Psalm 141:6
When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(6) This verse again is full of obscurities. The first clause probably should be rendered, Let their judges be broken to pieces by the force (literally, hands) of the rock; or, let their judges be cast down by the sides of the cliff—i.e., hurled down the precipitous face of the ravine (See 2Chronicles 25:12, and notice that the word here is “Sela‘,” the name of the capital of Edom; comp. Hosea 10:14; Psalm 137:9, where, however, the expression is “against the cliff.”)

They shall . . .—Better, then shall they hear my words; how dainty they are, &c. The expression is ironical. The ungodly party, when their power is broken, instead of being entertained by the poet at a licentious banquet, will listen indeed to his words—shall hear a “dainty song” from him—viz., “a song of triumph.”

Psalm 141:6. When their judges are overthrown, &c. — “Of this verse, as it stands in our translation,” says Dr. Horne, “I know not what can be made. When literally rendered from the Hebrew, it runs thus; Their judges have been dismissed in the sides of the rock,” נשׁמשׂו בירי סלע, “and have heard my words that they were sweet. David, reflecting on Saul’s cruelty in driving him out of his country to wander among aliens and idolaters, very naturally calls to mind, and mentions his own different behaviour toward that implacable enemy, whose life he had spared two several times, when he had it in his power to destroy him as he pleased.” This is also Mr. Peters’s interpretation of the passage, who translates it as above, understanding, by שׁפשׂיהם, rendered their judges, their leaders, or generals, according to the frequent usage of the word in Scripture. The sense evidently is, “Their princes have been dismissed in safety when I had them at an advantage in those rocky deserts, and they only heard me expostulate with them in the gentlest words;” indeed, “in a manner so mild and humble that even Saul himself was overcome, and lift up his voice and wept, saying, My son David, thou art more righteous than I: the Lord reward thee good for what thou hast done unto me this day, 1 Samuel 24:16. Such has been my conduct toward the servants of Saul; yet how have my people, alas! been by them most miserably butchered!”

141:5-10 We should be ready to welcome the rebuke of our heavenly Father, and also the reproof of our brethren. It shall not break my head, if it may but help to break my heart: we must show that we take it kindly. Those who slighted the word of God before, will be glad of it when in affliction, for that opens the ear to instruction. When the world is bitter, the word is sweet. Let us lift our prayer unto God. Let us entreat him to rescue us from the snares of Satan, and of all the workers of iniquity. In language like this psalm, O Lord, would we entreat that our poor prayers should set forth our only hope, our only dependence on thee. Grant us thy grace, that we may be prepared for this employment, being clothed with thy righteousness, and having all the gifts of thy Spirit planted in our hearts.When ... - This passage is no less difficult than the preceding, and it seems almost impossible to determine its exact meaning. What is meant by "judges"? What judges are referred to by the word "their"? What is meant by their being "overthrown"? What is the sense of the words "in stony places"? Does the passage refer to some certain prospect that they "would be" overthrown, or is it a mere supposition which relates to something that "might" occur? Who are meant by "they," in the phrase "they shall hear my words?" It seems to me that the most plausible interpretation of the passage is founded on that which has been assumed thus far in the explanation of the psalm, as referring to the state of things recorded in 1 Samuel 24:1-7. David was in the wilderness of En-gedi, in the midst of a rocky region. Saul, apprised of his being there, came with three thousand chosen men to apprehend him, and went into a cave to lie down to rest. Unknown, probably, to him, David and his men were in the "sides of the cave." They now saw that Saul was completely in their power, and that it would be an easy thing to enter the cave, and kill him when off his guard. The men urgently advised David to do this. David entered the cave, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe, showing how completely Saul was in his power, but he proceeded no further; he did not follow the suggestions of his friends; he did not take the life of Saul, as he might have done; and he even regretted what he had done, as implying a want of due respect for the anointed of the Lord, 1 Samuel 24:11. Yet he had the fullest confidence that the king and his forces would be overthrown, and that it would be done in a way consistent with open and manly war, and not in an underhanded and stealthful way, as it would have been if he had cut him off in the cave. With this in view, it seems to me that the difficult passage before us may be explained with, at least, some degree of plausibility.

Their judges - By the judges, are to be understood the rulers of the people; the magistrates; those in office and power - referring to Saul and the officers of his government. "Their judges;" to wit, the judges or rulers of the hosts in opposition to me - of those against whom I war; Saul and the leaders of his forces.

Are overthrown - Are discomfited, vanquished, subdued; as I am confident they will be, in the regular prosecution of the war, and not by treachery and stealth.

In stony places - literally, "in the hands of the rock;" or, as the word "hands" may sometimes be used, "in the sides of the rock." It might mean "by the power of the rock," as thrown upon them; or, "against its sides." The essential idea is, that the "rocks," the rocky places, would be among the means by which they would be overthrown; and the sense is, that now that Saul was in the cave - or was in that rocky region, better known to David than to him - Saul was so completely in his power, that David felt that the victory, in a regular course of warfare, would be his.

They shall hear my words - The followers of Saul; the people of the land; the nation. Saul being removed - subdued - slain - the people will become obedient to me who have been anointed by a prophet as their king, and designated as the successor of Saul. David did not doubt that he would himself reign when Saul was overcome, or that the people would hear his words, and submit to him as king.

For they are sweet - They shall be pleasant; mild; gentle; equitable; just. After the harsh and severe enactments of Saul, after enduring his acts of tyranny, the people will be glad to welcome me, and to live under the laws of a just and equal administration. The passage, therefore, expresses confidence that Saul and his hosts would be overthrown, and that the people of the land would gladly hail the accession to the throne of one who had been anointed to reign over them.

PSALM 141

Ps 141:1-10. This Psalm evinces its authorship as the preceding, by its structure and the character of its contents. It is a prayer for deliverance from sins to which affliction tempted him, and from the enemies who caused it.

Their judges; the chief of mine enemies, their governors civil and military.

Are overthrown; or, shall be overthrown, or cast down headlong by thine exemplary vengeance. Or, as others, were left free, unhurt by me, when it was in my power to destroy them; of which see 1Sa 24 26 to which histories this place is by divers learned interpreters thought to allude. And then by their judges he means Saul, although he thought not fit distinctly to mention him, but only to intimate him in an obscure and general way.

In stony places, Heb. in the hands or by the sides of the rock; which may relate either,

1. To the rocky nature of those places in which Saul fell into David’s hands. See 1 Samuel 24:2. Or,

2. To the ancient manner of punishing malefactors, which was by throwing them down from the tops of rocks; of which see 2 Chronicles 25:12. Or,

3. To aggravate their overthrow; for falls in stony places are, as most easy and frequent, so also most mischievous.

They shall hear my words, for they are sweet: then they; either the judges, who will be wise too late; or the people spared by my favour, when others were overthrown and warned by that fearful example; will hear my words, i.e. hearken to my counsels and offers, which now they despise, and then they, my words, will be sweet and acceptable to them, which now they reject. Others thus, then they did hear my words that they were sweet; then they acknowledged that my words and carriage towards Saul were full of meekness and gentleness, and that I was not so false and malicious as they had represented me to be.

When their judges are overthrown in stony places,.... The judges of David's adversaries, the workers of iniquity; meaning Saul, Abner, &c. Arama refers this to Saul and his sons being slain on the mountains of Gilboa, 1 Samuel 31:1; which might be here prophetically spoken of. Or, as it is by some rendered, "when their judges are let down by the sides of the rock" (d); or let go free, as Saul was by David more than once; when it was in the power of his hands to have taken away his life, which his principal friends urged him to do, 1 Samuel 24:2. Some render the words as an imprecation or wish, "let their judges be cast down" (e); or as a prophecy, they "shall be cast dozen in stony places", or "by the sides of a rock": so the word is used of casting or throwing down, 2 Kings 9:33; and may allude to the manner of punishment used in some places, by casting down from a precipice, from rocks and hills; see 2 Chronicles 25:12. Or, "when they slip by the sides of the rock" (f); endeavouring to get up it; as ambitious men are desirous of getting to the top of honour, power, and authority, but stand in slippery places, and often slip and fall. And when this should be the case of these judges, then should David be raised up on high; the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel. And then

they shall hear my words, for these are sweet: that is, the common people should hear them, and be pleased with them, who had been set against him by their judges; by which they would easily perceive that he had no enmity nor malice, nor ill design against Saul. This may respect either his very affectionate lamentation at the death of Saul and his sons, 2 Samuel 1:17; or what he delivered at the several times he spared the life of Saul, when he could have taken it away, 1 Samuel 24:9; and it is especially true of all the words which David spoke by inspiration, or the Spirit of God spake to him; particularly in his book of Psalms, concerning the Messiah, the covenant of grace, and the blessings of it; of the rich experiences of grace he had, and the several doctrines of the Gospel declared by him; which were sweet, delightful, and entertaining to those who have ears to hear such things; or whose ears are opened to hear them, so as to understand them and distinguish them; but to others not.

(d) "demittentur per loca saxosa", Tigurine version; "demissi sunt in manus petrae", Montanus; "dimittunt se in lateribue petrarum", Piscator. (e) "Praecipitentur", Munster; "dejiciantur", Gejerus; "praecipites dentur", Musculus; so Kimchi. (f) "Lubricati sunt per latere petrae", Cocceius.

When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall {g} hear my words; for they are sweet.

(g) The people who follow their wicked rulers in persecuting the prophet will repent and turn to God, when they see their wicked rulers punished.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
6. When their judges have been thrown down by the sides of the cliff,

They (or men) will hear my words, that they are sweet.

6, 7. It is not difficult to translate these verses, but it seems impossible to give any satisfactory explanation of them in their present context. They may be rendered:

Verse 6. - When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words. Calamity opens the heart to receive instruction. The "judges" - i.e. the leaders - among David's enemies are visited with a grievous calamity, expressed metaphorically by their being dashed upon rocks. This disposes them to listen to David's words, which are well worth listening to, since they are sweet. Psalm 141:6Thus far the Psalm is comparatively easy of exposition; but now it becomes difficult, yet not hopelessly so. David, thoroughly conscious of his sins against God and of his imperfection as a monarch, says, in opposition to the abuse which he is now suffering, that he would gladly accept any friendly reproof: "let a righteous man smite in kindness and reprove me - head-oil (i.e., oil upon the head, to which such reproof is likened) shall my head not refuse." So we render it, following the accents, and not as Hupfeld, Kurtz, and Hitzig do: "if a righteous man smites me, it is love; if he reproves me, an anointing of the head is it unto me;" in connection with which the designation of the subject with היא would be twice wanting, which is more than is admissible. צדּיק stands here as an abstract substantive: the righteous man, whoever he may be, in antithesis, namely, to the rebels and to the people who have joined them. Amyraldus, Maurer, and Hengstenberg understand it of God; but it only occurs of God as an attribute, and never as a direct appellation. חסד, as in Jeremiah 31:3, is equivalent to בּחסד, cum benignitate equals benigne. What is meant is, as in Job 6:14, what Paul (Galatians 6:1) styles πνεῦμα πραΰ́τητος. and הלם, tundere, is used of the strokes of earnest but well-meant reproof, which is called "the blows of a friend" in Proverbs 27:6. Such reproof shall be to him as head-oil (Psalm 23:5; Psalm 133:2), which his head does not despise. יני, written defectively for יניא, like ישּׁי, in Psalm 55:16, אבי, 1 Kings 21:29 and frequently; הניא (root נא, Arab. n', with the nasal n, which also expresses the negation in the Indo-Germanic languages) here signifies to deny, as in Psalm 33:10 to bring to nought, to destroy. On the other hand, the lxx renders μὴ λιπανάτω τὴν κεφαλήν μου, which is also followed by the Syriac and Jerome, perhaps after the Arabic nawiya, to become or to be fat, which is, however, altogether foreign to the Aramaic, and is, moreover, only used of fatness of the body, and in fact of camels. The meaning of the figure is this: well-meant reproof shall be acceptable and spiritually useful to him. The confirmation כּי־עוד וגו follows, which is enigmatical both in meaning and expression. This עוד is the cipher of a whole clause, and the following ו is related to this עוד as the Waw that introduces the apodosis, not to כּי as in 2 Chronicles 24:20, since no progression and connection is discernible if כי is taken as a subordinating quia. We interpret thus: for it is still so (the matter still stands thus), that my prayer is against their wickednesses; i.e., that I use no weapon but that of prayer against these, therefore let me always be in that spiritual state of mind which is alive to well-meant reproof. Mendelssohn's rendering is similar: I still pray, whilst they practise infamy. On עוד ו cf. Zechariah 8:20 עוד אשׁר (vid., Khler), and Proverbs 24:27 אחר ו. He who has prayed God in Psalm 141:3 to set a watch upon his mouth is dumb in the presence of those who now have dominion, and seeks to keep himself clear of their sinful doings, whereas he willingly allows himself to be chastened by the righteous; and the more silent he is towards the world (see Amos 5:13), the more constant is he in his intercourse with God. But there will come a time when those who now behave as lords shall fall a prey to the revenge of the people who have been misled by them; and on the other hand, the confession of the salvation, and of the order of the salvation, of God, that has hitherto been put to silence, will again be able to make itself freely heard, and find a ready hearing.

As Psalm 141:6 says, the new rulers fall a prey to the indignation of the people and are thrown down the precipices, whilst the people, having again come to their right mind, obey the words of David and find them pleasant and beneficial (vid., Proverbs 15:26; Proverbs 16:24). נשׁמטוּ is to be explained according to 2 Kings 9:33. The casting of persons down from the rock was not an unusual mode of execution (2 Chronicles 25:12). ידי־סלע are the sides (Psalm 140:6; Judges 11:26) of the rock, after which the expression ἐχόμενα πέτρας of the lxx, which has been misunderstood by Jerome, is intended to be understood;

(Note: Beda Pieringer in his Psalterium Romana Lyra Radditum (Ratisbonae 1859) interprets κατεπόθησαν ἐχόμενα πέτρας οἱ κραταιοὶ τὐτῶν, absorpti, i.e., operti sunt loco ad petram pertinente signiferi turpis consilii eorum.)

they are therefore the sides of the rock conceived of as it were as the hands of the body of rock, if we are not rather with Bttcher to compare the expressions בּידי and על־ידי construed with verbs of abandoning and casting down, Lamentations 1:14; Job 16:11, and frequently. In Psalm 141:7 there follows a further statement of the issue on the side of David and his followers: instar findentis et secantis terram (בּקע with Beth, elsewhere in the hostile signification of irrumpere) dispersa sunt ossa nostra ad ostium (לפי as in Proverbs 8:3) orci; Symmachus: ὥσπερ γεωργὸς ὅταν ῥήσσῃ τὴν τὴν, οὕτως ἐσκορπίσθη τὰ ὀστᾶ ἡμῶν εἰς στόμα ᾅδου; Quinta: ὡς καλλιεργῶν καὶ σκάπτων ἐν τῇ γῇ κ. τ. λ. Assuming the very extreme, it is a look of hope into the future: should his bones and the bones of his followers be even scattered about the mouth of Shel (cf. the Syrian picture of Shel: "the dust upon its threshold ‛al-escûfteh," Deutsche Morgenlnd. Zeitschrift, xx. 513), their soul below, their bones above - it would nevertheless be only as when on in ploughing cleaves the earth; i.e., they do not lie there in order that they may continue lying, but that they may rise up anew, as the seed that is sown sprouts up out of the upturned earth. lxx Codd. Vat. et Sinait. τὰ ὀστᾶ ἡμῶν, beside which, however, is found the reading αὐτῶν (Cod. Alex. by a second hand, and the Syriac, Arabic, and Aethiopic versions), as Bttcher also, pro ineptissimo utcunque, thinks עצמינו must be read, understanding this, according to 2 Chronicles 25:12 extrem., of the mangled bodies of those cast down from the rock. We here discern the hope of a resurrection, if not directly, at least (cf. Oehler in Herzog's Real-Encyclopdie, concluding volume, S. 422) as am emblem of victory in spite of having succumbed. That which authorizes this interpretation lies in the figure of the husbandman, and in the conditional clause (Psalm 141:8), which leads to the true point of the comparison; for as a complaint concerning a defeat that had been suffered: "so are our bones scattered for the mouth of the grave (in order to be swallowed up by it)," Psalm 141:7, would be alien and isolated with respect to what precedes and what follows.

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