Psalm 31:13
For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) Again comp. Jeremiah 20:10, which reproduces word for word the first two clauses. The expression rendered “fear on every side” was actually a motto of the prophet (Jeremiah 6:25; Jeremiah 20:3, margin; Jeremiah 46:5; Jeremiah 49:29. Comp. Lamentations 2:22). But the most probable derivation makes the noun mean not terror but conspiracy, while for slander here we must render whisper.

“For I heard the whispering of the many,

‘Conspiracy all around.’ ”

Under cover of a pretended general panic they were really, as the psalmist saw, plotting evil against him.

31:9-18 David's troubles made him a man of sorrows. Herein he was a type of Christ, who was acquainted with grief. David acknowledged that his afflictions were merited by his own sins, but Christ suffered for ours. David's friends durst not give him any assistance. Let us not think it strange if thus deserted, but make sure of a Friend in heaven who will not fail. God will be sure to order and dispose all for the best, to all those who commit their spirits also into his hand. The time of life is in God's hands, to lengthen or shorten, make bitter or sweet, according to the counsel of his will. The way of man is not in himself, nor in our friend's hands, nor in our enemies' hands, but in God's. In this faith and confidence he prays that the Lord would save him for his mercies's sake, and not for any merit of his own. He prophesies the silencing of those that reproach and speak evil of the people of God. There is a day coming, when the Lord will execute judgment upon them. In the mean time, we should engage ourselves by well-doing, if possible, to silence the ignorance of foolish men.For I have heard the slander of many - The reproach; the false accusations; the unjust aspersions. We are here more definitely informed as to another of the sources of the trouble that came upon him. It was "slander." He had already referred to "two" sources of trouble; one Psalm 31:11 that he was "reproached" by his friends and neighbors, and that his society was shunned by them; a second, that he was "forgotten" by those who ought to have remembered him, and that they treated him as though he were dead, Psalm 31:12. The third is referred to now; to wit, that he was the subject of "slander," or of false reports. What was the "nature" of those false charges we are not informed. But it is not needful that we should know precisely what they were. It is enough, in order to see the depth and aggravation of his trouble, to know that he "was" exposed to this; and that, to all that he had to endure from other sources, there was this added - that his name was reproached and cast out as evil - that he was subjected to "slander,"

"Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue

Outvenoms all the worms of Nile; whose breath

Rides on the posting winds; and doth belie

All corners of the world."

Cymbeline, Act iii., Sc. iv.

Fear was on every side - From the causes already specified. He knew not whom to trust. He seemed to have no friend. He was afraid, therefore, of every one that he met.

While they took counsel together against me - See the notes at Psalm 2:2. They entered into a conspiracy or combination.

They devised to take away my life - They devised measures, or they laid a plot, thus to kill me. These are the grounds of the earnest prayer which he urges in Psalm 31:9 : "Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble."

13. For—introduces further reasons for his prayer, the unjust, deliberate, and murderous purposes of his foes. I have heard, partly with my own ears, and partly by the information of others.

The slander of many, who reproach and defame me as a turbulent and seditious person, an enemy to the public peace, a conspirator against the king’s life or dignity.

Fear, i.e. just cause of fear, even of the loss of my life, as appears from the next clause.

They devised to take away, to wit, unjustly and violently; as this word is used, Genesis 34:2 24:11. For I have heard the slander of many,.... Both enemies and neighbours;

fear was on every side; his enemies were a "Magormissabib" to him, Jeremiah 20:3; encompassed him around, so that he was in fear from every quarter;

while they took counsel together against me; how to apprehend him, and what to do with him;

they devised to take away my life; nothing short of that would satisfy; but life is in the hand of God; men may devise, but God disappoints, and his counsel stands; hence the psalmist was encouraged, after all, to trust in him, in this time of imminent danger, as follows.

For I have heard the slander of {i} many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.

(i) They who were in authority condemned me as a wicked doer.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. For I have heard the defaming of many,

Terror on every side (R.V.).

Jeremiah uses these very words to describe his plight (Jeremiah 20:10). Terror on every side is a favourite phrase with him (Jeremiah 6:25; Jeremiah 20:3-4; Jeremiah 46:5; Jeremiah 49:29; Lamentations 2:22).

they devised &c.] Jeremiah 11:19 ff; Jeremiah 18:20 ff., supply an illustration.Verse 13. - For I have heard the slander of many (see the comment on ver. 11). The calumnies circulated against him had reached David's ears, and these had so affected him that he felt as described in the preceding verse. Fear was on every side, while they took counsel together against me. Fear was "on every side" - in his own heart, and in the hearts of all his friends - when it came to the point of his enemies holding a formal council, in which the matter discussed was the best mode of proceeding against him to take away his life. The particulars of such a council are given in 2 Samuel 17:1-14. They devised to take away my life. That David's life was sought is apparent from the last clause of ver. 2, "I will smite the king only." (Heb.: 31:2-9) The poet begins with the prayer for deliverance, based upon the trust which Jahve, to whom he surrenders himself, cannot possibly disappoint; and rejoices beforehand in the protection which he assumes will, without any doubt, be granted. Out of his confident security in God (הסיתי) springs the prayer: may it never come to this with me, that I am put to confusion by the disappointment of my hope. This prayer in the form of intense desire is followed by prayers in the direct form of supplication. The supplicatory פלּטני is based upon God's righteousness, which cannot refrain from repaying conduct consistent with the order of redemption, though after prolonged trial, with the longed for tokens of deliverance. In the second paragraph, the prayer is moulded in accordance with the circumstances of him who is chased by Saul hither and thither among the mountains and in the desert, homeless and defenceless. In the expression צוּר מעוז, מעוז is genit. appositionis: a rock of defence (מעוז from עזז, as in Psalm 27:1), or rather: of refuge (מעוז equals Arab. m‛âd, from עוּז, עוז equals Arab. 'âd, as in Psalm 37:39; Psalm 52:9, and probably also in Isaiah 30:2 and elsewhere);

(Note: It can hardly be doubted, that, in opposition to the pointing as we have it, which only recognises one מעוז (מעז) from עזז, to be strong, there are two different substantives having this principal form, viz., מעז a fortress, secure place, bulwark, which according to its derivation is inflected מעזּי, etc., and מעוז equivalent to the Arabic ma‛âdh, a hiding-place, defence, refuge, which ought to have been declined מעוזי or מעוּזי like the synonymous מנוּסי (Olshausen 201, 202). Moreover עוּז, Arab. 'âd, like חסה, of which it is the parallel word in Isaiah 30:2, means to hide one's self anywhere (Piel and Hiph., Hebrew העיז, according to the Kamus, Zamachshari and Neshwn: to hide any one, e.g., Koran 3:31); hence Arab. 'â‛d, a plant that grows among bushes (bên esh-shôk according to the Kamus) or in the crevices of the rocks (fi-l-hazn according to Neshwn) and is thus inaccessible to the herds; Arab. 'wwad, gazelles that are invisible, i.e., keep hidden, for seven days after giving birth, also used of pieces of flesh of which part is hidden among the bones; Arab. 'ûdat, an amulet with which a man covers himself (protegit), and so forth. - Wetzstein.

Consequently מעוז (formed like Arab. m‛âd, according to Neshwn equivalent to Arab. ma'wad) is prop. a place in which to hide one's self, synonymous with מחסה, מנוס, Arab. mlâd, malja‛, and the like. True, the two substantives from עזז and עוז meet in their meanings like praesidium and asylum, and according to passages like Jeremiah 16:19 appear to be blended in the genius of the language, but they are radically distinct.)

a rock-castle, i.e., a castle upon a rock, would be called מעוז צוּר, reversing the order of the words. צוּר מעוז in Psalm 71:3, a rock of habitation, i.e., of safe sojourn, fully warrants this interpretation. מצוּדה, prop. specula, signifies a mountain height or the summit of a mountain; a house on the mountain height is one that is situated on some high mountain top and affords a safe asylum (vid., on Psalm 18:3). The thought "show me Thy salvation, for Thou art my Saviour," underlies the connection expressed by כּי in Psalm 31:4 and Psalm 31:5. Lster considers it to be illogical, but it is the logic of every believing prayer. The poet prays that God would become to him, actu reflexo, that which to the actus directus of his faith He is even now. The futures in Psalm 31:4, Psalm 31:5 express hopes which necessarily arise out of that which Jahve is to the poet. The interchangeable notions הנחה and נהל, with which we are familiar from Psalm 23:1-6, stand side by side, in order to give urgency to the utterance of the longing for God's gentle and safe guidance. Instead of translating it "out of the net, which etc.," according to the accents (cf. Psalm 10:2; Psalm 12:8) it should be rendered "out of the net there," so that טמנוּ לּי is a relative clause without the relative.

Into the hand of this God, who is and will be all this to him, he commends his spirit; he gives it over into His hand as a trust or deposit (פּקּדון); for whatsoever is deposited there is safely kept, and freed from all danger and all distress. The word used is not נפשׁי, which Theodotion substitutes when he renders it τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ ψυχὴν τῇ σῇ παρατίθημι προμηθείᾳ but רוּחי; and this is used designedly. The language of the prayer lays hold of life at its root, as springing directly from God and as also living in the believer from God and in God; and this life it places under His protection, who is the true life of all spirit-life (Isaiah 38:16) and of all life. It is the language of prayer with which the dying Christ breathed forth His life, Luke 23:46. The period of David's persecution by Saul is the most prolific in types of the Passion; and this language of prayer, which proceeded from the furnace of affliction through which David at that time passed, denotes, in the mouth of Christ a crisis in the history of redemption in which the Old Testament receives its fulfilment. Like David, He commends His spirit to God; but not, that He may not die, but that dying He may not die, i.e., that He may receive back again His spirit-corporeal life, which is hidden in the hand of God, in imperishable power and glory. That which is so ardently desired and hoped for is regarded by him, who thus in faith commends himself to God, as having already taken place, "Thou hast redeemed me, Jahve, God of truth." The perfect פּדיתה is not used here, as in Psalm 4:2, of that which is past, but of that which is already as good as past; it is not precative (Ew. 223, b), but, like the perfects in Psalm 31:8, Psalm 31:9, an expression of believing anticipation of redemption. It is the praet. confidentiae which is closely related to the praet. prophet.; for the spirit of faith, like the spirit of the prophets, speaks of the future with historic certainty. In the notion of אל אמת it is impossible to exclude the reference to false gods which is contained in אלהי אמת, 2 Chronicles 15:3, since, in Psalm 31:7, "vain illusions" are used as an antithesis. הבלים, ever since Deuteronomy 32:21, has become a favourite name for idols, and more particularly in Jeremiah (e.g., Psalm 8:1-9 :19). On the other hand, according to the context, it may also not differ very greatly from אל אמוּנה, Deuteronomy 32:4; since the idea of God as a depositary or trustee still influences the thought, and אמת and אמוּנה are used interchangeably in other passages as personal attributes. We may say that אמת is being that lasts and verifies itself, and אמונה is sentiment that lasts and verifies itself. Therefore אל אמת is the God, who as the true God, maintains the truth of His revelation, and more especially of His promises, by a living authority or rule.

In Psalm 31:7, David appeals to his entire and simple surrender to this true and faithful God: hateful to him are those, who worship vain images, whilst he, on the other hand, cleaves to Jahve. It is the false gods, which are called הבלי־שׁוא, as beings without being, which are of no service to their worshippers and only disappoint their expectations. Probably (as in Psalm 5:6) it is to be read שׂנאת with the lxx, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic versions (Hitzig, Ewald, Olshausen, and others). In the text before us, which gives us no corrective Ker as in 2 Samuel 14:21; Ruth 4:5, ואני is not an antithesis to the preceding clause, but to the member of that clause which immediately precedes it. In Jonah's psalm, Psalm 2:9, this is expressed by משׁמּרים הבלי־שׁוא; in the present instance the Kal is used in the signification observare, colere, as in Hosea 4:10, and even in Proverbs 27:18. In the waiting of service is included, according to Psalm 59:10, the waiting of trust. The word בּטח which denotes the fiducia fidei is usually construed with בּ of adhering to, or על of resting upon; but here it is combined with אל of hanging on. The cohortatives in Psalm 31:8 express intentions. Olshausen and Hitzig translate them as optatives: may I be able to rejoice; but this, as a continuation of Psalm 31:7, seems less appropriate. Certain that he will be heard, he determines to manifest thankful joy for Jahve's mercy, that (אשׁר as in Genesis 34:27) He has regarded (ἐπέβλεψε, Luke 1:48) his affliction, that He has known and exerted Himself about his soul's distresses. The construction ידע בּ, in the presence of Genesis 19:33, Genesis 19:35; Job 12:9; Job 35:15, cannot be doubted (Hupfeld); it is more significant than the expression "to know of anything;" בּ is like ἐπὶ in ἐπιγιγνώσκειν used of the perception or comprehensive knowledge, which grasps an object and takes possession of it, or makes itself master of it. הסגּיר, Psalm 31:9, συγκλείειν, as in 1 Samuel 23:11 (in the mouth of David) is so to abandon, that the hand of another closes upon that which is abandoned to it, i.e., has it completely in its power. מרחב, as in Psalm 18:20, cf. Psalm 26:12. The language is David's, in which the language of the Tra, and more especially of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 32:30; Deuteronomy 23:16), is re-echoed.

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