Psalm 57:4
My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
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(4) Them that are set on fire.—Rather, greedy ones (literally, lickers) in apposition to lions. The verse expresses the insecurity of the poet, who, his dwelling being in the midst of foes, must go to sleep every night with the sense of danger all round him. (See LXX.) How grandly the refrain in Psalm 57:8 rises from such a situation.

Psalm 57:4. My soul is among lions — I live in the midst of a generation of fierce and bloody men; I lie — That is, I have my abode; among them that are set on fire — Namely, of, or from hell, James 3:6, who are mere firebrands and incendiaries, that are continually breathing out their wrath and threatenings. Even the sons of men — Whereby he explains what he meant by lions, and tells us that they were beasts in the shape of men; whose teeth — With which they gnash upon me, and with which they would, as it were, tear me to pieces, or eat me up; are spears and arrows — Fitted for mischiefs and murders; and their tongue — With which they wound my reputation, and load me with their curses, is a sharp sword — To cut and give deadly wounds.

57:1-6 All David's dependence is upon God. The most eminent believers need often repeat the publican's prayer, God be merciful to me a sinner. But if our souls trust in the Lord, this may assure us, in our utmost dangers, that our calamities will at length be overpast, and in the mean time, by faith and prayer, we must make him our refuge. Though God be most high, yet he condescends so low, as to take care that all things are made to work for good to his people. This is a good reason why we should pray earnestly. Look which way we will on this earth, refuge fails, no help appears; but we may look for it from heaven. If we have fled from the wrath to come, unto Jesus Christ, he that performed all things needful to purchase the salvation of his people, will do for us and in us all things needful for our enjoyment of it. It made David droop to think there should be those that bore him so much ill-will. But the mischief they designed against him, returned on themselves. And when David was in the greatest distress and disgrace, he did not pray, Lord, exalt me, but, Lord, exalt thine own name. Our best encouragement in prayer, is taken from the glory of God, and to that, more than to our own comfort, we should have regard in all our petitions for mercy.My soul is among lions - That is, among people who resemble lions; men, fierce, savage, ferocious.

And I lie even among them that are set on fire - We have a term of similar import in common use now, when we say that one is "inflamed" with passion, referring to one who is infuriated and enraged. So we speak of "burning" with rage or wrath - an expression derived, perhaps, from the inflamed "appearance" of a man in anger. The idea here is not that he "would" lie down calmly among those persons, as Prof. Alexander suggests, but that he actually "did" thus lie down. When he laid himself down at night, when he sought repose in sleep, he was surrounded by such persons, and seemed to be sleeping in the midst of them.

Even the sons of men - Yet they are not wild beasts, but "men" who seem to have the ferocious nature of wild beasts. The phrase, "sons of men," is often used to denote men themselves.

Whose teeth are spears and arrows - Spears and arrows in their hands are what the teeth of wild beasts are.

And their tongue a sharp sword - The mention of the tongue here has reference, probably, to the abuse and slander to which he was exposed, and which was like a sharp sword that pierced even to the seat of life. See the notes at Psalm 55:21.

4. The mingled figures of wild beasts (Ps 10:9; 17:12) and weapons of war (Ps 11:2) heighten the picture of danger.

whose … tongue—or slanders.

I live in the midst of a generation of fierce and bloody men; which both in Scripture and other authors are oft called lions.

I lie, I have my abode and conversation, even among (which particle is easily borrowed out of the foregoing clause)

them that are set on fire, to wit, of or from hell, as is fully expressed, Jam 3:6; who are mere fire-brands and incendiaries, that are continually breathing out their wrath and threatenings, and incensing Saul against me. The sons of men; whereby he explains what he meant by lions, and tells us they were beasts in the shape of men.

Teeth; which may be considered, either,

1. As instruments of destruction, as they are in lions. Or rather,

2. As instruments of speech, as they are in men; for it here follows by way of explication, as the manner is, and their tongue. And both seem to signify their wicked and pernicious calumnies, of which he every where complains, and particularly in the history to which this Psalm seems to relate, 1 Samuel 24:10, and by which they designed to promote his destruction.

Are spears and arrows, i.e. they grievously wound my name, and are devised to do me mischief.

My soul is among lions,.... Not literally understood; though such there might be in the wildernesses where he sometimes was; but figuratively, men comparable to lions, for their stoutness, courage, strength, fierceness, and cruelty; meaning not his own men, as some think, who were fierce, and of keen resentment against Saul, and would fain have killed him when he was in the cave, had they not been restrained by David, 1 Samuel 24:4; but Saul, and those with him, who were three thousand chosen men, stout, courageous, fierce, and furious. It is usual in scripture to describe powerful princes, and especially persecuting ones, by the name of lions, Proverbs 28:15. Achilles, in Homer (o), is compared to a lion for his cruelty. The soul of Christ was among such, when he was apprehended by the band of men that came with Judas to take him; when he was in the high priest's hall buffeted and spit upon; and when he was in the common hall of Pilate, surrounded by the Roman soldiers; and when he was encircled on the cross with the crowd of the common people, priests and elders, Matthew 26:55; and so the souls of his people are often among lions, persecuting men, and Satan and his principalities, who is compared to a roaring lion, 1 Peter 5:8; and among whom they are as wonderfully preserved as Daniel in the lion's den;

and I lie even among them that are set on fire; of hell, as the tongue is said to be in James 3:6; by the devil, who stirred up Saul against David, filled him with wrath and fury, so that he breathed out nothing but flaming vengeance, threatening and slaughter, against him; and by wicked men his courtiers, who kindled and stirred up the fire of contention between them; among these incendiaries, as Junius renders the word (p), David was, who inflamed the mind of Saul against him, which he suggests in 1 Samuel 24:10;

even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows; whose words, formed by means of their teeth, were very devouring ones, Psalm 52:4; were very piercing and wounding; calumnies, detractions, and backbitings, speaking against him when absent and at a distance, may be meant; see Proverbs 30:14;

and their tongue a sharp sword; See Gill on Psalm 52:2; and there was a sort of swords called "lingulae", because in the shape of a tongue (q).

(o) Iliad. 24. v. 40, 41. (p) "incendiarios", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "flammantes", Gejerus, Michaelis; so Ainsworth, Cocceius, Vatablus, Musculus. (q) A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 10. c. 25.

My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are {e} spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.

(e) He means their slanderous and false reports.

4. A difficult verse, the text of which is perhaps corrupt. Adhering to the punctuation (in the modern sense) of the Massoretic accents, we may render with R.V.,

My soul is among lions;

I lie among them that are set on fire,

Even the sons of men, &c.

i.e. virtually, as the marg., I must lie, an expression of despondent resignation. But the note of despair is out of harmony with the generally courageous and confident tone of the Psalm; and it is more in accordance with the usual force of the Heb. tense (the ‘cohortative’ or ‘voluntative’) to take I will lie down as expressive of strong resolution:

My soul is among lions;

I will lie down to rest among fiery foes,

Even the sons of men, &c.

Though my life is in momentary danger from savage enemies, I will lie down to rest (cp. Psalm 4:8) among these fiery foes, secure under God’s protection. The Psalm is an evening hymn, for the Psalmist contemplates ‘waking the dawn’ with his praises (Psalm 57:8). He lies down in danger, he awakes in safety: the night of trouble ends in the dawn of deliverance.

Delitzsch, rightly understanding the words as an expression of confidence, thinks that actual wild beasts are meant, among which he feels more secure than among his deadly foes; but this is scarcely probable.

Neglecting the accents we may render somewhat differently, With my life in my hands (so the idiomatic apposition ‘my soul, I’ may be paraphrased) I must lie down (or, I will lie down) among lions: fiery are the sons of men &c.; but the sense will be substantially the same. For lions as a metaphor for fierce and dangerous enemies cp. Psalm 7:2 : Psalm 10:9; Psalm 17:12.

whose teeth] The language is suggested by the comparison of his enemies to lions.

their tongue &c.] The reference may be not so much to slander, as to the blasphemy of which he speaks in Psalm 57:3, which pierces him to the heart. Cp. Psalm 42:10. See also Psalm 52:2 note; Psalm 58:6; Psalm 64:3; Proverbs 30:14.

Verse 4. - My soul is among lions (comp. Psalm 7:2; Psalm 10:9; Psalm 17:12; Psalm 22:21, etc.). And I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men - literally, I lie on firebands, sons of men - whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. David occupies the cave (of Adullam?), while around him prowl lion-like men, whose fury is like that of firebrands, who threaten to devour him with their sharp teeth, and to pierce his soul with their cruel tongues. Psalm 57:4By means of the two distinctive tense-forms the poet describes his believing flight to God for refuge as that which has once taken place (חסיה from חסה equals חסי out of pause, like the same forms in Psalm 73:2; Psalm 122:6), and still, because it is a living fact, is ever, and now in particular, renewed (אחסה). The shadow of the wings of God is the protection of His gentle, tender love; and the shadow of the wings is the quickening, cordial solace that is combined with this protection. Into this shadow the poet betakes himself for refuge now as he has done before, until הוּות, i.e., the abysmal danger that threatens him, be overpast, praeteriverit (cf. Isaiah 26:20, and on the enallage numeri Psalm 10:10, Ges. ֗147, a). Not as though he would then no longer stand in need of the divine protection, but he now feels himself to be specially in need of it; and therefore his chief aim is an undaunted triumphant resistance of the impending trials. The effort on his own part, however, by means of which he always anew takes refuge in this shadow, is prayer to Him who dwells above and rules the universe. עליון is without the article, which it never takes; and גּמר (Psalm 57:3) is the same, because it is regularly left out before the participle, which admits of being more fully defined, Amos 9:12; Ezekiel 21:19 (Hitzig). He calls upon God who accomplisheth concerning, i.e., for him (Esther 4:16), who carrieth out his cause, the cause of the persecuted one; גּמר is transitive as in Psalm 138:8. The lxx renders τὸν εὐεργετήσαντά με, as though it were גּמל עלי (Psalm 13:6, and frequently); and even Hitzig and Hupfeld hold that the meaning is exactly the same. But although גמל and גמר fall back upon one and the same radical notion, still it is just their distinctive final letters that serve to indicate a difference of signification that is strictly maintained. In Psalm 57:4 follow futures of hope. In this instance "that which brings me deliverance" is to be supplied in thought to ישׁלח (cf. Psalm 20:3) and not ידו as in Psalm 18:17, cf. Psalm 144:7; and this general and unmentioned object is then specialized and defined in the words "His mercy and His truth" in Psalm 57:4. Mercy and truth are as it were the two good spirits, which descending from heaven to earth (cf. Psalm 43:3) bring the divine ישׁוּעה to an accomplishment. The words חרף שׁאפי sdro standing between a and c have been drawn by the accentuators to the first half of the verse, they probably interpreting it thus: He (God) reproacheth my devourers for ever (Sela). But חרף always (e.g., Isaiah 37:23) has God as its object, not as its subject. חרף שׁאפי is to be connected with what follows as a hypothetical protasis (Ges. 155, 4, a): supposing that he who is greedy or pants for me (inhians mihi) slandereth, then Elohim will send His mercy and His truth. The music that becomes forte in between, introduces and accompanies the throbbing confidence of the apodosis.

In Psalm 57:5, on the contrary, we may follow the interpretation of the text that is handed down and defined by the accentuation, natural as it may also be, with Luther and others, to take one's own course. Since לבאים (has Zarka (Zinnor) and להטים Olewejored, it is accordingly to be rendered: "My soul is in the midst of lions, I will (must) lie down with flaming ones; the children of men - their teeth are a spear and arrows." The rendering of the lxx, of Theodotion, and of the Syriac version accords with the interpunction of our text so far as both begin a new clause with ἐκοιμήθην (ודמכת, and I slept); whereas Aquila and Symmachus (taking נפשׁי, as it seems, as a periphrastic expression of the subject-notion placed in advance) render all as afar as להטים as one clause, at least dividing the verse into two parts, just as the accentuators do, at להטים. The rendering of Aquila is ἐν μέσῳ λεαινῶν κοιμηθήσομαι λάβρων; that of Symmachus: ἐν μέσῳ λεόντῶν εὐθαρσῶν ἐκοιμήθην; or according to another reading, μεταξὺ λεόντων ἐκοιμήθην φλεγόντων. They are followed by Jerome, who, however, in order that he may be able to reproduce the נפשׁי, changes אשׁכבה into שׁכבה: Anima mea in medio leonum dormivit ferocientium. This construction, however, can be used in Greek and Latin, but not in Hebrew. We therefore follow the accents even in reference to the Zarka above לבאים (a plural form that only occurs in this one passage in the Psalter, equals לביים). In a general way it is to be observed that this לבאים in connection with אשׁכּבה is not so much the accusative of the object as the accusative of the place, although it may even be said to be the customary local accusative of the object with verbs of dwelling; on שׁכב cf. Ruth 3:8, Ruth 3:14, and Psalm 88:6; Micah 7:5 (where at least the possibility of this construction of the verb is presupposed). But in particular it is doubtful (1) what להטים signifies. The rendering "flaming ones" is offered by the Targum, Saadia, and perhaps Symmachus. The verb להט obtains this signification apparently from the fundamental notion of licking or swallowing; and accordingly Theodotion renders it by ἀναλισκόντων, and Aquila most appropriately by λάβρων (a word used of a ravenous furious longing for anything). But להט nowhere means "to devour;" the poet must, therefore, in connection with להטים, have been thinking of the flaming look or the fiery jaws of the lions, and this attributive will denote figuratively their strong desire, which snorts forth as it were flames of fire. The question further arises, (2) how the cohortative אשׁכבה is meant to be taken. Since the cohortative sometimes expresses that which is to be done more by outward constraint than inward impulse-never, however, without willing it one's self (Ew. 228, a) - the rendering "I must," or "therefore must I lie down," commends itself. But the contrast, which has been almost entirely overlooked, between the literal beasts of prey and the children of men, who are worse than these, requires the simple and most natural rendering of the cohortative. We need only picture to ourselves the situation. The verb שׁכב here has the sense of cubitum ire (Psalm 4:9). Starting from this אשׁכבה we look to Psalm 57:9, and it at once becomes clear that we have before us an evening or nightly song. David the persecuted one finds himself in the wilderness and, if we accept the testimony of the inscription, in a cave: his soul is in the midst of lions, by which he means to say that his life is exposed to them. Here bold in faith, he is resolved to lie down to sleep, feeling himself more secure among lions than among men; for the children of men, his deadly foes both in word and in deed, are worse than beasts of prey: teeth and tongue are murderous weapons. This more than brutal joy at the destruction of one's neighbour

(Note: Cf. Sir. 25:15, in the Hebrew: אין ראשׁ מעל ראשׁ פתן ואין חמה מעל חמה אויב (no poison exceeds the poison of the serpent, and no wrath exceeds the wrath of an enemy).)

which prevails among men, urges him to put forth the prayer that God, who in Himself is exalted above the heavens and the whole earth, would show Himself by some visible manifestation over the heavens above as the exalted One, and the prayer that His glory may be, i.e., may become manifest (or even: exalted be His glory, ירוּם), over the whole earth beneath, - His glory which to His saints is a health-diffusing light, and to the heartless foes of men and God a consuming fire, - so that the whole world shall be compelled to acknowledge this glory in which His holiness manifests itself, and shall become conformed to it after everything that is hostile is overthrown.

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