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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 5–10
Verses 5–10

Here, I. David desires to be told of his faults. His enemies reproached him with that which was false, which he could not but complain of; yet, at the same time, he desired his friends would reprove him for that which was really amiss in him, particularly if there was any thing that gave the least colour to those reproaches (Ps. 141:5): let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness. The righteous God (so some); “I will welcome the rebukes of his providence, and be so far from quarrelling with them that I will receive them as tokens of love and improve them as means of grace, and will pray for those that are the instruments of my trouble.” But it is commonly taken for the reproofs given by righteous men; and it best becomes those that are themselves righteous to reprove the unrighteousness of others, and from them reproof will be best taken. But if the reproof be just, though the reprover be not so, we must make a good use of it and learn obedience by it. We are here taught how to receive the reproofs of the righteous and wise. 1. We must desire to be reproved for whatever is amiss in us, or is done amiss by us: “Lord, put it into the heart of the righteous to smite me and reprove me. If my own heart does not smite me, as it ought, let my friend do it; let me never fall under that dreadful judgment of being let alone in sin.” 2. We must account it a piece of friendship. We must not only bear it patiently, but take it as a kindness; for reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Prov. 6:23), are means of good to us, to bring us to repentance for the sins we have committed, and to prevent relapses into sin. Though reproofs cut, it is in order to a cure, and therefore they are much more desirable than the kisses of an enemy (Prov. 27:6) or the song of fools, Eccl. 7:5. David blessed God for Abigail’s seasonable admonition, 1 Sam. 25:32. 3. We must reckon ourselves helped and healed by it: It shall be as an excellent oil to a wound, to mollify it and close it up; it shall not break my head, as some reckon it to do, who could as well bear to have their heads broken as to be told of their faults; but, says David, “I am not of that mind; it is my sin that has broken my head, that has broken my bones, Ps. 51:8. The reproof is an excellent oil, to cure the bruises sin has given me. It shall not break my head, if it may but help to break my heart.” 4. We must requite the kindness of those that deal thus faithfully, thus friendly with us, at least by our prayers for them in their calamities, and hereby we must show that we take it kindly. Dr. Hammond gives quite another reading of this verse: “Reproach will bruise me that am righteous, and rebuke me; but that poisonous oil shall not break my head (shall not destroy me, shall not do me the mischief intended), for yet my prayer shall be in their mischiefs, that God would preserve me from them, and my prayer shall not be in vain.”

II. David hopes his persecutors will, some time or other, bear to be told of their faults, as he was willing to be told of his (Ps. 141:6): “When their judges” (Saul and his officers who judged and condemned David, and would themselves be sole judges) “are overthrown in stony places, among the rocks in the wilderness, then they shall hear my words, for they are sweet.” Some think this refers to the relentings that were in Saul’s breast when he said, with tears, Isa. this thy voice, my son David? 1 Sam. 24:16; 26:21. Or we may take it more generally: even judges, great as they are, may come to be overthrown. Those that make the greatest figure in this world do not always meet with level smooth ways through it. And those that slighted the word of God before will relish it, and be glad of it, when they are in affliction, for that opens the ear to instruction. When the world is bitter the word is sweet. Oppressed innocency cannot gain a hearing with those that live in pomp and pleasure, but when they come to be overthrown themselves they will have more compassionate thoughts of the afflicted.

III. David complains of the great extremity to which he and his friends were reduced (Ps. 141:7): Our bones are scattered at the grave’s mouth, out of which they are thrown up, so long have we been dead, or into which they are ready to be thrown, so near are we to the pit; and they are as little regarded as chips among the hewers of wood, which are thrown in neglected heaps: As one that cuts and cleaves the earth (so some read it), alluding to the ploughman who tears the earth in pieces with his plough-share, Ps. 129:3. Can these dry bones live?

IV. David casts himself upon God, and depends upon him for deliverance: “But my eyes are unto thee (Ps. 141:8); for, when the case is ever so deplorable, thou canst redress all the grievances. From thee I expect relief, bad as things are, and in thee is my trust.” Those that have their eye towards God may have their hopes in him.

V. He prays that God would succour and relieve him as his necessity required. 1. That he would comfort him: “Leave not my soul desolate and destitute; still let me see where my help is.” 2. That he would prevent the designs of his enemies against him (Ps. 141:9): “Keep me from being taken in the snare they have laid for me; give me to discover it and to evade it.” Be the gin placed with ever so much subtlety, God can and will secure his people from being taken in it. 3. That God would, in justice, turn the designs of his enemies upon themselves, and, in mercy, deliver him from being ruined by them (Ps. 141:10): let the wicked fall into their own net, the net which, intentionally, they procured for me, but which, meritoriously, they prepared for themselves. Nec lex est justioir ulla quam necis artifices arte perire sua—No law can be more just than that the architects of destruction should perish by their own contrivances. All that are bound over to God’s justice are held in the cords of their own iniquity. But let me at the same time obtain a discharge. The entangling and ensnaring of the wicked sometimes prove the escape and enlargement of the righteous.