Psalm 140:1
Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man;
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(1) Evil man.—The singular of the object in this verse must not lead us to think the psalm is an expression of personal feeling against one enemy, for it is immediately changed to the plural.

Violent man.—See Margin.

Psalm 140:1-3. Deliver me from the evil man — Either Saul, or Doeg, or some other malicious enemy, or rather enemies; the word man being taken collectively for men, as appears from the next verse. Continually, are they gathered, &c. — To execute those bloody enterprises which they have devised. They have sharpened their tongues, &c. — Their malicious hearts have excited their tongues to utter vile slanders against me, using words as sharp and piercing as the sting of a serpent. Adder’s poison is under their lips — There is so much malignity in all they say, that one would think there was nothing under their lips but adder’s poison. “Slander and calumny,” says Dr. H., “must always precede and accompany persecution, because malice itself cannot excite people against a good man, as such; to do this, he must first be represented as a bad man. What can be said of those who are busied in this manner, but that they are a generation of vipers, the brood of the old serpent, that grand accuser and calumniator of the brethren, having under their tongues a bag of poison, conveying instant death to the reputation on which they fasten? Thus David was hunted as a rebel, Christ was crucified as a blasphemer, and the primitive Christians were tortured as guilty of incest and murder.”140:1-7 The more danger appears, the more earnest we should be in prayer to God. All are safe whom the Lord protects. If he be for us, who can be against us? We should especially watch and pray, that the Lord would hold up our goings in his ways, that our footsteps slip not. God is as able to keep his people from secret fraud as from open force; and the experience we have had of his power and care, in dangers of one kind, may encourage us to depend upon him in other dangers.Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man - That is, evidently from some particular man who was endeavoring to injure him; some personal enemy. All the circumstances mentioned agree well with the supposition that Saul is intended.

Preserve me from the violent man - Margin, as in Hebrew, "man of violences." That is, one who has committed violence so often, who has so frequently done wrong, that this may be considered a characteristic of the man. This would apply well to the repeated acts of Saul in persecuting David, and endeavoring to do him injury.


Ps 140:1-13. The style of this Psalm resembles those of David in the former part of the book, presenting the usual complaint, prayer, and confident hope of relief.

1. evil man—Which of David's enemies is meant is not important.

1 Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man; preserve me from the violent man;

2 Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.

3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.

Psalm 140:1

"Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man." It reads like a clause of the Lord's prayer, "Deliver us from evil." David does not so much plead against an individual as against the species represented by him, namely, the being whose best description is - "the evil man." There are many such abroad; indeed we shall not find an unregenerate man who is not in some sense an evil man, and yet all are not alike evil. It is well for us that our enemies are evil, it would be a horrible thing to have the good against us. When "the evil man" bestirs himself against the godly he is as terrible a being as a wolf, or a serpent, or even a devil. Fierce, implacable, unpitying, unrelenting, unscrupulous, he cares for nothing but the indulgence of his malice. The persecuted man turns to God in prayer; he could not do a wiser thing. Who can meet the evil man and defeat him save Jehovah himself, whose infinite goodness is more than a match for all the evil in the universe? We cannot of ourselves baffle the craft of the enemy, but the Lord knoweth how to deliver his saints. He can keep us out of the enemy's reach, he can sustain us when under his power, he can rescue us when our doom seems fixed, he can give us the victory when defeat seems certain; and in any and every case, if he do not save us from the man he can keep us from the evil. Should we be at this moment oppressed in any measure by ungodly men, it will be better to leave our defence with God than to attempt it ourselves.

"Preserve me from the violent man." Evil in the heart simmers in malice, and at last boils in passion. Evil is a raging thing when it getteth liberty to manifest itself; and so "the evil man" soon develops into "the violent man." What watchfulness, strength, or valour can preserve the child of God from deceit and violence? There is but one sure Preserver, and it is our wisdom to hide under the shadow of his wings. It is a common thing for good men to be assailed by enemies - David was attacked by Saul, Doeg, Ahithophel, Shimei, and others; even Mordecai sitting humbly in the gate had his Haman; and our Lord, the Perfect One, was surrounded by those who thirsted for his blood. We may not, therefore, hope to pass through the world without enemies, but we may hope to be delivered out of their hands, and preserved from their rage, so that no real harm shall come of their malignity. This blessing is to be sought by prayer, and expected by faith.

Psalm 140:2

"Which imagine mischiefs in their heart." They cannot be happy unless they are plotting and planning, conspiring and contriving. They seem to have but one heart, for they are completely agreed in their malice; and with all their heart and soul they pursue their victim. One piece of mischief is not enough for them; they work in the plural, and prepare many arrows for their bow. What they cannot actually do they nevertheless like to think over, and to rehearse on the stage of their cruel fancy. It is an awful thing to have such a heart-disease as this. When the imagination gloats over doing harm to others, it is a sure sign that the entire nature is far gone in wickedness. "Continually are they gathered together for war." They are a committee of opposition in permanent session they never adjourn, but perpetually consider the all-absorbing question of how to do the most harm to the man of God. They are a standing army always ready for the fray-they not only go to the wars, but dwell in them. Though they are the worst of company, yet they put up with one another, and are continually in each other's society, confederate for fight. David's enemies were as violent as they were evil, as crafty as they were violent, and as persistent as they were crafty. It is hard dealing with persons who are only in their element when they are at daggers-drawn with you. Such a case calls for prayer, and prayer calls on God.

Psalm 140:3

"They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent." The rapid motion of a viper's tongue gives you the idea of its sharpening it; even thus do the malicious move their tongues at such a rate that one might suppose them to be in the very act of wearing them to a point, or rubbing them to a keen edge. It was a common notion that serpents inserted their poison by their tongues, and the poets used the idea as a poetical expression, although it is certain that the serpent wounds by his fangs and not by his tongue. We are not to suppose that all authors who used such language were mistaken in their natural history any more than a writer can be charged with ignorance of astronomy because he speaks of the sun's travelling from east to west. How else can poets speak but according to the appearance of things to an imaginative eye. The world's great poet puts it in "King Lear".

"She struck me with her tongue,

Most serpent-like, upon the very heart."

In the case of slanderers, they so literally sting with their tongues, which are so nimble in malice, and withal so piercing and cutting, that it is by no means unjust to speak of them as sharpened. "Adders' poison is under their lips." The deadliest of all venom is the slander of the unscrupulous. Some men care not what they say so long as they can vex and injure. Our text, however, must not be confined In its reference to some few individuals, for in the inspired epistle to the Romans it is quoted by the apostle as being true of us all. So depraved are we by nature that the most venomous creatures are our fit types. The old serpent has not only Inoculated us with his venom, but he has caused us to be ourselves producers of the like poison, it lies under our lips, ready for use, and, alas, it is all too freely used when we grow angry, and desire to take vengeance upon any who have caused us vexation. It is sadly wonderful what hard things even good men will say when provoked; yea, even such as call themselves "perfect" in cool blood are not quite as gentle as doves when their claims to sinlessness are bluntly questioned. This poison of evil-speaking would never fall from our lips, however much we might be provoked, if it were not there at other times; but by nature we have as great a store of venomous words as a cobra has of poison. O Lord, take the poison-bags away, and cause our lips to drop nothing but honey. "Selah." This is heavy work. Go up, go up, my heart! Sink not too low. Fall not into the lowest key. Lift up thyself to God.

Psalm 140:4-5

continued...THE ARGUMENT

This Psalm was composed by David upon occasion of those slanderous and reproachful speeches and treacherous dealings which David had from his enemies in Saul’s tithe, of which we have an account in the history.

The psalmist prayeth for deliverance and safety from wicked men, Psalm 140:1-7, for judgment upon them, Psalm 140:8-11, and comforteth himself with an assurance of God’s righteousness, Psalm 140:12,13.

Either Saul or Doeg, or some other malicious enemy, or rather enemies; the word man being taken collectively for men, as appears from the next verse, where he speaks of this man in the plural number.

Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man,.... Either Saul; so Theodoret; or rather Doeg, according to R. Obadiah: but Jarchi interprets it of Esau; by whom he means Edom, or Rome, or rather the Christians in general. Were his sense confined to the Papists, he might be thought to be much in the right; for this is applicable enough to the man of sin, and his followers: for it may be understood collectively of a body of evil men; all men are evil by nature, their hearts, thoughts, words, works, and ways. David's enemies were evil men; and so were Christ's; as Herod, Judas in particular, and the Jews in general: and such are the enemies of God's people; the world, profane sinners, persecutors, and false teachers; and to be delivered from such is desirable, and to be prayed for, and an happiness when enjoyed; see 2 Thessalonians 3:2;

preserve me from the violent man: or, "the man of violences" (h); of a violent spirit, that breathes out slaughter and death; of a fierce countenance, of blustering words, and furious actions. Such a man was Doeg; who loved evil, and all devouring words, devised mischief, and boasted in it, Psalm 52:1; and Herod, who in his wrath, being disappointed, ordered sit the infants in and about Bethlehem to be slain; and the Jews, who were violently set on the death of Christ, and vehemently desired it: and such are all violent persecutors of the church of God, who clothe themselves with the garment of violence, and drink the wine of it; and to be preserved from such is a great mercy.

(h) "a viro violentiarum", Piscator, Gejerus, Michaelis.

<> Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the {a} violent man;

(a) Who persecutes me out of malice and without cause.

1. the evil man … the violent man] Both words may be collective; evil men … men of violent deeds: but the second may single out a particular individual as the leader of the treacherous hostility of which the Psalmist complains. For the phrase man or men of violent deeds (plur.) cp. Psalm 140:4 and 2 Samuel 22:49; Psalm 140:11 and Psalm 18:48 have the sing., violence.

1–3. Prayer for deliverance from the machinations of calumnious enemies.Verse 1. - Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man. The prayer is not directed against an individual, but against David's enemies generally. They are "evil" or "wicked" men, and especially "men of violence" (see the next clause, and comp. ver. 4). Preserve me from the violent man; literally, from the man of violences (comp. 2 Samuel 22:49; Psalm 18:48). And this God is by many not only not believed in and loved, but even hated and blasphemed! The poet now turns towards these enemies of God in profound vexation of spirit. The אם, which is conditional in Psalm 139:8, here is an optative o si, as in Psalm 81:9; Psalm 95:7. The expression תּקטל אלוהּ reminds one of the Book of Job, for, with the exception of our Psalm, this is the only book that uses the verb קטל, which is more Aramaic than Hebrew, and the divine name Eloah occurs more frequently in it than anywhere else. The transition from the optative to the imperative סוּרוּ is difficult; it would have been less so if the Waw copul. had been left out: cf. the easier expression in Psalm 6:9; Psalm 119:115. But we may not on this account seek to read יסוּרוּ, as Olshausen does. Everything here is remarkable; the whole Psalm has a characteristic form in respect to the language. מנּי is the ground-form of the overloaded ממּנּי, and is also like the Book of Job, Job 21:16, cf. מנהוּ Job 4:12, Psalm 68:24. The mode of writing ימרוּך (instead of which, however, the Babylonian texts had יאמרוּך) is the same as in 2 Samuel 19:15, cf. in 2 Samuel 20:9 the same melting away of the Aleph into the preceding vowel in connection with אחז, in 2 Samuel 22:40 in connection with אזּר, and in Isaiah 13:20 with אהל. Construed with the accusative of the person, אמר here signifies to declare any one, profiteri, a meaning which, we confess, does not occur elsewhere. But למזמּה (cf. למרמה, Psalm 24:4; the Targum: who swear by Thy name for wantonness) and the parallel member of the verse, which as it runs is moulded after Exodus 20:7, show that it has not to be read ימרוּך (Quinta: παρεπικρανάν σε). The form נשׁוּא, with Aleph otians, is also remarkable; it ought at least to have been written נשׂאוּ (cf. נרפּוּא, Ezekiel 47:8) instead of the customary נשׂאוּ; yet the same mode of writing is found in the Niphal in Jeremiah 10:5, ינשׁוּא, it assumes a ground-form נשׂה (Psalm 32:1) equals נשׂא, and is to be judged of according to אבוּא in Isaiah 28:12 [Ges. 23, 3, rem. 3]. Also one feels the absence of the object to נשׁוּא לשּׁוא. It is meant to be supplied according to the decalogue, Exodus 20:7, which certainly makes the alteration שׁמך (Bttcher, Olsh.) or זכרך (Hitzig on Isaiah 26:13), instead of עריך, natural. But the text as we now have it is also intelligible: the object to נשׂוא is derived from ימרוך, and the following עריך is an explanation of the subject intended in נשׂוא that is introduced subsequently. Psalm 89:52 proves the possibility of this structure of a clause. It is correctly rendered by Aquila ἀντίζηλοί σου, and Symmachus οἱ ἐναντίοι σου. ער, an enemy, prop. one who is zealous, a zealot (from עוּר, or rather עיר, equals Arab. gâr, med. Je, ζηλοῦν, whence עיר, Arab. gayrat equals קנאה), is a word that is guaranteed by 1 Samuel 28:16; Daniel 4:16, and as being an Aramaism is appropriate to this Psalm. The form תּקומם for מתּקומם has cast away the preformative Mem (cf. שׁפתּים and משׁפּתים, מקּרה in Deuteronomy 23:11 for ממּקּרה); the suffix is to be understood according to Psalm 17:7. Pasek stands between יהוה and אשׂנה in order that the two words may not be read together (cf. Job 27:13, and above Psalm 10:3). התקוטט as in the recent Psalm 119:158. The emphasis in Psalm 139:22 lies on לי; the poet regards the adversaries of God as enemies of his own. תּכלית takes the place of the adjective: extremo (odio) odi eos. Such is the relation of the poet to the enemies of God, but without indulging any self-glorying.
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