Verse 1. - Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man. The prayer is not directed against an individual, but against David's enemies generally. They are "evil" or "wicked" men, and especially "men of violence" (see the next clause, and comp. ver. 4). Preserve me from the violent man; literally, from the man of violences (comp. 2 Samuel 22:49; Psalm 18:48).
Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.
Verse 2. - Which imagine mischiefs in their heart (comp. Psalm 28:3; Psalm 36:4; Psalm 62:3). Continually are they gathered together for war; rather, continually do they stir up wars (comp. Psalm 68:30; Psalm 120:7).
They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.
Verse 3. - They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent (comp. Psalm 52:2; Psalm 57:4; Psalm 59:7; Psalm 64:3). Adders' poison is under their lips (comp. Psalm 58:4; Romans 3:15). The meaning is that their tongues inflict wounds which are as painful as poisoned wounds. The pause-sign, "selah," marks off the first stanza.
Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings.
Verse 4. - Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man. A repetition of ver. 1 in a modified form. The fact of iteration indicates the extremity of the psalmist's need. Who have purposed to overthrow my goings; i.e. to bring me to destruction (comp. Psalm 17:5).
The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah.
Verse 5. - The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords. An instance of the figure hendiadys. What is meant is a snare composed of cords. Such snares, when laid for animals, were "hidden" in long grass, or low shrubs, or rough ground. They have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me (comp. Psalm 31:4; Psalm 35:7; Psalm 57:6; Psalm 119:10; Psalm 141:9; Psalm 142:3). A second pause-sign marks off a second stanza.
I said unto the LORD, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O LORD.
Verse 6. - I said unto the Lord, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O Lord (comp. Psalm 31:14; Psalm 143:1). The expressions used are markedly Davidical.
O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.
Verse 7. - O God the Lord. In the Hebrew, "Jehovah Adonai" - a comparatively rare address. The strength of my salvation. The solid strength upon which I ground all my hopes of salvation (comp. Psalm 89:26). Thou hast covered my head in the day of battle. In past combats thou hast protected me, as with a shield (Psalm 18:2; Psalm 33:20), wherefore I put the greater trust in thee for the future. The "head" is mentioned as one of the chief vital parts.
Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. Selah.
Verse 8. - Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked. The "desires of the wicked" are hurtful both to themselves and others. It is in his mercy that God does not grant them. Further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. So the LXX., μήποτε ὑψωθῶσιν. Others translate, "Or how they will exalt themselves!" The third stanza here terminates.
As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them.
Verse 9 - As for the head of those that compass me about. The "head" of David's enemies is put in contrast with his own "head" (see ver. 7). While God shields and protects his head, theirs has no protection, but the mischief of their own lips which covers them, but with confusion, rather than with defense or safety.
Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again.
Verse 10. - Let burning coals fall upon them, or, "burning coals shall be thrown upon them." Let them be cast (or, "they shall be cast") into the fire, into deep pits, that they rise not up again. The clauses are declaratory rather than optative. The psalmist sees the wrath of God poured out upon his enemies, who are at the same time God's enemies - they are cast into the fire prepared to receive the wicked - and plunged into deep pits whence they find it impossible to extricate themselves.
Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him.
Verse 11. - Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth; literally, a man of tongue shall not be established is the land - a man, i.e., of pretence and seeming, who talks grandly, but effects nothing. Such a one shall not obtain permanent establishment as a power in the land. Evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him; literally, to destructions - a plural of completeness.
I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.
Verse 12. - I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted. The psalmist is confident, not only that the wicked will be punished, but also that the righteous, whatever sufferings may come upon them, will ultimately be delivered out of their afflictions (comp. Psalm 9:4, 9, 12, 18, etc.). And the right of the poor. It is not to be supposed that "the right" is always with "the poor;" but, when it is, God will assuredly be their champion.
Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.
Verse 13. - Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy Name; the upright shall dwell in thy presence. The result of God's punishment of the wicked, and deliverance of the righteous is naturally that the righteous give him thanks, frequent his courts, and "dwell," as it were, "in his presence."