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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 6–20
Verses 6–20

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 (John 19:11), 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 (Ps. 109:6, 7): 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 (Zech. 3:1, 2); 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 malefactor. (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 (Ps. 109:8); such bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days. (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 Matthias, Acts 1:20. 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, Ps. 109:9. 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 bread (Ps. 109:10), 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 are confiscated (Ps. 109:11): 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, Job 5:4, 5. (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 is gone, Ps. 109:12. 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 disgrace (Ps. 109:13): 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 (Ps. 109:15) 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 vagabonds.

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 (Ps. 109:14, 15), 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 (Ps. 109:16): 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 head, Ps. 109:17-19. 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 garment, Ps. 109:19. 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, Ps. 109:20. 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.