|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
58:1-5 When wrong is done under the form of law, it is worse than any other; especially it is grievous to behold those who profess to be children of God, joining together against any of his people. We should thank the Lord for merciful restraints; we should be more earnest in seeking renewing grace, more watchful over ourselves, and more patient under the effects of fallen nature in others. The corruption of their nature was the root of bitterness. We may see in children the wickedness of the world beginning. They go astray from God and their duty as soon as possibly they can. And how soon will little children tell lies! It is our duty to take pains to teach them, and above all, earnestly to pray for converting grace to make our children new creatures. Though the poison be within, much of it may be kept from breaking forth to injure others. When the Saviour's words are duly regarded, the serpent becomes harmless. But those who refuse to hear heavenly wisdom, must perish miserably, for ever.
Verse 1. - Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation! The rendering of elem (אֵלֶם) by "congregation" is contrary to all analogy, and quite untenable. It must either mean "dumb ones," or be a corruption of elim (אֵלִים) - "mighty ones" (comp. Psalm 29:1). In either case it is an epithet applied to the judges of the people, and not to the congregation. Do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men? Both questions are asked in bitter irony, as is clear from the context.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation?.... Of the mighty, as in Psalm 82:1; the judges of the land, who were many, and therefore called a congregation, as it is necessary they should; for, being many, they are not so easily bribed; and besides, one may see that in a cause which another does not. The word signifies a "sheaf" (t); and so it is by some rendered, to which a bench or assembly of judges may be compared; because consisting of many, and a select body, who should unite together in a sentence or decree, and act uprightly, like a sheaf of wheat standing upright; see Genesis 37:7; some think the word has the signification of dumbness, or silence; so Jarchi and R. Moses (u); as "elem" in Psalm 56:1, title, and render it, "do ye indeed speak dumb justice?" or "the dumbness of justice" (w); or are you dumb, or your mouth silent, when ye should speak righteousness? and so the psalmist accuses them for their criminal silence, in not contradicting Saul and his courtiers when they spake against him; and for not advising him to another kind of conduct towards him. All men ought to speak that which is right and truth; but especially judges on the bench, who are to judge the people with just judgment, Deuteronomy 16:18; but here this is doubted of, and called in question; at least their sincerity in giving judgment: yea, it is denied; for this interrogation carries in it a strong denial; and the meaning is, that they did not speak righteousness, or that which was just and right in the cause of David, when before them;
do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men? no, they did not; they were unjust judges. The psalmist calls them "the sons of men", as in 1 Samuel 26:19, in distinction from God the Judge of all, and to put them in mind of their frailty and mortality; for though they were gods by office, they were but men, and should die like men, and be accountable to the supreme Judge for all their proceedings in judgment here, Psalm 82:1.
(t) "e manipulo", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "e manipulo justifiae", Cocceius. (u) In Aben Ezra in loc. (w) So Varenius, Reinbech, Michaelis.
The Treasury of David
1 O ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men?
2 Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth.
3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
4 Their poison is like the poison of a serpent: they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear;
5 Which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.
"Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation?" The enemies of David were a numerous and united band, and because they so unanimously condemned the persecuted one, they were apt to take it for granted that their verdict was a right one. "What everybody says must be true," is a lying proverb based upon the presumption which comes of large combinations. Have we not all agreed to hound the man to the death, and who dare hint that so many great ones can be mistaken? Yet the persecuted one lays the axe at the root by requiring his judges to answer the question whether or not they were acting according to justice. It were well if men would sometimes pause, and candidly consider this. Some of those who surrounded Saul were rather passive than active persecutors; they held their tongues when the object of royal hate was slandered; in the original, this first sentence appears to be addressed to them, and they are asked to justify their silence. Silence gives consent. He who refrains from defending the right is himself an accomplice in the wrong. "Do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men?" Ye too are only men though dressed in a little brief authority. Your office for men, and your relation to men both bind you to rectitude; but have ye remembered this? Have ye not put aside all truth when ye have condemned the godly, and united in seeking the overthrow of the innocent? Yet in doing this be not too sure of success, for ye are only the "sons of men," and there is a God who can and will reverse your verdicts.
"Yea, in heart ye work wickedness." Down deep in your very souls ye hold a rehearsal of the injustice ye intend to practise, and when your opportunity arrives, ye wreak vengeance with a gusto; your hearts are in your wicked work, and your hands are therefore ready enough. Those very men who sat as judges, and pretended to so much indignation at the faults imputed to their victim, were in their hearts perpetrating all manner of evil. "Ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth." They were deliberate sinners, cold, calculating villains. As righteous judges ponder the law, balance the evidence, and weigh the case, so the malicious dispense injustice with malice aforethought in cold blood. Note in this verse that the men described sinned with heart and hand; privately in their heart, publicly in the earth; they worked and they weighed - they were active, and yet deliberate. See what a generation saints have to deal with! Such were the foes of our Lord, a generation of vipers, an evil and adulterous generation; they sought to kill him because he was righteousness Itself, yet they masked their hatred to his goodness by charging him with sin.
"The wicked are estranged from the womb." It is small wonder that some men persecute the righteous seed of the woman, since all of them are of the serpent's brood, an enmity is set between them. No sooner born than alienated from God - what a condition to be found in! Do we so early leave the right track? Do we at the same moment begin to be men and commence to be sinners? "They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies." Every observer may see how very soon infants act lies. Before they can speak they practise little deceptive arts. This is especially the case in those who grow up to be adepts in slander, they begin their evil trade early, and there is no marvel that they become adepts in it. He who starts early in the morning will go far before night. To be untruthful is one of the surest proofs of a fallen state, and since falsehood is universal, so also is human depravity.
"Their poison is like the poison of a serpent." Is man also a poisonous reptile? Yes, and his venom is even as that of a serpent. The viper has but death for the body in his fangs; but unregenerate man carries poison under his tongue, destructive to the nobler nature. "They are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear." While speaking of serpents the Psalmist remembers that many of them have been conquered by the charmer's art, but men such as he had to deal with, no art could tame or restrain; therefore, he likens them to a serpent less susceptible than others to the charmer's music, and says that they refused to hear reason, even as the adder shuts her ear to those incantations which fascinate other reptiles. Man, in his natural corruption, appears to have all the ill points of a serpent without its excellences. O sin, what hast thou done!
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 58:1-11. David's critical condition in some period of the Sauline persecution probably occasioned this Psalm, in which the Psalmist teaches that the innate and actual sinfulness of men deserves, and shall receive, God's righteous vengeance, while the pious may be consoled by the evidence of His wise and holy government of men.
1. O congregation—literally, "Oh, dumb"; the word used is never translated "congregation." "Are ye dumb? ye should speak righteousness," may be the translation. In any case, the writer remonstrates with them, perhaps a council, who were assembled to try his cause, and bound to give a right decision.
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