Verse 6. This is a verse of which the meaning seems far to seek. Does it refer to the righteous among the Israelites? We think so. David surely means that when their leaders fell never to rise again, they would then turn to him and take delight in listening to his voice. When their judges are overthrown in stony places, they shall hear my words; for they are sweet. And so they did: the death of Saul made all the best of the nation look to the son of Jesse as the Lord's anointed; his words became sweet to them. Many of those good men who had spoken severely of David's quitting his country, and going over to the Philistines, were nevertheless dear to his heart for their fidelity, and to them he returned nothing but good will, loving prayers, and sweet speeches, knowing that by and by they would overlook his faults, and select him to be their leader. They smote him when he erred, but they recognized his excellences. He, on his part, bore no resentment, but loved them for their honesty. He would pray for them when their land lay bleeding at the feet of their foreign enemies; he would come to their rescue when their former leaders were slain; and his words of courageous hopefulness would be sweet in their ears. This seems to me to be a good sense, consistent with the context. At the same time, other and more laboured interpretations have their learned admirers, and to these we will refer in our notes from other authors.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 6. When their judges are overthrown, etc. When the judgments in reserve for the leaders of my enemies shall come upon them, they will perceive too late how reasonable are my words, and wish that they had hearkened to them sooner. --Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 6. Overthrown. The verb rendered "overthrown" is used of Jezebel in 2 Kings 9:33 ; "Throw her down. So they threw her down." --Speaker's Commentary.
Verse 6. They shall hear my words; for they are sweet. This is especially true of all the words which David spake by inspiration, or the Spirit of God spake to him; articulately in his book of Psalms; concerning the Messiah, the covenant of grace, and the blessings of it; of the rich experiences of grace he had, and the several doctrines of the gospel declared by him; which were sweet, delightful, and entertaining to those who have ears to hear such things; or whose ears are opened to hear them, so as to understand them and distinguish them, but to others not. --John Gill.
Verse 6. They shall hear my words; for they are sweet. Those that slighted the word of God before, will relish it and be glad of it when they are in affliction; for that opens the ear to instruction. When the world is bitter the word is sweet. Oppressed innocency cannot gain a hearing with those that live in pomp and pleasure; but when they come to be overthrown themselves, they will have more compassionate thoughts of the afflicted. -- Matthew Henry.
Verse 6. For they are sweet. They shall be pleasant; mild; gentle; equitable; just. After the hash and severe enactments of Saul, after enduring his acts of tyranny, the people will be glad to welcome me, and to live under the laws of a just and equal administration. The passage, therefore, expresses confidence that Saul and his hosts would be overthrown, and that the people of the land would gladly hail the accession to the throne of one who had been anointed to reign over them. --Albert Barnes.
Verse 6-7. The mild and dutiful behaviour of David towards Saul and his friends are set together by way of contrast, in the strongest light, from the instances of each sort here produced. The first is, David's humanity towards Saul, in giving him his life at two several times, when he had it in his power to destroy him as he pleased. "Their judges have been dismissed in the rocky places; and have heard my words that they are sweet"; that is, "Their princes have been dismissed in safety, when I had them at an advantage in those rocky deserts; and only heard me expostulate with them in the gentlest words."
The other is, Saul's barbarity and cruelty towards David (or his friends, which is much the same) in the horrid massacre of Ahimelech and the priests, by the hand of Doeg the Edomite, done in such a savage manner, that he compares it to the chopping and cleaving wood; "Like as when one cutteth and cleaveth, so have our bones been scattered on the earth at the command of Saul"; for so I read the Hebrew words, le-pi Saul, at the mouth, that is, the command of Saul.
Should we suppose this passage to refer to the first time of David's sparing Saul, viz., when he had him in his power in the cave of Engedi (here called jede selay), the sides of the rock, or the rocky places, the speech he made on this occasion when he called after Saul (and which is recorded in 1 Samuel 24:8-16 .) might well be called sweet or pleasant words. For they set his own innocence and the king's unjust behaviour to him in so strong a light, and with all that gentleness and mildness, and even this hard hearted prince could not forbear being greatly affected with it for the present; and we are told ( 1 Samuel 24:16-17 ) that "he lifted up his voice and wept." --Charles Peters.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 6. A Desert Oasis.