Psalm 120:3
What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue?
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(3) What shall . . .?—Literally, What will he give to thee, and what will he add to thee, deceitful tongue? where it is better, as in the Authorised Version, to take the subject as indefinite, and so render by the passive. Thus we get in substance the following question: “What more can be added to thee (i.e., in the way of epithet), besides lying and false, thou deceitful tongue?” the answer is given by suggesting the usual metaphors of malicious speech, “the warrior’s sharpened arrows” (Jeremiah 9:8; Psalm 57:4); “fire” (James 3:6). Only here both images are elaborated. For the Hebrew word give with the sense of comparison, see 1Samuel 1:16, “Count (Heb., give) not thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial.” Gesenius compares the use of the Greek τιθένμι, instead of νομίζειν. So, too, the word “add” has a similar sense (1Kings 10:7; see margin).

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.What shall be given unto thee? - Margin, "What shall the deceitful tongue give unto thee;" or, "what shall it profit thee?" Luther, "What can the false tongue do?" Others render this, "How will God punish thee?" Others, "What will he (God) give to thee?" That is, What recompence can you expect from God for these malignant calumnies? A literal translation of this verse would be, "What shall the tongue of deceit give to thee, and what shall it add to thee?" - referring to the offender himself. The essential idea is, What will be the result of such conduct? What must be expected to follow from it? That is, either

(a) from the unprofitableness of such a course; or

(b) from the natural consequences to one's reputation and happiness; or

(c) from the judgment of God.

The answer to these questions is found in Psalm 120:4.

Or what shall be done unto thee? - Margin, as in Hebrew, "added." What must be the consequence of this? what will follow?

Thou false tongue - This may be either an address to the tongue itself, or, as above, the word "tongue" may be used as the nominative to the verbs in the sentence. The sense is not materially affected either way.

2, 3. Slander and deceit charged on his foes implies his innocence.

tongue—as in Ps 52:2, 4.

What shall be given unto thee, whosoever thou art who art guilty of these practices? He applies himself severally to the consciences of every one of them. Or he designs Doeg or some other person in Saul’s court eminent for this wickedness. The sense may be this, It is true, thou dost me some mischief; but what benefit dost thou get by it, if all thy accounts be cast up? For although thou mayst thereby obtain some favour and advantage from Saul, yet thou wilt assuredly bring upon thyself the curse and vengeance of God; and then thou wilt be no gainer by the bargain. And to do mischief to another without benefit to thyself, is an inhuman and diabolical wickedness.

What shall be given unto thee?.... Or, "what shall it give unto thee?" (s) That is, what shall the deceitful tongue give unto thee, O my soul? or to thee, to anyone that hears and reads this psalm? It is capable of giving thee a deal of trouble, of doing thee a deal of mischief; and of injuring thy character, and hurting thy peace and comfort, if permitted;

or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? or, "what shall the false tongue add unto thee?" (t) it shall increase thy sorrows and distress: or rather, what gain, profit, and advantage, shall the deceitful tongue get to itself by its lies and deceit? none at all; it may do harm to others, but gets no good to itself; see Isaiah 28:15; Or, "what shall he (God) give unto thee?" (u) or, "what shall he add unto thee, thou false tongue?" so Jarchi. What punishment will not he inflict upon thee, who hates lying lips? what plagues will not he add unto thee, who knows all the deceit that is in thee, and spoken by thee? The answer is as follows:

(s) "quid dabit tibi", Pagninus, Montanus, Musculus, Gejerus; so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (t) "et quid addet tibi", Montanus, Castalio; so Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius. (u) "Quid inferat tibi (Deus) aut quem rem adhibeat tibi, O lingua dolosa?" Tigurine version.

What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou {c} false tongue?

(c) He assured himself that God would turn their craft to their own destruction.

3, 4. What should he give thee, and what should he add to thee, thou deceitful tongue? Arrows of a warrior sharpened, with glowing coals of broom. The tongue, or rather its owner, is addressed. God is the subject of the verbs, and the form of expression is suggested by the familiar formula, “So God do to thee and more also” (1 Samuel 3:17), lit. “So shall God do to thee and so shall he add.” Psalm 120:4 is the answer to the question. The just retribution which is to overtake the deceitful man is described in terms suggested by his offence (cp. Psalm 7:12 ff.). He has shot his arrows of slander or false accusation at the innocent, but a mightier than he, even God Himself, will pierce him with the arrows of His judgement: he has kindled the fire of strife by his falsehoods, but the lightnings of Divine wrath will consume him. For the comparison of the evil tongue to a bow which shoots arrows of falsehood see Jeremiah 9:3; Proverbs 26:18 f.; cp. too Jeremiah 9:8, “Their tongue is a murderous arrow”: its power of mischief is described as fire in Proverbs 16:27 (cp. James 3:6). Glowing coals are a metaphor for Divine judgements in Psalm 140:10.

This is the simplest and most natural explanation. Several other explanations have however been proposed, e.g. (1) “What profit will thy false tongue bring thee, O slanderer? It is as sharp arrows” &c., but this seems to lack point. (2) Others suppose that God is addressed and that the tongue is the subject of the sentence: “What profit can the deceitful tongue bring to Thee?”—a sarcastic question, like that in Job 10:3 ff. Can it be that Jehovah tolerates the deceitful man, because thereby He gains some advantage? Psalm 120:4 will then be an equally sarcastic answer. The gain that accrues from his existence is mischief and strife. But apart from grammatical difficulties, such an idea is unsuited to the context.

coals of juniper] Heb. rôthem, broom, from which the Arabs still manufacture charcoal of the finest quality, which makes the hottest fire and retains heat for the longest time.

Verse 3. - What shall be given unto thee? rather, what shall he (i.e. God) give to thee? Or, in other words - What punishment will God inflict on thee for thy false speaking? Or what shall be done unto thee? literally, or what shall he add to thee? Compare the common phrase, "God do so unto me, and more also" (1 Samuel 3:17; 1 Samuel 14:44). Thou false tongue. The "false tongue" is apostrophized, as if it were a living person. Psalm 120:3According to the pointing ויּענני, the poet appears to base his present petition, which from Psalm 120:2 onwards is the substance of the whole Psalm, upon the fact of a previous answering of his prayers. For the petition in Psalm 120:2 manifestly arises out of his deplorable situation, which is described in Psalm 120:5. Nevertheless there are also other instances in which ויענני might have been expected, where the pointing is ויּענני (Psalm 3:5; Jonah 2:3), so that consequently ויּענני may, without any prejudice to the pointing, be taken as a believing expression of the result (cf. the future of the consequence in Job 9:16) of the present cry for help. צרתה, according to the original signification, is a form of the definition of a state or condition, as in Psalm 3:3; Psalm 44:27; Psalm 63:8, Jonah 2:10, Hosea 8:7, and בּצּרתה לּי equals בּצּר־לּי, Psalm 18:7, is based upon the customary expression צר לּי. In Psalm 120:2 follows the petition which the poet sends up to Jahve in the certainty of being answered. רמיּה beside לשׁון, although there is no masc. רמי (cf. however the Aramaic רמּי, רמּאי), is taken as an adjective after the form טריּה, עניּה, which it is also perhaps in Micah 6:12. The parallelism would make לשׁון natural, like לשׁון מרמה in Psalm 52:6; the pointing, which nevertheless disregarded this, will therefore rest upon tradition. The apostrophe in Psalm 120:3 is addressed to the crafty tongue. לשׁון is certainly feminine as a rule; but whilst the tongue as such is feminine, the לשׁון רמיה of the address, as in Psalm 52:6, refers to him who has such a kind of tongue (cf. Hitzig on Proverbs 12:27), and thereby the לך is justified; whereas the rendering, "what does it bring to thee, and what does it profit thee?" or, "of what use to thee and what advancement to thee is the crafty tongue?" is indeed possible so far as concerns the syntax (Ges. 147, e), but is unlikely as being ambiguous and confusing in expression. It is also to be inferred from the correspondence between מה־יּתּן לך וּמה־יּסיף לך and the formula of an oath כּה יעשׂה־לּך אלהים לכה יוסיף, 1 Samuel 3:17; 1 Samuel 20:13; 1 Samuel 25:22; 2 Samuel 3:35; Ruth 1:17, that God is to be thought of as the subject of יתן and יסיף: "what will," or rather, in accordance with the otherwise precative use of the formula and with the petition that here precedes: "what shall He (is He to) give to thee (נתן as in Hosea 9:14), and what shall He add to thee, thou crafty tongue?" The reciprocal relation of Psalm 120:4 to מה־יתן, and of. Psalm 120:4 with the superadding עם to מה־יסיף, shows that Psalm 120:4 is not now a characterizing of the tongue that continues the apostrophe to it, as Ewald supposes. Consequently Psalm 120:4 gives the answer to Psalm 120:3 with the twofold punishment which Jahve will cause the false tongue to feel. The question which the poet, sure of the answering of his cry for help, puts to the false tongue is designed to let the person addressed hear by a flight of sarcasm what he has to expect. The evil tongue is a sharp sword (Psalm 57:5), a pointed arrow (Jeremiah 9:7), and it is like a fire kindled of hell (James 3:6). The punishment, too, corresponds to this its nature and conduct (Psalm 64:4). The "mighty one" (lxx δυνατός) is God Himself, as it is observed in B. Erachin 15b with a reference to Isaiah 42:13 : "There is none mighty by the Holy One, blessed is He." He requites the evil tongue like with like. Arrows and coals (Psalm 140:11) appear also in other instances among His means of punishment. It, which shot piercing arrows, is pierced by the sharpened arrows of an irresistibly mighty One; it, which set its neighbour in a fever of anguish, must endure the lasting, sure, and torturingly consuming heat of broom-coals. The lxx renders it in a general sense, σὺν τοῖς ἄνθραξι τοῖς ἐρημικοῖς; Aquila, following Jewish tradition, ἀρκευθίναις; but רתם, Arabic ratam, ratem, is the broom-shrub (e.g., uncommonly frequent in the Belkâ).
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