Psalm 59:11
Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord our shield.
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(11) Slay them not, lest my people forget . . .—The Spartans refused to allow the destruction of a neighbouring city, which had often called forth their armies, saying, “Destroy not the whetstone of our young men.” Timon, in the play, is made to say—

“Live loath’d and long

You smiling smooth detested parasites,”

that the ruin of Athens might be complete, if deferred. National feeling, too, has often insisted on extreme modes of punishment, partly from vindictive feeling, partly for deterrent purposes. Witness the sequel to the Indian mutiny. But where is the parallel to the feeling that seems uppermost in the Psalmist’s mind, viz., a wish for protracted retribution on the nations for the moral benefit of Israel?

Scatter them.—Better, make them wander: a word applied to Cain and to the Israelite wanderings in the wilderness.

Psalm 59:11. Slay them not — Hebrew, אל תהרגם, al tahargeem, Thou wilt not slay them, namely, suddenly, or at once; lest my people — My countrymen, those over whom thou hast appointed me to be governor in due time; forget — Their former danger, thy glorious mercy in delivering them, and their own duty to thee for it. Hereby it plainly appears that David, in his prayers against, and predictions concerning his enemies, was not moved by private malice or desire of revenge, but by the respect which he had to God’s honour, and the general good of his people. Scatter them by thy power — הניעמו, hanigneemo, Make them to wander. As they have wandered about the city and country to do me mischief, so let their punishment be agreeable to their sin; let them wander from place to place for meat, (as it is expressed Psalm 59:15,) that they may carry the tokens of thy justice, and their own shame, to all places where they come. And bring them down — From that power and dignity in which thou hadst set them, which they so wickedly abused; and from the height of their carnal hopes of success against me.

59:8-17 It is our wisdom and duty, in times of danger and difficulty, to wait upon God; for he is our defence, in whom we shall be safe. It is very comfortable to us, in prayer, to look to God as the God of our mercy, the Author of all good in us, and the Giver of all good to us. The wicked can never be satisfied, which is the greatest misery in a poor condition. A contented man, if he has not what he would have, yet he does not quarrel with Providence, nor fret within himself. It is not poverty, but discontent that makes a man unhappy. David would praise God because he had many times, and all along, found Him his refuge in the day of trouble. He that is all this to us, is certainly worthy of our best affections, praises, and services. The trials of his people will end in joy and praise. When the night of affliction is over, they will sing of the Lord's power and mercy in the morning. Let believers now, in assured faith and hope, praise Him for those mercies, for which they will rejoice and praise him for ever.Slay them not, lest my people forget - The meaning of this seems to be, Do not destroy them at once, lest, being removed out of the way, the people should forget what was done, or should lose the impression which it is desirable should be produced by their punishment. Let them live, and let them wander about, as exiles under the divine displeasure, that they may be permanent and enduring proofs of the justice of God; of the evil of sin; of the danger of violating the divine law. So Cain wandered on the earth Genesis 4:12-14, a living proof of that justice which avenges murder; and so the Jews still wander, a lasting illustration of the justice which followed their rejection of the Messiah. The prayer of the psalmist, therefore, is that the fullest expression might be given to the divine sense of the wrong which his enemies had done, that the salutary lesson might not be soon forgotten, but might be permanent and enduring.

Scatter them by thy, power - Break up their combinations, and let them go abroad as separate wanderers, proclaiming everywhere, by being thus vagabonds on the earth, the justice of God.

And bring them down - Humble them. Show them their weakness. Show them that they have not power to contend against God.

O Lord our shield - See Psalm 5:12, note; Psalm 33:20, note. The words "our" here, and "my" in the former part of the verse, are designed to show that the author of the psalm regarded God as "his" God, and the people of the land as "his," in the sense that he was identified with them, and felt that his cause was really that of the people.

11. Slay them not—at once (Jud 2:21-23); but perpetuate their punishment (Ge 4:12; Nu 32:13), by scattering or making them wander, and humble them.11 Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord, our shield.

12 For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride: and for cursing and lying which they speak.

13 Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Selah.

Psalm 59:11

"Slay them not, lest my people forget." It argues great faith on David's part, that even while his house was surrounded by his enemies he is yet so fully sure of their overthrow, and so completely realises it in his own mind, that he puts in a detailed petition that they may not be too soon or too fully exterminated. God's victory over the craft and cruelty of the wicked is so easy and so glorious that it seems a pity to end the conflict too soon. To sweep away the plotters all at once were to end the great drama of retribution too abruptly. Nay, let the righteous be buffeted a little longer and let the boasting oppressor puff and brag through his little hour, it will help to keep Israel in mind of the Lord's justice, and make the brave party who side with God's champion accustomed to divine interpositions. It were a pity for good men to be without detractors, seeing that virtue shines the brighter for the foil of slander. Enemies help to keep the Lord's servants awake. A lively, vexatious devil is less to be dreaded than a sleepy, forgetful spirit which is given to slumber. "Scatter them by thy power." Blow them to and fro, like chaff in the wind. Let the foemen live as a vagabond race. Make Cains of them. Let them be living monuments of divine power, advertisements of heaven's truth, to the fullest extent let divine justice be illustrated in them. "And bring them down." Like rotten fruit from a tree. From the seats of power which they disgrace, and the positions of influence which they pollute, let them be hurled into humiliation. This was a righteous wish, and if it be untempered by the gentleness of Jesus, we must remember that it is a soldier's prayer, and the wish of one who was smarting under injustice and malice of no ordinary kind. "O Lord, our shield." David felt himself to be the representative of the religious party in Israel, and therefore he says "our shield," speaking in the name of all those who make Jehovah their defence. We are in good company when we hide beneath the buckler of the Eternal; meanwhile he who is the shield of his people is the scatterer of their enemies.

Psalm 59:12

"For the sin of their mouth and the words of their lips let them even be taken in their pride." Such dreadful language of atheism and insolence deserves a fit return. As they hope to take their victims, so let them be taken themselves, entangled in their own net, arrested in the midst of their boastful security. Sins of the lips are real sins, and punishable sins. Men must not think because their hatred gets no further than railing and blasphemy that therefore they shall be excused. He who takes the will for the deed, will take the word for the deed and deal with men accordingly. Wretches who are persecutors in talk, burners and stabbers with the tongue, shall have a reckoning for their would-be transgressions. Pride though it show not itself in clothes, but only in speech, is a sin; and persecuting pride, though it pile no fagots at Smithfield, but only revile with its lips, shall have to answer for it among the unholy crew of inquisitors. "And for cursing and lying which they speak." Sins, like hounds, often hunt in couples. He who is not ashamed to curse before God, will be sure to lie unto men. Every swearer is a liar. Persecution leads on to perjury. They lie and swear to it. They curse and give a lying reason for their hate. This Shall not go unnoted of the Lord, but shall bring down its recompense. How often has it happened that while haughty speeches have been fresh in the mouths of the wicked they have been overtaken by avenging providence, and made to see their mischief recoil upon themselves!

Psalm 59:13

"Consume them in wrath." As if he had changed his mind and would have them brought to a speedy end, or if spared would have them exist as ruins, he cries, "consume them," and he redoubles his cry, "consume them," nay, he gives a triple note, "that they may not be." Revilers of God whose mouths pour forth such filth as David was on this occasion obliged to hear, are not to be tolerated by a holy soul; indignation must flame forth, and cry to God against them. When men curse the age and the place in which they live, common humanity leads the righteous to desire that they may be removed. If they could be reformed it would be infinitely better; but if they cannot, if they must and will continue to be like mad dogs in a city, then let them cease to be. Who can desire to see such a generation perpetuated'? "And let them know;" i.e., let all the nations know, "that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth." He whose government is universal fixes his headquarters among his chosen people, and there in special he punishes sin. So David would have all men see. Let even the most remote nations know that the great moral Governor has power to destroy ungodliness, and does not wink at iniquity in any, at any time, or in any place. When sin is manifestly punished it is a valuable lesson to all mankind. The overthrow of a Napoleon, is a homily for all monarchs, the death of a Tom Paine a warning to all infidels, the siege of Paris a sermon to all cities. Selah. Good cause there is for this rest, when a theme so wide and important is introduced. Solemn subjects ought not to be hurried over; nor should the condition of the heart while contemplating themes so high be a matter of indifference. Reader, bethink thee. Sit thou still awhile and consider the ways of God with man.

Slay them not, to wit, suddenly, or at once.

My people; my countrymen; or those over whom thou hast appointed me to be governor in due time. Forget their former danger, and thy glorious mercy in delivering them, and their own duty to thee for it. Hereby it most plainly appears that David, in these and the like imprecations against his enemies, was not moved thereunto by his private malice, or desire of revenge, but by the respect which he had to God’s honour and the general good of his people.

Scatter them, Heb. make them to wander. As they wandered about the city and country to do me mischief, Psalm 59:6, so let their punishment be agreeable to their sin; let them wander from place to place, to wit, for meat, as it is expressed, Psalm 59:15, that they may carry the tokens of thy justice and their own shame to all places where they come.

Bring them down from that power and dignity in which thou hast set them, which they do so wickedly abuse; and from the height of their carnal hopes and confidences of success against me.

Slay thou not,.... Though they deserved to be slain, and the Lord seemed as if he was about to slay them, who was able to do it; he seemed to be whetting his glittering sword, and his hand to take hold of vengeance ready to execute it; wherefore intercession is made to spare them, which agrees with Christ's petition on the cross, Luke 23:34. The Targum adds, "immediately": slay them not directly, and at once; give them space for repentance; and so the Jews had: for it was forty years after the death of Christ before their destruction was: or the meaning may be, slay them not utterly; destroy them not totally: and so it was; for though multitudes were slain during the siege of Jerusalem, and at the taking of it, yet they were not all slain: there were many carried captive, and sent into different parts of the world, whose posterity continue to this day. The reason of this petition is,

lest my people forget: the Syriac version renders it, "lest they should forget my people"; or my people should be forgotten. David's people, the Jews by birth and religion, though not as yet his subjects, unless in designation and appointment, and Christ's people according to the flesh: now if these had all been slain at once, they had been forgotten, like dead men out of mind: or Christ's special and peculiar people; his chosen, redeemed, and called ones, who truly believe in him, and are real Christians; and then the sense is, if full vengeance had been taken of the Jews at once, and they had been cut off root and branch, so that none of them remained, Christ's people would have forgot them, and the vengeance inflicted on them for their rejection of the Messiah; but now they are a continued and lasting instance of God's wrath and displeasure on that account, and they and their case cannot be forgotten. The Arabic version renders it, "lest my people forget the law"; its precepts and sanction, its rewards and punishments;

scatter them by thy power; or let them wander up and down like fugitives and vagabonds in the earth, as Cain did, and as the Jews now do, being dispersed in the several parts of the world; and which was done by the power of God, or through the kingdom of God coming with power upon that people, Mark 9:1; or "by thine army" (x); the Roman army, which was the Lord's, being permitted by him to come against them, and being made use of as an instrument to destroy and scatter them, Matthew 22:7;

and bring them down; from their excellency, greatness, riches, and honour, into a low, base, mean, and poor estate and condition, in which the Jews now are;

O Lord, our shield; the protector and defender of his people, while he is the destroyer and scatterer of their enemies.

(x) "exercitu tuo", Michaelis, Vatablus.

Slay them {i} not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord our shield.

(i) Altogether, but little by little, that the people seeing your judgments often, may be mindful of you.

11. Slay them not] Apparently inconsistent with Psalm 59:13; but burning indignation does not study logical consistency. What he desires is that they may not be destroyed outright by some signal catastrophe, but visibly punished as a living example, until at last their own wickedness proves their destruction. Cp. Exodus 9:15-16 (R.V.). Pharaoh might have been cut off at once, but was suffered to exist, till his obstinate resistance sealed his doom, and enhanced God’s sovereignty. The Fathers applied the words to the Jews in their dispersion, scattered but not consumed, an ever visible memorial of divine judgement.

scatter them by thy power] Rather, make them wander to and fro by thine army, as vagabonds and outcasts (Psalm 109:10; Genesis 4:12; Genesis 4:14; Numbers 32:13). The word rendered by thy power in A.V. is never used of God’s might, but may mean (cp. Joel 2:25; Joel 3:11) the heavenly army which God has at His command. Cp. Psalm 35:5-6.

bring them down] Cp. Psalm 55:23; Psalm 56:7.

our shield] The Psalmist speaks as the representative of the nation, or at least of a class. For the metaphor cp. Psalm 3:3; Genesis 15:1; Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 18:2; &c.

Verse 11. - Slay them not, lest my people forget; i.e. my true people - faithful Israel. The psalmist's "first thought is, that by lingering on in life for a while the wicked may be more edifying monuments of the Divine anger" (Cheyne). (For a parallel, see Exodus 9:16.) Scatter them by thy power; or, make them wanderers (comp. Genesis 4:12, 14). It has been often noted that David's curse seems to have passed on to the entire nation of the Jews. And bring them down, O Lord our Shield; i.e. "cast them down from their honourable positions bring them into misery and disgrace - O Lord, who art our Defense and Shield" (comp. Psalm 3:3; Psalm 18:2; Psalm 28:7). Psalm 59:11In this second half of the Psalm the cry of fear is hushed. Hope reigns, and anger burns more fiercely. The Ker says that Psalm 59:11 is to be read: אלהי חסדּי יקדּמני, my gracious God will anticipate me, - but with what? This question altogether disappears if we retain the Chethb and point אלהי הסדּו: my God will anticipate me with His mercy (cf. Psalm 21:4), i.e., will meet me bringing His mercy without any effort of mine. Even the old translators have felt that chcdw must belong to the verb as a second object. The lxx is perfectly correct in its rendering, ὁ Θεὸς μου τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ προφθάσει με. The Ker has come into existence in looking to v. 18, according to which it seems as though אלהי הסדּי ought to be added to the refrain, Psalm 59:10 (cf. a similar instance in Psalm 42:6-7). But Psalm 59:11 would be stunted by doing this, and it accords with Biblical poetic usage that the refrain in v. 18 should be climactic in comparison with Psalm 59:10 (just as it also does not altogether harmonize in its first half); so that Olshausen's proposal to close Psalm 59:10 with אלהי חסדי and to begin Psalm 59:11 with חסדו (cf. Psalm 79:8) is only just to be put on record. The prayer "slay them not" does not contradict the prayer that follows for their destruction. The poet wishes that those who lie in wait for him, before they are totally swept away, may remain for a season before the eyes of this people as an example of punishment. In accordance with this, הניעמו, by a comparison of the Hiph. in Numbers 32:13, and of the Kal in Psalm 59:16, Psalm 109:10, is to be rendered: cause them to wander about (Targum, cf. Genesis Rabba, ch. 38 init., טלטלמו); and in connection with בחילך one is involuntarily reminded of Psalm 10:10, Psalm 10:14, and is tempted to read בחלך or בחלך: cause them to wander about in adversity or wretchedness, equals Arab. ‛umr ḥâlik, vita caliginosa h. e. misera), and more especially since בחילך occurs nowhere else instead of בּזרעך or בּימינך. But the Jod in בחילך is unfavourable to this supposition; and since the martial apostrophe of God by "our shield" follows, the choice of the word is explained by the consideration that the poet conceives of the power of God as an army (Joel 2:25), and perhaps thinks directly of the heavenly host (Joel 3:11), over which the Lord of Hosts holds command (Hitzig). By means of this He is first of all to cause them to go astray (נע ונד, Genesis 4:12), then utterly to cast them down (Psalm 56:8). The Lord (אדני) is to do this, as truly as He is Israel's shield against all the heathen and all pseudo-Israelites who have become as heathen. The first member of Psalm 59:13 is undoubtedly meant descriptively: "the sin of their mouth (the sin of the tongue) is the word of their lips" (with the dull-toned suffix mo, in the use of which Psalm 59 associates itself with the Psalms of the time of Saul, Psalm 56:1-13, Psalm 11:1-7, Psalm 17:1-15, 22, 35, Psalm 64:1-10). The combination ולילּכדוּ בגאונם, however, more readily suggests parallel passages like Proverbs 11:6 than Proverbs 6:2; and moreover the מן of the expression וּמאלה וּמכּחשׁ, which is without example in connection with ספּר, and, taken as expressing the motive (Hupfeld), ought to be joined with some designations of the disposition of mind, is best explained as an appended statement of the reason for which they are to be ensnared, so that consequently יספּרוּ (cf. Psalm 69:27; Psalm 64:6) is an attributive clause; nor is this contrary to the accentuation, if one admits the Munach to be a transformation of Mugrash. It is therefore to be rendered: "let them, then, be taken in their pride, and on account of the curse and deceit which they wilfully utter." If, by virtue of the righteousness of the Ruler of the world, their sin has thus become their fall, then, after they have been as it were a warning example to Israel, God is utterly to remove them out of the way, in order that they (it is unnecessary to suppose any change of subject), while perishing, may perceive that Elohim is Ruler in Jacob (בּ, used elsewhere of the object, e.g., Micah 5:1, is here used of the place of dominion), and as in Jacob, so from thence unto the ends of the earth (ל like על, Psalm 48:11) wields the sceptre. Just like the first group of the first part, this first group of the second part also closes with Sela.

The second group opens like the second group in the first part, but with this exception, that here we read וישׁבוּ, which loosely connects it with what precedes, whereas there it is ישׁוּבוּ. The poet's gaze is again turned towards his present straitened condition, and again the pack of dogs by which Saul is hunting him present themselves to his mind. המּה points towards an antithesis that follows, and which finds its expression in ואני. ויּלינוּ and לבּקר stand in direct contrast to one another, and in addition to this לערב has preceded. The reading of the lxx (Vulgate, Luther, [and authorized version]), καὶ γογγύσουσιν equals ויּלּינוּ or ויּלּנוּ, is thereby proved to be erroneous. But if ויּלינוּ is the correct reading, then it follows that we have to take Psalm 59:16 not as foretelling what will take place, but as describing that which is present; so that consequently the fut. consec. (as is frequently the case apart from any historical connection) is only a consecutive continuation of ינוּעוּן (for which the Ker has יניעוּן; the form that was required in Psalm 59:12, but is inadmissible here): they wander up and down (נוּע as in Psalm 109:10, cf. נוּד, Job 15:23) to eat (that is to say, seeking after food); and if they are not satisfied, they pass the night, i.e., remain, eager for food and expecting it, over night on the spot. This interpretation is the most natural, the simplest, and the one that harmonizes best not only with the text before us (the punctuation ישׂבּעוּ, not ישׂבּעוּ, gives the member of the clause the impress of being a protasis), but also with the situation. The poet describes the activity of his enemies, and that by completing or retouching the picture of their comparison to dogs: he himself is the food or prey for which they are so eager, and which they would not willingly allow to escape them, and which they nevertheless cannot get within their grasp. Their morbid desire remains unsatisfied: he, however, in the morning, is able to sing of the power of God, which protects him, and exultantly to praise God's loving-kindness, which satiates and satisfies him (Psalm 90:14); for in the day of fear, which to him is now past, God was his inaccessible stronghold, his unapproachable asylum. To this God, then, even further the play of his harp shall be directed (אזמּרה), just as was his waiting or hoping (אשׁמרה, Psalm 59:10).

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