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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 6–11
Verses 6–11

In these verses we have,

I. David’s prayers against his enemies, and all the enemies of God’s church and people; for it is as such that he looks upon them, so that he was actuated by a public spirit in praying against them, and not by any private revenge. 1. He prays that they might be disabled to do any further mischief (Ps. 58:6): Break their teeth, O God! Not so much that they might not feed themselves as that they might not be able to make prey of others, Ps. 3:7. He does not say, “Break their necks” (no; let them live to repent, slay them not, lest my people forget), but, “Break their teeth, for they are lions, they are young lions, that live by rapine.” 2. That they might be disappointed in the plots they had already laid, and might not gain their point: “When he bends his bow, and takes aim to shoot his arrows at the upright in heart, let them be as cut in pieces, Ps. 58:7. Let them fall at his feet, and never come near the mark.” 3. That they and their interest might waste and come to nothing, that they might melt away as waters that run continually; that is, as the waters of a land-flood, which, though they seem formidable for a while, soon soak into the ground or return to their channels, or, in general, as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again, but gradually dries away and disappears. Such shall the floods of ungodly men be, which sometimes make us afraid (Ps. 18:4); so shall the proud waters be reduced, which threaten to go over our soul, Ps. 124:4, 5. Let us by faith then see what they shall be and then we shall not fear what they are. He prays (Ps. 58:8) that they might melt as a snail, which wastes by its own motion, in every stretch it makes leaving some of its moisture behind, which, by degrees, must needs consume it, though it makes a path to shine after it. He that like a snail in her house is plenus sui—full of himself, that pleases himself and trusts to himself, does but consume himself, and will quickly bring himself to nothing. And he prays that they might be like the untimely birth of a woman, which dies as soon as it begins to live and never sees the sun. Job, in his passion, wished he himself had been such a one (Job 3:16), but he knew not what he said. We may, in faith, pray against the designs of the church’s enemies, as the prophet does (Hos. 9:14; Give them, O Lord! what wilt thou give them? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts), which explains this prayer of the psalmist.

II. His prediction of their ruin (Ps. 58:9): “Before your pots can feel the heat of a fire of thorns made under them (which they will presently do, for it is a quick fire and violent while it lasts), so speedily, with such a hasty and violent flame, God shall hurry them away, as terribly and as irresistibly as with a whirlwind, as it were alive, as it were in fury.”

1. The proverbial expressions are somewhat difficult, but the sense is plain, (1.) That the judgments of God often surprise wicked people in the midst of their jollity, and hurry them away of a sudden. When they are beginning to walk in the light of their own fire, and the sparks of their own kindling, they are made to lie down in sorrow (Isa. 50:11), and their laughter proves like the crackling of thorns under a pot, the comfort of which is soon gone, ere they can say, Alas! I am warm, Eccl. 7:6. (2.) That there is no standing before the destruction that comes from the Almighty; for who knows the power of God’s anger? When God will take sinners away, dead or alive, they cannot contest with him. The wicked are driven away in their wickedness. Now,

2. There are two things which the psalmist promises himself as the good effects of sinners’ destruction:—(1.) That saints would be encouraged and comforted by it (Ps. 58:10): The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance. The pomp and power, the prosperity and success, of the wicked, are a discouragement to the righteous; they sadden their hearts, and weaken their hands, and are sometimes a strong temptation to them to question their foundations, Ps. 73:2, 13. But when they see the judgments of God hurrying them away, and just vengeance taken on them for all the mischief they have done to the people of God, they rejoice in the satisfaction thereby given to their doubts and the confirmation thereby given to their faith in the providence of God and his justice and righteousness in governing the world; they shall rejoice in the victory thus gained over that temptation by seeing their end, Ps. 73:17. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked; that is, there shall be abundance of bloodshed (Ps. 68:23), and it shall be as great a refreshment to the saints to see God glorified in the ruin of sinners as it is to a weary traveller to have his feet washed. It shall likewise contribute to their sanctification; the sight of the vengeance shall make them tremble before God (Ps. 119:120) and shall convince them of the evil of sin, and the obligations they lie under to that God who pleads their cause and will suffer no man to do them wrong and go unpunished for it. The joy of the saints in the destruction of the wicked is then a holy joy, and justifiable, when it helps to make them holy and to purify them from sin. (2.) That sinners would be convinced and converted by it, Ps. 58:11. The vengeance God sometimes takes on the wicked in this world will bring men to say, Verily, there is a reward for the righteous. Any man may draw this inference from such providences, and many a man shall, who before denied even these plain truths or doubted of them. Some shall have this confession extorted from them, others shall have their minds so changed that they shall willingly own it, and thank God who has given them to see it and see it with satisfaction, That God is, and, [1.] That he is the bountiful rewarder of his saints and servants: Verily (however it be, so it may be read) there is a fruit to the righteous; whatever damage he may run, and whatever hardship he may undergo for his religion, he shall not only be no loser by it, but an unspeakable gainer in the issue. Even in this world there is a reward for the righteous; they shall be recompensed in the earth. Those shall be taken notice of, honoured, and protected, that seemed slighted, despised, and abandoned. [2.] That he is the righteous governor of the world, and will surely reckon with the enemies of his kingdom: Verily, however it be, though wicked people prosper, and bid defiance to divine justice, yet it shall be made to appear, to their confusion, that the world is not governed by chance, but by a Being of infinite wisdom and justice; there is a God that judges in the earth, though he has prepared his throne in the heavens. He presides in all the affairs of the children of men, and directs and disposes them according to the counsel of his will, to his own glory; and he will punish the wicked, not only in the world to come, but in the earth, where they have laid up their treasure and promised themselves a happiness—in the earth, that the Lord may be known by the judgments which he executes, and that they may be taken as earnests of a judgment to come. He is a God (so we read it), not a weak man, not an angel, not a mere name, not (as the atheists suggest) a creature of men’s fear and fancy, not a deified hero, not the sun and moon, as idolaters imagined, but a God, a self-existent perfect Being; he it is that judges the earth; his favour therefore let us seek, from whom every man’s judgment proceeds, and to him let all judgment be referred.