Psalm 5:8
Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.
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(8) Enemies.—Literally, those watching for, or lying in wait. Aquila and Jerome both give “those lying in ambush.” God’s guidance and protection would enable the good man to avoid their snares, and to walk straight in the way of righteousness. To walk in God’s way is to walk in safety.

Psalm 5:8. Lead me, O Lord — Direct my heart, and counsels, and affairs, and all the course and actions of my life; in thy righteousness — In thy righteous laws, or, for, or, because of, or, according to, thy righteousness, a phrase and argument frequently used in the Psalms. Because of mine enemies — That I may give them no occasion of slandering me, or religion for my sake. Make the way — Wherein thou wouldst have me to walk, or the course thou wouldst have me to take; straight before my face — Plain to my view, that I may clearly discern it, and readily, evenly, and smoothly walk in it without mistake, hinderance, or stumbling, which my enemies would gladly take hold of. “Thus, a man’s enemies,” says Dr. Horne,

“while they oblige him to pray more fervently, and to watch more narrowly over his conduct, oftentimes become his best friends.”

5:7-12 David prayed often alone, yet was very constant in attendance on public worship. The mercy of God should ever be the foundation both of our hope and of our joy, in every thing wherein we have to do with him. Let us learn to pray, not for ourselves only, but for others; grace be with all that love Christ in sincerity. The Divine blessing comes down upon us through Jesus Christ, the righteous or just One, as of old it did upon Israel through David, whom God protected, and placed upon the throne. Thou, O Christ, art the righteous Saviour, thou art the King of Israel, thou art the Fountain of blessing to all believers; thy favour is the defence and protection of thy church.Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness - That is, conduct me safely in the manifestation of the principles of justice or righteousness which belong to thy nature. David felt assured that his was a righteous cause, and that he might make his appeal to God on the ground of the justness of that cause. Such a ground of appeal is always proper when we are in danger or in trouble from the injustice of others, for we may always ask of God to interpose, and to cause that which is right to be done.

Because of mine enemies - On account of my enemies, or in respect to them; that is, that they may not triumph, but that I may be vindicated and may be delivered from them.

Make thy way straight before my face - The way in which thou wouldst have me to walk. That is, mark out or make plain before me the path for me to tread - the path in which thou wilt deliver me. He was in perplexity, and knew not which way to go, and he looks up to God for guidance and direction.

8. enemies—literally, "watchers" (Ps 27:11), hence special need of guidance.

in thy righteousness—an attribute implying faithfulness in promises as well as threatenings.

make thy way straight—that is, make the way of providence plain.

8 Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.

Now we come to the second part, in which the Psalmist repeats his arguments, and goes over the same ground again.

"Lead me, O Lord," as a little child is led by its father, as a blind man is guided by his friend. It is safe and pleasant walking when God leads the way. "In thy righteousness," not in my righteousness, for that is imperfect, but in thine, for thou art righteousness itself. "Make thy way," not my way, "straight before my face." Brethren, when we have learned to give up our own way, and long to walk in God's way, it is a happy sign of grace; and it is no small mercy to see the way of God with clear vision straight before our face. Errors about duty may lead us into a sea of sins, before we know where we are.

Lead me; direct my heart, and counsels, and affairs, and all the course and actions of my life.

In thy righteousness; in thy righteous laws; which sometimes are called righteousness, as Psalm 119:172 Matthew 3:15. Or, for, or because of, or according to thy righteousness; which is a phrase and argument frequently used in this Book of Psalms.

Because of mine enemies; either,

1. That I may give them no occasion of slandering me, or religion for my sake. Or rather,

2. Because they are most malicious and mischievous, and withal cunning and treacherous, as he describes them in the next verse, (which he useth as an argument to enforce this petition,) and they lay snares for me, and if thou dost not assist me, will be too hard for me, and will triumph over me; which will reflect dishonour upon thee also.

Thy way, i.e. the way wherein thou wouldst have me to walk, or the course which thou wouldst have me to take; for God’s precepts or counsels are most commonly called his way.

Straight, or plain, or smooth, that I may clearly discern it, and readily walk in it, without mistake, or let, or stumbling, or offence. This was a needful request, because many good men are oft at a loss what their duty is in several circumstances. And God granted this request to David, as in many other things, so in this, that he should not cut off Saul when he had opportunity and instigation to do it, 1 Samuel 24 1Sa 26, but that he should wait till God took him away.

Before my face; to my view and for my walk; for men walk forward, not backward.

Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness,.... Not in mine, but thine; in the righteousness of God, which is revealed in the Gospel, from faith to faith, and is imputed by God, and received by faith; in this righteousness the psalmist desired to be led into the house of God, and appear before him; nor is there any other righteousness in which man can stand before God and worship. Or else the sense is, that God would lead him in the way of righteousness, in his righteous statutes, judgments, and ordinances; in which way the Lord does lead his people, Psalm 23:3. Or that he would lead him for his righteousness' sake; because of his faithfulness to his promises, that he would direct, uphold, and never leave nor forsake him. David was very sensible that the way of man is not in himself, and that he could not direct his own steps; and therefore desired to be guided by the Lord, and to be led by the right hand of his righteousness, and to be upheld by it in his ways:

because of mine enemies; or, "those that observe me" (l) that lie in wait and watch for my halting, as Jeremiah's enemies did; and would rejoice at my fall, and insult me, and blaspheme thy name; therefore lead, guide, and uphold me;

make thy way straight before my face; thy way of providence, thy way of grace, thy way of worship and duty; let it appear plain and manifest, that I may know in which way I should walk; and let all obstructions be removed out of the way, that I may walk straight on, without any difficulty or hinderance. He seems to have respect to his enemies, who lay in his way, that God would remove them; see Psalm 5:9.

(l) "observatores meos", Junius & Tremellius, Cocceius, Michaelis; so Aben Ezra, Kimchi, Ben Melech, & Ainsworth.

Lead me, O LORD, in thy righteousness {f} because of mine enemies; make thy way straight before my face.

(f) Because you are just, therefore lead me out of the dangers of my enemies.

8. The prayer for guidance which is the main object and central thought of the Psalm.

Lead me … in thy righteousness] i.e. because Thou art righteous. A comparison of Psalm 23:3; Proverbs 8:20; Proverbs 12:28; might incline us to understand the meaning to be, ‘Lead me in the path of right conduct which Thou hast marked out for me:’ but the true parallels are Psalm 31:1, Psalm 71:2, Psalm 119:40, Psalm 143:1; Psalm 143:11; which shew clearly that God’s own righteousness is meant. One element of that righteousness is faithfulness to His saints in the fulfilment of covenant promises, and to this the Psalmist appeals.

because of mine enemies] A peculiar word found only in Psalm 27:11, Psalm 54:5, Psalm 56:2, Psalm 59:10. Render, as in R.V. margin, them that lie in wait for me, like fowlers (Jeremiah 5:26, R.V.), or a leopard for its prey (Hosea 13:7). He prays that he may be preserved from falling into their snares.

make thy way straight] Or, as P.B.V. and R.V., plain. The word means both level and straight. The godly man’s life is a path marked out for him by God (Psalm 17:5, Psalm 73:24, Psalm 86:11). He prays that it may be such that he may be in no danger of stumbling or losing his way. ‘Bring us not into temptation.’

Verse 8. - Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness. Here at last we find what David prayed for. Previously, we have only heard him entreat that his prayer may be heard (vers. 1, 2), declare that he will pray early (ver. 3), and before the tabernacle (ver. 7); now we learn what his prayer is. It is that God will lead him in the path of his righteousness - that righteousness of which he is the pattern, and whereof he approves; and will "make his way plain for him," i.e. show it him clearly, so that he cannot mistake it. God is asked to do this, especially because of David's enemies, or of "those that lie in wait for him" (Revised Version margin), lest, if he were to make a false step, they should triumph over him, and so he should bring discredit upon the cause of God and of his saints. Make thy way straight (plain, Revised Version) before my face. Not so much "smooth my way," or "make it level" or "easy," as "put it plainly before me" (scrap. Psalm 25:5; and Psalm 27:11, '"Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies"). Psalm 5:8(Heb.: 5:8-10) Since the Psalm is a morning hymn, the futt. in Psalm 5:8 state what he, on the contrary, may and will do (Psalm 66:13). By the greatness and fulness of divine favour (Psalm 116:14) he has access (εἴσοδον, for בּוא means, according to its root, "to enter") to the sanctuary, and he will accordingly repair thither to-day. It is the tabernacle on Zion in which was the ark of the covenant that is meant here. That daily liturgical service was celebrated there must be assumed, since the ark of the covenant is the sign and pledge of Jahve's presence; and it is, moreover, attested by 1 Chronicles 16:37. It is also to be supposed that sacrifice was offered daily before the tabernacle. For it is not to be inferred from 1 Chronicles 16:39. that sacrifice was only offered regularly on the Bama (high place) in Gibeon before the Mosaic tabernacle.

(Note: Thus, in particular, Sthelin, Zur Kritik der Psalmen in the Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitschr. vi. (1852) S. 108 and Zur Einleitung in die Psalmen. An academical programme, 1859. 4to.)

It is true sacrifice was offered in Gibeon, where the old tabernacle and the old altars (or at least the altar of burnt-offering) were, and also that after the removal of the ark to Zion both David (1 Chronicles 21:29.) and Solomon (1 Kings 3:4; 2 Chronicles 1:2-6) worshipped and sacrificed in Gibeon. But it is self-evident sacrifices might have been offered where the ark was, and that even with greater right than in Gibeon; and since both David, upon its arrival (2 Samuel 6:17.), and Solomon after his accession (1 Kings 3:15), offered sacrifices through the priests who were placed there, it is probable-and by a comparison of the Davidic Psalms not to be doubted-that there was a daily service, in conjunction with sacrifices, before the ark on Zion.

But, moreover, is it really the אהל in Zion which is meant here in v. 8 by the house of God? It is still maintained by renowned critics that the tabernacle pitched by David over the sacred ark is never called בית ה or היכל or משׁכן ה or מקדשׁ or קדשׁ. But why could it not have all these names? We will not appeal to the fact that the house of God at Shilo (1 Samuel 1:9; 1 Samuel 3:3) is called בית and היכל ה, since it may be objected that it was really more of a temple than a tabernacle,

(Note: Vid., C. H. Graf, Commentation de templo Silonensi ad illustrandum locum Jude 18.30, 31, (1855, 4to.), in which he seeks to prove that the sanctuary in Shilo was a temple to Jahve that lasted until the dissolution of the kingdom of Israel.)

although in the same book, 1 Samuel 2:22 it is called אהל מועד, and in connection with the other appellations the poetic colouring of the historical style of 1 Samuel 1-3 is to be taken into consideration. Moreover, we put aside passages like Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26, since it may be said that the future Temple was present to the mind of the Lawgiver. But in Joshua 6:24; 2 Samuel 12:20, the sanctuary is called בית ה without being conceived of as a temple. Why then cannot the tabernacle, which David pitched for the ark of the covenant when removed to Zion (2 Samuel 6:17), be called בית ה? It is only when אהל and בּית are placed in opposition to one another that the latter has the notion of a dwelling built of more solid materials; but in itself beit (bt) in Semitic is the generic term for housing of every kind whether it be made of wool, felt, and hair-cloth, or of earth, stone, and wood; consequently it is just as much a tent as a house (in the stricter sense of the word), whether the latter be a hut built of wood and clay or a palace.

(Note: The Turkish Kamus says: "Arab. byt is a house (Turk. ew) in the signification of châne (Persic the same), whether it be made of hair, therefore a tent, or built of stone and tiles." And further on: "Beit originally signified a place specially designed for persons to retire to at night from Arab. bâta he has passed the night, if it does not perhaps come from the בוא, Arab. bayya, which stands next to it in this passage, vid., Job at Job 29:15-17]; but later on the meaning was extended and the special reference to the night time was lost." Even at the present day the Beduin does not call his tent ahl, but always bêt and in fact bêt sha'r (בית שׂער), the modern expression for the older bêt wabar (hair-house).)

If a dwelling-house is frequently called אהל, then a tent that any one dwells in may the more naturally be called his בּית. And this we find is actually the case with the dwellings of the patriarchs, which, although they were not generally solid houses (Genesis 33:17), are called בית (Genesis 27:15). Moreover, היכל (from יכל equals כּוּל to hold, capacem esse), although it signifies a palace does not necessarily signify one of stone, for the heavens are also called Jahve's היכל, e.g., Psalm 18:7, and not necessarily one of gigantic proportions, for even the Holy of holies of Solomon's Temple, and this par excellence, is called היכל, and once, 1 Kings 6:3, היכל הבּית. Of the spaciousness and general character of the Davidic tabernacle we know indeed nothing: it certainly had its splendour, and was not so much a substitute for the original tabernacle, which according to the testimony of the chronicler remained in Gibeon, as a substitute for the Temple that was still to be built. But, however insignificant it may have been, Jahve had His throne there, and it was therefore the היבל of a great king, just as the wall-less place in the open field where God manifested Himself with His angels to the homeless Jacob was בּית אלהים (Genesis 28:17).

Into this tabernacle of God, i.e., into its front court, will David enter (בּוא with acc. as in Psalm 66:13) this morning, there will he prostrate himself in worship, προσκυνεῖν (השׁתּחוה) reflexive of the Pilel שׁחוה, Ges. 75, rem. 18), towards (אל as in Psalm 28:2, 1 Kings 8:29, 1 Kings 8:35, cf. ל Psalm 99:5, Psalm 99:9) Jahve's היכל קדשׁ, i.e., the דּביר, the Holy of holies Psalm 28:2, and that "in Thy fear," i.e., in reverence before Thee (genit. objectivus). The going into the Temple which David purposes, leads his thoughts on to his way through life, and the special de'eesis, which only begins here, moulds itself accordingly: he prays for God's gracious guidance as in Psalm 27:11; Psalm 86:11, and frequently. The direction of God, by which he wishes to be guided he calls צדקה. Such is the general expression for the determination of conduct by an ethical rule. The rule, acting in accordance with which, God is called par excellence צדיק, is the order of salvation which opens up the way of mercy to sinners. When God forgives those who walk in this way their sins, and stands near to bless and protect them, He shows Himself not less צדיק (just), than when He destroys those who despise Him, in the heat of His rejected love. By this righteousness, which accords with the counsel and order of mercy, David prays to be led למען שׁוררי, in order that the malicious desire of those who lie in wait for him may not be fulfilled, but put to shame, and that the honour of God may not be sullied by him. שׁורר is equivalent to משׁורר (Aquila ἐφοδεύων, Jerome insidiator) from the Pilel שׁורר to fix one's eyes sharply upon, especially of hostile observation. David further prays that God will make his way (i.e., the way in which a man must walk according to God's will) even and straight before him, the prayer one, in order that he may walk therein without going astray and unimpeded. The adj. ישׂר signifies both the straightness of a line and the evenness of a surface. The fut. of the Hiph. הישׁיר is יישׁיר in Proverbs 4:25, and accordingly the Ker substitutes for the imper. הושׁר the corresponding form הישׁר, just as in Isaiah 45:2 it removes the Hiphil form אושׁר (cf. Genesis 8:17 הוצא Keri היצא), without any grammatical, but certainly not without some traditional ground.

כּי in Psalm 5:10 is closely connected with למען שׁוררי: on account of my way-layers, for the following are their characteristics. אין is separated by בּפיהוּ ( equals בּפיו Psalm 62:5) from נכונה the word it governs; this was the more easily possible as the usage of the language almost entirely lost sight of the fact that אין is the construct of אין, Ges. 152, 1. In his mouth is nothing that should stand firm, keep its ground, remain the same (cf. Job 42:7.). The singular suffix of בפיהו has a distributive meaning: in ore unuiscujusque eorum. Hence the sing. at once passes over into the plur.: קרבּם הוּות their inward part, i.e., that towards which it goes forth and in which it has its rise (vid., Psalm 49:12) is הוות corruption, from הוּה which comes from הוה equals Arab. hawâ, to yawn, gape, χαίνειν, hiare, a yawning abyss and a gaping vacuum, and then, inasmuch as, starting from the primary idea of an empty space, the verbal significations libere ferri (especially from below upwards) and more particularly animo ad or in aliquid ferri are developed, it obtains the pathological sense of strong desire, passion, just as it does also the intellectual sense of a loose way of thinking proceeding from a self-willed tendency (vid., Fleischer on Job 37:6). In Hebrew the prevalent meaning of the word is corruption, Psalm 57:2, which is a metaphor for the abyss, barathrum, (so far, but only so far Schultens on Proverbs 10:3 is right), and proceeding from this meaning it denotes both that which is physically corruptible (Job 6:30) and, as in the present passage and frequently, that which is corruptible from an ethical point of view. The meaning strong desire, in which הוּה looks as though it only differed from אוּה in one letter, occurs only in Psalm 52:9; Proverbs 10:3; Micah 7:3. The substance of their inward part is that which is corruptible in every way, and their throat, as the organ of speech, as in Psalm 115:7; Psalm 149:6, cf. Psalm 69:4, is (perhaps a figure connected with the primary meaning of הוות) a grave, which yawns like jaws, which open and snatch and swallow down whatever comes in their way. To this "they make smooth their tongue" is added as a circumstantial clause. Their throat is thus formed and adapted, while they make smooth their tongue (cf. Proverbs 2:16), in order to conceal their real design beneath flattering language. From this meaning, החליק directly signifies to flatter in Psalm 36:3; Proverbs 29:5. The last two lines of the strophe are formed according to the caesura schema. This schema is also continued in the concluding strophe.

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