Psalm 140:5

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 5. The proud have hid a snare for me. Proud as they are, they stoop to this mean action: they use a snare, and they hide it away, that their victim may be taken like a poor hare who is killed without warning -- killed in its usual run, by a snare which it could not see. David's enemies wished to snare him in his path of service, the usual way of his life. Saul laid many snares for David, but the Lord preserved him. All around us there are snares of one sort or another, and he will be well kept, aye, divinely kept, who never falls into one of them. And cords. With these they pull the net together and with these they bind their captive. Thus fowlers do, and trappers of certain large animals. The cords of love are pleasant, but the cords of hate are cruel as death itself. They have spread a net by the wayside. Where it will be near their prey; where the slightest divergence from the path will bring the victim into it. Surely the common wayside ought to be safe: men who go out of the way may well be taken in a net, but the path of duty is proverbially the path of safety; yet it is safe nowhere when malicious persons are abroad. Birds are taken in nets, and men are taken by deceit. Satan instructs his children in the art of fowling, and they right speedily learn how to spread nets: perhaps they have been doing that for us already; let us make our appeal to God concerning it. They have set gins for me. One instrument of destruction is not enough; they are so afraid of missing their prey that they multiply their traps, using differing devices, so that one way or another they may take their victim. Those who avoid the snare and the net may yet be caught in a gin, and accordingly gins are placed in all likely places. If a godly man can be cajoled, or bribed, or cowed, or made angry, the wicked will make the attempt. Ready are they to twist his words, misread his intentions, and misdirect his efforts; ready to fawn, and lie, and make themselves mean to the last degree so that they may accomplish their abominable purpose. Selah. The harp needs tuning after such a strain, and the heart needs lifting up towards God.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 5. The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords. The following story illustrates how cords have been used by thieves so lately as the year 1822: -- "Two skilful leaders of Dacoits, having collected some forty followers, and distributed among them ten matchlocks, ten swords, and twenty-five spears, waylaid a treasure going from the native Collector's treasury at Budrauna to Goruckpore. The prize consisted of 1,200 pounds of sterling, and was guarded by a Naik, or corporal, with four sepoys and five troopers. It had to pass through a dense jungle, and it was settled -- said one of them in after years -- that the attack should take place there; that we should have strong ropes tied across the road in front and festooned to trees on both sides, and, at a certain distance behind, similar ropes festooned to trees on one side, and ready to be fastened on the other, as soon as the escort of horse and foot should get well in between them. Having completed these preparations the gang laid down on either side of the road patiently awaiting their prey. `About five in the morning,' continued the narrator, `we heard a voice as if calling upon the name of God (Allah), and one of the gang started up at the sound, and said, "Here comes the treasure!" We put five men in front with their match locks loaded -- not with ball but shot, that we might, if possible, avoid killing anybody. When we got the troopers, infantry, and treasure all within the space, the hind ropes were run across the road, and made fast to the trees on the opposite side, and we opened a fire in upon the party from all sides. The foot soldiers got into the jungle at the sides of the road, and the troopers tried to get over the ropes at both ends, but in vain.' The corporal and a horse were killed; two troopers wounded, and the treasure carried off in spite of a hot pursuit." --From James Hutton's "Popular Account of the Thugs and Dacoits of India", 1857.

Verse 5. The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords. There was "a trap hidden for him with cords"; a trap being sunk into some frequented hath, and always covered over with grass or brushwood, and having long cords attached to each side, by which the hunter, lurking at a little distance, might close it whenever he saw the game stepping on the spot. But the net spread for him by his enemies extended to the very "side of the encampment", which indicates, that even among the soldiers lying around him, there were some who had been bribed and persuaded to watch and betray him. -- Benjamin Weiss, in "A New Translation of the Psalms, with Notes", 1858.

Verse 5. Snare. Net. Gins. The several uses to which the contrivances denoted by the Hebrew words thus rendered were respectively applied, do not appear to be well ascertained. In general the Psalmist alludes to the artifices employed for capturing birds or beasts. It is, however, a curious circumstance, as noticed by Thevenot, that artifices of this kind are literally employed against men as well as other animals by some of the Orientals. "The most cunning robbers in the world", says he, "are in this country. They use a certain slip with a running noose, which they cast with so much sleight about a man's neck when they are within reach of him, that they never fail, so that they strangle him in a trice." -- Richard Mast.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 5. The Dangers of Society.

  1. The secrecy of the attacks of the ungodly: "hid a snare."
  2. The variety of their weapons: "and cords."
  3. The cunning choice of position: "by the wayside."
  4. The object of their designs: "for me": they desire to destroy the man himself.

Verse 5. The Net by the Wayside, or, covert temptations; temptations brought near, and made applicable to daily life.