Verse 6. Set thou a wicked man over him. What worse punishment could a man have? The proud man cannot endure the proud, nor the oppressor brook the rule of another like himself. The righteous in their patience find the rule of the wicked a sore bondage; but those who are full of resentful passions, and haughty aspirations, are slaves indeed when men of their own class have the whip hand of them. For Herod to be ruled by another Herod would be wretchedness enough, and yet what retribution could be more just? What unrighteous man can complain if he finds himself governed by one of like character? What can the wicked expect but that their rulers should be like themselves? Who does not admire the justice of God when he sees fierce Romans ruled by Tiberius and Nero, and Red Republicans governed by Marat and Robespierre?
And let Satan stand at his right hand. Should not like come to like? Should not the father of lies stand near his children? Who is a better right hand friend for an adversary of the righteous than the great adversary himself? The curse is an awful one, but it is most natural that it should come to pass: those who serve Satan may expect to have his company, his assistance, his temptations, and at last his doom.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 6. Set thou a wicked man over him, etc. Here commences that terrible series of maledictions, unparalleled in Holy Writ, as directed against an individual sinner, albeit it is little more than a special reduplication of the national woes denounced in Leviticus 26:1-46 and Deuteronomy 28:1-68 . --Neale and Littledale.
Verse 6. Set thou a wicked man over him. The first thing that the Psalmist asks is, that his foe might be subjected to the evil of having a man placed over him like himself: -- a man regardless of justice, truth, and right; a man who would respect character and propriety no more than he had himself done. It is, in fact, a prayer that he might be punished in the line of his offences. It cannot be wrong that a man should be treated as he treats others; and it cannot be in itself wrong to desire that a man should be treated according to his character and deserts, for this is the object of all law, and this is what all magistrates and legislators are endeavouring to secure. -- Albert Barnes.
Verse 6. Over HIM. Consider what would have been the effect if these denunciations had been made against the sins of men and not, as they are in these passages, against the sinners. Men would have said, "My sin is denounced, not me." What a license would have been given to sin! The depraved nature would have said, "if I am not condemned, but only my sin, I can do as I like; I shall not be called to account for it. I love sin and can go on in it." This is what men would have said. There would have been no effort to get rid of it. Why should there be; if only sin is condemned and not the sinner? But man's sin is identified with himself, and this makes him tremble. God's wrath rests on him because of his sin. Condemnation is awaiting him because of his sin. This makes him anxious to get rid of it. -- Frederick Whitfield.
Verse 6. Let Satan stand at his right hand. It appears to have been the custom at trials before the Jewish tribunals for a pleader to stand at the right hand of the accused: See Zec 3:1, where are described Joshua the High Priest, standing before the Angel of Jehovah, and the adversary (!jv, Satan, as here) standing at his right hand to oppose him. See also Psalms 109:31 . --John Le Clerc, 1657-1736.
Verse 6. Let Satan stand at his right hand. Hugo observes that the Devil is on the left hand of those whom he persecutes in temporal things: on the right of those whom he rules in spiritual things: before the face of those who are on their guard against his wiles: behind those who are not foreseeing and prudent: above those whom he treads down: below, and beneath the feet of those who tread him down. A recent Spanish author, (Peter Vega. On the Penitential Psalms.) writing in that language, thinks that there cannot be anything worse than that man who diligently and of set purpose injures others by speaking deceitfully, by surrounding with speeches of hatred, by attacking without cause, by slandering, by returning evil for good, and hatred for love: therefore, in this place it is desired that a wicked man may be set over such a one, and the devil at his right hand; as if he should be doomed to take the lowest place because he is the worst. -- Lorinus.
Verse 6. At his right hand. The strength or force of the body shows itself principally in the right hand. Therefore, he who wishes to obstruct another, and to hinder his endeavour, stands at his right hand; and thus easily parries his stroke or attempt. This I consider to be the most simple meaning of this passage which shows that God represses and restrains the raging of the enemies of the Church, who withstand each other by their opposing efforts, either from envy or from other causes. Thus, 2 Samuel 17:1-29 , the counsels of Ahithophel are broken by Hushai; and in our day we see that the counsels and attempts of our enemies have been frequently and wonderfully restrained by the hindrances they have give one to the other: in which matter the goodness of God is to be discerned. -- Mollerus.
Verse 6. He begins to prophesy what they should receive for their great impiety, detailing their lot in such a manner as if he wished its realization from a desire of revenge: while he declareth what was to happen with the most absolute certainty, and what of God's justice would worthily come upon such. Some not understanding this mode of predicting the future under the appearance of wishing evil, suppose hatred to be returned for hatred, and an evil will for an evil will: since in truth it belongeth to few to distinguish in what way the punishment of the wicked pleaseth the accuser, who longeth to satiate his enmity; and in how widely different a way it pleaseth the judge, who with a righteous mind punishes sins. For the former returneth evil for evil, but the judge when he punishes does not return evil for evil, since he returneth justice to the unjust; and what is just is surely good. He therefore punishes not from delight in another's misery, which is evil for evil, but from love of justice, which is good for evil. Let not then the blind pervert the light of the Scriptures imagining that God doth not punish sins: nor let the wicked flatter themselves, as if he rendered evil for evil. Let us therefore hear the sequel of this divine composition; and in the words of one who seemeth to wish ill, let us recognise the predictions of a prophet; and let us see God making a just retribution, raising our mind up to his eternal laws. --Augustine.
Verse 6-19. These terrible curses are repeated with many words and sentences, that we may know that David has not let these words fall rashly or from any precipitate impulse of mind; but, the Holy Spirit having dictated, he employs this form of execration that it may be a perpetual prophecy or prediction of the bitter pains and destruction of the enemies of the Church of God. Nor does David imprecate these punishments so much on his own enemies and Judas the betrayer of Christ; but that similar punishments await all who fight against the kingdom of Christ. --Mollerus.
Verse 6-20. I had also this consideration, that if I should now venture all for God, I engaged God to take care of my concerns; but if I forsook him and his ways for fear of any trouble that should come to me or mine, then I should not only falsify my profession, but should count also that my concerns were not so sure, if left at God's feet, while I stood to and for his name, as they would be if they were under my own tuition (or care) though with the denial of the way of God. This was a smarting consideration, and was as spurs unto my flesh. This Scripture ( Psalms 109:6-20 .) also greatly helped it to fasten the more upon me, where Christ prays against Judas, that God would disappoint him in all his selfish thoughts, which moved him to sell his master: pray read it soberly. I had also another consideration, and that was, the dread of the torments of hell, which I was sure they must partake of, that for fear of the cross to shrink from their profession of Christ, his words, and laws, before the sons of men. I thought also of the glory that he had prepared for those that, in faith, and love, and patience, stood to his ways before them. These things, I say, have helped me, when the thoughts of the misery that both myself and mine might for the sake of my profession be exposed to hath lain pinching on my mind. --John Bunyan.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 6. It is the law of retribution to punish the wicked by means of the wicked. -- Starke.