Psalm 28:4
Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors: give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert.
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(4) Give them according to their deeds.—The justice of the lex talionis was deeply impressed on the mind of Israel, and we need not wonder to find its enforcement made the subject of prayer. A general notice of the imprecations of the Psalms will be found in the General Introduction (VI.). Here it is enough to remark that there is no indication of personal animosity or vindictiveness. The poet, even if expressing his own feelings, was identified with devout Israel, to whom it was natural not only to expect from Jehovah the manifestation of judgment which could alone remove the conditions that were so unfavourable to the true religion, but also to pray that He would at the same time vindicate Himself and justify those faithful to Him. (Comp. for the general thought Isaiah 3:8-11.) In the actual course of God’s providence, the retribution is often very accurately apportioned to the evil deed, and the Bible contains many strong instances—e.g., that of Adonibezek (Judges 1:5; Judges 1:7).

Psalm 28:4. Give them according to their deeds, &c. — It is fit that they should suffer as they have acted, and reap the fruit of their manifold wickedness. Give them after the work of their hands, &c. — Dispense a reward to them according to their works, and deal with them as they have dealt with others. This verse would be better translated in the future; Thou wilt give, &c. For this prayer is evidently a prophecy, that God will, sooner or later, render to all impenitent sinners according to their deserts: see the next verse, and note on Psalm 5:10.28:1-5 David is very earnest in prayer. Observe his faith in prayer; God is my rock, on whom I build my hope. Believers should not rest till they have received some token that their prayers are heard. He prays that he may not be numbered with the wicked. Save me from being entangled in the snares they have laid for me. Save me from being infected with their sins, and from doing as they do. Lord, never leave me to use such arts of deceit and treachery for my safety, as they use for my ruin. Believers dread the way of sinners; the best are sensible of the danger they are in of being drawn aside: we should all pray earnestly to God for his grace to keep us. Those who are careful not to partake with sinners in their sins, have reason to hope that they shall not receive their plagues. He speaks of the just judgments of the Lord on the workers of iniquity, ver. 4. This is not the language of passion or revenge. It is a prophecy that there will certainly come a day, when God will punish every man who persists in his evil deeds. Sinners shall be reckoned with, not only for the mischief they have done, but for the mischief they designed, and did what they could to effect. Disregard of the works of the Lord, is the cause of the sin of sinners, and becomes the cause of their ruin.Give them according to their deeds - Deal righteously with them. Recompense them as they deserve.

And according to the wickedness of their endeavours - Their designs; their works; their plans.

Give them after the work of their hands - Reward them according to what they do.

Render to them their desert - A just recompense. This whole verse is a prayer that God would deal "justly" with them. There is no evidence that there is anything of vindictiveness or malice in the prayer. In itself considered, there is no impropriety in praying that "justice" may be done to the violators of law. See the general introduction, section 6.

4. The imprecation is justified in Ps 28:5. The force of the passage is greatly enhanced by the accumulation of terms describing their sin.

endeavours—points out their deliberate sinfulness.

David useth these imprecations, partly, to vindicate himself from the slanders of his enemies, who reported him to be as wicked as they were, only more close and cunning therein; which, if he had been, he had bitterly cursed himself; which it could not reasonably be presumed that he would do; partly, from his great and long experience of their implacable and incorrigible malignity, not only against him, but against God, and his declared will, and against all truly good men, and that covered with pretences of piety to God, and of peaceableness towards their neighbours, Psalm 28:3, which made their wickedness more inexcusable and detestable; partly, by the instinct and direction of God’s Spirit, by whose inspiration he uttered this as well as the rest of the Psalm; and partly, that hereby he might provoke them to repentance; for this curse belongs only to those who shall obstinately persist in their wicked courses. Add to all this, that as verbs of the imperative mood are oft used by the Hebrews for futures, so these may not be proper imprecations, but predictions of their destruction. Give them according to their deeds,.... According to the demerit of them, which is death, even death eternal;

and according to the wickedness of their endeavours; for though wicked men do not always succeed; yet their want of success does not excuse their wickedness;

give them after the work of their hands; see 2 Timothy 4:14;

render to them their desert; what their iniquities, in thought, word, and deed, deserve: such petitions are not contrary to that Christian charity which the Gospel recommends; nor do they savour of a spirit of revenge, which is condemned by the word of God; for it should be observed, that these things are said with respect to men given up to a reprobate mind; and that the psalmist does not seek to avenge himself, nor to gratify his own mind; but he sought the glory of God, and moreover spoke by a prophetic spirit, knowing what was the will of God in this case; see Psalm 28:5; and therefore these petitions of his are not to be drawn into an example in common and ordinary cases.

{d} Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours: give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert.

(d) He thus prayed in respect to God's glory and not for his own cause, being assured that God would punish the persecutors of his Church.

4. Give them according to their work,

And according to the evil of their doings:

Give them according to the operation of their hands.

This is not a vindictive craving for personal revenge, but a solemn prayer that Jehovah will openly convict false and wicked men by manifesting His righteous judgements upon them, and punishing them as they deserve. See Introd. p. xc.

Give] Of a judicial sentence. Cp. Hosea 9:14; Jeremiah 32:19.

their desert] The word denotes an action either good or bad, and its fitting reward.Verse 4. - Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavours. The feeling of righteous indignation, naturally implanted in us, causes us to desire the punishment of the wicked, quite apart from any wrong that they may have done to ourselves (Aristotle, 'Rhet.,' 2:1, § 3). Give them after the work of their hands: render to them their desert. Nothing satisfies our moral feelings but exact retribution - Αἴκε τάθοι τάκ ἔρεξε, δίκη η ἰθεῖα γένοιτο. David shows in both respects a moral nature uncorrupted by contact with the world of his day. He is now wandering about like a hunted deer; but God is able to guide him so that he may escape all dangers. And this is what he prays for. As in Psalm 143:10, מישׁור is used in an ethical sense; and differs in this respect from its use in Psalm 26:12. On שׁררים, see the primary passage Psalm 5:9, of which this is an echo. Wily spies dodge his every step and would gladly see what they have invented against him and wished for him, realised. Should he enter the way of sin leading to destruction, it would tend to the dishonour of God, just as on the contrary it is a matter of honour with God not to let His servant fall. Hence he prays to be led in the way of God, for a oneness of his own will with the divine renders a man inaccessible to evil. נפשׁ, Psalm 27:12, is used, as in Psalm 17:9, and in the similar passage, which is genuinely Davidic, Psalm 41:3, in the signification passion or strong desire; because the soul, in its natural state, is selfishness and inordinate desire. יפח is a collateral form of יפיח; they are both adjectives formed from the future of the verb פּוּח (like ירב, יריב): accustomed to breathe out (exhale), i.e., either to express, or to snort, breathe forth (cf. πνεῖν, or ἐμπνεῖν φόνον and θόνοῦ, θυμον, and the like, Acts 9:1). In both Hitzig sees participles of יפח (Jeremiah 4:31); but Psalm 10:5 and Habakkuk 2:3 lead back to פּוּח (פּיח); and Hupfeld rightly recognises such nouns formed from futures to be, according to their original source, circumlocutions of the participle after the manner of an elliptical relative clause (the ṣifat of the Arabic syntax), and explains יפיח כּזבים, together with יפח חמס, from the verbal construction which still continues in force.
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