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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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PSALM 10

MAN: PREDATOR AND PREY

We are using as the title of this psalm the one used by Kidner.F1 The psalm falls naturally into two divisions (1) Ps. 10:1-11 in which the character and conduct of the wicked are graphically presented, and (2) Ps. 10:12-18 a fervent prayer for God to arise from his seeming indifference and "break the arm" of the wicked.

There is no superscription for this psalm, and that is cited as a support for the theory that it should be joined with Ps. 9. We discussed this possibility at the beginning of Ps. 9; but the two psalms "are radically different."F2 Ps. 9 is a triumphant exultation and praise of God for the great victories he has awarded Israel, either actually, or prophetically promised, whereas Ps. 10 describes a situation of great social disorder. "Wickedness and violence are rampant and the righteous are sorely oppressed."F3

Ps. 10:1-2

Why standest thou afar off, O Jehovah?

Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?

In the pride of the wicked the poor is hotly pursued

Let them be taken in the devices which they have conceived."

The psalmist here cannot mean that God is either far off or that he is hiding from the cry of the righteous, but merely that it seems so; for otherwise, he would never have cried out to God for his judgment and destruction of the gross wickedness cited in these first eleven verses.

Of all the things that God hates, pride stands very high on the list (Proverbs 6:17). It appears in this first verse that pride is the primary basis and cause of oppressing the poor.

The psalmist is here sorely grieved and distressed at the rampant wickedness that was bringing so much wretchedness, misery and sorrow to the poor and oppressed of the land; and his purpose is to bring the attention of God Himself to focus upon the shameful conduct of lawless men whose behavior cried out to God for vengeance against them.

For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire,

And the covetous renounceth, yea, contemneth Jehovah.

The wicked in the pride of his countenance, saith, he will not require it.

All his thoughts are, There is no God."

Note the recurrence of the word "pride" in Ps. 10:4. The pride, conceit and stubbornness of man are vital elements of his unredeemed carnal nature, and the fountainhead of many of his troubles.


 
Verses 3, 4
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, And the covetous renounceth, [yea], contemneth Jehovah. The wicked, in the pride of his countenance, [saith], He will not require [it]. All his thoughts are, There is no God.
These verses describe the character of the wicked oppressors, the thing cited here being the boastfulness of evil men. He vaunts himself, or makes an ostentatious display of something upon which he prides himself, such as wealth, strength, beauty, talent, etc.F4

The second line is more understandable if the marginal rendition is followed, as follows: "He (the wicked) blesses the covetous, and revileth Jehovah." His ideals are exactly the opposite of those found in the hearts of the righteous. An apostle has warned us that "covetousness is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5). Christ himself said that a man cannot serve God and Mammon; and any person whose god is money is a practical atheist.

His thoughts are, There is no God. The wicked man depicted here may not have been an avowed atheist, but he was a practical atheist. He ordered his life, planned all of his deeds, and laid out all of his objectives as if there was no God whatever. We should note that, "David does not here speak of the words, but of the innermost thoughts of the wicked, their practical or their half-conscious atheism."F5

There are many kinds of atheists: (1) There is the conceited fool who thinks he is an intellectual (Ps. 14:1; 53:1). (2) There is the proud but deceived sinner who has somehow adopted the falsehood that supposes atheism to have been derived from superior knowledge or learning. On the contrary atheism did not begin in a university, but in the vulgar, reprobate village of Nazareth. (See my dissertation on this in Vol. 1 of my New Testament Series, pp. 209-211, where there is noted that atheism is essentially: (1) unworthiness; (2) egotism; (3) mental laziness; (4) illogical; (5) moral cowardice; (6) the opiate of the people; and (7) a form of self-pity.)

(3) Another kind of atheist is one who acknowledges that there must indeed be a God, but who supposes him to be merely some kind of impersonal law, or vital force behind the whole creation; but as Delitzsch wrote, "But to deny the existence of a living, acting, all-punishing, in one word, a personal God, is equivalent to denying the existence of any real and true God whatever."F6

Thoughts…
Kidner pointed out that the word here actually means schemes.F7

Atheism is invariably the product, not of learning, nor of intelligence, nor of information, nor of any thought process whatever, but of wickedness. "God's Word declares atheism to be the product of corruption."F8 Where is the scripture that states such a truth? Here it is, "Here is the condemnation that light has come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil" (John 3:19 KJV). This blunt reason behind all atheism does not cite super-knowledge, education, intelligence, or any special power of discernment as the cause of atheism, but simply wickedness. Atheism is invariably the product of a sinful heart.

His ways are firm at all times;

Thy judgments are far above out of his sight:

As for all his adversaries, he puffeth at them.

He says in his heart, I shall not be moved;

To all generations I shall not be in adversity."

These verses are still describing the character, attitude, and thought-patterns of wicked men. The knowledge of God's judgments is not in them. They live on an utterly different plateau from that of godly and righteous people.

The wicked man does not change his plans but with relentless determination moves toward his carnal goals in which, "He seems to prosper in all of them."F9


 
Verses 5, 6
His ways are firm at all times; Thy judgments are far above out of his sight: As for all his adversaries, he puffeth at them. He saith in his heart, I shall not be moved; To all generations I shall not be in adversity.
This conveys the thought of scorn and contempt. Nothing more clearly shows the pride and atheism of the human heart,F10 than does the attitude described in Ps. 10:6. Such conceited sons of the devil are convinced that they themselves are in charge of everything: no illness shall overtake them, no war, no pestilence, no revolution, no earthquake, no flood, no volcano, no stroke of lightning, no depression, no drought, no failure or betrayal by one whom they have trusted, nothing, absolutely nothing shall stand in their way for generations and generations to come. Even a fool should have more judgment than to indulge such a conceited opinion.

His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression:

Under his tongue is mischief and iniquity.

He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages;

In the secret places doth he murder the innocent;

His eyes are privily set against the helpless."


 
Verses 7, 8
His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression: Under his tongue is mischief and iniquity. He sitteth in the lurking-places of the villages; In the secret places doth he murder the innocent; His eyes are privily set against the helpless.
What a paradox it is that the wicked who claim (in their hearts at least) not to believe in God should have God's precious name upon their evil lips continually, not in truth or righteousness, but in shame and dishonor! The apostle Paul quoted this line in Rom. 3:14, thus justifying the conclusion that profane cursing and swearing is an invariable part of the conduct of wicked men.

It is noticeable here that the emphasis of the passage is shifted from describing the character and attitude of the wicked to a discussion of their conduct and their wicked actions. These things are mentioned at once: (1) he is a profane swearer; (2) he is a planner of mischief and iniquity; (3) he lurks in secret hiding places near towns and villages; and (4) he is a murderer of innocent people.

In Hos. 4:2 and 6:9, that prophet mentioned similar bloody and violent conditions of society.

He lurketh in secret as a lion in his covert;

He lieth in wait to catch the poor:

He doth catch the poor, when he draweth in his net.

He croucheth, he boweth down,

And the helpless fall by his strong ones.

He saith in his heart, God hath forgotten,

He hideth his face, he will never see it."

The use of wild animals and the devices of hunters which appears here as descriptive of the conduct of the wicked, "May possibly be figurative descriptions of the various forms of oppressions and iniquity such rascals used."F11


 
Verses 9-11
He lurketh in secret as a lion in his covert; He lieth in wait to catch the poor: He doth catch the poor, when he draweth him in his net. He croucheth, he boweth down, And the helpless fall by his strong ones. He saith in his heart, God hath forgotten; He hideth his face; he will never see it.
The wicked man mentioned here, Is represented as the head or leader of a band of robbers or outlaws, engaged under him in committing robbery upon the unprotected.F12

God hath forgotten…
This is the attitude of the practical atheist described above. His actions are taken without regard to any possibility of God's existence or of his executing his wrath and vengeance upon such ungodly conduct.

When at last, the Final Judgment is begun, there shall not be left a single infidel in all the world. Evil men at that time shall cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them and to hide them from the wrath of him that sitteth upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:14).

Arise, O Jehovah; O God, lift up thy hand: Forget not the poor.

Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God, and say in his heart, Thou wilt not require it?

Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand.

The helpless committeth himself unto thee;

Thou hast been the helper of the fatherless."


 
Verses 12-14
Arise, O Jehovah; O God, lift up thy hand: Forget not the poor. Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God, And say in his heart, Thou wilt not require [it]? Thou hast seen [it]; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: The helpless committeth [himself] unto thee; Thou hast been the helper of the fatherless.
The Psalm here changes the tone completely. No longer is there a description of evil men and their activities. Abruptly, there is a cry for Jehovah to intervene, to lift up his hand and to execute judgment against the unrighteousness of evil doers.

There is a glimpse here of the necessity for the Final Judgment. Without that factor in God's cosmic arrangements, the wicked would indeed have the best of things. However, the holy Bible teaches that no sin shall ever be able to crawl by the throne of the eternal God without receiving its due retribution and punishment, the only exceptions being the mistakes and sins of the redeemed "in Jesus Christ." "Vengeance belongeth to me, I will repay"! is the Word of God Himself.

The wicked contemn God…
The word contemn is related to the word contempt and means to despise or to scorn. This describes the usual attitude of evil men; and, One might suppose that they had some reason for saying that God would let such things pass by unavenged;F13 but on the contrary it is only a result of the blind and stupid folly of the wicked.

Ps. 10:14 stands in stark and dramatic contrast to the insane assertions of the wicked. God indeed has seen it and his purpose is indeed to avenge it and requite it.

Break thou the arm of the wicked;

And as for the evil man, seek out his wickedness till thou find none.

Jehovah is King forever and ever:

The nations are perished out of his land."

In the days when the sword was the principal weapon of violence, breaking the arm of the wicked would be equivalent to putting him completely out of business.


 
Verses 15, 16
Break thou the arm of the wicked; And as for the evil man, seek out his wickedness till thou find none. Jehovah is King for ever and ever: The nations are perished out of his land.
The event here mentioned is the displacement and extermination that God ordered for the ancient Canaanites in order to replace them with the Chosen People, following their Egyptian slavery and the Wilderness wanderings. Human history effectively demonstrates that any nation which allows its wickedness to come to full flower will ultimately experience the judgment of God against them. Just look at the list of examples: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Roman, the Muslims, France, Germany, etc., etc.

Till thou find none…
This is not an indication that God shall get all the wickedness out of evil men, but that evil men themselves shall perish utterly. The thought is not that the wicked devices of ungodly men are not discernible to the Almighty, but that he will so completely have disposed of them that no trace of them will be left.F14 There appears in these verses a promise of God's absolute and final conquest of evil.

"This ultimate triumph of truth and righteousness over all evil is to be surely looked for. Jehovah's universal kingship has been an element of the creed of God's people ever since the call and redemption of Israel (Exodus 15:18). Yes, God's absolute and eternal kingship will in time be realized, even in all the universality and endless duration of it, as foretold in Zech. 14:9; Dan. 7:14; and Rev. 11:15.F15

Jehovah, thou hast heard the desire of the meek:

Thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear;

To judge the fatherless and the oppressed,

That man who is of the earth may be terrible no more."

Looking beyond the ravages of lawless men and the sufferings of the poor and oppressed of earth, the Psalmist here promises the ultimate victory of the righteous. God indeed will judge the fatherless and the oppressed and righteousness and truth shall prevail.


 
Verses 17, 18
Jehovah, thou hast heard the desire of the meek: Thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear; To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, That man who is of the earth may be terrible no more.
Who is this terrible man of the earth? He is the carnal, unredeemed sinner, the typical son of rebellious Adam, for whom the primitive sentence still stands, Thou shalt surely die. Why does not God destroy him at once? The answer lies in the fact that God is still redeeming men from the posterity of Adam's rebellious, sinful and doomed race; and as long as God's true purpose in that redemption is being realized, we may not expect the ultimate Judgment and Destruction of Adam from the face of the earth to be executed. Our total ignorance of the true status of that progressive redemption is assurance enough that we can never know the day nor the hour of the Final Day.

As Delitzsch noted, "`The earth' is not referred to in this passage as the material out of which man is formed."F16 The wicked is described as, "a man who is of the earth," in the sense that the earth is the home of all his hopes and aspirations; heaven with its salvation and promise is no concern whatever of the wicked.


Footnotes for Psalms 10
1: Derek Kidner, Psalms (London: InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 71.
2: F. Delitzsch, The Old Testament, Vol. 5 (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), p. 175.
3: J. R. Dummelow, On the Old Testament (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 333.
4: Albert Barnes, On Psalms, Vol. 1 (Baker Book House, 1950), p. 88.
5: W. L. Watkinson, Psalms, Vol. 1 (New York: Funk and Wagnalls), p. 41.
6: Ewald as approvingly quoted by F. Delitzsch, op. cit., p. 178.
7: Derek Kidner, op. cit., p. 71.
8: W. L. Watkinson, op. cit., p. 41.
9: J. R. Dummelow, On the Old Testament (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 333.
10: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 91.
11: H. C. Leupold, Psalms (Baker Book House, 1959), p. 122.
12: Albert Barnes, op. cit., p. 93.
13: H. C. Leupold, op. cit., p. 122.
14: Ibid., p. 123.
15: F. Delitzsch, op. cit., p. 184.
16: Ibid., p. 185.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalm 10". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=010>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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