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Commentary On Psalms Volume 2 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 59:10-12

10. The God of my mercy will prevent me: God shall let me see my desire upon mine enemies.11. Slay them not, lest my people forget: scatter them by thy power; and bring them down, O Lord! our shield.12. The sin of their mouth, the words of their lips; let them be taken in their pride: and let them speak of cursing and lying.

10. The God of my mercy will prevent me In the Hebrew, there is the affix of the third person, but we have the point which denotes the first. The Septuagint has adopted the third person, and Augustine too ingeniously, though with a good design, has repeatedly quoted the passage against the Pelagians, in proof that the grace of God is antecedent to all human merit. In the same manner, he has again and again cited the preceding verse, to refute the arrogancy of those who boast of the power of free-will. |I will put in trust my strength with thee,| he says; |that is, men must subject themselves with all modesty and humility to God, as having no strength but that with which he supplies them.| Now, it may be said with great plausibility, that the man puts his strength in trust with God, who declares that he has no strength but what comes from him, and who depends entirely upon his help. The sentiment inculcated is also, without all doubt, a pious and instructive one; but we must be ever on our guard against wresting Scripture from its natural meaning. The Hebrew word qdm, kidem, means no more than to come forward seasonably; and David simply intimates that the divine assistance would be promptly and opportunely extended. The scope of the words is, that God will interpose at the very moment when it is required, however much he may retard or defer his assistance. Were it not that we are hurried on by the excessive eagerness of our own wishes, we would sufficiently recognize the promptness with which God hastens to our help, but our own precipitance makes us imagine that he is dilatory. To confirm his faith, he calls him the God of his mercy, having often proved him to be merciful; and the experience of the past afforded him good hopes of what he might expect in the future. The idea of some, that David uses the word in an active sense, and praises his own mercy, is poor and unnatural. Its passive use is quite common.

11 Slay them not, lest my people forget David very properly suggests this to his own mind, as a consideration which should produce patience. We are apt to think, when God has not annihilated our enemies at once, that they have escaped out of his hands altogether; and we look upon it as properly no punishment, that they should be gradually and slowly destroyed. Such being the extravagant desire which almost all, without exception, have, to see their enemies at once exterminated, David checks himself, and dwells upon the judgment of God to be seen in the lesser calamities which overtake the wicked. It is true, that were not our eyes blinded, we would behold a more evident display of divine retribution in cases where the destruction of the ungodly is sudden; but these are so apt to fade away from our remembrance, that he had good reason to express his desire that the spectacle might be one constantly renewed, and thus our knowledge of the judgments of God be more deeply graven upon our hearts. He arms and fortifies himself against impatience under delays in the execution of divine judgment, by the consideration that God has an express design in them, as, were the wicked exterminated in a moment, the remembrance of the event might speedily be effaced. There is an indirect censure conveyed to the people of Israel for failing to improve the more striking judgments of God. But the sin is one too prevalent in the world even at this day. Those judgments which are so evident that none can miss to observe them without shutting his eyes, we sinfully allow to pass into oblivion; so that we need to be brought daily into that theater where we are compelled to perceive the divine hand. This we must never forget when we see God subjecting his enemies to a gradual process of destruction, instead of launching his thunders instantly upon their head. He prays that God would make them to wander, as men under poverty and misery, who seek in every direction, but in vain, for a remedy to their misfortunes. The idea is still more forcibly described in the word which follows, make them descend, or, cast them down. He wished that they might be dragged from that position of honor which they had hitherto occupied, and thrown to the ground, so as to present, in their wretchedness and degradation, a constant illustration of the wrath of God. The word vchylk, becheylcha, which we have translated, in thy power, some render, with thy army, understanding the people of God. But it is more probable that David calls to his assistance the power of God for the destruction of his enemies, and this because they deemed themselves invincible through those worldly resources in which they trusted. As a further argument for obtaining his request, he intimates in the close of the verse that he was now pleading the cause of the whole Church, for he uses the plural number, O God our shield Having been chosen king by divine appointment, the safety of the Church stood connected with his person. The assault made upon him by his enemies was not an assault upon himself merely as a private individual, but upon the whole people, whose common welfare God had consulted in making choice of him. And this suggested another reason why he should patiently submit to see the judgments of God measured out in the manner which might best engage their minds in assiduous meditation.

12 The sin of their mouth, the words of their lips Some interpreters read, for, or, on account of the sin of their mouth, supplying the causal particle, that the words may be the better connected with the preceding verse. And there can be no doubt that the reason is stated here why they deserved to be subjected to constant wanderings and disquietude. The words as they stand, however, although abrupt and elliptical, well express the meaning which David would convey; as if he had said, that no lengthened proof was necessary to convict them of sin, which plainly showed itself in the mischievous tendency of their discourse. Wickedness, he tells us, proceeded from their mouth., They vomited out their pride and cruelty. That this is the sense in which we are to understand the words, is confirmed by what immediately follows -- Let them be taken in their pride. He here points to the source of that insolence which led them with such proud and contumelious language, and in such a shameless manner, to oppress the innocent. He then specifies the sin of their lips, adding, that they spoke words of cursing and falsehood By this he means that their mouth was continually filled with horrid imprecations, and that they were wholly addicted to deceit and to calumniating. Those have mistaken the meaning of David who give a passive signification to the word which I have translated to speak, and understand him as saying that the wicked would be accounted examples of divine vengeance, the plain and notorious marks of which were written upon them.

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