Psalm 58:7
Let them melt away as waters which run continually: when he bends his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces.
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(7, 8) After the types of obstinate and fierce malignity, come four striking images of the fatuity of the wicked man’s projects, and his own imminent ruin. The first of these compares him to water, which, spilt on a sandy soil, sinks into it and melts away. (Comp. 2Samuel 14:14.) Perhaps a phenomenon, often described by travellers, was in the poet’s mind, the disappearance of a stream which, after accompanying the track for some time, suddenly sinks into the sand. The words which run continually, even if the Hebrew can bear this meaning, only weaken the figure. The verb is in the reflexive conjugation, and has “to” or “for themselves” added, and seems to be exactly equivalent to our, they walk themselves off. This certainly should be joined to the clause following. Here, too, we must suppose that the sign of comparison, khemô, was dropped out by the copyist in consequence of the lāmô just written, and afterwards being inserted in the margin, got misplaced. We must bring it back, and read:

They are utterly gone, as when

One shoots his arrows.

This figure thus becomes also clear and striking. The arrow once shot is irrevocably gone, probably lost, fit emblem of the fate of the wicked. For the ellipse in bend (literally, tread, see Psalm 7:12), comp. Psalm 64:3, where also the action properly belonging to the bow is transferred to the arrow.

The words, “Let them be as cut in pieces,” must be carried on to the following verse, which contains two fresh images: So they are cut off (LXX., “are weak “) as shablûl melts; (as) the abortion of a woman passes away without seeing the sun. The word shablûl, by its derivation (bālal = to pour out) may mean any liquid or moist substance. Hence some understand a watercourse, others (LXX. and Vulg.) wax. The first would weaken the passage by introducing a bald repetition of a previous image. The second is quite intelligible. But the Talmud says shablûl is a slug or shelless snail, and there may be a reference in the passage to the popular notion derived from the slimy track of the creature, that the slug dissolves as it moves, and eventually melts away. Dr. Tristram, however (Nat. Hist. Bib., p. 295), finds scientific support for the image in the myriads of snail shells found in the Holy Land, still adhering, by the calcareous exudation round the orifice, to the surface of the rock, while the animal itself is utterly shrivelled and wasted. The last image presents no difficulty either in language or form, except that the form of the noun woman is unusual.

That they may not.—That this refers to the abortion which passed away without seeing the sun, is certain. The grammatical difficulty of want of concord may be got over by taking abortion as a collective noun.

Psalm 58:7. Let them melt away as waters, &c. — As waters arising from melted snow, or great showers, or some other extraordinary cause, which at first run with great force and noise, and throw down all that stands in their way, but are suddenly gone, and run away, and vanish, and return no more. When he — Saul, or any, or every one of mine enemies, as appears from the foregoing or following words; bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows — Taking his aim at the upright in heart; let them — That is, his arrows, be cut in pieces — Let them be like arrows broken, while a man is shooting them. Let them fall at his feet, and never come near the mark.58:6-11 David prayed that the enemies of God's church and people might be disabled to do further mischief. We may, in faith, pray against the designs of the enemies of the church. He foretells their ruin. And who knows the power of God's anger? The victories of the Just One, in his own person and that of his servants, over the enemies of man's salvation, produce a joy which springs not from revenge, but from a view of the Divine mercy, justice, and truth, shown in the redemption of the elect, the punishment of the ungodly, and the fulfilment of the promises. Whoever duly considers these things, will diligently seek the reward of righteousness, and adore the Providence which orders all thing aright in heaven and in earth.Let them melt away as waters which run continually - Let them vanish or disappear as waters that flow off, or floods that run by, and are no more seen. "Perhaps" the allusion here may be to the waters of a torrent that is swollen, which flow off and are lost in the sand, so that they wholly disappear. See the notes at Job 6:15-19. The prayer is, that his enemies might perish or be cut off, and that he might thus be saved from them.

When he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows - literally, "he treads on his arrows." See the notes at Psalm 11:2. The meaning here is, When he prepares for an attack - or, prepares to make war, as one does who bends his bow, and places his arrow on the string. The allusion here is to the enemies of David, as seeking his life.

Let them be as cut in pieces - That is, Let his arrows be as if they were cut off or "blunted," so that they will produce no effect. Let them be such, that they will not penetrate and wound.

7. which run continually—literally, "they shall go to themselves," utterly depart, as rapid mountain torrents.

he bendeth … his arrows—prepares it. The term for preparing a bow applied to arrows (Ps 64:3).

let them … pieces—literally, "as if they cut themselves off"—that is, become blunted and of no avail.

As waters which run continually; as waters arising from melted snow, or great showers, or some other extraordinary cause, which at first run with great force and noise, and throw down all that stands in their way, but are suddenly gone, and run away and vanish, and return no more.

When he bendeth his bow, to wit, any or every one of mine enemies, as appears from the foregoing and following words.

Is cut in pieces, i.e. like arrows broken asunder whilst a man shoots, which can do no hurt. Let them melt away as waters which run continually,.... Let them be disheartened, and their courage fail them, and let there be no spirit left in them, Joshua 7:5; or let them be unstable as water that is continually running, ever upon the flux and motion; let them never be settled, but always changing in their state and circumstances, Genesis 49:4; or let them "come to nought", as the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions; which is the case of water that runs over or runs away: or "let them be despised", as Jarchi, and the Arabic, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions; being useless and unprofitable, as water is when passed and gone: or let their ruin and destruction be as swift as the gliding water; let them be brought to desolation in a moment; Job 24:18; and let it be irrecoverable, as water running over the cup, and scattering itself, is spilled upon the ground, and cannot be gathered up, 2 Samuel 14:14. The Targum is,

"let them melt in their sins as water;''

when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces; either when the wicked man bends his bow to shoot his arrows against the righteous; when he devises, his chief against him, shoots out bitter words, and attempts to do hurt unto him; let it be as if the string of his bow and his arrows were all cut to pieces; let all his designs, words, and actions, be without effect, and let not his hand perform his enterprise: or when God bends his bow against the wicked, so Jarchi; and prepares the instruments of death for them, and ordains his arrows against the persecutors, Psalm 7:12; let then his and his people's enemies be cut off, as the tops of the ears of corn; as the word used signifies, Job 24:24. The words may be rendered, "let him (God) direct his arrows; as the tops of the ears of corn are cut off" (f); so let them be.

(f) "concidantur, succidantur instar spicarum", Michaelis.

Let them {f} melt away as waters which run continually: when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces.

(f) Considering God's divine power, he shows that God in a moment can destroy their force of which they brag.

7. as waters which run continually) R.V., restoring P.B.V., as water that runneth apace: like some torrent that rages wildly for a while when swollen by a sudden storm, and then vanishes entirely (Job 6:15 ff.).

when he bendeth his bow to shoot his arrows] A cumbrous rendering of a peculiar phrase, the verb strictly applicable to the bow being used of the arrows (cp. Psalm 64:3). Better as R.V., when he aimeth his arrows. But who is the subject? (1) It may be the wicked man, (as in Psalm 64:3); When he aimeth his arrows, let them be as though they were cut off (R.V.), their points broken, and their power to hurt destroyed. (2) It may be God (as in Psalm 7:12 f.); when He aimeth His arrows, let them (the wicked) be as it were mowed down. Cp. Psalm 90:6. Neither alternative is free from serious difficulties, but the first seems preferable.Verse 7. - Let them melt away as waters which run continually; i.e. "let them waste away, and go to naught, like water, that runs off and accomplishes nothing." When he bendoth his bow to shoot his arrows, let them be as cut in pieces; i.e. "let the arrows be as though snapped in two, or headless." The text of Psalm 58:2 runs: Do ye really dictate the silence of righteousness? i.e., that before which righteousness must become silent, as the collector (cf. Psalm 56:1) appears to have read it (אלם equals אלּוּם, B. Chullin 89a). But instead of אלם it is, with Houbigant, J. D. Michaelis, Mendelssohn, and others, to be read אלם ( equals אלים, as in Exodus 15:11), as an apostrophe of those who discharge the godlike office of rulers and judges. Both the interrogative האמנם (with ŭ as is always the case at the head of interrogative clauses), num vere, which proceeds from doubt as to the questionable matter of fact (Numbers 22:37; 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18), and the parallel member of the verse, and also the historical circumstances out of which the Psalm springs, demand this alteration. Absalom with his followers had made the administration of justice the means of stealing from David the heart of his people; he feigned to be the more impartial judge. Hence David asks: Is it then really so, ye gods (אלים like אלהים, Psalm 82:1, and here, as there, not without reference to their superhumanly proud and assumptive bearing), that ye speak righteousness, that ye judge the children of men in accordance with justice? Nay, on the contrary (אף, imo, introducing an answer that goes beyond the first No), in heart (i.e., not merely outwardly allowing yourselves to be carried away) ye prepare villanies (פּעל, as in Micah 2:1; and עולת, as in Psalm 64:7, from עולה equals עולה, Psalm 92:16, Job 5:16, with ô equals a + w), in the land ye weigh out the violence of your hands (so that consequently violence fills the balances of your pretended justice). בּני אדם in Psalm 58:2 is the accusative of the object; if it had been intended as a second vocative, it ought to have been בּני־אישׁ (Psalm 4:3). The expression is inverted in order to make it possible to use the heavy energetic futures. בּארץ (mostly erroneously marked with Pazer) has Athnach, cf. Psalm 35:20; Psalm 76:12.
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