Verse 23. "But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction " - The Chaldee is emphatic: "And thou, O Lord, by thy WORD ( ûrmymb bemeymerach) shalt thrust them into the deep gehenna, the bottomless pit, whence they shall never come out; the pit of destruction, where all is amazement, horror, anguish, dismay, ruin, endless loss, and endless suffering." Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days - So we find, if there be an appointed time to man upon earth, beyond which he cannot pass; yet he may so live as to provoke the justice of God to cut him off before he arrives at that period; yea, before he has reached half way to that limit. According to the decree of God, he might have lived the other half; but he has not done it.
"But I will trust in thee. " - Therefore I shall not be moved, and shall live out all the days of my appointed time.
The fathers in general apply the principal passages of this Psalm to our Lord's sufferings, the treason of Judas, and the wickedness of the Jews; but these things do not appear to me fairly deducible from the text. It seems to refer plainly enough to the rebellion of Absalom. "The consternation and distress expressed in ver. 4-8, describe the king's state of mind when he fled from Jerusalem, and marched up the mount of Olives, weeping. The iniquity cast upon the psalmist answers to the complaints artfully laid against the king by his son of a negligent administration of justice: and to the reproach of cruelty cast upon him by Shimei, 2 Sam. xv. 2, 4; xvi. 7, 8. The equal, the guide, and the familiar friend, we find in Ahithophel, the confidential counsellor, first of David, afterwards of his son Absalom. The buttery mouth and oily words describe the insidious character of Absalom, as it is delineated, 2 Samuel xv. 5-9. Still the believer, accustomed to the double edge of the prophetic style, in reading this Psalm, notwithstanding its agreement with the occurrences of David's life, will be led to think of David's great descendant, who endured a bitter agony, and was the victim of a baser treachery, in the same spot where David is supposed to have uttered these complaints." - Bishop Horsley.
ANALYSIS OF THE FIFTY-FIFTH PSALM
There are five general parts in this Psalm: - I. The psalmist entreats God to hear his prayer, ver. 1, 2.
II. He complains of his trouble, ver. 3-8.
II. He prays against his enemies, and shows the causes, ver. 8-15.
IV. He takes courage upon assurance of God's help, and his enemies' overthrow, ver. 15-21.
V. An epilogue, in which he exhorts all men to rely upon God, ver. 22, 23.
I. He begs audience.
1. "Give ear-hide not thyself-attend-hear me." 2. "My prayer- supplication-that I mourn-complain-make a noise." Affected he was with the sense of what he prayed for, and he was therefore earnest in it.
II. This in general; but next, in particular, he mentions the causes of his complaint, and earnestness to God, that he might be heard both in regard of his enemies, and the condition he was now in. The danger he was in was very great; escape he could not without God's help, for his enemies persecuted him very sore.
1. They slandered and calumniated him, and threatened him: "Because of the voice," &c.
2. They vexed, pressed upon him, and oppressed him: "Because of the oppression of the wicked." 3. They plotted his ruin, devolved, and cast iniquity upon him-charged him home.
4. They were implacable, angry, and hated him: "In wrath they hate me." Then, as to his own person, he was in a sad, heavy, doleful condition.
1. "My heart is sore pained within me." His grief was inward.
2. "The terrors of death are fallen upon me." He saw nothing but death before him.
3. "Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me." Which are the outward effects of fear.
4. "And a horrible dread within hath overwhelmed me." Amazement followed his fear.
And he illustrates this his condition by the counsel he took with his own heart. Upon the deliberation the result was, that he would speedily fly away, fly into the wilderness, as if he might be safer among beasts than such men.
1. "And I said." That was the result upon his debate with himself.
2. "O that I had wings like a dove!" It is a fearful creature of a swift wing. In fear he was, and he would fly as fast and as far as the dove from the eagle.
3. As far, even to some remote land, where I should have rest from these wicked men.
And he amplifies and explains himself again: - 1. That he would fly far away, even to some desolate place out of their reach: "Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness." 2. That he would do it with speed: "I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." Such turbulent and impetuous creatures his enemies were that threw down all before them, as a wind, storm, and tempest.
III. To his prayer he adds an imprecation: - 1. "Destroy them, O Lord; destroy them in their own counsels." 2. Or else, "divide their tongue." Let them not agree in their counsels.
Of this he gives the reason in the following words: viz., that they were a band of violent, contentious, ungodly, troublesome, crafty, and fraudulent people.
1. Violent they were, and litigious: "I have seen violence and strife in the city." 2. Ungodly, and workers of iniquity they were; and incessant in it: "Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it." 3. Crafty and fraudulent also: "Deceit and guile depart not from her streets." It was then a city, a corporation, a society of evil doers.
And of this he produces an instance, which whether it were some bosom friend of David who stole out of the city of Keilah, and betrayed his counsels to Saul; or else Ahithophel, who, being formerly his great favourite and counsellor, fell to Absalom, it is uncertain. Whoever it was, such a treacherous person there was, and of him he complains: and well he might; for ouden meizon elkov h filov adikwn, "there is not a greater sore than a treacherous friend." This treachery he exaggerates most eloquently by an incrementum and apostrophe, drawing his aggravation from the laws of friendship, which he had broken. Had it been an enemy, he could have borne it; but that it was a friend was intolerable, and also inexcusable. Thus the climax stands: - 1. "For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it." 2. "Neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself," that is, arise and insult me; "then I would have hid myself from him," never admitted him to my bosom.
But mark this emphatic adversative, for now he turns his speech to the man: - 1. "It was thou," emphatically thou, principally and beyond all others.
None but thou.
2. "A man," according to my own rank, mine equal; my guide or counsellor; my acquaintance, my own familiar friend.
3. "We took sweet counsel together." One to whom I communicated my secrets.
4. "And walked unto the house of God in company." Professors we were of the same religion.
Now all these circumstances much heighten and aggravate the treachery: that thou, my equal, my director, my familiar friend, one whom I made the master of all my secrets, one who was a great professor of the same religion with me, that thou shouldst betray me, even break my heart. su teknon; Judas- betrayest thou? Being thus much wronged and moved, as he had just reason, he begins again with an imprecation, not only on him, but on all who believed him, even upon the whole faction: "Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell," have Korah, Dathan, and Abiram's wages. And he adds the reason. They are signally and incorrigibly wicked: "For wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them." IV. Hitherto hath David prayed, complained, imprecated; but now he shows how he recovered courage again, being certain of God's help, and a revenge to be taken on his enemies.
1. "As for me, I will call upon God fervently, and the Lord shall save me." 2. "Evening, and morning, and at noon-day," incessantly, "will I pray and cry aloud; and he shall hear me." 3. And I pray in faith; experience I have of his deliverance; he hath done it, and he will do it again. "He hath redeemed my soul in peace from the battle which was against me.'' Even in the midst of the battle, I was as safe as in a time of peace; miraculously delivered, as if there had been no danger.
4. "For there were many with me." Many enemies, say some; others, many angels. Those refer it to the danger; these, to the protection.
Many enemies round about me, and then it is a wonder I should be delivered. Many angels press to help me, and then it was no wonder that my life was saved. But as for the ungodly, it was not so with them; for this verse is opposed to the former.
1. "God shall hear," viz., me and my prayers, and the wrongs they do me.
2. "And shall afflict them," i.e., my enemies.
3. "Even he that abideth of old. Selah." Mark that, for He is immutable.
His power and strength is the same, and his care and love to his people; therefore, he will afflict them.
And, besides, there are those who will provoke him to it: - 1. Because "they have no changes." Obstinate they are, impertinent, and change not their ways. Or else they prosper, they have perpetual success, and meet with no alteration; this makes them secure and proud.
2. "They fear not God." They ask, "Who is the Lord, that we should let Israel go?" 3. They are truce-breakers, violators of oaths, leagues, covenants, articles of war. "He (that is, some chief commander among them) hath put forth his hands, made war, imbrued his hands in blood, against such as are at peace with him." He hath broken and profaned his covenant-his oath.
4. He is a gross hypocrite; his deeds answer not to his words: "The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords." V. In the epilogue of the Psalm he exhorts good men to rely upon God: "Cast thy burden (the cares, troubles, &c., with which thou art loaded) on the Lord;" and he fits it to his present purpose, both as it concerns the godly and the ungodly.
1. To the godly he gives this comfort:
1. "He (that is, God) shall sustain thee." He will uphold thee, and give thee strength under the heaviest burdens. "Come unto me, all ye that are heavy laden." 2. "He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." With the temptation he will also give the issue; pressed they may be, but not oppressed so as finally to be overthrown.
2. To the ungodly. 1. Overthrown they shall be, and utterly destroyed: "Thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction;" the grave-hell. 2. "Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days." They come commonly to some untimely death, as Absalom and Ahithophel, concerning whom the Psalm was composed.
He concludes with the use he would make of it; as if he had said: Let these bloody and deceitful men repose their confidence in their armies, in their violence, in their crafty and subtle ways; I will take another course: "But I will trust in thee."