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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 56:5-8

5. Every day my words vex me; all their thoughts are against me for evil.6. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they watch my heels, because they seek my soul. 7. After their mischief they think to escape: in thine anger cast down the peoples, O God! 8. Thou hast taken account of my wandering; put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy register?

5 Every day my words vex me The first part of this verse has been variously rendered. Some understand my words to be the nominative in the sentence, and with these I agree in opinion. Others suppose a reference to the enemies of David, and translate, they calumniate my words, or, they cause me grief on account of my words. Again, ytsvv, yeatsebu, has been taken in the neuter sense, and translated, my words are troublesome. But tsv , atsab, commonly signifies to afflict with grief, and in Pihel is always taken transitively; nor does there seem any reason in this place to depart from the general rule of the language. And the passage flows more naturally when rendered, my words affect me with grief, or vex me, than by supposing that he refers to his enemies. According to this translation, the verse contains a double complaint, that, on the one hand, he was himself unsuccessful in everything which he attempted, his plans having still issued in vexatious failure; while, on the other hand, his enemies were devising every means for his destruction. It may appear at first sight rather inconsistent to suppose that he should immediately before have disclaimed being under the influence of fear, and now acknowledge that he was not only distressed, but in some measure the author of his own discomfort. I have already observed, however, that he is not to be considered as having been absolutely divested of anxiety and fear, although enabled to look down with contempt upon his enemies from the eminence of faith. Here he speaks of the circumstances which tried him, which his faith certainly overcame, but at the same time could not altogether remove out of the way. He confesses his own lack of wisdom and foresight, shown in the abortive issue of every plan which he devised. It aggravated the evil, that his enemies were employing their united counsels to plot his ruin. He adds, that they gathered themselves together; and this made his case the more calamitous, matched as he was, a single individual, against this numerous host. In mentioning that they hide themselves, he adverts to the subtile devices which they framed for surprising him into destruction. The verb ytsphynv, yitsponu, by grammatical rule ought to have the letter v, vau, in the middle; from which the general opinion is, that the y yod, is as it were the mark of Hiphil, denoting that the enemies of David came to the determination of employing an ambush, with the view of surrounding him. He tells us that they pressed upon him in every direction, and as it were trod upon his heels, so that he had no respite. And he points at their implacable hatred as the cause of their eager pursuit of him; for nothing, he informs us, would satisfy them but his death.

7. After their mischief they think to escape. The beginning of this verse is read by some interrogatively, Shall they escape in their iniquity? But there is no necessity for having recourse to this distant meaning. It is much better to understand the words in the sense which they naturally suggest when first read, That the wicked think to escape in their iniquity, but that God will cast them down. He alludes to the fact that the ungodly, when allowed to proceed without interruption in their evil courses, indulge the idea that they have a license to perpetrate the worst wickedness with impunity. In these our own times, we see many such profane characters, who display an unmeasured audacity under the assurance that God's hand can never reach them. They not only look to go unpunished, but found their hopes of success upon their evil deeds, and encourage themselves to farther wickedness, by cherishing the opinion that they will contrive a way of escape from every adversity. David has no sooner stated this vain confident persuasion of the wicked, than he refutes it by an appeal to the judgment of God, declaring his conviction that, however proudly they might exalt themselves, the hour of vengeance would come when God would cast down the peoples He makes use of the plural number, to fortify his mind against fear, when he reflected upon the array of his enemies. Let us remember, when our enemies are many, that it is one of the prerogatives of God to cast down the people, and not one nation of foes merely, but the world.

8. Thou hast taken account of my wanderings The words run in the form of an abrupt prayer. Having begun by requesting God to consider his tears, suddenly, as if he had obtained what he asked, he declares that they were written in God's book. It is possible, indeed, to understand the interrogation as a prayer; but he would seem rather to insinuate by this form of expression, that he stood in no need of multiplying words, and that God had already anticipated his desire. It is necessary, however, to consider the words of the verse more particularly. He speaks of his wandering as having been noted by God, and this that he may call attention to one remarkable feature of his history, his having been forced to roam a solitary exile for so long a period. The reference is not to any one wandering; the singular number is used for the plural, or rather, he is to be understood as declaring emphatically that his whole life was only one continued wandering. This he urges as an argument to commiseration, spent as his years had been in the anxieties and dangers of such a perplexing pilgrimage. Accordingly, he prays that God might put his tears into his bottle It was usual to preserve the wine and oil in bottles: so that the words amount to a request that God would not suffer his tears to fall to the ground, but keep them with care as a precious deposit. The prayers of David, as appears from the passage before us, proceeded upon faith in the providence of God, who watches our every step, and by whom (to use an expression of Christ)

|the very hairs of our head are numbered,|
(Matthew 10:30.)

Unless persuaded in our mind that God takes special notice of each affliction which we endure, it is impossible we can ever attain such confidence as to pray that God would put our tears into his bottle, with a view to regarding them, and being induced by them to interpose in our behalf. He immediately adds, that he had obtained what he asked: for, as already observed, I prefer understanding the latter clause affirmatively. He animates his hope by the consideration that all his tears were written in the book of God, and would therefore be certainly remembered. And we may surely believe, that if God bestows such honor upon the tears of his saints, he must number every drop of their blood which is shed. Tyrants may burn their flesh and their bones, but the blood remains to cry aloud for vengeance; and intervening ages can never erase what has been written in the register of God's remembrance.

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