Psalm 36:3
The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.
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(3, 4) From the secret promptings of sin, the description of the ungodly passes on to its issues in words and deeds. It is an awful picture of wickedness of a man abandoning himself without check or remorse to the inspiration of his own evil heart. He goes from bad to worse. In a great English tragedy, the murderer, though he has determined to wade farther in blood, yet prays against the horror of nightly temptations:

“Merciful powers,

Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature

Gives way to in repose.

But this man “deviseth mischief upon his bed.” When even the worst criminals shudder at their own deeds, whispering to their “deaf pillows” the agonies that creep over them with darkness and silence, this ungodly man of the Hebrew poet’s picture is occupied rather in scheming fresh villainies; even then he abhorreth not evil, or better, rejecteth not, catches rather at every fresh suggestion, and shapes it to his end.

Psalm 36:3-4. The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit — Are wicked and deceitful. He hath left off to be wise and to do good — Once he had some degrees of wisdom, and did things that were apparently good, and seemed to be under the government of religion: but now he is an open apostate from that which he once professed. He deviseth mischief upon his bed — Freely from his own inclination, when none are present to provoke him to it. He setteth himself in a way that is not good — He doth not repent of his wicked devices, but resolutely proceeds to execute them, and persists therein. He abhorreth not evil — Though he sometimes professes to feel remorse for his conduct, and desists for a time from his evil practices, yet he does not truly repent of, nor abhor them, and therefore is ready to return to them when any occasion offers itself.

36:1-4 From this psalm our hearts should be duly affected with hatred of sin, and seek satisfaction in God's loving-kindness. Here is the root of bitterness, from which all the wickedness of wicked men comes. It takes rise from contempt of God, and the want of due regard to him. Also from the deceit they put upon their own souls. Let us daily beg of God to preserve us from self-flattery. Sin is very hurtful to the sinner himself, and therefore ought to be hateful; but it is not so. It is no marvel, if those that deceive themselves, seek to deceive all mankind; to whom will they be true, who are false to their own souls? It is bad to do mischief, but worse to devise it, to do it with plot and management. If we willingly banish holy meditations in our solitary hours, Satan will soon occupy our minds with sinful imaginations. Hardened sinners stand to what they have done, as though they could justify it before God himself.The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit - Are false and wicked. See the notes at Psalm 12:2. It is words do not fairly represent or express what is in his heart.

He hath left off to be wise - To act wisely; to do right.

And to do good - To act benevolently and kindly. This would seem to imply that there had been a change in his conduct, or that he was not what he once professed to be, and appeared to be. This language would be applicable to the change in the conduct of Saul toward David after he became envious and jealous of him 1 Samuel 18; and it is possible, as Amyraldus supposed, that this may have had particular reference to him. But such instances of a change, of feeling and conduct are not very uncommon in the world, and it may doubtless have happened that David experienced this more than once in his life.

2-4. This reflection detailed.

until his iniquity—literally, "for finding his iniquity for hating"; that is, he persuades himself God will not so find it—"for hating" involving the idea of punishing. Hence his words of iniquity and deceit, and his bold rejection of all right principles of conduct. The climax is that he deliberately adopts and patronizes evil. The negative forms affirm more emphatically their contraries.

Are iniquity and deceit, i.e. are wicked and deceitful. Once he had some shadows or degrees of wisdom, and sometimes did some things that were good in their kind; but new he hath not so much as the appearance of it, and is become an open apostate from that which once he professed.

The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit,.... Not only sinful, but sin itself; his mouth is full of cursing and bitterness, of filthy and unchaste words, of corrupt communication, lying, deceit, and flattery; out of the abundance of the wickedness of his heart his mouth speaketh; and which shows the badness of it, and proves all that is said before of him;

he hath left off to be wise, and to do good; by which the psalmist seems to intend one that had been a professor of religion, who, besides the light of nature he had acted contrary to, had had the advantage of a divine revelation, and had been enlightened into the knowledge of divine things, and had done many things externally good, particularly acts of beneficence; but now had dropped his profession of religion, denied the truths he had been enlightened into, and ceased from doing good; otherwise a natural man understandeth not; and, though he is wise to do evil, to do good he has no knowledge.

The words of his mouth are iniquity and {c} deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.

(c) The reprobates mock wholesome doctrine, and put no difference between good and evil.

3. iniquity and deceit] Cp. Psalm 5:5-6; Psalm 10:7.

he hath left off &c.] Or, he hath ceased to be wise to do good. Cf. Jeremiah 4:22. He inverts the prophetic exhortation, Isaiah 1:16-17. The word here rendered to be wise is specially used of the intelligence which leads to right and successful conduct. Cp. Psalm 14:2 (understand); Psalm 101:2 (behave myself wisely).

3, 4. The fruits of this reckless atheism described.

Verse 3. - The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit (comp. Psalm 12:2; Psalm 28:3). He hath left off to be wise, and to do good. There was a time when he occasionally acted wisely, and did what was right. But that time is gone by. Now he is consistently wicked. Psalm 36:3(Heb.: 36:1-4) At the outset the poet discovers to us the wickedness of the children of the world, which has its roots in alienation from God. Supposing it were admissible to render Psalm 36:2 : "A divine word concerning the evil-doing of the ungodly is in the inward parts of my heart" (נאם with a genitive of the object, like משּׂא, which is compared by Hofmann), then the difficulty of this word, so much complained of, might find the desired relief in some much more easy way than by means of the conjecture proposed by Diestel, נעם (נעם), "Pleasant is transgression to the evil-doer," etc. But the genitive after נאם (which in Psalm 110:1; Numbers 24:3., 15f., 2 Samuel 23:1; Proverbs 30:1, just as here, stands at the head of the clause) always denotes the speaker, not the thing spoken. Even in Isaiah 5:1 שׁירת דודי לכרמו is not a song concerning my beloved in relation to His vineyard, but a song of my beloved (such a song as my beloved has to sing) touching His vineyard. Thus, therefore, פּשׁע must denote the speaker, and לרשׁע, as in Psalm 110:1 לאדני, the person or thing addressed; transgression is personified, and an oracular utterance is attributed to it. But the predicate בּקרב לבּי, which is intelligible enough in connection with the first rendering of פשׁע as genit. obj., is difficulty and harsh with the latter rendering of פשׁע as gen. subj., whatever way it may be understood: whether, that it is intended to say that the utterance of transgression to the evil-doer is inwardly known to him (the poet), or it occupies and affects him in his inmost parts. It is very natural to read לבּו, as the lxx, Syriac, and Arabic versions, and Jerome do. In accordance therewith, while with Von Lengerke he takes נאם as part of the inscription, Thenius renders it: "Sin is to the ungodly in the midst of his heart," i.e., it is the inmost motive or impulse of all that he thinks and does. But this isolation of נאם is altogether at variance with the usage of the language and custom. The rendering given by Hupfeld, Hitzig, and at last also by Bצttcher, is better: "The suggestion of sin dwells in the ungodly in the inward part of his heart;" or rather, since the idea of בקרב is not central, but circumferential, in the realm of (within) his heart, altogether filling up and absorbing it. And in connection with this explanation, it must be observed that this combination בקרב לבו (instead of בקרבו, or בלבו, בלבבו) occurs only here, where, together with a personification of sin, an incident belonging to the province of the soul's life, which is the outgrowth of sin, is intended to be described. It is true this application of נאם does not admit of being further substantiated; but נאם (cognate נהם, המה), as an onomatopoetic designation of a dull, hollow sound, is a suitable word for secret communication (cf. Arabic nemmâm, a tale-bearer), or even - since the genius of the language does not combine with it the idea of that which is significantly secretly, and solemnly silently communicated, but spoken out - a suitable word for that which transgression says to the ungodly with all the solemn mien of the prophet or the philosopher, inasmuch as it has set itself within his heart in the place of God and of the voice of his conscience. לרשׁע does not, however, denote the person addressed, but, as in Psalm 32:10, the possessor. He possesses this inspiration of iniquity as the contents of his heart, so that the fear of God has no place therein, and to him God has no existence (objectivity), that He should command his adoration.

Since after this נאם פּשׁע we expect to hear further what and how transgression speaks to him, so before all else the most probable thing is, that transgression is the subject to החליק. We do not interpret: He flatters God in His eyes (with eye-service), for this rendering is contrary both to what precedes and to what follows; nor with Hupfeld (who follows Hofmann): "God deals smoothly (gently) with him according to his delusions," for the assumption that החליק must, on account of בּעיניו, have some other subject that the evil-doer himself, is indeed correct. It does not, however, necessarily point to God as the subject, but, after the solemn opening of Psalm 36:2, to transgression, which is personified. This addresses flattering words to him (אל like על in Proverbs 29:5) in his eyes, i.e., such as are pleasing to him; and to what end? For the finding out, i.e., establishing (מצא עון, as in Genesis 44:16; Hosea 12:9), or, - since this is not exactly suited to פשׁע as the subject, and where it is a purpose that is spoken of, the meaning assequi, originally proper to the verb מצא, is still more natural - to the attainment of his culpability, i.e., in order that he may inculpate himself, to hating, i.e., that he may hate God and man instead of loving them. לשׂנא is designedly used without an object just as in Ecclesiastes 3:8, in order to imply that the flattering words of פשׁע incite him to turn into an object of hatred everything that he ought to love, and to live and move in hatred as in his own proper element. Thenius endeavours to get rid of the harshness of the expression by the following easy alteration of the text: למצא עון ולשׂנא; and interprets it: Yea, it flatters him in his own eyes (it tickles his pride) to discover faults in others and to make them suffer for them. But there is no support in the general usage of the language for the impersonal rendering of the החליק; and the בּעיניו, which in this case is not only pleonastic, but out of place, demands a distinction between the flatterer and the person who feels himself flattered. The expression in Psalm 36:3, in whatever way it may be explained, is harsh; but David's language, whenever he describes the corruption of sin with deep-seated indignation, is wont to envelope itself in such clouds, which, to our difficult comprehension, look like corruptions of the text. In the second strophe the whole language is more easy. להשׂכּיל להיטיב is just such another asyndeton as למצא עונו לשׂנא. A man who has thus fallen a prey to the dominion of sin, and is alienated from God, has ceased (חדל ל, as in 1 Samuel 23:13) to act wisely and well (things which essentially accompany one another). His words when awake, and even his thoughts in the night-time, run upon און (Isaiah 59:7), evil, wickedness, the absolute opposite of that which alone is truly good. Most diligently does he take up his position in the way which leads in the opposite direction to that which is good (Proverbs 16:29; Isaiah 65:2); and his conscience is deadened against evil: there is not a trace of aversion to it to be found in him, he loves it with all his soul.

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