Psalm 55:20
He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) He hath.—As in Psalm 55:12, the individual specially prominent in the traitorous crew is here singled out, and his treachery exposed.

He hath broken . . .—Literally, he perforated. In a note in his work on the Creed, referring to Colossians 2:14, Bishop Pearson says one mode of cancelling a bond was to drive a nail through it.

Psalm 55:20-21. He, &c. — I speak especially of “that perfidious person, who hath not only violated all the laws of friendship, but profanely broken his promise and oath of fidelity, wherein he was engaged to me.” — Bishop Patrick. Although, as we have seen, David did not excuse the rest that were concerned in these treacherous and treasonable practices, yet the base conduct of Ahithophel grieved him most, and dwelt most upon his mind; and, therefore, having mentioned the wickedness: and foretold the punishment of the others, he here returns to him of whom he had spoken, Psalm 55:13, and of whose wickedness, as being the chief contriver and promoter of the rebellion, he here adds some new and aggravating circumstances. Hath put forth his hand — In the way of force or violence; against such as be at peace with him — Against me, who gave him no provocation nor disturbance, but lived in great peace, and security, and friendship with him. He hath broken his covenant — All those solemn obligations by which he was tied to me, both as his king and as his friend. The words of his mouth were smoother, &c. — Chandler and Houbigant, taking מחמאת, ma-chamaoth, for an adjective, render the clause, Smooth and deceitful are the buttery words of his mouth. It is, however, considered by Kimchi as a substantive, with the preposition מprefixed, and so taken is properly translated, than butter. Either way the sense is the same, namely, he covered his treasonable and bloody design with fair and flattering speeches. So courteous was he, and obliging, so free in his professions of respect and kindness, and the proffers of his service, that he carried the appearance of a true and faithful friend: but war was in his heart — All this courtesy and pretended kindness was but a stratagem of war, and those very words had a mischievous intention: though softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords — Pernicious in their design and consequences.

55:16-23 In every trial let us call upon the Lord, and he will save us. He shall hear us, and not blame us for coming too often; the oftener the more welcome. David had thought all were against him; but now he sees there were many with him, more than he supposed; and the glory of this he gives to God, for it is he that raises us up friends, and makes them faithful to us. There are more true Christians, and believers have more real friends, than in their gloomy hours they suppose. His enemies should be reckoned with, and brought down; they could not ease themselves of their fears, as David could, by faith in God. Mortal men, though ever so high and strong, will easily be crushed by an eternal God. Those who are not reclaimed by the rod of affliction, will certainly be brought down to the pit of destruction. The burden of afflictions is very heavy, especially when attended with the temptations of Satan; there is also the burden of sin and corruption. The only relief under it is, to look to Christ, who bore it. Whatever it is that thou desirest God should give thee, leave it to him to give it in his own way and time. Care is a burden, it makes the heart stoop. We must commit our ways and works to the Lord; let him do as seemeth him good, and let us be satisfied. To cast our burden upon God, is to rest upon his providence and promise. And if we do so, he will carry us in the arms of his power, as a nurse carries a child; and will strengthen our spirits by his Spirit, so that they shall sustain the trial. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved; to be so shaken by any troubles, as to quit their duty to God, or their comfort in him. He will not suffer them to be utterly cast down. He, who bore the burden of our sorrows, desires us to leave to him to bear the burden of our cares, that, as he knows what is best for us, he may provide it accordingly. Why do not we trust Christ to govern the world which he redeemed?He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him - Against those who were his friends, or who had given him no occasion for war. The Septuagint and Vulgate render this, "He hath put forth his hands in recompensing;" that is, in taking vengeance. The Hebrew would bear this construction, but the more correct rendering is that in our common version. The "connection" here would seem to indicate that this is to be referred to God, as God is mentioned in the previous verse. But evidently the design is to refer to the enemies, or the principal enemy of the psalmist - the man whom he had particularly in his eye in the composition of the psalm; and the language is that of one who was "full" of the subject - who was thinking of one thing - and who did not deem it necessary to specify by name the man who had injured him, and whose conduct had so deeply pained him. He, therefore, begins the verse, "He hath put forth his hands," etc.; showing that his mind was fixed on the base conduct of his enemy. The language is such as leads us to suppose that the psalmist had Ahithophel in view, as being eminently the man that had in this cruel and unexpected manner put forth his hands against one who was his friend, and who had always treated him with confidence.

He hath broken his covenant - He, Ahithophel. The margin, as the Hebrew, is, "He hath profaned." The idea is, that he had defiled, or polluted it; or he had treated it as a vile thing - a thing to be regarded with contempt and aversion, as a polluted object is. The "covenant" here referred to, according to the views expressed above, may be supposed to refer to the compact or agreement of Ahithophel with David as an officer of his realm - as an adviser and counselor - that he would be faithful to the interests of the king and to his cause. All this he had disregarded, and had treated as if it were a worthless thing, by identifying himself with Absalom in his rebellion. See 2 Samuel 15:12, 2 Samuel 15:31.

20, 21. The treachery is aggravated by hypocrisy. The changes of number, Ps 55:15, 23, and here, enliven the picture, and imply that the chief traitor and his accomplices are in view together.20 He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.

21 The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.

Psalm 55:20

The Psalmist cannot forget the traitor's conduct, and returns again to consider it. "He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him." He smites those to whom he had given the hand of friendship, he breaks the bonds of alliance, he Is perfidious to those who dwell at ease because of his friendly professions. "He hath broken his covenant." The most solemn league he has profaned, he is regardless of oaths and promises.

Psalm 55:21

"The words of his mouth were smoother than butler." He lauded and larded the man he hoped to devour. He buffered him with flattery and then battered him with malice. Beware of a man who has too much honey on his tongue; a trap is to be suspected where the bait is so tempting. Soft, smooth, oily words are most plentiful where truth and sincerity are most scarce. "But war was in his heart." He brought forth butter in a lordly dish, but he had a tent-pin ready for the temples of his guest. When heart and lip so widely differ, the man is a monster, and those whom he assails are afflicted indeed. "His words were softer than oil." Nothing could be more unctuous and fluent, there were no objectionable syllables, no jars or discords, his words were as yielding as the best juice of the olive; "yet were they drawn swords," rapiers unsheathed, weapons brandished for the fray. Ah! base wretch, to be cajoling your victim while intending to devour him! entrapping him as if he were but a beast of prey; surely, such art thou thyself!

He, i.e. they, the persons last mentioned. Before the singular number, Psalm 55:13,14, was suddenly changed into the plural, Psalm 55:15, that the punishment might reach not him only, but his partners, in those treacherous and treasonable actions; and here is as sudden a change from the plural into the singular, and he returns to that person who was the chief contriver and promoter of this rebellion under Absalom, even to Ahithophel, of whom he spoke Psalm 55:13; and though he doth not excuse the rest, as we have seen, yet he lays the chief blame upon him, and here he adds new aggravations of his treason.

Hath put forth his hands, in way of force or violence, as this phrase is used, Genesis 37:22 1 Samuel 26:9 Nehemiah 13:21 Acts 12:1.

Against such as be at peace with him; against me, who gave him no provocation nor disturbance, but lived in great peace, and security, and friendship with him.

Hath broken his covenant; all those solemn obligations by which he was tied to me, both as his king and as his friend.

He hath put forth his hands,.... The psalmist returns and describes, in this verse Psalm 55:3, the cruelty, perfidy, and hypocrisy of his false friend; who had stretched forth his hands

against such as be at peace with him, or he pretended to be at peace with. So Ahithophel put forth his hands against David, by whom he had been admitted into his privy council, and there had taken sweet counsel together, by entering into a conspiracy and rebellion against him, and by forming a scheme to smite the king only, 2 Samuel 17:1; and Judas, though he did not lay hands on Christ himself, yet he gave his enemies a sign by which they might know him, and seize him, and hold him fast, as they did; and him Christ calls the man of his peace, Psalm 41:9; they being at peace when he lifted up his heel against him;

he hath broken his covenant; of friendship that was made between them; he proved false and treacherous, broke through his engagements, and violated his faith.

He {p} hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.

(p) I did not provoke him but was as at peace with him, yet he made war against me.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. He hath put forth his hands] The arch-traitor is certainly meant, not (though the Heb. idiom would allow of this explanation) each of the evildoers mentioned in Psalm 55:19. For the phrase cp. 1 Samuel 26:9, R.V.

against such as be at peace with him] R.V., against such as were at peace with him. Cp. Psalm 7:4; Psalm 41:9 (familiar friend, lit. man of my peace); Jeremiah 20:10; Jeremiah 38:22. The plural may merely generalise, but seems rather to indicate that the Psalmist is the representative of a party.

he hath broken his covenant] R.V., he hath profaned his covenant: desecrated the sacred obligations of friendship (1 Samuel 18:3).

20, 21. Once more the Psalmist reverts to the treachery of his former friend. It is quite natural that he should do so again, abrupt as is the transition from the great mass of his enemies to the one individual who to his mind stands in the forefront of them as the typical traitor. It is unnecessary to transpose these verses to follow Psalm 55:12-14, or to assume that they are a misplaced fragment of another Psalm.

Verse 20. - He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him. Some explain "he" as "the wicked collectively," and maintain that in this verse and the next no particular person is pointed at; but it seems better to regard the psalmist as "suddenly reverting to the fixed and deepest thought in his heart - the treachery of his friend" (Canon Cook). Ahithophel had put forth his hand against such as were at peace with him." He hath broken his covenant. The covenant of friendship with David (ver. 14), not, perhaps, a formal one, but involved in the terms on which they stood one towards the other. Psalm 55:20In spite of this interruption and the accompanying clashing in of the music. אשׁר .ci with its dependent clause continues the ויאנם, more minutely describing those whom God will answer in His wrath. The relative clause at the same time gives the ground for this their fate from the character they bear: they persevere in their course without any regard to any other in their godlessness. The noun חליפה, which is used elsewhere of a change of clothes, of a reserve in time of war, of a relief of bands of workmen, here signifies a change of mind (Targum), as in Job 14:14 a change of condition; the plural means that every change of this kind is very far from them. In Psalm 55:21 David again has the one faithless foe among the multitude of the rebels before his mind. שׁלמיו is equivalent to שׁלמים אתּו, Genesis 34:21, those who stood in peaceful relationship to him (שׁלום, Psalm 41:10). David classes himself with his faithful adherents. בּרית is here a defensive and offensive treaty of mutual fidelity entered into in the presence of God. By שׁלח and חלּל is meant the intention which, though not carried out as yet, is already in itself a violation and profanation of the solemn compact. In Psalm 55:22 the description passes into the tone of the caesural schema. It is impossible for מחמאת, so far as the vowels are concerned, to be equivalent to מחמאות, since this change of the vowels would obliterate the preposition; but one is forbidden to read מחמאות (Targum, Symmachus, Jerome) by the fact that פּיו (lxx τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ, as in Proverbs 2:6) cannot be the subject to חלקוּ. Consequently מ belongs to the noun itself, and the denominative מחמאות (from חמאה), like מעדנּות (from עדן), dainties, signifies articles of food prepared from curdled milk; here it is used figuratively of "milk-words" or "butter-words" which come from the lips of the hypocrite softly, sweetly, and supplely as cream: os nectar promit, mens aconita vomit. In the following words וּקרב־לבּו (וּקרב) the Makkeph (in connection with which it would have to be read ukerob just the same as in Psalm 55:19, since the - has not a Metheg) is to be crossed out (as in fact it is even wanting here and there in MSS and printed editions). The words are an independent substantival clause: war (קרב, a pushing together, assault, battle, after the form כּתב mrof eh with an unchangeable â) is his inward part and his words are swords; these two clauses correspond. רכּוּ (properly like Arab. rkk, to be thin, weak, then also: to be soft, mild; root רך, רק, tendere, tenuare) has the accent on the ultima, vid., on Psalm 38:20. פּתיחה is a drawn, unsheathed sword (Psalm 37:14).

The exhortation, Psalm 55:23, which begins a new strophe and is thereby less abrupt, is first of all a counsel which David gives to himself, but at the same time to all who suffer innocently, cf. Psalm 27:14. Instead of the obscure ἅπαξ γεγραμ. יהבך, we read in Psalm 37:5 דרכך, and in Proverbs 16:3 מעשׂיך, according to which the word is not a verb after the form ידעך (Chajug', Gecatilia, and Kimchi), but an accusative of the object (just as it is in fact accented; for the Legarme of יהוה has a lesser disjunctive value than the Zinnor of יהבך). The lxx renders it ἐπίῤῥιψον ἐπὶ κύριον τὴν μέριμνάν σου. Thus are these words of the Psalm applied in 1 Peter 5:7. According to the Talmud יהב (the same form as קרב) signifies a burden. "One day," relates Rabba bar-Chana, B. Rosh ha-Shana, 26b, and elsewhere, "I was walking with an Arabian (Nabataean?) tradesman, and happened to be carrying a heavy pack. And he said to me, שׁקיל יהביך ושׁדי אגמלאי, Take thy burden and throw it on my camel." Hence it is wiser to refer יהב to יהב, to give, apportion, than to a stem יהב equals יאב, Psalm 119:131 (root אב, או), to desire; so that it consequently does not mean desiring, longing, care, but that which is imposed, laid upon one, assigned or allotted to one (Bttcher), in which sense the Chaldee derivatives of יהב (Targum Psalm 11:6; Psalm 16:5, for מנת) do actually occur. On whomsoever one casts what is allotted to him to carry, to him one gives it to carry. The admonition proceeds on the principle that God is as willing as He is able to bear even the heaviest burden for us; but this bearing it for us is on the other side our own bearing of it in God's strength, and hence the promise that is added runs: He will sustain thee (כּלכּל), that thou mayest not through feebleness succumb. Psalm 55:23 also favours this figure of a burden: He will not give, i.e., suffer to happen (Psalm 78:66), tottering to the righteous for ever, He will never suffer the righteous to totter. The righteous shall never totter (or be moved) with the overthrow that follows; whereas David is sure of this, that his enemies shall not only fall to the ground, but go down into Hades (which is here, by a combination of two synonyms, בּאר שׁחת, called a well, i.e., an opening, of a sinking in, i.e., a pit, as e.g., in Proverbs 8:31; Ezekiel 36:3), and that before they have halved their days, i.e., before they have reached the half of the age that might be attained under other circumstances (cf. Psalm 102:25; Jeremiah 16:11). By ואתּה אלהים prominence is given to the fact that it is the very same God who will not suffer the righteous to fall who casts down the ungodly; and by ואני David contrasts himself with them, as being of good courage now and in all time to come.

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