander supposes that it refers to Saul himself. The connection, however, seems to require us to understand it of Doeg, and not of Saul, This appears to be clear
(a) from the general character here given to the person referred to, a character not particularly applicable to Saul, but applicable to an informer like Doeg Psalm 52:2-4; and
(b) from the fact that he derived his power, not from his rank and office, as Saul did, but mainly from his wealth Psalm 52:7. This would seem to imply that some other was referred to than Saul.
The goodness of God endureth continually - literally, "all the day." That is, the wicked man could not hope to prevent the exercise of the divine goodness toward him whom he persecuted, and whom he sought to injure. David means to say that the goodness of God was so great and so constant, that he would protect his true friends from such machinations; or that it, was so unceasing and watchful, that the informer and accuser could not hope to find an interval of time when God would intermit his care, and when, therefore, he might hope for success. Against the goodness of God, the devices of a wicked man to injure the righteous could not ultimately prevail.
Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp rasor, working deceitfully.
Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs - The word rendered "mischiefs" means
(a) desire, cupidity: Proverbs 10:3; then
The meaning here is, that he made use of his tongue to ruin others. Compare Psalm 50:19. The particular thing referred to here is the fact that Doeg sought the ruin of others by giving "information" in regard to them. He "informed" Saul of what Ahimelech had done; he informed him where David had been, thus giving him, also, information in what way he might be found and apprehended. All this was "designed" to bring ruin upon David and his followers. It "actually" brought ruin on Ahimelech and those associated with him, 1 Samuel 22:17-19.
Like a sharp razor - See the notes at Isaiah 7:20. His slanders were like a sharp knife with which one stabs another. So we stay of a slanderer that he "stabs" another in the dark.
Working deceitfully - literally, making deceit. That is, it was by deceit that he accomplished his purpose. There was no open and fair dealing in what he did.
Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.
Thou lovest evil more than good - Thou dost prefer to do injury to others, rather than to do them good. In the case referred to, instead of aiding the innocent, the persecuted, and the wronged, he had attempted to reveal the place where he might be found, and where an enraged enemy might have an opportunity of wreaking his vengeance upon him.
And lying rather than to speak righteousness - He preferred a lie to the truth; and, when he supposed that his own interest would be subserved by it, he preferred a falsehood that would promote that interest, rather than a simple statement of the truth. The "lying" in this case was that which was "implied" in his being desirous of giving up David, or betraying him to Saul - as if David was a bad man, and as if the suspicions of Saul were wellfounded. He preferred to give his countenance to a falsehood in regard to him, rather than to state the exact truth in reference to his character. His conduct in this was strongly in contrast with that of Ahimelech, who, when arraigned before Saul, declared his belief that David was innocent; his firm conviction that David was true and loyal. "For" that fidelity he lost his life, 1 Samuel 22:14. Doeg was willing to lend countenance to the suspicions of Saul, and practically to represent David as a traitor to the king. The word "Selah" here is doubtless a mere musical pause. See the notes at Psalm 3:2. It determines nothing in regard to the sense of the passage.
Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.
Thou lovest all devouring words - All words that tend to devour or "swallow up" reputation and happiness. Luther, "Thou speakest gladly all things (anything) that will serve to destruction." Anything, everything, that will serve to ruin people. The word rendered "devouring" - בלע bela‛ - occurs only here and in Jeremiah 51:44, though the verb from which it is derived occurs frequently: Isaiah 28:4; Exodus 7:12; Jonah 2:1 Jonah 1:17; Genesis 41:7, Genesis 41:24, et al. The verb means to swallow; and then, to consume or destroy.
O thou deceitful tongue - Margin, "and the deceitful tongue." The sense is best expressed in the text. It is an address to the tongue as loving deceit or fraud.
God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.
God shall likewise destroy thee for ever - Margin, "beat thee down." The Hebrew word means to "tear, to break down, to destroy:" Leviticus 14:45; Judges 6:30. The reference here is not to the "tongue" alluded to in the previous verses, but to Doeg himself. The language in the verse is intensive and emphatic. The main idea is presented in a variety of forms, all designed to denote utter and absolute destruction - a complete and entire sweeping away, so that nothing should be left. The word "here" used would suggest the idea of "pulling down" - as a house, a fence, a wall; that is, the idea of completely "demolishing" it; and the meaning is, that destruction would come upon the informer and slanderer "like" the destruction which comes upon a house, or wall, or fence, when it is entirely pulled down.
He shall take thee away - An expression indicating in another form that he would be certainly destroyed. The verb used here - חתה châthâh - is elsewhere used only in the sense of taking up and carrying fire or coals: Isaiah 30:14; Proverbs 6:27; Proverbs 25:22. The idea here "may" be that he would be seized and carried away with haste, as when one takes up fire or coals, he does it as rapidly as possible, lest he should be burned.
And shall pluck thee out of thy dwelling-place - literally, "out of the tent." The reference is to his abode. The allusion here in the verb that is used - נסח nâsach - is to the act of pulling up plants; and the idea is, that he would be plucked up as a plant is torn from its roots.
And root thee out of the land of the living - As a tree is torn up from the roots and thus destroyed. He would be no more among the living. Compare Psalm 27:13. All these phrases are intended to denote that such a man would be utterly destroyed.
The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:
The righteous also shaIl see - See the notes at Psalm 37:34.
And fear - The effect of such a judgment will be to produce reverence in the minds of good people - a solemn sense of the justice of God; to make them tremble at such fearful judgments; and to fear lest they should violate the law, and bring judgment on themselves.
And shall laugh at him - Compare the notes at Psalm 2:4. See also Psalm 58:10; Psalm 64:9-10; Proverbs 1:26. The idea here is not exultation in the "sufferings" of others, or joy that "calamity" has come upon them, or the gratification of selfish and revengeful feeling that an enemy is deservedly punished; it is that of approbation that punishment has come upon those who deserve it, and joy that wickedness is not allowed to triumph. It is not wrong for us to feel a sense of approbation and joy that the laws are maintained, and that justice is done, even though this does involve suffering, for we know that the guilty deserve it, and it is better that they should suffer than that the righteous should sutter through them. All this may be entirely free from any malignant, or any revengeful feeling. It may even be connected with the deepest pity, and with the purest benevolence toward the sufferers themselves.
Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.
Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength - That is, the righteous Psalm 52:6 would say this. They would designate him as a man who had not made God his refuge, but who had trusted in his own resources. The result would be that he would he abandoned by God, and that those things on which he had relied would fail him in the day of calamity. He would be pointed out as an instance of what must occur when a man does not act with a wise reference to the will of God, but, confiding in his own strength and resources, pursues his own plans of iniquity.
But trusted in the abundance of his riches - See the notes at Psalm 49:6. From this it would seem that Doeg was a rich man, and that, as a general thing, in his life, and in his plans of evil, he felt confident in his wealth. He had that spirit of arrogance and self-confidence which springs from the conscious possession of property where there is no fear of God; and into all that he did he carried the sense of his own importance as derived from his riches. In the particular matter referred to in the psalm the meaning is, that he would perform the iniquitous work of giving "information" with the proud and haughty feeling springing from wealth and from self-importance - the feeling that he was a man of consequence, and that whatever such a man might do would be entitled to special attention.
And strengthened himself in his wickedness - Margin, "substance." This is the same word which in Psalm 52:1 is rendered "mischief." The idea is, that he had a malicious pleasure in doing wrong, or in injuring others, and that by every art, and against all the convictions and remonstrances of his own conscience, he endeavored to confirm himself "in" this unholy purpose and employment.
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
But I am like a green olive-tree in the house of God - I am safe and happy, notwithstanding the effort made by my enemy, the informer, to secure my destruction. I have been kept unharmed, like a green and flourishing tree - a tree protected in the very courts of the sanctuary - safe under the care and the eye of God. A green tree is the emblem of prosperity. See Psalm 1:3, note; Psalm 37:35, note; compare Psalm 92:12. The "house of God" here referred to is the tabernacle, considered as the place where God was supposed to reside. See Psalm 15:1, note; Psalm 23:6, note; Psalm 27:4-5, notes. The particular allusion here is to the "courts" of the tabernacle. An olive tree would not be cultivated in the tabernacle, but it might in the "courts" or "area" which surrounded it. The name "house of God" would be given to the whole area, as it was afterward to the entire area in which the temple was. A tree thus planted in the very courts of the sanctuary would be regarded as sacred, and would be safe as long as the tabernacle itself was safe, for it would be, as it were, directly under the divine protection. So David had been, notwithstanding all the efforts of his enemies to destroy him.
I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever -
(a) I "have" always done it. It has been my constant practice in trouble or danger.
(b) I "will" always do it.
As the result of all my experience, I will still do it; and thus trusting in God, I shall have the consciousness of safety.
I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.
I will praise thee forever, beause thou hast done it - Because thou art the source of my safety. The fact that I have been delivered from the designs of Saul, and saved from the efforts of Doeg to betray me, is to be traced wholly to thee. It has been ordered by thy providence that the purposes alike of Doeg and of Saul have been defeated, and I am still safe.
And I will wait on thy name - That is, I will wait on "thee;" the name being often put for the person himself: Psalm 20:1; Psalm 69:30; Proverbs 18:10; Isaiah 59:19. The language used here means that he would trust in God, or confide in him. All his expectation and hope would be in him. There are two ideas essentially in the language:
(1) the expression of a sense of "dependence" on God, as if the only ground of trust was in him;
(2) a willingness to "await" his interposition at all times; a belief that, however long such an interposition might be delayed, God "would" interfere at the proper time to bring deliverance; and a purpose calmly and patiently to look to him until the time of deliverance should come. Compare Psalm 25:3, Psalm 25:5,Psalm 25:21; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 37:7, Psalm 37:9,Psalm 37:34; Psalm 69:3; Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 40:31.
For it is good before thy saints - God is good; and I will confess it before his "saints." His mercy has been so marked, that a public acknowledgment of it is proper; and before his assembled people I will declare what he has done for me. So signal an act of mercy, an interposition so suited to illustrate the character of God, demands more than a private acknowledgment, and I will render him public praise. The same idea occurs in Psalm 22:25; Psalm 35:18; Psalm 111:1; Isaiah 38:20. The general thought is, that for great and special mercies it is proper to render special praise to God before his assembled people. It is not that we are to obtrude our private affairs upon the public eye or the public ear; it is not that mercies shown to us have any particular claim to the attention of our fellow-men, but it is that such interpositions illustrate the character of God, and that they may constitute an argument before the world in favor of his benevolent and merciful character. Among the "saints" there is a common bond of union - a common interest in all that pertains to each other; and when special mercy is shown to anyone of the great brotherhood, it is proper that all should join in the thanksgiving, and render praise to God.
The importance of the subject considered in this psalm - the fact that it is not often referred to in books on moral science, or even in sermons, - and the fact that it involves many points of practical difficulty in the conversation between man and man in the various relations of life - may justify at the close of an exposition of this psalm a consideration of the general question about the morality of giving "information," or, in general, the character of the "informer." Such a departure from the usual method adopted in works designed to be expository would not be ordinarily proper, since it would swell such works beyond reasonable dimensions; but perhaps it may be admitted in a single instance.
In what cases is it our duty to give information which may be in our possession about the conduct of others; and in what cases does it become a moral wrong or a crime to do it?
This is a question of much importance in respect to our own conduct, and often of much difficulty in its solution. It may not be possible to answer all the inquiries which might be made on this subject, or to lay down principles of undoubted plainness which would be applicable to every case which might occur, but a few general principles may be suggested.
The question is one which may occur at any time, and in any situation of life - Is it never right to give such information? Are we never bound to do it? Are there no circumstances in which it is proper that it should be voluntary? Are there any situations in which we are exempt by established customs or laws from giving such information? Are there any in which we are bound, by the obligations of conscience, not to give such information, whatever may be the penalty? Where and when does guilt begin or end in our volunteering to give information of the conduct or the concealments of others?
These questions often come with much perplexity before the mind of an ingenuous schoolboy, who would desire to do right, and who yet has so much honor that he desires to escape the guilt and the reproach of being a "tell-tale." They are questions which occur to a lawyer (or, rather, which "did" occur before the general principle, which I will soon advert to, had been settled by the courts), in regard to the knowledge of which he has been put in possession under the confidential relation of advocate and client. They are questions which may occur to a clergyman, either in respect to the confidential disclosures made at the confessional of the Catholic priest, or in respect to the confidential statements of the true penitent made to a Protestant pastor, in order that spiritual counsel may be obtained to give relief to a burdened conscience. They are questions which it was necessary should be settled in regard to a fugitive from justice, who seeks protection under the roof of a friend or a stranger.
They are questions respecting refugees from oppression in foreign lands - suggesting the inquiry whether they shall be welcomed, or whether there shall be any law by which they shall, on demand, be restored to the dominion of a tyrant. They are questions which the conscience will ask, and does ask, about those who make their escape from slavery, who apply to us for aid in securing their liberty, and who seek an asylum beneath our roof; questions whether the law of God requires or permits us to render any active assistance in making known the place of their refuge, and returning them to bondage. When, and in what cases, if any, is a man bound to give information in such circumstances as these? It is to be admitted that cases may occur, in regard to these questions, in which there would be great difficulty in determining what are the exact limits of duty, and writers on the subject of morals have not laid down such clear rules as would leave the mind perfectly free from doubt, or be sufficient to guide us on all these points. It will be admitted, also, that some of them are questions of much difficulty, and where instruction would be desirable.
Much may be learned, in regard to the proper estimate of human conduct among people, from the "language" which they employ - language which, in its very structure, often conveys their sentiments from age to age. The ideas of people on many of the subjects of morals, in respect to that which is honorable or dishonorable, right or wrong, manly or mean, became thus "imbedded" - I might almost say "fossilized" - in their modes of speech. Language, in its very structure, thus carries down to future times the sentiments cherished in regard to the morality of actions - as the fossil remains that are beneath the surface of the earth, in the strata of the rocks, bring to us the forms of ancient types of animals, and ferns, and palms, of which there are now no living specimens on the globe. They who have studied Dean Trench's Treatise on "Words" will recollect how this idea is illustrated in that remarkable work; how, without any other information about the views of people in other times, the very "words" which they employed, and which have been transmitted to us, convey to us the estimate which was formed in past ages in regard to the moral quality of an action, as proper or improper - as honorable or dishonorable - as conformed to the noble principles of our nature, or the reverse.
As illustrating the general sentiments of mankind in this respect, I will select "two" words as specimens of many which might be selected, and as words which people have been agreed in applying to some of the acts referred to in the questions of difficulty that I have just mentioned, and which may enable us to do something in determining the morality of an action, so far as those words, in their just application to the subject, indicate the judgment of mankind.
One of these is the word "meanness" - a word which a schoolboy would be most "likely" to apply to the act of a tell-tale or an informer, and which we instinctively apply to numerous actions in more advanced periods of life, and which serves to mark the judgment of mankind in regard to certain kinds of conduct. The "idea" in such a case is not so much the "guilt" or the "criminality" of the act considered as a violation of law, as it is that of being opposed to just notions of "honor," or indicating a base, low, sordid, grovelling spirits - "lowness of mind, want of dignity and elevation; want of honor." (Webster)