Psalm 140:3
They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.
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(3) Comp. Psalm 64:3; Psalm 58:4; Psalm 52:2; Psalm 10:7.

Adders.—The Hebrew word is peculiar to this place, and is explained by Gesenius to be a compound of two words, to represent “that which rolls itself up and lies in ambush.” “Besides the cobra and the cerastes, several other species of venomous snakes are common in Syria, and we may apply the name, either generically or specifically, to the vipers. Two species, Vipera ammodytes and Vipera euphratica, we found to be very common. The former of these was known to Linnæus as inhabiting Palestine. They are plainlycoloured serpents, with broad flat heads and suddenly-contracting tails” (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, p. 275). The LXX. and Vulg. read “asp.” (Comp. Romans 3:13.)

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.They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent - Compare the notes at Psalm 64:3. The idea here is, that since the tongue of the serpent "seems" to be sharp, pointed, adapted to penetrate (and probably the original reference in the image was derived from that idea), the wound inflicted is by the serpent's tongue - "as if" with a hard, penetrating point. It is now known, however, that it is by a tooth - a single tooth, made flexible for the purpose - at the root of which a small bag containing the poison is located, which is injected through an orifice in the tooth into the wound. The meaning here is, that the words spoken by such persons - by their tongues - were like the poison produced by the bite of a serpent.

Adders' poison is under their lips - The asp or adder is among the most poisonous of serpents. Thus, Cleopatra of Egypt is said to have destroyed her own life by an asp, which she had concealed for that purpose. This passage is quoted in Romans 3:13, as a proof of human depravity. See the notes at that verse.

3. sharpened … like a serpent—not like a serpent does, but they are thus like a serpent in cunning and venom. They have sharpened their tongues; their malicious hearts stirred up their tongues to utter vile slanders against me. Like a serpent; either whetting their tongues, as serpents are said to whet theirs when they are about to bite; or rather, using words as sharp and piercing as the sting of a serpent. They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent,.... Which Kimchi says it does before it bites. Aristotle (i) observes, that the tip or extreme point of a serpent's tongue is as small as a hair, and so exceeding sharp and piercing. Arama interprets this of the sharpness and cunning of the serpent; and particularly the serpent that deceived Eve, and spake cunningly to her. "For God knoweth", &c. and may design the calumnies and detractions, which were sharp as a razor; as swords, and spears, and arrows, and as the tongue of a serpent, Psalm 57:4; and the subtlety of false teachers, and deceitful workers; and the sharp and cutting words of wicked men against Christ and his people, Jde 1:15;

adder's poison is under their lips; which may signify the malignity of sin in wicked men, which comes from the old serpent the devil; is latent in men; very infectious, like poison, and deadly and incurable, but by the grace of God, and blood of Christ: and may describe particularly the mischief of the tongue, which is a little member, as the asp is a little creature; but very mischievous, full of deadly poison, which lurks in it, lies under it, and which spitting out, it stupifies and kills insensibly; as do the calumnies of wicked men, and the doctrines of false teachers; see Romans 3:13. The Targum is,

"the poison of the spider;''

though it is said (k) the spider is not venomous.

Selah; on this word; see Gill on Psalm 3:2.

(i) Hist. Animal. l. 2. c. 17. (k) Philosoph. Transact. abridged, vol. 2. p. 800. & vol. 5. par. 1. p. 24.

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

(c) He shows the weapons the wicked use, when power and force fail them.

3. They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent] The lying tongue is elsewhere compared to the sword or arrow which wounds (Psalm 52:2; Psalm 55:21; Psalm 57:4; Psalm 59:7; Psalm 64:3), or the serpent which inflicts a poisonous bite (Psalm 58:3-4); and here the Psalmist combines the metaphors. They deliberately prepare to inflict a deadly wound by slander.

adder’s poison is under their lips] Hidden like the poison gland of the asp. The words are quoted in Romans 3:13, from the LXX.Verse 3. - They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent (comp. Psalm 52:2; Psalm 57:4; Psalm 59:7; Psalm 64:3). Adders' poison is under their lips (comp. Psalm 58:4; Romans 3:15). The meaning is that their tongues inflict wounds which are as painful as poisoned wounds. The pause-sign, "selah," marks off the first stanza. 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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