Psalm 56:7
Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.
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(7) Shall they . . .—Literally, upon iniquity escape to them; the meaning of which is by no means clear. The ancient versions do not help us. If we adopt a slight change of reading, viz., palles for pallet, the meaning will be clear, for iniquity thou wilt requite them.

Psalm 56:7. Shall they escape by iniquity — Shall they secure themselves by such injurious and malicious practices, whereby they do not only vex me, but provoke and despise thee? Shall they have success instead of the punishments which thou hast threatened, and they have deserved? But the words may be read without an interrogation, By their iniquity they hope to escape; or, they do escape, namely, at present: but, Lord, do not suffer them thus to escape. In thine anger cast down the people — That is, these people of whom I am speaking, namely, my malicious and wicked enemies, as well those followers of Saul, as these Philistines among whom I now am. This request is opposed to their present exultation and triumphs over him, and to their hopes and confidence of safety and success.

56:1-7 Be merciful unto me, O God. This petition includes all the good for which we come to throne of grace. If we obtain mercy there, we need no more to make us happy. It implies likewise our best plea, not our merit, but God's mercy, his free, rich mercy. We may flee to, and trust the mercy of God, when surrounded on all sides by difficulties and dangers. His enemies were too hard for him, if God did not help him. He resolves to make God's promises the matter of his praises, and so we have reason to make them. As we must not trust an arm of flesh when engaged for us, so we must not be afraid of an arm of flesh when stretched out against us. The sin of sinners will never be their security. Who knows the power of God's anger; how high it can reach, how forcibly it can strike?Shall they escape by iniquity? - This expression in the original is very obscure. There is in the Hebrew no mark of interrogation; and a literal rendering would be, "By iniquity (there is) escape to them;" and, according to this, the sense would be, that they contrived to escape from just punishment by their sins; by the boldness of their crimes; by their wicked arts. The Septuagint renders it, "As I have suffered this for my life, thou wilt on no account save them." Luther, "What they have done evil, that is already forgiven." DeWette reads it, as in our translation, as a question: "Shall their deliverance be in wickedness?" Probably this is the true idea. The psalmist asks with earnestness and amazement whether, under the divine administration, people "can" find safety in mere wickedness; whether great crimes constitute an evidence of security; whether his enemies owed their apparent safety to the fact that they were so eminently wicked. He prays, therefore, that God would interfere, and show that this was not, and could not be so.

In thine anger cast down the people, O God - That is, show by thine own interposition - by the infliction of justice - by preventing the success of their plans - by discomfiting them - that under the divine administration wickedness does not constitute security; in other words, that thou art a just God, and that wickedness is not a passport to thy favor.

7. Shall they escape? &c.—or better, "Their escape is by iniquity."

cast … people—humble those who so proudly oppose Thy servant.

7 Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.

8 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?

9 When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.

Psalm 56:7

"Shall they escape by iniquity?" Will such wickedness as this stand them in good stead? Can it be that this conduct shall enable them to avoid the sentence of earthly punishment? They slander the good man to screen themselves - will this avail them? They have cunningly managed hitherto, but will there not be an end to their games? "In thine anger cast down the people, O God." Trip them up in their tricks. Hurl them from the Tarpeian rock. A persecuted man finds a friend even in an angry. God, how much more in the God of love! When men seek to cast us down, it is but natural and not at all unlawful to pray that they may be disabled from the accomplishment of their infamous designs. What God often does we may safely ask him to do.

Psalm 56:8

"Thou tellest my wanderings." Every step which the fugitive had taken when pursued by his enemies, was not only observed but thought worthy of counting and recording. We perhaps are so confused after a long course of trouble, that we hardly know where we have or where we have not been; but the omniscient and considerate Father of our spirits remembers all in detail, for he has counted them over as men count their gold, for even the trial of our faith is precious in his sight. "Put thou my tears into thy bottle." His sorrows were so many that there would need a great wine-skin to hold them all. There is no allusion to the little complimentary lachrymatories of fashionable and fanciful Romans, it is a robuster metaphor by far; such floods of tears had David wept that a leathern bottle would scarce hold them. He trusts that the Lord will be so considerate of his tears as to store them up as men do the juice of the vine, and he hopes that the place of storage will be a special one - "thy bottle," not a bottle. "Are they not in thy book?" Yes, they are recorded there, but let not only the record but the grief itself be present to thee. Look on my griefs as real things, for these move the heart more than a mere account, however exact. How condescending is the Lord! How exact his knowledge of us! How generous his estimations! How tender his regard!

Psalm 56:9

"When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back." So soon as I pray they shall fly. So surely as I cry they shall be put to the rout.

"So swift is prayer to reach the sky,

So kind is God to me."

The machinery of prayer is not always visible, but it is most efficient. God inclines us to pray, we cry in anguish of heart, he hears, he acts, the enemy is turned back. What irresistible artillery is this which wins the battle as soon as its report is heard! What a God is this who hearkens to the cry of his children, and in a moment delivers them from the mightiest adversaries! "This I know." This is one of the believer's certainties, his axioms, his infallible, indisputable verities. "For God is for me." This we know, and we know, therefore, that none can be against us who are worth a moment's fear. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" Who will restrain prayer when it is so potent? Who will seek any other ally than God, who is instantly present so soon as we give the ordained signal, by which we testify both our need and our confidence?

Shall they escape by iniquity? shall they secure themselves by such injurious and malicious practices, whereby they do not only vex me, but provoke and despise thee? Shall they have success instead of the punishments which thou hast threatened, and they have deserved? God forbid. But the words may be read without an interrogation,

By their iniquity they hope to escape; or, they do escape at present; but, Lord, do not suffer them thus to escape.

Cast down: this is opposed to their present exaltation and triumphs over poor David, and to their hopes and confidence of safety and success.

The people, i.e. these people of whom I am speaking, to wit, my malicious and wicked enemies, as well those followers of Saul, as these Philistines, amongst whom I now am.

Shall they escape by iniquity?.... Shall such iniquity as this, or persons guilty of it, go unpunished, or escape righteous judgment, and the vengeance of God? No; and much less shall they escape by means of their iniquity; by their wicked subtlety, or by any evil arts and methods made use of, by making a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell; or escape because of their iniquity; or be delivered because of the abominations done by them, as they flatter themselves, Jeremiah 7:10. Some understand these words, not as referring to the escape of David's enemies, but of himself; and render them, either by way of petition, "because of iniquity", the iniquity of his enemies before described, "deliver me from them"; or "deliver them" (z), meaning his heels they marked, and his soul they waited for: or by way of assertion or interrogation, "because of iniquity" there shall be; or shall there be "a deliverance to them?" (a) his heels and his soul; or from them, his enemies. Though others choose to render the words thus; "because of their iniquity", there shall be "a casting of them away" (b) by the Lord, and from his presence, with loathing and contempt, as sons of Belial; reprobate silver, rejected of the Lord; which agrees with what follows:

in thine anger, cast down the people, O God; Saul's courtiers, or the servants of Achish king of Gath, or both, who were in high places, but slippery ones; and such are sometimes brought down to destruction in a moment, by that God from whom promotion comes; who putteth down one, and sets up another, and which he does in wrath and anger.

(z) "ob iniquitatem eorum eripe me", Schmidt; "illos", Gejerus; "ipsis", De Dieu. (a) "Ipsis est liberatio", Cocceius; "evasio erit eis?" Pagninus, Vatablus; "ereptio erit eis?" Piscator. (b) "Abjectio erit iis", Hammond.

Shall {f} they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.

(f) They not only think to escape punishment, but the more wicked they are, the more impudent they grow.

7. Shall they escape by iniquity?] Or, In spite of iniquity shall they escape? When their conduct is so inhuman, shall they escape the judgement? Less probable is the rendering of R.V. marg. (for the thought of which cp. Isaiah 28:15), They think to escape by iniquity. But the phrase is obscure, and the emendation pallçs for pallçt adopted by many critics deserves consideration: Weigh unto them (i.e. pay them, cp. Psalm 58:2) according to their iniquity.

in thine anger &c.] In anger bring down peoples, O God: humble them by judgement. Cp. Psalm 55:23; Isaiah 63:6. This prayer, it is said, is unsuitable for an individual: it must be the voice of the congregation demanding the humiliation of its proud oppressors. But here, as in Psalm 7:6 ff., the appeal for a particular judgement is absorbed in the desire for a general judgement of the world.

Verse 7. - Shall they escape by iniquity? Shall they escape God's judgments, the psalmist asks, by their iniquity? Assuredly not. God will prevent such an escape. In thine anger cast down the people, O God; literally, the peoples; i.e. the heathen generally, to whom David's enemies, the Gittites, belong. Though assured that they will not escape, the psalmist, to make assurance doubly sure, prays that they may not. Psalm 56:7This second strophe describes the adversaries, and ends in imprecation, the fire of anger being kindled against them. Hitzig's rendering is: "All the time they are injuring my concerns," i.e., injuring my interests. This also sounds unpoetical. Just as we say חמס תורה, to do violence to the Tפra (Zephaniah 3:4; Ezekiel 22:26), so we can also say: to torture any one's words, i.e., his utterances concerning himself, viz., by misconstruing and twisting them. It is no good to David that he asseverates his innocence, that he asserts his filial faithfulness to Saul, God's anointed; they stretch his testimony concerning himself upon the rack, forcing upon it a false meaning and wrong inferences. They band themselves together, they place men in ambush. The verb גּוּר signifies sometimes to turn aside, turn in, dwell ( equals Arab. jâr); sometimes, to be afraid ( equals יגר, Arab. wjr); sometimes, to stir up, excite, Psalm 140:3 ( equals גּרה); and sometimes, as here, and in Psalm 59:4, Isaiah 54:15 : to gather together ( equals אגר). The Ker reads יצפּונוּ (as in Psalm 10:8; Proverbs 1:11), but the scriptio plena points to Hiph. (cf. Job 24:6, and also Psalm 126:5), and the following המּה leads one to the conclusion that it is the causative יצפּינוּ that is intended: they cause one to keep watch in concealment, they lay an ambush (synon. האריב, 1 Samuel 15:5); so that המה refers to the liers-in-wait told off by them: as to these - they observe my heels or (like the feminine plural in Psalm 77:20; Psalm 89:52) footprints (Rashi: mes traces), i.e., all my footsteps or movements, because (properly, "in accordance with this, that," as in Micah 3:4) they now as formerly (which is implied in the perfect, cf. Psalm 59:4) attempt my life, i.e., strive after, lie in wait for it (קוּה like שׁמר, Psalm 71:10, with the accusative equals קוּה ל in Psalm 119:95). To this circumstantial representation of their hostile proceedings is appended the clause על־עון פּלּט־למו, which is not to be understood otherwise than as a question, and is marked as such by the order of the words (2 Kings 5:26; Isaiah 28:28): In spite of iniquity [is there] escape for them? i.e., shall they, the liers-in-wait, notwithstanding such evil good-for-nothing mode of action, escape? At any rate פּלּט is, as in Psalm 32:7, a substantivized finitive, and the "by no means" which belongs as answer to this question passes over forthwith into the prayer for the overthrow of the evil ones. This is the customary interpretation since Kimchi's day. Mendelssohn explains it differently: "In vain be their escape," following Aben-Jachja, who, however, like Saadia, takes פלט to be imperative. Certainly adverbial notions are expressed by means of על, - e.g., על־יתר ,., abundantly, Psalm 31:24; על־שׁקר, falsely, Leviticus 5:22 (vid., Gesenius, Thesaurus, p. 1028), - but one does not say על־הבל, and consequently also would hardly have said על־און (by no means, for nothing, in vain); moreover the connection here demands the prevailing ethical notion for און. Hupfeld alters פלט to פּלּס, and renders it: "recompense to them for wickedness," which is not only critically improbable, but even contrary to the usage of the language, since פלס signifies to weigh out, but not to requite, and requires the accusative of the object. The widening of the circle of vision to the whole of the hostile world is rightly explained by Hengstenberg by the fact that the special execution of judgment on the part of God is only an outflow of His more general and comprehensive execution of judgment, and the belief in the former has its root in a belief in the latter. The meaning of הורד becomes manifest from the preceding Psalm (Psalm 55:24), to which the Psalm before us is appended by reason of manifold and closely allied relation.
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