Verse 9. As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them. To the Lord who had covered his head amid the din of arms the Psalmist appeals against his foes, that their heads may be covered in quite another sense -- covered with the reward of their own malice. David's foes were so many that they hemmed him in, encircling him as hunters do their prey. It is little wonder that he turns to the Lord in his dire need. The poet represents his adversaries as so united as to have but one head; for there is often a unanimity among evil spirits which makes them the more strong and terrible for their vile purposes. The lex talionis, or law of retaliation, often brings down upon violent men the evil which they planned and spoke of for others: their arrows fall upon themselves. When a man's lips vent curses they will probably, like chickens, come home to roost. A stone hurled upward into the air is apt to fall upon the thrower's head.
David's words may be read in the future as a prophecy; but in this verse, at any rate, there is no need to do so in order to soften their tone. It is so just that the mischief which men plot and the slander which they speak should recoil upon themselves that every righteous man must desire it: he who does not desire it may wish to be considered humane and Christlike, but the chances are that he has a sneaking agreement with the wicked, or is deficient in a manly sense of right and wrong. When evil men fall into pits which they have digged for the innocent we believe that even the angels are glad; certainly the most gentle and tender of philanthropists, however much they pity the sufferers, must also approve the justice which makes them suffer. We suspect that some of our excessively soft spoken critics only need to be put into David's place, and they would become a vast deal more bitter than he ever was.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 9. As for the head of those that compass me about, etc. God, he saith, had covered his head in the day of battle: now contrariwise ho showeth what should cover the head of his enemies, viz., it should come to them as with their lips they had maliciously spoken against him; for it may be thus rendered -- "The head of my besieger, let the trouble of his lips cover it": for cursing, "let him be covered with cursing as with a cloak." --John Mayer.
Verse 9. Those that compass me about. For an explanation of this expression we would refer the reader to "The Treasury of David", vol. 1 .p. 387, where he will find two very pertinent extracts from J. Stevenson and Dr. Shaw.
Verse 9. The mischief of their own lips. The pride and hauteur of the Jews in our Lord's day brought the Roman arms upon them, and caused them to fall into irremediable ruin. They invoked their own fate by exposing themselves to an invasion from Rome at all; but they did it still more in that terrific cry -- "His blood be upon us and on our children." -- William Hill Tucker, in "The Psalms, with Notes, Shewing their Prophetic and Christian Character", 1840.
Verse 9-10. Such passages admit of translation in the future, and are rather predictions than imprecations. --Ingram Cobbin, 1839.
Verse 9-11. The prophet, in these three verses, predicted those just judgments which heaven will inflict on the slanderers and persecutors of the righteous. Their lips, which uttered mischief against others, shall be the means of covering themselves with confusion, when out of their own mouths they shall be judged. Those tongues which have contributed to set the world on fire, shall be tormented with the hot burning coals of eternal vengeance: and they, who, with so much eagerness and diligence have prepared pits for the destruction of their brethren, shall be cast into a deep and bottomless pit, out of which they will not rise up again any more for ever. Evil speakers and false accusers shall gain no lasting establishment, but punishment shall hunt sin through all its doubles, and seize it at last as its legal prey. Let these great truths be firmly rooted in our hearts, and they will keep us steady in the worst of times. --George Horne.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 9. How the sin of evil speakers comes home to them. --W. B. H.