Psalm 59:11
Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by your power; and bring them down, O Lord our shield.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(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.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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). First part. As far as Psalm 59:4 we recognise strains familiar in the Psalms. The enemies are called מתקוממי as in Job 27:7, cf. Psalm 17:7; עזּים as shameless, עזּי פנים or עזּי נפשׁ; as in Isaiah 56:11, on account of their bold shameless greediness, dogs. On לא in a subordinate clause, vid., Ewald, ֗286, g: without there being transgression or sin on my side, which might have caused it. The suffix (transgression on my part) is similar to Psalm 18:24. בּליּ־עון (cf. Job 34:6) is a similar adverbial collateral definition: without there existing any sin, which ought to be punished. The energetic future jeruzûn depicts those who servilely give effect to the king's evil caprice; they run hither and thither as if attacking and put themselves in position. הכונן equals התכונן, like the Hithpa. הכּסּה, Proverbs 26:26, the Hothpa. הכּבּס, Leviticus 13:55., and the Hithpa. נכּפּר, Deuteronomy 21:8. Surrounded by such a band of assassins, David is like one besieged, who sighs for succour; and he calls upon Jahve, who seems to be sleeping and inclined to abandon him, with that bold עוּרה לקראתי וּראה, to awake to meet him, i.e., to join him with His help like a relieving army, and to convince Himself from personal observation of the extreme danger in which His charge finds himself. The continuation was obliged to be expressed by ואתּה, because a special appeal to God interposes between עוּרה and הקיצה. In the emphatic "Thou," however, after it has been once expressed, is implied the conditional character of the deliverance by the absolute One. And each of the divine names made use of in this lengthy invocation, which corresponds to the deep anxiety of the poet, is a challenge, so to speak, to the ability and willingness, the power and promise of God. The juxtaposition Jahve Elohim Tsebaoth (occurring, besides this instance, in Psalm 80:5, 20; Psalm 84:9), which is peculiar to the Elohimic Psalms, is to be explained by the consideration that Elohim had become a proper name like Jahve, and that the designation Jahve Tsebaoth, by the insertion of Elohim in accordance with the style of the Elohimic Psalms, is made still more imposing and solemn; and now צבאות is a genitive dependent not merely upon יהוה but upon יהוה אלהים (similar to Psalm 56:1, Isaiah 28:1; Symbolae, p. 15). אלהי ישׂראל is in apposition to this threefold name of God. The poet evidently reckons himself as belonging to an Israel from which he excludes his enemies, viz., the true Israel which is in reality the people of God. Among the heathen, against whom the poet invokes God's interposition, are included the heathen-minded in Israel; this at least is the view which brings about this extension of the prayer. Also in connection with the words און כּל־בּגדי the poet, in fact, has chiefly before his mind those who are immediately round about him and thus disposed. It is those who act treacherously from extreme moral nothingness and worthlessness (און genit. epexeg.). The music, as Sela directs, here becomes more boisterous; it gives intensity to the strong cry for the judgment of God; and the first unfolding of thought of this Michtam is here brought to a close.

The second begins by again taking up the description of the movements of the enemy which was begun in Psalm 59:4, Psalm 59:5. We see at a glance how here Psalm 59:7 coincides with Psalm 59:5, and Psalm 59:8 with Psalm 59:4, and Psalm 59:9 with Psalm 59:6. Hence the imprecatory rendering of the futures of Psalm 59:7 is not for a moment to be entertained. By day the emissaries of Saul do not venture to carry out their plot, and David naturally does not run into their hands. They therefore come back in the evening, and that evening after evening (cf. Job 24:14); they snarl or howl like dogs (המה, used elsewhere of the growling of the bear and the cooing of the dove; it is distinct from נבח, Arab. nbb, nbḥ, to bark, and כלב, to yelp), because they do not want to betray themselves by loud barking, and still cannot altogether conceal their vexation and rage; and they go their rounds in the city (like סובב בּעיר, Sol 3:2, cf. supra Psalm 55:11), in order to cut off their victim from flight, and perhaps, what would be very welcome to them, to run against him in the darkness. The further description in Psalm 59:8 follows them on this patrol. What they belch out or foam out is to be inferred from the fact that swords are in their lips, which they, as it were, draw so soon as they merely move their lips. Their mouth overflows with murderous thoughts and with slanders concerning David, by which they justify their murderous greed to themselves as if there were no one, viz., no God, who heard it. But Jahve, from whom nothing, as with men, can be kept secret, laughs at them, just as He makes a mockery of all heathen, to whom this murderous band, which fears the light and in unworthy of the Israelitish name, is compared. This is the primary passage to Psalm 37:13; Psalm 2:4; for Psalm 59 is perhaps the oldest of the Davidic Psalms that have come down to us, and therefore also the earliest monument of Israelitish poetry in which the divine name Jahve Tsebaoth occurs; and the chronicler, knowing that it was the time of Samuel and David that brought it into use, uses this name only in the life of David. Just as this strophe opened in Psalm 59:7 with a distich that recurs in Psalm 59:15, so it also closes now in Psalm 59:10 with a distich that recurs below in v. 18, and that is to be amended according to the text of that passage. For all attempts to understand עזּי as being genuine prove its inaccuracy. With the old versions it has to be read עזּי; but as for the rest, אשׁמרה must be retained in accordance with the usual variation found in such refrains: my strength, Thee will I regard (1 Samuel 26:15; observe, 2 Samuel 11:16), or upon Thee will I wait (cf. ל, Psalm 130:6); i.e., in the consciousness of my own feebleness, tranquil and resigned, I will look for Thine interposition on my behalf.

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