Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 109
on the Whole Bible
Whether David penned this psalm when he was persecuted by Saul, or when
his son Absalom rebelled against him, or upon occasion of some other
trouble that was given him, is uncertain; and whether the particular
enemy he prays against was Saul, or Doeg, or Ahithophel, or some other
not mentioned in the story, we cannot determine; but it is certain that
in penning it he had an eye to Christ, his sufferings and his
persecutors, for that imprecation
is applied to Judas,
The rest of the prayers here against his enemies were the expressions,
not of passion, but of the Spirit of prophecy.
I. He lodges a complaint in the court of heaven of the malice and base
ingratitude of his enemies and with it an appeal to the righteous God,
II. He prays against his enemies, and devotes them to destruction,
III. He prays for himself, that God would help and succour him in his
IV. He concludes with a joyful expectation that God would appear for
In singing this psalm we must comfort ourselves with the believing
foresight of the certain destruction of all the enemies of Christ and
his church, and the certain salvation of all those that trust in God
and keep close to him.
|Appeal to God Against Enemies.
To the chief Musician. A psalm of David.
1 Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise;
2 For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful
are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying
3 They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought
against me without a cause.
4 For my love they are my adversaries: but I give myself unto
5 And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my
It is the unspeakable comfort of all good people that, whoever is
against them, God is for them, and to him they may apply as to one that
is pleased to concern himself for them. Thus David here.
I. He refers himself to God's judgment
"Hold not thy peace, but let my sentence come forth from thy
Delay not to give judgment upon the appeal made to thee." God saw what
his enemies did against him, but seemed to connive at it, and to keep
silence: "Lord," says he, "do not always do so." The title he gives to
God is observable: "O God of my praise! the God in whom I
glory, and not in any wisdom or strength of my own, from whom I
have every thing that is my praise, or the God whom I have praised, and
will praise, and hope to be for ever praising." He had before called
God the God of his mercy
here he calls him the God of his praise. Forasmuch as God is the
God of our mercies we must make him the God of our
praises; if all is of him and from him, all must be to him and for
II. He complains of his enemies, showing that they were such as it was
fit for the righteous God to appear against.
1. They were very spiteful and malicious: They are wicked; they
delight in doing mischief
their words are words of hatred,
They had an implacable enmity to a good man because of his goodness.
"They open their mouths against me to swallow me up, and fight
against me to cut me off if they could."
2. They were notorious liars; and lying comprehends two of the seven
things which the Lord hates. "They are deceitful in their
protestations and professions of kindness, while at the same time they
speak against me behind my back, with a lying tongue." They were
equally false in their flatteries and in their calumnies.
3. They were both public and restless in their designs; "They
compassed me about on all sides, so that, which way soever I
looked, I could see nothing but what made against me."
4. They were unjust; their accusations of him, and sentence against
him, were all groundless: "They have fought against me without a
cause; I never gave them any provocation." Nay, which was worst of
5. They were very ungrateful, and rewarded him evil for good,
Many a kindness he had done them, and was upon all occasions ready to
do them, and yet he could not work upon them to abate their malice
against him, but, on the contrary, they were the more exasperated
because they could not provoke him to give them some occasion against
For my love they are my adversaries. The more he endeavoured to
gratify them the more they hated him. We may wonder that it is possible
that any should be so wicked; and yet, since there have been so many
instances of it, we should not wonder if any be so wicked against
III. He resolves to keep close to his duty and take the comfort of
that: But I give myself unto prayer
I prayer (so it is in the original); "I am for prayer, I am a
man of prayer, I love prayer, and prize prayer, and practise prayer,
and make a business of prayer, and am in my element when I am at
prayer." A good man is made up of prayer, gives himself to
prayer, as the apostles,
When David's enemies falsely accused him, and misrepresented him, he
applied to God and by prayer committed his cause to him. Though they
were his adversaries for his love, yet he continued to pray for them;
if others are abusive and injurious to us, yet let not us fail to do
our duty to them, nor sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for
1 Samuel 12:23.
Though they hated and persecuted him for his religion, yet he kept
close to it; they laughed at him for his devotion, but they could not
laugh him out of it. "Let them say what they will, I give myself
unto prayer." Now herein David was a type of Christ, who was
compassed about with words of hatred and lying words, whose
enemies not only persecuted him without cause, but for his love and his
and yet he gave himself to prayer, to pray for them. Father,
6 Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his
7 When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his
prayer become sin.
8 Let his days be few; and let another take his office.
9 Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
10 Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them
seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
11 Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the
strangers spoil his labour.
12 Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let
there be any to favour his fatherless children.
13 Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation
following let their name be blotted out.
14 Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the LORD;
and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.
15 Let them be before the LORD continually, that he may cut off
the memory of them from the earth.
16 Because that he remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted
the poor and needy man, that he might even slay the broken in
17 As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he
delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him.
18 As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment,
so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his
19 Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him, and
for a girdle wherewith he is girded continually.
20 Let this be the reward of mine adversaries from the
LORD, and of them that speak evil against my soul.
David here fastens upon some one particular person that was worse than
the rest of his enemies, and the ringleader of them, and in a devout
and pious manner, not from a principle of malice and revenge, but in a
holy zeal for God and against sin and with an eye to the enemies of
Christ, particularly Judas who betrayed him, whose sin was greater than
Pilate's that condemned him
he imprecates and predicts his destruction, foresees and pronounces him
completely miserable, and such a one as our Saviour calls him, A son
of perdition. Calvin speaks of it as a detestable piece of
sacrilege, common in his time among Franciscan friars and other monks,
that if any one had malice against a neighbour he might hire some of
them to curse him every day, which he would do in the words of these
verses; and particularly he tells of a lady in France who, being at
variance with her own and only son, hired a parcel of friars to curse
him in these words. Greater impiety can scarcely be imagined than to
vent a devilish passion in the language of sacred writ, to kindle
strife with coals snatched from God's altar, and to call for fire from
heaven with a tongue set on fire of hell.
I. The imprecations here are very terrible--woe, and a thousand woes, to
that man against whom God says Amen to them; and they are all in
full force against the implacable enemies and persecutors of God's
church and people, that will not repent, to give him glory. It
is here foretold concerning this bad man,
1. That he should be cast and sentenced as a criminal, with all the
dreadful pomp of a trial, conviction, and condemnation
Set thou a wicked man over him, to be as cruel and oppressive to
him as he has been to others; for God often makes one wicked man a
scourge to another, to spoil the spoilers and to deal treacherously
with those that have dealt treacherously. Set the wicked one over
him (so some), that is, Satan, as it follows; and then it was
fulfilled in Judas, into whom Satan entered, to hurry him into sin
first and then into despair. Set his own wicked heart over him, set his
own conscience against him; let that fly in his face. Let Satan
stand on his right hand, and be let loose against him to deceive
him, as he did Ahab to his destruction, and then to accuse him and
resist him, and then he is certainly cast, having no interest in that
advocate who alone can say, The Lord rebuke thee, Satan
when he shall be judged at men's bar let not his usual arts to evade
justice do him any service, but let his sin find him out and let him
be condemned; nor shall he escape before God's tribunal, but be
condemned there when the day of inquisition and recompence shall come.
Let his prayer become sin, as the clamours of a condemned
malefactor not only find no acceptance, but are looked upon as an
affront to the court. The prayers of the wicked now become sin, because
soured with the leaven of hypocrisy and malice; and so they will in the
great day, because then it will be too late to cry, Lord, Lord, open
to us. Let every thing be turned against him and improved to his
disadvantage, even his prayers.
2. That, being condemned, he should be executed as a most notorious
(1.) That he should lose his life, and the number of his months be cut
off in the midst, by the sword of justice: Let his days be few,
or shortened, as a condemned criminal has but a few days to live
such bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their
(2.) That consequently all his places should be disposed of to others,
and they should enjoy his preferments and employments: Let another
take his office. This Peter applies to the filling up of Judas's
place in the truly sacred college of the apostles, by the choice of
Those that mismanage their trusts will justly have their office taken
from them and given to those that will approve themselves faithful.
(3.) That his family should be beheaded and beggared, that his
wife should be made a widow and his children
fatherless, by his untimely death,
Wicked men, by their wicked courses, bring ruin upon their wives and
children, whom they ought to take care of and provide for. Yet his
children, if, when they lost their father, they had a competency to
live upon, might still subsist in comfort; but they shall be
vagabonds and shall beg; they shall not have a house of their
own to live in, nor any certain dwelling-place, nor know where to have
a meal's-meat, but shall creep out of their desolate places with
fear and trembling, like beasts out of their dens, to seek their
because they are conscious to themselves that all mankind have reason
to hate them for their father's sake.
(4.) That his estate should be ruined, as the estates of malefactors
Let the extortioner, the officer, seize all that he has and
let the stranger, who was nothing akin to his estate, spoil his
labour, either for his crimes or for his debts,
(5.) That his posterity should be miserable. Fatherless children,
though they have nothing of their own, yet sometimes are well provided
for by the kindness of those whom God inclines to pity them; but this
wicked man having never shown mercy there shall be none to extend
mercy to him, by favouring his fatherless children when he
The children of wicked parents often fare the worse for their parents'
wickedness in this way that the bowels of men's compassion are shut up
from them, which yet ought not to be, for why should children suffer
for that which was not their fault, but their infelicity?
(6.) That his memory should be infamous, and buried in oblivion and
Let his posterity be cut off; let his end be to destruction (so
Dr. Hammond); and in the next generation let their name be
blotted out, or remembered with contempt and indignation, and
let an indelible mark of disgrace be left upon it. See here what
hurries some to shameful deaths, and brings the families and estates of
others to ruin, makes them and their despicable and odious, and entails
poverty, and shame, and misery, upon their posterity; it is sin, that
mischievous destructive thing. The learned Dr. Hammond applies this to
the final dispersion and desolation of the Jewish nation for their
crucifying Christ; their princes and people were cut off, their country
was laid waste, and their posterity were made fugitives and
II. The ground of these imprecations bespeaks them very just, though
they sound very severe.
1. To justify the imprecations of vengeance upon the sinner's
posterity, the sin of his ancestors is here brought into the account
the iniquity of his fathers and the sin of his mother.
These God often visits even upon the children's children, and is not
unrighteous therein: when wickedness has long run in the blood justly
does the curse run along with it. Thus all the innocent blood that had
been shed upon the earth, from that of righteous Abel, was required
from that persecuting generation, who, by putting Christ to death,
filled up the measure of their fathers, and left as long a train
of vengeance to follow them as the train of guilt was that went before
them, which they themselves agreed to by saying, His blood be upon
us and on our children.
2. To justify the imprecations of vengeance upon the sinner himself,
his own sin is here charged upon him, which called aloud for it.
(1.) He had loved cruelty, and therefore give him blood to drink
He remembered not to show mercy, remembered not those
considerations which should have induced him to show mercy, remembered
not the objects of compassion that had been presented to him, but
persecuted the poor, whom he should have protected and relieved, and
slew the broken in heart, whom he should have comforted and
healed. Here is a barbarous man indeed, not it to live.
(2.) He had loved cursing, and therefore let the curse come upon his
Those that were out of the reach of his cruelty he let fly
at with his curses, which were impotent and ridiculous; but they shall
return upon him. He delighted not in blessing; he took no
pleasure in wishing well to others, nor in seeing others do well; he
would give nobody a good word or a good wish, much less would he do any
body a good turn; and so let all good be far from him. He
clothed himself with cursing; he was proud of it as an ornament
that he could frighten all about him with the curses he was liberal of;
he confided in it as armour, which would secure him from the insults of
those he feared. And let him have enough of it. Was he fond of cursing?
Let God's curse come into his bowels like water and swell
him as with a dropsy, and let it soak like oil into his
bones. The word of the curse is quick and powerful, and divides
between the joints and the marrow; it works powerfully and
effectually; it fastens on the soul; it is a piercing thing, and there
is no antidote against it. Let is compass him on every side as a
Let God's cursing him be his shame, as his cursing his neighbour was
his pride; let it cleave to him as a girdle, and let him never
be able to get clear of it. Let it be to him like the waters of
jealousy, which caused the belly to swell and the thigh to
rot. This points at the utter ruin of Judas, and the spiritual
judgments which fell on the Jews for crucifying Christ. The psalmist
concludes his imprecations with a terrible Amen, which signifies
not only, "I wish it may be so," but "I know it shall be so." Let
this be the reward of my adversaries from the Lord,
And this will be the reward of all the adversaries of the Lord Jesus;
his enemies that will not have him to reign over them shall be
brought forth and slain before him. And he will one day
recompense tribulation to those that trouble his people.
|Humble Petitions; Triumphing in God.
21 But do thou for me, O GOD the Lord, for thy name's sake:
because thy mercy is good, deliver thou me.
22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within
23 I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up
and down as the locust.
24 My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of
25 I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon
me they shaked their heads.
26 Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy:
27 That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou,
LORD, hast done it.
28 Let them curse, but bless thou: when they arise, let them be
ashamed; but let thy servant rejoice.
29 Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them
cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.
30 I will greatly praise the LORD with my mouth; yea, I will
praise him among the multitude.
31 For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save
him from those that condemn his soul.
David, having denounced God's wrath against his enemies, here takes
God's comforts to himself, but in a very humble manner, and without
I. He pours out his complaint before God concerning the low condition
he was in, which, probably, gave advantage to his enemies to insult
over him: "I am poor and needy, and therefore a proper object of
pity, and one that needs and craves thy help."
1. He was troubled in mind
My heart is wounded within me, not only broken with outward
troubles, which sometimes prostrate and sink the spirits, but wounded
with a sense of guilt; and a wounded spirit who can bear? who
2. He apprehended himself drawing near to his end: I am gone like
the shadow when it declines, as good as gone already. Man's life,
at best, is like a shadow; sometimes it is like the evening shadow, the
presage of night approaching, like the shadow when it declines.
3. He was unsettled, tossed up and down like the locust, his
mind fluctuating and unsteady, still putting him upon new counsels, his
outward condition far from any fixation, but still upon the remove,
hunted like a partridge on the mountains.
4. His body was wasted, and almost worn away
My knees are weak through fasting, either forced fasting (for
want of food when he was persecuted, or for want of appetite when he
was sick) or voluntary fasting, when he chastened his soul either for
sin or affliction, his own or other's,
"My flesh fails of fatness; that is, it has lost the fatness it
had, so that I have become a skeleton, nothing but skin and bones." But
it is better to have this leanness in the body, while the soul prospers
and is in health, than, like Israel, to have leanness sent into the
soul, while the body is feasted.
5. He was ridiculed and reproached by his enemies
his devotions and his afflictions they made the matter of their
laughter, and, upon both those accounts, God's people have been
exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that were at ease. In all
this David was a type of Christ, who in his humiliation was thus
wounded, thus weakened, thus reproached; he was also a type of the
church, which is often afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not
II. He prays for mercy for himself. In general
"Do thou for me, O God the Lord! appear for me, act for me." If
God be for us, he will do for us, will do more abundantly for us
than we are able either to ask or think. He does not prescribe to
God what he should do for him, but refers himself to his wisdom: "Lord,
do for me what seems good in thy eyes. Do that which thou knowest will
be for me, really for me, in the issue for me, though for the present
it may seem to make against me." More particularly, he prays
"Help me, O Lord my God! O save me! Help me under my trouble,
save me out of my trouble; save me from sin, help me to do my duty." He
Though they curse, bless thou. Here
(1.) He despises the causeless curses of his enemies: Let them
curse. He said of Shimei, So let him curse. They can but
show their malice; they can do him no more mischief than the bird by
wandering or the swallow by flying,
He values the blessing of God as sufficient to counterbalance their
curses: Bless thou, and then it is no matter though they
curse. If God bless us, we need not care who curses us; for
how can they curse those whom God has not cursed, nay, whom he
Men's curses are impotent; God's blessings are omnipotent; and those
whom we unjustly curse may in faith expect and pray for God's blessing,
his special blessing. When the Pharisees cast out the poor man for his
confessing Christ, Christ found him,
When men without cause say all the ill they can of us, and wish all the
ills they can to us, we may with comfort lift up our heart to God in
this petition: Let them curse, but bless thou. He prays
Let thy servant rejoice. Those that know how to value God's
blessing, let them but be sure of it, and they will be glad of it.
III. He prays that his enemies might be ashamed
clothed with shame
that they might cover themselves with their own confusion, that
they might be left to themselves, to do that which would expose them
and manifest their folly before all men, or rather that they
might be disappointed in their designs and enterprises against David,
and thereby might be filled with shame, as the adversaries of
the Jews were,
Nay, in this he prays that they might be brought to repentance, which
is the chief thing we should beg of God for our enemies. Sinners indeed
bring shame upon themselves, but they are true penitents that take
shame to themselves and cover themselves with their own
IV. He pleads God's glory, the honour of his name:--Do for me, for
thy name's sake
especially the honour of his goodness, by which he has proclaimed his
name: "Deliver me, because thy mercy is good; it is what thou
thyself dost delight in, and it is what I do depend upon. Save me, not
according to my merit, for I have none to pretend to, but according
to thy mercy; let that be the fountain, the reason, the measure, of
Lastly, He concludes the psalm with joy, the joy of faith, joy
in assurance that his present conflicts would end in triumphs.
1. He promises God that he will praise him
"I will greatly praise the Lord, not only with my heart, but
with my mouth; I will praise him, not in secret only, but
among the multitude."
2. He promises himself that he shall have cause to praise God
He shall stand at the right hand of the poor, night to him, a
present help; he shall stand at his right hand as his patron and
advocate to plead his cause against his accusers and to bring him off,
to save him from those that condemn his soul and would execute
their sentence if they could. God was David's protector in his
sufferings, and was present also with the Lord Jesus in his, stood
at his right hand, so that he was not moved
saved his soul from those that pretended to be the judges of it, and
received it into his own hands. Let all those that suffer according
to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him.