12. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready. 13. And he hath prepared for the instruments of death; he shall make fit his arrows for them that persecute. 14. Behold, he shall travail to bring forth iniquity; he hath conceived wickedness, and he shall bring forth falsehood.
12 If he turn not These verses are usually explained in two ways. The meaning is, that if David's enemies should persevere in their malicious designs against him, there is denounced against them the vengeance which their obstinate wickedness deserves. Accordingly, in the second clause, they supply the name of God, -- If he turn not, GOD will whet his sword; as if it had been said, If my enemy do not repent, he shall, at length, feel that God is completely armed for the purpose of maintaining and defending the righteous. If it is understood in this sense, the third verse is to be considered as a statement of the cause why God will thus equip himself with armour, namely, because the ungodly, in conceiving all kinds of mischief, in travailing to bring forth wickedness, and in at length bringing forth deceit and falsehood, directly assail God, and openly make war upon him. But, in my judgment, those who read these two verses in one continued sentence, give a more accurate interpretation. I am not, however, satisfied that even they fully bring out the meaning of the Psalmist. David, I have no doubt, by relating the dreadful attempts of his enemies against him, intended thereby to illustrate more highly the grace of God; for when these malicious men, strengthened by powerful military forces, and abundantly provided with armour, furiously rushed upon him in the full expectation of destroying him, who would not have said that it was all over with him? Moreover, there is implied in the words a kind of irony, when he pretends to be afraid of their putting him to death. They mean the same thing as if he had said, |If my enemy do not alter his purpose, or turn his fury and his strength in another direction, who can preserve me from perishing by his hands? He has an abundant supply of arms, and he is endeavouring, by all methods, to accomplish my death.| But Saul is the person of whom he particularly speaks, and therefore he says, he hath made fit his arrows for the persecutors This implies that Saul had many agents in readiness who would willingly put forth their utmost efforts in seeking to destroy David. The design of the prophet, therefore, was to magnify the greatness of the grace of God, by showing the greatness of the danger from which he had been delivered by him. Moreover, when it is here said, if he do not return, returning does not signify repentance and amendment in David's enemy, but only a change of will and purpose, as if he had said, |It is in the power of my enemy to do whatever his fancy may suggest.| Whence it appears the more clearly, how wonderful the change was which suddenly followed contrary all expectation. When he says that Saul had prepared the instruments of death for his bow, he intimates that he was driving after no ordinary thing, but was fully determined to wound to death the man whom he shot at. Some, referring the Hebrew word dvlqym doulekim, which we have rendered persecutors, to arrows, have rendered it burning, because it has also this signification; but the translation which I have given is the more appropriate. David complains that he had reason to be afraid, not only of one man, but of a great multitude, inasmuch as Saul had armed a powerful body of men to pursue and persecute a poor fugitive.
14 Behold, he shall travail David has hitherto shown how great and formidable the danger was which was near him. In this verse, laughing to scorn the presumptuous and foolish attempts of Saul, and his magnificent preparations, he declares that they had failed of accomplishing their object. By the demonstrative adverb Behold, he enhances the wonder, inasmuch as such a result fell out, on his part altogether unlooked for. Behold, says he, after he has travailed to bring forth wickedness, like as he had conceived mischief, at length there comes forth only empty wind and vanity, because God frustrated his expectations, and destroyed all these wicked attempts. Iniquity and mischief are here put for every kind of violence and outrage which Saul intended to inflict upon David. Some interpreters think that the order of the words is inverted, because travailing to bring forth is put before conceiving; but I think that the words have their proper place if you explain them thus: Behold, he shall travail to bring forth wickedness, for he hath conceived mischief; that is to say, as he long ago devised with himself my destruction, so he will do his utmost to put his design into execution. David afterwards adds, he hath brought forth falsehood This implies that Saul had been disappointed in his expectation; as Isaiah, (Isaiah 26:18,) in like manner, speaks of unbelievers |bringing forth wind,| when their success does not correspond to their wicked and presumptuous attempts. As often, therefore, as we see the ungodly secretly plotting our ruin, let us remember that they speak falsehood to themselves; in other words deceive themselves, and shall fail in accomplishing what they devise in their hearts. If, however, we do not perceive that they are disappointed in their designs until they are about to be brought forth, let us not be cast down, but bear it with a spirit of patient submission to the will and providence of God.