Psalms 58:9 MEANING

Psalm 58:9
(9) Before.--The figure in this difficult verse is generally intelligible, though the text as it stands resists all attempts to translate it. As in the preceding images, it must convey the idea of abortive effort and sudden ruin, and, as has generally been understood, some experience of eastern travel undoubtedly supplied the figure which accident or a copyist's error has rendered so obscure. The Hebrew literally runs, Before (shall) understand your pots a bramble as (or so) living as (or so) heat sweeps them off. The ancient versions mostly render thorns instead of pots, and make the simile to lie in the destruction of the bush before growing to maturity. The English versions have undoubtedly caught the figure more correctly. But it is doubtful if the Hebrew word rendered feel could be used of inanimate objects, and even if a kettle might be said to feel the fire, we should hardly speak of its feeling the fuel. Some change in the text must be made. A very slight change in one letter gives excellent sense to the first clause. Before thorns (taking the word ?tad which in Judges 9:14-15 is translated bramble collectively) make your pots ready. But the second clause remains very difficult. Even if (with Gratz) we read charol (Job 30:7; Proverbs 24:31, "nettles") for charon, and render thorny bush, the words as living still offer a puzzle. And even if with the Prayer Book we might render raw instead of living, yet burning heat could not stand for cooked meat. Apparently the poet intends to compare the sudden overthrow of the wicked before their arms could succeed, to the disappearance of the fuel before it had time to heat the cooking-pot; and it is quite possible that he compressed all this into a condensed expression, which we must expand: "As, before the brambles make the pots ready, they are consumed, so He will whirl them (i.e., the wicked) away alive, as the fierce heat consumes the thorns." Hebrew poetry is always more satisfactory with metaphor than with simile, and here, as often, seems to falter between the two, and so becomes obscure.

Verse 9. - Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them away as with a whirlwind, both living, and in his wrath. This "difficult and obscure verse" has been variously explained. Professor Cheyne translates, "Before your pots can feel the thorns, and while your flesh (i.e. the flesh in the pots, on which you are about to feast) is still raw, the hot wrath of Jehovah shall sweep it away." The Revised Version gives the following: "Before your pots can feel the thorns, he shall take them [i.e. the thorns] away with a whirlwind, the green [thorns] and the burning alike." Dr. Kay, "Before your caldrons have felt the thorn fire, even as raw flesh, even so, shall hot fury sweep him away." The general meaning seems to be that before the wicked judges can enjoy the fruits of their wickedness, the fierce wrath of God will come upon them like a tempest, and sweep both them and the produce of their villainy away (comp. 2 Samuel 23:6, 7).

58:6-11 David prayed that the enemies of God's church and people might be disabled to do further mischief. We may, in faith, pray against the designs of the enemies of the church. He foretells their ruin. And who knows the power of God's anger? The victories of the Just One, in his own person and that of his servants, over the enemies of man's salvation, produce a joy which springs not from revenge, but from a view of the Divine mercy, justice, and truth, shown in the redemption of the elect, the punishment of the ungodly, and the fulfilment of the promises. Whoever duly considers these things, will diligently seek the reward of righteousness, and adore the Providence which orders all thing aright in heaven and in earth.Before your pots can feel the thorns,.... Which is soon done; for as dry thorns make a great blaze, so they give a quick heat; the pots soon feel them, or the water in them soon receives heat from them. From imprecations the psalmist proceeds to prophesy, and foretells the sudden destruction of wicked men, which would be before a pot could be heated with a blaze of thorns. The Targum is,

"before the wicked become tender, they harden as the thorn:''

that is, they never become tender, or have any tender consciences, but are hardened in sin from their infancy. Some render the words, "before your thorns grow up to a brier" or "bramble" (i); little thorns become great ones, tender thorns hard ones, as Jarchi; that is, as he interprets it, before the children of the wicked are grown up, they are destroyed; those sons of Belial, who are like to thorns thrust away, 2 Samuel 23:6. Others, as Aben Ezra, "before they understand"; that is, wise and knowing men; "that your thorns are a bramble"; or from lesser ones are become greater; and so denotes, as before, the suddenness and quickness of their destruction, as follows:

he, that is, God,

shall take them away as with a whirlwind: not to himself, as Enoch; nor to heaven, whither Elijah went up by a whirlwind; but out of the land of the living, and as with a tempest, to hell, where snares, fire, and brimstone, are rained upon them; see Job 27:20;

both living, and in his wrath: when in health and full strength, and so go quick to hell; as Korah and his company alive into the earth; and all in wrath and sore displeasure: for the righteous are also taken away; but then it is from the evil to come, and to everlasting happiness; and through many tempestuous providences, which are in love, and for their good, do they enter the kingdom: and those that are alive at Christ's coming will be caught up to meet him in the air; but the wicked are taken away as in a whirlwind, alive, and in wrath.

(i) Tigurine version.

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