Verse 11. Slay them not, lest my people forget. It argues great faith on David's part, that even while his house was surrounded by his enemies he is yet so fully sure of their overthrow, and so completely realises it in his own mind, that he puts in a detailed petition that they may not be too soon or too fully exterminated. God's victory over the craft and cruelty of the wicked is so easy and so glorious that it seems a pity to end the conflict too soon. To sweep away the plotters all at once were to end the great drama of retribution too abruptly. Nay, let the righteous be buffeted a little longer, and let the boasting oppressor puff and brag through his little hour, it will help to keep Israel in mind of the Lord's justice, and make the brave party who side with God's champion accustomed to divine interpositions. It were a pity for good men to be without detractors, seeing that virtue shines the brighter for the foil of slander. Enemies help to keep the Lord's servants awake. A lively, vexatious devil is less to be dreaded than a sleepy, forgetful spirit which is given to slumber.
Scatter them by thy power. Blow them to and fro, like chaff in the wind. Let the enemy live as a vagabond race. Make Cains of them. Let them be living monuments of divine power, advertisements of heaven's truth. To the fullest extent let divine justice be illustrated in them.
And bring them down. Like rotten fruit from a tree. From the seats of power which they disgrace, and the positions of influence which they pollute, let them be hurled into humiliation. This was a righteous wish, and if it be untempered by the gentleness of Jesus, we must remember that it is a soldier's prayer, and the wish of one who was smarting under injustice and malice of no ordinary kind.
O Lord, our shield. David felt himself to be the representative of the religious party in Israel, and therefore he says, our shield, speaking in the name of all those who make Jehovah their defence. We are in good company when we hide beneath the buckler of the Eternal; meanwhile he who is the shield of his people is the scatterer of their enemies.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 11. Slay them not, that they may be a whetstone to others' faith -- as the Spartans (mentioned in Plutarch's Apothegms) refused to allow the destruction of a neighbouring city which had often called forth their armies, saying, "Destroy not the whetstone of our young men." Andrew A. Bonar.
Verse 11. Slay them not: --
"Live loathed and long
You smiling, smooth, detested parasites." W. Shakespeare.
Verse 11. The enemies must serve for monuments of the divine righteousness, not less in the abiding wretchedness of their race than by their own sudden destruction. Parallel to this verse, and to Psalms 59:6 Psalms 59:14 , is the curse which David utters upon Joab, in 2 Samuel 3:29 : "Let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread;" then the threatening of a man of God to Eli, in 1 Samuel 3:36 , where, after announcing the violent death of the evildoers themselves, corresponding to 1 Samuel 3:13 here, it is said: "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him (the new high priest) for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests offices, that I may eat a piece of bread." Christian expositors have all along drawn attention to the fact, that the substance of our verse, as that also of verses, 6, 14, has gone into fulfilment on the Jews. "They have been scattered into all lands, and must go and stand before the eyes of all Christians, as a living witness that they have crucified the true Messiah and Saviour of the world. So that if you see a Jew, think on this word." (Arndt.) E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 11. Slay them not; namely, suddenly. Scatter them. It should seem that he hath a relation to Cain's punishment, whom God would not have killed, but would have him to be a wanderer all the days of his life for a spectacle, and an example of his judgments. Ge 4:12. Others translate it, shake them namely, their degree of honour and glory. John Diodati, 1576-1649.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 11. The continuance of our enemies a salutary ordinance of God for the prevention of an evil to which we are very liable.