Psalm 11:2
For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.
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(2) Privily.—See margin, which preserves the image of the archer lurking in a dark corner.

Psalm 11:2. For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, &c. — Many eminent commentators consider these also as the words of David’s friends, representing to him, as a motive for his flight, the extreme danger he was in, which they compare to that of a bird when a fowler, having already fixed his eye upon it, had fitted his arrow to the string, and lying close, was taking aim at it, intending to shoot it. Just so, they signified, Saul and his counsellors had laid their plot on a sudden to destroy David. See Patrick and Dodd.

11:1-7 David's struggle with, and triumph over a strong temptation to distrust God, and betake himself to indirect means for his own safety, in a time of danger. - Those that truly fear God and serve him, are welcome to put their trust in him. The psalmist, before he gives an account of his temptation to distrust God, records his resolution to trust in Him, as that by which he was resolved to live and die. The believer, though not terrified by his enemies, may be tempted, by the fears of his friends, to desert his post, or neglect his work. They perceive his danger, but not his security; they give him counsel that savours of worldly policy, rather than of heavenly wisdom. The principles of religion are the foundations on which the faith and hope of the righteous are built. We are concerned to hold these fast against all temptations to unbelief; for believers would be undone, if they had not God to go to, God to trust in, and future bliss to hope for. The prosperity of wicked people in their wicked, evil ways, and the straits and distresses which the best men are sometimes brought into, tried David's faith. We need not say, Who shall go up to heaven, to fetch us thence a God to trust in? The word is nigh us, and God in the word; his Spirit is in his saints, those living temples, and the Lord is that Spirit. This God governs the world. We may know what men seem to be, but God knows what they are, as the refiner knows the value of gold when he has tried it. God is said to try with his eyes, because he cannot err, or be imposed upon. If he afflicts good people, it is for their trial, therefore for their good. However persecutors and oppressors may prosper awhile, they will for ever perish. God is a holy God, and therefore hates them. He is a righteous Judge, and will therefore punish them. In what a horrible tempest are the wicked hurried away at death! Every man has the portion of his cup assigned him. Impenitent sinner, mark your doom! The last call to repentance is about to be addressed to you, judgement is at hand; through the gloomy shade of death you pass into the region of eternal wrath. Hasten then, O sinner, to the cross of Christ. How stands the case between God and our souls? Is Christ our hope, our consolation, our security? Then, not otherwise, will the soul be carried through all its difficulties and conflicts.For, lo, the wicked bend their bow - These are to he regarded as the words of the persons referred to in the previous verse, who had advised the persecuted psalmist to flee to the mountains. In this verse reasons are suggested for that advice. The reasons are, that the enemy was preparing for an attack, and that at an unexpected moment the attack would be made unless he should effect his escape. Apprised of the danger, he might now make good his escape, and avoid the peril which was impending. The common weapon in war, as in hunting, was the bow and arrow. The process of preparing for the use of the bow consisted in bending it, and properly adjusting the arrow. The Hebrew word used here is "tread;" "the wicked tread upon the bow;" that is, with a view to bend it. The bow was made of steel, or strong wood, or pieces of ivory framed together, and it often required great strength - beyond the strength of the arm - to bend it so as to adjust the string. Hence, the "foot" was placed upon the center, and the two ends drawn near to each other.

They make ready their arrow upon the string - Hebrew, "they fit or fix the arrow upon the string." That is, they place the end of the arrow in the proper place upon the string of the bow.

That they may privily shoot at the upright in heart - Margin, as in the Hebrew, "in darkness." That is, that they may do it secretly or treacherously. They do not intend to do it in open day, or (as we should say) "in a fair fight;" but they mean to do it when their victim is not aware of their design. The phrase, "the upright in heart," may either denote their own conviction that those whom they designed so to attack were upright in heart - thus knowing that they were innocent; or it may be a statement of the advisers in the case, that those whom they counseled were thus upright - a statement on their part that the attack was made on the righteous. The latter is probably the true construction.

2. privily—literally, "in darkness," treacherously. For lo: these are the words, either,

1. Of David’s friends or enemies, confirming their former advice; which might suit with it, if that was the counsel of his friends; but not if it was (as it seems to have been) the counsel of his enemies; for these would never have called themselves

wicked, nor David and his men

upright in heart. Or rather,

2. Of David himself; who having directed his speech to his enemies, Psalm 11:1, now turns it to God, and pours out before him his complaints against his enemies, as his usual course is in this book. They do not only speak scornfully of me, as I have said, but, O Lord, they act against me with all their might and malice.

They make ready their arrow upon the string; they lay designs for my destruction, and they make all things ready to execute them.

Privily; out of their lurking holes: compare Psalm 10:8,9 64:5. For as some of his enemies did openly oppose him, so others did secretly undermine him, and with pretences of friendship seek to betray him.

At the upright in heart; at me and my followers, who have manifested our integrity both towards God and towards Saul, whom I have faithfully served and Spared when I could have taken away his life.

For, lo, the wicked bend their bow,.... Are devising mischief, and making preparations to accomplish it;

they make ready their arrow upon the string; of the bow, and are just about to execute their wicked designs;

that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart; such as David, and those that were with him, were; they were men whose hearts were upright before God, and were of upright conversations before men, and so became the butt of the malice and resentment of wicked men; against these they formed evil purposes, delivered out bitter words, which were like sharp arrows of the mighty; threatened them with ruin and destruction, and took methods to bring about their designs and make good their words, in the most private and secret manner. Hence some of David's friends thought it most advisable for him to make his escape; adding,

For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart.
2. The words of the faint-hearted friends continued. They justify their advice by pointing to the treacherous intentions of remorseless enemies. Similar language is used figuratively of slander in Psalm 64:3-4; Jeremiah 9:3; but here it may be taken literally of intent to murder. Cp. 1 Samuel 19:1 ff. For the language cp. Psalm 7:12; Psalm 7:10.

privily] Lit. as R.V., in darkness. LXX, in a moonless night.

Verse 2. - For, lo, the wicked bend their bow. The words are still those of the timid friends. "Lo," they say, "the ungodly are already bending the bow against thee" - preparing, i.e., to attempt thy life. They make ready their arrow upon the string; or, fit their arrow to the string. The last thing before discharging it. That they may privily shoot at the upright in heart; literally, that they may shoot amid darkness at the upright in heart (comp. 1 Samuel 19:1, 2, where, Saul having given orders to "all his servants, that they should kill David," Jonathan persuades him to hide himself "until the morning"). Psalm 11:2David rejects the advice of his friends to save his life by flight. Hidden in Jahve (Psalm 16:1; Psalm 36:8) he needs no other refuge. However well-meant and well-grounded the advice, he considers it too full of fear and is himself too confident in God, to follow it. David also introduces his friends as speaking in other passages in the Psalms belonging to the period of the Absolom persecution, Psalm 3:3; Psalm 4:7. Their want of courage, which he afterwards had to reprove and endeavour to restore, showed itself even before the storm had burst, as we see here. With the words "how can you say" he rejects their proposal as unreasonable, and turns it as a reproach against them. If the Chethb, נוּדוּ, is adopted, then those who are well-disposed, say to David, including with him his nearest subjects who are faithful to him: retreat to your mountain, (ye) birds (צפּור collective as in Psalm 8:9; Psalm 148:10); or, since this address sounds too derisive to be appropriate to the lips of those who are supposed to be speaking here: like birds (comparatio decurtata as in Psalm 22:14; Psalm 58:9; Psalm 24:5; Psalm 21:8). הרכס which seems more natural in connection with the vocative rendering of צפור (cf. Isaiah 18:6 with Ezekiel 39:4) may also be explained, with the comparative rendering, without any need for the conjecture הר כמו צפור (cf. Deuteronomy 33:19), as a retrospective glance at the time of the persecution under Saul: to the mountains, which formerly so effectually protected you (cf. 1 Samuel 26:20; 1 Samuel 23:14). But the Ker, which is followed by the ancient versions, exchanges נודו for גוּדי, cf שׁחי Isaiah 51:23. Even reading it thus we should not take צפור, which certainly is epicoene, as vocative: flee to your mountain, O bird (Hitz.); and for this reason, that this form of address is not appropriate to the idea of those who profer their counsel. But we should take it as an equation instead of a comparison: fly to your mountain (which gave you shelter formerly), a bird, i.e., after the manner of a bird that flies away to its mountain home when it is chased in the plain. But this Ker appears to be a needless correction, which removes the difficulty of נודו coming after לנפשׁי, by putting another in the place of this synallage numeri.

(Note: According to the above rendering: "Flee ye to your mountain, a bird" it would require to be accented נודו הרכם צפוז (as a transformation from נודו הרכם צפור vid., Baer's Accentssystem XVIII. 2). The interpunction as we have it, נודו הרכם צפור, harmonises with the interpretation of Varenius as of Lb Spira (Pentateuch-Comm. 1815): Fugite (o socii Davidis), mons vester (h. e. praesidium vestrum, Psalm 30:8, cui innitimini) est avis errans.)

In Psalm 11:2 the faint-hearted ones give as the ground of their advice, the fearful peril which threatens from the side of crafty and malicious foes. As הנּה implies, this danger is imminent. The perfect overrides the future: they are not only already in the act of bending the bow, they have made ready their arrow, i.e., their deadly weapon, upon the string (יתר equals מיתר, Psalm 21:13, Arab. watar, from יתר, wata ra, to stretch tight, extend, so that the thing is continued in one straight line) and even taken aim, in order to discharge it (ירה with ל of the aim, as in Psalm 54:5, with acc. of the object) in the dark (i.e., secretly, like an assassin) at the upright (those who by their character are opposed to them). In Psalm 11:3 the faint-hearted still further support their advice from the present total subversion of justice. השּׁתות are either the highest ranks, who support the edifice of the state, according to Isaiah 19:10, or, according to Psalm 82:5, Ezekiel 30:4, the foundations of the state, upon whom the existence and well-being of the land depends. We prefer the latter, since the king and those who are loyal to him, who are associated in thought with צדּיק, are compared to the שׁתות. The construction of the clause beginning with כּי is like Job 38:41. The fut. has a present signification. The perf. in the principal clause, as it frequently does elsewhere (e.g., Psalm 39:8; Psalm 60:11; Genesis 21:7; Numbers 23:10; Job 12:9; 2 Kings 20:9) in interrogative sentences, corresponds to the Latin conjunctive (here quid fecerit), and is to be expressed in English by the auxiliary verbs: when the bases of the state are shattered, what can the righteous do? he can do nothing. And all counter-effort is so useless that it is well to be as far from danger as possible.

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