Psalm 58:9
Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath.
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(9) Before.—The figure in this difficult verse is generally intelligible, though the text as it stands resists all attempts to translate it. As in the preceding images, it must convey the idea of abortive effort and sudden ruin, and, as has generally been understood, some experience of eastern travel undoubtedly supplied the figure which accident or a copyist’s error has rendered so obscure. The Hebrew literally runs, Before (shall) understand your pots a bramble as (or so) living as (or so) heat sweeps them off. The ancient versions mostly render thorns instead of pots, and make the simile to lie in the destruction of the bush before growing to maturity. The English versions have undoubtedly caught the figure more correctly. But it is doubtful if the Hebrew word rendered feel could be used of inanimate objects, and even if a kettle might be said to feel the fire, we should hardly speak of its feeling the fuel. Some change in the text must be made. A very slight change in one letter gives excellent sense to the first clause. Before thorns (taking the word ātad which in Judges 9:14-15 is translated bramble collectively) make your pots ready. But the second clause remains very difficult. Even if (with Grätz) we read charôl (Job 30:7; Proverbs 24:31, “nettles”) for charôn, and render thorny bush, the words as living still offer a puzzle. And even if with the Prayer Book we might render raw instead of living, yet burning heat could not stand for cooked meat. Apparently the poet intends to compare the sudden overthrow of the wicked before their arms could succeed, to the disappearance of the fuel before it had time to heat the cooking-pot; and it is quite possible that he compressed all this into a condensed expression, which we must expand: “As, before the brambles make the pots ready, they are consumed, so He will whirl them (i.e., the wicked) away alive, as the fierce heat consumes the thorns.” Hebrew poetry is always more satisfactory with metaphor than with simile, and here, as often, seems to falter between the two, and so becomes obscure.

Psalm 58:9. Before your pots can feel the thorns — That is, the heat of a fire of thorns made under them, which they soon do, as it is a quick fire, and burns violently while it lasts; he shall take them away — Namely, mine enemies; so speedily, with such a hasty and destructive flame; as with a whirlwind — That is, violently and irresistibly; both living, and in his wrath — Hebrew, כמו חי כמו חרון, chemo chi, chemo charon, as living, as wrath, or, as it were alive, as it were with fury. “The intention of the psalmist is to express both the quickness and terribleness of the destruction of the wicked. They were to be taken away suddenly, or rapidly, before the pots could feel the soon kindling and vehement fire of thorns. They were to be taken off by some terrible catastrophe, like the furious burning of thorns, to which the wrath of God is frequently compared.”

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.Before your pots can feel the thorns - The word "thorns" here - אטד 'âṭâd - refers to what is called "Christ's thorn," the southern buckthorn. "Gesenius." The fire made of such thorns when dry would be quick and rapid, and water would be soon heated by it. The idea is, that what is here referred to would occur "quickly" - sooner than the most rapid and intense fire could make an impression on a kettle and its contents. The destruction of the wicked would be, as it were, instantaneous. The following quotation from Prof. Hackitt (Illustrations of Scripture, p. 135) will explain this passage: "A species of thorn, now very common near Jerusalem, bears the name of Spina Christi, or Christ's thorn. The people of the country gather these bushes and plants, and use them as fuel. As it is now, so it was of old. 'As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool,' Ecclesiastes 7:6 'Before your pots can feel the thorns,' namely, the fire of them, 'he shall sweep them away,' Psalm 58:9 The figure in this case is taken from travelers in the desert, or from shepherds tenting abroad, who build a fire in the open air, where it is exposed to the wind; a sudden gust arises and sweeps away the fuel almost before it has begun to burn. 'As thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire' Isaiah 33:12. The meaning is that the wicked are worthless - their destruction shall be sudden and complete."

He shall take them away - The word rendered "shall take them away" means properly "to shiver, to shudder;" and it is then applied to the commotion and raging of a tempest. They shal be taken away as in a storm that makes everything shiver or tremble; Job 27:21. It would be done "suddenly" and "entirely." A sudden storm sent by God would beat upon them, and they would be swept away in an instant.

Both living and in his wrath - Margin, "as living as wrath." This expression is exceedingly obscure. The Septuagint renders it, "he shall devour them as it were living - as it were in wrath." The Latin Vulgate: "He shall devour them as living, so in wrath." Prof. Alexander: "Whether raw or done." He supposes that the idea is, that God would come upon them while forming their plans; and that the illustration is derived from the act of "cooking," and that the meaning is, that God would come upon them whether those plans were matured or not - "cooked" or "raw." This seems to me to be a very forced construction, and one which it is doubtful whether the Hebrew will bear. The word rendered "living" - חי chay - means properly "alive, living;" and then, "lively, fresh, vigorous;" and is applicable then to a plant that is living or green. It "may" be here applied to the "thorns" that had been gathered for the fire, still green or alive; and the idea "here" would be, that even while those thorns were alive and green - before they had been kindled by the fire (or while they were trying to kindle them), a sudden tempest would come and sweep them all away.

It is not, indeed, an uncommon occurrence in the deserts of the East, that while, in their journeyings, travelers pause to cook their food, and have gathered the fuel - thorns, or whatever may be at hand - and have placed their pot over the fire, a sudden tempest comes from the desert, and sweeps everything away. Rosenmuller in loc. Such an occurrence "may" be referred to here. The word rendered "wrath" - חרון chârôn - means properly "burning;" and then it is used to denote anything burning. It is applied to wrath or anger, because it seems to "burn." Numbers 25:4; Numbers 32:14; 1 Samuel 28:18. Here, however, it "may" be taken literally as applicable to thorns when they begin to be kindled, though still green. They are seen first as gathered and placed under the pots; then they are seen as still green - not dried up by the kindling flame; then they are seen as on fire; and, in a moment - before the pots could be affected by them - all is swept away by a sudden gust of wind. The "idea" is that of the sudden and unexpected descent of God on the wicked, frustrating their schemes even when they seemed to be well formed, and to promise complete success. This does not mean, therefore, that God would cut off and punish the wicked while "living," but it refers to the fact that their schemes would be suddenly defeated even while they supposed that all things were going on well; defeated before there was, in fact, any progress made toward the accomplishment, as the arrangements for the evening-meal would all be swept away before even the pot had begun to be warm.

9. he shall take them away as with a whirlwind—literally, "blow him (them) away."

both living … wrath—literally, "as the living" or fresh as the heated or burning—that is, thorns—all easily blown away, so easily and quickly the wicked. The figure of the "snail" perhaps alludes to its loss of saliva when moving. Though obscure in its clauses, the general sense of the passage is clear.

9 Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath.

10 The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.

11 So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous-verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth.

Psalm 58:9

"Before your pots can feel the thorns." So sudden is the overthrow of the wicked, so great a failure is their life, that they never see joy. Their pot is put upon the hook to prepare a feast of joy, and the fuel is placed beneath, but before the thorns are lit, before any heat can be brought to bear upon the pot, yea, even as soon as the fuel has touched the cooking vessel, a storm comes and sweeps all away; the pot is overturned, the fuel is scattered far and wide. Perhaps the figure may suppose the thorns, which are the fuel, to be kindled, and then the flame is so rapid that before any heat can be produced the fire is out, the meat remains raw, the man is disappointed, his work is altogether a failure. "He shall take them away as with a whirlwind." Cook, fire, pot, meat and all, disappear at once, whirled away to destruction. "Both living, and in his wrath." In the very midst of the man's life, and in the fury of his rage against the righteous, the persecutor is overwhelmed with a tornado, his designs are baffled, his contrivances defeated, and himself destroyed. The passage is difficult, but this is probably its meaning, and a very terrible one it is. The malicious wretch puts on his great seething pot, he gathers his fuel, he means to play the cannibal with the godly; but he reckons without his host, or rather without the Lord of hosts, and the unexpected tempest removes all trace of him, and his fire, and his feast, and that in a moment.

Psalm 58:10

"The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance." He will have no hand in meting it out, neither win he rejoice in the spirit of revenge, but his righteous soul shall acquiesce in the judgments of God, and he shall rejoice to see justice triumphant. There is nothing in Scripture of that sympathy with God's enemies which modern traitors are so fond of parading as the finest species of benevolence. We shall at the last say, "Amen," to the condemnation of the wicked, and feel no disposition to question the ways of God with the impenitent. Remember how John, the loving disciple, puts it. "And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his Judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever." "He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked." He shall triumph over them, they shall be so utterly vanquished that their overthrow shall be final and fatal, and his deliverance complete and crowning. The damnation of sinners shall not mar the happiness of saints.

Psalm 58:11

"So that a man shall say." Every man however ignorant shall be compelled to say, "Verily," in very deed, assuredly, "there is a reward for the righteous." If nothing else be true this is. The godly are not after all forsaken and given over to their enemies; the wicked are not to have the best of it, truth and goodness are recompensed in the long run. "Verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth." All men shall be forced by the sight of the final judgment to see that there is a God, and that he is the righteous ruler of the universe. Two things will come out clearly after all - there is a God and there is a reward for the righteous. Time will remove doubts, solve difficulties, and reveal secrets; meanwhile faith's foreseeing eye discerns the truth even now, and is glad thereat.

Feel the thorns, i.e. the heat of the fire kindled by the thorns put under them for that purpose; before your pots can be thoroughly heated.

Take them away, to wit, mine enemies; whose sudden destruction he describes under this similitude.

As with a whirlwind, i.e. violently and irresistibly.

Both living, and in his wrath, Heb. as living (i.e. alive, as he did Korah, Numbers 16, the particle as being here not a note of similitude, but of truth or asseveration as it is John 1:14, and oft elsewhere, as hath been noted) as in (which preposition is frequently understood)

wrath, i.e. as a man moved with great wrath destroys his enemy without mercy, and is ready to devour him alive, if it were possible; or, both that which is raw, (as the Hebrew word chai signifies, Leviticus 13:16 1 Samuel 2:15, to wit, the raw flesh, which is supposed to be put into the pot that it may be boiled,) and the burning fire. There is indeed great variety of construction and interpretation of these Hebrew words, which is not strange, especially considering the conciseness of the Hebrew language, and that this is a proverbial speech; nor is it of any great importance, because it is not in any great point of faith, and because the sense of it is agreed, the only difference being about the manner and ground of the phrase. The learned reader may see more upon this place in my Latin Synopsis.

Before your pots can feel the thorns,.... Which is soon done; for as dry thorns make a great blaze, so they give a quick heat; the pots soon feel them, or the water in them soon receives heat from them. From imprecations the psalmist proceeds to prophesy, and foretells the sudden destruction of wicked men, which would be before a pot could be heated with a blaze of thorns. The Targum is,

"before the wicked become tender, they harden as the thorn:''

that is, they never become tender, or have any tender consciences, but are hardened in sin from their infancy. Some render the words, "before your thorns grow up to a brier" or "bramble" (i); little thorns become great ones, tender thorns hard ones, as Jarchi; that is, as he interprets it, before the children of the wicked are grown up, they are destroyed; those sons of Belial, who are like to thorns thrust away, 2 Samuel 23:6. Others, as Aben Ezra, "before they understand"; that is, wise and knowing men; "that your thorns are a bramble"; or from lesser ones are become greater; and so denotes, as before, the suddenness and quickness of their destruction, as follows:

he, that is, God,

shall take them away as with a whirlwind: not to himself, as Enoch; nor to heaven, whither Elijah went up by a whirlwind; but out of the land of the living, and as with a tempest, to hell, where snares, fire, and brimstone, are rained upon them; see Job 27:20;

both living, and in his wrath: when in health and full strength, and so go quick to hell; as Korah and his company alive into the earth; and all in wrath and sore displeasure: for the righteous are also taken away; but then it is from the evil to come, and to everlasting happiness; and through many tempestuous providences, which are in love, and for their good, do they enter the kingdom: and those that are alive at Christ's coming will be caught up to meet him in the air; but the wicked are taken away as in a whirlwind, alive, and in wrath.

(i) Tigurine version.

{g} Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath.

(g) As flesh is taken raw out of the pot before the water boils: so he desires God to destroy their enterprises before they bring them to pass.

9. The general sense of the verse is clear, though the second line is extremely obscure and possibly corrupt. The first line certainly means, Before your pots can feel the thorns (possibly a proverbial expression), and the verb in the second line means, He shall sweep them (or, it) away with a whirlwind. It is another figure for the swift destruction of the wicked and their schemes, taken from the experience of travel in the desert. The travellers have lighted a fire of dry thorns or brambles under their cooking pots. It blazes up rapidly, but even so, before the pots are heated and the meat in them cooked, a sudden whirlwind sweeps away the fire and undoes their work. The fire represents the malicious will of the evildoers, the pots with the meat the plans which they are devising: but let them work never so rapidly, the whirlwind of divine judgement will annihilate their schemes.

The crux of the verse is in the words rendered in A.V. both living and in his wrath. They have been supposed to refer to the thorns, the green and the burning alike: or to the flesh in the pot, the raw flesh and the sodden alike: or to the flesh and the fire, the raw flesh and hot embers alike: but all these interpretations break down on the fact that chârôn, though not a rare word, always means the burning wrath of God. It seems necessary either to omit the word k’mô, ‘as,’ before chârôn, or to read b’inô, ‘in,’ instead of it (במו for כמו). We may then render, Like raw flesh (= perhaps, while the flesh is yet raw), shall Wrath sweep them away with a whirlwind; or, shall He sweep them away with a whirlwind in wrath. The pronoun for them is in the singular, and may mean each one of the wicked, or perhaps rather it, the whole scheme. For a figure from cooking cp. Hosea 7:4 ff.: for the thorn fires Isaiah 33:12; Ecclesiastes 7:6; and for the whirlwind of divine wrath see Psalm 50:3, “it shall be very tempestuous round about him”; Job 27:21.

Verse 9. - Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath. This "difficult and obscure verse" has been variously explained. Professor Cheyne translates, "Before your pots can feel the thorns, and while your flesh (i.e. the flesh in the pots, on which you are about to feast) is still raw, the hot wrath of Jehovah shall sweep it away." The Revised Version gives the following: "Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them [i.e. the thorns] away with a whirlwind, the green [thorns] and the burning alike." Dr. Kay, "Before your caldrons have felt the thorn fire, even as raw flesh, even so, shall hot fury sweep him away." The general meaning seems to be that before the wicked judges can enjoy the fruits of their wickedness, the fierce wrath of God will come upon them like a tempest, and sweep both them and the produce of their villainy away (comp. 2 Samuel 23:6, 7). Psalm 58:9The verb הרס is used much in the same way in Psalm 58:7 as ἀράσσειν (e.g., Iliad, xiii. 577, ἀπὸ δὲ τρυφάλειαν ἄραξεν), which presents a similar onomatope. The form ימּאסוּ is, as in Job 7:5, equals ימּסּוּ. The Jewish expositors, less appropriately, compare צנאכם, Numbers 32:24, and בּזאוּ equals בּזזוּ, Isaiah 18:2, Isaiah 18:7; שׁאסיך, Chethb, Jeremiah 30:16, and ראמה, Zechariah 14:10, more nearly resemble it. The treading (bending) of the bow is here, as in Psalm 64:4, transferred to the arrows ( equals כּונן, Psalm 11:2): he bends and shoots off his arrows, they shall be as though cut off in the front, i.e., as inoperative as if they had no heads or points (כּמו as in Isaiah 26:18). In Psalm 58:9 follow two figures to which the apprecatory "let them become" is to be supplied. Or is it perhaps to be rendered: As a snail, which Thou causest to melt away, i.e., squashest with the foot (תּמס, as in Psalm 39:12, fut. Hiph. of מסה equals מסס), let him perish? The change of the number does not favour this; and according to the usage of the language, which is fond of construing הלך with gerunds and participles, and also with abstract nouns, e.g., הלך תּם, הלך קרי, the words תּמס יהלך belong together, and they are also accented accordingly: as a snail or slug which goes along in dissolution, goes on and dissolves as it goes (תּמס after the form תּבל form בּלל

(Note: In the Phoenician, the Cyprian copper mine Ταμασσός appears to have taken its name from תמס, liquefactio (Levy, Phnizische Studien, iii.7).)).

The snail has received its name from this apparent dissolving into slime. For שׁבּלוּל (with Dag. dirimens for שׁבלוּל) is the naked slimy snail or slug (Targum, according to ancient conception, זחיל תּבללא "the slimeworm"), from שׁבלל, to make wet, moist.

(Note: "God has created nothing without its use," says the Talmud, B. Shabbath 77b; "He has created the snail (שׁבלול לכתית) to heal bruises by laying it upon them:" cf. Genesis Rabba, ch. 51 init., where שׁבלול is explained by לימצא, סיליי, כיליי, κογχύλη, σέσιλος, limax. Abraham b. David of Fez, the contemporary of Saadia, has explained it in his Arabico-Hebrew Lexicon by אלחלזון, the slug. Nevertheless this is properly the name of the snail with a house (נרתיק), Talmudic חלּזון, and even at the present day in Syria and Palestine Arab. ḥlzûn (which is pronounced ḥalezôn); whereas שׁבלול, in conformity with the etymon and with the figure, is the naked snail or slug. The ancient versions perhaps failed to recognise this, because the slug is not very often to be seen in hot eastern countries; but שׁבלול in this signification can be looked upon as traditional. The rendering "a rain-brook or mountain-torrent (Arabic seil sâbil) which running runs away," would, to say nothing more, give us, as Rosenmller has already observed, a figure that has been made use of already in Psalm 58:8.)

In the second figure, the only sense in which נפל אשׁת belong together is "the untimely birth of a woman;" and rather than explain with the Talmud (B. Med katan 6b) and Targum (contrary to the accents): as an abortion, a mole,

(Note: The mole, which was thought to have no eyes, is actually called in post-biblical Hebrew אשׁת, plur. אישׁות (vid., Keelim xxi. 3).)

one would alter אשׁת into אשׁה. But this is not necessary, since the construct form אשׁת is found also in other instances (Deuteronomy 21:11; 1 Samuel 28:7) out of the genitival relation, in connection with a close coordinate construction. So here, where בּל־הזוּ שׁמשׁ, according to Job 3:16; Ecclesiastes 6:3-5, is an attributive clause to נפל אשׁת (the falling away of a woman equals abortions), which is used collectively (Ew. 176, b). The accentuation also harmonizes here with the syntactic relation of the words. In Psalm 58:10, אטד (plural in African, i.e., Punic, in Dioscorides atadi'n) is the rhamnus or buckthorn, which, like רתם, the broom, not only makes a cheerful crackling fire, but also produces an ash that retains the heat a long time, and is therefore very useful in cooking. The alternative כּמו - כּמו signifies sive, sive, whether the one or the other. חי is that which is living, fresh, viz., the fresh, raw meat still having the blood in it, the opposite of מבשּׁל (1 Samuel 2:15); חרון, a fierce heat or fire, here a boiling heat. There is no need to understand חרון metonymically, or perhaps as an adjective equals charrôn, of boiled meat: it is a statement of the condition. The suffix of ישׁערנּוּ, however, refers, as being neuter, to the whole cooking apparatus, and more especially to the contents of the pots. The rendering therefore is: whether raw or in a state of heat, i.e., of being cooked through, He (Jahve) carries it away as with a whirlwind. Hengstenberg rightly remarks, "To the raw meat correspond the immature plots, and to the cooked the mature ones." To us, who regard the Psalm as belonging to the time of Absalom, and not, like Hengstenberg, to the time of Saul, the meat in the pots is the new kingship of Absalom. The greater the self-renunciation with which David at that time looked on at the ripening revolt, disclaiming all action of his own, the stronger the confidence with which he expected the righteous interposition of God that did actually follow, but (as he here supposes possible) not until the meat in the pot was almost done through; yet, on the other side, so quickly, that the pots had scarcely felt the crackling heat which should fully cook the meat.

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