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Commentary On Psalms Volume 5 by Jean Calvin

Psalm 140:6-10

6. I said to Jehovah thou art my God; hear the voice of my supplication.7. O, Jehovah, my Lord! the strength of my salvation, thou hast set a covering upon my head in the day of arms. 8. Grant not, O Jehovah! the desires of the wicked; they have devised, do not though consummate, they shall be exalted. Selah.9. As for the head of those compassing me about, let the mischief of his lips cover him.10. Let coals with fire fall upon them; he shall cast them into deeps, they shall not rise again.

6. I said to Jehovah. In these words he shows that his prayers were not merely those of the lips, as hypocrites will make loud appeals to God for mere appearance sake, but that he prayed with earnestness, and from a hidden principle of faith. Till we have a persuasion of being saved through the grace of God there can be no sincere prayer. We have here an excellent illustration of the nature of faith, in the Psalmist's turning himself away from man's view, that he may address God apart, hypocrisy being excluded in this internal exercise of the heart. This is true prayer -- not the mere idle lifting up of the voice, but the presentation of our petitions from an inward principle of faith. To beget in himself a persuasion of his obtaining his present requests from God, he recalls to his mind what deliverance's God had already extended to him. He speaks of his having been to him as a shield in every time of danger. Some read the words in the future tense -- |Thou wilt cover my head in the day of battle.| But it is evident David speaks of protection formerly experienced from the hand of God, and from this derives comfort to his faith. He comes forth, not as a raw and undisciplined recruit, but as a soldier well tried in previous engagements. The strength of salvation is equivalent to salvation displayed with no ordinary power.

8. Grant not, O Jehovah! the desires of the wicked We might render the words Establish not, though the meaning would be the same -- that God would restrain the desires of the wicked, and frustrate all their aims and attempts. We see from this that it is in his power, whenever he sees proper, to frustrate the unprincipled designs of men, and their wicked expectations, and to dash their schemes. When, therefore, it is found impracticable to bring our enemies to a right state of mind, we are to pray that the devices which they have imagined may be immediately overthrown and thwarted. In the next clause there is more ambiguity. As the Hebrew verb phvq, puk, means to lead out, as well as to strike or fall, the words might mean, that God would not carry out into effect the counsels of the wicked. But the opinion of those may be correct who read -- their thought is thou wilt not strike, David representing such hopes as the wicked are wont to entertain. We find him elsewhere (Psalm 10:6) describing their pride in a similar way, in entirely overlooking a divine providence, and considering all events as subject to their control, and the world placed under their sole management. The word which follows with thus come in appropriately -- they shall be lifted up, in illusion to the wicked being inflated by pride, through the idea that they can never be overtaken by adversity. If the other reading be preferred, the negative particle must be considered as repeated -- |Suffer not their attempts to be carried into effect; let them not be exalted.| At any rate David is to be considered as censuring the security of his enemies, in making no account of God, and in surrendering themselves to unbridled license.

9. As for the head, etc. There may be a doubt whether, under the term head, he refers to the chief of the faction opposed to him; for we call suppose an inversion in the sentence, and a change of the plural to the singular number, bringing out this sense. |Let the mischief of their wicked speeches, which they intended against me, fall upon their own head.| As almost all interpreters, however, have taken the other view, I have adopted it, only understanding the reference as being to Saul rather than Doeg. There follows an imprecation upon the whole company of his enemies generally, that coals may fall upon them, alluding to the awful fate of Sodom and Gomorrha. We find this elsewhere (Psalm 11:6) set forth by the Spirit of God as an example of Divine vengeance, to terrify the wicked; and Jude (Jude 1:7) declares that God testified, by this example of everlasting significance, that he would be the Judge of all the ungodly. Some translate what follows -- the wilt cast them into the fire, which might pass. But as: v, beth, in the Hebrew often denotes instrumentality, we may properly render the words -- thou wilt cast them down By fire, or With fire, as God sent it forth against Sodom and Gomorrha. He prays they may be sunk into deep pits, whence they may never rise. God sometimes heals those whom he has smitten with great severity; David cuts off the reprobate from the hope of pardon, as knowing them to be beyond recovery. Had they been disposable to repentance, he would have been inclinable on his part to mercy.

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