|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
120:1-4 The psalmist was brought into great distress by a deceitful tongue. May every good man be delivered from lying lips. They forged false charges against him. In this distress, he sought God by fervent prayer. God can bridle their tongues. He obtained a gracious answer to this prayer. Surely sinners durst not act as they do, if they knew, and would be persuaded to think, what will be in the end thereof. The terrors of the Lord are his arrows; and his wrath is compared to burning coals of juniper, which have a fierce heat, and keep fire very long. This is the portion of the false tongue; for all that love and make a lie, shall have their portion in the lake that burns eternally.
Verse 1. - In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me. The particular "distress' intended can only be conjectured. Some suppose it to be the Captivity itself, others the opposition offered by the Samaritans, Ammonites, and others to the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 4, 5.) and restoration of the wails of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:19, 20; Nehemiah 4:1-23; Nehemiah 6:2-14). But these guesses are scarcely of much value.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
In my distress I cried unto the Lord,.... Being at a distance from his own country, or, however, from the house of God; persecuted by men, under the lash of their tongues; reproached, abused, and belied by them: in this his case and circumstances, he betook himself by prayer to the Lord, and importuned help and deliverance of him, knowing that none could help him as he; see Psalm 18:6;
and he heard me; answered him, and delivered him. The petition he put up follows, which shows his case, and his particular distress.
The Treasury of David
1 In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.
2 Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
3 What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?
4 Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper.
5 Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!
6 My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.
7 I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war.
"In my distress." Slander occasions distress of the most grievous kind. Those who have felt the edge of a cruel tongue know assuredly that it is sharper than the sword. Calumny rouses our indignation by a sense of injustice, and yet we find ourselves helpless to fight with the evil, or to act in our own defence. We could ward off the strokes of a cutlass, but we have no shield against a liar's tongue. We do not know who was the father of the falsehood, nor where it was born, nor where it has gone, nor how to follow it, nor how to stay its withering influence. We are perplexed, and know not which way to turn. Like the plague of flies in Egypt, it baffles opposition, and few can stand before it. Detraction touches us in the tenderest point, cuts to the quick, and leaves a venom behind which it is difficult to extract. In all ways it is a sore distress to come under the power of "slander, the foulest whelp of sin." Even in such distress we need not hesitate to cry unto the Lord. Silence to man and prayer to God are the best cures for the evil of slander.
"I cried unto the Lord" (or Jehovah). The wisest course that he could follow. It is of little use to appeal to our fellows on the matter of slander, for the more we stir in it the more it spreads; it is of no avail to appeal to the honour of the slanderers, for they have none, and the most piteous demands for justice will only increase their malignity and encourage them to fresh insult. As well plead with panthers and wolves as with black-hearted traducers. However, when cries to man would be our weakness, cries to God will be our strength. To whom should children cry but to their father? Does not some good come even out of that vile thing, falsehood, when it drives us to our knees and to our God? "And he heard me." Yes, Jehovah hears. He is the living God, and hence prayer to him is reasonable and profitable. The Psalmist remembered and recorded this instance of prayer-hearing, for it had evidently much affected him; and now he rehearses it for the glory of God and the good of his brethren. "The righteous cry and the Lord heareth them." The ear of our God is not deaf, nor even heavy. He listens attentively, he catches the first accent of supplication; he makes each of his children confess, - "he heard me." When we are slandered it is a joy that the Lord knows us, and cannot be made to doubt our uprightness he will not hear the lie against us, but he will hear our prayer against the lie.
If these Psalms were sung at the ascent of the ark to Mount Zion, and then afterwards by the pilgrims to Jerusalem at the annual festivals and at the return from Babylon, we shall find in the life of David a reason for this being made the first of them. Did not this servant of God meet with Doeg the Edomite when he enquired of the oracle by Abiathar, and did not that wretched creature belie him and betray him to Saul? This made a very painful and permanent impression upon David's memory, and therefore in commencing the ark-journey he poured out his lament before the Lord, concerning the great and monstrous wrong of "that dog of a Doeg," as Trapp wittily calls him. The poet, like the preacher, may find it to his advantage to "begin low," for then he has the more room to rise the next Psalm is a full octave above the present mournful hymn. Whenever we are abused it may console us to see that we are not alone in our misery: we are traversing a road upon which David left his footprints.
"Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips." It will need divine power to save a man from these deadly instruments. Lips are soft; but when they are lying lips they suck away the life of character and are as murderous as razors. Lips should never be red with the blood of honest men's reputes, nor salved with malicious falsehoods. David says, "Deliver my soul": the soul, the life of the man, is endangered by lying lips; cobras are not more venomous, nor devils themselves more pitiless. Some seem to lie for lying sake, it is their sport and spirit, their lips deserve to be kissed with a hot iron; but it is not for the friends of Jesus to render to men according to their deserts. Oh for a dumb generation rather than a lying one! The faculty of speech becomes a curse when it is degraded into a mean weapon for smiting men behind their backs. We need to be delivered from slander by the Lord's restraint upon wicked tongues, or else to be delivered out of it by having our good name cleared from the liar's calumny. "And from a deceitful tongue." This is rather worse than downright falsehood. Those who fawn and flatter, and all the while have enmity in their hearts, are horrible beings; they are the seed of the devil, and Ire worketh in them after his own deceptive nature. Better to meet wild beasts and serpents than deceivers these are a kind of monster whose birth is from beneath, and whose end lies far below. It should be a warning to liars and deceivers when they see that all good men pray against them, and that even bad men are afraid of them. Here is to the believer good cause for prayer. "Deliver us from evil," may be used with emphasis concerning this business. From gossips, talebearers, writers of anonymous letters, forgers of newspaper paragraphs, and all sorts of liemongers, good Lord deliver us!
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 120:1-7. This is the first of fifteen Psalms (Psalms 120-134) entitled "A Song of Degrees" (Ps 121:1—literally, "A song for the degrees"), or ascents. It seems most probable they were designed for the use of the people when going up (compare 1Ki 12:27, 28) to Jerusalem on the festival occasions (De 16:16), three times a year. David appears as the author of four, Solomon of one (Ps 127:1), and the other ten are anonymous, probably composed after the captivity. In this Psalm the writer acknowledges God's mercy, prays for relief from a malicious foe, whose punishment he anticipates, and then repeats his complaint.
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