New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psa 140:1

For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David.
Deliver me, Yahweh, from the evil man. Preserve me from the violent man-
David may be personifying a group of opponents as one evil and violent man. Or he may specifically have Saul in view (David uses the term "violent man" about him in Ps. 18:48), although the Psalm may have been reapplied by him to other later adversaries.

Psa 140:2

and those who devise mischief in their hearts-
We observe that David sees the evil of his enemies in terms of their hearts / thoughts, and their words. This is exactly God's perspective. Things which are insignificant in human judgment are of such paramount importance to Him.

They continually gather themselves together for war-
As in Ps. 120:7, this could apply to how Hezekiah sought to make peace with the Assyrians. But he gave them the gold of the temple for that peace treaty which they broke; but here he appears to whitewash that lack of faith as his love for peace. We can understand the initial reference to David, who truly sought to live at peace with Saul. And perhaps it has application to the returned exiles and their conflicts with the local Samaritans.

Psa 140:3

they have sharpened their tongues like a serpent. Viper’s poison is under their lips. Selah-
The idea is that hard words are as bad as weapons of violence, spear and arrow tips with poison upon them. As noted on :2, David adopts God's perspective of condemning words and thoughts as toughly as actions. He so often laments the hard words of his enemies (Ps. 52:2; 57:4; 59:7; 64:3). We see here his hyper sensitivity to words. But David was to later plot the destruction of Uriah by his words; and when he repented of this in Ps. 32:2, he says that lack of deceit / guile (s.w.) in our words is only possible through imputed righteousness. David's intolerance of persons with deceitful tongues (Ps. 52:2; 101:7; 120:3) must be compared with the fact that he himself was only counted as not deceitful by grace; for he was very deceitful regarding Uriah. Ps. 64:3,7 speak of how men "aim their arrows, even bitter words"; and God responds by shooting arrows from His Heavenly control room. The language of sharpening could suggest that David wrote this as he sensed the oncoming insurrection of Absalom

Psa 140:4

Yahweh, keep me from the hands of the wicked. Preserve me from the violent men who have determined to trip my feet-
This may have originated in his thoughts about Saul, then reapplied to David's need for salvation from Absalom and Ahithophel. Saul tried to trip David up through using his daughters. But this verse becomes the intended appeal of the exiles for deliverance from Babylon, then Haman, and indeed from all their captors. "The hand of the wicked / unrighteous" is the term used for the Babylonians in Ez. 7:21.

Psa 140:5

The proud have hidden a snare for me, they have spread the cords of a net by the path, they have set traps for me. Selah- Often David likens his enemies' plans to catch him as snares, gins etc. set for birds (e.g. Ps. 84:3; 102:6; 124;7; 140:5)- all the language of hunting birds. He had probably done plenty of this as a youngster caring for the sheep, and the influence of those formative years remained.

David felt as if he had been a sacrifice bound to an altar, and therefore about to be pulled into the grave (Ps. 18:5,6; 116:3; 140:5). The allusion is to Isaac and his miraculous deliverance from such cords, thanks to the ram in the thicket whom David is later to understand as representative of the future Messianic saviour; for the Lord quotes David's "My God, why have You forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1) as the Aramaic sabachthani, "entangled", the word used of the ram entangled in the thicket.

Psa 140:6

I said to Yahweh, You are my God. Listen to the cry of my petitions, Yahweh-
David remembers the words he had used in prayer. he was so sensitive to words, including his own words.

Psa 140:7

Yahweh, the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle-
David recalls how he had defeated Goliath without armour. That victory was intended to be programmatic for the rest of David's conflicts. Likewise, circumstances repeat in our lives, all according to God's plan of development tailored to each life. See on Ps. 144:5.

Psa 140:8

Yahweh, don’t grant the desires of the wicked. Don’t let their evil plans succeed, or they will become proud. Selah-
Often, “desire” is seen by God as prayer (Ps. 10:17; 21:2; 27:4; 59:10; 92:11; 140:8; 145:19; Mt. 18:32; Rom. 10:1; 1 Jn. 5:15). God interprets that inner desire as prayer, even if it is not articulated in specific requests. David's prayer was that Saul would not succeed in his plans, but his final reason is so that Saul doesn't become proud. He shares God's perspective of hating pride above all things.

Psa 140:9

As for the heads of those who surround me, let the mischief of their own lips cover them-
Their "heads" are contrasted with that of David (:7). Again David sees their worst sin as their proud words; this is the basis upon which they are to be judged; see on :2. David here confidently states that the "mischief" (s.w. "burdens") of men would return upon their own heads at death and judgment (Ps. 7:16; 140:9). But in Ps. 73:5 he momentarily doubts this (s.w.). Our understanding of basic truths can suddenly be eclipsed by moments of doubt, just as we see happening with the disciples on the lake during the storm.

Psa 140:10

Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise-
Elsewhere, David clearly understands that eternal, unconscious death is punishment for the wicked. So he here is using "fire" as a symbol of Divine wrath, but he isn't suggesting that they will consciously suffer eternal fire. Pits of fire may allude to the judgment upon Sodom. He wishes them the same kind of judgment. Or we could argue that he uses two distinctly different symbols here- pits of mud, and fire. Neither the fire nor the mud are literal; they cannot both be literally intended. Therefore both are figurative.

There's a link between David and us is in Ps. 140:9,10, which speaks of burning coals falling on the head of David's enemies; yet those words are effectively quoted in Rom. 12:20 concerning all believers. David sets himself up in the Psalms as our pattern. He speaks of himself and then applies the point to all of his readers. In other words, we really are to see David as representative of ourselves; we need to change our minds and lives so this really is the case.

Psa 140:11

An evil tongue won’t be established in the land; evil will hunt the violent man to overthrow him-
David refers to how Saul would not be established as king, and he would replace him. But the lead reason for this, David felt, was Saul's words. We have a strong exhortation here to perceive the importance of words in how men are judged; see on :2. David believes that evil, from God, would overthrow Saul; and he would not therefore consider killing Saul himself.  AV: “Let not an evil speaker [s.w. tongue] be established”. Because a man’s words are counted as who he is. Words can be controlled. We are culpable for them.

It makes a good exercise to read through one of the crucifixion records, especially John 19, and make a list of the adjectives used. There are virtually none. Read a page of any human novelist or historian: the pages are cluttered with them. Hebrew is deficient in adjectives, and because of this it often uses 'Son of...' plus an abstract noun, instead of an adjective. Thus we read of a "son of peace" (Lk. 10:5,6), or "a man of tongue" (Ps. 140:11 RVmg; AV "an evil speaker"). The Hebrew language so often reflects the character of God. And His artless self-expression is no clearer seen in the way He inspired the records of the death of His Son.

Psa 140:12

I know that Yahweh will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the needy-
Again David reflects his understanding of a court of heaven, considering the situations upon earth. And David is "the afflicted... the needy". He often uses these terms of himself in the Psalms. His "cause" or case was that he had been chosen as king to replace Saul. And however unlikely seemed the fulfilment of that word, David believed it would be maintained and come true.

Psa 140:13

Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name. The upright will dwell in Your presence-
David understands eternity as being in God's presence. He also believed in the resurrection of the body and the establishment of his Davidic kingdom in an eternal form upon earth. He therefore understands that God personally must come to dwell on earth. This is envisaged in the vision of Yahweh dwelling in a restored Zion, named "Yahweh is there" (Ez. 48:35); and is the picture presented in the final chapters of Revelation.