Verse 9. Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow. This would inevitably be the case when the man died, but the psalmist uses the words in an emphatic sense, he would have his widow "a widow indeed", and his children so friendless as to be orphaned in the bitterest sense. He sees the result of the bad man's decease, and includes it in the punishment. The tyrant's sword makes many children fatherless, and who can lament when his barbarities come home to his own family, and they too, weep and lament. Pity is due to all orphans and widows as such, but a father's atrocious actions may dry up the springs of pity. Who mourns that Pharaoh's children lost their father, or that Sennacherib's wife became a widow? As Agag's sword had made women childless none wept when Samuel's weapon made his mother childless among women. If Herod had been slain when he had just murdered the innocents at Bethlehem no man would have lamented it even though Herod's wife would have become a widow. These awful maledictions are not for common men to use, but for judges, such as David was, to pronounce over the enemies of God and man. A judge may sentence a man to death whatever the consequences may be to the criminal's family, and in this there will be no feeling of private revenge, but simply the doing of justice because evil must be punished. We are aware that this may not appear to justify the full force of these expressions, but it should never be forgotten that the case supposed is a very execrable one, and the character of the culprit is beyond measure loathsome and not to be met by any common abhorrence. Those who regard a sort of effeminate benevolence to all creatures alike as the acme of virtue are very much in favour with this degenerate age; these look for the salvation of the damned, and even pray for the restoration of the devil. It is very possible that if they were less in sympathy with evil, and more in harmony with the thoughts of God, they would be of a far sterner and also of a far better mind. To us it seems better to agree with God's curses than with the devil's blessings; and when at any time our heart kicks against the terrors of the Lord we take it as a proof of our need of greater humbling, and confess our sin before our God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 9. Let his children be fatherless. Helpless and shiftless. A sore vexation to many on their death beds, and just enough upon graceless persecutors. But happy are they who, when they lie dying, can say as Luther did, "Domine Deus gratias ago tibi quod velueris me esse pauperem, et mendicum, & c. Lord God, I thank thee for my present poverty, but future hopes. I have not an house, lands, possessions, or monies to leave behind me. Thou hast given me wife and children; behold, I return them back to thee, and beseech thee to nourish them, teach them, keep them safe, as hitherto thou hast done, O thou father of the fatherless, and judge of widows." --John Trapp.
Verse 9-10,12-13. "His children;" "his posterity." Though in matters of a civil or judicial character, we have it upon the highest authority that the children are not to be made accountable for the fathers, nor the fathers for the children, but every transgressor is to bear the penalty of his own sin; yet, in a moral, and in a social and spiritual sense, it is impossible that the fathers should eat sour grapes, and yet that the children's teeth should not be set on edge. The offspring of the profligate and the prodigal may, and often do, avoid the specific vices of the parent; but rarely, if ever, do they escape the evil consequences of those vices. And this reaction cannot be prevented, until it shall please God first to unmake and then to remodel his whole intelligent creation. --T. Dale, in a Sermon to Heads of Families, 1839.
Verse 9-13. Under the Old Covenant, calamity, extending from father to son, was the meed of transgression; prosperity, vice versa, of obedience: (see Solomon's prayer, 2 Chronicles 6:23 ): and these prayers of the psalmist (cf. Psalms 10:13 Psalms 12:1 58:10, etc.) may express the wish that God's providential government of his people should be asserted in the chastisement of the enemy of God and man. --Speaker's Commentary.