David here complains of his enemies, whose wicked plots had brought him, though not to his faith’s end, yet to his wits’ end, and prays against them by the spirit of prophecy. Observe here,
I. The character he gives of the enemies he feared. They were of the worst sort of men, and his description of them agrees very well with Absalom and his accomplices. 1. He complains of the city of Jerusalem, which strangely fell in with Absalom and fell off from David, so that he had none there but how own guards and servants that he could repose any confidence in: How has that faithful city become a harlot! David did not take the representation of it from others; but with his own eyes, and with a sad heart, did himself see nothing but violence and strife in the city (Ps. 55:9); for, when they grew disaffected and disloyal to David, they grew mischievous one to another. If he walked the rounds upon the walls of the city, he saw that violence and strife went about it day and night, and mounted its guards, Ps. 55:10. All the arts and methods which the rebels used for the fortifying of the city were made up on violence and strife, and there were no remains of honesty or love among them. If he looked into the heart of the city, mischief and injury, mutual wrong and vexation, were in the midst of it: Wickedness, all manner of wickedness, is in the midst thereof. Jusque datum sceleri—Wickedness was legalized. Deceit and guile, and all manner of treacherous dealing, departed not from her streets, Ps. 55:11. It may be meant of their base and barbarous usage of David’s friends and such as they knew were firm and faithful to him; they did them all the mischief they could, by fraud or force. Isa. this the character of Jerusalem, the royal city, and, which is more, the holy city, and in David’s time too, so soon after the thrones of judgment and the testimony of Israel were both placed there? Isa. this the city that men call the perfection of beauty? Lam. 2:15. Isa. Jerusalem, the head-quarters of God’s priests, so ill taught? Can Jerusalem be ungrateful to David himself, its own illustrious founder, and be made too hot for him, so that he cannot reside in it? Let us not be surprised at the corruptions and disorders of this church on earth, but long to see the New Jerusalem, where there is no violence nor strife, no mischief nor guilt, and into which no unclean thing shall enter, nor any thing that disquiets. 2. He complains of one of the ringleaders of the conspiracy, that had been very industrious to foment jealousies, to misrepresent him and his government, and to incense the city against him. It was one that reproached him, as if he either abused his power or neglected the use of it, for that was Absalom’s malicious suggestion: There is no man deputed of the king to hear thee, 2 Sam. 15:3. That and similar accusations were industriously spread among the people; and who was most active in it? “Not a sworn enemy, not Shimei, nor any of the nonjurors; then I could have borne it, for I should not have expected better from them” (and we find how patiently he did bear Shimei’s curses); “not one that professed to hate me, then I would have stood upon my guard against him, would have hidden myself and counsels from him, so that it would not have been in his power to betray me. But it was thou, a man, my equal,” Ps. 55:13. The Chaldee-paraphrase names Ahithophel as the person here meant, and nothing in that plot seems to have discouraged David so much as to hear that Ahithophel was among the conspirators with Absalom (2 Sam. 15:31), for he was the king’s counsellor, 1 Chron. 27:33. “It was thou, a man, my equal, one whom I esteemed as myself, a friend as my own soul, whom I had laid in my bosom and made equal with myself, to whom I had communicated all my secrets and who knew my mind as well as I myself did,—my guide, with whom I advised and by whom I was directed in all my affairs, whom I made president of the council and prime-minister of state,—my intimate acquaintance and familiar friend; this is the man that now abuses me. I have been kind to him, but I find him thus basely ungrateful. I have put a trust in him, but I find him thus basely treacherous; nay, and he could not have done me the one-half of the mischief he does if I had not shown him so much respect.” All this must needs be very grievous to an ingenuous mind, and yet this was not all; this traitor had seemed a saint, else he had never been David’s bosom-friend (Ps. 55:14): “We took counsel together, spent many an hour together, with a great deal of pleasure, in religious discourse,” or, as Dr. Hammond reads it, “We joined ourselves together to the assembly; I gave him the right hand of fellowship in holy ordinances, and then we walked to the house of God in company, to attend the public service.” Note, (1.) There always has been, and always will be, a mixture of good and bad, sound and unsound, in the visible church, between whom, perhaps for a long time, we can discern no difference; but the searcher of hearts does. David, who went to the house of God in his sincerity, had Ahithophel in company with him, who went in his hypocrisy. The Pharisee and the publican went together to the temple to pray; but, sooner or later, those that are perfect and those that are not will be made manifest. (2.) Carnal policy may carry men on very far and very long in a profession of religion while it is in fashion, and will serve a turn. In the court of pious David none was more devout than Ahithophel, and yet his heart was not right in the sight of God. (3.) We must not wonder if we be sadly deceived in some that have made great pretensions to those two sacred things, religion and friendship; David himself, though a very wise man, was thus imposed upon, which may make similar disappointments the more tolerable to us.
II. His prayers against them, which we are both to stand in awe of and to comfort ourselves in, as prophecies, but not to copy into our prayers against any particular enemies of our own. He prays, 1. That God would disperse them, as he did the Babel-builders (Ps. 55:9): “Destroy, O Lord! and divide their tongues; that is, blast their counsels, by making them to disagree among themselves, and clash with one another. Send an evil spirit among them, that they may not understand one another, but be envious and jealous one of another.” This prayer was answered in the turning of Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness, by setting up the counsel of Hushai against it. God often destroys the church’s enemies by dividing them; nor is there a surer way to the destruction of any people than their division. A kingdom, an interest, divided against itself, cannot long stand. 2. That God would destroy them, as he did Dathan and Abiram, and their associates, who were confederate against Moses, whose throat being an open sepulchre, the earth therefore opened and swallowed them up. This was then a new thing which God executed, Num. 16:30. But David prays that it might now be repeated, or something equivalent (Ps. 55:15): “Let death seize upon them by divine warrant, and let them go down quickly into hell; let them be dead, and buried, and so utterly destroyed, in a moment; for wickedness is wherever they are; it is in the midst of them.” The souls of impenitent sinners go down quick, or alive, into hell, for they have a perfect sense of their miseries, and shall therefore live still, that they may be still miserable. This prayer is a prophecy of the utter, the final, the everlasting ruin of all those who, whether secretly or openly, oppose and rebel against the Lord’s Messiah.