Psalm 9:3
When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.
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(3) When.—Literally, in the turning of mine enemies back, which may be either when they turned, or because they turned, or possibly with both ideas combined. The older versions have when. Psalm 9:2-3 form one sentence, “I will be glad and rejoice in thee . . . when mine enemies are turned back, (when) they fall and perish at thy presence.”

Fall.—Better, stumble through weakness. So the LXX., “are weak.”

Psalm 9:3. When mine enemies are turned back — Discomfited and put to flight; they shall fall and perish — They shall not save themselves by flight and so reserve themselves to do farther mischief but shall stumble, as it were, at the obstacles and impediments laid by thee in their way, and shall be pursued, overtaken, and cut off; at thy presence — Upon thy appearing against them. One angry look of thine is sufficient to confound and destroy them. Hebrew, מפניךְ, mippaneicha, from thy face; they could not stand before thee, because thou didst march at the head of our armies against them. So he ascribes the honour of his victories to God only, and to his presence and assistance.

9:1-10 If we would praise God acceptably, we must praise him in sincerity, with our whole heart. When we give thanks for some one particular mercy, we should remember former mercies. Our joy must not be in the gift, so much as in the Giver. The triumphs of the Redeemer ought to be the triumphs of the redeemed. The almighty power of God is that which the strongest and stoutest of his enemies are no way able to stand before. We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth, and that with him there is no unrighteousness. His people may, by faith, flee to him as their Refuge, and may depend on his power and promise for their safety, so that no real hurt shall be done to them. Those who know him to be a God of truth and faithfulness, will rejoice in his word of promise, and rest upon that. Those who know him to be an everlasting Father, will trust him with their souls as their main care, and trust in him at all times, even to the end; and by constant care seek to approve themselves to him in the whole course of their lives. Who is there that would not seek him, who never hath forsaken those that seek Him?When mine enemies are turned back - Who these enemies were, the psalmist does not say. It is clear, however, as was remarked in the introduction, that the psalm was composed:

(a) in view of a victory which had been achieved over some formidable enemies; and

(b) in view of some dangers still impending from a similar source.

The literal meaning of the passage here is, "In the turning of my enemies back;" that is, in their retreat, defeat, overthrow. So far as the Hebrew form of expression is concerned, this may either refer to what had been done, or to what would be; and may imply either that they had been turned back, or that the psalmist hoped and believed that they would be; for in either case the fact would show the divine perfections, and give occasion for gratitude and praise. The verbs with which this is connected - "they shall fall and perish" - are indeed in the Hebrew, as in our version, in the future tense; but this does not necessarily determine the question whether the psalmist refers to what had occurred or what would occur. His attitude is this: he contemplates his enemies as mighty and formidable; he sees the danger which exists when such enemies surround one; he looks at the interposition of God, and he sees that whenever it occurs it would be followed by this consequence, that they would stumble and fall before him. But while this verse does not determine the question whether he refers to what has been, or to what would be, the subsequent verses Psalm 9:4-6 seem to settle it, where he speaks as if this were already done, and as if God had interposed in a remarkable manner in defeating his foes. I regard this, therefore, as a reflection on what had occurred, and as expressing what was then actually a ground of praise and thanksgiving.

They shall fall and perish - A general statement in view of what had occurred, meaning that this would always be the case.

At thy presence - Before thee; that is, when thou dost manifest thyself. This was the reason why they would stumble and fall, and is equivalent to saying, that "whenever mine enemies are turned back, the reason why they stumble and fall is "thy presence." It is the interposition of thy power. It is not to be traced to the prowess of man that they thus turn back, and that they fall and perish; it is to be traced to the fact that thou art present - that thou dost interpose." It is thus an acknowledgment of God as the author of the victory in all cases.

3-5. When … are turned back—It is the result of God's power alone. He, as a righteous Judge (Ps 7:11), vindicates His people. He rebukes by acts as well as words (Ps 6:1; 18:15), and so effectually as to destroy the names of nations as well as persons. When they are discomfited and put to flight, they shall not save themselves by flight, and reserve themselves to do further mischief, but shall stumble as it were at gall-traps by thee laid in their way, and shall be pursued, and overtaken, and cut off, upon thy appearance against them. One angry look of thine is able to confound and destroy them. Heb. from thy face, because thou didst march in the head of our armies, and against them. They could not stand before thee. So he ascribes the honour of his victories to God only, and to his presence and assistance.

When mine enemies are turned back,.... As the Philistines were, when Goliath their champion was dead; and as the men that came to apprehend Christ, David's antitype, went backwards and fell to the ground, through the superior power of Christ; and as sin, Satan, and the world, and at last antichrist, are made to retreat from the Lord's people, who are more than conquerors over them through Christ that has loved them. "They shall fall and perish at thy presence"; they shall stumble at one thing or another which divine Providence will throw in their way to hinder them from executing their designs, and so fall before them they meant to destroy, and perish at the presence of God as wax melteth before the fire; see Psalm 27:2; so antichrist shall be consumed with the breath of Christ's mouth, and the brightness of his coming, 2 Thessalonians 2:8; and this is the ground and foundation of the psalmist's joy, and rejoicing, and singing praise to God as it will be the reason of the joy of saints in the latter day, Revelation 18:22. When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.
3, 4. Stanza of Beth. It is best to place a semicolon only at the end of Psalm 9:2, and render Psalm 9:3 in close connexion with it:

Because mine enemies turn back,

Stumble and perish at Thy presence.

The ‘presence’ or ‘face’ of God is to His enemies necessarily a manifestation of victorious wrath. Comp. Psalm 21:9 (R.V. marg.); Psalm 34:16; Exodus 14:24. The verse is a vivid picture of a panic rout: the foe turning to flee, stumbling in their precipitate haste, overtaken and annihilated. Cp. Psalm 35:5-6.

Verse 3. - When mine enemies are turned back; or, because mine enemies are turned back ('Speaker's Commentary'); i.e. made to retreat, repulsed, driven before me in hasty flight. They shall fall and perish at thy presence; or, they stumble and perish, etc. The psalmist represents the enemy, poetically, "as if they had been thrown to the ground by the glance of God's fiery countenance" (Hengstenberg). Psalm 9:3(Heb.: 9:4-5) The call upon himself to thanksgiving sounds forth, and the ב-strophe continues it by expressing the ground of it. The preposition בּ in this instance expresses both the time and the reason together (as in Psalm 76:10; 2 Chronicles 28:6); in Latin it is recedentibus hostibus meis retro. אחור serves to strengthen the notion of being driven back, as in Psalm 56:10, cf. Psalm 44:11; and just as, in Latin, verbs compounded of re are strengthened by retro. In Psalm 9:4 finite verbs take the place of the infinitive construct; here we have futt. with a present signification, just as in 2 Chronicles 16:7 we find a praet. intended as perfect. For the rendering which Hitzig adopts: When mine enemies retreat backwards, they stumble... is opposed both by the absence of any syntactic indication in Psalm 9:4 of an apodosis (cf. Psalm 27:2); and also by the fact that יכּשׁלוּ is well adapted to be a continuation of the description of שׁוּב אחור (cf. John 18:6), but is tame as a principal clause to the definitive clause בשוב אויבי אחור. Moreover, אחור does not signify backwards (which would rather be אחרנּית Genesis 9:23; 1 Samuel 4:18), but back, or into the rear. The מן of מפּניך is the מן of the cause, whence the action proceeds. What is intended is God's angry countenance, the look of which sets his enemies on fire as if they were fuel (Psalm 21:10), in antithesis to God's countenance as beaming with the light of His love. Now, while this is taking place, and because of its taking place, will be sing praise to God. From Psalm 9:2 we see that the Psalm is composed directly after the victory and while the destructive consequences of it to the vanquished are still in operation. David sees in it all an act of Jahve's judicial power. To execute any one's right, משׁפּט (Micah 7:9), to bring to an issue any one's suit or lawful demand, דּין (Psalm 140:13), is equivalent to: to assist him and his good cause in securing their right. The phrases are also used in a judicial sense without the suffix. The genitive object after these principal words never denotes the person against whom, but the person on whose behalf, the third party steps forward with his judicial authority. Jahve has seated Himself upon His judgment-seat as a judge of righteousness (as in Jeremiah 11:20), i.e., as a judge whose judicial mode of procedure is righteousness, justice,

(Note: Also Proverbs 8:16 is probably to be read צדק כּל־שׁכּטי, with Norzi, according to the Targum, Syriac version, and old Codices; at any rate this is an old various reading, and one in accordance with the sense, side by side with כל־שׁפטי ארץ.)

and has decided in his favour. In ישׁב ל (as in Psalm 132:11), which is distinguished in this respect from ישׁב על (Psalm 47:9), the idea of motion, considere, comes prominently forward.

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