Psalm 58:3
The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.
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(3) The Wicked.—The poet passes from his indignant challenge to the unjust judges to speak of the wicked generally. He finds that such maturity of vice points to very early depravity. Such hardened sinners must have been cradled in wickedness.

Psalm 58:3. The wicked are estranged — From God, and from all goodness; from the womb — From their tender years, or, rather, strictly and properly, from their birth: their very natures and principles are corrupt even from their infancy: they are the wicked offspring of sinful parents. They go astray by actual sins, the fruit of their original corruption; as soon as they are born — As soon as ever they are capable of the exercise of reason, and the practice of sinning.

58:1-5 When wrong is done under the form of law, it is worse than any other; especially it is grievous to behold those who profess to be children of God, joining together against any of his people. We should thank the Lord for merciful restraints; we should be more earnest in seeking renewing grace, more watchful over ourselves, and more patient under the effects of fallen nature in others. The corruption of their nature was the root of bitterness. We may see in children the wickedness of the world beginning. They go astray from God and their duty as soon as possibly they can. And how soon will little children tell lies! It is our duty to take pains to teach them, and above all, earnestly to pray for converting grace to make our children new creatures. Though the poison be within, much of it may be kept from breaking forth to injure others. When the Saviour's words are duly regarded, the serpent becomes harmless. But those who refuse to hear heavenly wisdom, must perish miserably, for ever.The wicked are estranged from the womb - The allusion here undoubtedly is to the persons principally referred to in the psalm - the enemies of David. But their conduct toward him suggests a more general reflection in regard to "all" the wicked as having the same characteristics. The psalmist, therefore, instead of confining his remarks to them, makes his observations general, on the principle that all wicked men have essentially the same character, and especially in respect to the thing here affirmed, that they go astray early; that they are apostate and alienated from God from their very birth. The words, "the wicked," here do not necessarily refer to the whole human family (though what is thus affirmed is true of all the human race), but to people who in their lives develop a wicked character; and the affirmation in regard to them is that they go astray early in life - from their very infancy.

Strictly speaking, therefore, it cannot be shown that the psalmist in this declaration had reference to the whole human race, or that he meant to make a universal declaration in regard to man as being early estranged or alienated from God; and the passage, therefore, cannot directly, and with exact propriety, be adduced to prove the doctrine that "original sin" pertains to all the race - whatever may be true on that point. If, however, it is demonstrated from "other" passages, and from facts, that all men "are" "wicked" or depraved, then the assertion here becomes a proof that this is from the womb - from their very birth - that they begin life with a propensity to evil - and that all their subsequent acts are but developments of the depravity or corruption with which they are born. It is only, therefore, after it is proved that people "are" depraved or "wicked," that this passage can be cited in favor of the doctrine of original sin.

The word rendered are "estranged" - זרוּ zorû - means properly, "to go off, to turn aside," or "away, to depart;" and then it comes to mean "to be strange," or "a stranger." The proper idea in the word is that one is a stranger, or a foreigner, and the word would be properly applied to one of another tribe or nation, like the Latin "hostis," and the Greek ξείνος xeinos. Exodus 30:33; Isaiah 1:7; Isaiah 25:2; Isaiah 29:5; Psalm 44:20. The meaning of the term as thus explained is, that, from earliest childhood, they are "as if" they belonged to another people than the people of God; they manifest another spirit; they are governed by other principles than those which pertain to the righteous. Compare Ephesians 2:19. Their first indications of character are not those of the children of God, but are "alien, strange, hostile" to him. The phrase "from the womb," refers, undoubtedly, to their birth; and the idea is, that as soon as they begin to act they act wrong; they show that they are strangers to God. Strictly speaking, this passage does not affirm anything directly of what exists in the heart "before" people begin to act, for it is by their "speaking lies" that they show their estrangement; yet it is proper to "infer" that where this is universal, there "is" something lying back of this which makes it certain that they "will" act thus - just as when a tree always bears the same kind of fruit, we infer that there is something "in" the tree, back of the actual "bearing" of the fruit, which makes it certain that it "will" bear such fruit and no other. This "something" in the heart of a child is what is commonly meant by "original sin."

They go astray - The Hebrew word used here means to go astray, to wander, to err. It is used in reference to drunken persons who reel, Isaiah 28:7; and to the soul, as erring or wandering from the paths of truth and piety, Ezekiel 48:11; Psalm 95:10; Psalm 119:110; Proverbs 21:16. The "manner" in which the persons here referred to did this, is indicated here by their "speaking lies."

As soon as they be born - Margin, as in Hebrew, "from the belly." The meaning is, not that they speak lies "as soon as" they are born, which could not be literally true, but that this is the "first act." The first thing "done" is not an act of holiness, but an act of sin - showing what is in the heart.

Speaking lies - They are false in their statements; false in their promises; false in their general character. This is one of the forms of sin, indicating original depravity; and it is undoubtedly selected here because this was particularly manifested by the enemies of David. They were false, perfidious, and could not be trusted. If it be proved, therefore, that all people are wicked, then "this" passage becomes a proper and an important text to demonstrate that this wickedness is not the result of temptation or example, but that it is the expression of the depravity of the heart by nature; that the tendency of man by nature is not to goodness, but to sin; that the first developments of character are sinful; that there is something lying of sinful acts in people which makes it certain that they will act as they do; and that this always manifests itself in the first acts which they perform.

3-5. describe the wicked generally, who sin naturally, easily, malignantly, and stubbornly. Estranged, to wit, from God, Ephesians 4:18, and from all goodness.

From the womb; either,

1. Hyperbolically; even from their tender years. Or,

2. Strictly and properly. So the sense is, No wonder they act so unrighteously, for their very natures and principles are corrupt, even from their birth; they are the wicked offspring of sinful parents. And this hereditary and native corruption, though too common to all men, he particularly ascribes to these men; either because their immediate parents were such as did not only convey a corrupt nature to them, but greatly improved it by wicked counsel and example; or because they themselves had improved that stock of original corruption, and instead of mortifying it, had made it their great design and constant business to gratify and obey it.

They go astray, by actual sins, the fruit of their original sin, as soon as they be born; from their childhood, as soon as ever they were capable of the exercise of reason, and the practice of sinning.

The wicked are estranged from the womb,.... Which original corruption of nature accounts for all the wickedness done by men: they are conceived in sin, shapen in iniquity, and are transgressors from the womb; they are alienated from God, and from that godly life which is agreeable to him, and he requires; and from the knowledge and fear of him, and love to him; and they desire not the knowledge of him nor his ways; they are far from his law, and averse to it; and still more so to the Gospel of Christ; the doctrines of which, as well as the great things written in the law, are strange things to them; and they are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, estranged from the people of God, know nothing of them, neither of their joys, nor of their sorrows;

they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies; they are wicked from their infancy, from their youth upward; and sin, which is meant by "going astray", as soon as they are capable of it, and which is very early. Sin soon appears in the temper and actions of then; they go out of God's way, and turn everyone to their own way, and walk in the broad road which leads to destruction: and particularly they are very early guilty of lying; as soon as they can speak, and before they can speak plain, they lisp out lies, which they learn from their father the devil, who is the father of lies; and so they continue all their days strangers to divine things, going astray from God, the God of truth, continually doing abominations and speaking lies; which continuance in these things makes the difference between reprobate men and God's elect; for though the latter are the same by nature as the former, yet their natures are restrained, before conversion, from going into all the sins they are inclined to; and if not, yet at conversion a stop is put to their progress in iniquity.

The wicked {c} are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

(c) That is, enemies to the people of God even from their birth.

3. are estranged] From God and His laws. Cp. Ephesians 4:18, “alienated from the life of God”: Colossians 1:21, “alienated and enemies in your mind in your evil works,” where St Paul uses the word (ἀπῃλλοτριωμένοι) employed by the LXX here.

“The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21); but these men have shewn a more than ordinary aptitude for wickedness. It has become to them a second nature.

3–5. A description of the class to which these wicked judges belong; the deliberately wicked, who are deaf to remonstrance and incapable of reformation.

Verse 3. - The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. This is the language of hyperbole, and is certainly not the profession of the doctrine of original sin. What the psalmist means is that those who ultimately become heinous sinners, for the most part show, even from their early childhood, a strong tendency towards evil. He implies that with others the case is different. Though there may be in them a corruption of nature (Psalm 51:6), yet, on the whole, they have good dispositions, and present a contrast to the ungodly ones whom he is describing. Psalm 58:3After this bold beginning the boldest figures follow one another rapidly; and the first of these is that of the serpent, which is kept up longer than any of the others. The verb זוּר (cogn. סוּר) is intentionally written זור in this instance in a neuter, not an active sense, plural זרוּ lar, like בּשׁוּ, טבוּ. Bakius recognises a retrospective reference to this passage in Isaiah 48:8. In such passages Scripture bears witness to the fact, which is borne out by experience, that there are men in whom evil from childhood onwards has a truly diabolical character, i.e., a selfish character altogether incapable of love. For although hereditary sinfulness and hereditary sin (guilt) are common to all men, yet the former takes the most manifold combinations and forms; and, in fact, the inheriting of sin and the complex influence of the power of evil and of the power of grace on the propagation of the human race require that it should be so. The Gospel of John more particularly teaches such a dualism of the natures of men. חמת־למו (with Rebia, as in John 18:18) is not the subject: the poison belonging to them, etc., but a clause by itself: poison is to them, they have poison; the construct state here, as in Lamentations 2:18; Ezekiel 1:27, does not express a relation of actual union, but only a close connection. יאטּם (with the orthophonic Dagesh which gives prominence to the Teth as the commencement of a syllable) is an optative future form, which is also employed as an indicative in the poetic style, e.g., Psalm 18:11. The subject of this attributive clause, continuing the adjective, is the deaf adder, such an one, viz., as makes itself deaf; and in this respect (as in their evil serpent nature) it is a figure of the self-hardening evil-doer. Then with אשׁר begins the more minute description of this adder. There is a difference even among serpents. They belong to the worst among them that are inaccessible to any kind of human influence. All the arts of sorcery are lost upon them. מלחשׁים are the whisperers of magic formulae (cf. Arabic naffathât, adjurations), and חובר חברים is one who works binding by spells, exorcism, and tying fast by magic knots (cf. חבר, to bind equals to bewitch, cf. Arab. ‛qqd, ‛nn, Persic bend equals κατάδεσμος, vid., Isaiah, i. 118, ii. 242). The most inventive affection and the most untiring patience cannot change their mind. Nothing therefore remains to David but to hope for their removal, and to pray for it.
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