Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 140
on the Whole Bible
This and the four following psalms are much of a piece, and the scope
of them the same with many that we met with in the beginning and middle
of the book of Psalms, though with but few of late. They were penned by
David (as it should seem) when he was persecuted by Saul; one of them
is said to be his "prayer when he was in the cave," and it is probable
that all the rest were penned about the same time. In this psalm,
I. David complains of the malice of his enemies, and prays to God to
preserve him from them,
II. He encourages himself in God as his God,
III. He prays for, and prophesies, the destruction of his persecutors,
IV. He assures all God's afflicted people that their troubles would in
due time end well
with which assurance we must comfort ourselves, and one another, in
singing this psalm.
|Complaints and Petitions.
To the chief musician. A psalm of David.
1 Deliver me, O
LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man;
2 Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are
they gathered together for war.
3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders'
poison is under their lips. Selah.
4 Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me
from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings.
5 The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have
spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah.
6 I said unto the LORD, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my
supplications, O LORD.
7 O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast
covered my head in the day of battle.
In this, as in other things, David was a type of Christ, that he
suffered before he reigned, was humbled before he was exalted, and that
as there were many who loved and valued him, and sought to do him
honour, so there were many who hated and envied him, and sought to do
him mischief, as appears by these verses, where,
I. He gives a character of his enemies, and paints them out in their
own colours, as dangerous men, whom he had reason to be afraid of, but
wicked men, whom he had no reason to think the righteous God would
countenance. There was one that seems to have been the ring-leader of
them, whom he calls the evil man and the man of violences
probably he means Saul. The Chaldee paraphrast
names both Doeg and Ahithophel; but between them there was a great
distance of time. Violent men are evil men. But there were many
besides this one who were confederate against David, who are here
represented as the genuine offspring and seed of the serpent. For,
1. They are very subtle, crafty to do mischief; they have imagined it
have laid the scheme with all the art and cunning imaginable. They
have purposed and plotted to overthrow the goings of a
to draw him into sin and trouble, to ruin him by blasting his
reputation, crushing his interest, and taking away his life. For this
purpose they have, like mighty hunters, hidden a snare,
and spread a net, and set gins
that their designs against him, being kept undiscovered, might be the
more likely to take effect, and he might fall into their hands ere he
was aware. Great persecutors have often been great politicians, which
has indeed made them the more formidable; but the Lord preserves the
simple without all those arts.
2. They are very spiteful, as full of malice as Satan himself: They
have sharpened their tongues like a serpent, that infuses his venom
with his tongue; and there is so much malignity in all they say that
one would think there was nothing under their lips but
With their calumnies, and with their counsels, they aimed to destroy
David, but secretly, as a man is stung with a serpent, or a snake in
the grass. And they endeavoured likewise to infuse their malice into
others, and to make them seven times more the children of hell than
themselves. A malignant tongue makes men like the old serpent; and
poison in the lips is a certain sign of poison in the heart.
3. They are confederate; they are many of them; but they are all
gathered together against me for war,
Those who can agree in nothing else can agree to persecute a good man.
Herod and Pilate will unite in this, and in this they resemble Satan,
who is not divided against himself, all the devils agreeing in
4. They are proud
conceited of themselves and confident of their success; and herein also
they resemble Satan, whose reigning ruining sin was pride. The pride of
persecutors, though at present it be the terror, yet may be the
encouragement, of the persecuted, for the more haughty they are the
faster are they ripening for ruin. Pride goes before
II. He prays to God to keep him from them and from being swallowed up
by them: "Lord, deliver me, preserve me, keep me
let them not prevail to take away my life, my reputation, my interest,
my comfort, and to prevent my coming to the throne. Keep me from
doing as they do, or as they would have me do, or as they promise
themselves I shall do." Note, The more malice appears in our enemies
against us the more earnest we should be in prayer to God to take us
under his protection. In him believers may count upon a security, and
may enjoy it and themselves with a holy serenity. Those are safe whom
God preserves. If he be for us, who can be against us?
III. He triumphs in God, and thereby, in effect, he triumphs over his
When his enemies sharpened their tongues against him, did he sharpen
his against them? No; adders' poison was under their
lips, but grace was poured into his lips, witness what he here said
unto the Lord, for to him he looked, to him he directed himself, when
he saw himself in so much danger, through the malice of his enemies:
and it is well for us that we have a God to go to. He comforted
1. In his interest in God: "I said, Thou art my God; and, if my
God, then my shield and mighty protector." In troublous dangerous times
it is good to claim relation to God, and by faith to keep hold of him.
2. In his access to God. This comforted him, that he was not only taken
into covenant with God, but into communion with him, that he had leave
to speak to him, and might expect an answer of peace from him, and
could say, with a humble confidence, Hear the voice of my
supplications, O Lord!
3. In the assurance he had of help from God and happiness in him: "O
God the Lord--Jehovah Adonai! as Jehovah thou art
self-existent and self-sufficient, an infinitely perfect being; as
Adonai thou art my stay and support, my ruler and governor, and
therefore the strength of my salvation, my strong Saviour; nay,
not only my Saviour, but my salvation itself, from whom, in whom, my
salvation is; not only a strong Saviour, but the very strength of my
salvation, on whom the stress of my hope is laid; all in all, to make
me happy, and to preserve me to my happiness."
4. In the experience he had had formerly of God's care of him: Thou
hast covered my head in the day of battle. As he pleaded with Saul,
that, for the service of his country, he many a time jeoparded his life
in the high places of the field, so he pleads with God that, in those
services, he had wonderfully protected him, and provided him a better
helmet for the securing of his head than Goliath's was: "Lord, thou
hast kept me in the day of battle with the Philistines, suffer
me not to fall by the treacherous intrigues of false-hearted
Israelites." God is as able to preserve his people from secret fraud as
from open force; and the experience we have had of his power and care,
in dangers of one kind, may encourage us to trust in him and depend
upon him in dangers of another nature; for nothing can shorten the
Lord's right hand.
|Shame and Confusion of Persecutors.
8 Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked: further not his
wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. Selah.
9 As for the head of those that compass me about, let the
mischief of their own lips cover them.
10 Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the
fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again.
11 Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil
shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him.
12 I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the
afflicted, and the right of the poor.
13 Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the
upright shall dwell in thy presence.
Here is the believing foresight David had,
I. Of the shame and confusion of persecutors.
1. Their disappointment. This he prays for
that their lusts might not be gratified, their lust of ambition, envy,
and revenge: "Grant not, O Lord! the desires of the wicked, but
frustrate them; let them not see the ruin of my interest, which they so
earnestly wish to see; but hear the voice of my supplications."
He prays that their projects might not take effect, but be blasted:
"O further not his wicked device; let not Providence favour any
of his designs, but cross them; suffer not his wicked device to
proceed, but chain his wheels, and stop him in the career of his
pursuits." Thus we are to pray against the enemies of God's people,
that they may not succeed in any of their enterprises. Such was David's
prayer against Ahithophel, that God would turn his counsels into
foolishness. The plea is, lest they exalt themselves, value
themselves upon their success as if it were an evidence that God
favoured them. Proud men, when they prosper, are made prouder, grow
more impudent against God and insolent against his people, and
therefore, "Lord, do not prosper them."
2. Their destruction. This he prays for (as we read it); but some
choose to read it rather as a prophecy, and the original will bear it.
If we take it as a prayer, that proceeds from a spirit of prophecy,
which comes all to one. He foretels the ruin,
(1.) Of his own enemies: "As for those that compass me about,
and seek my ruin,"
[1.] "The mischief of their own lips shall cover their
the evil they have wished to me shall come upon themselves, their
curses shall be blown back into their own faces, and the very designs
which they have laid against me shall turn to their own ruin,"
Let those that make mischief, by slandering, tale-bearing,
misrepresenting their neighbours, and spreading ill-natured characters
and stories, dread the consequence of it, and think how sad their
condition will be when all the mischief they have been accessory to
shall be made to return upon themselves.
[2.] The judgments of God shall fall upon them, compared here to
burning coals, in allusion to the destruction of Sodom; nay, as
in the deluge the waters from above, and those from beneath, met for
the drowning of the world, both the windows of heaven were opened and
the fountains of the great deep were broken up, so here, to complete
the ruin of the enemies of Christ and his kingdom, they shall not only
have burning coals cast upon them from above
but they themselves shall be cast into the fire beneath; both
heaven and hell, the wrath of God the Judge and the rage of Satan the
tormentor, shall concur to make them miserable. And the fire they shall
be cast into is not a furnace of fire, out of which perhaps they might
escape, but a deep pit, out of which they cannot rise. Tophet is
said to be deep and large,
(2.) Of all others that are like them,
[1.] Evil speakers must expect to be shaken, for they shall never be
established in the earth. What is got by fraud and falsehood, by
calumny and unjust accusation, will not prosper, will not last. Wealth
gotten by vanity will be diminished. Let not such men as Doeg think to
reign long, for his doom will be theirs,
A lying tongue is but for a moment, but the lip of truth shall be
established for ever.
[2.] Evil doers must expect to be destroyed: Evil shall hunt the
violent man, as the blood-hound hunts the murderer to discover him,
as the lion hunts his prey to tear it to pieces. Mischievous men will
be brought to light, and brought to ruin; the destruction appointed
shall run them down and overthrow them. Evil pursues
II. Here is his foresight of the deliverance and comfort of the
1. God will do those justice, in delivering them, who, being wronged,
commit themselves to him: "I know that the Lord will maintain
the just and injured cause of his afflicted people,
and will not suffer might always to prevail against right, though it be
but the right of the poor, who have but little that they can
pretend a right to." God is, and will be, the patron of oppressed
innocence, much more of persecuted piety; those that know him cannot
but know this.
2. They will do him justice (if I may so speak), in ascribing the glory
of their deliverance to him: "Surely the righteous (who make
conscience of rendering to God his due, as well as to men theirs)
shall give thanks unto thy name when they find their cause
pleaded with jealousy and prosecuted with effect." The closing words,
The upright shall dwell in thy presence, denote both God's
favour to them ("Thou shalt admit them to dwell in thy presence in
grace here, in glory hereafter, and it shall be their safety and
happiness") and their duty to God: "They shall attend upon thee as
servants that keep in the presence of their masters, both to do them
honour and to receive their commands." This is true thanksgiving, even
thanksliving; and this use we should make of all our deliverance, we
should serve God the more closely and cheerfully.