Verse 18. The Psalmist's sorrow had culminated, not in the fact that the ungodly prospered, but that God had arranged it so: had it happened by mere chance, he would have wondered, but could not have complained; but how the arranger of all things could so dispense his temporal favours, was the vexatious question. Here, to meet the case, he sees that the divine hand purposely placed these men in prosperous and eminent circumstances, not with the intent to bless them but the very reverse.
Surely thou didst set them in slippery places. Their position was dangerous, and, therefore, God did not set his friends there but his foes alone. He chose, in infinite love, a rougher but safer standing for his own beloved.
Thou castedst them down into destruction. The same hand which led them up to their Tarpeian rock, hurled them down from it. They were but elevated by judicial arrangement for the fuller execution of their doom. Eternal punishment will be all the more terrible in contrast with the former prosperity of those who are ripening for it. Taken as a whole, the case of the ungodly is horrible throughout; and their worldly joy instead of diminishing the horror, actually renders the effect the more awful, even as the vivid lightning amid the storm does not brighten but intensify the thick darkness which lowers around. The ascent to the fatal gallows of Haman was an essential ingredient in the terror of the sentence -- "hang him thereon." If the wicked had not been raised so high they could not have fallen so low.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 18. Slippery places. The word in the original signifies slick, or smooth, as ice or polished marble, and is from thence by a metaphor used for flattery. Hence, Abenezra renders it, In locis adulationis posuisti eos: thou hast set them in places of flattery. Edward Parry.
Verse 18. They are but exalted, as the shellfish by the eagle, according to the naturalist, to be thrown down on some rock and devoured. Their most glorious prosperity is but like a rainbow, which showeth itself for a little time in all its gaudy colours, and then vanisheth. The Turks, considering the unhappy end of their viziers, use this proverb, "He that is in the greatest office is but a statue of glass." Wicked men walk on glass or ice, thou hast set them in slippery places; on a sudden their feet slip -- they fall, and break their necks. George Swinnock.
Verse 18,20. Their banqueting house is very slippery, and the feast itself a mere dream. Thomas Adams.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 17-18. The sinner's end; See "Spurgeon's Sermons," No. 486.
Verse 18. Thou didst set them in slippery places.
- It implies that they were always exposed to sudden,
unexpected destruction. As he that walks in
slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he
cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or
fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at
once without warning.
- They are liable to fall of themselves, without
being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that
stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but
his own weight to throw him down.
- There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one
moment out of hell but the mere pleasure of God. Jonathan Edwards.
Verse 18-20. The end of the wicked is,
- Near: Thou hast set, etc. It may happen at any
- Judicial: Thou bringest, etc.
- Sudden: How are they, etc.
- Tormenting: They are utterly consumed, etc.
- Eternal: Left to themselves; gone from the mind of
God; and disregarded as a dream when one awaketh. No
after act respecting them, either for deliverance or